Tuesday, 23 July 2013

School poems one still remembers!

Sleep was hard to come by last night and the words from two old poems I learnt at school continued to resonate in my mind. My first instinct was to switch on the wi-fi and do an instant search, but knowing my super smart five month old who is sharp to sense my absence, I decided to wait until morning. And as soon as hubby left for office and the Small One permitted me, I saw these poems and a rush of memories came flooding back.

The first one's titled the Ice-Cream Man and I remember the words of the first and the third paragraph very distinctly even after a good 19 years. Moreover, I also remember the 'chart' I had made for display with a little ice-cream cart on it and the innumerable times our class-teacher made us recite this poem from the said chart. Thanks to the technology and in particular the web, for preserving our memories in some distant unknown corner for us to rediscover them one day! Only today did I also realize that in Class 6 when I read this poem we never cared about who the 'Author' is, rather it was the ABC chapter of our Madhuban English Reader which was going to be part of the exam as per the semester syllabus. Today, while I was researching on the net, I was delighted to learn that the poem today forms Chapter 6 of the Odisha state english reader for class 7 and hopefully once again, in remote parts of the country, it will stimulate the imagination of many children just like two decades back it did mine.

That apart, it was that era when ice cream parlors (Aka Nirula's) had not yet arrived and for our daily (?) dose we actually depended on the ice-cream carts which passed down our streets and offered a staple of few flavors only. However, the ice-cream men  and the cart  we saw were in stark contrast to the one in the poem and I remember fantasizing about the possibility of having various flavors of ice-cream and drinks (dint even know about the existence of soda-fizz drinks then or perhaps we were not permitted). Given that as a child I was notorious for my endless demands, the fact that ice-cream was the focus of a school textbook must have provided a legitimate excuse for my expectations!

The Ice-Cream Man
Rachael Field

When summer's in the city,
And brick's a blaze of heat,
The Ice-Cream Man with his little cart
Goes trundling down the street.

Beneath his round umbrella,
Oh, what a joyful sight,
To see him fill the cones with mounds
Of cooling brown or white:

Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry,
Or chilly things to drink
From bottles full of frosty-fizz
Green, orange, white or pink.

His cart might be a flower bed
Of roses or sweet peas,
The way the children cluster round
As thick as honey bees.

The memories of another poem whose first two lines have always helped me remember Sicily belongs to Italy (and thus Corsica to France!) are rather hazy and it did not even form part of the standard text. I remember having seen it in some workbook for some grammatical exercise and it was only yesterday that even the meaning became clear to me. While am yet to figure out the author, the use of specific geographical names to convey a story is something I had never seen before and was greatly humored and impressed at the same time.

Long legged Italy, 
Kicked poor Sicily, 
Right into the Middle, 
Of the Mediterranean Sea, 
Austria was Hungary, 
Took a bit of Turkey, 
Dipped it in Greece, 
Fried it in Japan, 
And ate it off in China.

The first four lines are self explanatory. The long leg refers to the Calabria region which protrudes a bit more than the other leg (Apulia) and seems to kick the island of Sicily (red) which lies in the Mediterranean Sea. Sicily being poor in terms of economic development vis-a-vis the rest of the country. Austria was hungry ( the line actually refers to the Austro-Hungarian Empire which operated from 1867 to 1918). It adds a bit of turkey (as in ham, bacon etc) to Sicily and uses grease (Greece) as a dip. Then it fries it in Japan ( the non stick enamel which coats the pan) and eats it off China (as in bone-china cup, plate etc).

Never thought that looking back at something which sounded so simple will be a source of infinite joy much later in life and will even teach me a thing or two!

"How quick and rushing life can sometimes seem, when at the same time it's so slow and sweet and everlasting.
― Graham Swift, Tomorrow

Monday, 22 July 2013

Of friendship and a dear friend..

As a student in JNU, our economics class and our hostel community were more like an open family and I thought one could nurture close association with a number of people. Partially true, but in prime in particular and in life in general, one's vision is often myopic and one fails to appreciate how time takes it toll on us. Today life has taken the members of the same 'open family' to all parts of the world and at times one even realizes our paths may perhaps never cross again. It does not feel good to know that because the warmth we shared still remains, but one suddenly realizes how much was left unsaid and how much more there still is to be shared. Yet the pulls and pressures of our professional and personal lives often leave us with little time and energy to reach out for people beyond our immediate milieu and its only sometimes one decides to go an extra mile to see someone we knew all along. Even if that genuine warmth and affection remains, the possibility remains that we could have drifted so far apart in temporal and spatial terms that it might be difficult to relate to each other's lives.

