Saturday, 26 December 2009

....the day after!

Having all the children roaring with laughter over stupid jokes and oohing and aahing over home cooked food and my staple chocolate cake all decorated with tinsel junk from past cakes that date back to my childhood, is what I believe are some of the best pleasures of life for me. Our little adopted granddaughter sat with her eyes all agog and blissfully happy, as Christmas magic still holds true for her. The older children just delight in it being one more excuse for us to pile the dinner table and dress up! Mithun always comes home to Baroda. And the rituals of fun extend yet another year. as each one adds to these interludes by bringing something special and unique of themselves, by virtue of who they are.

Our shoe box of old photographs have many similar group photographs, yet each of these photos are unique because they hold distinctive memories of specialness that are the imprint of the spirit of those people that smile back at you. Our homes have varied in size, often being really tiny, yet we have managed to squeeze in friends and extended family to spill about the space and never once have we felt crowded out. What is infinitely beautiful is the pleasure of sharing and being together.

My gift to my loved one's this new year is a limited edition desk calender I designed, with photographs of Begum, taken by me with my nokia N79! I think I was more thrilled by the secret of doing it as a surprise and all the surreptitiousness that was required to get it made! So watch your mailbox, it maybe winging itself to you. Conditions to receive it however apply. Excited squealing is mandatory!

Regarding an update on my duck story; in response to an sms enquiring about how my Christmas dinner went; I replied, "My duck didn't quack at the table!"

Bon Appetite to all of you for this festive season!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

I think I'm a sitting duck!

I announced to my staff today with great excitement (in my awful Hindi!) that I was getting a duck. They looked both puzzled and fearful, so I went into my gesticulating mode, flapping my elbows and singing batak-batak around the kitchen. This was met with mild irritation as they assured me they understood what I had said, and continued to look rather apprehensively back at me. Now it was my turn to be a mite irritated (since my excitement level was slowly being brought down by the lack of collective enthusiasm I had hoped for), and I said "I'm roasting a duck for Christmas, isn't that great"! Like a magic button, immediate relief spread across their faces as they chorused that they had thought I was bringing a live duck home, as a pet ! I think the TV serial Friends has had a permanent effect upon the psyche of our nation!

Well back to my duck story! I am thrilled to bits with having located this nice looking 2 kg bird. Of course it was sold to me with all the hype about it being a French (!) duck. So ma cherie I will have to wear a sexy apron and put on my fake french accent whilst stuffing this bird!! Of course now would be the appropriate time to let you into a secret. Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone, but I have never cooked a duck before! Many a person has stewed in their own sauce with my withering looks, but cooking a, never ever before.

So I set about looking for a dish to cook my bird in (who looks, I must say, very chic all curled up and demure), only to find I had NO dish large enough for my thirteen inch long French duck! So a new dish has been bought, pronto! Whilst all this other twirling and whirling was happening in the kitchen, I set about trying to defrost my frigid friend. With the foreign guest pirouetting like a ballerina in my microwave, it was time to decide on what marinade to conjure. I must say, my kitchen cupboards were most unhelpful with nothing magically tumbling out as the sign to direct me (which happens in all these films with romance and George Clooney thrown in!). My luck is having good old Jeevan my gardener, saunter past with a hose in hand and not much else to offer!

After flaying about in the spice rack my duck now floats in a shallow baking dish soaking in the soya sauce, ground ginger and green chillies, sugar, garlic, onions and lots of hope. After this spa experience, I will cozy the slumbering soul in a well heated oven and cross my fingers, light some candles to the lord of ducks, and wait to see what happens when the bell goes off!

Check this space duckies for I shall keep you posted on the out come. Place your bets if you may: disaster or triumph but remember, it all rests on the tip of the tongue or a slip between the fork and the plate!

Picture: Courtesy Surendran Nair: Turkey.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ring the bells...merry,merry!

My absence from my blog has been a result of chewed up wires courtesy my cat Begum, and sudden power cuts that keep the towers of my server elusively out of reach! So if things come tumbling out rather frantically, as I stuff my face with my prawn salad lunch, don't be too harsh on me please!

From the last few days, my emotional pendulum swings from outrage to depression and back, as I see the abuse of power occur repeatedly in India; and be rest assured that all such incidents go unheeded and unnoticed, nine times out of ten. This is because nothing today is uncorrupted in India and we are content with this as the image that represents our country. Even a conversation that presents ideals will have onlookers wincing in agony over the "naivety" of the speaker, and the topic will get changed quickly because who is really interested in the betterment of anything, except if it is about getting something for oneself! Teenagers get assaulted and the perpetrators get high-ranking police jobs! Wow, what a brilliant equation that makes!

Instead we have "serious" debates on TV channels about Tiger Woods' infidelities! Though I do not condone his behaviour as it appears that he views women as mere objects for his sexual entertainment; it really is not my business to react more intensely than feel sorrow and compassion for his family. His wife and children and mother will, I am sure, be the most impacted and will appropriately find ways to convey their response to him on the matter. Where do I or "we the people" of this nation fit into this episode of his private life, and do we need to be looking to observe these aspects of life rather than take care of what needs urgent attention in our own back yard?

We make innocent children stateless from surrogacy issues, yet encourage this "tourist trade" without caring about legal pitfalls that become nobodies issue when it ruins the lives of those who trusted our system! Our nations motto is to let the dreams of others get crushed at the callous feet of indifference, as sycophancy runs rampant in the corridors of power where elected representatives of ours short change us at every opportunity.
Today guns blaze, but not metaphorically as alluding to acts of bravery or heroic deeds. No. Today guns blaze as people shoot one another like comic book western robbers come to life.

You don't get served what you want in a public place. Shoot to kill.

You don't get your kick back from a project. Shoot to kill.

Your sexual advances are not accepted. Shoot to kill.

You can't over take on a road. Shoot to kill.

Bang-Bang-Bang. It's so easy.

My heart goes bang-bang-bang as I lie awake at night some days, tense and angry from the news items that wash me with despair. The knowledge that so many stories of anguish are not even reported, is heart wrenching. The poor remains voiceless as we make them dance to our tunes decade after decade; and as we lavishly celebrate weddings with a display of wealth that is so useless, do we even for a moments at such occasions even remotely consider using the finances at hand, for something more human and vital.

The new year is ticking closer. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Which mouse will run up the clock? The old brigade still holds the reigns of power, and the new just pretend at being different. Mochi-Gucci is the game. So as Mayawati's statues stand tall, another farmer will kill himself in some remote corner of our country. Hey, it's the new year, so cheers! What will the nominated baron pronounce as the remedy for us this year? A glass of beer perhaps!

Friday, 18 December 2009

India has a long way to go.....

The story of Independence for women in India which rejects traditional norms, is always one which is fraught with battles with the legal system because of the rigidity of laws that do not update itself to keep up with changing values within society. The Indian legal system exists with no apology for its indifference to accommodate alternative choices and instead oppresses those who will not conform.

