Sunday, 31 May 2009

On the 7th day, it's still the same!

It's Sunday! For many it's a holiday and for others it's just another day that holds the same routine as the rest of the week. I fall into the later category and I know that this often elicits an "oh poor thing" response, but in truth I cannot imagine what different routine I could fit myself into, other than what I do each day as my normal practise!

Of course I often hear my self prattle on about "wishing I had a day off", but those around me know only too well that I would be completely disoriented and at a loose end without the structures of work that define my time. There are many like me who really enjoy what we do, and have assimilated both home and work as interfaced spheres that do not disrupt one another. Though the clock ticks longer on some days, it also offers a wider spectrum for multitasking that is magical in what it finally can accomplish as a result!

However nothing is ever effortless in this world, and so achieving a balance of co-ordination in which conflicting needs do not collide within such management continues to require an alertness, and most importantly, the ability to adapt and be flexible at all times. As a working professional and as a home maker I rely not merely on the prescriptive, but on the personal inventiveness that I can apply to solve and manage situations. Everything is possible if one has the desire to make it happen, and time has an amazing elasticity if it is valued and used correctly.

Let the unexpected in to your life too because with it comes so many lessons and I find I learn more about myself in such times. Life may not always be exactly as you imagined it, but if you get a 6 out of 10 score on your wish list, you have yourself a great deal going to be proud of. Also savour and enjoy life as you live it because chasing a Utopian dream may limit the possibility of examining a reality that has in fact much to offer.

I have lunched with you whilst writing this, and am off to my studio to finish a triptych painting titled "Pukar billi -billi. There is only a small detail left to finish within it, and so if the paint is dry, it is only a few hours work that remains. After which I will finish my packing for my trip to Ahmadabad tomorrow. In between these two things a multitude of other work will also get attended always!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Black or white.....?!

The fascination we have for lighter toned skin colour in India is pandemic in nature. You can throw a dart at any corner of the Indian map and you will find a prevalence of such attitudes rampant in that geographical location. Why we possess this fetish may churn up a variety of answers, but none of them are plausible for me. I would like to see this bias and bigotry laid to rest, especially since a large population of our society is dark skinned, and it is time for us as a nation to reclaim our pride for it. The greatest negative impact this has is on our girl child, as we repeatedly underline our preference for fair skin as being the epitome of beauty.
For me a perfect example of beauty is my niece Raji. She is the complete package of female specialness where beauty, intelligence, grace, confidence and the goodness of human spirit all come together and shine through the vibrancy of her personality. For me she is my ideal of feminine beauty as she tackles life with a desire to empower herself and define her independence through knowledge.
The television and bollywood stereo-type of fair skin as being the ultimate prerequisite for female beauty gets further endorsed by the beauty pageants that we conduct in India. Show me one contestant who has won the crown who is ebony in colour and representative of this ethic factor of India. The matrimonial advertisements all share this commonality when asking for a bride: fair skinned girl preferred. She could be a criminal, but please let her be fair! What fools we are to stay locked up in our cliches and perpetuate our stupidity decade after decade, and do nothing about it whatsoever.
Parents, siblings, teachers, friends, lovers, professionals, religious people...........whatever the sphere maybe, the rot of such bigoted thinking exists. Break this mould, and break it soon. Progress is not just about rocket science and techno gizmo's, but about attitudes and thinking processes too. So it's time to give this one thought, and evolve beyond the typical. Let us finally wear the colour of our skin it black or white!

Friday, 29 May 2009

Won't you come into my parlour said the spider to the fly....

I am sick to my stomach seeing images on TV of Indian students being brutally attacked abroad by racists. That these countries continue to seek out foreign applicants to their educational institutions and make a profit by charging them fees that are more than what the the local students pay, is discrimination enough, and then to turn a blind eye to the repeated incidents that are life threatening and dehumanising, is in fact criminal. Politically correct statements are paraded via the media by these nations regarding these shameful acts, but nothing that rectifies the problem ever gets implemented.

I too have studied abroad and know the agony of racism first hand. There were many instances, but the two that impacted me the most is when, on one occasion, I had plastic bags of human urine hurled at me and the second abuse was being knocked to the floor on a subway train, and being kicked in the ribs repeatedly by skin heads. The humiliation of such attacks stay with you forever and the pain you feel over the injustice of it all, is not something that can never be described or shared with another. Ultimately for your own dignity to survive, you just have to dig really deep into your inner self and find the way out of that dark tunnel of despair on your own.

The appalling fact remains that what can be done by authorities to provide safety to foreign students is often not considered a necessity by them, and harassment and targeting foreign nationals becomes an amusement and pass time for the lumpen elements within the youth of countries like Australia and the United Kingdom, where racism has a history.

