Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wish, I had stayed home.

Wish, I had stayed home
is title of my recent show held at Mumbai, India.
I am sharing some of the images here.
I want to thank every one who made it possible for me.

Finally, I want to quote lines from Pink Floyd

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Walk Alone! Thou walk Alone!!

While conversing with an astute art collector, he bragged, “people often ask my advise before picking any artist's work”. After a long pause I hesitatingly asked “and what do you advise?” Very proudly the collector recounted the 'symptoms' of a good artist with an air of financial consultant how to pick up a good stock. “WOW! that ****** easy” I thought to myself. How easily he charted the 'career' graph of a successful artist. Very patronizingly he advised me, “If you follow the path I told you; you will hit the jackpot one day. Trust me.”

I do trust his words. I have no doubts on his wise words careful thought over period of years of experience of seeing , reading and buying art. Few days later, I was admonished with very similar advise from an upcoming curator. You have to show your works to international curators ( like me) , forget the galleries out here in India they won't take you far. I remembered an artist's words whom I have mentioned in my earlier blogs. That was ten years ago. Those words sound prophetic today.

I just thought to myself, Why did I choose to become an artist? I could have become a lawyer as my grandfather wanted. I could have become a doctor as my mother wanted. There were many things which so many people wanted me to be, because I was good at academics. At 15 after I finished my school boards, and was asked to choose the stream that I would like to pursue my career; I just declared I will join an art school. "What an art school?"... my mother repeated my words with most shocking tone. Honestly, I was as shocked as she was as I uttered the word artist. I was as clueless as she was. At 15 you are not sure. Who you are. Or who you would be when you grow up.

Teacher, lawyer, doctor, engineer, accountant? I thought all these above professions were so safe and boring. There was no excitement . At 15 you don't want to live a routine life. Nobody knew what would be a life of an artist. All people knew of was stories of horrible lives the famous artists like Van Gogh and others who suffered while creating master pieces and died mostly as paupers. No one in my family knew how to chart a life an artist. Or at least there were no pundits like the collector who 'knew' how to spot a successful artist.

"Yes I want to be an artist" I told my mom emphatically. Looking back, being an artist for me was a rebellion. Being an artist for me was a chance to hunt for my freedom. Being an artist for me was a chance to know myself.

I fancied the uncertainty of finding a way, not knowing where I am going , what I am looking for and where I will end up with. There was so much mystery and romanticism for being an artist as against the charted career of an doctor, lawyer engineer or accountant

For me, being an artist was a journey not an profession.
Twenty years down the line, I am still on a journey. I still struggle to understand what am I doing here. Am I on right track? As Sacred , lost, confused unable to understand the surroundings around me as I started on this journey.But that's what I like the most! NOT KNOWING. Every moment is struggle , but every moment is ALIVE.

Just imagine losing all this for a predictable 'profession'. All professions have their career graphs charted. So if you are an artist or lawyer, or doctor doesn't matter.Your goals, increments, accolades, achievements... every mile stone is charted..

The collector, or the curator who recounted the “symptoms” of an successful artist is very right. They know the symptoms of success but not the process. If you choose a profession you can achieve success. But if you choose the process of an artist you will
discover life.

Sorry sir, and Thank you for the advise.
I want to walk this path alone. I want to discover this path by myself. Because I know there is no successes or failures on this path. Let me recount Rabindranath Tagore's words Ekla chalo re... walk alone...

Here is translation of the poem:

If they answer not to thy call, thou walk alone
Thou walk alone, walk alone. Thou walk alone.
If they speak not the Truth
If they all fear and turn away
O thou unfortunate, thou open up thy heart 
And speak the Truth that is there.
Thou speak alone.
If they all retreat
If they desert thou in the forest of hopelessness
O thou unfortunate, thou trample the thorns on thy path
and walk ahead on thy bloody feet.
Thou walk alone.
If there is no light
If they close their doors to thou in a stormy dark night
O thou unfortunate, thou burn thy ribs of thy chest
with the burning fire of lightning.
Thou burn alone.

Poem courtesy

Monday, October 10, 2011

Understanding Steve

Every time you drink coke, or Pepsi for that matter, do you think of the CEO of the company for giving you such a refreshing drink?

Every time you walk or jog in gym, do you think of CEO of Nike ,Reebok or Adidas for making that walk so comfortable for you?