This sad realization did dawn on me but only much later when a 24x7 job, marriage, home (read household) and now a five month old keep my hands more than full. Much as I would have loved to live in the old times forever, its always been a task for me to explain myself endlessly and with the kind of uncertainty one lives with in our profession, much of our social interactions could be left to luck and chance. If there's somebody whom we still warm up to, could speak uninhibited to and we know will always be there, I think that special somebody has indeed passed the litmus test of friendship and more importantly time!

Am dedicating this post to such friends A N for being two of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Its surprising how some people we never knew for the better part of our lives come to win our trust so much that at times one instinctively reaches out for them even before one's own siblings. And with this kind of faith, the intervening time, distance and circumstances cease to matter. In other words,  that there could be a thousand miles separating us or that we grew up in two entirely different social milieu has never  been of any significance. One doesn't always necessarily need words to communicate and silence is not met with innumerable questions either. Can not thank them often and enough for making us feel welcome and comfortable into their lives and for being part of one's 'charmed circle' of people who make life truly meaningful.

I wish and pray that life offers you the very best of everything there could be, forever and always. Much as I wish I could give you all that you aspire for, could not think of giving you anything better than the 'Tree of Life' itself. Hope life will treat you gently in its course and we will build many more memories and dreams together. But most importantly, just as I was about to commit the folly of saying we-stay-the-same-forever, I would rather say, life has given us a wonderful opportunity of knowing each other and even if times are hard for us and hope is even more scant, all that matters today and always will, is that we will try to appreciate each other's circumstances, will not be hasty in our judgement and remember each other in our thoughts and prayers. May the Force be with you, Always!!!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Will you

Will you ever be
five months old again..

Will your coos and squeals fill the house with mirth
forever and always, again and again

Will I always be able to protect you from hurt 
and shield you from any worry in the world

Will your tiny eyes always sparkle with joy
finding me somewhere around

Will your little hands always grasp my fingers
at the slightest of my moves

Will you still reach out for me even in your dreams
every day of my life

Will you come back to sleep snugly in my arms
and cling to me at the end of each day

There is an eternal love between the water drop and the leaf. When you look at them, you can see that they both shine out of happiness.

“There is an eternal love between the water drop and the leaf. When you look at them, you can see that they both shine out of happiness.” 
― Mehmet Murat Ildan

These words echo in my mind each time I look at flowers. Then be it water lilies floating in village ponds or a small vessel kept at the doorstep of Indian households. There's something magical about the hues that nature has imbued the foliage with. I for one find it difficult to take my eyes off any floral arrangement, not just for their intrinsic beauty but also I because it seems to me as if God has imparted life to some delicate brushstrokes.

Till date I treasure the Chinar leaves I had collected from Nishat Bagh in Srinagar back in the year 2007 and if some dear friends happen to read this post, they will be instantly able to recall the handmade greeting cards I had sent them upon my return which carried those leaves. Despite the poor quality of the pic I had taken, I have never been able to forget the golden hued leaves floating in water and small blades of grass heralding a new life.

Chinar leaves in Srinagar

Often the people we visit in elitist echelons talk glibly about the imported orchids do they had at a family wedding and how somebody made his beloved feel special with the choicest flowers imported from some unknown corner of the world. I often lose thread of such conversations and my mind immediately wanders off to the wild flowers which grow abundantly everywhere in rains. Nature did not assign value to its creations, its only we as members of an increasingly materialistic society do..

I think flowers have a precious lesson to teach us. Even with an ephemeral lifespan if a flower could radiate so much beauty, happiness, color and life! why do we as humans waste our lives lamenting, pretending and frowning. During the tea breaks we had between the classes in our Academy in Mussoorie, whenever I found it difficult being part of any mundane conversation, I remember looking at a vessel full of water and white and orange flowers kept outside Dhruvshila. I could spend an entire life looking at those reflections in water and wondering what was so magical about those floating flowers. 

