Friday, 31 July 2009

Thirteen years and still counting!

You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when.
You can only decide how you're going to live. Now. - Joan Baez

My friend sent me this sms this morning and I read it at the same time as I was listening to a news report on the impending verdict of Aung San Suu Kyi's trial. The world knows that this brave woman has done nothing wrong except to be a leader for freedom and democracy in a country that has an oppressive dictatorship for too long, yet 13 years have passed and we are still silent as she is kept imprisoned in full view of the international world.

Desmond Tutu writes in his tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi: I think of my sister Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi everyday. Her picture hangs on the wall of my office, reminding me that, thousands of miles away in Asia, a nation is oppressed. Everyday I ask myself: have I done everything I can try to end the atrocities being committed in Burma? And I pray that world leaders will ask themselves the same question. For if they did, the answer would be "no", and perhaps their conscience will finally force them to act.

All those of us who support this courageous lady continue to sign campaigns, oppose tourism and trade with Burma and speak out again the dictatorship of this region at every opportunity we get. It is time for strict action to be taken by institutions such as the United Nations, and it is high time that all democracies of the world stand up and demand for this leader to be freed. The farce has gone on too long. Let's stop pretending and mobilize change in ways that we know are perfectly possible to achieve, if the belief in it is real.
President Obama, lead the way and bring change and hope to the Burmese people. We believed in your fervour when you repeatedly told the American people and the world "Yes, we can"! And as your voice reverberated these words, around the world we all took up hope, that a change in the American leadership would bring new light and vision to world politics. So take the initiative and set the Burmese people free from tyranny. Because you know, we know and they know that "Yes, we can", make it happen , if we unite and stand up for what is right.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Great Indian Tamasha!

How can parents and teachers collectively believe that riding a motor-cycle over the outstretched hands of little children amounts to being an act of bravery?! I continue to be amazed at the lack of sensibility we exhibit as responsible people who in fact should know what our real duties need to be, but instead repeatedly choose to ignore them. The outrage that was paraded in the media by "concerned" politicians and members of religious groups over the reality show Sach ka samna for being a wrong lesson in family values for the youth of our country, seems farcical in the light of yestedays atrocity in a school in India. Where are all those self appointed "protectors of our nation" ? Which of them have come forth to give this issue the same focus and attention, and more importantly to display an outrage that this act of cruelty deserves.

The abuse of human rights does not seems to perturb us as a nation too much, but sentiments are very easily ruffled over non issues such as what an artist may paint; and these "guardian of our nation" will take out FIR's and lodge every police complaint possible by the dozen, to stir up trouble over non-issues and create civil unrest to serve their political agendas. We allow under trials to languish in jail for years on end with no hope of freedom for petty crimes and misdemeanours that they committed which could be corrected via rehabilitation programs at correctional centers. But which minister in parliament thinks these issues are worthy of discussion since obviously there is no vote bank benefit attached to these human stories.

We witness the disruption of many opposition benches in various legislative state assemblies in full view of the camera's, where the attempts to destabilise elected governments are the prime objectives; knowing fully well that the consequences of such actions on the people of their states can be catastrophic and regressive to the peace process, as well as the overall progress of the respective state. But once again, it is always vote bank politics that will finally rule in India and each politicians keeps their eye firmly on this despite whatever else they promise.

Am I sounding cynical today?! Well seeing dozens of children lying face down on the ground, cringing in fear with out stretched hands, waiting for a motor-cycle to ride over their tiny hands does not make me feel elated nor hopeful. Where is that promised pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ?!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

I shall save you my people!

Bravo! Today our chief minister of Gujarat continued his rule of terror by passing an anti-terrorist bill that is of the same standing as the much despised POTA bill, so we can expect the usual misuse of power that this government revels in; as well as the fear tactics that the minorities will be subjected to, via the implementation of it. Wow! This a shining day for us!

What a pity that this government does not see the writing on the wall. We are walking ourselves into a dead end if we continue with the provocation we insist upon meeting out to those in our society that we have pre- decided to target. Years of harassment and suspicion, and the continued questioning of loyalty will invite a backlash of anger that will divide our country in ways that will be irrevocable. The youth of our minorities are growing up with a suppressed anger and today's India has no Mahatma to defuse these boiling sentiments and speak of ahimsa. As a nation we also continue to play into the games of the United States of America by holding onto the issues that partition created with our neighbours, and with every passing day we loose our focus as to what will really be our common goal for the progress of this region, which can benefit us all.

