Monday, 31 May 2010

A thought for the day....

I have no space in my life for any God. To those who are religious this sentiment can appear down right ludicrous, because not believing in a God somehow seems to suggest to those who are religious, that I am perhaps dysfunctional. Politeness of course disallows such an outright condemnation of me, but their eyes often betray deep pity for what they must consider "the lost soul" of sama.

I do have people in my immediate life who are religious. In observing their lives I very rarely witness the quiet force of human compassion and deeds of service emanate from them; nor see positive and purposeful conduct that impacts me to understand what goodness religion can give to daily life. I would imagine that religious teachings should guide those with faith to live their lives with more thoughtfulness, but most times the only thing I see is a pompousness that is mildly irritating to say the least!

Lies, cheating, corruption, manipulation, abandonment, abdicating from responsibilities of family and so much more gets the waters of life murky each day of many a religious minded person, and yet at the end of it all the talk that prevails will be only the fear of GOD and nothing about attempting to be a better person. But since the day of reckoning is normally after death, I am guessing that it is a sort of a nagging fear that doesn't quite kick ass to alter the unholy ways of being!!!!

I abhor the divides that all religions breeds, and the hate and violence that it harbors.

To free oneself of the crutch of religion requires the ability to confront fear; and to accept the vulnerability of recognising that there are often questions that do not always have convenient answers to comfort us.

I feel thankful to the circumstances of knowledge and exposure that gave to me a bigger world to inhabit; where religious doctrines do not hold me imprisoned to any one framework of thinking that would restrict me from looking at "other" worlds of enquiry. I enjoy the freedom of not belonging anywhere in particular, but rather everywhere instead. For me I fear my own conscience.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Third eye

I had an interesting late night conversation yesterday, about photography and what a camera means for me. I studied photography under Prof. Jyoti Bhatt in the late '70's and what I learnt from this experience were valuable lessons on how to perceive; and why we look at certain things with the desire to hold them for closer examination and reflection. Photography for me is much more than a technical process that allows me to fix an image as a possession that I can hold or to flaunt as proof of my association with it. Equally, ideals of perfection bore me in the way artists have used photography in recent years, as a method to find subjects to replicate as painted images; and the countless offerings of photo-shop alterations that reinvent the initial subject, are in most situations gimmicky and trivial. For me the real mystery and power of photography lies in why we "frame" something to bring it back to be contemplated over.

I view the camera to be like a travel companion with whom we converse. It is in these "conversations" that photographs are taken. To bring an image away from its physical existence would then require for one's consciousness to connect with it in ways where it does not serve as a mere reminder alone, but as a point of re-engagement with a space of reflection.

The moment when a photograph is being taken is one that most often disallows an intimacy of contemplation with the subject. However when the image is reclaimed as a photograph it allows that vital space for contemplation to exist. It offers an intimacy and time that has no other interruptions or agendas to distort the space of a personalized reflection with it. It becomes a whole world rather than a fragment.

I find the process that makes a subject become a frozen image, that then transforms to become a "framed" independent entity, and which then posses the potential to invite and embraces an expansion that will release and free it into multiple other "locations" : to be the truth of where the magic of photography exists for me.

What my initial years of learning photography with Jyotibhai taught me, was how to look at a world and know what to blur out of focus, and what to hold sharp and defined in that instant moment of seeing; and to then comprehend its meaning and purposefulness of engaging with it.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Allow the dark clouds to blow away.

I was speaking with a friend yesterday who I am beginning to notice is becoming progressively fatalistic and narrow minded in ways of perceiving and interpreting life. It sort of made me do a 360 degree turn around to view why such attitudes seep into the positive spaces of thinking and corrupt us; and I am wondering whether monetary success alone in life finally moderates the philosophical core that is meant to shape peoples personalities. I would like to believe otherwise: that financial success plays only an incidental role in defining the choices we make about our spiritual inner selves, however I am forced to recognise that this does not appear to be the common view. Especially in the art world, I observe the cynicism that many an unfulfilled dream has produced; and the "money talk" which somehow always umbrellas conversations that are mixed-up ramblings of desires for critical acclaim and cheques in the mailbox!

Last evening at 7.30 a friend called up unexpectedly and asked if he could drop over. When he came by I opened the front door wearing my apron, and ushered him immediately into my studio where we chatted as I painted. He was slightly surprised that both Surendran and I were still working in our respective studios till late in the evening, and that this routine of many years still held us engaged in ways that were private and personal; and uncluttered by the trappings of "success". With the prior conversation of my friend still echoing inside of my head, I suddenly felt that making choices that are simple are sometimes the hardest ones for many to make.

It isn't the pursuit of money but the exquisite joy of the discipline and the power that painting commands from me; the energy and the challenge it requires, that makes my art practice the only territory I wish to be anchored to.

