I am beloved
and she is mine
I see her take flowers away from leaves
she puts them in a round basket
the leaves are not for her
she fills the basket
she opens the grass
I would help her but the clouds are in the way
how can I say things that are pictures
I am not separate from her
there is no place where I stop
her face is my own and I want to be there in the place where her face is and to be looking at it too
a hot thing
I came to Baroda in 1966. On the cusp of my eighth birthday, like many little girls my head too was filled with the dreams of happy endings and life ever after. The Baroda palace that stood regally in the epicentre of this city that was my new home, and my father's office which was originally the Gaekwad's summer palace, fitted perfectly into my imaginative territories of Wonderland and fairy tales. My father introduced me to the stories of the Mahatma through his own personal tales of being a warrior of the skies, for his nation's independence; where he too had pledged like this great freedom fighter, to protect the sovereignty of his country, with his life. In those wide-eyed moments of learning I came to love this city unknowingly, which has allowed me with time, to find the spirit of who I was to become.
Over the years, I have observed as an artist, my beloved city ravaged by the fires of communal divides. I have witnessed the building-lobbies that have scarred her beauty, and sullied her perfection by clogging her arteries with their greed. I have watched the pollution leave her strangulated, and gasping to survive. Yet within this tired and weary body that she is, the pulse to embrace a cultural nurturing still quietly holds a steady beat; despite the raucous disruptions of the vigilante brigades that pretend to be the sons of her soil, and who bruise her soul by their constant madness. The walls of my city are built by the architects of enlightenment, who etched their legacy via the educational institutions gifted to generations of the future. And the community of artists, both past and present, were viewed as the keystones within this vision of progress.
It is an impressive dream to hold, yet one which many have let slip in the pursuit of personal gains and short-sightedness. As artists, the city of Baroda holds a history that offers each of us a unique sense of belonging. We have an impressive ancestry of collective endeavours that testify how the sixties, seventies and eighties were decades of new awakening, in which Baroda played a pivotal role on the national stage of theoretical discourses on traditions of modernity, cultural identities and re-addressing modules of visual communication that questioned pas paradigms of acceptance.
This space of enquiry that Baroda was known to be is fast fading in a climate of cultural suspicion with artists opting for isolated existences and little interaction. Sloth and indiscipline have whittled away the core of expectancy once firmly attached to this city of visual and performing arts. Quick fame and money are the aphrodisiacs of power that lure many emerging artists to compromise; and so today there is little in Baroda that genuinely carries forth he traditions of new ideas in contemporary art by the younger generation, that can be viewed as meaningful and relevant.
If this sounds damning and horrifying, then it merely means that the rot and decline no longer can be ignored because it is out there in the open. The grandeur of Baroda as a cultural capital is a thing of the past. It is up to the new generation of artists to accept their responsibility and to create a cultural context that puts Baroda back n the map in its rightful place.
Guest column : published in the Times of India (Baroda times section) to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the Baroda times suppliment : 28th August 2010