So let us raise a toast with the hooch that is freely available in this dry state to the founder of terror. Hitler indeed will be proud of his son. The agenda is clear to see. All of Gujarat and it's people are not the real concern of this government. Under the pretense of protecting the state, here's yet another chance to legitimise ethnic cleansing. Whoopee! What a great idea! Who cares about secular democracy and a constitution. Certainly not apna Bhai Modi! Jai Hind!

Monday, 27 July 2009

It's a collect call to Heaven.

My father was a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force and I have always felt an ambivalence in relation to his role in active service during the three wars he participated in, after I was born. For all children their fathers are hero's, but as I grew up and my own political conscience took shape, I found it difficult to reconcile that death stained the hands of my parent, even though it was as the protector of our nation.

Channel surfing on Saturday night I caught a documentary on NDTV 24 X 7 on the Kargil war. Narrated by Bharka Dutt she montaged the events of the war ten years ago with footage of herself with her three colleagues reporting from the war zone in 1999; and interspersed interviews of conversations with soldiers and family members of the martyrs of this war, to offer a "then and now" of the story to us. I sat transfixed and moved to tears, and I don't know whether it was because I felt I was seeing something about the life of my father that triggered these emotions or whether it was the stories of those young men themselves, but I felt deep sadness at the loss of innocence that came through all the brave words that were uttered and the mask of composure that many adopt to hide their memories of fear.

I cannot say that my conflicts over my father being a war hero can ever be laid to rest. I know that he camouflaged much of his own anguish over the collateral damage that wars bring behind the expected bravado that the armed forces train you to exhibit. He loved to fly and the sky was truly his heaven, and commercial flying could never have satisfied the delight of the risk that fighter planes challenged him with. I get my love of teaching from him. He was an excellent teacher and each of his cadets proficient pilots with skills that were honed from the exacting training that my father insisted upon. But I saw in his eyes in those quiet moments when he thought he was unobserved, a pain that came from the many stories of his own survival in combat.

What I felt most comforted by whilst watching the documentary was the truth of one army officer who said, "though politically incorrect, I will say that no soldier ever wants to fight a war." I know that this too was the sentiment of my father who at seventeen pledged his life to the service of protecting his nation, despite whatever his personal views on war were. Whatever my politics maybe, I have always been inspired by the courage of my father and salute him for it. Especially in these days of remembrance to the men and women in uniform who march in unison and who perpetuate his legacy by defending our country for us like he did, my heart swells with pride for his memory.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Our shining glory!

Honour killings! What honour can we claim to uphold in the brutal acts of killing our own loved ones! Today yet another story flashes across our T.V screens that shows the liveless body of a young man thrashed and beaten to death. What anger is this that can snuff a life out without remorse and how much longer will communities hold on to old dictates that have no meaning in today's world. Izzat seems an over used word in India and crimes can be committed to illustrate its implications with very little to stop this trend. Our police force seem ill equipped to handle the systemic problems that caste issues through up on a regular basis and the evil cycle of violence continues on it's rampage.

The perpetuation of violence in these areas of life is a collective fault because most of us hold ideas of belonging that somehow always are tied up with caste and creed, and therefore keep barriers that separate, which hold unstated attitudes of hostility and suspicion. Our politics is also so hinged on caste issues and religious divides that have the undercurrents of volatility and disruptiveness, and this hold us back from a genuine progress that benefits all and not just the Indian elite.

I read stories of Dalits that repeat the same accounts of humiliation and being ostracized, and I just cannot even fathom why any body can feel superior to another person from reasons attributed to position and birth. I am sure I sound naive, but my thinking just cannot comprehend such attitudes and to know that these exist all around me, makes me feel suffocated, vilified and outraged.

The solar eclipse brought a moment that suspended us in darkness. But for me each such horror that spills blood and strips a person of their dignity to self governance and choice, becomes a moment when I am suspended in to such a darkness each day. Curled up on the floor one young man was killed because he chose to be free. What democracy are we talking about?!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Empty Vessels?...Make them full!

Cooking food everyday can be intimidating for many, especially if you allow recipes and traditions to keep you on the straight and narrow path of daily deliverance. Cooking can be quick and simple. Always keep nutrition as the target and wholesome as the objective! I only use a recipe when making a quickie cake, which in turn was hand written by a friend and is called my "Bobbie cake"! All else comes straight out of my head and my eye is always on the clock! For me I believe in no frills but just good sensible meals that are tasty and keep you fit.

Be decisive in your kitchen. Don't allow for the family to place "orders" or give children multiple options in food. Keep a stock of the essentials in your larder so that you are not forever "hopping in and out" to furbish a dish. "Exotic" is great on a menu in a restaurant, but tedious when you have to do it yourself with half the ingredients not being readily available and substitutes that just never match up to the intended ingredient. Keep things tidy when making a meal and have a methodology where, if you use a vessel or knife or cutting board or whatever, wash it immediately so the pile up doesn't have you staggering under an avalanche of washing that never ends!

