Tuesday, 30 June 2009

At the click of a button.....

Before I go any further let me go on record to say that I am a great supporter of the media, and do believe that independent news channels in particular, bring to us information that would never perhaps come to light otherwise. But having said this I am also now finding that there are too many instances where investigation and delivery of news items cross the boundaries of ethical reportage and veer towards sensationalizing as a method of holding the interest of the viewer . The 26/11 terror attack on Bombay brought to light the over zealous nature of the reporters, and the tragedy and danger of the situation was transformed into a reality show, which was extremely repugnant for many.

I for one stood up to defend some of my own favourite news reporters in the backlash of anger that their programs and live coverage unleashed, because I fear that too often the media is made into a convenient scape goat. Both the politicians and the citizens avoid assuming accountability for matters which require attitudes of courage to address, and which each of us are connected to because it concerns us as a nation. In the wake of 26/11 I defended the role of reporters, and Barka Dutt in particular, because for me she embodies a spirit of genuine concern for all that she presents as a news journalist, and I truly believe she wears her heart on her sleeve like no other reporter in India does, and I respect her immensely for it. But the truth is that we do sensationalise through the media and that's because there is a willing viewership to receive it! Today Shiney Ahuja's rape case and Michael Jackson's death are our new fixes on T.V! Who really cares about Iraq or Kashmir because at the end of the day we as viewers want to be eternally entertained! Serious reportage will have thousands of viewers "turned off" and tuning in elsewhere for the couch potato experience!

Moderation, balance, restrain are all words we are familiar with but seem unable to implement with regularity as a lived practice. Like all products, the demand determines the supply, and television programing is as susceptible to these dictates. So we need to introspect before we point a finger at just the television channels to lay the blame at their doorsteps, as though they alone create the demons of voyeurism unaided by our consent! But in the same breath I will also say that it is equally important to question the leadership of such organisations and examine the policies that govern their decisions. Dr. Prannoy Roy certainly is in a class apart from all the others of his profession, and his personal dignity and controlled decorum is something many could emulate from. Responsibility is the name of the game really and of course we all know this; but unfortunately that's boring! More's the pity that we don't listen to our conscience more often.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Always, always, now and forever.

Why on earth does it take us human beings so long to be comfortable with difference? Why should heterosexuality be considered the only sexual preference because religious teachings decide so, or because orthodoxy within society suggests it to be acceptable ? I am a firm believer of being pro-choice and if people feel inclined to be within adult relationships that are consensual and with the same sex partner, then this is a perfectly acceptable option in life.

Exploring sexuality is a common phenomena as a pubescent youth and there are countless stories, the world over, of adolescent sexual awakenings that result in the sharing of this curiosity amongst growing children of the same sex. This is absolutely normal and does not interfere with the dormant and natural inclination of the sexuality of the child blossoming and being acted out in the course of time. What comes through each time such debates occur is that we are a nation who generally are uncomfortable with the the word S-E-X and all that it encompasses. And as a consequence we have made homoerotic sexuality become tinged with a hysteria that automatically dubs it as a "violation" and which supposedly implies sordid intent! We are therefore responsible for creating this stereo-typed moralism in society which we want to keep authenticated via out-dated laws which have no real place in a liberal democratic society in the 21st century.

India is not some newly formed conservative right wing territory ruled by the voice of a monolithic dictate, but is an amalgamation of diverse heritage that dates back centuries, and has had the practice of homosexuality unapologetically within some of the most respected areas of social life, and is proud to be viewed as a culturally pluralistic nation. The history of our art and culture evidences many examples of homosexual practices, so let's not be too coy about it or have selective amnesia because it suits our conservative friends, or political groups with vote bank politics as their only criteria to guide decision making. We are a nation of people that certainly are mature enough to know right from wrong, and are perfectly capable of respecting the privacy of one another and conducting ourselves with consideration and sensitivity to others.

Gay rights must be introduced into India because it is absolutely offensive to the constitution of Indian democracy that we criminalise the legitimate choice of the sexual preference of an individual, and perpetuate it as an evil and corrupted lifestyle to embrace. We must understand that all facets of sexuality can display abuse, and so heterosexuality or homosexuality are equally vulnerable areas of such unfortunate transgressions of decency within life. To taint one as the damned and grotesque over the other, from which we need to be "saved", only shows our ignorance and homophobia.

