Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Friday, December 23, 2011

season's greetings

Neighbourhood kids of different faiths sang carols at our doorstep celebrating Christmas and welcoming 2012 with the Spirit of unity. Here are the cuties dressed as angels, magi and all. Taking a cue from them to wish all friends a wonderful Christmas and a fabulous 2012

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reaching out beyond the void

The Empty Space
Title: The Empty Space
Author: Geetanjali Shree
Translator: Nivedita Menon
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Pages: 260
I recently had the pleasure of reading The Empty Space, a powerful novel about death, life, and the empty spaces in-between.
This stunning novel is far from a simple story which ''reveals itself on its own, predictably.'' The author deftly draws us into exploring the momentous empty spaces between life and death, between overwhelming tragedy and regeneration in these times of insurgency, senseless violence and killings.

A bomb explodes in a university café, blasting to smithereens 19 young lives, the promise they held, and the dreams of the loved ones who survived their deaths. The last mother to enter the café and identify her dead son takes home his remains packed in a box. She also returns with a three-year-old boy, who was found in a small empty space amidst the carnage, miraculously alive and breathing.

As the little survivor grows up and tells his story, the past “barges into the present and shifts life from its centre.” The parents of the dead boy are powerless to prevent the grey pall of their loss from withering “all the dreams and seeds and fruits and flowers and bees” of the present in one sweeping stroke. The parents and society refuse to see the
surviving child as an individual in his own right. Made to take over where the dead son left off, the traumatised child refuses to speak or eat. It is as though the dead boy and he are all mixed up.

“The new one just lies in his empty space, just lies there, who notices? It’s the old one who is buried again and again and then resurrected each time.” Entangled in memories of someone else, the parents may tend to his physical needs, but emotionally they are not with him. The dead son’s presence continues to control the family’s lives.

The characters are powerfully portrayed. Their emotions, their motivation, strike us like that bomb blast, forcing us to rethink the enigma of the human condition. The surviving boy’s character shines through the bleak landscape of the book. He refuses to be negated by that one incident that becomes the driver and the keeper of the rest of his life, to languish as the ghost of someone else.
What I liked best about this novel was the positive strength of the surviving child. Also, the translation is beautifully done. My detailed review is publsihed in:Sunday Herald

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

exquisite miniatures by Nainsukh

Expressive: Nainsukh was known for his ethereal style of painting.  Indian minature paintings fascinated me from the first time I set eyes on them as a child in a lovely book in Lady Irwin School library. In later years, my little son and I would spend many holidays exploring Mumbai's Prince of Wales Museum. Their fabulous collection of Indian miniature paintings was among our favourite haunts. These intricately painted gems were marvellous down to the minutest detail. So many schools, each with their distinctive styles; so many wonders packed into tiny spaces. Who created them? What inspired them? What were their lives and times like?

Many of our artists of yore are nameless and faceless. While some of their beautiful creations have survived the ravages of time, little is known about these individual artists. I recently attended the inaugural lecture for Tasveer Foundation’s lecture series by eminent art historian Prof B N Goswamy, who threw fresh light on this beautiful art form.

From the 17th to mid-19th centuries, artists of the Himalayan foothills or pahari region produced exquisite miniature paintings, which are a vital part of India’s artistic heritage. Foremost among them was Nainsukh, whom Prof B N Goswamy ranks among India’s finest miniature painters. Working in the 18th century, Nainsukh left behind a treasure trove of portraits, court scenes, hunting scenes and glimpses of daily life. In the 100-odd surviving paintings and sketches attributed to him, we see a deceptively simple world rife with complex subtleties. With an incredibly light yet masterly touch, Nainsukh’s paintings breathe life into magical and intensely human moments from times long gone.

Nainsukh was born in Guler, a tranquil place in the hills, and created many of his paintings there as well as in Jasrota. He painted in a fresh, realistic and ethereal style, marking a change from the earlier heritage of rich, bold colours, robust human figures and breath-taking stylised language of art. Nainsukh’s work is marked not by emphatic accents, but by soft, delicate tones.
They appear simple at first glance, but a closer look reveals subtle nuances brought out through skillfully executed precise lines. Nainsukh captured the beauty of the people and their emotions, and the verdant hills where they lived.

My detailed essay on Nainsukh can be read in Sunday Herald