I make stews and curries, stir fries and pullavos that have numerous things thrown in together, but the trick is to "mix and match" correctly so that the dish does not become an experiment gone wrong leaving people pushing the food around their plates politely! Left over from bits of "this and that" are great to make re-invented dishes from. Parathas stuffed with fried mutton, last nights cabbage sabji, left over mushroom stir fry....all yummy innovations that can be christened with new names to dress it up for fun!

I always worry when I hear of working moms and dads taking the line of least resistance and going the MacDonald's route because in doing this we set a precedence that makes good healthy eating something that appears to be tedious. Schools too need to take a tip or two from Jamie Oliver the British chef who revolutionised the school canteen lunches in his country, by taking up the issue of junk food at schools in parliament, and getting laws passed that insist on healthy food being available for school going children in the UK.

Lets love our kids without the grease and fat and extra cholesterol diets we ply them with, and instead make daily meals with attention to the requirements of health, age and climate. Plan a meal instead of dreaming up a dish. Keep it simple and you will reign supreme in your kitchen and at your table. Believe me it is effortless if you set about with a game plan that you feel comfortable with. So happy sensible cooking and eating, because being healthy is what ultimately matters the most!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The new rape game of politics in India!

Wow! What a proud day for all of us women in India when two women politicians can make the horrors of rape into a ping pong game of tactical warfare to gain political brownie point! Repeatedly we see the murky mess that democratic governance becomes after the courtship of election promises in our country, when all the rainbow dreams fade, and speeches of hope for the aam janta finally become hollow words that never really evidence change. Rahul Gandhi talks of making the poor people the Congress parties prime focus, but fights shy of condemning the vile rhetoric of his party person; conveniently taking a personal position when asked a question regarding party position. If he is to walk the walk and places himself in areas of political crisis as a damage controller, then he should know that he cannot shirk becoming the voice and representation of his party's agenda's and image. So grow up baby, the dimples are cute, but the double speak far too foxy!
As all of sensible India gasped as the Queen of Pink and Ms. Pouty Lips Joshi dishonoured the women of our country by politicizing rape, we wonder where all the talk about gender politics, equality, protection of the rights of women, women role models and a thousand other issues that deal with fair play, honour and equality of the sexes has gone to in the great developing and progressive nation we claim India to be. Because if we as a country want to shed our feudal and patriarchal past then we are certainly going down the wrong road ! As women we continuously let ourselves down and political parties like the Congress need once and for all to get their manifesto right. If women's issues do have a focus in their list of priorities, then stop pussy footing around glaring issues that require straight talking, and publicly show the strength of the party's convictions where two wrongs just do not make a right.

Friday, 17 July 2009

In the dock!

It's only in India that "serious" television debates center around the absurd! Last night I was amused to watch a heated discussion that deliberated upon the new Hindi T.V show Sacch ka Samna, which is fashioned on the international reality show Moment of Truth, being heralded by the moral brigade as a corrupting force to the social fabric of apna Indian society! Let me make it clear that I find such programs a waste of time. However there is an audience that enjoys it and therefore my opinion is not necessarily relevant in this case. Which is perfectly fine because there is such a gadget called a remote control (!) which allows me in my comatose T.V watching couch potato state, to merely move my finger ever so slightly to press a button, and hey presto!..... the channel will change or better still, I can switch the idiot box off! So what is all the fuss about ?

Some of the objections by those making a furore was that the long term implications can be damaging for a contestant in regards to the relationships that are exposed from these public confessions. But excuse me, isn't this a deliberate choice that each contestant who is above 18 is aware of, because I imagine that there is an option to decline the invitation to participate! Another ridiculous objection was the accuracy of a polygraph test, and it was suggested by the speaker that contestants are offended when their "truth" is rejected on the basis of the polygraph test. Well my friends when will we ever be able to play by the rules of the game in India! For heaven sakes the risk of the polygraph reading your responses incorrectly is precisely the game! So if you choose to have your moment of fame on T.V in the glare of millions of people who are tuned in to watch these "confessional trials", then don't cry foul to what you have agreed to subject yourself to. If it is the contestants free will to want to bare their soul in public and have it adjudicated by a machine, then this is the risk and this is the price; so let's all stop cribbing and whining about the fairness of a system from the preachers pulpit please!

In any democracy you get the crap along with the best, because the spectrum of freedom allows for choice, so let's get real about this once in for all.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

My friend Pablo!

