Monday, October 29, 2012

Hundred Sounds That Would Inspire An Artist

I was at the park. Fifteen rounds in twenty minutes. Ten minutes of breathing exercise. While focusing on breathing, I heard the pebbles being crushed under the jogging shoes of other people who had just come inside the park. I heard various sounds of nature. Then I thought of hundred different morning sounds that might inspire an artist/writer to begin a work:

1.       The murmur that rises from the breathing of your kids or partner. Don’t call it snoring.
2.       An impatient flutter of a dove’s wing that wakes up before the usual time.
3.       The weary whistling of a night watchman who has just woken up from an ugly dream.
4.       Rustle of wings of those ghosts going back to their nether abodes.
5.       Long mooing of a buffalo from a distant stable.
6.       A train rushing against time along the rails made out of the parallel egos of people that never meet.
7.       The gurgling sound of the neighbour’s flush who has just forced his bowels empty along with the nightmares.
8.       A long piercing sound of water cutting water as your urine falls into the pot.
9.       A young boy practicing film songs with so much sincerity.
10.   The twinkling of an anklet worn by that girl who refuses to move out of your eyelashes even after your dreams have ended.
11.   The hissing sound of the refrigerator, as you open it to see the stock, with a yawn.
12.   Moaning of a ceiling fan that has seen the violence of familiar interiors.
13.   Chirping of birds.
14.   A long belching of an old man who has just woken up, accompanied by an uncontrollable fart.
15.   Sizzling of steel as a cup of water boils in it and receives a spoonful of tea powder.
16.   Whispering of two lizards involved in a kitchen conspiracy.
17.   A creeping sound of a cockroach that goes back into the dark secrets of a drain.
18.   The swan song of a moth.
19.   A dragon fly’s grizzly wings fighting against the smooth whiteness of a tube light.
20.   A group of devotees hailing their gods in aggressive mantras.
21.   Sound of a falling leaf.
22.   The sudden shiver of the tree.
23.   Bells of a neighbour’s devotion who had farted a few minutes back.
24.   A muezzin’s call for prayer from a distant mosque hiding from public view.
25.   A die hard jogger’s heaving foot falls.
26.   An old couple wobbling along the grey street.
27.   Ram naam saty hai, a procession leading to the cemetery.
28.   A dead man’s desires walking along with the pall bearers.
29.   A shy sob from a veiled woman.
30.   The thud of a chilli fallen from the beak of a parrot.
31.   Anxious and asthmatic sounds of water pumps vying with each other to suck the last drop of water from the main waterline.
32.   Desire of a young kid to grow at a bus stop.
33.   Fluttering of the eye lashes of a young school teacher.
34.   Zipping sound of a guy who has just urinated at the wayside.
35.   Revving of an engine of an old car that refuses to start on a cold day.
36.   Screaming of a mother at her children.
37.   Hush hush English of young mothers to their young children ready for school.
38.   One last kiss of a young husband on the lips of betrayal before he leaves for the job.
39.   One forced embracing of a wife who knows her husband cheats on her.
40.   A bike that brings milk.
41.   The sound of an aeroplane looking for a space to land.
42.   Blooming of a flower.
43.   Shy scalding of a layer from a sanitary napkin by a young girl who has reached puberty recently.
44.   Desire of girl’s reflection on the mirror.
45.   A cat’s laughter.
46.   A dog’s philosophising.
47.   Love making of pigeons.
48.   Silhouetted sound of a pair of monkeys making love against the rising sun.
49.   A muffled scream of a middle aged woman who has made love with her husband after a long time.
50.   Rhythmic movement of a cot from a neighbour’s house.
51.   Thud of a paper bundle thrown by the paper boy.
52.   Falling sound of a minister.
53.   Breaking sound of a party.
54.   Clashes on the streets.
55.   Shootouts.
56.   Raping of women.
57.   Bomb explosions.
58.   Hacking of limbs.
59.   Rumblings from the stomachs of starved farmers.
60.   Silky sounds of long legged girls walking on runways.
61.   Arrogance of a film star.
62.   A favourite newscaster’s voice.
63.   Kishore Kumar.
64.   Kumar Sanu.
65.   Sonu Nigam.
66.   Shreya Ghoshal.
67.   Mika
68.   Innumerable Punjabi Mundas singing same songs in same tunes.
69.   Two eggs breaking their heads on a hot plate.
70.   A pressure cooker imitating married couples.
71.   Footsteps of a woman keeping pace with her brisk walking husband.
72.   School buses.
73.   School vans filled with dreams, desires and anxiety of growing.
74.   Cycles with ancient memories.
75.   Laughter of a group of old people trying to gain health through grinning.
76.   Two crickets laughing at the boys who play cricket with rubber balls and plastic bat.
77.   Pranayama of people turning violent under a tele guru.
78.   Flapping of flab.
79.   A dog’s breathing nearby.
80.   A bug telling stories to a dew, which is about to fall.
81.   A group of ants marching towards a handful of rice and sugar thrown by a nature lover.
82.   A wind brings the freshness of a young girl’s humming.
83.   A sweeper’s anger turning into clean strokes.
84.   Heaving of the road.
85.   The tickling of a tree trunk by a cow’s neck.
86.   The falling of water drops on the silk blouse of a girl who has washed her hairs a few minutes before.
87.   An evil eye who has just voiced its anger at the girl’s beauty.
88.   Burning of chilli in gas burner by a mother who just realized the presence of the evil eye on her daughter.
89.   Whistling of a young boy.
90.   The dart of a young girl’s long eyes.
91.   Flutter of butterfly wings.
92.   The fast beating of a boy’s heart.
93.   Quivering of wet lips.
94.   The panting of a dream frantically searching for a beautiful sleep.
95.   Opening of Microsoft window.
96.   Various ringtones of mobiles.
97.   Wailing of a group of people on the death of an invisible ideal.
98.   Turning of imaginary wheels.
99.   Admonitions of an old man.
100.                        Sound of an ambulance, police van and a fire engine.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Some Kitchen Thoughts for Sunday

