Saturday, 30 April 2011

The bigger the tree the greater the shade...

Loyalty does not come easily to people in India. Is this too sweeping a statement? Perhaps not if you look at how we operate as a nation. Secrecy and playing to the orders of power is how we train ourselves to relate with people. The desire to "keep options open" is not necessarily a bad strategy, but when it becomes an excuse so we can avoid being truthful, then surely we compromise the character we should be building for ourselves.

In all that I do, I think it is always the smallest areas from where we need to begin. The family and the home become the best litmus tests of whether we are capable of delivering the ideals of philosophy that we preach. Closed doors of private spaces often hold the worst dirty linen that in fact actually needs to be washed with more open awareness so that it gets cleaned once in for all!

Every time we excuse our misconduct as mere mistakes we perpetuate the denial we live in to examine our philosophies with more clarity that allows us to make the necessary changes that address the root of our problems. It is no coincidence that public service sectors in India are so full of rot. This comes from the prevailing attitudes we knowingly cultivate that keep us from affiliating ourselves with what we know to be the right and honest position to take despite what the "prescriptive" may suggest. Because we know that the prescriptive is often altered by compromised standards. However the question then is that do we really care?

I continue to want to hold gratitude as an important factor within my life. It is good to teach oneself to reflect and to find where the light has shone on ones journey; and to acknowledge this with no reservations to oneself and to others. The chain of life is infinite and holds some links more vital than others. I know in my life which those links are, and I hold them as dearly precious at all times. In doing I learn more about who I am.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Magic moments lost

I went to an exhibition yesterday that placed me in a time warp of sorts, where I felt as though I was back in the '80's and that old ideas of figuration in painting were playing ghost games with me. The problem within today's practice of art in Baroda is that with the college loosing its intellectual vibrancy, we have begun to sprout small town ideas of grandeur that is only directed towards making it big and becoming known via magazine publicity and page 3 exposure. Huge sized paintings loaded with trite symbolism, and "political" videos and gaudy boxes with strange objects as their hidden treasures seem so passe and contrived. Art must accommodate art historical comprehension if it is to find its contextual place of truth.

Perhaps painters today need to shed their guilt and not self-insist that inventiveness be equated with gimmickry. The simple presentation of work can be poignantly gripping without any additional tamasha required, yet many feel obliged to play to the gallery (excuse the pun!) and make these offerings of high drama that fall flat.

In many instances what gets revealed is that the artist needs to concentrate on developing their skills better. This would allow them to develop an articulation that would give them the facility to communicate their ideas without relying so heavily on extraneous paraphernalia, that is finally all a song and dance without much substance.

I continuously tell my students that an idea is only as good as how one is able to deliver it with the magic of conviction. If that is compromised then a work looses its power to be a site of potency. I am convinced that all artists hold the ability to invest their works with competence and critical sharpness; the problem is that not many want to make the effort to master it.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A must read.....

Shoma Chaudhury commands my attention whenever I hear her on panel discussions or read her writings. She is a voice of reason that I find is without dramatic rhetoric or inflammatory emotive dialogues. Her convictions are shaped from information that she substantiates via investigative methods; and what she offers are never dead ends but spaces of contemplation to examine issues with more critically and faithful focus than most would desire to do.

Her cover story in the recent Tehelka "Truth in the din of war" is a reflective piece on the legal and ethical issues of forming a committee for the charter of the Jan Lokpal bill; and she underlines the difficulties of conscience-keeping within public life, where the overlap of idealism and accountability, can be derailed by how we fall short of maintaining the standards we may desire in others.

Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: corruption on one hand that is, as she states, a malaise that eats at everyone or the potential abuse of power that may lie as the invisible ink within the existing norms of understand of what the Jan Lokpal bill is. That people of integrity like the Bhushans also have small yet indelible stains within their own personal histories of public accountability, are going to be the gifted ammunition that will disempower this civil movement that attempts to fight systemic corruption that has infiltrated Indian life if we are not careful in how we precede further.