But then we in India are no better with the ragging on university campuses and in educational institutions such as boarding schools, where perverse means of degradation become accepted ways of welcoming new students. Must death and bodily harm become the wake up calls that finally bring our attention to the parameters that we need to establish as acceptable codes of conduct within a civilized society. The golden rule should be to treat others as we would want to be treated. I don't know why this is such a difficult thing to do.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Thank you Alice Walker for reminding me....

In moments of despair, my library is where I hide my grief and can transport myself to a place of serenity and quiet contemplation through images of my favourite art works. This allows me the escape to spaces of knowledge that can repair my damaged spirit and guide me to find the timber of my own spiritual pulse. I have been reading Alice Walker and Maya Angelou for so many years. Returning to their verse and prose, or sometimes merely snatching a paragraph or just rubbing my hand on the covers of the books, and in doing so find that it never fails to bring back my spirit of hope and optimism.

Today was one such day where my spirit needed a little help, and a morning talk with my son and a stanza from a poem of Alice Walker brought back the tautness of my own tightrope of life. I know I want to walk this tightrope without faltering, and not fear that there may not be a safety net to catch me if I fall, because the balance that I must keep actually lies within my own grasp, at all times.

So let me share the stanza from Alice Walker's poem with you.....

Be nobody's darling;

Be an outcast.

Take the contradictions

Of your life

And wrap around

You like a shawl,

To parry stones

To keep you warm.*

(* Taken from What Can I Give My Daughters,Who Are Brave ? A speech delivered at Spelman College on commencement day - 1995 - From the Poem Be Nobody's Darling)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Old wounds still bleed.....

Women's worst enemies are often women themselves. Sad but true. As a woman who early on in life knew that my feminism would come with a price, I never thought it would mean that my own gender would often hold the arsenal that would wound me the most, and for reasons that defy rational comprehension, because the strength of a woman should not be viewed as a threat or challenge to another woman. In stead it should be seen as an embrace.

The morality of women unfortunately has always been an easy target of attack for centuries by those who wish to dis-empower women, and though we proclaim that the 21st century implies progress and evolution of ideas, we still find that women are repeatedly stigmatized by assumptions that aim at "sullying" her moral integrity. Whether in social, political or economic environments, this becomes a strategy of harassment. Women battle to break down the stereotypical expectations that patriarchy imposes, and the double whammy comes when we encounter women themselves being salacious about each other.

What is tragic is that the process of "Chinese whispering" cements these falsehoods, making them fictionalised truths. In my own life I have encountered many women masquerading as Judas. It is paradoxically women who may seek to shelter in the comfort of sustenance from the emancipation and empowerment that sisterhood can offer, who are the one's who often negatively impact the goals of gender equality the most. Perhaps their inability to leave the imprisonment of conservative gender dictates turns them into enemies of their own dreams. The casualty is sadly the death of their inner spirit over time; where fear compromises their spiritual journey.

As women we all abhor the use of rape as a weapon of war. Yet do we comprehend that as women we rape each other daily through these regressive attitudes we continue to propagate. Do we wish to defeat the achievements of choice and hamper the process of equality? Do we not respect this hard won territory by women for each other, and not know it to be a legacy for our daughters? Why do we trample on the seed of our own fruits ?

I want my adopted grand-daughter (whose parents are our dearest friends), to know the strength of solidarity and not be put down by the insecurity or the pettiness of her own gender, simply because we remain ignorant of what we need to nurture within our gender. I want that she should expect woman to uphold the stories of one another with trust and dignity, respecting that the endeavours of each generation of women to empower is precious; and that it is this which compiles the tapestry of our collective ancestry. Let us not make this tapestry a shroud of shame, but a flag that embodies our rightful liberation as equals within society held aloft by every woman in every corner of the world..

Monday, 25 May 2009

Much ado about nothing?

There is so much being talked about regarding the crisis in the art market and it's effect on art. I find it all a bit confusing because the people making the most noise about it isn't always the artists ! For many of us, we joined art schools knowing fully well that it may not be a profession that may ever yield huge profits in our life time, and what led us to being artist's was our own need and desire to use methods of creative expression to articulate ourselves.
The patronage of art is not new to India, and ever since I left art college I have had the fortune of opportunity to be a full time painter, because others have supported my belief in myself by engaging with my work. The gallery system in India has always been a hugely supportive enterprise where the directors of such institutions, especially the premier galleries of India, choose to forge extremely close and caring relationships with their artists. These friendships transcend mere professional gains and are cherished spaces of human rapport.
For me the romance of being an artist is still something I wish to preserve. The specialness of the time I spend with myself in my studio, and my own involvement with my work is the ultimate meditative space, and I hold this as being one of the most relevant factors of my existence. I am not in any way refuting the freedom one receives through monetary stability, but it is certainly not this alone that drives me to paint each day. Survival is an essential fact of life and whether I was an artist or not, I would have always had to factor that condition of independence into my life.
I love being a painter and know that it isn't possible for those who do not know it's delight, to ever comprehend the pure joy of that time with ones work that suspends all else. It is therefore my humble request to all those who think that the first question they must confront me with should be about the recession and it's effect on the art world, to please do think again. My world of art will always exist, and I will always paint through the ups and downs if any; and I hope that immaterial to what the stock market heralds as the forecast, there will always be someone out there who needs for their sensibility to be intoxicated by the nasha of another's creative sensibilities, and for art therefore to always have it's rightful audience and be something coveted and desired!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Let's celebrate girl power!

