travel

Nastasya Filipovna

Finally last evening I was able to have the euphoric feeling of finishing a book from end to end, the feeling quadruples when it is a classic and the cherry on the top is added for I was moving at a snail’s pace. I picked it up in April while I was on my flight to Seattle and since then I have been reading a few pages here and there but over the long weekend I decided to be done with it and could I be any more successful!

I had purchased it for the first time back in 2011 after finishing Crime and Punishment but tsundoku applies to me. When I was in Paris, I did visit Shakespeare and Company, not for the sake of tourism and getting my photograph clicked and put a tick on my checklist but for some other reasons. At the entrance of the store there is a small paragraph written in chalk which intrigued me a lot and that was the tipping point for me to pick that book again.

IMG_20170816_100958

Truth be told, many times I did feel a little overwhelmed with inordinate amount of  details and endless dialogues but the development of the characters over a period of time kept me going. I guess a book becomes a classic when it transcends time, it doesn’t have to be didactic but should show the human emotions in most raw and authentic formats without any adulteration. Dostoevsky has always successfully dabbled with the concept of human emotions, the flaws and strengths that we carry with us since our birth and that makes us who we are. The Idiot deals with the human struggle of being a human being. Many times when I have read books from previous centuries, I have wondered have we progressed at all, are we on the right trajectory, will we evolve more emotionally or have we attained the apex point? The Idiot lets you peek into the Russian ideology, Russian society, customs and religion. I could understand the difference between the catholicism and Russian orthodox church and may be that’s one of the point from where the difference stems between Russia and the other western nations.

The book starts with a great pace and builds momentum over a period of time but then many characters jump in as it happens in Russian classics; As I took some time to read the book, I used a cheat sheet to refer to various characters in the story. There were metaphors and allegories used, and I don’t claim that I understood everything but I indeed relished the character development and the storyline of the main characters. The last 20 percent of the book moves at a faster pace compared to the middle part in which many other characters are getting focus and are having their spiritual transformations e.g. Hippolyte is one of them. I felt bad for Aglaya, she was just a normal girl who was with wrong people at wrong place at the wrong time. Myshkin is a typical nice guy but he is indecisive and his behavior with Aglaya infuriated me a little. Roghozin is one of those who think they are entitled to something great and they can have it by hook or crook but if one ignores his lunacy he did love Nastasya that turned into an obsession. The final one was Nastasya Phillipovana, her role in the story is passive for a long period of time except at the beginning and the conclusion. She is indecisive, she loves Myshkin but is convinced that he can’t be happy with her. She is the typical hot mess who has self destructive tendencies and it stems from her past. She reminds me of words of Jon Krakauer – “Some people feel like they don’t deserve love. They walk away quietly into empty spaces, trying to close the gaps of the past”. She knows how her story would end but she audaciously accepts it.

I think some characters alive or dead stay with you and Nastasya is one of them and I thank George Whitman for the introduction.

Advertisements

The concept of light

A month ago I found myself strutting around in hot Stockholm afternoon; all the Swedes seemed to be embracing the sun while I was running amok seeking refuge from the closest star of the solar system.

I ended up in Nordisk Museet in Djurgården and it turned out to be a great learning experience. Apart from learning about the Sápmi tribe, Eva chair, August Strindberg’s life apart from Miss Julie I had elaborate and thoughtful reflections on the importance of light in human life. The gallery, Nordic lights, focused on the idea how Scandinavians have mastered the concept and art of light as they live in two extremes – in summers they are drenched with sun while in winters they have sun only as a theoretical concept. The idea is not only to see clearly but also create a cozy atmosphere around you in the room and derive pleasure out of it. How to strive for Lagom while lighting your home given too much light can cause light pollution and too less will make you grope for things. The daylight is considered the benchmark in achieving this balance and thus started the human adventure for optical quest.

ljusets_former_12

How lights have changed the world we see around us!

I was particularly interested in all the optics related ideas given I strive for minimalism and want to modulate the light around me so it doesn’t cause eye pain and provides ample amount for me to read, execute tasks, and have hygge as well.