There are two types of kitchens mainly- family kitchens and bachelors kitchens. Most of the middle class family kitchens are well arranged like a properly run private museum. Bachelors’ kitchens look like government run museums, terribly misplaced in their positions. I am not talking about exceptions but norms. Exceptions, whether they are bachelors or married, are cleanliness-maniacs and control freaks. They don’t want anyone else to touch their kitchen wares. Often you feel that it is better that they remain bachelors. They remain bachelors because they don’t want their orderliness to be shattered by another person. They are like strict curators in a museum never visited by anyone other than the officials. Protocol is what matters to them. There are many different types of kitchens than the above mentioned two; there are sad kitchens, happy kitchens, bruised kitchens, screaming ones, yelling ones and kitchens where tears boil in a pot along with the reflection of a waning moon.

At a married friend’s family kitchen where his wife cooks so many times a day for his never ending stream of visitors, I sit asking him whether I need to help them in doing something as they are cooking for me and my family visiting them. We sip from the half filled glasses of deliberate oblivion. The last piece of ice cube from the crammed freezer of the refrigerator floats like a thin slice of polar memory in my friend’s glass, which he pushes with the tip of his tongue for testing its patience to stay for the next round of filling.

I insist on doing something for him. He gives me seven big onions and asks me to cut them into very thin slices so that he can fry them for lacing the Biriyani which is already in the cooking pot and is on its way to the gas stove. Like many in this world, who have hated cooking or being kitchen helps, I too like cutting vegetables and onions for it saves you from many other kitchen related works like washing the meat, rice, preparing the dough and so on. Cutting vegetables need minimum skills provided if you have a good cutting board and a sharp knife. There are also you find some problem only if your host is two particular about the sizes of the pieces that you cut out of a potato besides being strict on the shape of it. There are some friends who would show off their recent purchase from a mega mart- a machine that could cut anything into size, except your ego. It has several blades in different shapes. And it is too handy to be used till it finds its permanent place in the cupboard as a museum piece for the coming generations to gaze and wonder upon.

