Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Where has the caretaker gone?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 23 November 2009

Ma tuje Salaam....!

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

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

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

Today I salute you for being such a wonderful woman!

Ma tuje salaam!

I love you dearly.

Happy Birthday Amma.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

I spy something with my little eye....

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

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

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

Thursday, 19 November 2009

If truth be told......

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A sincere request....

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 16 November 2009

Can we attempt to get it right please!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 12 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

100.....and still going!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 5 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Malady of Prejuidice....

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

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

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

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

Monday, 2 November 2009

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Happy Birthday 51!

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

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

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

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

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