29_museum sign

I thoroughly love museums that house modern art. I’ve had the privilege to visit some in Manila, New York City, New Haven, Philadelphia and Mumbai. After browsing through, my latest guide to exploring Baku, I decided to visit the city’s Museum of Modern Art. It’s my way of kicking myself out of the Icherisheher periphery, which has begun to feel like a soft comfortable cave that I rarely want to escape.

So with Google Map direction in hand plus my iphone 4S, light, multi-purposeful, I set off for Neftchilar Avenue. (On a side note, I love my Canon Ixus. It takes wonderful photos, almost like an SLR, but there’s something about Instagram. Instagram equals instant gratification. It’s got these really cool filters which make my photos look artistic and I get to share my photos with people of similar interests as well as those who live in Baku. There so many mind-blowing photos in Instagram that also inspire. It’s a great cyber-community and I have yet to explore it’s complete potential. So for now, I’ll stick to taking photos with my iphone.)

Let me start again. With Google Map directions in hand, I walked to Neftchilar Avenue and meandered around broken sidewalks as I looked for Pasha Travel. I never saw Pasha travel, but I did see Pasha Bank. I was supposed to turn left onto Yusif Safarov but I didn’t see any street sign on the road that I suspected was Yusif Safarov. I turned left anyway and around 100 meters away, I spotted copper sculptures outside the museum building.

The entrance fee is five manat and it is well worth it. Baku’s Museum of Modern Art is a beautifully designed space.

The museum is all white, shiny with interesting doorways, pillars and lighting.  There were also only around five visitors when I came in, so I pretty much had the whole museum to myself.

The museum is all white, shiny with interesting doorways, pillars and lighting. There were also only around five visitors when I came in, so I pretty much had the whole museum to myself.

I absolutely loooved these couches.  You could literally almost lie down on them as you soaked in the art.

I absolutely loooved these couches. You could literally almost lie down on them as you soaked in the art.


The lighting from the ceiling added to the breath-taking space. That's also a wheeled installation hanging from the ceiling by the way.

The lighting from the ceiling added to the breath-taking space.

But, of course, I went to the museum, not just for its space but for its art. I felt blase and disconnected as I browsed the paintings, and I had to ask myself why.

Perhaps, I’m tired of modern art. I don’t care much anymore for deformed bodies, splintered souls. Images of monsters. These days I prefer the simplicity of open blue skies and the Caspian.

Perhaps, I was looking for something Azerbaijani. I’ve only lived here since August, and I am no expert on Azerbaijan culture. But I didn’t sense the warmth or beauty of the people within these paintings. Instead, I saw copycats. I don’t mean this in an offensive way. Perhaps a better of saying it is–maybe these artists were in the process of learning about modern art from the masters, so many of the paintings looked very similar to those of the masters’.

Picasso?  Sorry, I somehow can't make this photo turn upright.

Picasso? Sorry, I somehow can’t make this photo turn upright.

Action Jackson?

Action Jackson?

And my favorite.  The red-orange Matisse.

And my favorite. The red-orange Matisse.

The saving grace of the exhibit was Melik Agamalov’s work. Alas. I found a familiar face. Something unique. Beautiful. Something Azeri.

The painting is simply entitled "Lady".  It felt good to look into the eyes of a confident Azeri woman clothed in traditional garb.  There are gold splotches on the painting, which to me, signify a fading traditional culture.  Vintage.

The painting is simply entitled “Lady”. It felt good to look into the eyes of a confident Azeri woman clothed in traditional garb. There are gold splotches on the painting, which to me, signify a fading traditional culture. Vintage.

I ended my visit with a trip to the library and the coffee shop. The library housed Azeri, Russian and English books on famous modern artists. Unfortunately, there was no one manning the library when I dropped by.


All in all, it was a good experience. I would definitely recommend this museum to people who visit Baku. It’s an amazing space.

But still, I would like to see something Azeri.

Dripping with passion!–a phrase that best describe the people I worked with today, a phrase that used to describe me, and words to describe what I hope to get back!

