Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Hoax SMS!

The ways of the world are often stranger than fiction! In a recent incident in which I was subjected to  a known person sending a hoax SMS about my health to a doctor friend was deeply perturbing and terribly malicious. People afflicted with the tendency to fabricate can  create terrible consequences from their actions. That it leads to a domino effect that causes panic is the rush of power that feeds such devious actions of these people who indulge in such senseless actions of spite.

Two evenings ago I received a call from my childhood friend, who is an eminent orthopedic surgeon, and who now practises in Delhi. He  told me that he had received an SMS message from a mutual acquaintance (who I  had just visited not more than an hour before that ), which informed him about me being unwell with a brain tumour! This led to my friend getting terribly worried about me, and when I didn't answer the phone (as I was driving), he called up another mutual friend who in turn called up another mutual friend.....all the while with everyone worried and anxious about my well being and scared that I was perhaps terminally ill.

When I got home and viewed my missed calls, I called back my friend in Delhi, and of course completely oblivious of this chain of events, prattled on about this and that without too much thought for his initial question about the state of my health. He then explained his anxiety about the message he had received, (personally sent only to him), about my being unwell with a brain tumour. I was so shocked at the intended mischief of this message, and so completely perplexed that someone I was in fact helping quite extensively since the last few months,  could behave in such a manner with me. The saddest thing was that this was not even meant to be some warped practical joke, but intended to create genuine panic for a laugh.

I immediately called up the person in question to ask why such a message had been sent. She initially denied it vehemently, but comprehending that evidence of a message from her mobile cannot be a figment of another's imagination, she confessed to it the next day by sending me a message apologising for her actions! She offered no explanation and I preferred to just leave this sordid issue without probing her intentions and merely replied saying: Thank you for the apology. I was extremely saddened by the false message you sent and the panic it created. Such unwarranted messages only hurt people and cause inconvenience. 

This unfortunate event reminded me of the numerous occasions when political agencies use similar tactics to destabilise communal harmony. The spreading of false stories that hold fear causes grave panic, and fuels a chain reaction that spreads incorrect information like wild fire. In the case of individuals being attacked and targeted ,  truth often gets appropriated because of the cowardice of those too weak to own up to their faults and mis deeds.

My attempts as a teacher is to insist on an exacting truthfulness from my students that may sometimes be painful in what gets addressed or confronted. But the lessons to learn from it are vital as it trains the mind and conscience to behave in accordance with a responsibility and accountability that is self governed at all times.

Why this lady in her late  fifties, chose to send a fabricated story to my doctor friend remains a mystery to all of us. However what  I do recognize in this lady's actions are the clear signs of a mischief maker at play. What she thought she stood to gain is difficult to know; what has occurred unfortunately for her is that she now stands exposed as a trouble maker. More is the pity that she has lost the trust of a person who had only her best interests at heart.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Amen to the new metrosexual man!

I read somewhere recently that a helpless man is considered most unattractive by women. Well I certainly endorse that sentiment. I find the male patriarchy of the feudal system that traditional societies desire to perpetuate, in which men consider any domestic work to be something they cannot get their brain around , to be absolutely absurd. It is for this very reason that right from his infancy, I taught my son the value of being a man around the house who is capable of doing everything as good as, if not better, than I could. I set high standards of work ethics for all that I do,  without any separating line that creates hierarchies of importance. All things need to be attended to, and attended to well! 

All things related to life and its survival are to be respected and comprehended as essential life skills for every individual to insist upon having. This must take in the entire spectrum of home management from stocking your larder, cooking, sewing, cleanliness and orderliness of laundry, space management and hygiene in the home, budgeting, health management, wise food and nutrition planning, maintenance of all appliances,....well the list is long! Above all there must be an understanding that living together involves collective consensus on all important issues and no autocratic selfishness. Factors like personal savings, efficient and effective banking, filing and maintaining tax matters amongst many other things,  all must be self managed and handled from ones young adulthood. Besides all this ones professional obligations must be met at all times, within which high standards of self application must be adhered to always. 

I am very emphatic that personal existence must be with the learnt abilities from a young age that make you truly independent;  and where we consciously cultivate skills that allow us to be  human beings who  have comprehend the true meaning of "living a full life" not merely theoretically but practically. Experience, observation, exposure and common sense must co-exist at all times as the guiding factors of learning.

What I will add to the starting point of this discourse  is that I find helpless women equally unattractive too! Women who flutter their eyelashes and feign round-eyed innocence about the realities and demands of the world of survival make me cringe. 

The problem in India is that we have no really respect for the dignity of labour whatsoever.  We  exploit the needy who we like to believe to be the "unskilled" labour force (which is untrue because they possess amazing skills that we depend upon).  We employ them as our domestic staff and then  refer to them as "servants" (!) despite pretending to have a political correctness about issues of discrimination! The farce is that we do not even acknowledge our dependence on these amazingly skilled home organisers,  who often remain faceless if not nameless people in our elitist worlds (!!); and whom we often keep "assigned" to the shadows when in fact they should be given their due importance. They offer us the comforts of a pampered lifestyle where we hardly ever soil our hands with the dust or the grime of all the various jobs that they do for us tirelessly; and the funny thing is that we assume we are doing them a favour by giving them employment, when instead it is actually we who need to be grateful for their services!!

Unfortunately it is to this example that we consign the formative years of our children, where they believe that no job around the house is for them to do. "Leave it for the servants to do"is the refrain like a bad chorus line, repeated too often in the homes where domestic labour is employed. With male role models who mostly conform to traditional stereo-types of helplessness on the domestic front, it is no wonder that we are a nation of messy cupboards and exhausted women!

Mithun is someone whom  I consider to be what a normal male should be. Fiercely house proud way before getting married, he is a great cook on a daily basis. Prudent with money, he is a smart saver who knows the fine line of balancing generosity and stringency, with finessed practise. Neat and efficient in every aspect of his life, he manages a home with his wife Samera with no fuss or calling undue attention to the effort of the consistency it requires.

I like it! This is the way it should be! 

I like the new metrosexual male and we should see more of them please. For this to happen we need to put out the right role models for our children to learn from, and break the stereo-typical macho image of men who leave their clothes in an untidy dirty pile on the floor for others to attend to, and who do not know how to look after a cranky baby or run a load of washing, or put a nutritious  meal on a table each day.

For me such men are down right boring and misfits in my personal world.
I think I speak for thousands of Indian women, don't I?!


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A hint of a chill in the air...

Winter in Baroda is my favourite season. I say this faithfully every year when the winter peeks out at me from the dust and grime of my once grand city of Baroda, the centre of learning in the princely state of the Gaekwad's. I strut about our home these days swishing my sari pallav and filling the morning and dusk air with incense and the fresh fragrance of traditional galkota ka haar's (that most often are gifted to us by our spiritual children); and which hang from the old brass bells at the entrance, in our living room and on the stairwell landing that leads up to our bedrooms.