I was so happy to learn that the girls in high school had fared so much better in their board results than the boys this year! It once again proves the equal potential of women to succeed and their ability to front runners, if not held back by conservative ideas regarding the role of women within society that prevails.

The endless Indian bias to have a male progeny infuriates me, as it is based upon completely wrong assumptions that suggest men are more capable than women. I have personally never known this bias within my family because my parents had always wanted to have daughters instead of sons. So I am truly brought up with the crown of pride for my gender very firmly placed upon my head since infancy and I believe that I wear it, till date, with great responsibility and respect for the legacy of strength that it empowers me with.

We continue to encounter far too many cases where marriage for daughters becomes an obsession and an insisted upon institution by parents, whilst sons are allowed more freedom in this matter. My women friends, both young and old, are very competent women and I am saddened that some of them often need to resist the pressures placed upon them to conform to these archaic fallacies, by their families. Practicality, intelligence, capability, professional success, financial ability, confidence, ingenuity, creativity, articulation, management skills, entrepreneurship, loyalty, survival skills: you name it and women embody it all, and much more.

So the next time you encounter situations in which even the subtlest gender discrimination presents itself, I beg of you don't be silent!State the truth as it is, because it's out there in the open to perceive : Women are strong and capable and are equal to men, so let's not be blinkered about it any more.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Love letters to a nation written in blood!

My general practice every morning is to put on the TV to an Indian news channel, as I sip my morning tea in my bedroom. Today was no different and as I settled down to have an overview of the newspapers, I was stunned to listen to the story of people selling their blood to avail of water in Madhya Pradesh. What are we coming to as a nation?

The political news is completely focused only on the bickering of seat allotment between parties, and what pound of flesh can be sought for pledging their solidarity during pre-poll alliances with the majority party. No politician is caring to attend to the severity of this problem of water shortage, which is dehumanising people and making basic survival a struggle.

Why are such issues not thought to be a humanitarian crisis that needs immediate intervention from all political parties? Are we so shameless that we care a damn for the plight of the ordinary citizen, and are governments not meant to deal with such situations before they spiral out of control? Does nobody in power have an answer for this?

We allow for the pollution and contamination of our water bodies knowingly, and let the municipal services of towns and cities be corrupted and negligent. We view bribing and cheating as accepted methods of getting work done, so that today , if truth be told, an honest person becomes a liability within government service.

Violence has become the name of the game, and gun totting goonda's will make sure you are silenced in the blink of an eye, if you choose to raise your voice in protest of injustice. We have seen the fate of many whistle- blowers who become a statistic in a mortuary, for their efforts to be upright citizens. Our police stations are filthy and unkempt spaces that never offer you the safety you presume they should, and where fear instead can be smelt like rotten garbage in the lockups, that look more like medieval chambers of horror from a B grade film, than rooms of civilized detention.

Today a person sells their blood for something as basic as water. Tomorrow who knows what other indignities they may encounter for their survival. Is this the shining India we talk about? I hope that someone in power today takes stock of the situation and makes a plan that offers a credible solution to this problem. From our side, we must each of us become more acutely aware of the preciousness of this natural commodity, and use it with greater responsibility because if we don't, then we too become the perpetuators of the problem.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Stand up and be counted please!

Not unlike a film still, the Indian express has published a photograph of Rubina Ali, who played the role of young Latika in the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire, looking at the demolished ruins of her home, after the bulldozers have raised it to the ground. The image is dramatic if it was a cinematic frame, but sadly it is for real. How we loved the moment of the "cute child" on the red carpet, disregarding the trauma of dislocation we bring through such situations, in so long as we are gratified by it. For us she is now a forgotten "star", as we turn our attention to the next thing that attracts us and our fickle whimsies.

The slogan Roti, Kapad aur Makan seems to be a forgotten promise of the neta's of our country as the rhetoric of election speeches lie unfulfilled after victory, time after time. The contradictions that we trip over, day after day, never seems to awaken the desire in us as a nation to do anything that could address these injustices in a systematic and planned manner. We are inherently fatalistic by nature as Indians. Kissmat and karma are how we explain the plight of the under privileged as we cross our fingers and wave lemons and chillies around us, to ward away the evil eye!