When Surendran and I chose to embrace a life-long commitment of togetherness twenty-five years ago, it was a structured union with a well formulated vision for a deliberated future together; and which chose to define its articulation from what we considered as important and valid for ourselves and our son. This choice has proved supremely effective for each of us as individuals, as well as for us as a collective unit, in nurturing us and sustaining the philosophy that is in harmony with our personal politics.

Today however we are obliged for tax reasons (!) to register our union under the special marriage act, merely because the Indian legal system does not view our relationship with the same yardsticks that it applies to the established/sanctioned representations of heterosexual unions. When matters/issues/ideas/structures related to liberal thinking are rejected legally, merely because a nation refuses to shed its conservative adherence to law, then I fail to comprehend how India views itself as a secular democracy that accommodates pluralism.

I feel betrayed by my nation that does not uphold the representations of the institution of family as we have devised it for ourselves, that in no way compromises any other individuals liberty, and which holds every factor that exemplifies each of us as law abiding citizens.

The true problem in India lies in the interpretations of meanings which get distorted by those invested with the power of implementing governance, and who care little to understand that well defined laws are always with the scope to accommodate nuanced meanings.

But try explaining this to a nose picking clerk in a stinking government office, where corruption exists as it's underbelly that continuously needs to be scratched by one and all, to get this cumbersome beast to move even an inch.

So bring out the tin drums and beat it for us, because within the next 90 days our names will be scribbled into a dirty unkempt ledger; and only then will the taxman believe that our pledge made twenty five years ago is for real!

Monday, 14 December 2009


Jazz fills my studio these days. It has mostly always been only Joan Baez that otherwise occupied the sound waves of my space, and then, for no real reason I suddenly remembered the sounds from my father's music collection, and I was filled with this deep desire to reconnect with some of them. Without ever being the teacher, I see today so many things my father's life rubbed off on me. Perhaps because I was like the runt of the litter, a sickly mousey child in my early years, I absorbed through being a silent witness to things merely because I just happened to be around.

Today when I teach it remains my constant desire to want for my students to feel their journeys. They sometimes look rather nonplussed at my passionate pleas to get their emotive senses in unison with their intellectual worlds, but this combination like a secret lock, is the only way that opens up one's ability to travel an imaginative landscape, and find a real and truthful destination within it for oneself.

Everything holds the sparks that may ignite the magic of marvel and which can lead to becoming seminal to discovery. We often find our truth in the least expected spaces; in the least imagined ways. Struggle has its own delight in cheating you too with the easy with which it often slips its rewards your way. I love those times that discovery dawns much later than when it should have, catching one unawares.

Where does my wanderlust take me today.

Sometimes I knock on doors that will never open.

But so often I am in treasure troves of delight, and asleep.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Sunday peep-show!


then and now!

....really real!

.....tuktuk meri jaan.

....Rene Magritte remembered.

......and paradise sometimes lost.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Nokia N 79!!!!

Yours and mine.....

Today's and yesterday's....

Two generations.....

Two histories.....

......and the constant flow of time.....

Friday, 11 December 2009

Cambodian taily -tales ....

The delight of a trip is the tumbling out of stories inside your head that come to you unasked long after you return home; and, whilst you are away, the reverse occurs when home comes wafting to you in the sudden collision with a smell or a sound, that grips your heart with nostalgia for what it recalls uninvited.

Devoid of religious rituals I have, over the years, conjured many of my own that symbolize the feelings of my heart; and so amongst my many personalized rituals, flowers and their heady scents offer interpretations of private memories I hold dear. In Cambodia the jasmine gajara is replaced by a tiny, tight, rosary-like structure of jasmine buds. Or otherwise thin sticks upon which jasmines are skewered together with a crowning glory of a bright colourful flower, that stands in contrast to the milky whiteness of these pre-pubescent flowers; and they soak you in the seduction of their potent fragrance like a skilled lover does. Mixed with this are the many joss sticks that fill the air with mingling smells of sandalwood and frangapani, lemon grass and orchids.....

It is well known by now to all my friends that I am besotted over my furball child. Leaving her behind with zillions of instructions for her well being (!), I always leave with a heavy heart (!!) knowing I will be starved of my fur-fix whilst wandering away from home(!!!). So it will come as no surprise that any cat anywhere elicits a response from me that isn't ever calm or dignified (!!!!). Amongst the many fur friends of Cambodia, it was the short tailed, rather mangy creature that showed up on our beautiful wooden sit-out balcony in Phnom Penh, from where we could see the stretch of the river front, that stole my heart the most. I presume it was a "he"....and though he wasn't all that spruced up....but hey, I think he had good taste to come visiting with me each morning (!!!!).

I am sure I should sign up for the "go berserk with Nokia phone camera" contest. For those who may not know, I earned my way through graduate school in Baroda by being a photographer and was Jyoti Bhatt's student too. And it maybe that I had a sort of love hate relationship with the camera that I chose to never touch a professional camera after getting my scholarship in 1982. So it could be the residue of old stubbornness or just old age "moronity", that keeps my finger only on my phone camera button, as I phoo-phoo the very professional stuff that Surendran and Mithun strut about with! So let's toast the Nokia N 79 please!

I must end today's epistle my meeting up with the Cambodian gecko! In the beauty of our Siem Reap hotel I was transfixed one twilight to see a sixteen inch (trust my maths please!) lizard on the wall. My first reaction was to think it was an ornamental piece and thought the placement rather odd. And then it moved! Ok friends.....I was spooked beyond spookdom and galloped off only to notice that the entire ceiling was virtually a lizards highway above my head!!!

I shall leave you with the imagined image of me, skirt hiked up till my ears, running down the corridor, half bent and incoherent! Hey....I didn't say it was a pretty picture....just a sorry sight!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Cambodia....a kingdom of wonder.

I was away in Cambodia for six splendid days, with two extra days added to this day count for the time that was spent suspended between time zones up in the skies amongst the clouds, where I normally play at being "pretend god" for a while! With partner, a son, and a friend in tow the four of us stepped into this amazing cultural treat where hours melted away as we were transported back into the glories of the past, via the architectural feats of temple carvings that weave stories of Hindu and Buddhist mythology that leave you gasping in sheer amazement at the skill and technique and sophistication of their visual language. It in someways made the entire modernist period look like a poor second cousin!

As we climbed steep stone steps of temples and literally soaked in the sun that lives in the clearest of blue skies, we were surrounded by the sounds of hundreds of cicadas insects that filled the quiet spaces that surrounds these monuments with a magical music that sounds truly like a John Cage symphony! With lisping Cambodian children who hawk their trinkets with the charm of practised sentences that know how to tug at your heart strings, and women selling mysteries from their kitchens wrapped in banana leaves, you know for sure that the enchantress of adventures has cast her spell completely to entice you to be in love with everything.