I did a fair amount of photography when I was young and carry the love of it with me forever. Till today black and white photography is what I personally prefer, but if it is the Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura then let the rainbow shine over my universe eternally! Exhibitions of photographs are not common in India with very few galleries choosing to represent photographers in a sustained manner. It was through Mr. Alkazi that I first saw a collector's passion and the presentation of an exquisite selection of photographs, curated by him, at Oxford in England in 1983. It was in this intimate group exhibition that I saw Pablo Bartholomew's black and white series on a heroin addict, and knew in that instant that he is one of India's finest photographers. I only got to meet him in 1987 through another photographer, who used to tease me about my bias for Pablo's work over his own!

A valuable lesson I learnt from Prof. Jyoti Bhatt was that is isn't always necessarily to have expensive equipment and updated photographic gizmo to take a great photo. What you need is a sensibility and an eye that sees beyond the obvious. Pablo projects himself as the rakish enfant terrible, and would hate for any one to dispel this image about him; but his body of work over the years exposes a sensitivity with which he looks at his subjects where exploitation never occurs, despite the voyeurism of the camera.

Outside In , 70's & 80's, a tale of three cities....2008 ...National Museum Janpath Delhi. This exhibition came as a relief for me at a time where I had already voiced my concerns about the repetition that was choking the art scene in India in the name of "global" art. One video installation after another, one national geographic image blown up bigger than the other, and a coterie of curators with the sameness of ideas protracted and spoken in different voices, in some ways is the flavour of the time in a rather mindless way. Pablo's show gave to the urban viewer something that belonged to you too. He also gave to you his own experiences knowing that in them lies the history of a specific time and culture that is authentic and real, and which has never been chronicled by us as our history.

When an artist looks at their subject it always becomes a mirror of themselves in some oblique manner. Pablo's works from this exhibition showcases a segment of urban Indian reality which has rarely been examined by the generation in India that experienced it. An India that was no longer the khadi generation of independence and vande mataram but the khadi generation of flower power and the Beatles music. These images, grainy and sometimes out of focus, hold a supressed violence that is coupled with a tenderness that stays with you long after the image fades from your retina. I am waiting for a publisher to bring out a comprehensive book on this photographer. He is a legend in the making.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

What dreams are made of!

I love Mallika Sherawat and Rakhi Sawant! Here are two women who say it like it is and possess no desire what-so-ever to white wash themselves with the virtues that others may hold as neccessary for them. Casting couches or publicity stunts, these two don't play coy about the strategies that they have adopted to climb the ladder of success. In the entertainment business where so much of the hoopla is self -generated these girls come across as much more real in the way they handle themselves whenever in the media spot light. They are empowered and seek to live life as they plan it. Sometimes boldly iconoclastic and irreverent, but otherwise mostly savvy and politically correct, they floor you with their upfront candour. I don't think we credit them enough for the honesty with which they present themselves at all times; and the confidence that they exude in my opinion, is refreshingly genuine amidst the hypocrisy of all the other wanna-be's.

I think that these women map a new emancipation that defines the bollywood woman of today. Their bold oomph is not merely on display for the viewer alone but is also a celebration of their own feminine spirit to themselves, in a hard won journey of self discovery. Kudos to these wonderfully conscientious women who play the game better than most, and win the jackpot every time!

The polarized stereo-typical "bad girl/good girl" image for female entertainers in India can finally be laid to rest, along with the over used glycerin bottle too. The suffering celluloid sati-savitri is thankfully a thing of the past, and the word "vamp" now out dated in the new dictionary of today's bolly-wood script writers. These girls wear their silicon breasts and chiseled pouts like designer labels, and flaunt them; not as Gods gifts but as their own professional investments to themselves. Their joie de vivre is brilliant and I think the stage really does belong to them. I give them a standing ovation!
(photograph from our travel in Turkey: courtesy Mithun Rodwittiya)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Hickory Dickory Dock...!