The lesson of the cradle is always to instill pride and confidence in our children. Let our children grow up to know that they are special and equal always. Be inclusive to all, always. Throw away the fears and prejudices that others have filled your senses with, and open your heart to know what is right, always. Be strong and stand up for the rights of others to equality, always!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Twinkle twinkle little star.

The death of Michael Jackson is sad not because he died way to young, but because it is so blatantly obvious that this man became a victim of the greed of others. No child should ever loose the experience of their childhood at the alter of their ambitious parents dreams. Such a child will grow without the process of knowing themselves within the comparatives of learning from their own peers, and will be deprived of a reality that offers them the insight as to how to shape their emotional selves. Michael Jackson stands testimony to this and his death a wake up call to us.

Abnormalities that are not genetic or birth defects or incurred from illness or accident, occur as a result of the environment in which a child receives nurturing; and if the formative rearing does not allow for development to happen in the sequence and order that is commonly expected, a child's personality can be severely hampered. Fear and repression are sad substitutes for encouragement and motivation. Money and fame can only be handled sensibly if it is seen as a justifying and rewarding return on the investment of ones time and energy. For Michael Jackson his millions were never a compensation for what he believed he had lost, and he was intelligent and aware that he could never reclaim this precious experience in spite of the elaborate constructs to achieve a replica of this imagined passage of time, because the clock could never be turned back for him unfortunately.

The concept of a child star frightens me, and how foolish are those ridiculous parents who pretend that they are able to protect their children from the scars of such exploitation. As an artist I have always refused to be a judge for any children's art competition. I abhor that such an activity can be viewed to instigate the presumption of rating children's art and making a child feel that since their creative expression was unworthy of accolade and praise, is therefore inferior in some way!

There are many budding Michael Jacksons out there, both girls and boys. I hope parents are listening and understanding that success is not necessarily via the super stardom of tinsel dreams and fat bank accounts, but from your children being well adjusted adults who can define their responsibilities and function with an understanding of their reality. Their confidence and the happiness of their childhood memories is wealth enough, and should be something we all as parents need to realise.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Don't lets run before we can walk!

Today on the T.V news I heard that Kapil Sibil is offering new suggestions to replace the tenth grade school board examinations. I do hope that parents and students alike as well as education policy makers, will understand this to be a great chance for us to reinvent the assessment process of performance. Today the value of standard has got strangely distorted with cut off percentages becoming absurdly high, and I know that if I was to be a high school student today, my confidence would have been impaired and I would have been viewed as an under achiever because 97% would not have been reflected in my mark sheet!

Being a book worm or a nerd as its called in today's vocabulary of slang, becomes the only option if one is to cope at school and more relevantly, secure admission in colleges of repute for higher education. Where is there the scope of the "holistic" exposures we preach of as being the true hallmark of wise educational paradigms if we do not implement a system that upholds such values. Ultimately it is the mark sheet that becomes the trophy, without which your choices are automatically shut off, not lessened, just shut off! What a bizarre and unjust system and one which in my opinion is obviously flawed.

It is only in India that I see children of the age of 17 having to make major decisions regarding their future careers with no really leeway to allow experience to define and guide these choices. It becomes a do or die, sink or swim situation, and it promotes and benefits only the front runners. The onus of being more circumspect in the approach towards eduction lies squarely with the parents because the system has only one aim: standardising and making everything competitive in ways that obscure true learning and assimilation. And in many cases those liberal parents who veer away from the prescriptive, pay the price of children not finally "fitting in" to a system which is rigid and unyielding and completely uncreative in its approach to helping the youth find know themselves better.

Being an achiever is wonderful, but there isn't a singular meaning that we can apply to the connotation of this. The labour force in any country who are not often highly educated or qualified are great contributors to their society and are valuable and meritorious people. Their "mark sheets" are marked in other ways and it is high time that educational institutions stop insisting that the reflection of ability is via this 90% formula!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A thought for the day.

