The Yellow Gate


Standing tall on the busy Dinh Thien Hoang and Phan Dang Luu intersection is the Gia-Dinh Gate in Ho Chi Minh City. The bright yellow gate captures the attention of any  any passer by.

Gia Dinh Gate was the gateway to the Ecole de Dessin Gia Dinh , an arts school in Saigon founded by the French in 1913,  that provided further studies for students from Thu Dau Mot School of Indigenous Arts ( Ecole d’Art Indigene de Thu-Dau-Mot) and also for students of Ecole d’Art de Bien Hoa . Thu-Dau-Mot School gave training in woodwork and lacquer-ware whereas Bien Hoa School of Arts was teaching ceramics and bronze-casting. The institute produced many prominent  sculptors and painters of South Vietnam.

In 1955 The Saigon National College of Fine Arts was opened close by  and after the Reunification of Vietnam in 1975, the two schools were merged to form the Ho Chi Minh City of Fine Arts. Later, all the the teachings were confined to the new building of 1955. The original Ecole de Dessin Gia-Dinh was demolished and paved way to Truong Cong Dinh Secondary School. However, the regal looking gateway was preserved and it stands the test of Time.

Beating Monday Blues with Frost’s ‘Fragmentary Blue’

Why make so much fragmentary blue

In here and there a bird, or butterfly,

Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,

When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?

Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)-

Though some savants make earth  include the sky;

And blue so far above us comes so high,

It only gives our wish for blue a whet.

Robert Frost

 Everything has a purpose, a place, a justification in the grand scheme of things..  Came across this beautiful poem by Frost,  the beginning sounded a lot like an Emily Dickinson one. 

What’s Cooking?

Banh Trang or rice paper wrappers are edible Vietnamese rice wrappers made from steamed rice batter. In the south and north they are known differently. Here, in the south these thin, translucent round rice papers are used to make fried spring rolls cha gio and fresh cold spring rolls goi cuon. The filling can vary from meat to shrimp to vegetabes and a mix of these. Rice papers come in different textures, thickness and flavours taking varied names. The commonly used ones for fresh spring rolls are Banh Trang, made of rice batter mixed with a little tapioca starch and salt; steamed and then sun-dried.  Rice paper making is a thriving cottage industry in the Mekong Delta, the rice bowl of Vietnam. There are rice paper villages in this area. Here are few clicks from a visit to this Ben Tre a couple of years ago, of how rice turns into paper thin translucent rice wrappers.



Songs of Experience

” She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms”

(She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms)

proverb 31:17

A Rajasthani village woman  wearing upper armlets.

These are some portraits of tribal women of Rajasthan, who would have had varied experiences which made them bold and strong. Adorned themselves with lot of jewellery, (some of them were wearing silver,gold and some artificial) these women were walking around with so much confidence and self assurance, an air of resilience too. They happily posed for the photographs. The upper armlets, which may look a bit unwieldy to an outsider, are a mark of married women, it seems. Earlier they used to wear armlets made of ivory, replaced by present times plastic ones. Traditionally the ideal number of armlets were 52 on both arms.

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” Proverb 31:25


“She looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness.” Proverb 31:27



Silo- A Storehouse for Threshed Musings

A glimpse of the sky with cotton ball clouds floating around….Not the transcendental sky which posed questions to me. It is a threadbare sky I see through my glass windows…. Are we going to be caught within the walls? Are we cornered?

My heart swells up with emotions when I go back to our sepia tinted lives of yesteryears! Is it sepia tinted? No, those are the vibrantly coloured pages of our lives. We did not have the most luxurious living, we did not have things of our own.. The word that was sparingly used during that time was ‘my’; it was always ‘our room’, ‘our blanket’, ‘our umbrella’ or ‘our pencil’…. Everything shared by everyone! I remember the time when I could boastfully say something as ‘mine’, definitely with an excessive amount of pride, was when we got a pocket diary. We got it from our maternal uncle who…

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The Melancholy Jaques of Hundred Acre Wood

The word Melancholy is derived from the Greek melaina chole or the black bile, one of the four elemental bodily humours. The concept of humourism or humours regulating human behaviour was adopted by the ancient Greek and Roman physicians. Hippocrates is believed to be the one who applied this idea to medicine. Human beings are made up of four humours or four vital body fluids and extreme excess of one would lead to illness, a moderate excess of one of the fluids affect the temperament/behaviour of a person. Human temperaments are thus four types: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic.