Looking after Begum post her surgeries reminds me of the days when Mithun had an operation when he was a baby. I remember being completely sleep deprived as I am now, and yet being fully alert and able to administer attentive care around the clock, besides multi-tasking simultaneously in all the other areas of my life that demand my personal involvement. What intrigues me as I observe myself from a detached space within my own head during such times, is the amazing ability of the mind to control the body if one so chooses.
I know it was seeing my father's training to withstand intense pain as a fighter pilot when medication could not be administered that impacted me greatly as a child, and even before I became a teenager I had begun to teach my body to listen to the rational interventions of my mind. In doing this as a conscious practice you therefore teach yourself to not function purely on the immediate responses your body signals.
This has also helped me greatly as a painter. In living the life I choose where I am involved with many things that often encroach on my time in the studio during the day, I have had to work long and late hours on my paintings when the day officially closes for others. If my schedule demands this then my mind suspends all fatigue to a place which does not distract me and it remains away from my consciousness till I choose to examine and acknowledge it.
The rational self is a great facilitator to many areas of mediation with the self and I always encourage all those I come to know to attempt to believe in this phenomenal latent human ability that each of us possess. I rely greatly on it and wish more people could benefit from this cultivated discipline in their lives. All it requires is for the individual to expand the boundaries of their tolerance, and know that fear is fed by panic which hemorrhages energy leaving one vulnerable and weak, so don't invite it in!
(The accompanying photographs of Begum, on this posting, has been taken before her surgery.)

Monday, 13 July 2009

My Angel-a from heaven!

If you are ever going to be a pet owner, you need to have a good vetinary doctor in your city. We consider ourselves amongst the truly fortunate because we have Dr. Angela Lobo in Baroda who isn't just great at what she does, but understands the need to offer comfort to the owers at all times, making her practice a holistic interaction that serves both the patients and their owners. When Angela was away from Baroda on a years sabatical recently, she was my long distance pacifier for all my cat worries; and just talking to her over the phone could calm me in an instant, whatever the crisis, which shows the intensity of faith and trust she exudes .
Yesterday she operated on our second generation cat who hails from the ferrel world of Bombay's back alley ways. Angela poor soul, despite being sleep deprived, spent time going back and forth from the other end of the city to our home for all the post operative crisis that my drama queen Begum had to enact, multi-tasking with attending to her son and his homework along in the car ! Today my junglee girl repaid her doctor by hissing and scratching like a demon whose tail might have been on fire when Angela came yet again to administer her the antibiotic medication she needs. This doctor takes your calls at all hours of the day or night, listens to you patiently however trivial your fears maybe, and helps you to become a responsible and proud pet owner. To boot she gets mauled and bitten on the job!
I love my cat to the point that my world comes to a stand still whenever anything goes wrong with her, and I never have to feel embarrassed about these emotions with her. She understands and has quietly helped me to heal the deep sorrow of loosing my beloved Bedi last February. I call her my animal spiritual-guide. She encouraged me to act upon my emotional need to bring little Begum into our lives as quickly as we did, after Bedi passed away, and needed no explanation to understand I was not making a replacement at all.
I know that if this doctor was not in my life I could never have had the courage to have a pet. The government veterinary facilities are soulless from my experience . I owe a great debt of gratitude to this amazing woman and yet no words could ever really sum it up. She of course always brushes my thanks away but smiles at me knowing that she holds my heartstrings, and does so with the greatest of tenderness.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Cheers!! Or is it bottom's up ?!

Why on earth do we have prohibition of alcohol in Gujarat in the name of Gandhiji beats me, when the state of his birth has desecrated his name a multitude of times through the communal flare ups that political agencies choose to keep alive. It is the poorest of the poor who are the ones that face tragic consequences when the bootleggers sell spurious brews in the lure of intoxication, to bring release from the drudgery of poverty.

I have no moral issues about adults consuming alcohol and believe that bans and censorship only create a greater desire in society for the forbidden. We all know only too well which government agencies flourish with prohibition and how it helps perpetuate corruption. The Ahmadabad hooch case where the number of dead are mounting with each day only holds the attention of the elite momentarily There is the conscious divide between economic classes which are held firmly in place by the very same people so how then can we expect that they care for these stories of human tragedy. Serves them right would be the quiet contemptuous opinion many people would hold, and where necessary, pay lip service to keep up the appearance of concern. As far as our chief minister goes, he does not even think it necessary to visit these victims immediately because after all the elections are over, so why pretend at empathy for the down trodden for the next five years!

We can never make such stories our own because we feel superior in action at such moments. What fools we are in not understanding that human frailty to fail to make the right choice is every persons potential folly. But ride the high horse we will, and only when we fall from grace ourselves do we begin to comprehend that our redemption lies often from the helping hands that reach out to us at such times.

Friday, 10 July 2009

I believe you can fly....