Today I read about a young Iranian girl named Neda Agha Soltan who died just by being a silent protester at a rally in Tehran. To know that her blood gushed out of her body too fast for her to be saved, and that her father had to witness his beloved daughters wasteful death, fills my heart with the deepest anguish and anger. There are times such as these when I become so weary of human intolerance that is born from authoritarian and blind insistence to gag any form of dissent. Yet such incidents also make me stop to consider how fortunate I am. How freedom is something I can loudly insist upon in India, and how my voice will not go completely unheard, whatever the opposition may be. Let me also say that even though I am an atheist I know that no religious scritures would ever propagate such acts of hate or oppression, but it is the interpretations often that hold the problems and create the divides.
For many years I make personal pledges whenever I feel incapable to do something of significance for the specific situation that holds my heart and calls my conscience into account, because in doing so I know Iwill reflect upon it with more sincere consideration . Today is such a day. On such occasions I dedicate and offer all of my energies of the day in the spirit of belief for the cause, situation or person/s. In doing this I also believe it keeps me more alert to the remembrance that I have indeed so much to be grateful for in life.

Please hold the spirit of all the Neda Agha Soltans of the world, close in your heart too.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Our Heritage and the great divide!

India still remains a country full of divides that are shamelessly politically incorrect, yet nothing gets noticeably rectified even in the areas of art and culture. I studied under the tutelage of Prof. Jyoti Bhatt whose love of traditional folk art and craft is an informed area of research and documentation, and I was deeply impacted by these influences from those early years of learning.
I became aware as a student in the 70's that there was an unspoken divide between the urban art practice and the creative expressions born from ritual and other tribal art and craft forms in India. The overtones of elitist snobbery are palpable in the "English speaking domains" that art usually inhabits. Gestures of parity are often paraded as appeasements by the urban art fraternity to project an equality of status between these two areas of art practice, but which in fact is completely untrue due to the lack of belief in relation to this. Though scholars like J. Swaminathan and K.G Subramanyan have genuinely worked at the grass root levels to inform an art audience on the merits and aesthetics of this vibrant contemporary creative expression, this divide continues to remain. This is going to prove to be a great shame as the loss of this heritage will soon occur if we ignore the need to support it and create a genuine spaces for it to flourish and be seen.
I was deeply disturbed when I visited the Art Asia Pacific triennial in Queensland some years ago and observed the manner in which one of our tribal artists whose work was being exhibited, was never really able to feel personally comfortable within the event. Her sense of dislocation came from so many subtle factors of being marginalised unknowingly, in an event that was teaming with curators and artists preening their intellectual prowess! Necessary as emblems of political amendments to erase the horrors of Australia's past racist atrocities, such artists once again became a pawn in the bigger games of power brokerage and political diplomacy. I am sure the curatorial intentions were impeccable, but the complexity of this divide was "band-aided" over with a simplistic approach that did the issue more damage than good. What must constitutes the parity that we are attempting to create must be well comprehended by all, if we are to make the rightful amends for our past mistakes. Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal is one such institute that was founded with the right vision and with the appropriate agenda to showcase tribal art as a contemporary Indian art form, and to serve the needs of its art practitioners with no token concessions or condescension. That today Bharat Bhavan's leadership isn't able to sustain the legacy it was founded upon is another issue altogether.
Those in the art fraternity well know of the economic exploitation which occurred with so many of our tribal artists who became the new "souvenir art" of India for many American and Japanese art entrepreneurs in the 80's and 90's. Often badly treated, and being expected to fulfill contracts, one of our tribal artists committed suicide overseas, and the case hushed up. I grew up learning about kutchi embroidery, bandhani tie and dye, traditional bead jewelry, ritualistic floor designs, wall paintings, terracotta figurines, wood carvings, bastar metal works, pat paintings and so much more all filling my sensibilities, during my college education. I met with the artisans and partook of workshops during these years; peered at photo documentation and travelled through the stories of other's, and I have remained till today deeply connected to these early influences as an artist.
But in 2009 where are the galleries, the museums, the seminar venues, and the teaching to keep alive these fast dying art forms in our contemporary life as Indians today. We must assume a responsibility if we are to preserve this cultural. I sincerely hope that at the end of this century we are not all digital and video artists because the old traditions has been pushed out to make way and keep up with the great globalisation of culture! Is our minister for culture Ms. Ambiki Soni even listening?!!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Whose in charge out there?!