He gives me a cutting board and a sharp knife, and throws a couple of instructions. Then suddenly the kitchen is abuzz with the discussion on why and how everyone else in there hates cutting onions. Onion makes most of the people cry. It is one vegetable that takes revenge straight on people the moment violence is inflicted on them. The other vegetables do it slowly once they are ingested and digested. Salad seekers are revenged by bad taste in the name of sophistication. Anyway, the discussion keeps moving around onion and I set out on my own track of thinking on path flanked by trees that have sleeping eyes for leaves, melting watches for flowers and alphabets for branches and an abstract defiance for the main trunk. I walk along the shadow-less path along the tree and wonder why there are no shadows of the trees all along. From nowhere I listen my photographer friend’s voice, who has been struggling with his drinks, phone calls, cooking efforts, children’s screaming and a lot of unnamed ghosts in his head for quite some time, and it says, ‘where the light falls parallel and almost close to earth how there could be shadows? It gives only a hue of light that fills in the places like a film set, like a dream.’

(Potato Eaters by Vincent Vangogh)

The smell of onion comes along with me in my journey. Cutting onion is different from peeling onion. Peeling onion is a journey to nothingness. It is like knowing the essence of Hinduism in the right sense. Each layer tells you ‘neti neti’ (na iti- not this). And you keep peeling until you reach nothing else to peel than your own fingers approaching each other like two swans in the pool of time trying to grace each other with their beaks. In kitchen you get philosophical and you feel like leaving everything and going into nothingness. But like the true Hindu philosophy, the tear jerking element of it holds you back to the earth, to the stool on which you are sitting and cutting the onion, into your own world of woes. I ask, what is the greatest solace of someone who holds a onion at one hand, a sharp knife on the other and his or her nose running? The outside of right palm, the right shoulder. Someone cutting onion alone in a kitchen and immersed in a chemical driven crying that turns into the memory of something really poignant and capable enough to force real tears is the most touching scene, a blend of comedy and tragedy, that one could imagine. You should see it in a more Guru Dutt-esque light.

Bachelors cut onion and vegetables well. Living in semi-penury also makes people cut vegetables well. That’s why people during their college days, when they stay in hostels or in rented accommodations cut vegetables very well. There could be many reasons; shortage of resources is one reason while occupation of meaning is another. In hostel days, apart from the dreaming of love making or being in love, what one does fruitfully is cutting vegetables and cooking frugal meals and sharing them with friends. Studying is an excuse for crossing the turbulent river called youth. Hostel rooms and rented apartments are pools of fire where bodies and souls of young people get baked for future life.

(Frugal Meal by Picasso)

However rich you have become in your later life, however expensive your life has become, do you think that you have ever tasted something like a dal-chawal that your friend had served before you when you came out of a long slumber induced by drugs and cheap liquor. Has the chicken ever tasted so well, many times better than the star dishes served in silver plates by turbaned butlers with a hopeless band singing sad songs for happy hours as an acoustic backdrop, than the one curry that all of you made together after pooling in money from for almost a week’s parsimonious living? Have you ever eaten an omelette as tasty as the one that your friend made one evening when hope was setting along with the sun in the western ghats and the stars of your madness were trying to peep through the sky above the neem tree?

Kitchens are places where philosophy originates and finds its flights of fancy. Life is like a wash basin filled with the dirty plates of previous night’s dinner. You need to clean it up. Wash all complaints aside, pack them well into black polythene bags and keep outside the door. Time is the closest stream of river Ganges. Immerse till you choke, rise, pick up an onion and start cutting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gandhiji and Me- Once Again at Sabarmati Ashram

(Gandhiji- the Superstar)

Once again I am here at Sabarmati Ashram; the abode that Gandhiji had left on 12th March 1930, for symbolically raising the conscience of a nation crushed under the yoke of the British rule by making the most elaborate performative act of the last century, the Dandi March. I have been here several times for professional and personal reasons. In fact I have travelled all along the same route that Gandhiji had taken for the Dandi March. What a symbolical and sacrificial act for Gandhiji was extremely a professional one for me. I, along with a curator friend of mine, Anubhav Nath was trying to translate Gandhiji’s ideology into the language of art market. However, the moment I came here something had struck me and till date I am under its influence.

(Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad, Gujarat)

Sabarmati Ashram is a haunted place. Haunted, a word when used in the context of horror, is all about dead souls hovering around a house where a drunken husband sits all day staring at a vacant television screen and a black and white wife coughs her sorrows into the shadowed corridors lined by pale walls with cobwebbed ancestors breathing out of ancient canvases. But when used in the context of love and affection, it is a looming presence, like the character Rima in W.H.Hudson’s Green Mansions. Gandhiji is a loveable spirit at Sabarmati Ashram that spends all its time in sparkling the edges of each object, even the sand particles and making the place an abode of ethereal peace. At times Gandhiji must be thinking about the futility of his acts when he stands at the concrete walls raised along the river front of Sabarmati, and throws the little pebbles of memories of Mira Ben at the river.

 (JML at Sabarmati)

Have you tried to hop pebbles along the surface of water? Generally people sitting at the river fronts throw stones and pebbles at water. When you are sad you throw them with some kind of frustrated force and see the pebble cutting into the water like a dart of disparage that you have received from your beloved. The pebble sinks in force sans noise and the ripples spread like the shock waves of your despair. For a moment you realize that you are not different from the river. When you are gay in the Wordsworthian sense, you try to flip and hop the stones along the water. You arch your body slightly backwards, like an Artemis or a Poseidon you extend your left hand as if you were in a game, you bend your right hand at the elbow and fling the stone in a perfect horizontal line and it hops as if it were a deer chased by a tiger cub. And look at the lines that it creates; it looks exactly like the trajectory of an arrow represented by a physicist. Sorrow creates ripples and joy, the path of a shooting star. Gandhiji creates ripples for himself.


I understand his sadness. I sit with him on a circular cement platform made around an ancient tree laden with yellowing memories for leaves, which now has broken marble pieces around it for support and beauty. We both look at the small hut which has two doors; one leads to where Vinoba Bhave had stayed and the other leads to Mira Ben’s room. I could hear Kasturba Gandhi calling out Gandhiji, like any other wife would call out to her husband. Her voice has complaints in it. She sounds like any other wife who thinks that her husband does nothing but wasting time in social service. Gandhiji does not respond to her shouting. I look at him. He mutters something under his lips. I know that it is in Gujarati. Kasturba Gandhi comes out of the Ashram’s kitchen. She pushes her hands into her midriff and glares at Gandhiji. I avert my eyes into my autobiography.

(Mira Ben's Hut seen from the main ashram)

Each time calamities strike people like me walk back to Sabarmati. We walk like a films division documentary played in reverse; awkward movements that push time backward and making smiling men to gloom, rejoicing women to silent bruises, curious children to utter loneliness, departing volunteers into their entreating brides. One good thing about playing documentaries backward is that there you see the enhanced dignity of freedom fighters on their faces and bodies before the cruel arms of the powerful strike iron and stick on to them, you see the lips locked in pure love before they are paled, dried and distorted by death, you see brave mothers sending their brave daughters to warfronts of marriage before they come back permanently scarred or burnt. I walk back to Sabarmati to the moments of my dignity.

(Two eagles)

Gandhiji has always been a source of energy to me. Sitting with him at Sabarmati Ashram re-invigorates my sagging soul and gives me the wings of an eagle and the colour of a parrot. I soar up there in the sky like a green eagle. Another eagle joins me in my lonely pursuit to creativity and freedom. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Apna Ghar- A Brand New Show at Vadehra- I Recommend

(from Nishitha Jain's Laxmi and Me)

Sharp 6.00 pm I walk into Vadehra Gallery, D-53, Defence Colony, New Delhi, where ‘Apna Ghar’ (Our Home), a group show of four young artists namely Vicky Roy, Chandan Gomes, Samudra Kajal Saikia and Nishitha Jain is about to start. Rubbing shoulders with the imaginary glitterati of the cultural world of Delhi are the boys from Salam Balak Trust, an organization that runs shelter homes for the run-away kids; the social marginality of the obscure world of Delhi. A few of have cameras in their hands and are happy to click away the images of the people like me who share the liminal space in the cultural world of the city with them. A few enthusiastically identify themselves in the images exhibited there on the immaculate walls of the gallery. Texts narrating the lives of the young boys are vinyl cut and pasted here and there adding design quality to the show; perhaps that is how obscure lives embroider the rich tapestry of urban life in general.