.......And then you stand in the rooms of S-21 and hear the silent screams as you revisit the horrors of the Pol Pot regime and know that history isn't always the dream that was promised as the future. With agonising deliberation hundreds of photographs document the chilling tales of the demonistic delight of brutality that is in evidence till today in the maimed bodies and tortured minds that make up the living memories of this tragic past.

As I opened the book I had taken to read, "Evening the Whole Day" by Preeta Samarasan, I was confronted by the opening page that had this remarkably apt quote from Waterland by Graham Swift that reads:

History begins only at the point where things go wrong; history is born only with trouble, with perplexity, with regret. So that hard on the heels of the word Why comes the sly and wistful word If. If it had not been for....If only.....Were it not......Those useless Ifs of history. And, constantly impeding, deflecting, distracting the backward searchings of the question why, exists this other form of retrogression: If only we could have it back. A New Beginning. If only we could return.....

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Where has the caretaker gone?

As I passed the shuttered doors of the Bodhi Art Gallery in Bombay on my last visit to the city, I wondered why better sense hadn't prevailed with the management, to create a business module that could have proved far more effective than the "blitz in your face" hype that is now like a spent phataka in the morning after. Genuine contributions to the longevity of the history of gallery practices in India cannot be achieved by a fly-by-night association ever, and those that came into the business only for the sweepstakes windfall of moola that contemporary art represented for them, are today running like mice from what they imagine is a sinking ship! Oops what indignity after that boastful chest thumping foray that we were witness to by the likes of these self proclaimed trail blazers!

The Bodhi Art Gallery always seemed slightly suspect to me in their intentions, and I was often surprised at the way many of my colleagues rushed to join the bandwagon of super stardom promised by the "big money" waved as temptation from this garden of Eden. I was hugely amused when on meeting me, the director of Bodhi boastfully claimed that he was "finally teaching the Indian art Galleries how to operates correctly!" If ferrying a plane load of socialites to Baroda as an audience for an exhibition was the paradigm to be followed, then I am truly glad that these "lessons" were well ignored by other galleries as bench marks of supposed success!

Being around as long as I have, I must admit that I am not too easily taken in by those who come into the gallery circuit, spinning illusions of instant fame to artists through grand gestures of hyped stardom. These con acts are normally ruses to lure the insecure, and are a bit like pyramid schemes which promise you dreams beyond your imagination, and then leave you betrayed at the end. The shutters are down on the dreams spun by Bodhi art Gallery leaving many artists wondering why the dazzling lights went off so suddenly!

Bollywood wasn't ever my calling and art is a practice that doesn't need the flashbulbs of page three to endorse your truth as an artist. It's not a ratings game dear friends. Paying for publicity and posing as the Aamir Khan of the art world with designer glasses and Gucci shoes is cute, but cannot be passed of as history in the making; nor hopping around with a cocktail glass as a permanent fixture, desperately trying to catch the photo moment either!

I hope that the locked doors of Bodhi Art Gallery serve as a warning to the Indian artists that big talk and grand gestures are best believed only when sustained. The clink of empty cocktail glasses make a hollow sound and show up their chips and cracks without the camouflage of our own desperation. It's high time to roll up the imaginary red carpet that you think is beneath your feet, and with it roll up your sleeves instead. There is no substitute for good old fashioned humility and hard work, and let's raise a toast to that!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Ma tuje Salaam....!

Today is my mothers birthday. Amma has been the family member that has remained most constantly there in my life for me, both spiritually and emotionally, and from that original "Palamkote foursome" that we started off as, today she and I make an "awesome- twosome" together! As time does to most things, the relationship we share has gone through many changes through circumstance and need; but what has always remained is a bond of togetherness that has special meaning for the two of us alone, and which holds stories of tenderness and love that I feel so blessed to have as memories that shape my past.

My mother is very special for me because she defied being a typical parent, and I grew up in a liberal framework so different from my own peers, where I could find the courage to be non-conformist in my own approach to life as well. This framework may not always have been perfect, but it certainly created opportunities for me to confront my own experiments with truth, and for this I remain deeply grateful to the wisdom of my mother, in leaving me to find myself through living life on my own terms.

I always knew that I wanted to take care of my parents when the reversal of roles occurred and their independence would finally wear down. Of course the journey that follows when parents come into their children's homes to "retire" is often fraught with irritations, frustrations and adjustments that stretch the patience of all concerned , and our story is no different. But at the end of all the trials and tribulations, the reward is that a family finds the wisdom to reinvent their love and cherish the spirit of life in all it's varying manifestations.

Today I salute you for being such a wonderful woman!

Ma tuje salaam!

I love you dearly.

Happy Birthday Amma.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

I spy something with my little eye....

There was a buzz around the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda yesterday after a talk presented by John Clark in which he discussed issues related to the politics of biennials and the role of the curator as a decision maker. With the same artists endorsed as cultural icons through cliques that bond together, it can be suggested that the idea to consolidate personal arguments as flagships of contemporary cultural ideologue becomes the hidden objective. Though I myself did not attend this talk, I was informed by my colleagues the structure of the debate. These observations aren't news to any of us, but political correctness appears to have silenced relevant critiques from occurring around such issues, perhaps from the fear of "hurting the sentiments" of the well intentioned, shall we say! Sadly it appears that once again it takes a foreigner hand to set the cat amongst the pigeons for us and get these hidden spaces to have a little more light shed on them!

It is such an Indian tendency to stick to the chair of power! The obvious repetition of people who chair these selection committees for art meant for public viewing in prominent spaces are beginning to become like the Vatican's inner circle; where the old and decrepit posture as humble servants doing the will of "what's best for all mankind"! But do not be so fooled as to buy into these arguments. The startergising for personal agendas is transparent and clear for all to see. It may not be necessarily "evil mafias". However it certainly creates a dangerous cultural tunnel vision which alludes at an openness that in fact is completely absent in the methodologies that govern our current curatorial practices today.

Like a fretting mother hen I only hope that the incubation period that Contemporary Indian Art has withstood to grow to its present maturity, isn't carelessly smashed by the cunning fox that slinks about to plunder for its own satisfaction. I think we need to ask some pertinent questions and not fear the answers which may not be always flattering. Politically correct is becoming hugely boring and opiating; and the consequences of loosing the fire in our belly to make tame tigers of ourselves, fit only to jump through the hoops in the cultural parade of others, a frightening proposition to contemplate! Shiver me scares the wits out of me!!!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

If truth be told......

My police station saga brought about by "friends" who made false and bizarre accusations as a complaint against me, to avoid making a genuine payment owing to an agency who worked on the electrification of their home and graphic studio space, brought to my attention to how foolish one is when one ignores the warning signals we receive that indicate the actual character of people we befriend. I insist of myself a conscience keeping that has a massive space within it to take myself to task severely when I fail to live by the standards I have mapped as my value chart of life. I don't care how much of a pain and how tedious it is to do this exercise of self evaluation, especially as it is so private and can be skipped without anybody ever knowing, but it serves me well because I can look into the eyes of my son unflinchingly and know there is no hidden shame that exists in my gaze.

