Monday, 27 June 2011

Mea culpa....!

Ethics is an important issue to address in life, and one where ones conscience perhaps plays a greater role than we chose to imagine. Within the instructions at the Collective Studio I lay great emphasis on this factor because I think it determines the quality of the character of a person. The lines of ethical behaviour blur, especially in a society as corrupt as ours, and an avoidance of honouring what is right gets excused within the mediocrity of compromised standards.

Without the trappings of religion to instill the fear of higher powers sitting in attendance to judge my life and actions (!), I keep a stringent eye on myself to catch those occasions when we dishonour the guidelines of our own personal philosophy/ies. The making of art becomes a space of creation that takes one deep into the well of the inner self, and there is a nakedness in this space that is both raw and vivid; and which hides nothing. It is in this space of transparency with myself, that I hold the truth of confronting who I am, and who I chose to be.

Human beings hold the ugly potential of being sycophantic in nature.  We need to rid ourselves of this malaise and instead dig deep for more real perceptions of ourselves, and the world. As issues of rape and murder fill the Indian news and food rots as millions starve in our nation;  politicians and god-people attempt to score political mileage from the tragedy of others with blatant openness. I wonder whether soon dictionaries will make  ethics an obsolete word within language because we find no use for it in our lives these days.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Oh joyous day!

As I sit on the verandah with my mother listening to Hello Dolly sung by Bobby Darrin with Mithun and Samera visiting for the weekend, life holds a sense of simple peace that I personally choose to frame our lives with. Between the magical world of imaginative wanderings in my studio to the orchestration of other energies, tiny interludes such as these become precious.

The Collective Studio that began without great planning today is a space that holds so many discoveries, and each day more than anything, the delight of surprises that can inspire and humble. I have just come from there and carry with me the reaffirmation that risks are worth taking, because the pure joy of seeing the clarity of purpose take shape in the lives of others, is what makes the many hours of hard work invested, become meaningful.

The Collective Studio house project is at it's final stages. The studio house gives a face to the ideas of collective living and engagement. It also falls into the any stories that many Indian children share, of parents who are unable to comprehend the truth of what the journey of being an artist entails; and the support and encouragement it requires for success to occur.

Over the years people have often been puzzled by my choice
to live as an artist in Baroda. The answer is very simple. Baroda allows me to live my dreams by holding me close enough to the centres of connection I need to be associated with professionally, as well as allows me to be contained in a manageable environment where my energies are not frittered away in the exhaustion of daily survival.

I call all this the Rekha Rodwittiya lucky factor!

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Thursday, 23 June 2011

The tick-tock story....

I read a father's day interview with President Barack Obama in which there were two points he made about good parenting that correlated to the philosophy I personally am guided by. He said that the time we spend away from our children because of our jobs, becomes of value, by what we do with that time; and within the relationship that we share with them, they must know that we are there for them to listen and to be available for all their emotional needs, with unconditional love.

I have made this my mantra and find that time has it's own way of stretching itself to help you "tuck" into it many things within a day. Like a computer program organiser, the brain has many "folders" that allow for neat separation and good management. So the eternal excuse of no time being the reason that children are left without the spiritual guidance and emotional anchorage that they require is hog wash in my opinion. My simple rule to myself is find the time!

Yesterday my adopted granddaughter underwent certain medical investigative procedures precipitated by a sudden health crisis. Before the procedures began, I spoke with her and suggested that she mentally offered all that her day would unfold for the millions of children in the world who did not have the privilege of health care and hospital aided medical care. Instantly Aditi's energies transformed, and she determined her will to guide her responses with greater wisdom.

As I go from the hospital- to the printers -to our home- to my studio -to the needs of the collective studio- to my involvement with Mithun- to being a care giver to my mother; each of these spaces require a management that is very do-able if you define a discipline and structure that holds consistency.

I have been working within a frantic schedule over the last two months which has had me burn the mid-night oil way beyond what is healthy or wise; yet what it has allowed is for me to keep abreast of all the "folder" management in my life and not get swamped by deadline that collide with unforeseen situations that crop up and need immediate attention.