Perhaps old memories from my own childhood and stories narrated to me by Surendran of his; of lamps lit in the dusk in Bangalore and Kerala in both our respective ancestral homes, that cast flickering shadows and a divine glow that evokes the well being of the inhabitants of the house; becomes the magic that we unconsciously recreate as the emblems of home and personal traditions. 

When flying back from Kerala two days ago the night landscape of flickering city lights appeared like millions of tear drops glistening at me, as though grieving with me over the loss of our loved one. Home has those connotations that give to your heart what you desire, where even those run down spaces of your own existence hold the familiarity of comfort and solace and give to you a space of belonging that is precious and real.

I often keep my favourite photographs inside the books that I have loved reading. And so when I leaf through them again I chance upon these treasured images, and delight in the way they are brought back to my attention again  unexpectedly.

As I sit to write this blog the afternoon light falls on the wooden slates of the chattai in my studio verandah and the birds in the mango trees in my neighbours garden converse noisily, perhaps having a tea party I am not invited to! My studio fans whirl slowly and my adopted grand-daughter Aditi sits next to me immersed in her classwork preparations on the computer. My facilitator sits on the other side of me completing a task on the other computer, and of course Begum our cat snoozes on the chaise lounge replete and exhausted as usual from doing nothing other than eating!

The winters in India cover the most extreme contains of cold to the areas that remain hot through the twelve months of every year. I like the in-between zones where it is moderately cold in a cosy sort of way. Where bhajiya's and cups of steaming masala chai is the call of the hour. Where hot chocolate and cup cakes can be downed without pangs of guilt over calories. And where curling up with a book and a blanket is sheer heavenly bliss. Tonight I will sit out with my two spiritual daughters on our front verandah with the fairy lights blinking , and we will have  green tea and chat.

Small rituals that make memories of home and belonging.


Monday, 19 November 2012

End of an innings....

Devakiamma, my mother-in-law, passed away at 12.10 in the afternoon on Saturday the 17th of November in Onakkoor, as we flew the Mumbai-Kochi sector attempting to reach home as fast as we could.  However much you prepare yourself for the inevitability of death, it still never takes away the searing pain of loss you are confounded by when it finally does occur. 

For Surendran his mother has been the axis to his sense of belonging at home. He left home at the age of 17 to study, and  the space of his home holds his childhood and the influences of his mother as the dominant memories he treasures. 

 His life has been uniquely shaped by his mother's endeavors to raise a family of five children after the untimely death of his father when he was only two years old. The brave-hearted stories of Indian women are many, and my mother-in-law was certainly one of those amazing women who lived her life with the fortitude to succeed as a widow in bringing up a family single handedly. Proud and independent, she instilled into each of them the values of discipline  and the lessons of hard work, through sheer example and personal grit. Till her 80's you would see her, sickle in hand, tending to her land, turning a deaf ear to the requests of her family to ease her daily work routine. A woman of great strength cast in a frame of exquisite frailty, she held her own amidst the patriarchal feudalism of her husbands family, and never bowed down to accepting assistance from them despite her many hardships after the death of her husband that was sudden and unexpected.

Our own love-story and her unconditional acceptance of it speaks volumes of her ability to be open minded and progressive with her children, despite her rooting within a traditional society. Our last trip home as a family was to take our Samera to seek her blessings. She delighted in seeing them both and loved Mithun in ways that hold tender memories for him of his Muthashe. Perhaps the sweetest memory I hold of her is on her visit to Baroda  many years ago. She was quite enamored with my father, who in his typical quintessential military manner, was all booted and suited. He didn't seem to mind in the least that she didn't understand English nor that he knew not a smidgin of Malayalam, and happily prattled on conducting a monologue that held her riveted attention without asking for any interpretation for the entirety of his visit to our house! And my mother of course charmed her with her smattering of half a dozen words of Malayalam, and the present of a bottle of English Rose  eau de toilette, that she absolutely loved.  

To many she may have appeared brusque and matter of fact. But to those who knew her well,  her love was hidden in the small rituals of engagement she had with each of us. Surendran told me yesterday how she always insisted that on the day of his departure he had to loudly state before leaving "I am leaving mother". He never questioned her about this oddity but faithfully did it each time,  committing  to her memory the sound of his voice and the finality of the end of his stay at home on each occasion.  When I visited Onakkoor, I would have a bursting bag full of presents and goodies for everyone. She loved to rummage around in my bag to know exactly who was getting what, and all the goodies were always to be given to her for distribution. A present of money was given for Mithun, my mother and me on each occasion  either Surendran or I visited her, and she was to be duly informed that it had been given to each of them. 

As I attempted to console Surendran at the Kochi airport I was consumed with this immense desire to protect him from the pain of his grief. Though we know that a parent has journeyed well and must depart, we crave nonetheless to hold them to their mortality so that we can preserve our link of belonging that is indescribably potent in what it offers us as comfort and stability. 

When Surendran desired to come to Baroda to do his post diploma at the faculty of fine arts, his mother sold a tree for his education. Some people are uniquely special though they never call attention to themselves. My mother-in-law was one such person and her influence will always remain as part of our lives.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi- A role model for the ideals of non-violence

I caught, quite by chance, Aung San Suu Kyi's televised lecture today at New Delhi's Vigyan Bhawan. Unfortunately the entire lecture was not telecast....mores the pity that we cut short moments of historical relevance to accommodate  trivial news items that could very well be put on the back burner or be junked quite honestly!

Listening to this diminutive lady with her trade mark flowers tucked into the side of her hair, speak with measured precision from the experiences that define her political will, held my consciousness captive. From the late 80's when she became a public figure by choice within the political landscape of her country, I have been following her struggle to bring democracy to the people of Burma.  India did very little to aid her movement for democracy, turning almost a blind eye to the excess of the military regime that kept her under house arrest for many years, and which flaunted a corrupt system of governance for all to see.

Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela have been political freedom fighters who have lived out a philosophy of faith that supports human dignity, human rights and the ideals of freedom in ways that are without pretense or posturing; and without the rhetoric of self righteousness. As a result whenever I have heard then speak they hold my heart still with the simple truth of their words that bring the essence of their faith up close and palpable.

Aung San Suu Kyi talked about being expelled from her party by her own party  whilst under house arrest and narrated that this taught her the valuable lesson of  how essential it is to work together inspite of differences. She said that she observed this from the relationship Nehru shared with Gandhi and that despite the differences they worked together.