Mango blossoms in Chitrakoot
I remember most people who would visit us in Banda or Chitrakoot would try to sympathize for being posted in Bundelkhand (far from the civilisation!).  Today when I look back at the memories of the house we lived in, all I can think of is the mango blossoms and the birds and bees who came to collect nectar therefrom.. Or the rustic earthen pot at our entrance which our gardener would decorate with various hued roses and sunflowers and periwinkles..The image of that myriad hued oasis beckoning a weary-eyed traveler like us upon our arrival at the house each day is forever imprinted in my heart.

As a child I thought my fascination for flowers, trees, birds and leaves is merely a phase I will eventually grow out of. However, with the progression of time and age, I only seem to be more drawn to these forms and often feel I have less and less time at hand but so much to see!! Now when I see a beautiful flower, I go back and do a search to find its name and the stories and myths associated with it. 

Bird of Paradise
Lobster Claws
While Google image search is truly a great help, an amazing India specific website I recently discovered has made me even more observant towards the bountiful gifts of Nature around us. As one delves deeper into the subject, it throws up interesting names like Lobster Claws, Bird of Paradise, Flame of the Forest! 

Living close to an island of lush greenery in the middle of a bustling city, I was overjoyed to see the ethereal  Safed Kachnar for the first time. I remember the Palash tree growing outside Cauvery Hostel in JNU and the Laburnums and Bougainvillea which would carpet the campus. The  much-in-demand roses of Kannauj, filled our lives with fragrance and delight during our winters in the 'city of Itr' and my separate post on them would perhaps follow soon.  I can not help but feel distracted in an open air party and often lose track of time and place altogether. There's so much to learn and admire and feel these little joys enriching my life. I look forward to the day life will afford me an opportunity to live in Delhi again for I will not be at peace unless I have seen the famous tree lined avenues of New Delhi at leisure and felt the change seasons bring. It is these random moments of life which define joy for me and I live each day hoping to be pleasantly surprised by discovering a new 'thing of beauty' ..

Anthuriums in Coorg
"You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.

My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.

― Jon Krakauer, (Into the Wild)

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A forgotten fort,enchanting lake and bonfire!!! Belatal, Mahoba

It was already winters in Bundelkhand and me and A had been pestering our batchmate-friend M, to take us to some beautiful place in Mahoba. Workaholic that he is, the idea kept getting pushed to yet another weekend each time and we feared wasting the entire season like that. Unlike in the bigger cities like Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow which are completely shrouded by smog come winters, due to total absence of any industrial activity in this remote region of Uttar Pradesh, winters mean a long season of crisp yellow sunshine and clear blue skies. Add to that a rugged landscape dotted with pristine rivers, low hills and innumerable ruined forts and palaces and one gets a perfect recipe for getaways.

If it were for M, we could have never visited the beautiful place that Belatal is. God sent for us, his officer trainee, N, chanced to visit us and told us about this place. I wasted no time in extracting an invitation from M, and on a lovely sun soaked afternoon of 10th December, 2011 we announced ourselves at M's house. What's even more memorable than the entire visit is the excellent food M's mother made for us and if one could stuff food like that in pockets, I would have done so. Having had our fill of homemade goodies, me, A,M and N started for Belatal. It must have been around six by the time we reached the place and as per the winter daylight hours in India, the sun had already set. But the magical part was a gleaming disc of full moon shining on the waters of the lake and lending an old world touch to the entire setting. The lake, Bela Sagar, too seemed like a leaf out from some otherworldly book of fairy tales for its  exquisite beauty and for the beryl hills which dotted its shores.To me,it was as if the elements had 'conspired' to make the evening truly unforgettable for us.

Given that I have an endless appetite for all things historical, the colonial era inspection bungalow where we stayed itself would have sufficed as an alibi to visit the place, sans the lake and the fort. Till the day of our arrival, the place which is currently maintained by Irrigation Department, had not had electricity for years and was mainly used for day time halts. Thanks to the efforts of some enterprising officers, the electricity got restored and the doors of the colonnaded building were thrown open to us.