 (work by Vicky Roy)

They celebrate the success of one of them; Vicky Roy and erstwhile run-away child from Bengal who had chugged into Delhi’s filthiness and callousness years back in order to explore the world. His father was despotic and he was seeking liberation. Curiosity took him to Delhi and destiny overpowered the enthusiasm of that seven year old forcing him to become a dish washer than an explorer of the world. Vicky Roy was rescued by Salam Balak Trust and the lore puts it, he was introduced to camera, got hooked because he thought camera would him a distinct personality. It did give him. He got trained under experts and mentors like Anay Mann and Pradeep Dasgupta and late Prabuddha Dasgupta. A residency program took him to New York and he got a chance to work at the Ground Zero. Vicky came back and ever since he has been under limelight.

 (by Vicky Roy)

Vicky Roy, in a series titled, ‘Apna Ghar’ raises the issues of identity, governance and life in institutions. Louis Althusser speaks of Ideological State Apparatuses that are meant for making good citizens out of savage ones. The run-away kids are primarily treated as savage beings that are to be corrected through proper indoctrination of the ideologies of the state in and by an agency that confirms to the state in all possible ways. Vicky does not raise a staunch critique against the glorified penitentiaries like rescue homes nor does he challenge the idea of state. Instead he documents with a sense of empathy without losing the feeling that he had been once a member, even when he is now having the authority of camera and the fame facilitated by it. The critique however is subtle and intrinsic to the visual texts. For example the constant attention that he pays to the boys doing various forms of drills, studies and games inversely gives the idea of ‘correctional’ practices. It is not punish but a sort of soft disciplining. The rebellion comes out of his young mind when he trains his lens at the images like a sleeping boy abandoning his body to the complete gaze of the state temporarily represented by Vicky’s camera’s gaze or the glossy postures of semi-clad Bollywood heroines and the washed under garments drying on the cots.

 (work by Vicky Roy)

The idea of home, when it is representational and replication of state ideologies, becomes a sort of correctional ideology governed by the notions of good citizenship and aspirations to gain membership into a society comprised of successful and desirous people. Good living and controlling of savagery, disciplining through familial punish are the ways in which a good citizen is produced within homes. Chandan Gomes addresses this issue in a series of digital prints of his home interiors titled ‘There are Things I Call Home’. Gomes’ enunciation of objects within the home through visual registration creates and interface of identities; the formation of his identity as a domestic(ated) child and the identity of the one who comes back to the same home after receiving daily education from one of the ‘elite’ colleges in Delhi. The interface of these two identities becomes problematic in Gomes’ works because the reality of home that he experiences is quite peculiar.

 (There are things I call Home- by Chandan Gomes)

Hailing from one of the old parts of Delhi, Gomes’ family has been living in that particular one room house for many decades. The one room set has seen birth of Gomes and his siblings, besides the generation that brought his parents to that small little abode of heavy human traffic. As the four walls and the given space do not expand themselves to accommodate a growing family, the objects find their own spaces right from the floor to the ceiling. The expanding world of objects somehow has been fitting in like a jigsaw mutating into ever accommodating amoebic forms, and been forming Gomes’ identity as a citizen which has been in direct conflict with the limitless expanses of rich life that he kept witnessing in the elite college from he got graduated. Here Gomes does not document this conflict. On the contrary, he traces the routes from where the perceived and experienced conflicts are generated as he keeps the realm of the rich and spacious world out of his camera’s ken.

 (There are things I call home by Chandan Gomes)

Problematizing home becomes a point of departure for Samudra Kajal Saikia, a Delhi based young performance artist who originally belongs to Assam. The constant debating of having a home and having no home manifests in the quasi-spiritual and quasi-practical world that Saikia wants to capture in the performances, textual renditions, illustrations and public art projects. He creates his pet ‘Khankhowa’ (Ear Eater) project where brings forth a procession of houses on wheels. They float around the roads in Assam bring the private and public space into one point of discourse. He traces the history of migration within the tea-plantations in Assam vis-a-vis the history of the sons of the soil. He connects the history of migration in a given locality (accentuated by the experiential history of his own self within the same context) with his own migratory status in a city like Delhi. Saikia does his projects in collaboration with like-minded artists and well wishers and together they create the idea of ‘street’ and ‘carnival’ where polyphony is possible. His quasi-spiritual inclination is palpable in the poetic renditions complete with water colour illustrations which show their affinity to the sufi poets like Kabir and Lalon. Kabir once said, burn your homes and come to the street; Saikia seems to be clearly inspired by this.