I learnt recently that a very promising young applicant for painting could not be considered for the interview because the M.S University of Baroda has some strange rules that disallow people to apply for the under graduate fine arts program course if four years have lapsed from the time they have left school. That he has a three year degree course in mass communication was also something that could be considered for an application to the post graduate course, because the rules insist upon a four year undergraduate course in a related subject! The key objection here being the difference of one year! What a shame it is that we have such foolish rules that snatch away the chances of people to make changes in their lives that are informed and which are arrived at through working out what really matters for them and their futures.
Art education should not have these ridiculous clauses as riders, because it is a territory of learning that requires time and assimilation, and often the entery into the practice comes after other experiences feed the need to explore ones creative self. It is not a prescriptive profession and very few schools in India nurture the creative abilities of children in a serious manner that encourages them to see a future in it. Parents of male children most often frown on such preferences and it requires a great amount of resistance for those who come via such journeys to art, to arrive at this juncture.
All the wonderful innovative ways of keeping the doors of such institutions open through the non-collegiate programs have all been cast aside by policy makers with no imagination. We cast our children into moulds they often do not fit because we have a system that forces decisions to be made too early in their educational lives, and we have educational institutions that are rigid and uncompromising. We clip the wings of so many of our talented youngsters and wonder why they cannot fly. Is any one even bothered.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Before its too late.....

There are very few significant art critics, art theoreticians and art historians in India today. Somehow we have not created a viable module of learning in the last two decades within the handful of art institutions that we boast of (!) to attract the right students who can fill this lacuna. As a fine arts student of the 70's and 80's in Baroda, I remember the bubbling energy of the art history department where scholars like Gulam Mohammed Sheikh brought alive subjects that took you back in time and honed your aesthetics to find your own placement as a practitioner within this history . These "lessons" did not conclude in the classroom but were carried and extended by contextualizing the present with the past, at all times, so that you came to know your cultural ancestry with intimacy. Whether we were aspiring artists or historians, we were all expected to comprehend the relevance of art history, theoretical discourse and art criticism as an essential axis within our individual studies.

Today I see young art students from different parts of the country poorly equipped in these areas of learning , which are imperative to the study of art, and completely unaware that they are in any way hampered or hindered by this huge deficit of information. In so far as young art writers go, we grasp at straws within the art community hoping for the best. What the reality is, is that we have only a few excellent scholars who stretch themselves thin...... and then mediocrity! In discussions on this troubling issue there seems a lot of defensiveness of late regarding the reasons that attribute to this sorry state. Excuses abound aplenty, but in truth there is little concern evidenced to repair the situation and create a better art educational system in its place. It is common knowledge that the art history department of the fine arts faculty in Baroda leave much to be desired in recent years. Those who are qualified scholars have been ousted through political vendettas and so today this historic department stands in shambles.

It is considered by the younger generation to be a sure sign of senility if comparisons of the present with the past are made too frequently in conversations. But I genuinely hope that these youngsters stop to consider the future they are accepting for themselves. To allow important areas of study to be eroded at because there is no fight to call attention to its break down due to the negligence of a failing system, is to only short change yourselves. Mores the pity if you do so knowingly.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Curtain call.

Indians could well take a lesson from the western world in observing the collective endeavour of honouring their heroes. We instead prefer to wash our dirty linen in public to establish the difference of our opinion, believing this to be a democratic necessity. Was the farewell to Michael Jackson too much of a hoopla with commercial agendas as some of the reasons behind it ? Perhaps. But what it also helped to create was a space in the minds of people, where his achievements as a performer and entertainer could be remembered and celebrated. Where his contribution to the music world could finally cast aside forever the shadows of other memories less honourable, and that his final curtain call commanded the attention of the world.

Compassion seems less evidenced in the world today. Maybe because the world is a tougher place and we are apprehensive that such sentiments may be assumed by others as sign of weakness? I don't know. But I do feel grateful when situations offers me the chance to embrace compassion, as I know it to be an emotion that brings out a mediation that rejects the negative energies we can possess.

The good in others should be acknowledged with an open heartedness. We search too much for praise and never comprehend that our own goodness may be explored by recognising it in the other. As an artist I know of so many Indian artists and entertainers whose memories have faded from our minds because we have not cared to honour their contribution. Instead we have our politicians erecting mammoth statues to immortalise themselves. What a disgrace to our cultural heritage!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Good House keeping!

I have a simple principle in life. Be honest about what you want and then manage it without any over due fanfare. I have a wonderful staff who keeps the efficiency and order of maintenance well orchestrated in our rather rambling home, and I feel privileged to have their skills contribute to the overall vision of our lives as a family.

The first rule to keep in every home is to have only what suits you. This should include the aesthetics that governs the space because if a home environment does not appeal to you, then you will be unable to feel comforted under its roof. A home should also not become a junk yard. Clear up and let go!