I would imagine that the revenues received by each state through taxation and the budgets sanctioned for development by the centre, could easily create a system that starts a process of housing schemes for those forced to live in the illegal basties that dot our cities. That most of our domestic labour force lives in such dwellings seems a cruel paradox, as they toil during the day in the elitists surroundings of those more privileged than them, to return to live in conditions that are often sub- human and dangerous, whilst we turn a blind eye to it all, and preserve the social divide through generations.

The lavishness of Indian weddings, festivals and celebrations in general are just one example of where more sensitivity and enlightenment could be a guiding factor to spend personal money on areas of development, instead of personal gratification. It has been a choice in our family that when our son gets married the only ritual from our side will be a civil registry ceremony. There will be no reception, because it is the faces of children like Runbina Ali that disallow us such indulgences. Instead we find ways each year to locate small areas of social rehabilitation, via education or other opportunities, and to give another person the chance of belief through our attention to their problems.

I am a hopeless idealist and am unashamed about it. I want to know that there is always a potential to receive, where intervention of the smallest nature brings betterment to situations of need. I also know that I am not alone in thinking this way and that others too work to create proactive methods for change. When I see the bewilderment of disbelief on the face of Rubina Ali, I hope that a nation finds its conscience to act upon it, because thousands of Rubina Ali's need our help each day. Small, tiny acts of intervention are so valuable and so easy to accommodate. We just have to find the right mindset to do it.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Wake up and free Aung San Suu kyi!

The quiet fortitude of this tiny lady, Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads and fuels the spirit of freedom for the Burmese people, shines from her eyes in all the photo-images I have seen of her. Kept under house arrest since 1988 with restricted movement, this lady today on the eve of her release is once again being harassed by the Junta regime so as to keep her voice and spirit shackled forever. Today the trumped up charges present the dictate of a prison sentence! To imprison this political leader who is seriously ill , is to finally sign here death sentence and kill her knowingly, and all of us will be equally cupable of this act.

No newspaper in India carries the outrage of such blatant violations of democratic rights on these Burmese people in any sustained campaign to create awareness of their plight. Using peaceful means to protest and fight for the mandate of the people to be honoured, and for their elected leader to be given her rightful position within the political framework of the governance of Myanmar, the struggle of the Burmese people goes mostly unnoticed by the apathy of our silence.

The tragic abuse of human rights is legendary from this region, yet no country is willing to forcefully impose sanctions to curtail trade and tourism so that the truth of this authoritarian state is exposed. The heinous methods of repression are killing the spirit of this population, whilst favouring the manic power and corruption of a few.

Will all our world leaders please stop to listen? Can all of us please feel the outrage of another's freedom being stifled? Must the blood of the innocent be shed more copiously and another Rwanda stain our souls, before we acknowledge the wrongs of this region.

Organisations such as the United Nations have done little to resolve this conflict, and the few murmurings from the power-brokers with political clout of international establishments and world leaders of developed nations, are mere platitudes to postpone the stringent actions demanded from them by this long drawn out genocide. Serious accountability of this regime by the international community is the only way to staunch the flow of atrocities committed in the name of governance by the ruling Junta regime; and for a political democratic solution of transparency to be achieved.

Please consider signing this petition and lend your voice to support the truth for freedom.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

With feet of clay?

Which types of violence maybe termed as heroic and therefore be viewed with compassion as sacrifices endured to fight oppression, and what gets designated as intolerable terrorism, are really two sides of the same coin. Supremacy in both of these becomes the ultimate trophy which is sought, and the faith of conviction the blinkers that disallow for any mediation to occur where alternative methods are sought. Finally it is the political, religious, geographical or ideological affiliation which you possess that guides your self-identity to become stitched into these maps of re-ordering.
The photo of the young man in front of an army tank in 1989 during the Chinese uprising in Tienanmen Square, is a frozen moment for me that captures the essence of where passionate belief can take you in your own life's journey. I wonder what are the thoughts and emotions of his mother each time she remembers her son. Does she believe he wasted his life or does she hope that he helped to keep the dreams of the freedom of others alive?
I have such mixed emotions over the massacre of the LTTE leadership as it brings with it a closure to 26 years of an ideological position. Crumbling under the dictates of it's opposition, a dream of a homeland has been crushed forever for those who followed this piped Piper. So many rivers of blood snake the histories of human civilization, and yet it seems as though human need continues to perpetuate the battle for power. These power-games are enticing, all dressed up in glitzy packages that promise a jack pot at the end of the rainbow, after the storm. But most times the storm unfortunately bring with it devastation and the rainbow never seems to shine through.
Of course each of us want to catch the moonbeams and ride the ride to that special place all legends and tales normally take us to, in those fired up imaginative moments in our lives. But along the way if our idols and heroes start to get feet of clay, that's when the dreams turn into nightmares, and the moonbeams get eclipsed by the shadows of the dark clouds.
I don't know what victory this massacre of the LTTE brings, nor do I comprehend how the blood of innocent people could be shed for 26 long years, and be justified in the name of anyones liberation. We will have to wait and watch what history decides to remember, and what we choose to forget ourselves.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The paradox of labels!