My friend, who facilitated me on a recent work project, embraced me with the gift of his time, that did not come without the price of sacrifice for him. Juggling and altering his own packed schedule, he came not once, not twice, but three times within the space of two months to assist me; and not once did he ever indicate just how much extra work would have to be done by him to cope with his own deadlines.

It is when the desire to do is there, that all becomes possible. This I firmly believe in.

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Saturday, 18 June 2011

*About growing wings....

I read an interesting article written in the newspaper by Chetan Bhagat about missed opportunities, and how leadership requires a moderated rationality to maximise the purposefulness of intention. Otherwise one merely stands the possibility of squandering the chances that one has strived to realise for oneself, that can produce desired results. I cannot agree with him more.

In the everyday engagement I have within the Collective Studio, where discourse and teaching, living and sharing, interdependency and freedom are some of the integral components that formulate the philosophy of this alternative studio; the touchstone is to always find the essential truth to what we do, and to "wrap it" around the purpose that holds reason and meaning so that we do not loose ourselves in the aimlessness of hollow rhetoric and posturing.

The dangers of becoming too obsessed with something can be counter productive and loose significance, if it is not contextualised within frameworks of rational perception. When negotiation presents itself, it is an option worth attempting. The world co-exists within a playpen of diverse interests; in which everyone stakes their claim. Living life on ones' own terms requires that nuanced understanding of how to balance reality and idealism, without either one becoming a casualty in the process.

We often misunderstand the concept of leadership to equate as meaning only about leading others. For me it is really about "leading" myself - my heart, my mind, my conscience. To negotiate each day with the dreamed of and the reality of circumstance; and then to find the best current within my own energies to propel me to where I know I need to be, becomes the constant effort.

"If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you
will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what is within you will destroy you."
- Jesus,
The gnostic gospels
Elaine Pagels, ed.
From the book titled - In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens by Alice Walker

*About growing wings is a title of a lithograph by Surendran Nair.

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

The shame of ranking number 4 in the world!

As Indians we are always desiring to hold a world ranking for something,........anything! Well let's take out the band-baja, and burst the firecrackers as well; because we have finally made it into that haloed status of being ranked right up on the top for something! We are ranked as being the fourth most dangerous country for women! Wow! what a proud day this must be for our nation!

With one atrocity after another being committed on women everyday......kidnaping, rape, acid attacks, burning, hanging, murder, abuse, item after news item is filled with one more gruesome tale than the other. Foreign women are often the victims of cruel acts of sexual perversion on their visits to our country as tourists, merely because the fantasies of the deviant Indian male mind are aroused by the notions of assumed cliches about the promiscuity of western women.

I have had my fair share of humiliating experiences that range from breast grabbing to being flashed at on my own door step because I was a single woman living alone with my son; and being groped when in crowded places and a thousand eyes look away. The other common abuse that is so rampant are the "stories" and rumours that are floated as smear campaigns against women. The assault upon the reputation of a women is always by attacking her imagined sexual conduct, and deeming her immoral by sullying her character. This is an age old tactic and in practice till today and unfortunately also perpetuated by those where education should have taught them otherwise.

With female infanticide clogging our sewages from the remote villages to global urban cities, do we wonder why we have this dubious honour of being ranked the fourth most dangerous country for women?

But nothing really shames us. We will shout from the roof tops about our cultural heritage, and how we honour the goddess Shakti. But the truth of the matter lies in those charred bodies of burnt brides, and female foetuses which putrefy the air with it's rotting stench. These are our proud moments. This is our rich Indian cultural heritage, and the manner in which we honour our women. I don't know about you, but I have to hang my head in shame today for the reputation that my country has earned for itself. As an Indian woman I believe I deserve something much better than this.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

An old friend .....

For years I have listened to the music of Joan Baez. I can't even remember when the first occasion was where this lady with Spanish boots came into my life; but what I do know is that for me it feels like she was singing to me even when she was in her mother's womb.