Every time you sink your teeth in that favorite chocolate bar do you think of the CEO of the company who has made it so delicious for your taste?

Think again.
Why is that every time you hold an Apple product in your hand you think of Steve Jobs?

What makes Steve Jobs different from the rest of the CEOs?

Now that Jobs is dead; every Tom, Dick and Harry is writing an obit note, on facebook, twitter, in press, on tube, blogs name the media and every one wants to say something about Steve. Every one wants to know or thinks they know the man called Steve Jobs.

Lets find out.
Like millions, I don't know Steve Jobs. And yet I am curious to"understand' him or I think I know something about Steve.

First time we bought an IMac, I fell in love with its package. Forget the Mac that came in it. I knew how it looked , but what blew me out totally was the packaging details. I had never expected that its package would be so beautiful. Like many, I had no heart to throw away such an beautiful box so, stored it neatly on my loft. I just had to know who made it and why?
It is like when you see Taj Mahal for the first time and you have to ask who built it and why?

We bought many apple product thereafter. Every time I would tell myself, "Man! it is @#$%^& expensive I am not gonna buy this one". But every time I laid my hands on it, I was totally seduced by it.

That's what Steve did it. To every consumer of the apple product
Seduction by design( pun intended) . Nothing of Apple comes cheap. and yet no one complains after having it. Steve was no great engineer, or even an artist according John Scully who fired Steve from Apple. And yet he controlled every aspect of the product. From software programming to the last button on the packaging product came from his head. He was control freak and a ruthless task master. Without which he would not have delivered such a vision. And his vision had a simple mantra "keep it simple". Something very hard to follow. Something which he followed diligently every time he brought a new product in the market.

Steve and design were inseparable
The way he looked( he was definitely a chikna guy ), the way he dressed, the way he spoke or the way he presented his product had an element of design, exactly the way he wanted to look . This definitely added to the Apple's persona. Every time you consumed an Apple product you knew you are consuming a bit of Steve. This was his way of touching millions of people he never met but cared immensely. It is a strange magical connection. An enigma in itself.

Magic is most cliched word today. And yet it is so apt for Steve.
Today every person is trying to understand Steve Jobs. His philosophy. His Vision. His beauty. His perfection. His ruthlessness. Pages after pages are being written on him.
Man who had everything under his control knew that only death cannot be controlled. So he made truce with death, making him his adviser.

All I can understand when I try to understand Steve Jobs, his life was full of struggles.
Not an easy life at all. Not a perfect life either.
But it is man like Steve Jobs who can set standards of what a human life can be.

R.I.P Steve Jobs!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mumbai diary 4: That Boy from Udupi Hotel

Times of India carried an article "Mumbai loosing its taste for Udupi"

For those who do not know what is a Udupi hotels here is a brief introduction.
Udupi is a town in Karnataka , a state in South India. It is known for its religious center ( it is one of the places from astha matha-s or eight sacred centers of Hinduism ) and also for its cuisine. Udupi cuisine is primarily a vegetarian cuisine and quintessentially south Indian cuisine of India. Udupi hotels mushroomed in Mumbai in early sixties with influx of south Indians migrating to Mumabi for jobs. Very soon cuisine became popular among all sections of people. Today these hotels are ubiquitous landmark of Mumbai's land scape.

It will not be wrong to suggest Udupi hotels were the desi versions of fast food joints in India. in short MacDonalds of India. But comparison to MacDonald stops here. Because unlike the junk food MacDonalds serve, Udupi hotels dish out nutritious menu, with quick service and at a reasonable price. Every Mumbaiker will vouch how they have survived in Mumbai during their struggling days mainly becasue of these hotels.

A major number of Udupi hotels are in the Sion and Matunga area in Mumbai; where there is a concentration of south Indian population. One can identify a Udupi hotel by its decor, which captures the 70s era of Bombay. First thing one notices as one enters the hotel is the a huge statue of a God mostly of Krishna, freshly garlanded and placed right at the entrance of the hotel where generally hotel manager sits. Smell of fragrant essence mixed with food aroma, specially Samabar creates a peculiar south Indian temple ambiance . Hotel decor has a liberal use of white marble on the floor or as well on side walls. In India marble stone is generally used in the temples as it is considered "pure". Lighting and a false ceiling makes the space more cramped. This claustrophobic feel is further enhanced by the tightly packed rows of benches to accommodate maximum number of customers in the hotel at any given time. Every nook and corner of the tiny space of the hotel is efficiently utilized. In short Udupi restaurants created an ambiance of "food temples".

