The Epicureans, who esteemed feeling over reasoning, had no patience for the arguments of Euclid, and deemed his science ridiculous. To prove their case, they pointed to Book I, Proposition 20 of the Elements, where Euclid labours to show that in any triangle, the sum of any two sides is greater than the third side. This proposition, said the Epicureans, is evident even to an ass.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The coffee will be weak and overpriced but people will still queue up, because coffee is indispensable at an all-night concert. The performers will make lame jokes but people will still laugh, because classical musicians are allowed to make lame jokes. It will be cold. Every day around 2 a.m., the auditorium’s resident cat will stroll up on stage; pointedly ignoring both performers and audience, it will meticulously clean itself, and stroll out again.
In the forty-odd hours of music spread over four nights, Hariprasad Chaurasia will transport listeners with a bamboo flute; Rashid Khan will do impossible things with his voice; Shahid Parvez, eschewing all forms of showmanship, will get his head down and unleash fireworks on the fretboard. There will be unforgettable moments, transcendental magic, encores and great applause. And at the end of the fourth day, in the first light of dawn, Amjad Ali Khan, that sly show-stealer, that…that rockstar – Amjad will close the Dover Lane Music Conference with a radiant smile and a bhairavi that is not of this world.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Cruise is feather-light and incorrigibly frivolous. It is structural perfection, giddy delight. “Clarissa shrunk in the wash” is how Ann Pasternak Slater describes Cruise in the introduction to the Everyman edition – a description almost as delightful as the story itself.
So, in the first letter, the Young Lady of Leisure is writing about how to avoid seasickness:
The thing is not to have a bath and to be very slow in all movements.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
And that, principally, is why I like Shimla.
But there are other reasons too. Shimla has very pretty buildings. Neo-Tudor architecture looks especially fetching in a hill-town, and Upper Shimla’s public buildings, such as the State Library, the candy-coloured Post Office and the newly restored Gaiety Theatre, are all in this style. The private houses are an eccentric mishmash of architectural styles; Rajasthani cupolas frame bay windows looking out on Mall Road. And on a hilltop in the distance, its gables and turrets peering through the pine trees that surround it, Gothic Gorton Castle broods darkly over the town.
The food is good. The Combermere’s café has some of the best continental food I have tasted; my eyes mist over when I think of their charbroiled chicken in orange sauce. Indian Coffee House – that peerless institution – squats on the western end of Mall Road. Here, distinguished old gentlemen in tweed suits exchange greetings with friends, just as they have been doing for decades.
But to see why I like Shimla, to truly enter into the spirit of things, you must go there in the tourist season, and seek out the centre of the town – the pedestrian-only Mall Road and, above it, the flat open area known as the Ridge. Half Shimla has had the same idea, but let that not deter you.
Teenyboppers in fur-lined jackets and multicoloured mufflers promenade up and down Mall Road, eyes shining with excitement. Toddlers run between the legs of grownups. The policemen have little to do; they stand around looking resplendent in their blue and gold livery. In the evenings, in front of the Town Hall, the police band plays popular Hindi tunes of yesteryear.
Most of the people here are on vacation, so everyone is in a holiday mood; everyone is feeling simply splendid. And the Himachali locals are among the friendliest I have met; bus drivers shout out salutations to each other as they pass, and at the Clarkes, waiters recognized me after nearly three years.
If you are looking for peace and quiet, a remote hilltop hamlet where the silence is broken only by birdsong and the bleating of distant sheep, Shimla is not the place. It has Adidas showrooms. But if you are prepared to accept that not all hill-stations need to be an approximation of Shangri-La, if you enjoy people and colour and festive spirit, you might like Shimla very much indeed.
Monday, January 4, 2010
The Kalka-Shimla Railway is 106 years old. The mountainous 96 km route has a ruling gradient of 1:33. It has over 800 multi-arched viaducts constructed of brick and stone in the ancient Roman style, and 102 tunnels. The longest of these, at 1143 m, is the Barog Tunnel, named after Colonel S. Barog, the engineer in charge of its construction. Barog started digging the tunnel from both ends but midway, he found that he had made an error in alignment. The British government fined him Re. 1 for his mistake. Unable to bear this humiliation, Barog went for a walk in the woods with his dog, and shot himself. The tunnel we passed through was constructed 1 km away from Barog’s original tunnel, which now lies abandoned.
I have now covered three of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites which are under the Indian Railways – VT in Bombay, the DHR, and the Kalka-Shimla Railway. I could have travelled the Nilgiri Mountain Railway too while I was in Tamil Nadu last September, had I not decided, like a fool, that visiting Ooty all alone would be too boring.