The location could not have been better (and am sure must have replaced some older structure) and offered us an expansive view of the lake, the hills and the fort itself. I have always admired the acumen of British era officers who made even such remote places worth a visit . The bonfire and the food were added bonuses and we spent the evening chatting endlessly, mostly about things of little or no importance! Little did we know upon arrival at Belatal, that it was lunar eclipse that night. Growing up in Delhi where sky is rarely visible, I never knew what a full moon lunar eclipse must be like.

Not wanting to miss a thing, me and N decided to be up before the sunrise and in the words of Cassia Leo, (Relentless) we were up and about by that time of day when the sun hasn’t come up yet, but you can already feel it coming. It’s an elusive warmth, like a subtle promise whispered in your ear and you can go on with your day knowing you’ve been given another chance to get it right.” 

The morning held a different promise altogether not just because sunrises always appear beautiful in their reflection upon water bodies but because the historicity of the place became evident only when the first rays of sun shone upon the Inspection Bungalow and we realized that the terracotta tiled building where we had been picnicking has been around for nearly a century having been built in 1918. The bougainvillea creepers at the front and the back and the white lime-wash seem to convey not much has changed since the days of the Raj.

While words could never convey enough, a splendid sunrise has been spoken of by many a writer and poet. The most cherished memory of mine of the trip to this day however remains the song of those boatmen in the lake who had come to collect chestnuts at day break. For me the ballad they sang in their local dialect was no less than the hymns we sing in temples and perhaps it was their own unique way of expressing gratitude to God!

Even from a purely strategic point of view, the fort (which is said to have been originally built by the local kings Raja Jagatraj and Raja Parikshit of Jaitpur and later passed to the British) could not have had a more commanding view of the  place than it already does standing tall by the lakeside and with its watchtowers extending well into the lake. Even today whatever remains of the old bastion is daunting enough and one hopes that the large number of historical ruins which dot the entire Kulpahar sub-division were taken good care of and showcased better. The eight sq.km lake which was was built by Raja Parikshit of Jaitpur in the loving memory of his wife Bela, even a good 200 years later is the major source of irrigation and drinking water (through lift irrigation) for a huge population of the region. Today when we go about building dams endlessly and cause such political and social furore, my stay in Bundelkhand also made me realize the sagacity and farsightedness of the erstwhile local rulers who gifted their people with such valuable assets (with minimum incidental costs) which have lasted for generations and still continue to hold good. However, the intellectual arrogance of our generation (read our profession) and the constant zeal to do something new does not yet seem to make us realize the futility of constantly reinventing the wheel and a dysfunctional one at that!

A morning walk in the nearby village told us a sad story of backwardness and poverty. In a place where for the large proportion of the populace, its an endless challenge to eke out two square meals a day, the locals could not care less for the history and heritage. Despite its enormous potential for rock-climbing, rural tourism, water sports etc, if it were not for the Irrigation Department's upkeep, the place would have fallen into complete disuse by now and  another precious chapter of Bundelkhand's rich historical legacy would have been lost forever. While the sights the place afforded will remain etched in my heart forever, I truly hope life affords me another opportunity to revisit the place. As we left the place, I could look back from our car windows and see the solid walls from a great distance.To me they seemed to bid farewell to its rare visitors..

To leave, after all, was not the same as being left.” 
― Anita Shreve, (The Pilot's Wife)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Bundelkhand Summers, Endless Sun. Etsy Inspiration and Embroidery Fun!!

While the title of my post has pretty much conveyed everything I have to say, summers in Bundelkhand meant a season of indoor confinement (That is when you don't have work to attend and official visits). I joined in Banda in July 2011. By that time the first monsoon showers had already provided the much needed respite from heat in this arid country and everything seemed fresh and verdant. The confluence of River Ken and River Yamuna at Chilla was a sight to behold and the rivers were brimming to the top. It was a new place for me. For the first time, I was living at such a distance from Delhi. The event calenders, both official and social, were abuzz with activity and there was little time to do anything else.

Sunset as seen from the drive way
However, come March 2012 and the first signs of summers were beginning to tell. Tired and exhausted from the elections in the state, one had little energy and appetite to explore places for the sake of it and meet people endlessly. The change of guard in Lucknow seemed change was inevitable for us too and one lived by counting days and watching the golden sun set over the horizon each day. The saving grace of the day would only be the birds which came to roost in the lawns every evening (hope to do a post on them soon!) and the magical star-lit nights which made you forget the oppressive heat and endless paperwork each day brought.