She has accompanied me on all my travels; not always just by the physicality of her music but in the DNA we both share through the politics of our beliefs and in the imagination that takes shape from the lyrics that her lilting voice gifts me. A sister, she has been with me when thunder clouds sit dark in my mind or when the towering mountains of Bhutan have held my breath with it's magnificence....she stays close with me.....always.

Thank you dear friend. I still sit in the shadow of your voice and know I will grow old listening to the stories of your heart.

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Monday, 13 June 2011

The shame of oppression...

Rape is the most beastial act of oppression on women, and one which I cannot imagine any civilised society ever allowing nor supporting. Therefore in the recent news coverage over the last few days I was horrified to learn of two stories that shamed me to the core. The fourteen year old girl who was abducted by policeman whilst she was grazing her cattle, brutally raped and the killed makes you wonder about what law enforcement means in our country today! Sex is purchasable so let's not be coy about that. If desperately desiring sex is the preoccupation of the culprits then let them by all means frequent a space where consential sexual transaction are available. Why commit this horrifying atrocity to merely ejaculate, if I may put it rather crudely. At fourteen this young
child's life was already in the lane of bearing adult responsibilities. I wonder what gratifying sexual fantasy these crazed policemen must have had to even contemplate this horrifying deed; and to then silence her by killing her and discarding her body like a left over meal that no longer entices your appetite.

The lady who hanged herself after her two colleagues drugged her and then raped her is another chilling story of male testosterone gone amuck! How sick can office politics get when "methods" of getting even become such acts of debauchery? The image of her body hanging from the fan made my stomach cu curl with shame!

And of course Gaddafi who honours his country's nationals by using rape as a weapon of war.
Welcome to the 21st century!

With the Babaramdev's and their attention seeking dharma's the real issues of concern get side lined. I weep for the lack of will that we display to bring greater parameters of civil accountability through the vigilance of better political governance. A raped woman or child is just an uncomfortable statistic for Indians at large ... Nothing to write home about and much less get hot and bothered under the collar over...Instead it will be the news of some Bollywood tear jerker that will fill the news papers and mega big bare bodied bollywood stars who will claim our attention.

Serious after all is normally considered boring....hai na?!

Location:Canal Rd,Vadodara,India

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The last of the true Indian Icons depart.....

There can never really be another M.F Husain, ever. A man who charted his journey from the humble by-lanes of an Indian city to the center stage of world art; he gave Indian art an international face long before any other Indian artist did. A maverick, he could  reinvent himself  as a painter and creator continuously, and till the very end has remained an artist whose art holds a relevance despite  other trends and fashions that come and go.

Husain had this amazing ability to make you feel that you were the most important person when he was spending time with you. His agelessness was because he was in fact a true free spirit who never conformed to the expected. He lived life on his own terms and when hounded in recent years by fundamentalist forces, he chose to hold his dignity and never retaliate to the provocation and humiliation of betrayal  that his country meted out to him. It is this very grace and elegance that set him apart from others of his fraternity, and allowed him to be free of cynicism or anger. He has lived each day of his life within the orbit of his creative energies and he leaves for us a legacy that holds the vigours of his beliefs:  that creation through the vision and soul of the mortal spirit is a space of freedom, unfettered by the dictates of religious bias and politics;  and is a universe of infinite being.

Dear friend, you gave to each of us a part of yourself to hold forever. Indian art history owes you a huge debt.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

250 and still counting....

When I began to blog I never believed I would sustain it this long. I began it because it appeared such a democratic way of communicating with an audience, and it has proved to be that very space it promised to be where people can mingle with ones ideas and views, disagree or empathise; and not necessarily have to meet up to create this synergy of engagement.

I have over time acquired some faithful readers, and I am often truly surprised when I meet someone for the first time  who informs me that they follow my blog. It isn't that what one shares in this blog is anything very unique or specialized, but what I think becomes a basic criteria of bonding is a transparent honesty and a lack of some hidden agenda which allows others to feel comfortable with plugging in.