Surendran and I built a house recently which was a humbling experience in learning how ill-informed we are regarding the skills and artistry of our labourers, and how we rarely acknowledge or appreciate their contributions to architecture, leaving this area of credit vacant and disregarded. There are thousands of faceless people who build our cities and bring the comfort of luxurious lifestyles to appease our fantasies and create infrastructures to the process of development that benefits us, but who exist most often on the footpaths, hiding in the shadows of their own achievements with little else than a plastic sheet as the canopy to adorn their homes.
Though I designed the architectural plan of the house, there was no way in a million years that I could have build this home, brick by brick, as it was done, without the detailed abilities that each of these workers brought to the project as they literally built it with the toil of their sweat, in climatic conditions that are exhaustive and relentlessly harsh. My labourers: the sand carriers, the masons, the carpenters, the polishers, the stone cutters, the plumbers, the electricians, the fabricators and all the numerous technicians gave articulation to the concept and breathed life into defining this space we call our home.
The saddest thing is that we label most of these amazingly talented and enormously creative people as "unskilled", because we have structured an elitist hierarchy which views qualifications from sanctioned institutions, as being the only emblematic yardsticks of recognition for merit and ability. That millions of people in India do not even have the opportunity of choice to a basic education makes this parameter questionable, and suggests that our vision of development has been derailed where it is most essentially required.

With farming increasingly becoming less attractive to the youth of rural India due to the tragic plight it has come to be identified with in recent years, economic necessity is forcing the inhabitants of villages to be lured by the promises that cities seduce them with in order to survive. That we then compromise the dignity of this work-force by abusing their civil rights so blatantly by preying upon their crisis to benefit our situations, is never addressed or even admitted to. The builders are a ruthless business community who refuse to create any organised sector for this work force, because to do so would mean that health care and life insurances for these workers would become mandatory, and child labour a punishable offence.
Pregnant women carry loads of material at a time when their bodies are already overloaded and need care. Accidents on site are a common factor as safety regulations get flaunted in the most care-a-damn manner. Hygiene and basic amenities such as toilets and access to clean water are never a consideration.
I was lucky that the home we built adjoins the flat we own, and so I could partake of the lives of those working on our site during the span of a year and a half, and forge intimate relationships with them that included knowing them personally and not only communicating with them over work related issues. Beautiful people each of them, they have left their spirits in our home in ways that bring back memories of them everyday for me. Nomads they travel from one location to another building homes to house the dreams of others. Look into their eyes the next time you work with a migrant labourer, because there too lies a dream that has the desire to be realised; only our selfishness is the barrier that prevents this happening.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Crouching tiger, hidden dragon!

I am so grateful that the election results have averted the consequences of having communal forces as the central leadership of India. I think finally people will agree that judging a book by it's cover may not be so smart after all, especially if the criteria to pull someone down becomes a camouflage for the inability to deliver on the promises made ones self. Perhaps it is wise to remember that the Indian electorate are not fools, and they are quick to figure out that grandiose speeches do not necessarily translate into actions that may benefit the crucial needs of the masses.
Divisive agendas in politics have begun to pall with a public that is looking for solutions to real problems like access to better education, unemployment, housing requirements, health-care, rural development, curbing of inflation, over crowding of cities, clean water supplies, civic maintenance, farmers subsidies and thousands of other such needs that we confront everyday and struggle to deal with.
As Indians we talk, with great concern, about enemies who live outside of our borders who harbour ill-will and the desire to destabilize our beloved country. But when I hear the rhetoric of some of our Indians, and especially those with political aspirations, who speak the language of hate and communalism, I know in that instance that the true enemy really lies within those sentiments. It is such attitudes that fail to recognise that secular freedom is the only key of democratic liberty and that we need this if we are to embrace our uniquely pluralistic population, and be a united country.
I have to admit that up till yesterday, I was not a die-hard Rahul Gandhi enthusiast. But he has earned my respect and my support with evidencing, amongst other qualities of endeavour, a bi-partisan political philosophy that is genuine and heart felt. His measured and cautious approach to contextualising current situations and engaging with a historical overview of Indian democracy; suggests he is strategist with a long term vision, and sees himself in political life for the long haul. Though repeatedly accused of ridding on the fame of his family, he has in fact shown that he is learning-the-ropes from the grassroots. To empower the youth to view public service as a possible means to development and progress would necessitate involving people to alter their mindsets, and comprehend that change comes only if it is personally worked for. It is young political voices like Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah that makes me feel assured that our secular democracy may not be hijacked or lead astray that easily, whatever the communal forces and their agencies may attempt to do.
This electoral victory is a moral victory for many voices in India today.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Bye bye baby!

