dimanche 16 août 2015


Bogota has that vague familiarity as one drives through, the ochre colours of the tiles of the houses, the gardens well kempt, no tall buildings and nothing reminiscent of the turbulent distant past. Houses and apartment complexes line the street, lazily looking at the yellow taxis, red buses, and pedestrians who seem to be in hurry to go anywhere. The trees are not striking, but they are not tropical and the hills surrounding the city, with prominent peaks covered in threatening mist reminds you that you are far away from sun and sea and lapping waves and the tropical torpor.
I stopped a yellow taxi; I had been warned about the dangers of taking regular taxis rather than the hotel taxis. A very sleepy driver with a smell of a festering wound, welcomed me with no great fanfare, and off we went to Candelaria, the historic heart of Santa Fe de Bogota.
A mixture of old and new, but the old were very old by American standards and the new with a touch of architectural dignity. I walked up the street and stopped at a corner where views in any directions reminded you of the oligarchs and the hundred year war of the Conservatives. It was only three in the afternoon, but the fine drizzle and the patronizing mist from the mountains made you think of a later time.

I was so excited when I could recognize the unmistakable Fernando Botero sculpture and with the greatest of excitements I entered the Fernando Botero Museum, much different from his outdoor sculpture garden in Medellin, the city of his birth. This collection was truly mesmerizing. It was as if Alvaro Mutis (Maqroll) and Gabo (Macondo) were giving me a tour of the Colombian History of wars and death and destruction but the survival of the spirit of this people who have managed to weave this softness of Colombian Character.

When I saw this Presidential portrait by Botero, I couldn’t help thinking of No One Writes to the Colonel.
Maqroll, whose shadow I carry within myself, was present, as always scheming of a thing or two and Botero had managed to capture it. Colombia’s unique character gave Gabo the ability to enhance what Alejo Carpentier (Cuba) had earlier thought of: The Magical Realism.

I was deeply engrossed in Botero’s sketches and paintings and thinking of the Macondo where I had lived in Cuba and the surrealism of our lives during difficult times there.  Gabo would write a short story about the security guard at a store in Vedado stopping a woman from entering because she was carrying two soft Avocados. He later said if the avocados were not that ripe, I would have let her in. What was he thinking? The lady was about to shoplift using a soft avocado?

(Picasso, Miro, Freud, Chagall)
Then there was a surprisingly good collection of European masters, especially Pablo Picasso and here the attachments to the paintings were emotional rather than magical.
Does the same part of the brain get exhilarated when the viewing of pictures gives you the same pleasure but for a different reason? Prof V Ramachandran of UC San Diego might be able to explain that.
My appreciation of things French (in aesthetic terms) drew me to view Renoir, Corot, and Toulouse Lautrec among others as well as many painters who had been elsewhere but died in France... Chagall, Lipschitz…
the photograph below I think is the same town painted earlier  Trouville in Normandy

I was dressed in clothes from India and I noticed that that was attracting attention among the visitors. I heard someone comment that I was from India, but I proceeded through the exhibition hall, nonchalantly, without paying attention to those who were paying attention to me, I was too thrilled with the magical realism of Colombia...
But the moment in Cochin, when the flame of magical realism touched me, was when a painter by the name of Sunil Vallarpadam was presented to me. He had a moustache which was impressive and had some good looking friends including one who looked soft enough to want you to take up Meditation.

I remember Sunil’s lines and they evoked a sense of fullness of a picture which seemed only partial a second ago. I could see at this museum, some of the paintings, accomplished more than depicted. I must tell Sunil that the next time we meet.

I left the museum with such a light heart and wonderful mood that I felt that I must try even more to be nicer to every single person and smile at every one. The drizzle was so light that it rather caressed than moisturizing your skin. The mist had descended even further down from the mountains.
Walking past the Centro Cultural Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I thanked this nation which has given me such aesthetic appreciation and education through Alvaro Mutis, Gabo and Botero...
 Cultural Frankensteinism in the land of Magical Realism...feels more magical here, if this man was parading along the Malecon in Havana, there it would appear Frankensteinism..

So far, I have visited Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena and Leticia in Colombia and there is whole lot of beautiful places to cover... Ojala!
The UBER driver was there in minutes and he drove me past the Montserrate with a church that can be seen for miles, the street of Banks and the municipal park and through the ordinariness of Bogota. He left me at the gates of Hilton Hotels, a wonderful place to stay in Bogota where my new friends Leidy and Lorena, greeted me and directed me to the early evening reception for visitors. The wine was Undurranga from Chile, the snacks were all made in the hotel and I spent two hours sitting reading, writing and recollecting the pleasant feeling of being in Candelaria..