Udupi menus are vegetarian , a diet preferred by majority Indians. Breakfast menu is mostly Idli Sambar, dosa and upama, integrated with local breakfast menu's like poha and misal . A meal menu consisted of Indian bread, three vegetable mostly of south Indian flavor, ,butter milk, pickle, salad, chutney, fried papad, rice, sambar, rasam and a sweet dish mostly payasam or sheera. But if you are not interested in "thali" as they call for a meal in India other Indian cuisine mostly Punjabi cuisine such as aloo mutter, chole puri, veg kolhapuri etc. etc. are also available to meet your vegetarian taste. And then you had evening menu of Somosa, batata vada, bhel etc along with south Indian coffee.

Udupi hotels owners have perfected the art of pan Indian cuisine to generate an urban Indian taste. Mumbai's gastronomical history cannot be complete without Udupi cuisine. And every Mumbaiker will have his or her own Udupi hotel memoir to talk about.

After reading news I decided to visit My Udupi hotel which had supported me in my good and bad times. I have fond memories of this hotel as I spent many years discussing my projects , ideas and even had heated arguments over a cup of tea with my friends, and with my adviser. It is the same hotel I treated my jury after I was awarded my doctoral degree. It is the same hotel I cried with a friend when she told me she has been diagnosed with cancer. It is the same hotel I fought with my dear friend and parted ways. It is the same hotel where I patiently listened to my friend's poetry. Memories, Good . Bad . Ugly.

As I walk in today, I can see hotel is still doing brisk business. It is lunch hour and crowded with customers. The signs of degeneration is apparent. Decor has not been upgraded for last ten years, benches are cracked, wall paint has faded and cutlery looks jaded. As I look around,
I see the waiter boy and smile. He comes forward and helps me to find seat. He is the same boy whom I used to see decade ago. He must have been 18 year old that time. Today he must be 28, a married man with kids. "I am sorry you will have to share it with another customer today becasue this is busy hour", he apologizes. I just smile. "what would you like to have?" he asks with care and concern after he sees I am seated comfortably. "Idli vada with south Indian coffee" I say. He smiles with a familiar look as if he knew what I was going to order, and disappeared in the kitchen.

We know each other for last many years but neither I ,nor he knows each others name. I am a customer and he is waiter boy. He looks same , thin, tall fair and always with a smile. He has started graying a bit , but has same energy and enthusiasm of serving people. I always felt he liked his job. I always appreciated his professionalism.

But today I doubt if his smile is genuine ? Is he really happy doing what he is doing? or is it sheer job ethics which makes him smile to make his customer comfortable? Ten years he is working as a waiter boy. Taking orders, serving dishes. Smiling. Does he really like is job as I thought.

The boy appears with my order. He has brought my Idli wada dunked in sambar. Yes that's way I like it. He still remembers my taste. I feel guilty for doubting his genuineness. He makes sure he has served me well and asks if I need any extra chutney. I decline thanking him. As I pay my bill he asks "was everything ok?". "yes, yes" I say it with fake smile. I have no heart to disappoint him, but things have certianly changed. Food does not taste the same. Nor does the coffee. Even the bill does not look cheap any longer. I pay him a handsome tip. He looks little amused, but I am not.
I am not sure if I am going to step in again.
I am not sure if it is the food or memories will bring me back again.

Mumbai is certianly loosing its taste of Udupi. Is it the sign of city is changing its skin?

Image courtesy

Thursday, September 8, 2011

am i missing something today?

am i looking for something?
everything looks normal
rains, pot holed roads, bomb blasts,
crying faces, casual comments,
headline, deadlines

everything is fine..
i have logged my words for today
posted my opinion
to stay alive, to stay awake
just in case
if you decide to look for me

am i forgetting something today?

memories are getting vivid
sounds are getting cacophonic
fade in fade out
i am not sure of the date , time or day...
but i know this place
don't I?

i can feel people around
words have turned into sounds
sounds are becoming sights
sights have transformed into colours
colours are becoming smells
wounds have a strange lingering taste

don't get me wrong
this not a sad song

i feel no pain
i feel no anger
i feel no loss
i feel safe now

let me assure you again
everything is fine...
everything will be fine

only this small nagging feeling
am I missing something today?