When we designate ourselves character traits we wish to be identified with, then surely these traits need to be imbibed factors that guide our actions. Truth and honesty are labels that must resonate not because we verbally pronounce them as character certificates about ourselves but should be put to the test when it involves ourselves coming clean on areas that hold our own frailty to be tempted to behave inappropriately.

Not one of us will not have encountered such temptations that bring out the worst desires in ourselves to behave in ways that are contradictory to our saner instincts, and our knowledge of what is right and wrong. The issue therefore is whether we allow ourselves the license to act out our irrationalities and debase our characters in the process.

Today in Baroda there is disgust and disbelief amongst common friends and associates that this couple could behave in such a corrupted way. The consequences to this will be felt for a long time, as the trust within a community has been severely damaged. What a shame that integrity is so easily squandered. What end does such actions serve except to boomerang in the face of those who try to sling the mud in the first place. The perception of others that watch from the sidelines hold censure, and though politeness may prevail, the reputation of this couple will take a long while to white wash, if ever.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A sincere request....

Has post modernism been the culprit which has allowed for catchy ideas to be the only "bling-thing" to art endeavours today, especially when it comes to events that invite collaborations and collective interaction? Today this could well be the fear we face when the most mediocre of standards get excused because of the desire to accommodate everything and anything as art expression.

I want to walk the tightrope where I balance myself with optimism and a spirit to be open, but in no way does this suggest that idiocity is a crown I am willing to have placed on my head to wear as an artist at any time in my life! There are many issues to this problem we face today where the attitude of "sub kuch chalta hai art ke naam me" exists, but perhaps the most glaring factor to this "dippy-do-diddle-dee-dee, aren't-we-all-a-happy-family" is mistaking mere organisation to be curation. Having little visible structure that situates a concept or makes a pivotal argument to an art idea is only too prevalent these days and this new trend which allows us to accept sponsorships and financial aid which come with vested interests to promote the investors as collectors and connoisseurs of art is perhaps the most dangerous thing of all.

At a time when Indian art needs no longer to fight to be seen with parity and merit in an international arena, and possesses the infrastructures of a national awareness that holds it in high esteem, why do we choose to dig our own graves and belittle the seriousness we strove for as art practitioners in the first place?

We abuse so many opportunities that come our way and then make lame excuses that always point the finger of accountability away from ourselves. Documentation that records the work of an artist, for example, is a hugely serious activity and cannot be experimented with in ways that compromise the authenticity of the artist who is being represented. In recent instances just being the viewer to documentation of such a nature that is so terribly sub-standard in every which way, shames one as the onlooker; because it is a collective responsibility that we hold to make the contemporary history we engage with be disseminated through a methodology that is researched, and most importantly, honourable to the basic intentions of offering something that holds substance because it is itself informed via the insightfulness of those who choose to make it.

I am both perturbed as well as anxious that the over zealousness of "filling spaces" like an army of ants so that we can claim to be active will become a folly that haunts us all when, down the line, our history will be dotted with the humiliation of mediocrity that we were too embarrassed to fight off when we needed to arrest its unbearable presence. Let us be more honest to ourselves. This isn't too much to ask I believe.

If art and art activities is the new toy in the hands of curious infants, it needs to be monitored so that it doesn't harm the child who carelessly plays with it. Much has been invested into the cauldron of this bubbling pot of art and culture so let's not just spill the whole darn thing over because we don't have the guts to articulate the boundaries that need to be set in place, because otherwise we will knowingly and willingly dilute the very nectar that feeds us too.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Can we attempt to get it right please!

There is still such a dearth of accomplished material available on contemporary art and culture in our country. Efforts have been made to publish books on contemporary art by galleries and specialised publishing houses. However all this remains mostly within elite areas of cultural consumption and very little inroads have been made to understand where to identify public need for information about art and culture, and how best to provide it to such varied audiences.

I have a friend who tried to get a television series on artists made, but hey (!) there are no big prizes in guessing the final outcome for sponsorship or interest in such a project. The idea was soon mooted down mostly because of the severe interference of a television channel that "sort of dabbled" with the idea of being the prompters of this concept yet placed incompetent people to handle the collaboration. The viability to make such a project work requires not just on the financial investment, but equally on mindsets that see the necessity of such information as vital to a society at large, and desires to make the effort to address the need.

Surendran and I have a Sunday program at home where young artist friends and those under our guidance, watch a film or documentary as part of the structure of that day. Yesterday we viewed the season four of art:21. This is a series of interviews that document the ideas and works of individual artists of the 21st century, sometimes placing them within certain paradigms of shared intentions which creates a relationship between the different /separate interviews.

What is brilliant about this series is that it is so simple. No great glorification is positioned nor does it suggest a feeling that it is 'tailored" to any programmed agenda. It merely offers the viewer a "close up" into the space of thinking of the artist through extremely well edited conversations that are crisp, and as a result are compelling and impactful. The brevity of each segment is designed to showcase the artist with supreme clarity, and avoids the cliches of panning camera angles and other inconsequential "dramas" of posing artists in reverie!

I remember being horrified when I viewed a film that had been made on Manjit Bawa, where his love story became the crass crux of the film, reducing this potent and brilliant artist into a figure of ridicule for many and leaving his many well wishers deeply saddened that such an opportunity had been wasted at the alter of naive agendas.

I hope a time does occur where the visibility of art and artists in India is correctly presented in spaces such as the media; and taken seriously. Where investment of time and content is well researched so that the target objective of deseminating information is achieved. It is high time that we accord art and culture it's rightful status within society and not merely confine it to the "after hours" cliche of television drivel that seems it's present fate, if ever focused upon. Good interviewing is seen in the area of films on television, but little else comes up to standard in other areas of creative/cultural expression.

Maybe industrial houses like the Godrej's and Mallaya's can be approached to become ambassadors to set the path of a new trend, where well defined documentation of art and cultural sees the light of day in India. I have my fingers crossed!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

......and they lived happily ever after!

I don't know about you, but I love it when my heartstrings get tugged at and my emotional self spills over when I least anticipate it! Flipping through the People Magazine I was caught off guard when I read the story of an American couple adopting Pandu, a blind orphaned child from India, who was five years old and traumatized. The American gentleman himself is also blind and the decision the couple made was to adopt a baby who was sightless too, so that someone who didn't have a head start in life would find love and belief from them. Wow! I was just blown away!

In the recent past too many stories of horror have been reported about the abuse we heap on defenseless children; where beatings , sexual abuse, burning and torture are the common story line. Child labour occurs openly in our country and the systems we have in place to check or tackle such crimes are riddled with loopholes and an apathy to chart genuine reforms, thereby allowing such situations to continue to flourish.

Unfortunately adoption in India is still viewed with apprehension and in most cases embraced only when clinical reasons disallow natural procreation for a couple. There are very few instances where families choose adoption as a method of having a family. We can criticize the western world for many issues, but on the issue of adoption that is a society that has really got it right!