 (Work by Samudra Kajal Saikia)

If homes are battle zones portrayed in the beautiful colours of docility, domesticity and love as they were taken directly out of an advertisement, Nishitha Jain brings two different homes and their experiences on to a single platform; a documentary titled, ‘Laxmi and Me’. This 59 minutes long documentary traces the life of a maid servant in Mumbai. Nishitha had met Laxmi when the latter was thirteen years old. Being a woman with liberal ideas Nishitha had treated her like a sister and had made some footage of her life and work, who hardly worked for an hour everyday at her home. By the time she reached Laxmi had fallen in love, become pregnant and afflicted by tuberculosis. Nishitha, affected by the sight of the frail body of Laxmi, decided to follow her life, while helping her through her pregnancy and delivery. Nishitha, however consciously keeps the two ‘homes’ (socially demarcated realms of their woman-lives) separate and never shows a charity attitude. The idea of beautiful and peaceful home is poignantly subverted here in this documentary.

 (from Laxmi and Me by Nishitha Jain)

Verdict: The show and the party must be still on when I post it. The urgency of me writing this proves that ‘Apna Ghar’ is a meaningful exhibition. Vicky Roy should now move beyond his Salam Balak  days and conceptually expand the idea of home and the world through different imageries. Gomes looks solid with his images but I am more anxious about his next set of works. Some artists have the tendency to become captive of their own making. Hope Gomes will not get into that trap. Saikia could move in any direction. Provided he gets adequate support from funding agencies his illustrated books could be strong socio-cultural and political critique. But India has a problem of celebrating second and third rate graphic novels as world class stuff. Saikia needs more attention from agencies. Nishitha Jain touches your inner self with her documentary, Laxmi and Me. But then, each person in Mumbai is a story and an interface of contesting ideologies. I appreciate Jain’s documentary. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Post-UAF Memories- Father Comes Home on Time

(setting up of UAF 2012- JML, Nishant Chawla, Kamini Sharma and Shilpi Shankar)

After a long time I come home early; early means, when I reach home the sun is still there in the sky. It has travelled from east to west. Autumn has just set in now in Delhi. The trees seem to have not noticed the arrival of it. They still flaunt the same leaves; covered in dust they try to welcome autumn with some kind of urgency often shown by those hostesses who hurry up to tidy up a dishevelled home interior at the arrival of an unexpected guest. Sun rays pierce my eyes once I get out of my car. My driver offers to pick up the bag for me (perhaps it is salary day and he wants to remind me that he is really expecting money today). I walk freely into the compound bending my head at the side gate. I climb the stairs as if they were the stairs of a hospital or a strange building where I was not intended to enter when the sun was still up in the sky.

I ring the door bell. Before I could hear the scrambling of little feet inside, a familiar and welcoming sound of my kids, I hear the rustle of the curtain at the opposite door. Neighbours are vigilant as they want to know who has come to your home. They are vigilant as they are looking for gossips. When you are in trouble the neighbours’ doors remain shut. They look like the eyelids of kids who sleep off when adversities strike them or their parents. Someone has said children overcome trauma by falling asleep. It is not just children who overcome trauma through slumber; lovers and separated do the same. But unlike kids, the latter often say that they keep their night’s oil burn throughout as if sleep has ditched them the way their lovers have. So many songs have written on the sleepless nights spent by lovers separated by time, space and the wrath of others.

(JML and Annurag Sharma briefing the display team)

My daughter opens the door. She is just three years old. She prefers to open the door for me not because she anticipates the goodies that I bring along when I come back from work but because she has grown tall enough to reach the latch. When my son rushes to the door to open, obviously for the eatables that he knows that I bring for him, my daughter throws a tantrum. So what I do is I go out again and she latches the door from inside, I ring the door bell again and she opens it for me with a fresh smile on her face, with tear drops still waiting to break loose from her lashes as if she were a landscape where just a rain had finished and the sunlight had come back.