Each day something will unfold in my studio. Sometimes fantastical thoughts driven through nosing in the pages of books from our library. Sometimes failed hours of rubbished work that humbles. And sometimes orgasmic moments that are bursts of utter wonderment, known only to that inner self; and indescribable even to the closest confidant.

What many are loosing are these simple moments that are not trail blazing factors but like the quiet pulse beat, actually holding the essential rhythm of life. I tire of those voices that hold the unnecessary baggage of burdens that are irrelevant and petty. I find it futile and exhaustive and without the illumination of the light of truth. I prefer then instead, the silence of my studio, and to call into it the magic of the wisdom of voices from spaces that can open my world even further. Just open that window of perception wider dear friend, and great gusts of fresh air will come rushing in.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

At the heart of the matter....

My studio has always been the central hub of the house; perhaps because when we initially lived in smaller spaces, all the rooms were interconnected; and in close proximity of one another. But if truth be told, this isn't the real reason that my studio has always been (and till today), remains the cockpit of the home. I say this because many of my friends and colleagues who are writers and artists or who have jobs where they work from home, find ways to isolate themselves away from the routine of daily life; and prefer to have a separation between their work and other factors of their lives. For me I have chosen otherwise, and though on some days I feel a bit frazzled, I know without a doubt that I would never feel as fully alive and enriched, without the rhythm of the world around me parading it's existence.

I don't know whether this situation of allowing the world of my studio to co-exist with all else around me, occurred because I went to college each day of my (medically rather difficult)pregnancy; and further insisted upon being back in my studio in college four days after my delivery. Or whether the simple practicality of having my studio as the central base made it easier to be an artist when I was multi-tasking, and thereby not compromising on the many worlds that define my personal existence. I don't really have the answer, but what I do know is that it has always been a structure that keeps me free to do all that I choose to, and this is personally very satisfying.

It was amusing to many that whilst I was hunched over with abdominal stitches after being operated on only days earlier for a hysterectomy in 1993, I had the hospital corridors lined with paintings and photographs of art works because I was in the middle of curating a show. To me it just seemed so normal and I was slightly irritated to imagine that anyone else thought otherwise!

Mithun, and my adopted granddaughter Aditi have each played for hours as children in my studio. Corners of my studio have transformed into garages and race tracks, bowling alleys and marble competitions, dolls schools and concert areas where imaginary audiences silently ask for endless encores! Even today Mithun, when he visits home, will come up in the afternoon to my studio and snooze (all stretched out on the settee that doesn't fit his lanky frame), to channel surfing and read comic books or magazines or just mutate. My mother has her Sunday scrabble sessions in my studio too that often get rowdy with words being challenged and accusations of cheating ranting the air. Countless students have sat all wrapped up sipping hot beverage that range from soups to chocolate milk or horlicks comforters, as I play Florence nightingale to some fever or the other. Sometimes my teaching sessions have students scattered all over my space, drawing or reading.

Yesterday my friend had the blood drained from a jambed finger, and was in pain and just wanted to be home with us. She came home and sat with her bandaged thumb (like little Jack Horner) reading in a corner of my studio, as I painted. She said to me that though she loves every nook and corner of our home, that somehow it was only in my studio that she feels the completeness of her relationship with me. It made sense because my studio really is the heart of my home for me.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The quiet whisper of truth...

I have always believed that it is oral histories that holds stories of exquisite potency. Yesterday I was once again a privileged participant to a situation that took my breath away; and where my imagination was held captive in that moment of sharing.

The simplicity with which this young woman explained her critique about her colleagues painting was through a quiet and brief anecdote from her own childhood. The nakedness of the narration via it's poetic deliverance, brought instant tears to my eyes. Not because of any extreme tragedy that the story held, but because the power of her personal experience was translated so effectively to embrace our understanding of the wider worlds of meaning.

It is these chanced upon and often accidental interludes that embroider my imagination and give me other spaces to explore inside my head; and so when I sit within my studio, I am visited by these voices that breath more life into who I am and what I know.

It is also the innocence of learning that can reveal insights of wisdom in ways one least expects to find.

I love it when I see my own blindness, or catch the glimmer of a rainbow in the darkness of my own head.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Tomorrow it may be you....

Our friend rushed off to Ankleshwar yesterday evening because his uncle had fallen and broken his ankle. Today I called up to find out how everything was, and to get more detailed information as to what exactly had happened. The saddest part of the story recounted was how this old man sat by the side of the road asking to be helped for over an hour, but nobody stopped or provided any assistance to him. It was only when an acquaintance saw him by chance, that he was able to be taken to a hospital.