The truly great leaders of nations have been those capable of personal sacrifice without deeming it a virtue.  Aung San Suu Kyi has done this over the last two decades and has paved the way for a nation to finds its courage to  holds its own future with the faith to believe it possible. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Family pride!





Our Samera is the new face of Dove in India.....
We are so proud of her many achievements.
Congratulations baby!

Monday, 5 November 2012

When the spirit weathers the storm...

Over the last 27 years Surendran and I have always kept our home open to friends and family; to visit and be with us as house guests despite whatever crazy schedules of work we have.  This has provided us with some wonderfully rich experiences and some treasured memories. It also taught our son Mithun the ideals of sharing, and gifted to him the spirit of generosity that places others before the self.  However we have also had our share of rather bizarre experiences that have equally been spaces of learning for as a family, when those  invited into our home have  transgressed the lakshman rekha of hospitality extended to them, and become inquisitive, invasive, demanding, judgemental, opinionated,  and often down right rude!

It is interesting that people who declare themselves to be private and who insist that they value their own privacy often ask the most invasive questions. In a recent instance of such transgressions with house guests,  not only were the immediate family subjected to crass inquisitiveness, but so too were our artists in residents in the Collective Studio, our adopted grand-daughter and her mother,  as well as our friends who would drop by! It became hugely embarrassing when petulant temper tantrums erupted as we attempted to explain the boundaries we would like respected,  and it took all our dignity as a family to insist of ourselves that our personal etiquette didn't falter as hosts in the face of such provocation.

Indian hospitality is special and unique; and it is something within our cultural traditions that I hope we never lose, either collectively or as individuals. But often ones patience is sorely tried; and it is such moments where one begins to question whether the true spirit of giving within the areas of hospitality received, is completely understood by the recipient. It is also essential that the art of receiving love and generosity with the appropriate comprehension of its true value, is a lesson learnt. Because the casualness with which anothers efforts are sometimes viewed, and the ability to take for granted the thoughtfulness of gestures received indicates how selfish and insular people can be when attention is focused on them. The training we give at The Collective Studio includes an emphasis on inter-dependencies that are about respect and acknowledgement at all times. Egos are a fragile commodity but so are egg-shells.....! The long and the short of it is that sensitivity can be claimed if it is given in equal measure.

Our home retains its spirit of inclusiveness by choice.  And though we are faced with some occasions that test our patience and the collective ideology that guides our lives; where we are disappointed that  our energies have been squandered -  we still continue to hold fast to the traditions of Indian hospitality that have for generations been the social practise of both the rich and the poor equally, and which in many ways is the hallmark of what being Indian is all about!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Multi-tasking and the art of balance : a comic thesis of existence.

I think all women need to be given multiple arms and legs.....
This way we can do all that we do and avoid getting our joints out of place and those cricks in our neck,  tennis elbows and writers wrists,  dark circles from sleep deprivation and the rest of those aches and pains, as we dash about trying to balance many universes all within one orbit!

When anyone phones me and asks me "are you free?" I am always rather perplexed and never know what answer to give. I am often doing my step-aerobic style up-two-down-two in my studio, on varying size tables that are my portable ladder inventions as I wobble my fat little five-foot self attempting to reach corners of my painting. I feel convinced that my cat sits and watches me hoping to see me do a humpty-dumpty act for her entertainment! 

I must be going a little loony too these days because my great source of self entertainment is to play back a video I took of myself illustrating a problem I had with my MacBook Pro to show to the engineer at the the I store. It is so hilarious as I enunciate each word, and fumble through a demo of what I believe is the problem. It has me rolling on the ground with laughter .... ! Well at least I feel one up on my cat because she can't figure out what all this solitary mirth is all about as she disdainfully opens one eye to squint at me with due reproach for such seemingly unbecoming behaviour!

The overloaded hand bag....this trope of survival has the world and more in it always.....! It is meant to be my remote control to order. However the gods of order must be conspiring against  me as I frantically search for things that should have been in the handbag. Opening cupboards and closing them as though I am changing into a performance artist in the fifth decade of my life, I search high and low for things that I firmly believe have legs of their own; often to find them in places I cannot recall ever putting them!!! My memory of course is like a sieve for the more mundane factors of everyday living; which would not matter at all if I was up on a mountain  alone!

Its a nice thought that mountain idea.

The only thing is that Surendran has booked his space on the summit before me!!!!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A candle in the wind : Malala Yousafsai.

I have not postponed writing about Malala Yousafsai, the brave and courageous teenage activist from Pakistan, because I was so outraged and horrified that I could not trust myself to write with any coherence of thought, except pure rage at this barbaric inhuman attack.

The passing days have had me sending all my energies through every action that I do, to aid her spirit to fight and survive. I am haunted by the innocence of her eyes and the wisdom of her words, and notice that in fact her face bears a striking resemblance to Ann Frank.

Does one really need to explain the rights of education as an equal opportunity for all children in the 21st century? How does any religious belief condone a fourteen year old child being singled out for a deliberate execution-style assassination ? How do governments that claim to uphold democratic principles do so little about extremist organisations that flourish on their soil;  turning a blind eye to them controlling entire regions of a country where they exert their orthodox dictate over the people, subjugating them against their will to a life of fear and repression? Why do we lose our basic human instincts towards one another, turning bestial and savagely cruel, in order to exhibit our supremacy over others ? I have a million more question plus more that hold the perplexity of how a young girl could end up shot at point blank range because she dared to insist upon her right to education in her country.

Millions of people the world over await for Malala to survive this attack on her life. She has unwittingly become the face of freedom from tyranny and the voice that represents female empowerment, the world over. I can only hope that those like Imran Khan who talk about revamping Pakistan politics will sit up and do something substantial to demand that those who have committed this dastardly attack on Malala, are brought to book;  and serve a life sentence as a consequence of their actions.

However why does my heart and head both tell me this never will be the case, ever.?!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The media circus....but who's the real clown in all of this?!

Too many expose´s and sting operations become scams in themselves, perhaps.  And with the new adalat being the television channels that bring the mirch-masala and dirt of who-dun-it-worse into the homes of millions of Indians, you have "breaking news" like bad farts  leaving the pong of rubbish littered all over your brain.

Whether it is about  mango men or those wearing capsized paper-boats with carbon promises chaapofied  on their rather empty heads, at the end of the day the systemic failure is not being addressed.  Good governance that is transparent and accountable and that should work for the people of this country, is not going to be delivered via this circus. With TV channels and the print media so utterly dependent upon corporate sponsorship; who are we kidding about unbiased news when money dictates points of view in this country. Perhaps what is the real amusement from this charade of "we are cleaning up the system" is the embarrassment of the opposition who thought that the new crusaders of  the aam aadmi would be amicable to becoming their allies in the presumption that they had a "common" enemy! 