Today she looks different in her white frock with orange flowers splattered all over. I feel that she has grown up a little bit. Why I haven’t I noticed this change all these days? Where was I? Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you- I was doing United Art Fair, an art fair in Delhi to which I was the project director and chief curator. In May 2012, I had joined the organization and the task before me was to build up an art fair within five months. I had taken it as a challenge. The adrenaline rush was quite strong. So I kept working along with a team of a bunch of efficient beautiful girls. I had forgotten the dates and days all these days. I had stopped reading newspapers, watching television and even reading my favourite literary works. I had taken a plunge and I had to swim well. And I believe I did it well. As I was wading through the troubled waters of art, I never had got time to reach home on expected times. My children started feeling that I was a person who comes home at night with a couple of candies, then drinks a few pegs of whiskey, and sleep. They have been seeing me like this for the last five months. Even I have been seeing them as two little cute angels waiting for me to come in so that they can pounce on me like tiger cubs and get their goodies and go back to their television channels or youtube programs.

(Manali Deyondi, JML and Yanam Takam at the UAF display)

I look at my son. He is grown up now. Though he is just seven years old, he looks quite big for that age. He wants to be a boxer, a cricketer and a sportsperson in general. However, his primary ambition is to become a shop keeper. He believes that a shop keeper has the best profession in the world. He can sit at the counter, sell things and put the money into his box. His economics is based on dreams. When he grows up he would understand the real economics of the world. Then he would realize that for putting money into his box he needs to invest and to make an investment he needs to have something. As of now I don’t think he has something to invest in today. Sometimes my friends ask him, especially when I take him to gatherings (that I do very rarely), whether he wants to become a writer like his father. He nods negatively and I am sure to become a writer for him means too much of work; sitting at one place for hours and typing away furiously at the computer. He is restless at this age and he cannot sit idle. When I look at him I imagine he would become a property dealer who would sell a flat that looks at a barren land for a garden face and the one that opens to a stinking gutter for a spring face 3BHK flat.

One day night, as usual I come back and my wife, the mother of my kids, tells me that our son is grown up. She explains her conclusion into my tired ears that have been listening to the harangue of artists for the whole day. Even if you are chatting in the virtual space, you hear them. You don’t see words, you hear them. You hear the words in an imagined voice till you really speak to the person over phone or over a cup of coffee. You both try to impress each other with the best of your voice. You start with a grainy deep voice and once the falsehoods are shed you come to your own trebles and timbers. High octave is always kept for shrieking at each other; and you need to get married for experiencing such wonderful variation of voices that had once been virtual sounds heard with real ears.

 (Kunnah at work)

My wife, the mother of my kids, tells me that she has seen my son watching something in youtube. He often does it and I wonder what is special in it. My wife, the mother of my kids, pulls down my arched eyebrows with a stream of words. She says that she has seen our son closing the door and trying to hide something in the computer screen. She has found out that our son watching a semi nude girl performing some kind of act. He seemed to be curious about her body, my wife tells me. But he was not just curious, he was really enjoying. I do not scold my son for doing that. It is too early an age to watch pornography or something related to soft porn. However, I realize that there is no point in scolding him. I tell him not to repeat it. Still on another day my wife, the mother of my kids says that when she showed a profile picture of her in the facebook, he did not see his mother’s face instead he wondered how ugly was a Souza nude seen just behind her in the picture.

I look at my son. He sits there dispassionately like a frog waiting patiently for a fly to come in. He is all dressed up and he carries a keyboard on his back. Once I come in he walks out without saying bye to me. He does make an eye contact which has full of smile and mischief. He goes for his music class and I memories flood into my mind. I had seen this child seven years back. The doctor had given him into my hands. He was opening and shutting his small little fists as if he were in a desperate struggle to go back to his mother’s womb. I had seen him practicing dance and then disappearing from the stage and putting us into a frantic search. Finally we had found him at the entrance of the hall where the dance program had held. I had asked him for an explanation of his fleeing. He told me that he was just bored of sitting and waiting for his chance to come. He had just thought of having some fresh air. I had beaten him up with his my belt that I regret even today. I vividly remember him sitting on a cement platform right in front of the crèche where we used to leave him during our working hours, and looking at each passing cars and going back to his innocent disappointment of not seeing his parents in anyone of them. I had gone mad when I saw my son sitting at the pavement and had screamed at the crèche lady. She apologized and that was the day we decided to have a full time maid. Today he has wandered into the realm of hidden sins; the adult world of perverted fantasies.