What she raises without any frills in her article is the question of whether ( and I quote) there can be the possibility for someone to have absolutely no political affiliation or predilection, no moments of vulnerability, no prejudices. She lists many more pertinent questions in regard to assumptions of an ideal candidate to this committee as well as echoes the worry of many about why there is this insistence for only these particular individuals to be the best voices of representation.

What perhaps is important within any battle for change is that nothing should become sacrosanct or exempt of critique. This includes even those who are the true foot soldiers of reform and who are path breakers and visionaries who work for the implementation of better systems of governance. But in relation to the Jan Lokpal bill we need to keep our perception open and without bias; and stop making it a media circus of sensational sound bytes that create a boxing match environment. The media, as in the case of Tehelka, can play a cautious stance in attempting to remain nonpartisan, and thereby offers it's readers as neutral a platform as possible to garner an accuracy of information and decide an opinion.

Shoma Choudhury does not compromise her loyalty and regard for lawyer Prashant Bhushan in her article, even when she suggests that the search for a lily-white reformer could trip the reform itself; and points out that this is the dilemma the Bhushan's need to confront. Freedom is not a black and white state of affairs and perhaps we need to be cautioned to find a more applicable module that, as she suggests, does not presume that those who would wield the tremendous powers that people wish the Lokpal bill to have, would be immaculately virtuous.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A bumpy ride back home.....

Perhaps the Gods of travel took my words too seriously when I said that I enjoy my interludes at airports in between flights because yesterday my patience was sorely tested! To start off with I need to reexamine why I am under this mistaken impression that Jet Airways is worth my praise at all! The mismanagement and rudeness of their ground staff, their inability to recognise when they are at fault and their terrible delays are now becoming legendary. When I found, after sitting at the Mumbai terminal from 3 in the afternoon en route from Nagpur to Baroda, that my flight had departed without me on it, I began to feel as though I was in a bad espionage film that had no beginning and no end! My flight which was supposes to leave at 6 pm and was delayed to 7 pm had left without adequate announcements. The din of noise obliterates the clarity of announcements and then sloppy management makes matters worse. I had gone to the designated gate (where no signage related to the flight was displayed either!), a half hour before the boarding time to make an enquiry, and was told that the captain for the plane was still on another flight(!) and so therefore no announcement could be made regarding the estimated time of departure. Another gentleman and myself (we had only cabin luggage) were left stranded because I guess the airline wanted to do a quick speed-up job on their delay story so we were the sacrificial bakkras! The decay sets in when a service sector becomes haughty and rude and treats you like delinquent children forgetting that we are clients!!! Well for all those listening please note that the day Indigo provides the option of frequent flier mileage, I am switching my custom over to them in an instant. Their carriers are better, their service is brilliant and they appear to value their clients with an understanding that it is the patronage of people that keep their company in business.

I was in Nagpur to be with my cousin sister as her husband passed away suddenly. An untimely death is the hardest thing to come to terms with. It is at such times that it perhaps becomes relevant to contemplate on the nature of our relationship with others. Whether the hostilities and pettiness that crowds life is worth it all at the end of the day. Pangas and katti's are childish yet rampant in most families. Two of our spiritual children come from a family of such complex discord. The simplest gestures of expected nurturing from parents are fermented in cesspools of their troubled personal histories and so these children are wrapped in rancid attitudes instead of where love and compassion ought to be. As I insist each day within the collective and with those I love for each of us to find our true potential, it is with the desire that the truth of our energies do not get wasted into faint memories. Each of us need to be the best that we can be, because otherwise we will forgo the delight of knowing ourselves to the fullest possibility. At all times the space of consideration and love for the other must evidence itself.

My friend from Bangalore has flown down to assist me with some work I am currently doing which uses photographic images I have taken over the last few years. Old friendships are the greatest comfort. You can be together with no explanations and time fills in more memories that keep the chain of connection never ending. Yesterday with my Jet airways disaster day I had to fly to Ahmadabad. It was my best friend and one of my spiritual daughters who in a jiffy hopped into the car and came tearing down the highway to pick me up at night, leaving all else unattended. From my professional world to my personal space, I have been able to connect up with the most positive factors of peoples energies. Maybe the saying is true about being born under a lucky star because I for one certainly have a charmed life from the love and generosity of spirit I receive each day!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Just do it!