Today is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's last day in office as the current electoral process winds down to its final countdown, and I wonder how many of us have really valued this quiet and unassuming gentleman who has been the architect of progress for our nation. I was appalled at the smear campaign of his adversaries that branded him a weak prime minister! For me the dignity that Mr. Singh has brought to this position of leadership, provides us a lesson in social and political conduct that has been completely absent from the Indian political scenario for far too long. Rowdiness and crudity have become the norms associated with political power in the recent past, and Indian parliamentarians could well take a leaf out of this stoic man's book, to learn the true meaning of serving one's nation selflessly. Let us not forget that Adolf Hitler was considered great orator, so placing undue emphasis on the oratory skills of Mr. Singh as being a criteria to judge his political leadership, is rather absurd and so typically skewered of the BJP.

There are many instances that have exemplified the wisdom of this Prime Minister, and where I have felt comforted that he truly understands the requirements of a life of public service. He has never flinched to don the mantel of the job; to be a role model of ethics and principles. However for me it is often in the smallest and least profound gestures where the truth of a person can be best seen and judged, and perhaps the memory that I will hold forever as an emblem of this great man is of him standing in line to cast his vote like every other citizen, without the halla-bulla and fanfare that most other leaders seek out for themselves in such instances. I believe in this frozen moment is etched a complete profile of the philosophy of this visionary, and history will be obliged to hold him amongst one of the greatest leaders of state this nation has ever had.

I am powerless to know whether my vote for his party will keep him in power or not, but I am rooting for him all the way! He may not have the flamboyance to be a poster boy that's trendy or give sound bites that make good copy as bumper stickers, but then what I want is a leader for my country and not a toy-boy with no substance. Mr. Manmohan Singh, you sir make most other men pale in comparison as a man of substance. I hope you come back to power because you truly are a leader.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Friday musings.......

Over the years I have always encouraged journalists, writers, archivists, art critics , historians and even artists to tape-record the conversations they have with the people they interview. This prevents the essence of communication getting lost in translations via hastily scribbled notes in unintelligible handwriting, or worse still, when people believe that their memory will serve to recall in minute detail lengthy discussions; which of course is a recipe for disaster. Recording communication becomes valuable data for us to reflect upon and return to, especially if we want to contextualize oral histories.
To deliver interpretations should not be seen as a licence to distort meaning. Too often the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword is taken far too seriously by fledgling writers. I find it particularly special when artists interview and write about one another other. These conversations can be like labyrinths that twist and turn, but have a structure that can lead one to it's centre. It is even more poignant when years of friendship become the playgrounds from which such interactions take shape.
Today letter writing unfortunately has become a dying art, replaced instead with the brevity of sms's that are delivered in a truncated jargon I refuse to endorse, or quickie emails that are cold and lie imprisoned in the screens of computers. I grew up in the era of post-cards, where you searched to find those favourite images to share with friends whilst travelling, and who then equally carefully preserved them like valuable collectors items to keep for posterity.
I had a portable typewriter I bought for a throw away price from a drunken friend of a friend, at an LSC party I attended when I was a student. This became my Sancho Panza for many years. With one finger, I have typed letters to friends filled with all the imagination of my ideas spilling out from the carefully sealed envelops they travelled in, to their designated destinations. Sometimes it was paper napkins dug out from the depths of my shoulder bag in museums that were filled with scribbled excitement to share with a loved one. At others it was a drawing that transformed into letter paper and where words and images collided together. All of these served the same purpose; the exquisite delight to articulate and tell the other something you held as relevant and important with the hope to provoke a response, that could then lend itself to the flow of interaction that friendship for me is really all about.
In many ways this space right here becomes my post card to all of you, each time I sit to write. A small interlude each day of sharing, where ideas in my head are mulled over as I share them with you, before I step into my studio where paint and turpentine become the language to converse in, instead of the English alphabet.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

I am proud to be an Indian!

