Sit alone. Open the window blinds. Look down at the street. Motor cars ply. Cyclists peddle away their fatigue. People hurry along the pavements. Celebrities smile alluringly from hoardings. Sounds of various kinds fill in the ears. Then slowly sights and sounds fade. A blur overcomes the vision. An illuminated white space appears. Darkness surrounds. Something starts whirring behind. Columns of light pass over horizontally over the head. It is the theatre of life where one sees his or her life projected. It is a retrospective of the year that was. Twelve long months together named as 2012. Look at the watch. Time has just flown away like the migratory birds. They were there. But now the sky is clear. Days passed, weeks counted, months flapped, sorrows appeared like haunting ghostly shadows, joy threw colours as in the celebration of Holi and throughout all these despite the presences you realize that you have been all alone. What you see right in front of you is your life seen like a movie, produced, scripted, choreographed, filmed, edited and directed by you. But soon you recognize that it was not you, but someone was there with you. Otherwise who is there behind you operating that projection system? You call it God or your soul. It makes you introspect. Sit erect. Be vigilant. Get ready to critique yourself. That is the review of your life; life in 2012.
(Durbar Hall, Kochi where a part of KMB is happening)
Cold January in Chattarpur, New Delhi. Inside a crowded metro coach I see myself standing alone holding a bag full of books. One book is in my hand and I am reading. People talk, read and listen to music. I get down at Qutub Metro station. I carry the bag load of books and walk to my studio where I spend time reading and writing. I am happy the shelves in the studio are getting full with books. I look at them like a proud father looking at his children. Ram Kinkar Baij Retrospective curated by K.S.Radhakrishnan at the NGMA, New Delhi is one major event where I play a small part as an assistant curator.
I write blogs. I write articles on art. One of the blogs creates a controversy. In that I speak of the lack of transparency in using the government funds by a private agency which would conduct a Biennale in Kochi in the month of December 2012. People act and react. Friends turn foes and strangers become friends. Facebook becomes an active site of debate. I use all of my energy to defend my arguments. People accuse me of sour grape. Some accuse me of womanising. Some people go around and ask the influential people to shun me. One day I get a court notice that slaps me with Rs.250 Crores compensation case for defaming well known artists who are behind the Biennale. For the first time in my life I realize that I could be rich and pay that whopping amount of Rs.250 Crore to someone. My advocate sends a reply. It is very cold. I cover myself with a shawl. I feel alone. I keep smiling at myself.
February and March. The fight against corruption is on. I feel tired of the abuses that people hurl at me. I try to abuse them back. Anonymous people threaten me with dire consequences. Life goes on in facebook and elsewhere. Many artist friends move away from me. I recognize my true friends. They could be counted by finger. I see turn coats from both the genders. I see powerful people playing double game. Each time I feel helplessness I tell myself that I am not the only one and I am not alone.
(JML at Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademy)
Life goes on in Chattarpur studio. I am happy there despite the pinching cold. By April things look really sunny. Someone had met me in January at the National Gallery of Modern Art. He had introduced himself as the initiator of an art fair called United Art Fair. In fact I had forgotten about that incident. I edit Art and Deal magazine. I could feel the momentum of its revival. The change in design and the new writers’ vigour; people start liking the magazine again. My days go by in reading and writing. I stop meeting people for the simple reason that I don’t want to listen negative stories about me. By this time I pull myself back from the Biennale debate.
One day I get a call. Some wants to meet me for some reason. I meet that person at the Cafe Coffee Day in New Friends Colony, New Delhi. He asks me to become the project director of the United Art Fair. I tell him that I am not interested. He insists and I tell him about my trip to Chandigarh to present at paper titled ‘Landscape After Battle’ at the Lalit Kala Akademy. Diwan Manna, the Chairperson of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademy has invited me. I go there. I am struck by the huge hoarding with my picture. They treat me like a hero. I feel good. I present paper. Make friends and come back. My phone rings again. United Art Fair person wants to meet me. He comes to the studio. He insists. I seek advice from my mentor, KSR. He gives a positive nod. I take the plunge.
May- September: I join the United Art Fair as the Project Director in May. Insist that we should travel and meet artists. I, with a team travel in fourteen different cities. Artists say they are helpless and they cannot pay money. The UAF changes strategy in June. It declares a free United Art Fair. Artists come in like flood.
June- July- August- The days of preparation. I do not sleep much. What make me tick are the thoughts about UAF. I stop reading and writing. I stop going to Chattarpur studio. I attend the UAF office religiously. A major facebook campaign starts for UAF. It becomes a huge hit.
(From United Art Fair 2012)
September: United Art Fair takes place. Apparently it looks successful. Thanks to organizational faults, a few artists are not exhibited properly. Despite a few complaints the UAF becomes successful as a brand. It is an artists-driven art fair.
October- One of the most stressful months. Post UAF soul searching. Self criticism and lonely days. Very few people are seen around.
November- I go back to Chattarpur Studio. My bags are full with books. I start reading and writing again. I feel I have mellowed down.
December- I take the decision to be free. I am no longer with the United Art Fair.
Credits roll: Ram Kinkar Baij Retrospective, Kulwant Roy Retrospective, Rabindranath Tagore Retrospective, Works of Chandan Gomes, Vicky Roy, Samudra Kajal Saikia, Neha Lavangia, Dhanur Goyal, Waswo X Waswo, Manisha Gera Baswani, United Art Fair, India Art Festival, Kochi Muziris Biennale (despite its shortcomings).
People: K.S.Radhakrishnan, Diwan Manna, Subodh Kerkar, Vandana Shukla, Somu Desai, Chintan Upadhyay, Rajendra Patil, Ajith Kumar G, my family and a whole lot of facebook friends.
Happening: God and Goddess manifestations in me.