India as a nation has lost its ability to believe in an idealism that can propel positive change into becoming a reality. What we do before we get to the drawing board of any "probabilities" of change is to stamp our cynicism all over the process and leave it trampled to die, only because we are convinced that nothing good can ever come from diverse factors converging for common agendas of betterment; and which need our cooperation and faith to succeed.

I have the deepest respect for caution, and for considered deliberation that looks at all such issues of importance with detached analysis; and will always prefer endeavors that are non-partisan, objective and not packaged in emotional rhetoric. But when civil society has seen fit to created a legitimate platform that has the potential to have an interventional effect in policy making that is essential for a clean-up-India act, then we need to nurture this so that it can offer value to the democratic process of governance.

The dooms day reports that continue to be the intellectual speak of well wishers is beginning to get on my nerves, quite honestly. If optimism is viewed as naivety (as it appears to be the subtext of much of these dooms-day articles in the news papers), then we can never produce change from systems that are compromised and suspect. Mahatma Gandhi epitomizes idealism. The credo of ahimsa is an idealistic one, but proved to be potent and effective in overthrowing British rule in India.

If there is a space that can bring to the table the issues that focus on corruption in India, then let us allow for it to occur. I do not think that the Indian nation is a population of over emotional idiots. Let the first stages of discourse start. Let us apply our caution to seeing that this bill on corruption holds no possibilities that compromise the higher offices of judicial authority. Let us contribute our caution to the charter of ideas that can bring a workable application to stemming the rot of corruption.

Merely desiring to uphold the shambles of a "democracy" as the ideal instead of recognising the major flaws within this system is a false "protection" of the rights of a free nation. The many areas of corrupt governance is overwhelming. The stories of the people who came to Jantar Mantar were real. Let us stop and contemplate the alternative. If we do not use this opportunity; and do it of course with caution and deliberation to achieve the best ideals for honest governance and social existence; we will regret this wasted moment in history.

Let all political parties also realise that it is detrimental to India to have this corrupt profile that is associated with our country. As the Nike campaign goes: Just do it! Clean up India of it's corruption and let us not assume that in doing this we become an authoritarian state in the process. Let us work out a system that holds methods of democratic value. The need to do this is imperative but I fear we will only allow for one more chance of progress to become an aborted dream.

Monday, 11 April 2011

March to the call of the hour....

The Baroda Citizens Initiative as an organisation held a public meeting to invite solidarity to the support of Anna Hazare's movement for getting the Jan Lokpal bill passed in Parliament. What was so disappointing to see was that it was just a superficial token gesture that became a "photo-opp" for the organisers and their friends, who had squeezed in time to come by because otherwise it would have"looked bad"!! Let's get real Baroda! We are a city which suggests a prominent focus on education and yet what do we do with this when it matters most? We act like idiots who treat everything with our famous chalta hai none responsive attitudes. Instead of calling an awareness to the issue that Anna Hazare is fighting by conducting a day long session of scholars and citizens speaking on the rot of corruption, we instead squander yet another opportunity to make civil society aware of their responsibility.

Talks in schools and in the numerous faculties of the university would have provoked a sense of urgency to this matter. This is not an issue that anybody can avoid. Corruption besmirches the entire nation with its ugly stain. India has become synonymous with this horror of sanctioned extortion. What irked me intensely was to see people at this gathering who everybody knows to be corrupt and who have been involved in fraudulent activities being the foot soldiers ( more like thugs really!) to rally support of attendance for this shabby signature meet. When will people learn that broad smiles and good intentions cannot substitute for real grassroots work. We should be inspired by Arvind Kejriwal. But with the skeletons of corruption in almost everybodies cupboard in India what can we expect other than lip service to institute change that is hard hitting and unbiased.