My disenchantment with the movement, India Against Corruption, came quite soon after its inception when Mr. Hazare propagated beating up any youth who consumed alcohol. The medieval righteousness of such thinking made it clearly obvious that his vision, well meaning at best, could not really provide India a new leadership of relevance regarding reforms. To offer policy advise to draft relevant bills against corruption or to sustain a movement to bring political changes through an electoral system. Perhaps what we got was the moment where collectively we could hold an idealistic dream.

Arvind Kejriwal on the other hand after parting ways with  Anna and his core team members, has a campaigners aggression that connects you to his cause. But he has yet not displayed a political manifesto that goes beyond the single point agenda of corruption. Laudable as this cause is, and essential as it maybe to purging the system of a great deal of rot; there are however larger issues that need to be tabulated  into a reform  strategy if an alternative leadership is being presented to the nation to be voted into power.

I am fast getting bored of the mere posturing of goodness.  Connecting electricity cables of defaulters does not suggest a roadmap that offers better law and order facilities, fast track courts, economic stability for the poor,  nor gender equality etc.

I don't want slogans any more.
I don't want endless press conferences that become slinging matches.
I want something more pertinent.

We know that almost every political party member covers up the personal muck of each other, including for those in parties that they are supposed to be warring against. We know this all too well. What we need therefore is for legal action to be taken when serious allegations of cover-ups are brought out into the public domain. Get on with this and not one probe after another that dies down, one inquiry after another that produces reports upon which no action is taken.

We have had the likes of Chandan Mitta who are elected by their parties into being spokespeople on their behalf, and who go from one channel show to the next  spewing forth their gibberish. He was one of the most strident voices  to denounce the secularity of an artist like M.F. Husain, which was to serve the communal agendas at play in politics during that era.

So what shall we say  dear friends ?

I think we will have more of the circus come to town don't you think;  and with it,  a gaggle of political clown all with their stupidity on show for us. Yesterday communal issues, today corruption tomorrow who knows....

TP ratings are what counts no...?

Hurrah! This is our shining India....!!!!


Monday, 1 October 2012

My Monday Thumbs down list...!

Every one talks of being stressed. Today in a conversation with a friend over the phone I was stumped by the laments  that poured out about the stress of success ! Today most often than not when you pose the common question about how life or work is getting on, one gets an immediate response of stress levels and complaints of how demanding work is! It set me thinking about how fickle we are about what we desire. For those of us who have pursued education and then the logical sequence of formulating a career to establish our independence and economic stability from our work endeavours, it would appear that being fully engaged with life becomes a bench mark of our  success, and not something to continuously complain about at all!

I personally feel that those who are genuinely successful aren't the ones who make a song and dance about how hard they work; because if work is demanding then we are able to test our capacity of delivering what in fact we trained or have opted to do as a job/vocation/service/venture....whatever. So why all the hoo-haaing about stress, may I ask?  Perhaps people feel that if they sound content and happy with their jobs/careers they may be considered as under-achievers. Whatever it is, I am putting the word "stress" on my current thumbs down list! It is frightfully boring to hear these repetitive laments for one, and it is a sure fire conversation concluder that you can pull out of the magic rabbits hat that dries up the lightness of social togetherness!

And what may be the way to de-stressing, may we ask.......?
Today the new chill-pill  is sitting for hours playing mindless games on one's mobile phone!!!!!
Surrounded by family and friends who like to play games on their phones,  I often end up as the bitch-witch who puts a no-no ban on such activities during family time. Television too can become addictive and make for anti-social time  as channel surfers go from one program to the next,  which pretty much shuts the door on  conversation! Creating the time and the space for communication in a family is imperative;  and with this world of gizmo gadgets and social media with its cyber chat rooms and twitter messages commanding the attention of many, it becomes a herculean task to plug in quality family time....but persist fiendishly!  I do so because I love the laughter and fun that family togetherness provides. Mithun and Samera along with our spiritual children and adopted grand-daughter Aditi brings to the family a interactiveness that is precious and unparallelled. I also believe that a world without human interdependence and truthful engagement is a selfish and insular world. So a thumbs down to mindless gaming and television surfing when in company, says the bitch-witch emphatically!

Another social horror is the bragging brigade of me and I make the universe syndrome! Bragging,  net-working in social spaces and name dropping are complete taboos and get two thumbs down from me. Utterly boring and taxing to say the least,   I wear a fixed smile that leaves me numb and semi paralysed facially for hours after such encounters. 

And then you get the insincere remarks that always zero in (excuse the pun) on body sizes!  How thin you have become is the typical remark you get seven days a week, from all and sundry! With an addition ten kg's that bounces around with me like a pesky child I would rather leave behind some where,  I am left wondering what prize reply I am expected to make that  can equal the level of insincerity! A thumbs down most definitely to the irksome drivel of the dumbo dumb-dumbs....! 

Well Baroda is catching on to the fake trade market which found me catching my own breath like a beached whale of sorts! I went to an exhibition that  boasted of 2nd and 12th century bronzes, original letters from lord Curzon, old maps, original manuscripts of Gandhiji  etc. Of course when I asked for the authenticity of those items that were on sale I was told they come from the grey market !!!! That many of these antiquities were fakes was obvious, but the most amusing aspect was that I was told that "Government of India authenticity certificates" accompanied some of the artifacts for sale!!! I guess the "collector " of these objects who was having this "sale" must have thought that Baroda was filled with rich idiots who can be conned!!! Thumbs down to fakes and phonies PLEASE.....in every sense of the word!!!! 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

New games old rules....

I  was pleasantly surprised once again at the speech given my our prime minister yesterday. In a quiet  tone he addressed the nation and what I liked was that he looked and sounded compellingly sincere. His speech was without fiery rhetoric and the language he used was very simple, which was refreshing in the day and age of TV politicians who think that they must sound linguistically erudite.  He steered clear of the usual jargonized political speak that most politicians roll off their tongues (perhaps even in their sleep!), and he conveyed ideas and aspirations that made complete sense  for a nation that is desiring progress, and a position of significance in the global markets of trade and commerce. In his usual stiff as a ram rod manner, he spoke unflinchingly about how we need to accept reforms and to allow an elected government  to function so as to perform its duty to the mandate that voted them in to power. He stated that though things had been achieved much more could be done. I thought this sentence spoke volumes about the character of a man who does not attempt to hide behind any masks; and though criticised repeatedly for his public demeanour of restrain, remains comfortable with himself for who he is at all times.