Create an order for yourself which is practical. Use your calender to make a detailed timetable of chores that allows a system of functioning to be set into place that does not require your personal attention at all times. Learn to delegate responsibilities, and supervise without interference. Use the method of departmentalising a home so that you perceive it's running to be that of an office space. This mind set helps greatly in allowing you to organise in a more detailed manner, and anticipate rather than becaught off guard.

I have a number of lists which facilitate coordination for home management. These lists, at a press of a button, can be altered or added to, making the organising of all things very simple for me. Important contacts are kept accessible to all and instructions for emergencies well tabulated. My larder is stocked with items that are standardized. I am a creature of habit within such domains, and keep my adventurous spirit for other areas of life!

A home is normally a shared collective space and so basic house rules should be structured so that all who share the space know how to contribute to its functioning. This preserves a sense of consideration for all concerned which I believe is a valuable component to have within a home.

Cleanliness and order are easy to achieve if procrastination doesn't become the name of the game. Dis-allow yourself to be ruled by a perpetual back-log of work and instead preserve your freedom by keeping pace with the reality of your existence. If home is truly where your heart is, then don't do anything in half measures. Do things well and always by your own capability. That will be the best yardstick to keep.

Monday, 6 July 2009

A new day, a new challenge....Good Morning!

Some days are difficult days at work. Yesterday was one such day for me in my studio. I had more paint daubs on my body and on the floor than where they needed to be, and my hand felt clumsy and my coordination seemed to have taken a vacation without my consent! This total disarray of order spelt the turmoil of my struggle and I must have looked a pretty sight as I wielded my brush with the zeal of a stubborn novice whilst my brain sent out silent speech bubbles with expletives that would have made a sailor blush! On such a day things that normally are effortless suddenly become challenges that take you into a battle field, and at the end of the day you walk away from it all feeling tired and exhausted, yet perversely satisfied. Strange as it may seem to others, it is these interludes of agonising conflict for artists that become significant encounters of genuine learning.

Contradictory? No not at all. Because these moments of rupture within the composure of ones work are necessary to hold the alertness of intention and which keeps complacency at bay. Situations from the studio that are demanding are a result of the enquiry upon which we formulate our concepts as artists. Many of us work a 7 day week when we are not travelling, and we continuously stretch ourselves to find a visual articulation that holds the power of conviction, and the magic of our aesthetic moorings. The delight of conquering the many demons of doubt, and wrestling with ones own ineptness to resolves and create coherence, is an experience that all artists know the worth of. Today I am back in my studio, and all fired up to grapple with my painting that stares back at me with many questions unanswered. I love the doubts and uncertainty that unsettle my stomach and the knowledge that it will be finally only me that can find the answers and bring it to a conclusion.

Have a great day, because I know I am going to have one !

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A half open bloom.....

Yesterday my friend saved the life of a child. This boy left his mothers hand and began to run across the road into the middle of rush hour traffic on a main road in Baroda. Without thinking twice, and not bothering about her own life, my friend seeing a car speeding towards the child rushed into the middle of the road and grabbed the child and tumbled with him to safety. Whilst doing this she was hit from behind by a scooter and has torn a ligament in her leg as a consequence. The child merely had some skin abrasions that were minor. My friend thankfully has got off lightly in her act of heroism, because she could very well have been fatally injured if not killed. When we talk of unsung heroes, these are the people we are referring to, who in an instant can put their lives at risk to save another without any hesitation or regret. We are so proud of you dear friend.

But not everyone has the humanness with which to fan the spirit of life with the desire to keep it alive. Today to learn that a policeman killed a young man who was being argumentative and provocative in action with him, instead of shooting him in the leg, seems so absurd in contract to the spontaneous act of saving the life of another that my friend did unasked. It appears that those who need to be the saviours and who we invested with the power to intervene with wisdom in troubled times, are the people who too often are incapable of responsibility and can be destructive in their actions.

On the same day: two stories, two people, two different philosophies. I know who my role model is!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Farewell to a loved one.

Dear Tyeb Mehta,

I remember how you faithfully came to each of my shows when I was a young artist, starting my career. Quiet and unassuming, you always had something encouraging to say to me, and your gentle eyes would offer a comfort and understanding that was far more eloquent than words could have ever been. Too young to articulate what those brief interludes meant to me in those days, and in later years not wanting to sound sentimental or ingratiating, I never thanked you for giving to my generation a legacy that taught us so much, and for the generosity of your belief.

In the new hype of art and the artist becoming page 3 fodder, you stood so singularly apart from all the drama of playing the celebrity game, and with your quiet dignity maintained the privacy of your art practice with a focus that steered it away from becoming commodified by the agendas of others. You were a living legend Sir, and no book of Indian art history would be complete without your inclusion.