(Image courtesy Google images/http://theviewspaper.net/bomb-blasts-hit-mehrauli-area-of-delhi/)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Shape of things NOT to come

In its recent issue, an online art magazine carried an article from The Observer stating -“how Saatchi and his YBA influenced leading Asian artists”. Article quoted three hugely successful artists from Asia, such as Takashi Murakami of Japan , Ai Wei Wei of China and Subodh Gupta from India, acknowledging influence of YBAs and Saatchi in their art practice.

History has proven that patronage is one of the important  factors in determining a trend in art history. Charles Saatchi is indeed a significant figure of contemporary art world of 90s who has been credited with changing the art trends in many ways . It would be interesting to understand Charles Saatchi the man and if he is still relevant in today's art world as in 90s in shaping the perceptions of global art scene ?

Charles Saatchi, born in 1943, is of Jewish of Iraqi origin and before he became powerful art dealer he belonged to advertising world of UK. Saatchi shot to limelight in early 90s with his exhibition of his collection of works called “Sensation-” presenting Young British Artist's (YBA)such as Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, Chapman brothers, Jenny Saville, Marq Quinn, amd many others,  whose career's were launched with this show. There is no doubt that Sensation was the game changing event in history of post war art that set new rules, new equations and new art practice.

For Saatchi, this show catapulted his position from a regular art collector/dealer to position of the “game changer”. At least that is the perception Saatchi tried to propagate which is evident from his statement “ art world is constantly speculating my next move ...” some of the artists were quick to subscribe to his perception and coveted Saatchi's 'midas' touch . If Saatchi made careers he also broke careers of the artist, by dumping their works in market. Italian artist Sandro Chia is a case in point. So did his protege, Damien Hirst and his dealer bore the brunt of Saatchi's whim when he threatened to sale him cheap . Hirst and his dealer had to buy all his works back , including the shark work which made Saatchi and Hirst famous overnight.

Methods Saatchi adopted while building his art collection was to buy a young and emerging artist's works in bulk and later sell the works at a large profit. Such methods of buying/selling in bulk is generally adopted in stock market trading and are known as as speculators a category distinct from investors. A speculator is defined as one who is 'risking investment, anticipating a major change in future price of the asset.; or “some one who makes conjecture without knowing facts”; or “one who participates in market to profit from buying and selling futures and by anticipating futures price movements”. Saatchi thus changed the game of art collection. Traditionally an art collector built a steady rapport with the artist/dealer who first tried to understand artists' ideology and then participate in his aesthetics by putting his money on his creations. This process was far long drawn as it required relationship built on trust, friendship and respect. Investment in art was not seen as out right profit making venture but rather a long term participation in cultural history, which eventually would give financial returns.

Saatchi had no patience to wait for such a long time( a decade or more) to see his investment bear fruit . So he changed the game of collecting. To be in Saatchi's collection, artists had to be 'prolific' . It is the volume of works where his profits came. It was no longer necessary (for him) to own that single masterpiece of the artist on which his reputation was built. Instead by collecting of a large number of works of a single artist he created a monopoly over his market and then sold it at profitable margins, wiping out looses even if the works were of mediocre quality. He was after brand making and not after reputation of an artist. Overnight artist became stars and Saatchi became billionaire. Thus he changed the focus of an art work from critical acclaim as a parameter of a good work to market price achieved at the auction house. Saatchi knew it was much easier to manipulate the auction results than to generate a critical opinion for a work; as he declared in disdain for critics, “ critics can be assigned to gardening or travel jobs”.

His criteria of collection influenced a new breed of artists who could produce their works in “factories” and sell them in bulk. Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Donald Judd, Rober Gober, Sol Le Witt, Tracy Emin etc , to name some of the artists; engaged in mass production of their works making art in to a “formulaic product”. Further, the argument of post modern theory  positing the idea that 'authorship of an artist is no longer relevant for a work of art object', supported Saatchi's ideology of mass production of art. Issues like artistic merit, integrity of artist, authenticity etc, were no longer relevant issues on a debate of art practice. Saatchi successfully convert art object from 'unique commodity' to any other retail commodity available for mass consumption.

Saatchi's success in art market , encouraged many speculators to enter the art market, with the lure of quick money. Speculators are like gamblers who never know when things can go right and when it would go wrong. There is nothing wrong in being a gambler or speculator. However, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that when there are more speculators than investors in market , it is bound to crash.

