Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Frivolous Piece on Equated Monthly Installments (EMI) and Extra Marital Affairs (EMA)

Everyone is familiar with EMI, which means Equated Monthly Installments. In the world of ‘never never nests’, EMI is a reality to live with.

But what about EMA, which means Extra Marital Affairs? It is almost like Equated Monthly Affairs. You divide your attention/affection/lust in equally distributable units and share with the interested parties.

Newspapers are filled with news of both EMIs and EMAs and it is said that both these lead to suicide, murder and daily doze of inexplicable humiliation (Genuflecting is a common syndrome seen amongst the EMA affected people).

But generally speaking, most of the human beings are survivors of these two calamities. Learned people say, if you take a loan, somehow it will be repaid through EMIs. “You just don’t come to know about it”.

Same is the case of EMAs. If get into it, it will be done somehow. “You just don’t come to know about it”.

That’s what perhaps you would like to believe. But often, after a period of time your partner comes to know about it and the scenario changes.

This is where fundamentally EMIs and EMAs differ in quality. EMIs can run its tenure but once come to light, EMAs cannot run its whole term. If leads to divorce, you will have to pay the whole amount in one go, the process is euphemistically called ‘paying the alimony’.

Even if it alimony, it is money, man.

Social psychologists say that if your partner spend too much of time in FB, Orkut and other social networking sites, make it sure that he/she has taken a ‘loan’ from somewhere and has agreed to repay it in EMAs (Equated Monthly Affairs) or even EDA (Equated Daily Attention) and EMMA (Equated Moment by Moment Attention).

There is also another difference between EMIs and EMAs. You can pretend that you are not repaying a loan through EMIs and you are not a debtor. But in the case of EMAs, you cannot pretend that you are repaying a loan and you start believing that you are a ‘debtor’ not to your new love interest but to your ‘permanent’ partner.

So what do you do? As in the movies, you start buying too many things for your partner and fantasize that you are doing it for your EMAs. Virtually your partner becomes a testing ground for your fantasies.

But you are a human being. Even after you clear the experimental and explosive stuff from your home ground, some of the landmines are forgotten and remain there hiding. One day you step on it and it explodes if not at your legs, at your face for sure.

These land mines are undeleted chats, sleep walking with audio track, taking too much interest in certain film songs, paying too much attention to your looks.

In the case of women, often the last syndrome is not detected too soon because it goes without saying that women are interested in their ‘looks’. But man, who is obviously not in love, but engaged in EMAs, suddenly becomes aware of his ‘looks’ and he starts saying that his new position in the office demands such changes in looks.

It is also observed that the potential EMA aspirants change their profile pictures in the social networking sites quite regularly.

However, EMI debtors will never write about their EMI status and post it in their blogs. But if someone is doing that you can be sure that he/she is a survivor of an EMA tremor or he/she is on a sabbatical from his regular EMA regime or simply hibernating.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Photo Feature on KSR's Opening at Kanakakkunnu Palace, Trivandrum

(Kanakakkunnu Palace, Trivandrum where KSR's exhibition is held)

(The Reception Room at Kanakakkunnu Palace)

(Display of KSR's works)

(The Ramp installation view)

(The Durbar Hall at Kanakkkunnu Palace, Trivandrum)

(JOhnyML presenting KSR for the Trivandrum audience)

(JohnyML presenting KSR through an audio visual presentation)

(Friends and art lovers)

(Adoor and Minister MA Baby lighting the lamp)

(Minister for Education and Culture, MA Baby giving the inaugural speech)

(Adoor Gopalakrishnan releasing the book by giving a copy to R.Sivakumar. MA Baby and KSR look on)

(Adoor Gopalakrishnan speaking after releasing the book)

(Brothers in Arms- R.Sivakumar and KSR)

(Tourism dept Director, Dr.V.Venu congratulating KSR)

(Artist and bureaucrat Lizzy Jacob giving the felicitation speech)

(Art Historian R.Sivakumar giving the felicitation speech)

(Minister MA Baby, film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan,JohnyML and R.Sivakumar)

(KSR speaking to a few television channels)

(KSR with artist G.Rajendran)

(KSR with Tanya Abraham)

(KSR with Tourism Dept Director Dr.V.Venu and Home Secretary, K.Jayakumar)

(KSR with friends)

(Babu Xavier, Tensing Joseph, Home Secretary K.Jayakumar and K.C.Chitrabhanu)

(KSR with former Chief Secretary, Kerala, Lizzy Jacob)

(KSR receiving MA Baby)

(MA Baby at the reception desk with Soumya Chakravorty and KSR)

(Adoor Gopalakrishnan and MA Baby with KSR)

(Minister MA Baby, Film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan appreciating Terra Fly with KSR and Mimi Radhakrishnan)

(Education and culture Minster of Kerala, MA Baby and noted Film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan with KSR)

(KSR, JohnyML, Tara and Mini Mathew)

(Refreshments at the Band Stand)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Death of a Friend Retold

In our lives, at times we all derive pleasure from playing silly pranks on others. Irrespective of our age and status, we indulge in these simple acts of fooling others, mainly to make certain moments memorable and pleasurable. And as people with certain level of dignity we avoid such jokes that would obviously hurt others’ sentiments. It is an unsaid rule that one should not mention somebody’s mental and physical shortcomings in order to create jokes. Mimicry artists, who intend social critique through their public performances, however resort to blasphemy in terms of mental and physical shapes of others. We enjoy such public acts of ‘positive defaming’ of people only because the intention behind such acts is transcendental and meant for the common good of a society.