Perhaps the PM's restrain is catching on because the power brokering of coalition politics no longer makes me gasp any more. However seeing Mamta didi with egg on her face after her pallav sweeping en mass resignations that didn't quite get her the desired effect within the central government,  of creating chaos in a country, was uplifting to my politically weary soul. I was cautioned the other day by a Bengali friend that my irreverent blogs about didi dear would have me behind bars in West Bengal.....! Oh shiver me timbers, as captain Haddock of Tintin fame would say, I am shaken in me boots m'lady!!!!

The great Indian democracy is founded on an amazing political survival lesson which is if someone is running like a rat from a sinking ship, decide to save the ship and its scrawny crew, only if there is booty enough for you to loot off it!

Shocking was to see the left front literally holding hands with the BJP at rallies against the government. It made me cringe. Silly me believing that ideologies of right wing conservative fundamentalist parties and Marxist ideological positions were supposed to be different. Convenient empathy between rival parties becomes television panel discussion fodder. And hosts like Barka Dutt now becoming boringly predictable with their routine Chandan Mitta type guests whose rubbish views reflect poorly on the calibre of the program. These days I am opting for my Aussie men on Master chef....big burly and  with mouth watering cuisine......mmmm I like!!!!

With the rain lashing down in September I am not a happy bunny. However my cat Begum is!!! Monsoon and winter sees this queen curled up like an Alaskan bear in hibernation for close to 18 hours of the day....snoozy tart! I on the other hand am waltzing around like a toga queen wrapped up in my sari waging war on fungus that stubbornly grows overnight in my beautiful bathroom! I am soon becoming an avenger with five dehumidifiers winging themselves to me from Mumbai! Bye-bye silica gel hello modern machine!!!! Now maybe I too can snooze instead of getting a crick in my neck with the ceiling peering that makes me look like a deranged orangutan in love with the moon!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A moment to remember....



Mithun & Samera's wedding day was very special for us. 
A quiet celebration that centered around the intimacy of family and which held great joy and happiness 
in the small gestures of our love and togetherness. 


Fresh flowers, candles, incense and raw rice were the decorations at the entrance of our home.....


 ......with our spiritual children and extended family helping us create the most memorable day in our lives.


The prelude to the wedding .....
with the mehendi .....the laughter and the sharing of time spent together.....
and the sheer excitement of the moment....... 

......all came together to make the magic of a perfect day!



The 7th of September was a private time of reflection and gratitude......


.....that allowed us to unite as a family........


....and to hold the significance of this special day,
as a moment to remember forever.

We wish to thank all our friends and well wishers 
for the countless messages and remembrances that we received,
and for embracing the couple with your blessings.



Tuesday, 11 September 2012

7th September 2012

It is our greatest joy to share the marriage of Mithun & Samera with all of you.
On the 7th of September 2012 we had the civil ceremony conducted in our home.
We seek your blessings for the happy couple. 


Thursday, 30 August 2012

In a landscape of many winds....

I whacked my head last evening on the edge of a concrete window ledge with such impact that I immediately lost the clarity of my vision and instantly felt nauseous. I knew that driving my car at that moment was out of the question and all the practical training of being a no-nonsense mum kicked into place. I quickly scrolled to the number of my girl friend in my blurred state of vision, who in a jiffy drove from her workshop to take me directly to the emergency unit of the hospital we frequent. Perhaps being in a state of trauma I became reflective, and whilst sitting quietly with an icepack balanced on my head waiting for the doctor, I felt deep gratitude for the opportunities life has offered me, and the lessons of survival one has been able to learn over the years that make life less complicated, and perhaps therefore more manageable in some ways. 

Today reading  about the Naroda Patiya massacre verdict, the terrible story of Kausar Bano who was nine months pregnant, gang raped and who had her stomach slit open and the foetus of her unborn child ripped from her body and who was then burnt alive, is a chilling reminder of those who could not be protected; and who's survival others snatched away without a thought. 

That hundreds of Assamese felt such an imminent threat to their safety, felt that their survival was compromised so severely that they felt obliged to flee, indicates how instantly we can create a panic to destabilise and wreck  damage to the psyche of entire communities that may never really heal, despite time.

A young artist of the Collective Studio who teaches in a school told me the other day of a small act of intervention that she did which perhaps aided to protect the innocence of a tiny child. The child needed to be taken to her parents who were waiting in another section of the school. The school property being vast and with a lot of trees, the child would have to walk a long distance with a male attendant  unsupervised and out of the vision of any other adult member of the staff. So my young friend decided that even though she would herself get late,  she would escort the pupil to avoid any probable potential danger of the  innocence of the child being violated. 

My head still swims with pain and I feel like a new sailor with wobbly feet and sea sickness, plus I can boast of a rather impressive bump on the crown of my head! But apart from the frivolity I wrap it all in to make light of it,  I have incurred an injury I could well have done without.  And perhaps most significantly  I still feel so fortunate to be safe in ways that I never can take for granted, knowing I am protected by the love and concern of those who really care for me. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Does the punishment fit the crime...

Fareed Zakaria seems to be paying a high price for an unintentional error he has publicly apologised for, and  further more for which he has taken full and unequivocal accountability for without passing the buck or attempting to pin the blame on to anyone on his research team. Yet the backlash from the corridors of power that silently dictate management policies regarding print and news media can be seen rearing their ugly racial heads, thus showing the true nature of immigrant minority bias. The reputation and contribution of this gentleman that precedes this rather trivial error seems to have been erased in a blink of an eye by those who are  whipping up this storm in a tea cup. That the Washington Post wrongly accused Fareed of earlier instances of plagiarism and then had to publicly apologise for their salacious inaccuracies,  becomes a mere quiet one liner in the reportage that has taken on an attack mode, is interesting to note. Has that particular reporter been suspended? I very much doubt that.

What comes through for those who are following the story is simply this: successful immigrants appear to make the establishment feel rather uncomfortable especially if they are known to not kowtow to pro-American views on foreign policy or other government agendas. The other interesting point in question is whether the confidence that Fareed Zakaria exudes and the  respect that he commands becomes the thorn in the flesh of others who then secretly desire to see him "put in his place", so to speak, out of sheer envy for the clout he does in fact possess as a serious political analyst and media person whose views are either sought or referred to by officials of significance,  around the world.

But true to human nature, admiration so often turns to dislike via envy and frustration. The decisiveness of strong minded people triggers interesting responses. People often imitate such individuals with the desire to be like them, and when the substance isn't quite there to create the clone (!) then anger takes over and suppressed antagonism starts to grow. Fareed Zakaria must have rubbed many people the wrong way just by being the way he is- efficient and an achiever who is not coy about his success. So what happens then: the moment the man has been human and made a mistake which he in no way denies or excuses, he is being crucified by his detractors with a rather perverse intensity to "nail the little brown b....r!"