News items of children falling down manholes and bore-wells keep making the rounds and it appears as though these horrible accidents cannot ever be avoided! My question is what on earth does our municipal corporations do in towns and cities because I for one never see anything being attended to by them in Baroda, until it is a full blown crisis or some high flying politician is visiting. That hardship and anguish is caused for the ordinary working class never seems to prick anyone's conscience. And to make matters worse the most shameful fact of it all is that come election time and all these officials who have been haphazardly attending to their duties, will come out in full attendance to parade themselves as concerned and service oriented candidates, worthy for the job!!!!

In our own home we had four feet of sewage water flooding the ground floor of our flat during a monsoon when water-logging occurred, because land that was designated as rainwater drainage outlets were filled over and sold by the municipal offices, in schemes of irregularity that were subsequently hushed up. Rivers are clogged with garbage and littered by the immersions from numerous Indian festivals. But who finally cares about such things, because at the end of the day the middle class are scuttling to keep up with over loaded schedules that are exhaustive, and taking on any protest becomes to overwhelming in a country that specialises in procrastination in the government sector. Paper pushing from one desk to another at these places will send you to an early grave, and our legal system whines on that they already have a backlog of cases dating back to god knows which previous century that they are drowning under! So que sera sera.....what will be will be!
Let's not even start on the topic of roads. If you don't have any orthopedic problems, go for a ride in a rickshaw on any road in a town or non-metro city and trust me, the pot-holes and dug up areas will have you at your nearest hospital. If this sounds a feeble attempt at humour it isn't, because I know countless friends and my own family who have had serious spinal, neck and head injuries from a simple ride from destination A to B! And now with the monsoons around the corner we will all be in the same boat (excuse the pun!) of helplessness once again. But then as we in India are inclined to do, we will as always pass it of as "kissmet ki baat hai na?"

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Let's keep it real!

Aging seems to freak people out! Bottles of lotions and oodles of cream all with suggestive magic-potion qualities to halt the next wrinkle in it's tracks, are discreetly written on fancy labels, like whispered love messages meant only for you. To be seduced and to seduce others into this illusion of eternal youth is a multi- crore global industry today, with the exploitation of vulnerability at it's epicentre. I have been flaunting my age and wrinkles since I was thirty! Often mischievously from the delight of the discomfort that others have when age is openly addressed, but more seriously because I have witnessed the self absorption that women in particular succumb to, as they make their appearance becomes the major representation of themselves, and let it dominates every aspect of their lives.

Closeted cosmetic surgeries soon become addictive and it is rare to have a Rakhi Sawant of Big Boss fame, who openly shares her "what God doesn't give, the doctor fixes" attitude with unabashed candour on a television chat show with millions of viewers. Right now her appearance holds a charm because age is still on her side, but flick your T.V channel and catch Joan Rivers the American comedian, and her face looks grotesque despite the humour with which she attempts to pass off her addiction to cosmetic surgery, because addiction it is. Yesteryear's hero Dharmendra looks tragically comic with his face-lift that belies the truth of his age which his eyes give away in an instant. Where has the elegance of aging gracefully gone ? What thrill do we get from an artificial construct of ourselves that is transparently obvious ?

I have encountered elaborate stories of concocted illness related by those with this affliction ( that they believe naively others will buy!), to explain away the scars of cosmetic surgery. It is common for people to even get into debt over these attempts to create their "perfect image". What becomes the danger of this addiction is that with very body part that gets "fixed" another area becomes the focus of obsessive discontent, and this cycle of tampering becomes never ending.

Please do lets look our best, both women and men. I think it speaks well of our overall state of mind to do so. But lets draw the line at "getting things fixed". We have started determining reality from the pages of fashion magazines and the dreams sold on the red carpets of film fantasy! I don't mind if a surgeon suggests a tummy tuck at the time of abdominal surgery that is already scheduled, especially for women under going hysterectomies. But let's not get on that operation table to reclaim youth by stretching our facial skin to become trampolines of our dreams, or putting silicon in our breasts to imitate genetically engineered ripened fruit, because such concerns talk about a lack of spiritual depth and a lack of inner confidence.
In my belief to live life so as to illuminate our vision of purposefulness becomes more a more valuable tribute to the gift of life itself. It is this spirit that we need to embrace within ourselves in which lies a beauty that far outshines the external representations of physical perfection; and is one that age can never alter.
(Photograph: Surendran's mother Devikiamma who has raised 5 children as a widow, and till recently was personally active in tilling and farming her land. Her face is the epitome of grace and strength; and great beauty. )

Saturday, 20 June 2009

In this case, the bigger the better!

