Of Capriccios, Portkeys and Internet

More often than not I find my surroundings surreal. When I first came across ‘Magical Realism’, it was my research on narratives; little did I know I would accept its presence in the daily nuances of urban life. I know these are different genres; I experience the essence of both.
Photograph by poornima sardana, Gram Vikas, Orissa

Like most of us, I have grown up in a vibrant visual and aural culture. A bus journey to Delhi would involve a sensorial experience of mustard fields, the green mosque, orange toffees, entertaining salesmen (selling anything from imported table cloths to all problem- one solution masalas), children crying, music (A particular genre of Bollywood that plays only in buses or tea stalls) and Red Cola. We would reach the bus stand, get onto an exciting auto rickshaw and come across a strikingly different plethora of stimuli. Every transition had its symbols of different spaces and timelines which I would associate with. In time, they became different identities of those places for me.

Photograph by Poornima Sardana


Photograph by Poornima Sardana


Now Canaletto’s works (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/24/arts/design/24cana.html)

are amongst the many others which rest in my father’s collection of “Great Artists” and are often looked at with awe by his wide eyed bespectacled daughter (me).

From internet


Canaletto’s Capriccios are fascinating juxtapositions of the real with the imaginary; of ambiguity in fact, with travelling visual vocabulary. Of an osmosis and surprise that we come across in the cultural montage we are enveloped with. Exquisite craftsmanship and aesthetics in (so called) protected monuments choked with the Lego like buildings and/or vertical eruptions  that flank it, history and skill notwithstanding, it is a much underrated and incredulous sight. Their presence, quite often ignored, seems unreal, at times, almost celestial.

I assume there are two categories of urban capriccios: One of the unintentional montages: Past extending its arms to the new, where the new despite no space, tweaks and twists and fits in. (Some also call it Glocalization) The former surprises with its existence because the new has been accepted as more real. Or it is the neo with tinted glasses and borrowed aesthetics that suddenly comes and sits next to the seemingly older new. This neo holds its ground despite glaring disparity and lack of connection with its surroundings.

Photograph by Poornima Sardana
photograph by poornima sardana, kanyakumari


photograph by poornima sardana, chennai
photograph by poornima sardana, jhabua


 The second occurrence is of the intentional montages with borrowed imageries and senses, like the much hyped augmented reality: Experiential restaurants, Theme Parks, Museums, Three dimensional movies, Games and so on. So you get off the car after having howled at the traffic, and who knows you might be tasting Lucknow’s Kebabs and talking of bygone eras while next doors lots could be happening over coffee.

Folk entertainment at a resort, photograph by poornima sardana


On a bus journey to Mount Abu from Gandhinagar, I was quite amused to see Torrent Hotel when only day before my co-passenger and friend had been downloading a movie on it. The moment I got off the bus, VOILA! Eiffel Tower! Though a much stunted version, it was right there. As if the series of surprises weren’t enough, we went to Chacha Cafe’  which we both read as Coca Cola from a distance, thanks to the Fancy Type exercise they must have had.

from google


Four years ago, a walk in Singapore’s Chinatown, took me to Mc Donald’s Filet-o-Fish and I felt the security and relief that is so embedded in familiarity. But what struck me the most was how taste and space had enabled me to be transmitted from my present to another zone, a zone that could also be reached from Green Park market in Delhi or a terrace in Ahmadabad with just a bite (or a few more). It was something like the hyperlinks on internet or the portkey (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Portkey) of J.K. Rowling’s fancy. A few years later, I am experiencing something similar with the Metro. As long as I am inside the metro or the station, I become oblivious to the world outside. I get transmitted from Kashmere Gate to Rajiv Chowk/Noida/Huda City Centre without any variation in my response till I move out and see the world/webpage I have reached. Yes the amount of time varies, but I seem to not notice that also and indulge in conscious ambiguity.

photograph by ankur sardana
metro, photograph by poornima sardana
subway, photograph by poornima sardana


A few weeks ago I was at a village in Orissa and to my surprise I heard Ringa Ringa, a song I had been introduced to by a friend from Mysore at Gandhinagar. I smiled, while clicking pictures of the village’s water arrangement, I could recall the cold water from water cooler back in Gujarat. I had been transferred, this time through music, which interestingly belonged neither to Gujarat, nor Orissa, much like the omnipresence of internet.

I am adding a few more pictures to the existing ones to elucidate my thought:

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