Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Public Diary 3: Building Brick by Brick

( When Shibu Natesan visited Musui Foundation Archives in March 2013)

Friends come to meet me; generally I meet them after four in the evening. First half of the day is spent in translation, writing and answering emails. I believe in building anything brick by brick. There was a time when I thought of doing everything in one go. Age has taught me how to do things slowly but intensely. Now, when I see the growing archives at Musui Art Foundation at Chattarpur where I spend my mornings I feel happy. When KSR invited me to activate the first floor of his wonderful studio by doing whatever I wanted, in 2011, I was really happy. I had just started a public debate with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, taking the side of the people who opposed its style of functioning. I was fast losing friends and supporters. The loyal ones remained loyal but the number of enemies was steadily increasing. It was November and the winter was severe. After posting comments in the facebook, sitting in a corner of the studio all alone, I used to shiver; not for fear of some impending danger but for the immensity of responsibility that the debate has brought on to my shoulders. I had received friends here and foes were always hovering around with their invisible presence.

When KSR invited me to the space, he had also made a series of shelves all along the walls. The first thing I wanted to do was to create an archives; an archives which could be used by many like me who in their formative years had no support system in terms of a reference library. But the question before me was, how to create an archives? KSR had already placed a few books he had collected over a period of time in the studio. It was then I decided to part with my collection of books for creating the Musui Archives. Musui, as you know, is the sculptural protagonist of KSR. I started taking books in twos and threes. Even today I continue doing it. The archive looks very impressive now. When I started bringing books, the short cut between Qutub Metro station and Chattarpur Pahari where Musui Foundation is located was a narrow strip. Today cars ply there. I have seen the change and I still walk the same route every morning, obviously with a few books in my bag to add to the growing archives. I believe in building anything brick by brick.

Recently I had a very interesting experience. A young man whom I know not that closely updated his facebook status something like this: I have 3000 books and magazines. I want to part with it. If someone interested please contact.’ I sent him a private message saying that I was interested. I am not a kabadi walah. I do not want to collect anything that people discard even if those are books. I want to collect books that would enrich the Musui Foundation Archives. Hence, my private message told him that I was interested but before I collected anything from him I wanted to have a look at his collection. On a Sunday morning I called him, took an appointment for the same afternoon, and drove all the way to the locality where he lived. I could not locate the house. I kept calling him over phone and I found it switched off. I used all the possible ways to reach out to him, even contacting his former classmates, but in vain. I was furious. I let him know about my ire through his friends. He never contacted me again. I think he was having a hallucination about his book ‘collection.’

When people offer me books, I check whether they do it as a part of their spring cleaning or they are genuinely interested to part with their collection. If they want to make space for themselves by doing away with their ‘useless’ books I politely decline their offer. A Mumbai gallerist offered me some books of which I selected one or two because I found the rest of it constituted the books that she did not want. But I have friends who genuinely give me books. During the boom years, people like Geetika Goel, who is currently an independent art dealer, used to procure books and gift me whenever I made a request. So is Anubhav Nath, Director of Ojas Art Gallery, New Delhi. If I ask for books he brings it from wherever he is. I don’t know whether I could mention the name of a person or not. She belongs to one of the biggest galleries in Delhi. I have never talked to her in person. I communicate with her over emails. But if I ask her for a book, even if it is very costly, she sends it to me. I thank her with all my heart. I am sure one day, with her permission I would be able to reveal her identity.

I am sure if your intention is genuine, as KSR puts it, if ‘intention and image’ gel, then things will work out. I am sure, one day Musui Foundation Archives will be one of the best archives in this country. But I am also sure that it does not happen overnight. I believe in doing things brick by brick. Clear vision and right action is what all you want. I learnt this lesson from KSR. He does everything clearly and meticulously. The biggest lesson in my life was given to me by KSR; when I was down in the dumps and was about to leave the field of art criticism almost twelve years before, he told me one simple thing: If you dig too many wells in the same place you may not find water. Keep digging till you find water. Even if you do not find water, by the end of it, you would be enjoying the whole process of digging in the same place. The second lesson is a bit financial. Whenever I had gone through financial troubles, he told me, ‘look, I can give you any amount of money that you ask. But finding that money with your own effort is what would eventually give you dignity and freedom. Remember, I am there, but pretend that I am not there.’ I was young and I took his words into my heart. I do not owe a single paise to anyone. I had not, I did not, I do not and I will not because I belong to the KSR  School of thinking. Shakespeare and Sanskrit had taught me the same lesson way back in college. But those were not as effective as the KSR Speak.

May be my idea of building anything brick by brick also comes from him. I am happy about it.

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