I remain unconvinced that the suspension meted out by the TV networks and the newspapers that host  Zakaria's opinions, is an action that fits the crime. An enquiry yes that would have led to a rigorous evaluation of the situation,  but certainly not this extreme knee jerk response that jumped the gun to incriminate him and sully his reputation that he has worked years to establish. I am positive that an anglo-saxon would not have been treated this shabbily for a similar occurrence. But then what else can be expected from a society that blatantly displays it's political double standards on so many issues, and yet takes the moral high ground at all times. Hold high standards by all means, but for heaven sake don't degenerate into moral posturing at the drop of a hat that so transparently exposes bigotry and bias. 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Small life lessons between the pages...

I am reading Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto really slowly. Beautifully written, I am as usual protracting the pleasure of reading something I love, to make it last longer. Living in each word in ways that hold my own life still and allowing the story to become mine. 

There are many beautiful subtexts within  this book that lead you into other stories about yourself and those you know; making this tender narrative hold parables and life lessons to offer you when you least expect to find them.

I read this passage last night in bed:
It is from a conversation that the father has with his son.
The father says....
'If anyone ever does you a favour, you cannot forget it. You must always credit them, especially in public, especially to those they love and those that love them. You must pay your debts, even those that you can never fully repay. Anything less makes you less.'

We often ride a wave and are carried for a while, but to take it for granted becomes the folly.

I also find that insincerity is a bit like a terminal illness. Those who indulge in it finally are consumed into worlds of manufactured interaction that ring hollow for everyone around them, and isolate themselves from fitting into functioning realities that hold truths they are hiding from.

It is imperative to always confront all things that add up to make the sum of our existence. And in doing this you will certainly find many personal emotional swamps that one can drown in. Whenever my heart feels bruised, I force myself to acknowledge what the core of my personal politics is. I insist that I place emotional sentimentality aside to walk the talk of behavioural ethics that is a determined paradigm already set within this framework of ones personal politics.  However difficult it may appear to be at that moment of time, I view it as a methodology which opens up an understanding of infinite learning much  more productive than nurturing  ones own protective instincts.

The Collective Studio has open discussions that disallow us avoiding issues of accountability, whether professional or personal. We hold this as the basic credo within the philosophy of The Collective Studio and in turn it has allowed for a simple uncomplicated co-existence to prevail. Everyone rallies around the other in those moments that may hold pain or anguish, self doubt or limitations; and so the journeys of self discovery are not lonely missions to be struggled with but where the experiences of others may lend us some strength. 

In the same continuing conversation that the father has with his son in Jerry Pinto's book....
the son asks....
'Wouldn't that make you want to run away from it all?'
and the father replies.....
'That's where pride comes in, and stubbornness. The city is a challenge but it's a challenge that doesn't care either way. If you go home, it won't jeer, it just won't notice. You can stay and work hard and make something of yourself and it still won't notice. But you will know. I would have known that I had failed. So I stayed.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Another type of family!

I have such a wonderful support system of friends and loved ones, who in the blink of an eye just step in to help me in my moments of crisis. My mother now has a 24 hour assistant to aid us with the care giving we desire for Amma. However suddenly the assistant has taken off for fifteen days without giving us substantial prior notice to accommodate this rupture of routine into our  schedules, and the agency from where we have procured her services from could only commiserate with us, but do little else! 

In an instant I was embraced with a time-tabled schedule that put together a round-the-clock supervision of Amma, organised by our friends who are our extended family; allowing me therefore to continue with the project I am currently working on frantically. Without the generosity of their spirited support, I would have had to postpone my work schedule to a later date.  I feel truly indebted to them them for their belief and love.

When the Collective Studio originated we never imagined it would take the shape and form of such precious intimacy that developed this unique platform of growing together. Though Surendran, Mithun and I gave up many areas of our personal privacy as individuals, we found that collective living holds so much more consciousness than merely being desiring the module of a traditional nuclear family structure. The rewards are these exquisite gestures of good will and the delight of the safety-net that genuine caring  provides one with.

Our meal times together are spent in chatting, discussing, and generally some masti or the other.  Today at the lunch table we had a spirited discussion about language and specific terminologies that also hold nuanced meanings. Between chewing on the sliced carrots of my raw salad and nibbling at my mince cutlet  we were fishing around our  cerebral spaces (!) to put together a feisty discourse from all the corners of the table.  Of course Begum, our cat, remains unfazed by the rumblings of such animated occurrences.

I fly off tomorrow to Mumbai and leave with a complete sense of peace knowing fully well that Amma is in safe hands. What more can love be about.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Effective change is always possible.....

I attended a lecture yesterday that positioned "Teaching art from an insiders perspective" as it's core focus. Perhaps because the speaker was faced with the task of a mixed audience, the issues that were tabulated for discussion in the paper appeared far too basic; disallowing therefore  any significant discussion to be borne from it,  that could have addressed and reflected real issues that are eroding the standard of art education throughout the country. Instead  miscellaneous wikipedia-like statistics took over the forum in the preceding discussion slot, thereby hijacking any opportunity for historisizing and contextualising the progress of art  teaching over the years;  and analysing any resulting impact of this upon contemporary Indian art, if at all, and visa versa.

The real issue that becomes the stumbling block in such instances is more to do with misconceived proprietary notions. Educational institutions must be open to critique and censure. To over protect them and condone deliberate apathy by continuously blaming bureaucratic interference for perhaps ones own lack of imaginative intervention as educators,  would be a grave folly. Love for the vocation of teaching alone is not what motivates many to become art teachers, so this virtuous charade of chest beating must stop too.  It is a rather cushy job with a substantial pay packet to boot and plenty of free time, so let's do the job boys, and quit complaining!

I have grown weary of hearing the laments of limitations that one is met with if you have any probing query regarding the Baroda fine arts faculty. I thankfully grew up in an era of teaching at the same institution thirty years ago, where the homes of my teachers extended into exciting spaces of learning too. Film screenings and informal lectures occurred that had no connection with seeking approval from any university office whatsoever! These were also "practising artists" who in those days really didn't have the infra-structure of support  of a gallery system that is thriving today. Yet the generosity of spirit of these individuals created a system of learning that didn't ever compromise itself on the laments of limitations! 

I have some good friends who teach at the faculty of fine arts in Baroda. I respect their efforts, but the"boys club" and it's stuffy shirted pomposity with the "rolling of the eyes" drama of fake frustration is all really growing rather tiresome. The hallmark of educators like Nasreen Mohammedi and K.G Subramanyan is their insistence of inclusiveness as a methodology of learning; and the potency of their legacy as teachers is established because they didn't seek to play "professorial" roles, and held a genuine desire to engage with polemic discourse. Their insightfulness  came from a lived and exemplified premise of excellence as artists, who constructed their vision of teaching from the  wisdom that came from respecting that others too hold the quality to contribute to the collective concerns of art education.  