The fact that the much awaited 'change' came only in August is enough to convey the good deal of time one had in hand after work and being the self proclaimed 'crafts addict' that I am, I turned to Etsy for inspiration. However, it is also imperative to clarify at this point that being a good 150-200 kms away from any city of repute meant that the choice of crafts was severely restricted to materials which could be easily procured from the local market but would also yield good results and above all immense satisfaction. Add to this equation, my constant desire to make something however small for my home and one has no choice but to do something of the table/bed linen or wall art variety.  

Add to that also the fact that in a place like Banda, there are little avenues for getting a good frame done. Bearing all these considerations in mind, I did a Google search on wall art-watercolors,photography,collages,embroidery,tapestry and pretty much everything that could be hung on a nail.The most wonderful find turned out to be small embroidered diskettes which could fit any occasion and any need. More intensive Etsy search revealed to me the wonderful world of 'HOOP ART' with its endless possibilities and bewitching colors.

Somehow all the people I have known all my life and all that I had read and heard about till the 'Eureka moment', nobody and nothing ever carried any mention of the word 'hoop art'. And once the discovery had been made, it was contagious (at least in the family!)Thus began my adventures as a hoop ARTIST (I can proudly call myself that!) and my first and rather simple hoop. 

The flowers are done in simple stitch with french bullion knots at the end and stem stitch for the stalks. I must also give the credit to my mother-in-law (Mamma) for all her encouragement and more importantly for her EASY EMBROIDERY book (which turned out to be a repository of beginner level stitches) which dates back to her post wedding Nigeria days. It was only much later, thanks to uninterrupted broadband connectivity, that I discovered endless tutorials on internet for various kinds of stitches

The first hoop was widely appreciated. Combined with a whole lot of encouragement, it was all I could ask for and a huge stimulus for the bigger and more colorful hoop that followed. It was again inspired by something similar I saw on Etsy and is done completely in double stranded chain stitch.

Needless to mention,  in Mamma's words, she could not take her eyes off the hoop and it adorns a huge column in her drawing room wall singularly. My love for concentric circles introduced me to the magical realm of 'WHIMSICAL ART' and am eagerly waiting for an opportunity to try my hand at the same. As for now, am linking this post to Artistic Inspiration for their Challenge 56.

The fact that am writing this post in the July of 2013 speaks volumes about my cherished and well preserved memories  of embroidery as a pursuit. My love for embroidery though dates back to my Agra days. There was something in the air in the city of Taj!! Will hopefully capture a pic or two of my first real embroidery when I visit my parents and would also request my lovely erstwhile neighbor and lifelong dear friend,P, to share her interpretation of the same work too!!

Till then, Happy Embroidery! And yes, in the words of  Aldo Leopold (A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River)
"A hobby is a defiance of the contemporary. It is an assertion of those permanent values which the momentary eddies of social evolution have contravened or overlooked. If this is true, then we may also say that every hobbyist is inherently a radical, and that his tribe is inherently a minority." 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Formidable but unforgettable KALINJAR!

Kalinjar in rains
Bundelkhand to me has always been a land of surprises, not just in terms of its diverse landscape, rich culture, immense history but also the change each season brings. The arid brazen vistas of summers metamorphose  into a lush terrain at the approach of monsoons and being the  romantic at heart that I am, I can not help reminiscing about my days in Banda and the eagerness with which I would always look forward to any visit to Kalinjar Fort.  

The view from the fort with River Baghein meandering across the landscape

While a number of online websites and books could yield tons of 'information' about the place, despite the intervening time and distance, the special niche that this place occupies in my heart and the cherished memories I treasure in my thoughts and dreams can not be described in words alone. I have been wanting to write this post for a long time and would not have found peace otherwise.