Rest in peace and know that your spirit will live with us forever through the amazing creative contribution you leave to us, as your gift to the nation.

Thank you Tyeb.

In gratitude and love,
Rekha Rodwittiya

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Make it women's day every day!

I have watched many of my women friends get more overwhelmed as their lives proceed, especially when they enter the third decade of life which brings with it an over load of responsibilities and pressures. This comes in the guise of professional stress, greater domestic management, child supervision, aging parents who may have health issues and need special care or who live with you and curtail your independence unknowingly or in the case of many insist on not moving in with their children who then end up scuttling between cities to support these "acts of independence". Amidst all this and more, women continue to strive to keep a zone of nurturing for themselves. The personal needs of women often get ignored in the cacophony of other demands, and what angers me intensely is the history of guilt that women continue to umbrella themselves with whenever they break down. We are not auditioning for the role of super woman, and the stress of life is not a fictitious film fantasy either.

Woman need a solid infra structure of support and friendship. I am hugely fortunate in having the greatest energy boosters in friends who hold me up, lend me a hand and poke me into shape! I am able to realise and live my life with a better understanding of who I want to be because I do not see myself as alone on this journey, and utilize this tremendous collective pool of belief to help me on my way. Friendships should never be competitive. Power has no place in this vulnerable area of sharing , where trust and respect are the invisible threads that weave a safety net for one another.

Lets first establish that it is not uncommon to feel like the walls are closing in on one, or your mind feels crowded or like an over stuffed cupboard. Each of us have those days, some more acutely than others. What is imperative is to take a moment to stop whatever you are doing and acknowledge to yourself you need a break. Even the tiniest sliver of time for yourself makes a world of difference. Place yourself as supremely important in that moment, even if it is just to close your eyes and rest! Don't hesitate to speak with a friend, unburden yourself, cry, laugh.... and just let all the negative energy of stress and pain release itself. Let it flow away...... and trust me it will.

Women need to also change their attitudes regarding themselves. Feel special about yourself, its not a crime! Demand attention, you deserve it! Indulge in things that matter to you without apprehension; and for crying out aloud please throw away for ever the over load of guilt that is carried around by our gender for no logical reason! Let us not allow the pain of a past to haunt us unnecessarily and let us instead attempt to determine a present which is acceptable to each of us in our individual lives, so that our future is one which has been invested in consciously.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Knock-knock, whose there?

Letting go of an unhealthy relationship isn't the easiest thing in life. Though we intellectually comprehend it to be necessary, on so many occasions we still find ourselves holding on with some illogical explanation to comfort ourselves with, as we cling on to old ways because the effort to walk away requires greater courage. Reconsidering isn't a sign of weakness as it calls for inner wisdom to be analytical and self-critical, and thereby not allow emotion to hinder one's better judgement. I have had to acknowledge when situations I considered touch stones of certainty have proven to have out lived their value, and are no longer nurturing the life journey I hold important, and painful as it maybe, trying to repair or alter the unchangeable is in such instances a pointless exercise.

Flexibility is crucial in all friendships. However too many silent compromises often leads people to misread such acts of considerations and sacrifice, and assumptions are made that are inaccurate. Friendships are undeniably complex territories and therefore require great effort from all involved to make them viable spaces of positive engagement. I firmly believe that well determined lines of what is permissible and what is not should be clearly articulated by all parties involved and respected at all times, without exception. From my own experiences I have found that the old saying that opposites attract is in fact an absolute fallacy. Things of importance must be common, and the personal politics that motivates ones deeds must be of value and respected, by those who interact with you.

I have recently walked away from a an old friendship. It had begun to evidence the chasm of difference over the last decade that I ignored because it was always nostalgia for the past, from which this friendship had come, which coaxed me to over look issues that troubled me. And then one day the cracks became too wide to be ignored and it was suddenly far too exhaustive to find the energy to repair these troubled areas once again. I blame only myself for not having the courage to admit that there was more that separated us philosophically than could ever hold us together, and to have realised that memories alone of a shared childhood are not substantial enough to bridge the obvious differences of the intellectual worlds we inhabit as adults.

I am of course saddened by the loss because emotionally I believed we belonged forever in the embrace of that special childhood friendship. But I am equally relieved to be free of the burden of trying to fit into a mould that I began to suspect no longer held my imprint many moons ago. For me the wonderful memories of this long association, of which there are many, hold the spirit of genuine tenderness of youthful struggle and aspirations shared; and I know that in recalling this when I miss my friend as I know I will, can guide me to preserve the essential goodness that this friendship was constructed from, even as we both walk away towards the different directions our lives need us to take today.