My morning started off with a visit to Fazlani L’Academie Globale to attend an IB Asia Pacific regional visit. These visits usually focus on the diploma programme, which isn’t my area of interest. But today, Mignon Weckert and Kathy Derrick, PYP (Primary Years Programme) regional managers who are dripping with passion! when it comes to learning and the PYP led more than half of the meeting. PYP Coordinators from all over India flew down to Mumbai, and the kindergarten room we sat in was charged with excitement, burning questions, and a passion for teaching students! It’s good to be in the company of like minds.

When I returned to school, the fifth grade teachers pulled me into their room and we put our five heads together to try and come up with statements to help students build on their inquiries and conceptual understandings. Yup, I know a lot of jargon. Let it suffice to say that we pondered on concepts, words, learning. It was very much like trying to solve a puzzle.

Time stopped. Nothing mattered outside the four walls of S’s class. Nothing mattered except student learning.

That’s why I’m in education.

I was very impressed with the art work in Fazlani. The focus was more on expression and creativity, rather than technique, which to me, is the purpose of the art. Hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Fazlani's first grade students created this ostrich to communicate awareness on the ill effects of junk food.

I started this blog in July, took a hiatus in August, and leaped back into the blogging wagon on January 2 of this year. I’ve been posting every day since, and I’m pushing myself, and just hoping I won’t stop. (Oh the backlog guilt! I still have 2 series that I haven’t finished!)

I’ve also been exploring the WordPress Site Stats section, and have been quite amused with the posts that have generated the most hits.

So, here goes–

10. Mumbai Scribbles, Day 3 — My Mumbai Scribble photos are inspired by WordPress’s Project 365. My goal is to catalog images every day that tell the story of Mumbai, a place I’m visiting, or something I’m engaged in. Cataloging images has sparked wonder in me, and it’s inspiring me to appreciate what I have every day.

9. Flounder Flops — It’s funny how this entry seems to pop up on the “how to not make flounder mushy” Google search. I haven’t found the answer, but since misery loves company, I hope that some cooks out there have discovered that they’re not the only ones with flounder flops.

8. Broccoli-Mushroom Curry and the Rat Race — I’m glad that many people have found this quick recipe. It’s a healthy no-brainer for busy people.

7. From Louie’s Kitchen: Lemon-Pepper Tilapia — I’m sure Louie would be happy to know that people have been browsing his recipe and hopefully trying them out! I’m surprised that quite a number of my recipes are on my top 10 posts. Maybe it’s time that I go back to trying at least one new recipe a week that I can share!

From Louie's facebook status update on July 14: Todays menu via the garden and friends. Tomato soup (Thanks Sacha) with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (Thanks Simon and Garfunkel). Maple Glazed Lemon Squash (Thanks Sacha), Cucumber/Scallion/carrot Salad, grilled Green Squash / Eggplant Sandwich on fresh Sun dried tomato/Parmigiana cheese bread (Thanks Laurie for my French bread pan, I really like it), and lemon pepper grilled talipia (Thanks fish farmers)

6. Greek Garbanzos Salad — Another healthy eat! I also bought these dishes to make my food pop out in photographs. It’s a sign! Time to generate healthy eats again!

Students representing South Africa!

5. Mumbai Scribble, Day 18: International Day — My favorite special event in school!

4. Pig Roast in Nancy’s Graduation — The fourth of July last year was one of the most beautiful days I’ve seen and experienced. This was a happy memory with B, my honey, and his family. Nancy tragically died in a car accident a few weeks before Christmas. But she didn’t die in vain. Her smile, kindness and love have left and indelible impact on thousands of lives.

Louie, Anne Marie and Nancy in the Lapp's breathtaking farm

3. Weekly Photo Challenge: Ready / Mumbai Scribble, Day 28: Kala Ghoda Festival — I love doing the Weekly Photo Challenge. It’s another venue for bloggers to share their creative ideas. I find that many of my followers discover Scribbles through this page.