If Mr. Saatchi was instrumental in creating a bull market for the art world. Then probably he was also responsible for its collapse in some ways.

Charles Saatchi the man, is a mystery. He never speaks to media, nor does he attend his own openings. He is often described as reclusive, single minded,visionary decisive, bold, capricious, hot tempered , and man with short attention span. By his own confession, Charles Saatchi is an artholic. Collecting art is his passion and his business.

In a recent, ongoing show titled “ Shape of things to come: New sculpture” in his London gallery, Charles Saatchi tried to once again predict( as the title of the show suggests) the trends in sculptural practice mainly in Europe and US. Unfortunately the exhibition reflects his vision of 90s and not 2011. Most of the of the works did not attempt to break new grounds in terms of materiality , thematically and even technologically to suggests any future trend. Neither there was any element of surprise or sensational qualities of YBAs show . On the contrary most of the works are predictably boring and formulaic, with a quintessential Saatchi stamp on it. Many of Saatchi's recent exhibition on Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern art shows have received a similar criticism and response. Predictability seemed to be plaguing Mr. Saatchi's vision, and so is his credibility to speculate the things to come.

Saatchi's perception on YBAs might have been bang on the target, but is he able to read today's global cultural trends correctly? Or is it time for another 'game changer' to arrive on the global art scene?
only time will tell...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dear ManMohan...

(Image source)

Dear Man Mohan,

I was planning to call on you for a while but thought you may be busy at this moment. So shooting this note. I am sure you will find lots of time to read when ever you are through with current situation that you are in. Don't worry, as I always tell you always think like a Zen monk, when you face with a problem.

Of late I am troubled by some problems on my mind.
And I wonder, are you thinking what I am thinking ?
I think we are so alike, so our problems too may be similar

let me put it this way:

You are a citizen of India , I am also a citizen of India.

You are an honest man, I am an honest woman

I pay my taxes , you too pay your taxes.

You like economics, I too like your economics.

You are your doing your job honestly, I am also doing my job honestly.

You say I am not corrupt, I also say you are not corrupt.

You say you ignore those who are corrupt, I too do the same

You say corruption is the biggest cancer of this society, I too agree.

You say corruption has to go if India has to grow at9% GDP. I too believe that

corruptions has to go if we have to progress.

You are saying you are doing your best to bring a law to stop corruption in country ,

I too believe that a law is needed to bring corrupt to justice.

you say you are helpless at the moment becasue your cabinet does not agree with you.

I too beleive you are helpless becasue the party and cabinet is not with you on this matter.

You say Anna has made your life miserable. I do agree with you.

I say I Don't understand Anna, you too say do not understand him

I came to know about Anna only a year back. You too say you heard of him just a year


I say Anna must be an honest man fighting an honest cause, you agree.

I say Anna has mass power behind him, You agree.

I say Anna says he wants to wipe out corruption and your government is corrupt, you You agree, only second part.

You say corruption can not be wiped out, I agree.

But you say Anna has made your life hell. I say I agree.

I say if I want corruption to end, you want corruption to end and Anna wants

corruption to end, so we all agree. You say yes.

See! we agree on most of the issues.

So what is the problem Man Mohan? we are so alike

Let me put a simple equation equation.

I am(like) Anna.
You are(like) Anna
so we are all Anna-s.



Let us not a make mistake here.

I am not Anna.
And so you are not.
We are not Annas
Anna is not Gandhi
Anna is not even India

in fact

Like British made Gandhi. Isn't your government and people like me created Anna?
Just imagine, if British had not exploited this country for centuries, Gandhi would not have thought of freedom movement. He would have happily practiced law. And if your government had not been so corrupt and people like me had not paid the bribes to your government, Anna would have lived happily in his one room in the temple in his village Ralegaon Siddhi.

Dear Manmohan are you thinking, what I am thinking?
Dear Manmohan,are you seeing, what I am seeing ?
Dear Manmohan are you fearing , what I fear ?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My mother's lesbian friend!

Last few days city of New York is celebrating the law passed by the NYC Governor to legalize gay and lesbian relationships. This piece of news has generated lot of debate in India. Should Mumbai or Delhi follow New York city in legalizing gay marriage? Most of the times such debates are so disappointing, since in India any talk on sexuality is so regressive and illogical proposition. So I am not going to concern myself what the Indian people think about this issue.

