'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Duke of Candallah

I have been to the hill station of Khandala many times over the last decade and a half. I have done the very enjoyable walk up the sharp-pointed hill near there called 'Duke's Nose' at least thrice. But I never knew - or even wondered - who the 'Duke' was.

Until the other day that is. The prominent rocky crest, which overlooks the Express Highway and is locally called 'Nagphani' (the Cobra's hood), was given its English name after Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington - the same general who was the nemesis of gentlemen ranging from Napoleon (who he finished off militarily at Waterloo) to Tipu Sultan (whom he simply finished off at Seringapatam). For the record, Wellesley could not (or did not) finish the 'Lion of Kerala', Pazhassi Raja (Wiki says Wellesley left India in 1803 "after 3 years of inconclusive war" with Pazhassi).

The source for the above info: a couple of paintings of 'Candallah' done by Brit colonial landscape artists (sadly, I did not note down their names), which were recently on display at the Victoria Memorial, Calcutta. One painting showed a caravan trail winding up the Bhor Ghat and the other, a far view of the Nose. The description given alongside revealed the Wellington connection. Of course, that Wellington had a big nose and was famous for it was news to me.

There is a bit of an anachronism in 'Duke's Nose': Wellesley was in these parts around the year 1800 but he was no Duke then - Indian history remembers him as just Wellesley and not "Duke of Wellington". The Duchy came his way only after he liberated Spain from Napoleon (1814). Indeed, while he was in India, he wasn't even a General. In Kerala history, he is only 'Karnal (colonel) Wellesley'. So, it is likely, the rock might have been named 'Colonel's Nose' or whatever - and 'promoted' later.

One more bit: the most impressive view of the Nose is not from up close but from Rajmachi fort - a long walk from Lonavla in a different direction. From that distant point, the Nose really looks a nose (from close quarters, Nagphani is, any day, a better name) and the hill as a whole looks uncannily like an aquiline-nosed man asleep - or stoned out.


And here is a three-score year old episode narrated by Pop:
"In an English exam, I mis-spelt the word 'duke' as 'duck' - several times. Our teacher left a one-line comment: "Do not play 'dukes and drakes' with the riches of English!""

Wiki says, "the Guinness record for 'stoneskipping' is 51 skips, set by Russell Byars on July 19, 2007". And coincidentally, one of my own earliest memories is of watching in sheer disbelief as Pop gave a demo.

Continuing the ramble on ducks and drakes a bit more, here is an episode from an old and very tacky mythological film, 'Jason and the Argonauts': A contest is on between Hercules (a huge warrior, in his prime) and a fresh-faced lad. The setting is a beach. Hercules powerfully hurls a discus and the projectile, having soared high, lands on a rocky islet quite some distance offshore. The boy nonchalantly asks "Should I hit that rock or go beyond it?" and sends another discus skipping happily over the sea - its last skip neatly clears the rock.


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