2. 10 Things I Learned from Dilip D’Souza’s Travel Writing Workshop — I scribbled this entry in less than an hour. It was based on a workshop I took a couple of days ago. Little did I know that it would generate so many hits. I’m still happy to have found Dilip and the group. We’re meeting next month in either Bandra or Thane, and we need to work on our first assignment–pick two travel experiences and write an essay that connects them. What a challenge!

DD's Travel Writing Bus in Elphinstone College

Silent Noise by Saini Johray

1. Mumbai Scribble, Day 27: Kala Ghoda Festival — Never in a million years would I have thought that this photo would generate so many hits. It pops up in Google Images when you type in “Kala Ghoda Festival 2012”. I accidentally tapped into something called “Search Engine Optimization”. Thank you, Google!

In the meantime, I’m on the 10% mark of my blogging goal this year, which is to post every day.

I’m trying. Persevering. Writing. Taking photos. And posting. One day at a time.

It’s elections in Mumbai! It’s also time to vote for your favorite Kala Ghoda installation amongst these four! Take a look and place a tick on the poll located at the bottom!

"Radiance" by Badal Suchak. This man has risen out of the coils and discovered his inner radiance. He is reaching out to us, the viewer, and hoping to inspire us to find our own inner radiance.

"Green Beacon" by the CSVMS Museum Team. It symbolizes the widespread use of plastic and how it's ruining our ecosystem.

"Duration Conglomerates" by Various Artists. This represents the diversity in India's social structure.

"The Rearing Horse" by Sukant Panigrahy. He creates art that inspires awareness of nature and its beauty by using found objects and recycled material. The sculpture embodies courage, strength and freedom before adversity.

There are no public loos that are open before ten am in Colaba. I specifically asked the old Fiat cab to drop me off in front of Coffee Cafe Day, and as I alighted a sign hanging from the door greeted me with something like–“Sorry. You’ve come at the wrong time. Come back later.”

I proceeded to skip to Kala Ghoda, hoping to find the Elphinstone College open, making an inner compromise to use their squat loo. No luck. Then I remembered S, a fellow workshop participant, telling me that she would always use the Westside’s (a department store beside Elphinstone) bathroom. Darn! Still close!, the padlocks indicated.

It’s times like this when I miss Manila. We have a Starbucks at every corner, open at 6 am, providing cafe lattes and spotless bathrooms.

Then I remembered my mission, the reason why I decided to come early. The installations! I thoroughly enjoyed taking photographs of the installations a week ago. They marked the streets of Kala Ghoda, and intrigued me because even if many of them weren’t aesthetically pleasing they made me think, and they brought a spirit of curiosity that I haven’t felt since visiting the museums in New York state.

So I decided to ignore the pinching pain in my bladder, erase the memory of Starbucks and cross the street to the island where many of the installations stood proudly.

A crow a crow a crow. I confess that I don’t even remember seeing this a week ago. I’m not sure if they installed it after February 5 or I just didn’t notice. Didn’t care. Why would someone spend so much time and resources recreating a common bird? And not a pretty one at that. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to photograph this installation.

But I read the explanation–

The idea that the dead needed to be saved piqued my curiosity and made me scan the details of the installation. I also like the idea of a crow, an animal that Hindus believe could save, experiencing common human problems.

I appreciated the installation more when the details were magnified under my lens. As I look back at my photos and try to guess what problems Sumeet Patil tried to depict, the stories he was trying to tell, I’m more curious, more inspired to ask and perhaps spin some tales myself. Somehow, I get a vague sense that the stories are about alcoholism, pollution, slum life. Maybe greed. And drought. Fodder for a novelette.

I also like how something or someone who saves becomes a common man, in contrast to human beings reaching for gods that are out of their grasp.

After clicking the photos, I looked at my phone clock–9:55. My workshop, which was located in Elphinstone, was at ten. It was time to put my camera down. It was time to stop clicking photos of frozen crows taking sips from broken bottles. It was time to check if the building was open.

The pinch in my bladder turned into a pinch of guilt as I thought about my needs and how everything was relative.

I walked back to the college, used the squat loo with my scarf, camera and bag hanging from my neck. Knees bent, feet balanced on two narrow footholds.

I used the squat loo without complaint.

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