I grew up in a very small nuclear family and till date haven't even met some of my cousins who live overseas. As a child I didn't have any opinions about whether it was good to be so removed from the interactions with relatives, but when I became a parent myself I wanted my child to have multiple influences delivered and received, through love and attention.

In Mithun's life his grandparents were integral to his everyday life. Between his Ammama and Dada he learnt a vast spectrum of things but above all delighted in the love that was showered upon him. From hide and seek, to cricket and scrabble, arguments and lectures; the gambit of sharing opened up his world to receive and know he belonged. But other than my parents, he did not have any significant contact with any other relatives.

Maybe it's because I grew up in the shadows of the 70's where living in a commune represented an alternative family structure, or perhaps I related to the stories of good management through the convenience of joint family establishments, or is it because as classmates in college we chose to be like family for each other. It could be all this or just that I yearned for what I myself personally had never had, because I consciously over the years assimilated an alternative family structure. I have invested my emotional energy and structured a framework of relationships and today it is this alternative family tree that holds the actual rooting of my own moorings in life more strongly, and which I know I can turn to for love and protection.
This "family" is spread far and wide, and I have spiritual "children" who are sometimes only a few years younger than me, and in other instances receive wisdom and guidance from those half my age....! The beauty of this collective of energies is that there is an interdependence which does not negate the independence of each individual, but which in fact celebrates it with fierce pride.
I continuously urge people to open themselves up to letting people into their lives and to not be too afraid to say "I need you". A world bereft of interdependence is a false world, because nobody can be an island. I believe that if you give and receive knowingly, it will bring so much more into your life that is good and positive. I lived in New York for six months in 1990 and was astonished to see the fear that isolation can breed. In Asia we still have a "buzz" within relationships; a healthy "I want to know" attitude. Let's keep this alive in the best ways possible, and take it along with us as a value of concern to nurture us.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Barbecue Nation?

My friend informed me that the wife of one of her working staff doused herself with five litres of kerosene and set herself ablaze three days ago. Yesterday she sucumbed to her burns and passed away. The story that is doing the rounds to explain this incident is that this lady was visited in her dreams by an evil spirit who "instructed" her to do this to herself! Further more, rumor goes that two other women have also been similarly "possesed" and immolated themselves under this influence. So once again we sell our souls to the devil as we attempt to camoflauge our obvious crimes in the guise of old superstitions and witchcraft, and hope that ignorance and fear will keep the truth supressed forever, and life will go on unquestioned for the guilty.

That no one heard this poor lady as she became a human bonfire only feet away from supposedly sleeping family members, was because she allegedly did not scream whilst burning! How strange considering we bring the roof down normally from minor injuries whose pain we cannot bear, making a song and dance till we get the attention we seek; and something as torturous as being burnt alive can be endured in silence. This defies simple logic. But then when communities band together to uphold khandan ki izzat, and neighbourhoods become silent accomplices to acts of horror instead of witnesses who will testify, we make a farce out of justice and honour.

Too poor to be considered significant, too ordinary a story to merit media attention,this lady will fade away from the memory of most even perhaps before the rituals for her are hastily performed to keep face and uphold the charade. One more discussion on a television channel may frame this lady unknowingly through the similar story of tragedy she shares with another such victim, and sms opinion polls will flaunt verdicts on the ghosts of such voiceless people. Then somewhere else yet again, another such occurrence will happen once more, and who will really cares about it, except to listen to it as yet another tragic story, and then instantly put it out of our mind because we only want happy thoughts!

The Willow in the Wind.

One of my favourite authors passed away recently. Kamala Das gave to Indian literature a feminist insight at a time when gender politics was still an unchartered collective territory. I first read her book "My Story" in 1983 in London whilst studying there, and remember the profound sense of relief to know that a personal journey of self discovery was in fact philiosophically purposeful, and not considered merely self indulgent.

The ramifications that such personal histories often have is that they are sensationalized by those whose own conservative limitations impose judgements that view liberal or radical ideas as immoral. The ordinary norms within India continuously suggest that conforming becomes a safe option, so that the end result is that women in particular, are encouraged to blend into middle class societal expectations. I know that I never did and never will.

