Frame By Frame

What’s the one thing about structures that hits you between the eyes and leaves you dizzy with delight? For some, it may be the art adorning its edifice, or the way its steps are built… for me, the humble, and oft-ignored windows, do the trick! I don’t recall when my fondness for these ventilating elements developed. Perhaps, it all began during the holidays around the world when I strolled lazily like a curious tourist. I admired the arches, the beautiful stained-glass surfaces and the play of shapes and sections. In fact, the larger they are, the longer I pause to gaze at their glory. Besides, they always faithfully give away a little about what lies inside.

After my fair share of site-seeing, the humongous-panelled variants that line the Gothic churches made it to the top of my chart. So, when I had the chance to explore Germany, my first stop was the 19th-century Cologne Cathedral. Set inside, is a spectacular cross-vaulted ceiling that I would have otherwise missed marvelling at, had it not been highlighted by the light that filtered in through the arched windows. The walls here were side-stepped, giving way to the evolution of cathedrals from being the dark and brooding spaces to bright and lofty ones. The stained-glass windows infuse tints on the intricate carvings while bringing to life divine biblical scenes.

Closer home, trips within India revealed something unique to me. I was astonished to  find that the temples here stayed away from windows. So, I wasn’t particularly keen about my visit to the Madurai Meenakshi temple. Amidst the large arches and magnificent pillars, lies the windowless sanctum sanctorum, where the deity rests amidst the heady whiff of incense and burnt camphor, that would otherwise be diffused by a gush of air. Then there are the temples at Khajuraho that have small perforated windows to cast checked patterns on bright sunny days. And wouldn’t our very own global wonder, the Taj Mahal, lose half its charm minus its intricate arched jaali windows? Jaipur’s famous Hawa Mahal derives its name from the breeze that filters in through the 953 latticed jharokhas. I conclude that the grandeur of a structure can be heightened with the play of light.

The personality of a monument comes from its fenestrations, I believe. It is hence, that the modern mirror-clad towers disappoint me greatly, as they are devoid of my favourite feature. These shiny towers look much like lifeless pawns. I judge a home owner with the framework he picks for his windows. It’s not just about peeping out, if you look carefully, it adds beauty to the swift pace at which the world outside moves. A colleague once pointed out that my Pick Apart always had to do with me enjoying a cuppa. I think it stems from the hours that I have spent sitting by my window, sometimes in the company of a book, but mostly with my mug of tea.

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