Personally I am happy what NYC has done and hope more cities would follow soon. I never could understand why all this brouhaha about being a gay or lesbians and same sex marriage? Gays and Lesbians have existed here much before there has been any debate in India. There are many records in ancient texts, which give you ample examples of gay and lesbian existence in Indian social life. In fact they are some rites which sanction marriage' among for gays and lesbian relations. In Tamil Nadu, Hizra ( kind of gay and lesbian community in India) marry lord Krishna to be his bride. So why are we making such a deal of gay and lesbian marriage in India?

Well, I knew of a lesbian couple even before I heard or comprehended the word gay or lesbian in its true sense. This blog is for her memory.

Let me introduce to my mom's friend. My mom had a lesbian friend. Of course I never knew she was lesbian for a long time. It was only when I had got to understand the term gay and lesbian and on a whim I had asked my mother "was Jeevan lesbian Amma?" My mom who was ailing of cancer then, had smiled weakly without saying anything.

Jeevan - means life. I have to use past tense becasue she died many many years ago, much before my mom passed away. She was tall may be 5 feet 6 inches, broad and hefty and rugged like a man. But that could be just my childish perception to associate feminine as dainty and delicate and masculine as rough and rugged. Or was this perception enhanced by the nick name my mom had given to her. She used to lovingly call her "Jeevan the Bheem"?

Jeevan would come visiting us quiet often. she was more like a family than a friend and often had access to every part of the house. I remember she would walk in and walk out of the house any odd time of the day and mostly she would come calling on my mom and they would sit in a room and talk hours together. As a kid I never understood what they were talking about. But their expressions would be very serious and often I used to hear my mom consoling her.

Nevertheless whenever she would come over, we children would have great time. She was not only funny; her exaggerated mannerisms added to her character. But all said and done she was a normal human being, treated like any other guests in the house. And as far as I remember she was never discriminated for her sexual orientation. Hence I never got to know she was a lesbian till I started reading about it in books magazines and news paper as a category of people other than heterosexuals.

Jeevan openly lived with her female partner. She had a permanent job at a local girl's convent school where she taught at secondary school level. I don't know how good her social life was becasue I was too young to understand the complexity of it. But I do not rememebr any one discriminating her for her sexual orientation. Elders generally remained hushed but never harassed her or socially castigated her or her partner in any obvious manner. Probably Jeevan had her own tales to tell which I could not have known as a child. But I guess she had accepted that any person who dares the social codes has to accept some form of scoff from society. It is price that you pay for being different and is applied to heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

I could never understand the bonding between Jeevan and my mom. But they were very close friends. My mom never discussed anything about Jeevan or her life with us but I knew she had great sympathies for her and that made Jeevan all the more special for us.
When I asked my mom why you never told us that Jeevan was a lesbian? were you trying to hide her sexual orientation from us? She had a straight forward reply, " I knew someday you would discover about Jeevan's lesbian nature. But had I made you aware her lesbianism, you would always viewed her first as a lesbian than as a person. Gays and lesbians are people like me and you. There is nothing different to talk about".

I am not sure if her explanation was kind of covert defense for not discussing other sexual orientations or a brilliant strategy to respect gays and lesbians as human beings. For my child mind, message was delivered in a simple statement. Any kind of "other-ness" should never precede the person who or she is. It is the person and the human who comes first.

As I watch gays regaling in New York, my thoughts go out on Jeevan. How would she have reacted to such a news ?. Would legalization of relationship would have made any difference to her life? She did not hide her relationship but she never had a social sanction too.

Jeevan was the first lesbian I met in my life. I thank my mother, because she was Jeevan first, lesbian later! But more than that she was a dear friend of my mother!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

M.F. Husain and Fame Monster

"M.F. Husain dies at 95"- declares one of the news channels announcing the death of India's premier contemporary artist. Ticker line below the live news feed, shows, quotes from various significant personalities reacting to this news. "Great loss to the Indian art". says Prime minister of India. "There can be no more Husain again, he is only one of his kind". says yet another celebrity artist.

As the news of Husain's death spreads, various voices of condolences pour in. Memories are recounted. And eulogies are being written. Very soon there would be official ceremonies where people from art world would recount how they remembered him. How important an artist he was to India and the world.