Why have we become so uncaring of one another in ways that are dehumanised and hateful, uncaring and shameful. I cannot even begin to comprehend these attitude of selfishness; where the effort to engage with the life's of others, appears so difficult a task. The basic principles of how a society functions in accordance with interdependency and the cooperation of people with one another, is the essential framework of any society's governance; and every citizen would be obliged to play by these rules if we are to benefit from the wisdom of this structure of coordination.

When I lived for six months in New York in 1990, I had a lovely apartment in Manhattan. Located in Chelsea, the city outside my window was always alive and pulsating. But the paradox was, that on either side of my apartment lived two old people: shut away in their respective studio apartments, perpetually fearful and alone. Nobody ever visited them nor did they encourage any interaction; and I would always think to myself that if it was India, then such a situation of neglect and abandonment would be impossible to imagine. How foolish were my naive sentiments!

The collective that we have at home today, continues to address these very issues of engagement and concern to things around us; that if as people we do not consciously cultivate, then the process of our own awareness would be potentially stifled and limited. But everyday is like battling a strong wind whilst holding a lit candle. Each day one has to dig deeper to hold the conviction that mediocrity will not finally bury us all. I wonder what will it take for us to make these simple changes in attitude that will open our eyes to a wider horizon of wisdom; or do we just prefer the little prisons of pedestrian values we choose to live by and finally die by too?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

I am let down one more time...!

Every time a young politician makes a vote-bank choice over issues that need vision and reform to be the political will instead; I feel as though one more nail in the coffin of our democracy has been driven in. I feel such shame that Navin Jindal could not get it right. A man from urban India who politically supports organisations that practice the the rituals of honour killing, cannot be ever viewed as a leader of modern India. What goes wrong with these leaders? Does education and personal ideals mean so little, or is it the headiness of power that obscures the basic intelligence of such people?

I know only this that as a citizen and as a woman, I feel betrayed one more time. The cowardly stance of a politician who so openly can defraud the faith of those who needed protection the most is one who does not deserve my respect. Dalits have been oppressed and treated with utter disrespect by the Khaps; women and men killed brutally in the name of honour: and yet here stands this young man, all dressed in the politicians trade mark emblematic crisp white uniform in the rivers of blood of others, defending the archaic laws that no democratic constitution will ever uphold. And his party stands silently watching; issuing a statement to only distance themselves but doing nothing to shut him up. Yet MP Jairam Ramesh gets his knuckles wrapped for speaking out of turn!

I suppose what do a few lives lost in violence, matter to the conscience of Navin Jindal. The bright lights of power are focused squarely on him. Poor boy, no wonder it blinds his vision so completely!

Monday, 10 May 2010

The big T word....

The idea of trust is one which many people have great difficulty in adopting as a factor to be guided by in their lives. Perhaps it may be because they are unaware of how important it is as a space of spiritual benefit. I am certainly a great advocate of practicality and common sense being high on the list of methodologies that are essential to a well ordered life; but equally believe that a life devoid of the premise of trust will ultimately imprison one in the confines of insularity and insensitivity.

Last week I encountered two incidents where I was obliged to re-examine relationships in which I took the fabric of trust as an unstated safety net. Interestingly what became exposed in these spaces of enquiry was how individuals are often emotionally intimidated by the sacrifice that may be essential for the value of trust to be evidenced, and the camouflage that is used to cover-up their inability to be honest within these situations where trust is sought.

What surfaces with every such incident where trust is squandered, is that we create and build up divides that validate suspicion. We choose to hold rigid and inflexible approaches to the governance of our personal politics and push away the very basic potential to accommodate a more inclusive philosophy. Of course it is always more comfortable to please oneself and be free of accountability to another; but these very areas in life are the spaces of possibility to open up our worlds to an enlightenment that steers the focus away from just the self. In nurturing others is the true learning space in which we too hold the key to know ourselves better.

The gift of trust for me is priceless, and one which suggests the truth of integrity of an individual. But this has to be a self monitored conscience, dictated by the spirit of who we are and what we choose to define as our humanness.

The measure of trust is not in the articulation of how we verbalize it, but in the actions that position the engagement of consideration in the lives of others. Small gestures, or even spaces of conflict, provide us those necessary tests to evidence this gift to one another. But the rigidity of thinking trips us and obscures the wisdom that is often blatantly obvious; and we each chain ourselves and others to those mediocre choices of selfish gain alone.

I think I have had many spaces of learning that taught me to find that bridge to cross where I could discover the benefit of the risk of trust.Because of course there are umpteen times when you are flat on your face because that safety net that you believe is there to catch you, just disappears. But the lessons of hurt far out way the joy of openness that trust brings with it and the enrichment to know that others too are of consequence and in need.

