20 July, 2008

Yesterday, I met up with Uday.

I first met Uday four years ago at the Mahindra United World College of India at Pune, where I was representing Pakistan at the peace conference organized by Youth Initiative for Peace. We became really close friends, and I want to think that our friendship is a microcosm of the peace, friendship and love we wish to see in the entire subcontinent.
[Find more pictures from the day on Flickr.com by clicking here]

In the morning I went to visit Aastha Chauhan, an artist at the Khoj International Artists Association. This workshop focuses on alternative forms of art, such as video, photography, mixed media, etc. Aaastha, however, had endless resources and some very good advice for me. She shared with me magazines and catalogues that had listings of Delhi art galleries, pointing out some significant ones. She also gave me copies of the Khoj yearbooks, and I was most excited to read about the community-based arts initiatives that Khoj had undertaken. Aastha recommended that I limit myself to some area of focus, just like I had done in Paris (rooftops and their conversation with the sky, roman sculptures, and windows). She suggested the Metro, which is a very new phenomenon in Delhi, as a subject for study. She also suggested walking along the Yamuna River and seeing what comes off that.

Though I agreed with her on the point that my subject matter needs to be narrowed down with some restrictions, I still thought that my watercolor sketches, even of famous landmarks like the Red Fort, can help contextualize them, and shed new light on them. Further, even though these landmarks may have been documented before, I would be experiencing them as they exist in the world today. I was thinking of Van Gogh’s church at Auvers-sur-Oise – a common subject with an entirely new treatment in painting technique.

The Khoj workshop is located in Khirkee Village. It was a long journey on the auto and I took some pictures on the way. It was almost like a ride in Universal Studios, and as I sped through the city, through small rickety streets and broad boulevards, and composed frames for photos shots, I felt elated.

Uday picked me up from Khirkee village and we went for lunch at a South Indian restaurant. The food was very good (read: spicy) and at the end we were given small bowls with hot water and a slice of lemon in it, to clean our fingers. We should really introduce those in Pakistan too!

We went next to Sanskriti Museum of Everyday Art. It was a beautiful establishment located in a remote area in south Delhi. It houses exhibitions and also serves as a space to organize workshops in the arts. There was a beautiful and extensive exhibit of terracotta art from different parts of India. There was also a textile exhibit which was very fascinating. But what struck me most of all was the heavily guarded, extremely well-preserved museum of “everyday art” in India. That section was closed and they opened it especially for us when Uday went and told them I had come all the way from Karachi.

We had ten minutes and the lady was a very friendly guide. The exhibit inside those gates was one of the most exquisite I have ever seen in my life. Though photography was not allowed, I spent a few moments later just to register it so that I would never forget it. There were household items that I recognized because my great grandmother might have owned some version of them. But these were many times more detailed, well-designed, ornate, or ostentatious. The delicate wood carvings were so unimaginably beautiful that it didn’t seem like the work of humans.

Later we went for a while to Uday’s house, which is located in a grand estate (with servants, gardens, ponds, walkways, amphitheatre and all!) in a serene suburb of Delhi.

We were short of time to we went, according to plan, to a mandir (temple) he really likes. It was indeed a very spiritual experience, although here too I didn’t think I should have taken pictures. It was interesting to see ardent believers making rounds of the shrine in extreme devotion and humble submission. They were lighting lamps inside coconuts and “feeding” the god this fire. I stood there, barefoot, and the warmth of the hot stone floor was very soothing. Tomorrow evening I am going to watch a play with Uday and his friend.

Later I was on my own and I wanted to get out, so I went to check out Chandni Chowk (every time I read Chandni Chowk, I am reminded of the first part of the movie Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Ghum – never ended up watching the whole three-hour movie!): a historic Indian market with vendors and people and haggling (and lights at night). It was a good walk, and I failed to muster enough courage to walk into a shabby restaurant. I had seen that universal McDonald’s sign and it anchored me in place on that chaotic street. A stranger I was, but I recognized it and it recognized me.

On the way back to the hotel, I ended up helping locals with their Metro routes!

I will now get back to my book. Ivan Karamazov is almost certainly doomed. The prosecutor is making his closing speech. How will it all end?

1 comment:

Incredible Sculptures said...

Mr. Neeraj Gupta is well known sculpture Artist in Delhi India. His expertise includes marble sculptures and while painted wood sculptures. There is a great demand of sculptures carved by him in India and abroad for beautifying hotels, schools colleges, showrooms etc.