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Don't hark up the wrong road...

I remember the pride of wearing my school uniform. Perhaps it was an off shoot of the pride with which my father wore his as an Indian air-force fighter pilot. Early in life we were taught the responsibility and the rules of conduct that govern wearing a uniform,  and also made to acknowledge the sense of belonging that it should inculcate. I remember my teachers taking time to share thoughts and ideas about conduct, responsibility and ethics which were camouflaged as anecdotes, but nonetheless left the desired imprint of teaching us values that would aid us in defining our personalities.

School children dot the roads each morning in Baroda, most of them with their well ironed uniforms and properly polished shoes;  the girls with bows and clips and ribbons and the boys with smartly cut hair...yet barring only a few, they almost always never adhere to ANY traffic rules. If they cycle it will be in rows of three and four abreast, putting their lives at risk by blocking narrow roads for other vehicles. The scooters and  motor-cycles whizz about without anyone wearing helmets, and of course cellphones are held in crazy grips by them attaching their ears to their shoulders to be able to ride and chat at the same time! And as for road dividers.....why have them. Our traffic will ply any which way is the shortest route as decided by them...willy-nilly you die in the process of such anarchy or not!

I find it perturbing to see how no rule is ever considered of relevance to maintaining law and order or basic safety within public areas of co-existence. The Indian mantra is short-cut leylo and simply enjoy yaar! Kya tension unnecessarily lene ka hai...

I was horrified when travelling only a few years ago to witness how two ladies accompanying one another  mixed up their passports amongst themselves when passing through Indian immigration on embarking on a trip abroad.  The mixed up passports were duly stamped and the scary part is that these two ladies did not even resemble each other in the slightest! Then we lament over tragic consequences that arise from lapses of security that such blatant apathy  deliver.

Why parents and educational institutions cannot take on the onus of creating a consciousness within their wards to be ethical and respect discipline, amazes me. Why is it only always about competitive success that they all harp on about with children, and the real issues of training get side lined.

Etiquette is another area we just have no clue about in most instances in India. I have some hollers as stories that leave you wondering at why at the nimble finger that normally flicks at gaming buttons on the proverbial "give me all answers' telephones cannot get some know how on the does and don't of social politeness!!!!

Anyway we shall all love to see another day....or at least hopefully, because on my morning walk it is either step into the cow patty or be hit by a broom-zoom vehicle .....take your pick.....! 


Monday, 6 August 2012

Mea Culpa!

Today is the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.....
Yesterday was friendship day!

Where does one thing begin and another end in this rather paradoxical cycle of destruction and retrieval ....

I hear people who support the Modi regime wish away the Gujarat genocide as though it is only a small blemish on an otherwise career-graph of excellence. That families from a particular community were targeted to be annihilated with the precision of deliberated strategies is of course not to be dwelt upon; and in the pro-Modi debates that  propagate him as the golden boy of Gujarat who now needs to move into the prominence of national politics,  this horrifying massacre is continually played down shamelessly.

The memorials at Hiroshima and Nagasaki have photographs that document a chilling account of vengeance and human beastliness that is terrifying to even imagine, let alone confront as a historical reality. We continue to pretend that such attacks on human rights and life are few and far between. What is frightening to realise is the human capacity to harbor the desire, and encourage the wielding of power, as tool to wreck fear and destruction  in order to get into positions of control; to terrorise.

Acid attacks, rape, bonded labour, organ thefts, land scams, fake encounters by the police, sexual harassment by politicians, indifference and apathy .....you name it, the list is endless. Controlled lawlessness that supports corrupted governance, makes the life cycle of countless citizens in different countries hold a hopelessness, because no election really brings the change that keeps at bay the viciousness of greed.

I hold my optimism close to my heart....yet.................

A girl commits suicide from the despair of harassment.
Children die from lack of medical care.
An old woman runs from pillar to post to try and access her dead husband's pension of Rs. 250/-.
A child dies from falling through a hole in a moving school bus.
A small boy suffocates to death in the bowels of the earth because an unused bore well is left open.
A care giver of the state  molests the children he has intend to protect.
A teacher makes a child lick her urine to teach her the discipline not to wet her bed.
A woman is stripped naked by the police to teach her shame.
A son abandons his widowed mother because she is a burden to his freedom and wealth.
A family burns alive their son's wife.
A woman aborts her girl child.
A whistle blower is killed for his/her honesty.
A farmer is forced into debt whilst grains lie rotting from want of conscience.

I am shamed into silence and
My optimism feels drained.
I am haunted by the photograph of a woman,  
fleeing down a road with her body burning body,
after the atom bomb exploded 67 years ago in Japan. 

Each year the cycle of violence continues.....
.....and we help perpetuate it......
all the time.....everywhere. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

The space of imagination......

For all the years I have been teaching, I am always asked why I do so, since I take no monetary remuneration for it. I don't really bother much about offering explanations too often since the question doesn't really have a single definitive answer. What has prompted this involvement is because I recognised how poorly art educational institutions function in India without exception; and barring a few stray teachers, the commitment to nurturing the individual development of students is just not happening in these colleges. 

Teaching art isn't about influencing people to reflect your ideas, nor is it about skills alone. Teaching art is really about human engagement that is anchored in honesty, and the courage to confront life unflinchingly. To create spaces of discourse that open up personal and collective histories to be re-examined in the here and the now of ones life. Those who believe that working in the isolation of their studios alone can keep an imagination fertile or alive, only fool themselves into opiated comfort zones;  merely postponing the inevitable of public interaction that defines the very nature of  disseminating art.  Art demands for a  nakedness of the mind, heart and soul; and this is pivotal to the process of both making art and delivering it to an audience, and cannot be circumvented ever. I perceive this in fact to be  the bed rock that determines a truthfulness of intention for an artist, and offers itself as a methodology to arrive at a clarity of articulation that in turn aids the formulation of  any visual language. Inter-dependecies within art are necessary and need to be explored much more.

One must hold at the very core of our art practice, the belief that the art that we produce truly can make a difference to the world we live in. For this to be a genuine belief, then it is logical to assume that art should originate  from the desire to engage with life, with out pretense or posturing.

It is perhaps a tall order.....but then that is what sets apart really meaningful art from the otherwise banal and trite efforts we see around us in abundance.  As a teacher I continue to wrestle and fight till I make my students and young artists in residence find the truth of who they are.....

.......the reward is an imagination that is alive and alert.....powerful and real....because knowing and feeling will find their exquisite compatibility to deliver un-compromised if hard won.




Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Whose heart for the Valley beats....

We went to Srinagar for a three day visit.....