(UAF display in progress)

He is your son, says my wife for she has seen me wandering into pornography years ago. Those were the days of dial up network connections. You could have made tea and sipped it to the last once you switched on the modem. It took ages to connect to the ether world of internet. The fly that moved its wings, the dog that wagged its tail, the cat that preened here and there, the hourglass that shed sand particles took eons to finish their act. It was the time I got into the unchartered land of pornography. Today, my wife tells me my son was like me not because once I had taken interest in watching porn but because she believes that I have slept with so many women. I have not counted. I have slept with women. Or had I been fantasizing all these years. None knows the truth. The truth is that you write and you write on. And I cherish this secret happiness of my son becoming a writer only because he is interested in things that generally kids are not allowed to see at his age. I am not going to stop him.

After five months I see my home in day light. It looks different as if I have just entered in a cave where immense stories, treasures and dreams are hidden. It looks like a place where I had left long back that remains the same even once I come back but all clad in a different hue. Each object seems to have a contour of bright light. The maid servant pours tea at the dining table and she looks like a Vermeer painting with the light grating through the cane blinds. It looks like as if a long sheet of shadow was sliced by a shredder of lights and strewn across the air as if it were the doing of a magical spirit. I walk into the cave as if I were brought in suddenly here by a genie that has been waiting for me for five months. I have been in a jar made out of time and aspirations, virile energies and arrogance, secret ambitions and public posturing. I look around and wonder as if I were a stranger who has come to a familiar city that has been familiarized either through literature or through day dreaming.

 (JML with Nishant Chawla)

I walk into my bedroom. The bookshelf opposite the bed has been changed completely. Where once I had placed my Foucault and Vaikom Mohammed Basheer has now become the abode of ‘Wimpy Kids’, ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ and several magical stories of childhood innocence. One book tells me ‘Ask me Anything’ while the other cries ‘The First Book of Animals’. Elif Shafak’s ‘Black Milk and John Vernon’s ‘Let the Devil Sleep’ struggle to find a space between picture atlas and space encyclopaedia. Between two volumes of Pepper the Dog stories, there juts out a small leg still with a pink shoe on it. It is a dismembered Barbie Doll who has become victim of my daughter’s fury. A small little hair clip catches my attention and the minute floral designs on it bring tears into my eyes. An abandoned pair of goggles, a half filled bottle of savlon lotion, a Vaseline moisturising cream and so on randomly have taken their spaces.

The walls look strange and fascinating. Five months back they were cream or off white. Today I see them scribbled with the hieroglyphics of my daughter’s ancient memories that remembers in dreams but articulates in a jumble of cross hatching lines. I don’t think she would become an artist. I want her to become a musician or dancer. But children are not the translated versions of the parents’ text of aspirations. They are the original texts waiting to be interpreted by love and care. I see the small little towels and small little pairs of pink shoes that brought tears of joy into my eyes. I see a pair of blue gloves down under the wooden sofa with the marks of punches in its swollen memories.

(JML and Annurag Sharma on the final day press conference)

I walk around inside the home alone. My wife has taken my daughter to the park. My son has carried a small wooden cricket bat (from plastic bat he has graduated a fake willow) and gone to his friend’s place. On the way I see him enacting the acts of innumerable cricketers various acts of cricketing. Suddenly he falls on the ground and catches an invisible ball that has gone up in the air for a sixer. He enacts the action reply of him getting run out in slow motion. He waits for an invisible digital board to show red or green light so that he could remain the crease. When the light goes green a million invisible cricket lovers throw their hands up in the air from the gallery. My son soaks in the flood of invisible admiration and he takes his position in the imaginary wicket and faces the malignant Malinga. I look at his action with a smile on my lips; a scene I had forgotten during the five months of my United Art Fair days.

Memories flood in. I see the faces of thousands of artists. I see the crowd. I see a steady stream of people coming into the halls where the works are displayed. I see admiring eyes measuring my contours. I see loving eyes stencil cut my figure from the air and keep it in their sophisticated cameras. I see my confidence soaring like an eagle. I see things from the sky. I see another eagle joining in. I see them as if they were seen from a glass window. Two eagles fly in the sky for some time and then they vanish. I lie down on my bed. The sun is still bright. And I see an eagle feather landing on my forehead.