Obviously, I never knew him as a person. So I have no memories to recount here to suggest , how sad or shocked I am by the death of M F Husain. There is no doubt Hussein was the most famous contemporary artist of India, after Raja Ravi Verma, whom common man of India identify with the visual art of India.

I often wonder what Husain meant to me as an artist? and was he really the greatest artists of India? To briefly recount, Husain's trajectory as an artist: Maqbool Fida Husain was born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra India in 1915. He was one of the founder members of Progressive Artists Group(PAG) along with F. N. Souza who defined the story of contemporary Indian art and its direction. Husain was one of the few artists of India who held his exhibitions abroad and was invited in various international art events as celebrated artist of India much before Indian contemporary art became noticeable on the world art map. He shared dais with renowned artists like Pablo Picasso and virtually exhibited in every respectable museum all over the world. He was also an experimental film maker, and explored other medias besides painting which was his primary media of expression.

Husain was not only prolific painter but also one of those few artist who knew the business of art. He was a great friend of Nehru and later with Indira Gandhi , both former Prime Ministers of India. He was thus awarded a membership at the Parliament as a Rajya Sabha member during congress rule. besides being conferred with Padma Shri ,Padma Bhusan and Padma Vibhushan awards from Government of India, Husain has many many national as well as International awards under his bag. In short Husain as an artist was far ahead of his peers from his field, and had literately achieved every possible milestone of artistic achievement that any artists strives and dreams to achieve. There was no doubt the greatness of Hussein was all written in his achievements he conquered in his journey as an artist.

But was He the greatest artist? That can be another academic debate.
For me,the intrigue or mystic of Husain was not in his art but the life he lived, which can be summed in three aspects to his life.1. His larger than life image of an artist he created over the period of time.2. The controversies he lived through his life .3. loneliness of exile and eventual death in exile, marks a typical canvas of 'hero'.

Husain was unlike other artists. He was neither introvert and shy like Gaitonde, or Tyeb. Arrogant and abusive like Souza or polite and glib like Raza. Husain was extrovert. Smart. Intelligent and unabashedly focused on being famous. He was a showman first, Painter second. It was evident that what ever he did he did it with an air of showmanship. As artist Akbar Padamasee recounts " Hussein loved to be in news. Hussein was The news".

Indeed everything Husain did was the news. Husain hobnobbed with rich and powerful, beautiful and glamorous people. He rarely moved with fellow artists. Or he even discussed his art with his peers. Whenever he talked about his art, he directly spoke to the people of India, through media. Art Critics, art historians, gallerirst hardly mattered to him as far as his art was concerned. He painted for the rich and famous, powerful and glamorous people.

He was addicted to fame. Fame was his magnet.
All his activities revolved around that magical four letter word.

In 60s and 70s when art scene in India was as good as non existent, Husain was exhibiting his works in Museums abroad. When artists struggled to show and sell their works for few hundreds of rupees , Husain begged commissions for murals in all important institutions for several thousands of rupees , when artists were jailed during emergency by then prime minister of India, Husain praised and painted slogans saying India is Indira and Indira is Mother India.

Husain was unlike any artist. He never fitted in any mold of an artist. Nothing he did seemed right for an artist. He never lived by any rule. He never belonged to any world. Including the art world that he formulated. The only common thing Husain shared with his fellow artist is his love for painting. Husain loved painting. And he painted everything, from canvas to paper, to walls to cars to horses to naked bodies. Husain painted till his last breath.

No one had an inkling that he would die so sudden. He was ailing last few years but that never stopped him from painting and conceiving grand projects. He painted like a child talking about it, dreaming about it.It is this passion for his art that sets him apart from rest of the flock.

But what killed Husain? Shoba De in her interview recounted, that when she had gone to meet Husain in the hospital two days before his death, Husain had wished to be in India. He missed Mumbai where he roamed freely. When he drank famous Badasha's Falooda. Where he watched the setting sun at Haji Ali and rain at Marine drive.
In short Husain longed to be back in his home land. The homeland that had exiled him and the same homeland that he had renounced.

Technically, Husain died of congestion in chest and heart failure as channels announce.
But in reality he was killed by the Fame Monster.
It is shame and pity that fame he sought to become famous turned into a huge a monster- A Fame Monster which finally killed him as a lonely sad, old man longing for his home and people, the sights and sounds, the smells and tastes of his homeland that he yearned for. He just paid the price of being famous.