Years of hearing stories about the valley from my parents who lived there in the 50s' and from one of my best friends who is Kashmiri and who is an artist too, had me holding images of this place steeped in the love of all their recounting....

But the shock of viewing a land devastated by the battles of indecision was  heart wrenching. Over two decades of strive shows itself starkly in the poverty of the people and in the lack of economic progress that is all too visible to observe. Abandoned houses bear silent witness to the flight of fear that drove people from their ancestral land over night, and  left divisive political agendas  to map new histories that do little to heal the trauma's of hatred and violence. 

The all pervading presence of the gun is everywhere......

The faces of the local population reflect a resigned spirit as flies sit everywhere, and the disrepair of neglect is palpable and horrifyingly intrusive.....

I felt oddly voyeuristic. It was as though my coming to  Kashmir as a tourist became a token gesture of involvement towards the normalcy of the state. What is eluding  Kashmir is the powers of governance that can orchestrate it's integration into the mainstream of India's economic  development. Merely riding starved horses (which I refused to do) or looking at the snow capped mountains and ignoring the  ground level reality, does not address the complex political issues that leave Kashmir in such an unresolved political  mess till today. 

You feel the time warp acutely when visiting this corner of the country. Even staying in a supposed 5 star hotel does not come up to the standards of expectation one normally has for such an experience to hold.The Grand Lalit Palace had such poor service I felt embarrassed for them! Their food was below average, the appliances they offered in the rooms were faulty; and to boot no mention of the old part of the hotel not being air conditioned appears on their official website!  So it was hot as hell with noisy fans that kept you awake all night as you tossed and turned!  As it is a heritage building, permission for air-conditioning  has to be sought for all the re-wiring. However can somebody inform them about tower air conditioners and generator systems that can support this facility?! My star rating for this hotel is only one star! Exorbitantly expensive, the hotel was no value for money, and a very tacky experience altogether. 

I came back with a Phirin  that is actually made in Ludhiana !... and a little wooden yellow-painted shikara that holds no exquisiteness of craft-personship !!








Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Magic moments are like a rabbit out of a hat!

I read two books recently, both whilst travelling to different locations. Jerry Pinto's co-authored book Leela was a simple and very well written biography that brought back the era of my parents; more vividly the lives of my mother and her elder sister. From the few encounters I have had with Mr. Pinto via hearing him on panel discussions, I would not have imagined the quiet sensitivity with which he has been a listener and chronicler of a story told without cloying sentimentality. The crispness of the language makes the book a start to finish read, that is a bit like watching the film Howard's End, of an era long gone and strangely missed by all.

There are times through the book that the name dropping is a little over powering; but forgivable considering these were the people whom she encountered. The jibe at Arundati Roy however seemed rather unworthy within a narrative that appeared to desire precisely not to become a playground of petty score settling. Was it perhaps Jerry Pinto's desire to settle scores that brought that innocuous tit-bit of the cuddly toys being more protected by Ms. Roy than human rights....? Whatever the reason it stains the quality of the story and  placed a doubt for me about the objectivity of perception both by the subject and her co-author. A great pity indeed to an otherwise delightful book.

The Pinto boy intrigues me....

I have bought EM and the big HOOM by the same author. It has a photo of the author writing in long hand with a happy grin plastered on his face. The book has a beautiful feel in ones hand: with blue edged pages and a cover illustration that is evocative, it has a rich red hard cover that gives it an old worldly elegance I love. Part of the pleasure of reading is often these strange details. The preface has already seduced my interest and so I shall take Mr. Pinto to bed with me tonight!

Something tells me I am slowly becoming a fan!!

I went to Rani Dharker's book release at Crosswords Baroda some months ago, and bought a copy of her new novel. Anurima makes for a very pleasant quick read for those who have lived in Baroda since the sixties. Almost all the characters in the narrative are very clearly recognisable. It is a clever attempt to accommodate her memories into a fictional story, but what occurs is that far too much personal descriptiveness is revealed so that the actual identities of these real people she has cast her characters from, become easily traceable to a local audience. How ethical this is becomes a subjective moral dilemma for me. Well written and otherwise tightly structured, Rani Dharker weaves the mystery within the tale and recounts the fabled legends of royal stories of stolen pearls and secret dalliances with quite a flair. The end however subscribes to the typical formula of a mills and boon romance with a tame "happily ever after" sweetness that seems misplaced. The book could have done well by leaving some things to be unstated and imagined.  But definitely worth taking as a light read on a trip.

In the pages of books that I read, I press flowers.....

Do you do that too?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Imagined and otherwise....

I chatted with two of the artists from The Collective Studio last night about memory. Our lives as artists are so conjoined to the world of recollection and wherever we are physically, we immediately create layers that  reclaim prior associations to help in extracting meanings from new experiences.

In the Netherlands I spent my time in structuring a personal project of intimacy whilst visiting museums within the normal routine of viewing them, where I began to record my image and other reflections on the glass protection of art objects and art works. These sandwiched yet flattened layers become yet another skin that holds the form of my physical presence and which will be further transposed when placed as the pictorial skin on the female figure when assimilating my new series of works.

Identity has long since evolved beyond being associated merely with  issues of ethnicity and nation/state. Personal factors of who I am  have always been pivotal in commanding the definitions of my politics. Resurrecting a broken spirit every time it maybe crushed I believe,  requires that we comprehend the value of the lessons of vulnerability and not be overcome by the fear of its consequence. There is a fine line between conviction and rigidity, and the finesse to distinguish between this comes from openness to examine without prejudice.

My friend pointed out in Amsterdam how anthropological information,  when researched by people outside of the specific political/cultural/geographic experience, perceives its understanding from stipulated availability of existing data and is a very different account than if compiled by a domicile  of that region. This account may not necessarily be incorrect  but it is formulated  without the nuanced and the intimate space of perception, making it thereby prescriptive.

How much does memory get altered by what we decide is yet another question that varies from the circumstance of a memory, and what we desire it offers us. When war and genocide stain political history then collective memory offers to retain a conscience of atonement. The alteration of such memories is improbable, yet when filtered through the expressions of creative structures like literature, music, dance, theater and art we may well find that subjective perceptions may deliver them in modified and adapted ways.

I am always curious about the secret stories that objects carry with them. Silent memories that do not tell you everything but tease you into finding out. My own home is filled with objects.....not always antiques but just  objects, some old and some new,  that come from other homes and places bringing with them a multitude of stories I make mine from my imagination.

The episodes that shape our lives leave us with memories that are markers of both time and something far greater than that....they are more importantly perhaps the imprint of who we are. The memory of my son after his birth and the image of a child of a landline accident whose truncated body was propelled by his hands as he boisterously played a football game, are memories that form a vital part of the imprint of who I am.