Wed. 11th Sept. 1985
Hotel Maury, Mysore (Rs.29.50/-)
Hyderabad was the last city I want to see for a while. I felt like Indiana Jones or the guy in the Terry’s chocolate ad, forever dodging obstacles endangering my life and limb. Every pavement inch is occupied, if not with HERO sturdy bikes, auto and pedal rickshaws, then it’s the wares of sidewalk salesmen. Notaries and fidgetty-fingered typists are dictated to by illterates, engravers perpetuate memories of a loved one with great dexterity on thin slabs of smooth marble while not forgetting to include spelling mistakes.. Morris Major mechanics mend, banana sellers loudly appeal for custom: four for a rupee. Others peel garlic and ginger, and beggars clutch at hems and cuffs with defingered palms.
In the three hours between being vacated from my room and the overnight train to Bangalore, I bent and twisted my way yesterday to the Salar Jung Museum, known by educated Hyderabadans as the ‘Salar Junk Museum’.
It is not quite the world’s ugliest building as the Lonely Planet Guide claims, but it is possibly the world’s most boring, though perhaps the least informative is a more appropriate label. Not that there are many labels.
The curators should be stuffed and put on display with the unlabelled dead birds stuck to the cabinet wall with drawing pins, and on the floor, like perfectly formed droppings, moth balls.
In the Children’s Room, the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is told abruptly in three sentences. This is used to illustrate a line of garden gnomes, none of whom is Dopey, nor would I trust them to guard my garden pond. A statuette some three feet high is labelled: NEGRO FLUTE PLAYER – DO NOT TOUCH. This, for me, summed up the place.
In the room supposedly devoted to examples of the best of British painting, apart from a Landseer depiction of another dead stag, most of them had been exhibited in the Royal Academy’s summer exhibitions c.1830-60: a series of dank maidens abandoned by Greek gods.
In this room, however, was a painting which for sheer perfection of perspective and light I kept returning to: The Piazza of San Marco by Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, that well-known Brit.