It is interesting why Scandinavians mastered the art of lighting. Back in 1930s, Sweden and Finland were host to a few most densely populated cities in the western world which gave rise to the concept of Folkhemmet( Swedish welfare state) and small apartments. The obvious corollary was to obviate anything that is too large and awkward. The design of furniture and light has to be functional. Understand what is the need and then shape the object. Soon the artists joined the crusade so everyone can enjoy the designs at much cheaper price;  artistic expression focused on functionalism thus giving rise to modernism. The gallery focused on how we evolved from the fireplace to PH lamps. (Paul Henningsen).

IMG_20180715_144007

The design principle ( a visit to Nordic museum in Seattle)

One important  principle to remember while choosing the light is the temperature that it works on. Warm light – temperature 2700 to 3500 Kelvin (yellow in color) and cold light – 3500 to 5000 Kelvin (Blue white/white in color), candlelight 1850 Kelvin. Most hygge temp e.g. sunset, candle light, and campfires is ~ 1800 Kelvin. (Kelvin is the standard unit to measure temperature and 273.15 Kelvin = 0 Celsius)

The question that we should ask while thinking about the functional lighting is what happens in the space? Is it for reading and writing or to accentuate focus on something. That’s how the functional lighting works.

Too much light and one would start feeling being interrogated in the room thus staying away from ceiling light that creates an industrial ambience is a good idea; unless it comes with a dimmer so you can modulate the brightness. Too much light can kill the hygge of the room.

One interesting concept is the use of several light sources and the localized lighting( concentrate on lighting areas of the room than entire room).

I have experienced that too much light cause discomfort in the room and even a small light source works if the room isn’t used for working. For general lighting we can use large arched lamps, small chandeliers, or overhead lights to create localized and focused lighting. Hanging central lights provide focused and softer light. There are many lamps that diffuse light through origami structure to create multiple focal points and many geometric lamps that help develop patterned light across the room.

For those who read and write, having arched floor lamps with cool white light is apt while to highlight certain spaces one should think of accentuating using low level table lamps.

Apart from focusing on the concept of light one should focus on the color palette of the room as well. Low key color palette with use of white and grey on the walls helps light to bounce.

These are the basic principles that one should start playing around with while thinking of light around them, there isn’t any one stop solution as the light is a subjective concept. Thankfully we live in an industrial world with enough options to cater to our needs.

IMG_20180603_115418

Nordisk Museet – How functionalism dominates the design process; PH lamp on display.

 

 

 

 

 

An old bookstore in Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia, once under the iron curtain of Russia is now the most connected country in the world. Its capital city Tallinn indeed feels like a city straight from a fairy tale. From the cloudy skies, cobbled pathways, canopied passages to the orange rooftops, each has direct connection to a dream woven story.

The ochre and other pastel colors in the old town remind me of Gamla Stan in Stockholm and large hanging drapery of sky is a splitting image of the Prussian blue water of Baltic Sea.

IMG_20180606_134030~2

Pastel passages of Tallinn

The city has cool neighborhood, Kalamaja, famous for its wooden architecture. The bohemian and hipster hood akin to certain parts of Brooklyn where I like to hang out. If I were a Finn living in Helsinki I would take a ferry most of the weekends to eat at F-Hoone(May be it means F-building) in the Tellskivi center. The market nearby – Depoo, runs from an old locomotive depot. One side of the market reminds one of the Soviet past of the country. Tchotchke from the yesteryear era find home in the market while the other end is as modern as any other city market.

IMG_20180606_164452

F-Hoone, The hipsters paradise

Such medieval city has to have a rich reading culture and I did end up in Raamatukoi opposite the tourist info center in the old town. The Estonian word Raamatukoi means bookcase in English and it indeed is apt given the bookstore is brimming with books – new and old.  The reading skill foundation laid by the Children’s book trust and National book trust acquaints one with Russian literature very early; Seeing the familiar Mir publisher logo on various titles made me smile and was surprised to see a few statements written here and there in Hindi.