Money can often cocoon you from these harsh realities where your difference often is the cross upon which others crucify you. But every one does not have the luxury of personal wealth. Till today I am confronted with numerous attitudes regarding the politics that governs my life, which are arrived at from peoples inability to be comfortable with difference. The result therefore is to label and construe false meaning from such philosophical and ideological positions that are not commonplace, and worse still, to imprint these false readings as the interpretation of truth.

It must have been even more difficult for Kamala Das when she defied conventions and chose to live her life from the dictates of her political convictions at a time when patriarchy wasn't nuanced. She did us all proud, maverick that she was, and whether she wore a pink burkha or bared her soul through her poetry, she never compromised on the dreams of her freedom.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Shame stains us too!

How do we even begin to try and understand how three young educated men from middle class families can get their thrills from capturing school girls off a road in broad day light and raping them in a moving car, and to make it even more unbelievably horrific, film these dastardly acts to circulate and boast about! Wow! Is this our generation next ?! What on earth were the values that these children's parents exemplifying as they grew up, and is it mere coincidence that two of these boys have fathers who are in the police force ?

One always imagines that it is the most warped and twisted mental disorders that bring about such dysfunctional behaviour and not the boys next door who should be viewed as potential sexual offenders. I am not one who supports vigilantism nor do I think that people should start to take the law into their own hands. However I was glad to see that the print media had plastered these sexual predators photographs in the news papers which brought the chilling reality of putting a face to a crime.

The next shock was the news of a bollywood actor's alleged misconduct with his maid. If it proves to be true through correct procedures of enquiry that are unbiased, then the severest punishment should indeed be levied. I am of the opinion that if you are well known in your respective field of profession, then it is obligatory that you recognise the public responsibility that your fame is attached to, and at no time can you even slightly be irresponsible. Rape is not a small offence and nobody can circumvent the law if they have in fact committed such a horribly repugnant criminal act.

This should be the red light warning for all parents. Stop being in denial over the misbehaviour or misdemeanours of your children, and understand that to make then into socially well adjusted adults it is important to create correct structures of discipline to guide their lives by. Teach them lessons through example, and spend time with them that is not merely self gratifying for you, but which translates into helping them grow to know themselves well. Compassion, consideration, tolerance, humility and service of others, needs to be learnt if we all are to contribute to the social fabric of collective life in positive ways. Knowing right from wrong and good from bad are basic lessons we learn in the kindergarten years of schooling. So what goes so wrong to make young men become so evil ? It's happening on our doorsteps so beware before its too late!
Photograph by Mithun Rodwittiya taken in Bhuttan

Monday, 15 June 2009


If I had a magic wand I would love to turn all those who put the blame of their own inefficiency on to others and make eternal excuses as to "why, what, where, how" things went wrong that sound like the litany of laments, into fat little frogs that can croak away to glory and catch flies as a worthy pastime forever! Am I a bit rattled today.....well that's perhaps putting it mildly. But it isn't just one incident that brings out this out burst. Not a day passes without this strange malady cropping up on my horizon and my time and energy getting wasted! The lame "I'm sorry but....." that is the epitaph to all such occurrences just prolongs my agony of irritation.

Am I just getting old? Maybe this is true, but at 50 I am still putting out my energy that delivers whatever I set out to do, accurately and with abilities that hold standard that live up to expectations. I would imagine this is true to most normal people who train themselves to tasks that they apply themselves to. Then why do we encounter so much bumbling and carelessness that amounts to delays, shoddy work and heartache for all concerned! India with its over population and unemployment should have so many people desiring to prove their mettle and move forward in life.

Anytime I have to go to any government run agency I know that I will need an aspirin on my return! Trust is fast becoming a word that no longer has much of a credibility today, which is indeed a pity because becoming jaded isn't a great alternative to have as a pin up poster of motivation. I think if each of us remain mindful and conscious of what effort is required even of the smallest and most insignificant task, we may be able to then give the best of ourselves at all times. Let's just call it personal quality controlling, and get on with expecting higher standards and putting it out there for others to follow suite.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The driving litter bugs!