I have always been rather sceptical of showing my patriotic side to others, because somewhere the extremities of this position always seems to be the brand ambassador for it. But if truth be told, I am proud to be an Indian. The issue here is that this statement somehow gets construed to assume that therefore one turns a blind eye to the flaws of one's country, or that one should uphold those usurped spaces of cultural practice in the name of cultural pride. In fact I am getting rather weary of not being able to be proud of those things that are Indian that go unnoticed due to the corrupted agendas of others, and the illegitimacy of their claims at being the custodians of the izzat of our nation is becoming something we need to vehemently disclaim at all times.
As an artist I am often overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the treasure trove we have as our collective heritage, and am genuinely bewildered by the ignorance with which we refuse to see that it has been largely possible to have this rich past only because of the pluralistic nature of our history. Assimilation's, adoptions, acceptance of difference, and hybridity are some of the aspects that have allowed for a cultural legacy to be perpetuated and yet we choose to ignore the logic of making the right choices today to preserve our ancestors memories. We need to look at development as a process that is not hinged on desecrating the past, but which builds upon it so that it is our plinth for the future.
The political elections that are underway right now are a painful reminder for the people of this country that nothings ever appears the way it gets presented. We talk of the values of loyalty and honour in one breath, yet think nothing of salaciously slandering and manipulating on the other hand, as methods to showcase our leadership. When ideologies of governance cannot be exemplified with clarity and electoral platforms become potential bloodbaths to glorify lumpen kingpins, then the pride for my nation turns to shame.
I don't like being made to be a chameleon. I would like to wear my pride and not be forced to play musical chairs as the tunes of our elected representatives keeps changing with every passing second. Today its all about getting to the seat of power and not about having a vision to govern with. My advice to the politicians today is do take out the old brass band and polish it up please! Find the tune that can hold your head up high (as the offices of duty you desire to hold, demands it), and then march forward with the determination to remain accountable to those who follow you. Understand that a nation marches behind you and can only be lead forward in step, if the band masters get it right. So get it right for heavens sake!!!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Shake it up a bit!

I was really pleased to visit a collective studio space recently that had decided to have an informal viewing of their art works, so as to invite critique and discourse from artist friends and colleagues into their studio. This was not as a prelude to any formal exhibition, and the idea is to have these presentations on a regular basis. One of the young artists of this studio, Bhrigu Kumar Sharma articulated that this idea resulted from a need to have conversations occur, rambling or otherwise, to "knock at the door" of his creativity with questions that he may not be able to ask of himself.

When I visited the studio, it was filled with the intangible yet palpable spirit of dreams, hopes, wonderful fiestiness, youth and innocence and a healthy pinch of arrogance, as well as all the other survival skills young artists carry in their imaginary back-packs for this long haul to climb the ladder of success. The open studio was also interspersed with hints of really special ideas seen in the works; sometimes half formulated and somewhere quietly demanding of attention; and also the delight of struggle where intentions are valiant but the essential idea gets aborted like a still born baby, bringing with it both pain and frustration.
I carried away with me a feeling of great joy that day because after a long time I was seeing in Baroda the potential to create alternative interactive spaces of engagement, that were intimate in nature, and were about being connected to each other not through the agenda of curators, but from the spirit of the artists own understanding of the value of such sharing with each other.
When I travel abroad I gravitate to those rooms in the museums that have works by artists that invite you to participate. Design exhibitions fascinate me for this reason, and a few years ago I spent an afternoon in an exhibition in Brazil that I chanced upon, and was completely mesmerised by the simple act of arranging geometric shapes to transform into animal and human forms through my intervention with it.

I am off to spend eight days with a group of my friends in Ahmedabad, to do a ceramic workshop. Khanjan Dalal has lovingly put this together from my desire to play in the shadows of my old friends creativity and fumble together with them to learn once again, hopefully where in the intimacy of one another's company, work is born from the nuances shared through solitude, verbosity, fun and experience. Stepping outside of our comfort zones can only fuel us to be more demanding of ourselves, so though slightly trepidatious I am all charged up and ready for action!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Mirror Mirror on the wall.....

If you love food then it's most likely that slowly but surely, as time passes, your waist line does a fast forward on you! I have come to believe that even if I look at food with my peripheral vision, my fat cells get excited and multiply in anticipation. So therefore over the years, I have included exercising into my daily routine.

I have stomped down many a dusty by-lanes in the heat of the Baroda summers, with girl friends in tow, panting away as we have power-walked like wild hippos let loose from the zoo! Then came the craze of aerobics. Well put on the T.V and step it up girl, heaving bosoms and all! My poor family had to cultivate the art of freezing their facial muscles so that their mirth was contained behind the stoic dignity of support they offered me.

Now to top it all I have one foot bigger than the other. (If I was of Red Indian descent I could have been named "long foot left", but lets not get side tracked here.) Therefore in the yester-years of "sell Indian-buy Indian-cheat Indian" where chi-chi labels were contraband, good old Bata was what graced my dainty feet. With no half sizes in foot wear, I either hobbled in pain with a few toes being crushed Japanese style, or I flip-flopped a la Don Martin of Mad Magazine fame. Either way I would have been a ramp walk disaster, so that career was certainly a no-no.

I also believe we must share our passions with those we love. So one fine day I caught my poor unsuspecting partner, who in the best of times is someone one would classify as being"poetically languid" in pace, and decided that push-ups was the order of the day. Let me just conclude right here, that after one valiant effort that yielded a two inch rise off the floor, he was dead duck status for three days!

