Mona Lisa without a bindi and earrings : The Tribune India

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Mona Lisa without a bindi and earrings

Mona Lisa without a bindi and earrings

Mona Lisa. File photo



Usha Bande

WOW! Mona Lisa here, of all places!’ The utterance was spontaneous. We, a group of eight middle-aged professors, were going back to Shimla from Kullu after a weekend trip. The morning was shivering cold and we needed a steaming cuppa. After my exclamation, everybody started gazing at the Mona Lisa poster on the sooty wall of the dhaba. A boy came to take our order, but he was confused, looking alternately at us and at the wall and not really able to understand this unusual furore.

‘A great creation,’ someone whispered in admiration. ‘It’s a million-dollar smile.’ While others nodded, probably not to look out of sync with the popular opinion, I blurted out unwittingly: ‘Frankly, I am not much for her smile.’ A friend stared at me through her oversized spectacles and whispered: ‘Me too. I do not find her attractive.’ There was a collective ‘hmm’ from the group.

‘Don’t forget that it is this enigmatic smile that makes her a mysterious seductress. It is Da Vinci’s artistic technique and the subtle gradation of light and shadow,’ someone said. Now, we were instantly divided into two groups — those who extolled her smile and the others who were not enthused about all the brouhaha about it.

It is an undeniable fact that even five centuries after Leonardo da Vinci painted this world-famous portrait, the lady not only draws countless spectators but is also a subject of deep research.

‘Have you read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code?’ an avid reader from among us asked. Pat came the reply: ‘Yes. But it’s a thriller about the hidden symbols of Da Vinci’s paintings.’

‘The sculpture of Shalbhanjika has a far more attractive smile.’ This came from an aficionado of Indian art.

‘You can’t compare a sculpture with a painting,’ the Fine Arts professor expressed his displeasure.

‘Ok. Then Raja Ravi Varma’s Damayanti? His Sairandhri? And other beautiful representations of Indian womanhood?’ I butted in. That had a sobering effect and the group was silent for a while. Sensing a lull in the cacophony, the dhaba worker asked the usual questions: How many coffees? How many teas? Green or black? With or without sugar? Vikas, known for his temper, said gruffly: ‘Yaar, kuchh bhi le aa — kali, pili, nili, hari! Par jaldi se chai le aa. Badi sardi hai.’

The boy rushed to the kitchen, from where wafted the smell of frying. We looked at each other, smiled, agreed silently, ordered paranthas, and ate to our fill. Mona Lisa was smiling down knowingly at us.

While making the payment, I asked the owner about the poster. His response was flat: ‘Oh, I don’t know who she is. I got her from Kullu just to make the wall colourful. She is pretty but bland. Only if she had a bindi and earrings.’

We drove off, still dissecting Mona Lisa’s smile.

#Kullu #Shimla


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