A person with a melancholic disposition is believed to have an excess of black bile in his constitution and this unnatural bile secreted by the spleen causes depression. Melancholy was considered the most powerful of the four and could cause physical illness like digestive problems, lethargy, sleeplessness, agitation and so on.

The philosophy of the four bodily humours inherited from the Greek philosophers Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen largely contributes to some of the Shakespearean characters. It is interesting to draw parallels between Shakespeare’s melancholic characters and the low spirited yet lovable Eeyore of A.A. Milne. Hamlet the Prince of Denmark is an epitome of melancholy and malcontent; Antonio, the title character of the play, The Merchant of Venice is a lacklustre person soaked in self-pity. Jaques, the sardonic nobleman of Duke senior in Shakespeare’s Pastoral comedy As You Like It  is another mournful character. Of all these Shakespearean characters, Eeyore comes closer to Jaques.

Antonio states at the beginning  of the play “In sooth I know not why I’m sad…” and his philosophy in a nutshell is,

I hold the world as the world, Gratiano;

A stage where every man must play a part,

And mine a sad one

He is a genuine sufferer who doesn’t know the real cause of his suffering, but not to the extremes of the Melancholy Dane, Hamlet whose inaction brings all the doom. Indecision, procrastination and inaction lead to the fall of this noble prince.

Now as we move on to Mr Melancholy of The Forest of Arden, better known as the Melancholy Jaques who delivers one of the most famous  Shakespearean monologues, ‘All the world’s a stage’, we see a contemplative, wistful man. Jaques exhibits a sharp contrast to the merry characters in the play. He takes pride in his melancholy, sans any malignity. He favours solitude, but he is not unsocial.

Jaques and the Wounded Stag by William Hodges (pic courtesy:Wikipedia) 

As William Hazlitt puts it, Jaques is the “ prince of philosophical idler; his only passion is thought; he sets no value upon anything but as it serves  as food for reflection”. He reflects “it is a melancholy of my own, compounded of many simples…  in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humourless sadness.” and attributes his travels the reason for his pensive disposition. 

Rosalind: They say you are a melancholy fellow

Jaques:  I am so.I do love it better than laughing.

The Jaques of Hundred Acre Wood, Eeyore the perpetually gloomy, grey donkey too contemplates and does nothing. He too places himself outside the happy bunch of Hundred Acre Wood, exactly as Jaques does with those who populate Arden.  Nevertheless, Eeyore appreciates his friends and is grateful for the efforts taken by his friends to cheer him up. And unlike Jaques who says “why it is good to be sad and say nothing” , Eeyore can never restrain himself from passing acid remarks to everything he hears.

His theory that cynicism is the essence of his being corresponds to that of Jaques. He too revels in his melancholy and relishes his brimming cup of misery! This doleful donkey who is stuffed with saw dust and a missing tail replaced with an attached one that frequently gets detached, lives in his dismal ‘Eeyore’s Gloomy Place‘ marked on the map as ‘rather boggy and sad‘.

He feels insignificant, isolated and thinks any help from his friends to lift his spirits would be a futile task. Even though he craves for attention, when Pooh and Piglet come and shower him with love and compassion, Eeyore acts passive and greets them with his sardonic sarcasm. Eeyore’s friends accept him as he is ; they never expect him to change. Knowing well he’d be least excited and happy, they invite this lugubrious friend to participate in celebrations and adventures. And he is part of laborious tasks like the quest to rescue Christopher Robin from a  place called skull. Despite all the melancholy and cynicism we are so drawn to Eeyore, like his friends are. We relish his sharp wit wrapped in gloom  as much as we love the buoyant lines delivered by the jolly good fellows of Hundred Acre Wood. In Arden the Duke enjoys listening to Jaques in his ‘sullen fits’ because he would be in his idiomatic humour at its best! When in sombre mood, listening to Eeyore lifts your spirits and the dark temper just melts away.

As the motto of the Elizabethan era lutenist John Dowland  ‘Semper dolens, semper Dowland’ ( Always mourning, always Dowland); some are born to play a sad part. Yes, the bard rightly puts it

“Every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,

Wherein it finds a joy above the rest”