When looking at the pictures of Pandu with his new parents it was so clear to see the great release that their love has brought about to the emotional core of this beautiful child. Otherwise undoubtedly (as stated even by the parents in their interview), Pandu would have been just another statistic, who would have become a beggar at the side of some road in India. You and I would have passed him by and chosen to look the other way.

For a story to have a happy ending and for our heartstrings to be tugged by the emotional wonder of delight, we each need to script something special. So let's not put it off any longer because the world needs a decisive contribution from each of us, to make it a better place.
*Photograph of Aditi who is our adopted grand daughter.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

100.....and still going!

To all those who read my blog.....we are 100 blog posts old today! So let's sip chai and toast ourselves....hip hip and all that jazz!!! I think the idea of blogging appeals to me because it exists without any fanfare and is really about one's personal desire to approach others through communication. Who ultimately receives it or rejects it is so totally out of one's control, and it is this perhaps that I most identify with as being the value of blogging for me. The democratic platform of blogging where all voices can be heard or deleted without aggression or violence, and where nothing is taboo and everything is accommodated, is hugely liberating within a society that is increasingly strangulating itself with conservatism!

I choose to wear my passion for life on my sleeve unabashedly, yet believe too that there is a need for mediation of a just and fair perception, at all times. In my opinion, hysteria of any kind is to be avoided at all costs and the attempt should be that concerns are highlighted where the relevance of the issue can touch the sensibility of the other in a meaningful way. I choose to invite others to walk through my experiences and observations because whether trivial, profound or otherwise, the reason of sharing a "speak space" is to engage with the energies of others, and hopefully be nurtured by the sharing it provokes. I am exacting of myself and pose all situations to test my own vulnerabilities, so that in doing so at no time would I be absent of an accountability to the views I put out in a public domain.

As an artist all life must flow through my being if I wish to be impacted in ways that can transpose meaning through my art, for others. Like an eternal circle, things must be held in the consciousness of our awareness if we are to realise the potential of our own lives. To merely meander through our daily existence in a haze of isolation would dis-empower the soul that carries our spirit. We must dare enough to care, only then will the positive factors of human existence proliferate, and goodness not be drowned out by cynicism and despair. My blog posts are those spaces that keep my own conscience awake too.

So cheers to living life with passion and thank you for being with me all the way!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Whose got a ticket to ride....?!

I am off to Bombay tomorrow to surprise a friend! I have started spontaneously taking time off from work to hop on a plane and whisk myself off somewhere, and I make these impromptu plans in a blink of an eye! I initiated this change to my lifestyle a few years ago because in some ways I have lived my life (in relation to how I see the patterns of other's), a bit in reverse!

In my twenties and thirties I was within a self imposed discipline (which I remain eternally grateful for), which left hardly any time for "myself time" within this equation of living. To indulge in anything outside the programmed agenda I had consciously set right from my college days, would have toppled my apple cart and left me in completely chaos. My group of friends in college were brilliant because despite my strange timetable that juggled earning my own living, raising a child and being a workaholic in the studio (they were the laid back kids on the block!), we shared with and from each other so intensely, and grew to become what we felt most comfortable being. We have remained as close friends from 1976 which I think is precious.

Travel for me was only when work was the objective. When friends whizzed off to the Pushkar fair or Goa for Christmas, I was the idiot home alone, who traveled through their stories that were scribbled on postcards in fluorescent pens and decorated with doodle art to illustrate what the written word couldn't!

But then and now is different. In those days it was a necessary compulsion for me to keep my nose to the grinding stone. But like old habits you find that you carry on with certain ways of being not because they are relevant any longer, but because you know no other way and are comfortable in the circle of habit. So work, work, work became what I knew best and I found that I needed to splice in other things before I found myself in that old age wheelchair that waits around the corner for me, beckoning me closer with each passing day!

Paradoxically today my friends are less mobile through spontaneous madness, but then maybe it's my time instead of theirs! I love the whimsy of dashing off anywhere when I least expect I will travel, and perhaps the surprises lies more for me than for the other person intended to be surprised! Silly but I love it!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Please don't waste our time....!

Dynastic tendencies are dangerous in any democratic space and when it shows up in the art world it becomes a dodgy area where critique gets put aside and family pride takes center stage instead. Perhaps it is time therefore that Chintan Upadhaya takes a small step back and considers that this may be one of the flaws of a rather tragic-comic artists initiative that Surendran and I attended yesterday, organised and funded by Sandarbh and presented at Monolith Studio in Baroda. The event showcased the most sub-standard and shabby work under the pretext of "presenting the banal for investigation". Cousins galore were in attendance to show off their skills as artists and performers, and the pride of the village will certainly run high, but does it amount to an art endeavour of merit? Absolutely not. And what a waste of funds when the art world has so many students and emerging artists who could put such aid to much better use. But then that's far too banal perhaps for the cutting edge organisers?!

Boring and vacuous, the artworks from this workshop show no contextual basis that could validate the rehashing of old ideas (if I see one more toilet vessel I think I will actually commit hara kiri!), and little evidence of the simplest comprehension of art history is seen amidst all the posturing in the guise of "experimenting". One of the coordinator's, Shreyas Karle, further compounded the meaninglessness of the event with his insolent disregard to offer any accountability to an audience and thought he was putting me in my place (!!) with his arrogant insistence that any rubbish merits a hoopla, and if called art by him then art it must be! On entering Surendran's first reaction was "why have I come. What a criminal waste of my time"!

Attempting to view the event with more compassion I tried to initiate some dialogues that could address issues such as the dilemma of presenting tribal interventions within urban situations in a manner that does not further marginalise, trivialise or exotisize it. I also suggested the need to talk about knowing the history of conceptual/experimental art when employing its language so that the final outcome does not become so ludicrously simplistic because of the apparent ignorance related to understanding the territory of articulation you are identifying with.

There was however no space within this forum to have any interjection of an intellectual nature and Mr. Shreyas Karle instead informed me rather high-handedly that no one was invited to view this as art (!) and that it was just fun ! Well baby next time don't waste my time with printed invitation cards hand-delivered to my doorstep with a clown in tow (actually!), and then inform me that "Sandarbh artists initiative of a sculpture and site specific workshop" is not a presentation of art! If its just a circus you want then call it that and be done with it. Art workshops are spaces of meaningful mediation where wonderfully charged ideas are born, and Khoj and Open Circle have documented the purposefulness that such collective collaborations yield. So let's see you all grow up and stop the game playing of naivety where every idiotic thing does not get the "wow factor" merely to console your fragile egos! The art world has high standards so buckle down to realising this!

That some of the organisers and most of the artists from the workshop were completely out of their depth in understanding how this wonderful opportunity could have been utilised was clear to see. Desperate attempts to pass it off as avant garde and therefore pull the wool over an unsuspecting audience was one of the most disrespectful situation I have encountered in a long time. However the Baroda Art college should truly celebrate this initiative. A track record of mediocrity is finally paying off! Today this is our art heritage and buddy am I glad I was not born into this generation who wear their stupidity with such elan, and do not figure out how foolish they appear! What a tragedy. What a loss. But does anyone even care!