The great awareness of education! Well if you are imagining I am being praiseworthy, let me inform you that my tone is dripping with sarcasm! Yesterday I was astonished to see a gang of students on motorcycles (!)riding on a busy road in Baroda during the evening peak hour traffic, with banners like circus acrobats held between two motorcycles, throwing leaflets at all and sundry! What were they promoting? Courses at NIIT Baroda! So let the message be loud and clear: we break the traffic rules, cause chaos for other motorists and litter the city.....and by the way we offer a good educational system. What a farce as a message from an institution!

Advertising seems to always presume "in your face" methods with little concern to anything else, as the only way to get a point across. Scream it in your face, politically correct or not; elbow your moment of attention and if in the process you disturb and vandalize, well what the heck, others do it too so why shouldn't I ?

Junk mail in your mail box at home or in your email, endless sms's on your phones, telephone calls from obscure people selling you schemes they imagine will change your life, magazines three quarter filled with glossy half starved models luring you into their staged dreams.........and what fools we must be, because this charade keeps going with no let up; so someone out there is the sucker who falls for this hook line and sinker and helps perpetuate this madness to repeat itself again and again!

Excess is the name of today's Indian way of life. The bigger the tamasha the better whatever it is, is! What a pity we breed such insecurity in our "wish list" of life. My wish is that sometimes I would stop hearing about the "high percentages" proud parents keep singing on about regarding their children, and hear instead about real values and issues that we focus on within learning, and view this as achievements if successfully inculcated in their lives.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Home Sweet Home!

The idea of what a home is, isn't always the same for everyone. Stylish trends and the whims of over zealous architects can often obscure the more basic needs of practicality and usability within lived spaces. The criteria of a successful design plan is when it reflects the specific requirements of the individual and suits the lifestyle of the individual/s who inhabit those places. There is no denying that great architecture is most definitely comparable to art, but when it comes to spaces such as homes or work places then my preference is for designs that compliment the purpose of easy management and are not demanding of high maintenance that is distracting. Quiet elegance is another favourite of mine. I also enjoy those spaces which reflect the personalities of people through the bric-a-brac in their homes that tells stories about them without any verbal exchanges involved.

I also like houses that are inviting because they are peaceful spaces, where everyone feels comforted. Homes should never be show pieces and must never intimidate. Sauparnika, our house, is forever filled with people that "kind of exist" along with us, and even in their absence their energies fill the space and give our home greater meaning. Simple order and efficiency is very easy to establish in a home if the space is planned with care for details. The problem arises when design remains a separate entity without it being applied to functionality.

Some bathrooms I have visited are so impractically designed. No thought for relaxation and tranquility ever seems to be considered when planning these private spaces. In a country where we suffer with the effects of hard water, colours of bathroom tiles and bathroom vessels need to be chosen in a manner where scaling does not leave ugly stains. The wet and dry areas should be designated well. Different levels within living spaces may look attractive but are hellish when you grow old or if you are incapacitated with an injury.

The best homes for me are those that hold a spirit that welcomes you. It should be clean and efficiently functioning and be special not from what it is decorated by, but of who resides there. Those are true homes.

Friday, 12 June 2009

For me and you, and you to too !

Till I was seven I mostly only wore clothes that were "hand-me-downs" from my sister. Irksome as it may have seemed to me then, what perfect sense it is to recycle and give longer life to the possessions one no longer needs. This "management strategy" continues in my life and though it may often raise a few eyebrows, I really don't give a cats whisker that it may seem odd to others. Toys, furniture, cutlery, linen, clothes, home appliances such as fridges and water heaters, T.V's, suitcases, kitchen vessels....you name it, it's all been in the cycle of reuse in the homes of friends! Garments get refashioned and furniture revamped, books re-read and favourite toys renamed! Today 28 years on, my famous blue cycle is proudly ridden by my adopted grand daughter Aditi, to get to her basket ball practice sessions and dance class each evening.

Today perhaps it isn't economy alone that should prompt this pattern of living, but an understanding that our ecology needs us to rethink consumerism. On CNN today I saw a program on a woman who resells the posters of hoardings back to the advertisers via recycled merchandise such as bags etc. Such simple ideas are hugely effective and are in fact easy to implement.

