Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

11 August 2009

A sorrowful loveliness

A building is sometimes like a dogma; it is insolent, like dogma. Whether or no it is permanent, it claims permanence, like a dogma. The people who chose the spot where it stands. The people who designed it. The people who built it. They are all dead and gone. Yet, it stands. Valiantly, if somewhat in a melancholic manner. Stripped of its former occupants, its old uses. A home turned into a place of learning.

Last weekend I wandered into Himachal University's Institute of Integrated Himalayan Studies. This winsome building is located near the gruesome space-age University Library. So ugly is the latter that you could be forgiven for nearly missing its far more pleasing neighbour!
The building which houses the Institute bears no name. I asked the youngsters loitering around. They were ignorant. I asked some old-time residents. Some of these did not even know such a building existed. Or perhaps, to be more charitable, they failed to make the connection. I'm optimistic yet, that someone will tell me its original name, because no building worth its salt went without a name in Shimla!

What's in a name, asks the Bard. Indeed, nothing much. So let's go on to look at it. Why I was captivated by it is because, in my perambulations across town, this appears, to me, to be the only example of Art Deco architecture in Shimla. I would love to be corrected on this.
This building is a lovely example of the classic Art Deco features: a simplicity of design and understated ornamentation and a focus on geometric embellishments. Art Deco was a popular international art design movement from 1925 until the 1940s. It inspired fields such as architecture, interior design, insdutrial design and even visual arts.

If you look at the dark green trimmings of the balcony, you will notice the archetypal Art Deco feature: horizontal lines. Remember, Art Deco was a child of its times, and increase in speed was the motif, especially in the transport industry. These lines reflected that desire for a streamlined, speed appearance!

Apart from geometric ornamentation, the "sunburst" pattern you see above, was a motif much favoured by designers of Art Deco buildings. (Other symbols used frequently were lightening bolts and plant and animal life). These symbols were meant to embody dawn, truth, justice and achievement.
You will observe the sunburst motif repeated in the balustrades of this little "sit out" whose photograph is placed below. .


I have placed below three examples found in the Institute of classical Art Deco elements: vertical lines, simplicity: a stripped-down, elemental look in terms of façades and features, and geometric embellishments in terms of the use of circles, semi-circles, chevrons and squares.

Art Deco embodied all that was thought of as "modern." It represented the modernity of the machine age - - - all the amenities of modern society brought on by the industrial revolution. It represented modern simplicity, strength, forward motion, achievement, technology. A departure from the traditional, classic design/ornamentation seen in the Gothic and neo-Gothic styles. It was at once unique, alluring and sublime.

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