(art work : Preyas from Bangalore and Siddharth from Baroda.)

The Malady of Prejuidice....

It is so often that we encounter remarks that smack of prejudice and it slips by via the conduit of conversations to which the offender is never held accountable for, because it would appear socially boorish to do so. Yesterday a friend spoke about being happy to relocate away from Delhi. One of the reasons listed was that she found the "typically Punjabi" community of her neighbourhood was not to her liking. Such remarks touch a raw nerve in me and at such times I question the personal politics of those who so casually dismiss the identities of others, with no understanding of how ignorant they appear in doing so. We are so deeply entrenched by divides within society and often choose to perceive others through the rigid labeling of people into ill fitting stereo types we create for them; mainly as a result of the superiority we feel about our own comfort zones that we place ourselves in.

To me culture specificity formulates itself with a distinctiveness that allows us to recognise the influences upon a collective that are related to the customs, ideas and social behaviour of those people. It should in fact privilege us with a refined understanding and appreciation of the other, rather than produce a blanket dismissal of an entire collective. But in truth this is such a usual phenomenon amongst Indian people; to deride others and their differences within the blink of an eye, and not examine the lack of ones own initiative to explore and know so as to familiarise and adapt oneself into new zones of learning.

A spiritual world of enlightenment never seems to beckon us where we could shed this negative baggage we drag through life. Where the purpose of human existence is something each of us consciously attempts to structure as the pathway for our journey through mortality. Where we create a significance to life by holding ourselves accountable for the co-existence of others, as well as for ourselves. Instead we labour through life skimming the superficiality of our emotional selves, never truly understanding the lack of courage we posses to be truly open and giving to the process of learning. Compromised through what we allow to corrupt us, we have clearly lost the grip on the essential spirit of humanness we each need to posses, and we sleep walk through life complaining about happiness alluding us!

Before we look at others with judgement it may be a basic life lesson for each of us to look at ourselves more critically. Harmony in life comes from holding compassion for life and others around us, and firmly recognising too that our own knowledge of life is only minuscule. The simple fact remains that a life-time can never offer any individual the ability to be informed completely about everything that makes up the entirety of life and the universe, so we need to garner the strength to push the parameters of learning and see it as limitless. In doing so it will free us from the petty worlds that hold us ransom and teach us to be better people. It starts with one small step at a time, and before you know it many oceans of awareness have been embraced!

Monday, 2 November 2009

I'm begining to doze off to sleep these days....!

I sometimes feel we are getting carried away in India with the desire to present ourselves as "cutting edge and trendy" artists! The scope to "tolerate"(?!), because to dismiss may appear politically incorrect (??!!), is now too obviously back firing on us all with the amount of visual and conceptual drivel that is so completely off the supposedly intended mark! The desperation amongst the young artists of late to look "with it", has brought an onslaught of experimental works (this label stands for everything that is often nothing!) as the newer generations "offerings" which are often trivial nonsense being paraded as profundity!

Yawn! When can we hope for better sense to prevail amongst this new generation of smart kids?! Rubbish texts and inconsequential ideas, badly executed work and ill-informed and unsubstantiated "references" to allude at god knows what, that are dressed up to look ambiguous (that's the quick fix to art.....make everything ambiguous and it should work!), are in fact merely shallow attempts at pseudo intellectualism! I'm sure that these statements of mine are going to receive the catapult reaction that suggests that my opinions stem from conservative ideas of a middle aged artist who believes art must conform to the representations of painting, sculpture and printmaking. But for anyone who is looking around to cast this stone of accusation at me, do halt in your tracks because dear faint heart, such rhetoric is the escapist argument for the paucity of good art being delivered and everyone as a result being short changed!

The depth within the works of artists like Shilpa Gupta, Sheila Gowda or the late Rummana Hussain is hard to find amongst the hordes of youngsters today, and yes what a tribute that these three are women artists who besides their great art, share the unique commonality of never having courted media publicity or the desire to seek the attention of flashing camera bulbs to be the poster babes of page 3 in the culture circuit! Great art comes from a realm of introspection and commitment with the self, to be honest and real. And these three women posses the courage to have walked the talk with no half measures. Not a difficult lesson to learn, but a very hard practice to live by. Are the young Indian artists up to this challenge? We need to wait and watch.....but the clock is definitely ticking!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Happy Birthday 51!

Each year my birthdays get more special with the fun and joy that I am embraced with. Or maybe with every passing year the significance of such shared moments become more valued. For someone who at 27 wanted to stop any commemorative fuss over "this day or any other" it would certainly appear that I have now flipped to "the other side" in the complete delight of all the enjoyment that I derive from such occasions.

Last year my gallery celebrated by 50th birthday by hosting an exhibition of my work and throwing me an absolutely fun party, in which the crowning moment was an item number specially choreographed for me with all the Sakshi team dancing! How do you describe moments of such celebration that are born from years of friendships where such gesture spells love and belief? In today's world of fly-by-night relationships I feel privileged to have strong friendships that are so genuine and real, and that are unconditional.

Yesterday I turned 51 and friends and family spent time to make surprises that would engulf me with the wonderment of feeling special. With madly packed schedules, each person took time off to make me a gift! Perhaps the gift that was extra special was a bag of letters that my near and dear ones presented to me with the instruction to read them when I was on my own ! Sitting in bed at the end of the day satiated with happiness, with both Surendran and Begum the cat fast asleep, I read these missives of love and knew that I am blessed in ways that not many others can ever claim to be.

Today we are celebrating Mithun's 31st birthday one day earlier because he flies off to work tomorrow morning. The dining table will groan with food tonight, and I have made my special chocolate cake! The house has loved ones tumbling about in various nooks and corners, with rowdy scrabble sessions at one end and quiet reading groups somewhere else, all co-existing under one roof, and the cat thankfully not on a hot tin roof! In the midst of all this a discussion on art and a collaborative art work in the form of an interview also took shape!

Happy! Happy! Happy! I like it that way! Touch wood that the next years also amble along with the same energies that make my life special. The bright city lights never fascinated me. I made a choice of a different life style many years ago and Insha Allah it was a decisiveness that has been rewarding. The day is special so let me raise a toast. To the world of friends that makes my life so special....salute and thank you all for the love you give to me!

Monday, 26 October 2009

This is what dreams are made of!

I now know for sure that I should have been born in the era when nobility ruled, and I of course would have been a queen (!) of some erstwhile province, living in a rambling palace and painting with a view of the landscape seen from an arched window which would have been crafted with exquisite reliefs and had stained glass panes through which the sun rays could have danced patterns at my feet!

