Space's lovely piece on Konark dove-tailed in rather nicely with this post that I'd been drafting, and finally pushed me into finishing it.

Possibly the one thing I'll take back most strongly from my years in this country is the depth of appreciation for the - and I'm struggling to make this a proper term - history of social architechture (as it were).

Oh yes, they do go on about their cathedrals and palaces and monuments (which are fairly spectacular), but most countries will do that about major architechtural wonders. But what really gets me is this peculiarly British devotion to, and delight with, everyday architechture that dates back centuries. I guess it partly comes from the whole pride in the Empire part, and partly from being such a storied nation, but that itself doesn't quite explain the mentality of a people who maintain and quite regularly use a local church which was first thrown open to the masses in 1079 AD. Or a row of houses that are still lived in, overlooking a busy road, with the youngest of them being 280 years old.

Maybe it's the size of the island, which really is quite astonishingly small for someone who's used to 20-hour train journeys being normal (there's apparently only one train route in the whole of the UK which has sleeper coaches). But there's this distinct interest not just in things big and marvellous, but in things small and lovely.

You cannot but spend time travelling with a resident of this country without being pointed out fascinating little asides - oh Siegfried Sassoon lived here, and that place actually used to be a proper mill, and this Roman road goes on all the way to Bristol. And if you happen to know someone who's even mildly interested in history and architecture, then you can look forward to being generally hurtled about and made aware of all the endless crenellations and window types and roof variations that abound.

Which means that when I do get time in India, I see things with quite a different view. It's always been fascinating walking around the old parts of Bombay - again, perhaps because so much of the architechture was from the time of the British. Most of the structures may now be dilapidated and grimy, but if you look carefully, you suddenly see the quaintest, unique design structures. And I'm not talking of the standard places - just wander round Old Bombay, and really look at the buildings. The V-shaped structurs, the little balconies, the portholes, the beheaded gargoyles, stairs so steep you feel you're getting on a ladder...simply fascinating stuff.

Oh sure, they might not be the ideal house to actually live in. But they are - or rather, were - a damn sight more interesting than these monolithic slabs that have been erected all over their demolished foundations.


On this last trip, I just kept wishing for a whole month where I could simply wander the streets of Old Bombay, taking lots and lots of snaps of the buildings. Much like what Szerelem was doing in Delhi. Maybe I should just get her to do Bombay too (which reminds me, where are you, Szer?)

Some day, maybe.

No comments: