Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tussore & Taxidermy

{Or, Take That, Museum of Natural History}

P. and I spent all day Saturday on a wild goose-chase trying to get access to a government-run wheat storage facility as part of my research on industrial architecture for my painting project (more on that down the road). This brought us to the state capital city of Dehradun, which is a congested, sprawling warren of traffic-choked streets that leaves much to be desired except for one extraordinary but little-known attraction: the vast and curious Forest Research Institute of India. Which contains an absolute treasure-trove of Raj-era ephemera relating to *trees.*














We paid ten rupees (about twenty-two cents) to wander the musty, vaulted halls of the spectacular and slightly down-at-the-heels Institute and Silviculture Museum, the entirety of which is larger than Buckingham Palace. I’m happy to report the following visual and historical delights: an entire hall of dusty, faded dioramas that seemed to promote the national tree-planting agenda of the 1950s; a room dedicated to blights, plagues and the paraphernalia of insect extermination; an ivory display case of disintegrating tussore silkworm cocoons from 1909; black and white photographs from An Historic Record of Beasts of Burden Utilized In Timber Management from the 1920s; a collection of charming Victorian sandalwood soap boxes; and, most memorably, a sun-bleached hundred-year-old stuffed tiger with painted glass button eyes. It was incredible. And, save for a few snoozing security guards, we were the only people there.

When we got back up to our now-familiar mountain perch in Landour that night we were pooped and happy to be home. We spent Sunday reading (still trudging through Midnight’s Children in alternating states of exasperation and joy), planning for the future, and prepping the hot water for a Sunday night bucket bath. Because -and I think everyone would agree- the best way to start November is smelling like sandalwood soap.

Happy November (!). 

16 comments:

  1. You can find magic wherever you go, lady.

    November. BLIMEY.

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  2. rabbit rabbit, choue choue! i'm so glad taxidermy made it to your blog! LOVE YOU!

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  3. The smell of sandalwood may just the be best way to start any week. It is my favourite :)

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  4. Now you've got me thinking about needing some sandalwood to head into the season! I can't wait to hear more about the painting project! Happy November! xoxo

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  5. I love sandalwood soap as well. Makes the shower a magical place.

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  6. i love the soap and the illustrations on the packaging...im in love with the black butterfly with turquoise splotches and i love the photo of the arches and tiles....really its dizzying....

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  7. I love sandalwood soap in the fall too! Such a warming scent.

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  8. I like the sandalswood soap box.

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  9. aw, i'm so glad the box arrived! i was starting to worry that it had been waylaid on some lonely indian road.

    i've been loving all of your india posts - it looks so beautiful and vivid, but hard, too. most travel is, i guess. and your new ornithological watercolors are stunning, lovely, perfect.

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  10. "trying to get access to a government-run wheat storage facility as part of my research on industrial architecture for my painting project"

    i love you.

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  11. i wonder what the tiger's name was.

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  12. that is...AWESOME. Dehra Doon is my favorite weird town. not industrial but there is a very cool nat history museum in Calcutta if you get that way--siamese twin embryos and the like (although looks like you may not have to go further than DD).

    (get through midnight's children! it makes everything make sense--really really!

    PPS: will you go to Bhopal?
    How about all the weird little towns around Uttarkashi? I suggest...
    I love coming here--I reallly realy want to visit again...pictures of Dinker Rai and Urmila-ji please!

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  13. I love the old soap boxes.
    how fun to be the only ones there~ haha, besides the sleeping guards. oh india...

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  14. Good lawd, what a treasure trove! So awesome when you're the only ones there, makes you whisper even though there's no one to disturb. :)

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