For those who falter, and fear that trust will take away their freedom from them, then such tight and insular worlds will only finally suffocate the spirit to grow in harmony.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A specially packed suitcase of love....

My friend Ramesh Vedanbatla is visiting with us; and yesterday as I was rolling with laughter after dinner, sitting with him and our extended family of the collective, I knew that the spirit of such friendships are what gives me so much energy in my life. He brought me this beautiful silk sari of bougainvillea pink-purple with a kesar yellow pallav and border : both colour from the memories of my days as a student, where the two of us are rooted from common experiences and the connection of our creative explorations.

The gift of the sari is indeed special, but he brought with him another gift that made me know in that instance just how precious these shared interludes really are. Carried all the way from his studio in Vishakapatnam is a treasure of a book in two volumes, bound in the most startling of red covers, titled Tibetan Medical Paintings. He brought this specially to share with us because the paintings that come alive from those pages are some of his favourite works of art. The exquisiteness of these watercolours are breath taking, but more exciting is the idea of taking what is your secret love and allowing another person to bear witness to it's uniqueness too.

His eyes were bright with the excitement of opening up this treasure trove of visuals, and to invite our sensibilities into the seduction of its sheer magic. I was so stunned by this gesture of sharing. It brought to me the essence of all that communication should really always be about, and as each of us take turns in drowning in this book of strange yet extraordinarily amazing paintings, the true delight for me will remain my friend's gesture of desiring to share it with me.

I caught myself being so terribly bored recently when I had invited some people over for lunch. I found that the connections of discourse could only remain at the trivial superficiality that added up to nothing more than a waste of time for me. I reflected upon this (because it was a strange feeling to encounter), and I think that Ramesh's visit perhaps puts things into perspective. Communication of relevance occurs only when you find the ability to have something to share, and more importantly if there is a desire to receive.

Today a group of us old artists friends are meeting for dinner at a mutual friends place. Besides the good food and the laughter that I know there will be plenty of; I know more precious than anything else will be the sharing of ideas that will somehow tuck itself into the overall tamasha of us being together. And this will be what each of us carry away as the significant memory of the time we spend together.

So cheers to great friends and the dreams that they bring with them, in the gestures and affection that spells these unions of tenderness.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Sex, scandals and scatterbrains!

A rose by any name still has the same Khusboo !

Finally will people with nothing better to do stop filing legal cases about non issues! What a waste of time to even consider that somebody cannot have a differing opinion in a democracy. For crying out loud, of course pre-marital sex occurs in India, and any body who thinks otherwise is a complete idiot living in a closed box. Our problem in India is that we are such hypocrites! With aids and sexually transmittable diseases as the truth of today's reality, why do we not want to propagate safe sex? This christian idea that celibacy is the way to eternal salvation and that virginity is the bridal gift at the alter of marriage is all very well as a personal choice; but to believe that a modern and empowered society is to be umbrellaed by such archaic conservative opinions as a "national anthem" of existence is a ridiculous assumption. No one section of a society has any right to harass a person who offers a differing opinion, and waste years of their time and energy having to run from one court to another to validate what is an obvious truth. So put the brakes on this stupidity because what goes around, come around too; so take a chill pill buddies and get a hobby or do something to occupy your obvious free time with more purpose!

Thou shalt not tell a lie!

What about the good old catholic priests and the Vatican following some of what they dish out from their pulpits to their congregations about not telling lies or lies being that baddy-thing called a SIN! Well molesting children and sexually abusing children and THEN covering up these horrifying acts of deliberate will is just (excuse the pun) GOD AWFUL and certainly qualifies as being hugely sinful! I left religion behind at the age of thirteen because the farce of so many do's and don't became too obvious to ignore especially as the contradictions of the biblical teachings were there to see in the examples of too many nuns and priests that I observed. A true leader must acknowledge when things go wrong and define accountability and reform. One Pope after another walks the same dodgy path of cover-up's and prefer to be bothered about censoring films (!) or reacting to witticisms on condoms (!!) with aggressive might and anger. What a sham and what a betrayal of the trust and belief that a congregation of followers gifts to the institution of the faith that they look towards for spiritual and moral guidance. So clean up your act Sir. If you are wearing white, stay clean!

When will Britain learn....

I loved the faux pas that good old Gordon Brown made when his grumblings about a lady constituent got recorded because his microphone was still on. The bumbling British politician at his best, he then went and tried to do damage control by apologising on a radio talk show......only this time Mr. PM did not realise that cameras were rolling and as he sat with his head in his hands, making odd faces and with a strange body language that looked straight out of a comic strip, he became the butt of more ridicule once again! Well so much for empire building capabilities, what?! GB'S house looks like it will fall apart soon. Do I see Tony Blair grinning from ear to ear?!