As for the likes of Mr. Winky-blinky Ramdev Baba; do please stay in the space of your own truth and let others with more genuinely non-self serving agendas be the decisions of this movement against corruption. As an optimist I must have hope. And so despite all my fears about the possibility of people within government service who will definitely attempt to sabotage this movement, I am keeping my flag of hope flying high. Now it is really about you and me insisting that we stay committed to this cause and lend our voice to it.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Tamasha Dekko!

As Anna Hazare fasts, life around continues with all its usual corruption that India allows as its unofficial national anthem. From the top to the bottom in the public service sector, and most predominantly in government agencies; we have a pandemic attitude of getting a free buck where ever we can. There are of course many "rationals" given that support the "reasons" for this; and our conscience buys into these deep pockets of grime because we have no desire to hold ourselves accountable.

As scam after scam rains down on us, our leaders show up at cricket matches for photo opportunities, pretending to appear that the aam janata is truly their concern. Like the dinner in a thatched hut with a poor woman at the time of elections that became the speech of virtue in Parliament; we see the umpteen hollow gestures such as these that are bartered for goodwill and belief of an electoral. And of course we buy it all, lock stock and barrel, white kurta and dimples thrown in for free!

We are always a waiting and watching society! Dekko dekko, tamasha deko! Announcements on television by savvy political spokes-people elude the real issues that need confronting which are transparently obvious tactics to fool a nation into believing that civil societies demands are being met. It is moments like this that clearly showcase why politics does not become a profession that attracts an inflow of new blood into its fold each year. The dynastic gene pool will continue to be where sons and daughters of old hands are fished out to continue the swindling process and with impressive degrees in hand from swanky phoren universities, we believe we are being blessed by their sacrifice to serve the nation!

Am I sounding cynical? Is my optimism on the wane? What I am sure of right now and which is very worrying, is that is our democratic process is being cast to fit a mould that is vastly different from the Constitution of India that made us its mid-nights children. We need more voices out in the open to question with informed insights as to what is going wrong, and make the public more aware of how we are squandering our chances of progress and achievement as a nation which is essential at this juncture of India's development. Did we come out of one Raj only to exchange it for another? Is corruption what becomes India's new national flag? We need to really clarify these rather basic points for ourselves and maybe then we will see the light of day more clearly. But is anyone really listening?!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Find energies for the windmills of your soul

As a teacher and a parent the rules that I operate by is determined by what I recognise to be necessary for the other to enable themselves to deliver the best of themselves to themselves. One perseveres to keep ones radar always alert; and then the reward is those moments when you see such an illumination of understanding guide the spirit of the other. Last Sunday was such a moment.

One of our spiritual students who is doing her MA program, and writing her thesis, understood the value of how personal histories become relevant within the collective areas of communication; and that transparency and openness are factors that are crucial within the engagement of making art.

On the other hand my little adopted granddaughter Aditi shared her sorrow and grief over her favourite street dog's untimely death; and as she cried momentarily and silently in my embrace, she taught us the simple lesson of how an openness to share can help heal us. Because the wisdom in recognising that in showing ones vulnerability lies courage and strength is perhaps the most difficult one to learn.

I am in Bombay today and Mithun's pet goldfish Noni is really unwell. As we helplessly watch this fragile beauty lie listless on the pebbles on the base of her bowl-home, I wish I could let her know how much we love her, and that her swishing transparent fins and tail were like wings on our spirit, and that we need her in our lives perhaps more than her beady eyes comprehend.

Inanimate plastic objects shaped like zoo-zoo's sit between a plastic flower pot on Mithun and Samera's drawing room window sill. Powered by solar energy these inanimate objects get infused with a "life" and sit nodding as the leaves of the plant move in unison as though to some music that we cannot hear. As Noni lies with energies fast depleting, these plastic objects become strangely comforting to me.

Today I am meeting a young cinematographer. Perhaps the meeting will bring a new engagement into my life. What is the outcome what becomes most relevant perhaps is that we allow for energies to wash over us, and see if we can tap rhythms out of them.