Well these profound thoughts come from my recent wanderings! On the day after Diwali I got the itch to travel and so Surendran and I went off impromptu to Udaipur, with computers and favourite books in tow, to seep ourselves with some "time away togetherness" and visual stimulus. We were fortunate to get a great deal at the Lalit Laxmi Vilas Palace where you are transported to the old world charm and the nicest hospitality that is warm and embracing without being in your face or intrusive.

A room with a view took on a whole new meaning as we gazed across the lake at the city as it seduced us in its various avatars whilst the sun played with the landscape only to finally hid away; so that the lights of the city appeared like glow worm and fire-flies speckling the horizon with their magic!

We walked through the memories of the dead at the site of the cenotaphs known to the locals as Ahar, that held such peace that I could have sat there under the cupolas all day and some more! As the over grown grass swayed in the breeze and I sat on the cool of the marble steps with an unflattering hat on my head, I wondered whether the spirit of the departed knew that even in death their presence was felt so strongly by those who came to visit their city.

The City Palace Museum boasts of some glorious miniature paintings which held me captive in stunned silence whilst the flow of Indian tourists babbled about me cameras flashing, and the newly weds held hands boldly as the mehendi on the girl's hands signified the authenticity of her status to all.

We discovered the delights of Savage Garden (!), a retreat for foreigners dying to eat non-Indian food and desis like us with a need to have non-oily or overly spiced Indian khanna that weighs you down in the heat of a Rajasthan afternoon. The local are lovely people who exude a charm and regality that is refreshingly different from the loudness one seems to expect from street life in India.

Images of Udaipur crowd my head as I sit back in Baroda and I have begun, as we all do, to sort out "the favourites" and list them in my memories data-base ! The lady dressed in pink at the haveli, the largest cenotaph with the rising cupola, the tiger-hunt miniature painting, the riot of colour in the bazaar, the landscape of the city, the view from the lawns of the hotel....gosh I feel like an excited kid with pretty postcards from which I must pick only one!

Go visit this beautiful city and if you have then I am sure that it's magic beckons you back. I know I will revisit again someday, and till then I go back there in my dreams, only in my dreams I am of course a Queen !

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Oh Happy Day!

I had a great day of painting yesterday. The type of day that leaves you feeling replete, like after a sumptuous meal that can go no further for the moment yet where you linger at the table purely because the comfort of pleasure holds you there! I often play with the lighting at the close of day in my studio and watch the painting change itself as the lights dim or intensify! Silly games but what occurs is that one's imagination takes flight too as the painting "speaks" out differently in each of these varying moments.

The bright red upon which a yellow tiger leaps and the ocher land strips and vivid green trees that dot the space around, all fight to be seen as the chemistry of colours between them play off and against one other, like a choir group in harmony. At these moments of viewing I automatically get placed as the outsider to the painting, and it is only when I physically paint that I can step into it's territory and "live" inside it once again! Strange but that's the way it is for me!

At the stage at which the work is right now, the excitement of meeting up with the work each morning is like those early days of courtship, where energies are taut with anticipation to see your lover again. So I am going to leave you now to go to my studio and paint. The yellow tiger will be stroked with more yellow paint today!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Saturday Surprise!

Each day can bring surprises into your life that can shock you into disbelief and Saturday evening was one such occasion! It's a good thing that I have conditioned myself to carry an overdose of composure in my survival kit, because the story I am going to share with you is so bizarre that it really puts to test the faith of friendships to it's ultimate! But hey, let me not keep you in suspense any longer, and let me begin the story of what most certainly could become a C grade bollywood flick that would bomb in it's first week of release, because the villain got the plot all wrong!

This story is in continuation with what I had shared with you in my blog space earlier, of how family friends were point blank refusing to pay a pending bill to an electrical agency that they contracted via our reference. This agency has worked on all the properties we own and is contracted too by well known industrialists in Baroda from over the last twenty five years, and has an impeccable record of work ethics and known for the reliability of his work. Two years have lapsed and this poor gentleman is still waiting to receive his complete payment.

Over the last six months he has been requesting the mustachioed gent from Rajkot to cough up the owing money, but to no avail. Today, tomorrow, next week and the month after saw no change in the situation. Repeated phone calls and visits had no effect. Finally the aggrieved party requested Surendran and me to intervene with the hope of resolving the impasse and get the payment addressed. Imagining that my personal friendship of thirty four years would amount to something (stupid sentimental me!), I tried to appeal to the decency of the defaulting party, even offering that at a later stage I would gift him a work as a gesture of goodwill for his co-operation, as I felt implicated in this matter purely because : a) the agency had accepted to do the work on my insistence, and b) both parties were old associations that I valued and I wanted to clear the legitimate payment owing, but allow my defaulting friend to save face too.

But guess what?!! I was made to dance about to try to convene a meeting (suggested by the defaulting party to analyse the bills) , and finally told over the phone that I could very well lump it because Mr. Muscle Man stated that he had no intention of paying up! Wow! Knock me down with a feather! Blistering barnacles the pirate ship from Rajkot had hoisted the black flag and was sailing the waters to boldly plunder and loot!!!

I was aghast. I blustered and spluttered like a fat fish in a shallow tank into the phone and then thought it was getting out of hand . Surendran and I felt it was time to meet him and ask for the charade to stop, and for him to behave with a decency that our common social standing and education demanded, which I naively believed our friendship could expect despite all this murkiness that had set in from his side. But on visiting his office he was out. Rather wearied by this saga, both Surendran and I decided to draft a letter that conveyed our feelings of disappointment, and to express that we no longer were wishing to further this matter any longer as his position to default on the pending payment was now established. We planned to send this letter after the weekend and to put this unfortunate matter aside as we were out of depth in this con game and could clearly comprehend that this payment was not forthcoming through our intervention. It was also my father's death anniversary the next day and I did not want to shadow the event with this episode any longer.

But the Rajkot man was all pumped up! Tally ho! Let's go for the kill!!! So off he went and registered a complaint against us at a police station (!) stating that we were threatening his life (!!) and that he feared we would damage his property (!!!) and that (yes this is the cherry on the icing!) we were extorting money from him (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Arre bhai ! How low does one stoop to wiggle out of paying a legitimate bill to a working class person who has completed their work for you and how can one fabricate stories that are transparently ridiculous?!!!

When we went to meet the police they immediately recognised the situation for what it was! We were accorded the utmost respect by all the police officers who lamented over the fact that a friend could have behaved in such an unscrupulous way, as all the pending bills of the agency spelt out the real story in an instant. We were told by the police that this was a common practice with people who want to avoid paying up their debts. Well the shoe is now on the other foot and the farce has been exposed for what it is!

