Art audiences in many cities in India need to wake up. The student population in fine arts colleges are all rather asleep these days and imagine that art can be created in their cocoons of isolation. This is why too often I become rather irritated when talking to art students and young artists, who express views that originate so transparently from lack of exposure and information; making them all so boring to communicate with in the end. The petty regional politics in the arts is also another cesspool that festers making simple interaction a monumental task to achieve.
Visual arts educational institutions are so closed to encouraging people to come and engage with their students. The Baroda faculty of fine arts has become a true boys club where the teaching staff carefully guard their territory and strut around in a patriarchal comfort zone that is rather amusing to observe. It was therefore so refreshing to recently meet with Meena Vari from the Shrishti design school of Bangalore, who on our very first meeting when we collided at the Delhi Art Fair, was brimming with an enthusiasm to communicate and exchange ideas. Biased as it may be, I find it is mostly professional women who carry the fire in their bellies with much more conviction than men in similar positions.
On a more humorous note, have scandalised many who sit at the table with me during a breakfast of south Indian food where my favorite combo is idlies, with coconut chutney, sausages and soft bacon with a touch of blueberry jam; all to be eaten together. Perfectly yummy and a must try for those who do not have conservative tastes in food. Ashvita Gallery spoilt us with a traditional Tamil lunch of traditional cuisine that was served on the plantain leaf. Subtle flavours and mouth watering delicacies left one seduced for life.
I also succumbed to the temptations of the weavers magic and bought eight saris from the most elegant of shops in Chennai called Sarangi. It was a zen experience packaged in south indian elegance, with the rustle of silks and the fragrance of sandalwood all mingling together to make me feel I was in wonderland. To add to this happy zone, after the opening of the exhibition was over at Ashvita gallery, the director of the gallery and his wife took me and the three attending artists of the show to the rooftop verandah restaurant of the Raintree hotel, where we had another delicious meal with the additional delight of a soft sea breeze that was an out of this world experience for those of us from dusty Baroda!
I am certainly voting Chennai as my most favourite city in India. The people of this city are so refined and friendly, and courtesy is very real in everyday life. The old architecture is still very much in evidence and what you feel is an understanding and comprehension of the traditions of a rich heritage; being preserved and valued as progress and change also occurs.
Back in Baroda the dust assaults me and the pandemonium of a ravaged city scape become my realities once again.