I also read a lovely back piece in the Tehelka magazine of a young lady and her friends who gathered money for a humanitarian cause, and found that it was often the poorest or the young, who could share and give most generously. My teacher Nasreen Mohammedi perhaps was one of the greatest examples of simple living. During her life time she chose to live without the clutter of memorabilia or embellishment, and kept her needs to the minimum. In fact where can we take all that we accumulate once we die? I'm so glad that my parents were sensible people and instructed me with these simple life lessons that even today make sense. I get great comfort when I see Mithun also doing the same thing and Aditi following in the tradition too. It keeps the vhain from breaking.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

In the fast lane too soon!

When Mithun was in school, he was perhaps one of the few students who used to cycle all the way from Fatehgunj to Makerpura, which by Baroda standards is quite a distance! Much as he looked at me in all the persuasive manners that children perfect when they want to melt your heart, I stood firm that he would not ride a motorcycle till he was 18. The tragedy in our country is that rules are made with very few attempts by authorities to see them implemented and obeyed, but in fact with the expectancy that they will be broken!

I see children of the age of 13 riding two wheelers like rodeo horses that are to be tamed, and when accidents of a tragic nature occur it becomes too late to set the clock back; and regret etches the devastated faces of parents as they weep inconsolably over the lifeless bodies of their children, wishing better sense had prevailed. Why is saying no and setting limits with children such a difficult thing to do? Socialising a child with boundaries makes for an intelligent and considerate individual. But perhaps it is because it demands for us as parents to set the example, and maybe that becomes the real problem to do!

Rash driving is actually another exemplification of bad conduct. Every time we allow misbehaviour we are setting ourselves up for people to believe that there are no codes of conduct that are necessary requirements within any collective space of co-existence to be adhered to. We care so little today about social etiquette, politeness or courtesy, believing instead that brashness is the hallmark of the new age modern Indian, and if you stop to think of how we normally behave in public or social spaces with one another, there will be a number of instances that will showcase the lack of cordiality and consideration think necessary to offer to others. Let us once in for all put an end to the myth that social inelegance and rudeness is OK because it isn't. Just doing and saying whatever you want becomes a bad cliche of liberalness, and education at home needs to address this behavioural delinquency.

As parents we are too indulgent, believing that love is about feeling self-gratified by the attention we give to our children. A more healthy approach is to keep a balance in which you allow yourself the space to grow as an adult, and simultaneously guide your child/children to know themselves through defining a personal philosophy of life. Late night drives with minors behind the wheels of fancy cars, and innocent people loosing their lives from the whim of a brat , is a blood letting that is hard to justify.

So lets clean up our act and our streets in more ways than by merely keeping it un-littered by garbage. Lets keep minors from driving when we know the lethal consequences, and lets catch those officials who accept bribes and don't book these offenders when they have committed dastardly crimes. It's a small start, but someones life may be be saved.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

From dust unto dust....

For those of you who read my blog, my silence in cyber space has been because I went to Ahmadabad for a workshop with four friends at Prakash Vasi's Platypus design studio, for eight days. Three of the artists were my classmates, and the moment we commenced our work, we were immediately transported back to the intimacy of our college days of studio practice. We have always acknowledged how much we learnt from one another through the symbiotic connection of common interests and goals, and we found that it was no different on this occasion as we sat down like novices once again, aprons in place at a wooden table, to try our hand at ceramics. Though experienced visually as artists regarding the aesthetics and history of ceramics, it was quite another thing to work with it as a medium. It was commented upon that perhaps we feared failure, but I explained that as professionals the desire is to always attempt to bring ones capabilities of proficiency to any such interlude, with the hope of it benefiting new areas of learning.

Working with my classmates was poignantly special. The intense friendship that spans 33 years is born from the trust we have in one another, which is implicit and unquestioned. In today's climate of insecurities and petty misunderstandings that too many artists display, this solid bonding feels so comforting. Judgements and over analysis of one another has no room amidst the sharing we have, and I feel blessed to have them as my friends.

The work we did has yet to be fully finished, because the glazing on it remains. We all took risks and we all worked like the devil was behind us! The joy was in those fumbled moments with each of us encouraging the other on, sometimes a bit like the blind leading the blind! Did we produce great art? I doubt it. But what we did was to push our own parameters of learning that in many ways was not merely about art or just about getting the work done right. It was all that and something so much more than that too. So cheers to our class of 1981, and to many more interludes of meeting up that dot the coming decades! I encounter many young artists who could well do with opening up and allowing trust to build friendships that can sustain them over many years, because believe me, it's a beautiful experience, so try it!