IMG_20180606_144106

The bookstore sells chiefly old and used books, postcards, old vinyl records and is a pit stop of the history. It holds in itself a historical account of what the country has gone through and has been an eye witness to various churns of time without getting stuck in a time warp.

IMG_20180606_144213

Inside Raamatukoi

Rahva Raamat is another bookstore that was well equipped but when I learned that it is a chain bookstore present in entire Estonia, I kept it in the same bucket as Barnes and Nobel. There is something charming about the old, independent bookstores and coffee shops that is comforting.

I wish I had more time to uncover the other parts of the city but the impromptu ship journey from Helsinki turned out to be fruitful and gratifying indeed.

The silver-lining  of Estonia is instead of being held back by its past and playing the blame game as has happened in many post disintegration countries, it chose to start from scratch and build. The strategy has paid really well and Estonians can enjoy the view of their capital city from either Patkuli or Kohtuotsa and breathe the fresh air with pride.

IMG_20180606_141129~2

The orange rooftops of Tallinn from Kohtuotsa

IMG_20180606_145516

St. Catherine’s passage (Katariina Käik)

A quiet place to sit

Not very often we find a place where we can gather our thoughts, find solace, have a cup of coffee and browse through an impressive collection of literature – fiction and non fiction. After visiting Auschwitz, I came back to Krakow in the evening and wanted to be at a place that can give me silence for some time. My hostel wasn’t conducive of such ambience so I walked a little south west of my location across the Planty park and reached Massolit books and cafe at Felicjanek 4/2. I entered the quiet bookstore and strolled around, a few people were browsing, a few talking, and a few were working on their computers as in any coffee shop in a big city of USA. I ordered a latte and seated myself in a corner seat besides an old woman who most probably was a teacher and was correcting papers and was nodding her head in disappointment while embellishing the answer sheets in big red circles. IMG_20180609_185244

A few days ago I was in Nordisk Museet in Stockholm and learned about the concept of lighting the spaces and how optics and light designers have revolutionized the concept and the device itself. The Scandinavian region doesn’t get a lot of light for a large part of the year, so artificial lighting is the key but the fundamental principle is to have a smooth transition between darkness and light or vice versa and create an environment that is cosy, comfortable, and makes you calm. While I was sitting there, I could feel those principles in application.

The books on the table in front were the ones which I won’t generally find in your around the corner bookstore unless I go to City lights in San Francisco. Apart from that, the old and used tables here have a charm that needs to be enjoyed again whenever I find myself in Kraków.

 

Subtle Golden Path of Munich

Being a flâneur in a city will take you to many places and will unfold the city in front of you like an open book. One stumbles upon conspicuous and inconspicuous places, events, people, sites that a guidebook might not lay down in front of you.

One thing that I appreciate sincerely about Germans is that they don’t try to sweep the history under the carpet. It is out there in the open for everyone in the world to take lessons from so as not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. But where is the world heading! Well, that’s another discussion.

I was in the city center when I found myself on Viscardigasse, where I found a cobblestone path in gold. Curious, I tried to find information on curved golden blocks in one ordinary looking alley of Munich.

IMG_20180314_115553

The golden path is a tribute to those people who didn’t support the Nazis and to avoid giving a salute to a monument commemorating those who died during the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, these people chose a back alley in their routes. Soon, it was discovered that people are avoiding the main square so as not to salute, so the reich instated a policeman in the middle of the alley and if one didn’t have a reason to use the alley, he/she was either beaten or worse sent to Dachau concentration camp as an enemy of the state. That’s why the golden path is present only in half of the alley, to commemorate those whose fates were sealed midway. Those who dared to choose their own path and didn’t fail to take a risk.

It is such a subtle tribute and so easy to miss but when noticed is so powerful and thought provoking. An excellent example of minimalism, a tribute to all those who suffered and perished, and a symbol to keep them in the back of our minds always.