At a time where confusion prevails as to what really is right and wrong with the whole Ramdev Baba issue, open platforms of interaction become the only areas of debate that hopefully allow us to find better comprehension into this murky mess.

I cannot say that a police crack down is a correct political/legal procedure within a democracy. However after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on that fateful day of "protests" by kar sevaks I always become jittery over the saffron brigade posturing as the "voice of the people". Maybe Baba Ramdev in his feminine attire appeals to me more (!) but whatever I followed through the media reports of his hunger strike and his inarticulate rhetoric certainly did not inspire confidence in me.

I found the  civil movement that supported Anna Hazare a more truthful space of protest that clearly (even if naively) attempted to separate political hijacking from the issues of addressing the Lokpal bill. Of course there were blunders, of course there were many people who saw this as an opportunity of visibility.....but all in all it held up a space of accountability that each of us could understand and relate to and identify with.

The problem in India is corruption can be stamped upon everyone. In the last twenty-five years the "bakshish" bill has been well "drafted" into Indian society. Whether it is the linesmen of the telephone department, the municipal civic authorities, the postal service etc. etc. etc....., every one "quietly" holds the common person to ransom by "quietly" pinching them where it hurts the most! So cough it up or pay the price of being "quietly" harassed!

Today India is full of virtuous outrage over the mid-night drama of Baba Ramdev's arrest. With the shadows of the past that are yet to be laid to rest I think sometimes actions that quell possible mob hooliganism is unfortunately a wiser option in the long run when a country needs to address serious issues. With the bagpipes of Scotland calling, the snake charmers role is being rewritten by our bearded friend. Maybe Indian designers can merge the kilt and the saffron robe into a new attire for our new self proclaimed saviour of the hour. But for me, I am not amused that a civil movement that had profound dignity and a following of people across the entire spectrum of Indian society, and which was led by a person of  Anna Hazare's credibility has been hijacked and potentially derailed by a saffron adjutant who is clearly only a mouthpiece for someone else! Clear the deck please and let the movement proceed with its original leader to guide it.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

An on going affair....

Sari's are the most beautiful garment in the world. As a child I always looked more grown-up than my peers, so when I turned thirteen and had a wardrobe that consisted of halter necks, bell bottoms, shorts, mini skirts and T.Shirts; I added this delightfully graceful garment to my shelves. My parents were very liberal and so my quirks of dressing were accommodated with no raised eye-brows and instead a great deal of support and many compliments that in retrospect must have been only possible from pure parental love alone!!!

I wore saris through out college....beautiful cottons that came from the magic of weavers and their looms. These garments and my nava bazar ghagaras, rainbow coloured kurta's and chatak salwars were the fashion statement of my university years. Perhaps my love affair with the sari is rooted from the memories of my mother from when I was young, who for many years of her life only wore saris. The swish of the fabric as she would kiss me good night is such a precious personal memory...almost like a special secret  that only I possess the knowledge of.

I loved the saris that the Calcutta fisher ladies wear. Even in the 8o's to pay only twelve and fifteen rupees for a sari as considered a song. Vibrant flat colours with contrasting borders made for the most beautiful aesthetics you could imagine.

Day before yesterday I went to a lovely little store owned by my old friend Tejal Panthaki that is called "Tejal" and bought four lovely cotton saris. On bringing them home my mother told me that this purchase was going to be her present to me! The delight of a mother buying you a sari is another little special secret joy that becomes difficult to describe; and which is so much about the personal rituals of love.

I don't wear my sari's as often as I used to. The climate change has perhaps been the biggest factor to this; and when I travel I tend to take just few mix and match "stuff" that keeps my bags super light.

Today it isn't that easy to procure saris that are simple. With middle class taste often veering towards the gaudy, one gets too many over embellished saris that would make even a peacock blush. But of course  beautiful saris are still being made by the weavers. It is just finding out who has the eye and discernment to source them and offer them to us in their outlets that we frequent as shoppers.