So now it's the gym era for us in the family. (We would certainly give the three little bears of Goldilocks fame, a complex with our commitment to this new found regime.) Nike is the flavour of the month and we zip across the city punctually each day, to mount and pound away with feverish delight on hi-tech machines, that would groan if they could at the indignities of torture they receive from us. I am grateful for my failing eyesight as I prance into senior citizenship because my reflections in the mirrors miraculously appear in soft focus. Hallelujah!

Sculpted bodies and bouncing jelly may make a great book title, but trust me are depressive when the later is your "birthday suit" gifted to you by yourself! So be kind the next time we meet up and tell me how beautiful the tip of my nose is despite its Parsi heritage, and I promise you I will not call you a liar.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Hello Kitty!

All my friends and family know how much I love my cat. I see the amusement on their faces as I am reduced to a complete slave of my four pawed infant.
But what they do also know is that she is my ultimate stress buster! These days the first word on the diagnostic chart of most doctors is this all pervading malady labelled "stress". I was a bit perplexed by this for a while till common sense helped me assimilate the true meaning of this "condition", and led me to realise that the prevention lies in comprehending our levels of endurance by knowing how much we can stretch our capabilities. In defining this with clarity for ourselves we in fact make our lives less complicated, and most importantly, less vulnerable to dependencies of the kind that reduce our freedom and impinge upon our desire of independence.

For me my "fur-fix" transports me to a space that is emotionally calming and which suspends the invasion of all else temporarily, allowing me through such an intervention to defuse my anxieties, and bring back a balance of focus so that my responses are tempered through deliberation.

I love the demands of my work and the large "family" that I have by choice, and want nothing to change from those maps. What I do want is to be more conscious of what the mechanics of my internal systems need, and to keep this on my radar screen as I grow older.

Recently, two friends have had untimely deaths. One suffered a brain hemorrhage and the other a fatal heart attack. Take time each day, even a few minutes if nothing else, and recharge your energies with something that allows you that personal "zen " moment. You really do need it.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

2nd November 1978 at 11.31 in the night I became a mother. A planned and much desired baby, Mithun was born to me as I stood on a new threshold of learning in my life. Art and the realisation of my own womanhood became a simultaneous learning curve that Mithun grew along with, and today when he is 30 we share a relationship that is real and believable to both of us.

I have over the years through counselling encountered many situations where huge chasms of dislocation have occurred between mothers and their children, and where both sides often feel betrayed assuming that the other has failed them in abandoning the fight to hold on to a communication that could bridge the divide that shuts each other out.

Our modules of parenting often come from quarters that we ourselves held as suspect when we were young, and yet rarely do we reconsider what is appropriate to our specific conditions and circumstances, when we assume the mantle of motherhood. We often choose instead to pull along old stereo-types of conformity that are outdated to the context of our children's reality, and place far too much significance on the "approval ratings" we unconsciously seek from outsiders as gratification for ourselves.

The most successful mothers I believe are those who stay alert and look to guide via structures that seek to enable the abilities of their children, so that each day of learning in life is entered through a state of awareness by both the mother and the child. Where communication is considered to be a key that must fit the right lock, if it is to ultimately open it.

The skills of maternal nurturing are perhaps most needed in our teachers today, who embrace the space to impart ways of living and application of information, so that they can then extend this into the lives of children who as adults, will have to survive in the real world.

Motherhood is very special for me. I live each day in gratitude that I had this opportunity, and know for a fact that Mithun has taught me so much through the innocence of his eyes as a child, and the tenacity of his personality as a young man today.

Happy Mothers Day!

Welcome to my blog!

It is that magic time of the day for me when most things around me are quiet and I have signed out from my day of work in my studio. Sipping green tea and reflecting on my day is a daily ritual that normally has the murmurings of the TV as its backdrop. So perhaps it is appropriate that today I start my blog at 1.15 in the morning with a cup of jasmine tea and put up my first post as I become an official blogger in cyber space.
Some years ago I had a column titled "The bigger picture" which was published in the Times of India newspaper for a year, in which I wrote about many diverse subjects. It was a space that allowed me to converse about many different things and it is my desire that my blog too is going to be such a space of sharing.
Each day that we live has such a vast spectrum of experiences that span from the bizarre to the profound, and where we ride the escalator of emotions as we cope with the hurly-burly chaos that urban Indian existence has become. I believe that the more we collectively examine and share, the greater the possibility is for us to find that essential balance within our spiritual selves, where bewilderment does not overwhelm our ability to survive, and where humour does not get forsaken forever.

So Welcome, and I hope that my postings become silent conversations I can have with you over a cup of chai; where shared concerns forge points of engagement in the absence of the physical presence of one another, and where ideas and the spirit of life can get communicated.