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Vol. XXIX No. 3, May 16-31, 2019

Pavithra’s Perspective

The Empty Cupola

Page 3_2 image

Until my twenties, what little I knew of Chennai’s distinguished fort was confined to the one trip I’d made as a teenager to the Fort Museum – where I’d seen a huge portrait of Queen Alexandra and promptly fallen in love – but there my knowledge ended. Some years later, asked to do a piece on selfsame Museum for The Times of India, I visited the Fort. I submitted to the checks, the signed registers, crossed the moat (which I didn’t even realize until later was one) and made a beeline for my destination, when I paused by the bottom of the steps.

To my left rose a rather beautiful structure, supported by columns, a tree looming over it. It looked like it should be housing something, but wasn’t. I stared at the structure and went on my way, puzzled.

Twice more did I visit the Fort, pausing to gaze at the Cupola each time, prompting the security to first level suspicious stares – and later, when I mentioned my reasons, to level even more suspicious questions which I eventually cleared by showing them the truly humongous stack of ASI publications I periodically bought – and eventually let me leave. By this time, my curiosity threatened to burst at the seams.

It was Madras Musings that came to my rescue (courtesy Mr. Sriram V), informing me that what I’d seen was a “Greek-styled pavilion; an ionic-pillared rotunda surmounted by a cupola” – and that it had once housed Lord Cornwallis, both with a history that went back 200 years. The statue had been sculpted by one Thomas Banks, as he “was the first of his country to produce works of classic grace.” Eventually, Cornwallis and cupola parted ways, one to stand forlornly underneath the staircase of the Fort Museum, while its frame stood outside, open to the elements.

It made the transition to paper very easily, and remains one of my fastest completed miniatures to date.

Description: 3.5” by 3.5” approximately
Medium: Black Micron pen.
Pavithra Srinivasan is a writer, journalist, artist, translator, columnist and an editor and is fascinated with History.

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