Controversies and debates will prevail around Husain even after his death.
Where Husain was great artist or not, only time will tell.
But he certianly was an artist that lived and died for India and therefore I salute him for his spirit for his mystery that he was.

So long Mr. Husain... R.I.P

Monday, March 21, 2011

Photo essay

These are few images from my first attempt at creating photo essay on manual mode.
Needless to say my teacher just rejected them:)
hopefully better luck next time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Between Life and death: Aruna, Nidhi and a Tsunami

When world plunges in a tragedy like recent tsunami in Japan; where millions of people just vanished from the face of earth, one often falls in a numb silence wondering how to cope with such a tragedy. Indeed, you have never met those people but still the graphic images of death and devastation leaves one with a strange vacuum to deal with your own life.

Every day one stumbles upon tales of life and death. I find story of Aruna and Nidhi and the recent Japanese tsunami in particularly interlinked in a strange quirky way. Because all three stories deal with life and death own their own terms.

I choose to recount two woman's stories becasue their stories speak about the millions of women in India who struggle between life and death. Ironically, both the stories appeared on the 8th of March, a day when world celebrates it as woman's day.

Lets begin with Aruna. Aruna Shanbag is 67 years old woman currently lying in a government hospital bed in a vegetative state for past 37 years. Today she is deaf, dumb, blind and brain dead. She needs to be fed and tended to keep her alive. But this is not the way Aruna was born. 37 years back, Aruna was a lovely vivacious beautiful young nurse of the same hospital. She was was pretty and in love with a doctor whom she was to marry soon. Until a ward boy gagged her with a chain and raped her. Being gagged by a metal chain left her brain dead. She has not spoken a word, moved an inch, seen a sight or been able to hear any sound since then. She is lying in hospital bed in the same vegetative state for past 37 years.

Recently her friend and a well wisher, filed a petition for mercy killing in Supreme Court of India pleading that Aruna should be allowed to die with dignity. On the eve of 7th March Court gave the verdict. Aruna has to live. No matter what she goes through in her life, she cannot be killed.

So Aruna continuous to live. No one knows if she really wants to live or die. Hospital staff who has been tending her for past 37 years say that every moment for Aruna is a struggle. Struggle between life and death. But she has chosen to live. If she wanted to die she would have given up on life long back. It is only her 'will' to live keeps her going, even in this vegetative state.

Lets turn to Nidhi's story. Nidhi Gupta became the front page story on woman's' day becasue she committed suicide on 8th of march. Which also happened to be her 10th wedding anniversary. Nidhi killed herself by jumping from high rise building. But before she jumped to death she also flung her 6 year old son and 3 year old daughter to death.

Nidhi was only 32 years old and qualified chartered accountant working as a guest lecturer in the city college. A modern educated woman qualified to deal with modern life. And yet she chose to end her and her children without putting up a fight to live.

I am not in position to judge either Aruna's choice (?) to life or Nidhi's decision to embrace death. I cannot say if the supreme court has done the right thing by keeping Aruna in a vegetative state till her death was a correct decision or Nidhi who could have walked out on her husband and chosen to defend her own life instead of committing suicide was wrong decision. Life and death are only to positions.

When you ponder upon these two tales one just wonders,why one chose to live and why other preferred to die. What does life and death mean to these two women? Somewhere between these two tales lies the horrific tale of millions of people in Japan who had no choice between death and life. No body asked them if they want to live or die.Some perished, some survived, without their wish.

You again ponder, how will they cope with this? will they choose to kill themselves? or continue to live. You look for answers and seek solace in wise words of Don Juan ..." Life is an endless challenge and challenges possibly cannot be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges".

And I hope those Japanese who have survived the quake and a tsunami and now a nuclear threat, this is going to be a huge challenge! I wish they will have the strength and courage to deal with this calamity one more time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

That strange feeling

you know it when it is coming
that strange feeling

in the throat
in the back
in the heart
in the stomach
in the womb

covering every inch
of my clarity
sobriety and

every tissue and every molecule
spreading like a virus
dripping like blood
rising like sun

slowly but steadily
it is coming
that strange feeling

you know it darling,
it is the same feeling
taking your mind
taking your heart
taking your reason
taking your emotions

you wait
to breath
in and out
breath in and out
one last time

droplets of sweat
trickle on the spine
and the flooding of lights
blind you for a while
one moment
you begin to see in the pitch dark

it is the same strange feeling