Why Visiting a Museum Makes Me Consider Gentle Manslaughter

The agony and ecstasy of being a museum buff, from Sidin Vadakut.  
Photo: Company School term details Trichinopoly Style/Wikimedia Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Travellers! Are you about to embark on your next spectacular journey to a foreign country? (Yes, Sidin!) Are you planning to immerse yourself in the foreign culture? (100%, Sidin!) Are you looking forward to the glorious food and spectacular weather? (We are going to the U.K., Sidin.) Condolences. But surely you plan to visit numerous museums large and small? (Museums are the best, Sidin!)

Splendid. However I hope you are travelling alone or with extremely like-minded people. And especially not with family. Because I swear to god, 95 per cent of all humanity is unbearable when it comes to appreciating the endless fascinations and attractions of the museum.

I still recall that day in verdant detail. Many years ago, I went with my family on a whirlwind tour of the international metropolitan city of Kochi. Family being family, we spent approximately 40% of total tour time on “fish curry meals” for lunch, another 40% of the time arguing with a crusty local entrepreneur about the price of tender coconuts—“YOU COME TO OUR HOUSE IN THRISSUR AND I WILL GIVE YOU TENDER COCONUT FOR HALF THIS PRICE YOU CHARLES SOBRAJ”. For the few minutes that remained, we actually saw things.

After much persuasion everybody agreed to accompany me to the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry. How can one not be fascinated by such a microcosm of Kerala history? This erstwhile palace of the kings of Cochin was a gift from the Portuguese in the 16th century that was later renovated by the Dutch. All this done, of course, in return for favourable terms of trade and local influence. It uniquely captures Kerala architecture, traditional lifestyles, but also colonial influences. So little wonder then, that the first things uttered by our awestruck group as we entered were as follows:

Uncivilised Cousin: “This is a palace??? It looks like a warehouse, Sidin.”

Me: “Well it was built in the 16th century by the Portu…”

Uncivilized Uncle: “Free entry, alle?”

Me: “No there is a ticket…”

Lady at the counter: “These are the ticket prices…”

Uncle: “WHAT NONSENSE I AM NOT PAYING SO MUCH FOR OLD WAREHOUSE DOES THE COMMUNIST PARTY KNOW ABOUT THIS?”

Thankfully it was all downhill from there. I spent the afternoon lingering behind them so that I could actually enjoy the splendid murals, architecture, and information boards. Occasionally, I could hear a snigger or a sniff and half-wished it was the onset of Lhasa fever or some such.

You see there are two types of people in the world. There are people who not only like going to museums but also have the patience to walk around, ask questions, mellow in the history, and truly enjoy these great institutions. Sometimes these museums are huge and famous—British Museum—and sometimes they are small and obscure—Alwar Government Museum—but regardless of these differences these fellows enjoy museums respectfully and patiently. Because they know that all history holds some value and imparts some lesson.

Then there is the second type. The type that make you seriously consider some gentle manslaughter before running into a suitably liberal Scandinavian embassy for asylum. Recently, I had the great privilege of taking some distant relatives to the British Museum where they took selfies in front of the building and then left because, and I quote, “You have to walk so much to see it ya…”

OH MY GOD NORTH KOREA HOW MUCH LONGER BEFORE YOU GET YOUR NUCLEAR WARHEADS OPERATIONAL AND UNLEASH THE APOCALYPSE??!!!!

This is why I almost never visit museums with company. There is no point. You just end up spending all your time justifying the museum to some anti-cultural oxygen-depleter who hates everything whilst simultaneously photographing everything surreptitiously because they refused to buy a camera ticket.

Instead, always visit museums by yourself. Or, if company is unavoidable, do what I do and slowly go for a bathroom break at some point. And now that you are no longer “in sync” with the rest of the group, meander as you wish. And then fortify yourself for the inevitable family discussion afterwards.

“Ha ha what was that nonsense, Sidin.”

“You guys didn’t like it?”

“I stood in a line for ten minutes to see the king’s ancient toilet… it was a hole in the ground…”

“But you see in the 16th cent… Oh who cares. Let us go to Lulu Mall for shawarmas.”

(NUMEROUS FERAL GRUNTS OF APPROVAL)

  • Sidin Vadukut is a columnist and author of the "Dork" Trilogy and "The Sceptical Patriot". He is also a proud Keralite. He tweets as @sidin.

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