But that aside. The travesty in all this is that the wife of this gentleman has been my dearest and closest friend for over a decade! We have always stood up to such injustices together and abhorred those who lack the courage to be accountable in life. We hang out together, and have depended on each other for so many things that defy description! To me the tragedy in all this is her folly to not act upon what she knows to be the truth, because knowing her as I do, she could not have been party to this atrocious behaviour, where the breakdown of common decency has occurred in a way that is unforgivable and completely bizarre! Our friends are outraged and up in arms at the viciousness of her husband trying to have us arrested! I think we should understand that there must be limits to acting out on anger and rage, whatever the situation maybe. Overstep the precincts of decency and people will know your game for what it is, because to vilify the reputation of someone is truly criminal. I still have faith that his wife will be guided by her wisdom and put an end to this uncalled for mess that has only boomeranged in their face. Call me naive, but I still choose to want to believe that true friendships should be valued!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

I'm crossing my fingers for you....

Often things that are completely unrelated bring about connections that set your mind thinking. The other day a friend asked me what is it that I could say which beckons me to want to look at a work of art. And my immediate reply was that, "the faith that it would hold the potential to offer me something to engage with."

Yesterday when the breaking news of Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize occurred, my reactions through the day were to question if he in fact really had done anything that deserved this award, and I even voiced this concern with friends over dinner. But later in my green-tea meditative space of nocturnal reflections (!), I revisited my response to my friends' question about what beckons one to look at something, and I understood the significance of why Barack Obama had been chosen as the recipient of this award.

Putting aside whether one personally believes in such awards being of relevance, and seeing it instead as a symbol that has global readability for the representation of peace, one can then understand that in bestowing this upon him suggests that Barack Obama offers the faith to hold the potential to engage with change, that may deliver hope for peace.
I think I would stand by that and applaud. Because we need in today's times more than ever before tangible larger than life symbols to connect to, that shift the sands of old patterns and create the resolve to readdress systems that have failed to work for peaceful human co-existence.

I think the world needs to help Barack Obama bring those changes to the table that he has promised repeatedly during his election campaign, so let's work with him to remind him that we are waiting. The more we hold him accountable for the ideals of change he won his election mandate on, the more pressurized he will be to deliver to the global world on his domestic and foreign policies that he endorses that can evidence those changes, and showcase the peace process in war torn countries where America can broker peace. So let's be on the parade with him for this award, so that he understands that he must make good on his promises.

Right now I am on his side, waiting and watching and believing! However the clock is ticking....

Thursday, 8 October 2009

When Trust is Betrayed....

Some days you encounter directly or indirectly, aspects of human behaviour that leaves you frustrated and angered. Yesterday was one such day. My friend's aunt who is suffering from cancer is once again in the hospital as a consequence of a situation that has occurred as a post-operative consequence. Since her surgeon has just left for a workshop to America, my friend is obliged to consult another doctor who is a urologist, advised to her by the core team who are treating the patient. This story till now should sound as though there is no problem, but unfortunately there is! This new doctor in question is openly sexually suggestive through body language and gesture with my friend, is verbally obnoxious and continuously attempts at all times to be overly personal by asking intimate questions related to subjects that lie no where within the realm of any connection to the issue of treating the patient. He chooses to visit the patient at strange hours like 11.30 pm (!) and if requested to inform when he will next visit, tells my friend to sit from morning and wait till whenever he decides he will drop by. Believe me there is no humor intended, but every intention to intimidate and sexually harass.

When it was reported to the hospital management it was brushed aside with the statement that this doctor who was misbehaving was "Rajput" and therefore was "used to behaving" in such a manner!!!!! The absurdity and outrageousness of this statement (which by assumption appears to brand all Rajputs to be behaving in inappropriate ways?!!!) clearly highlights that sexual misconduct is too often excused and, in this case, apparently permitted!

For a hospital in Baroda of such repute that has been established by an erstwhile industrialist whose contribution to the city is legendary, it is indeed sad that this attitude to whitewash gender misconduct is occurring. Instead of the hospital co-ordinator taking immediate action he choose instead appease my friend. That my friend is amply capable of taking care of herself is another issue, but does that mean then that it is therefore excusable that she is subjected to such humiliation and disrespect? My friend intends to take the matter up with higher authorities till this doctor is reprimanded.

I too have had my fair share of experiences where my trust in doctors have been betrayed by their ignoble attitudes and cheap intentions. I know of countries like America where there are hospitals and polyclinics that are completely staffed only by female doctors and nurses, and that this has originated precisely because of such occurrences where medical ethics has broken down, and predation in health care has therefore becomes a systemic disorder.

So anyone who violates you even in the slightest way in a hospital, where your body is exposed and needs to be viewed with clinical objectivity, do not tolerate it. Even an inappropriate gaze by a medical official is a huge breach of ethics. Report it immediately . And if like we are facing the situation is played down, insist that you inform as many people in authority as possible or write about it till it is out in the open and public, and something gets done about it.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The God's for all things!

I had an interesting conversation about religious iconography and the use of it within art works a few days ago, where a friend of mine who is an animator, questioned whether it was appropriate to use religious iconography in ways that transpose meaning, and suggested that in doing so one tampers with what is considered the sacred. What struck me within this debate as being problematic was that to use religious references automatically inferred irreverence and would immediately be considered as suspect!
It would seem that the right wing conservative and fundamentalists forces in our country, whose belief is that art is meant only to be "beautiful and pleasing", are finally succeeding with their agenda to repress creative liberal articulation, if the climate has grown to evidence such opinions that immediately presume that the sacred is being vilified the moment religious iconography is employed in art! I would imagine that problematising/provoking/responding to conservative dictates through subversive or direct means of expression would be seen as an intellectual instrument to question or comment within any rational society, and that a democracy such as India should in fact find such attitudes valid methods of communication and not type caste it to be violating of religious sentiments.

However the rhetoric of opposition to such ideas questions the legitimacy of purpose within such expression which presupposes that any altering of meaning (playful or otherwise) to religious symbology, automatically brings disrespect that is equated to blasphemy. This is the Chandan Mitra BJP speak that is played like a warped record again and again and again (!) with little change to the refrain of emphatic insistence that art must toe the line of state approval and be censored in the name of protecting public sentiments, and the integrity of true Indian culture! My fear is that if liberal thinkers too chant the same slogan, then we are fast sailing into a deep dark whirlpool of disaster, where indeed art will become sweet and cloying images of unassuming nothingness!
Transposed meanings can occur only when things are altered and tweaked (sometimes ever so slightly and at other times in an in your face manner), creating shifts within perceptions that can provoke and challenge established orders. Art is one such territory that has always employed strategies of interplay with language and hybridity of visual devices through the years, that offer a commentary on issues that are topical or being censured through oppressive tactics, or where the marginalised needs focus or the conscience of the people needs to be awakened.

The stories and anecdotes from religious mythology and folklore creates a visual vocabulary that is familiar to a massive audience, and therefore become a suitable currency to use as an artist in many instances. Like all collective things, these images do not belong to any one person or community, but are for all who choose to engage with them. Artists are responsible and know the ethics within which to operate as communicators. We have driven M.F Husain away from India with these attitudes of suspicion. Let us not start an exodus where artists choose to leave this country because they are hounded and questioned and suspected of being anti-national at the drop of a hat. Grow up people and let's start showing a maturity and confidence as a nation.