An intricately carved panel from the fort

To every family member and friend and officer who visited the fort on my recommendation, I would always compare it with Agra and Delhi fort. The forts in Delhi and Agra attract millions of visitors each year, are well maintained and sprawling in their own right but for me pale completely in comparison to the workmanship of Kalinjar. Delhi and Agra are both places close to my heart and my home for important years of my life but Kalinjar remains unmatched. 
Various representations of Shiva
The sheer history associated with the place seems to stretch from times immemorial. Even for the not so religious minded, the intricacy of sculptural marvels is awe inspiring and one cant help but imagine why the ruler of the fort was given the title of 'Kalinjaradhipati'. The fort was once considered to be a huge storehouse of the riches of Chandelas. No wonder that during the various attempts to capture the fort, the invaders caused visible damage to the sculptures in a bid to recover some of those riches.

Shaivite sculptures

the ruling deity, Neelkanth

Surprisingly, the shrine has never been promoted as a cult centre of Shaivism despite its proximity to the world renowned Khajuraho Temples and its immense potential for the same. For the believers, the perpetual water source on the top of a barren hill could be nothing short of a miracle of sorts. For innumerable people in Bundelkhand, the tank in the fort holds the same sanctity as Prayag in Allahabad for Hindus across the world. The annual fair on Kartik Poornima draws multitudes from across the region including some who walk all the ways down from their homes some 200-300 kms away. 

Mrig Dhara sculpture, my personal favourite

There are innumerable places one could visit within the sprawling 8 sq.km campus of the fort. Some history enthusiasts even claim that there are places which are yet to be explored. The fort also boasts of some rock paintings which can only be reached with the help of rock climbing apparatus. The latent possibilities of para gliding from the ramparts of the fort or trekking or rock climbing could boost the tourism prospects of the place and may draw attention towards its better conservation and upkeep.

Shiva's wedding procession with the groom on the horse!

A giant carving of Shiva.
Notice the inscription at the foot of the relief.
The very fact that a deity   could be represented in so many distinctive and elaborate forms is commendable in itself. Add to that the difficult terrain and harsh climate, one can not help but feel the fort could not have been  possible without some kind of divine intervention. It seems as if an entire civilization has been fossilized (sculpted) in rock at an instant of history and has remained in a time warp since then. Some of the most important inscriptions in the Indian history have been found in Kalinjar.  Few seem to remember that the mighty emperor Sher Shah Suri (of Grand Trunk Road fame) lost his life in 1545 at Kalinjar in a bid to capture the fort. 

It is believed that after having drank the poison which emerged from the mythological churning of the ocean, Lord Shiva could not find peace anywhere till he took a dip in the tank in Kalinjar. Interestingly, to corroborate the myth, priests will show you how the throat of the rock sculpture of the presiding deity (Neelkanth) inside the main temple is always moist to touch, even in the driest summer months!

Today only the ruins of the last storey of the sanctum sanctorum (Neelkanth Temple) survive. Historians believe that the temple was once seven storeyed and was destroyed in a earthquake. The ruins and pillars dotting the slopes of the hill seem to attest the same. Yet, whatever survives of the once magnificent shrine is no less impressive and speaks volumes about the splendid architectural and aesthetic sense of Chandelas. The richly carved columns of the shrine bear silent testimony to the ravages of time.

The reason why Kalinjar finds mention even in Rig Veda as an important holy place can be gauged from the fact that the serenity and the isolation of the place offer perfect ambience for meditation and worship. Even today there are innumerable nooks and caves which dot the landscape and makes one feel as if the place has been chosen as a permanent abode by the gods.

While Kalinjar has all this and lot more to offer, the present condition of the ruins inside the fort seem to convey an altogether different story of theft and neglect. Till 2011, while I got posted there, the current guardian of the fort ASI had left the entire precincts to the custody of  a single watch man. In the name of  a museum, several valuable sculptures and relief panels have been locked inside  a single courtyard by ASI and few except bats and owls are permitted entry.  Innumerable panels and small sculptures of immense historical value lie strewn about the place. In the name of so called 'conservation efforts', ASI has marked all the carvings in the fort with an ugly signage of KF in white paint.

While saying all of above and leaving far more unsaid, I am transported to the era of mighty kings who must have dreamt of possessing the fort in their lifetimes. As it was in its heyday, so it is today, one of the strongest bastions of sheer might and splendour, standing tall above the neighbouring countryside.  From a purely strategic point of view, the following words come to my mind

“Safe wasn't quite what appealed to her right then. Safe wasn't how she felt. Invincible, in control, powerful- those words felt closer to true.” 
― Melissa Marr, Ink Exchange