Portraying someone as ‘dead’ is one of the prohibited areas in the field of jokes. Death, though heralds a new beginning in the ‘life’ of a person, considering ‘death’ as the end of the physical existence, is not often taken as the subject of a palatable joke. Though, Martin Heidegger says that one is born with death as its natural outcome, we are not that philosophically elevated people to ‘enjoy’ someone’s death by considering it as his deliverance and the moment of re-birth. We ‘enjoy’ somebody’s death only in this sense that we heave a sigh of relief by the knowledge that it is not ‘we’ who are dead, but someone else.

Death is a subject, which has always interested and intrigued me all these years. However, I cannot take a friend’s death with a sort of philosophical or aesthetic detachment. Perhaps, aesthetic representation of death is one of the ways that the artists have developed through which they can make the most horrifying experience of life into something that is worth contemplating with a sense of philosophical detachment. But a prank played with a ‘news’ that contains the information of a friend’s death, however aesthetically conveyed, is not a joke, but a brutal encroachment into the vulnerable fortresses of somebody’s emotions and sentiments.

On the April Fool day of this year, someone came to my chat box and conveyed the ‘news’ of a close friend’s untimely death. My first reaction was a sort of denouncement of that someone who conveyed this news. I was not considering it as a prank as I was not particularly conscious of that day’s peculiar nature. For me every day is a fool’s day because people don’t behave intelligently on the rest of the days throughout a year. They get fooled whether it is 1st April or 28th of February. Hence, I wrote some expletives starting with the famous ‘f’ word, which was only to express my incredulity. Then I used the general ‘W’ questions. When, where, why, how?

The person on the other side gave me cold answers and as you know, words can express a sense of mourning with the change of a context. A chat box, which is often used for friendly verbal exchanges, can become a gloomy room, in the middle of where the coffin of a close friend is kept. What I did next was to call a few friends and ask to verify this news. Verifying was important not because I was thinking that it could have been a joke, but because I thought my supposedly ‘dead’ friend was exceptionally healthy, sporty and full of life.

In a minute’s time, my friends gave me the happy news. My ‘dead’ friend was alive and he was using very selective expletives for the one who was sending the message of his death not only to me, but to many amongst the circle of immediate friends. I hated the person who sent me such a thoughtless and insensitive message to poke me, play pranks on me or to ‘fool’ me on that particular day.

Though, I am not interested to listen the news of death, I see dead people coming alive and communicating with me quite often. Yesterday night, a close friend of mine who had committed suicide almost eight years back came to me. I was strolling in the courtyard of home, trying to push away the heat waves embracing me from all the sides. The tropical night with a clear sky and the standstill greenery around must be a beautiful scene to imagine or see in a picture post card. But obviously not for someone who is sweating profusely and gasping for some cold air go into the lungs. One positive feeling this suffocating atmosphere could evoke in me was the image of an old colonel lying in his hammock, fighting heat and mosquitoes swarming around him. I started imagining that I was in Columbia.

But I was in my village. Around my house, there are lot of plants and trees. At night, tall banana trees stand like armed sci-fi characters with laser lights beaming out of their eyes. These red laser lights are the eyes of the bats that hang upside down from the bunches of bananas and drink honey from the half opened banana flowers. It is said that banana plantains make some sort of eerie sounds at night. If the winds pass through the dried leaves, they flutter as if they were the hands of a dead man coming out of grave. And in villages, every plot has at least two graves. The water laden pods of the banana tree trunks screech open at night as if the souls of dead people were trying to escape from the layers of green memories, still oozing the sticky zap of unfulfilled desires.

Then I saw him, sitting on the top of the boundary wall, just above my father’s grave. I used to call this dead friend, ‘Charles Lindberg’. That was almost thirty years back. Lindberg was a pilot who flew across the Atlantic Ocean in his single engine aircraft. The art of flying was not perfected then. It was a very daring feat for Charles Lindberg. The day our teacher recounted Lindberg’s story from a moth-eaten text book, my friend ran out of the class room, expanding his short and fragile hands horizontally, made his body slant forty five degrees, pouting lips making the whirring sound of an engine. Teacher ran behind him, followed by the rest of the students. The boy ran across the ground, thinking that it was the Atlantic Ocean. After a round he safely landed himself at the other end of the ground and started giggling like a fool.

This juvenile insanity, however doubled my admiration for him as a friend. I started calling him ‘Charles’, which he thoroughly disliked but did not make much efforts to dissuade me from calling him by that name. However, whenever any other boys tried to emulate me, he became so violent that they never dared to call him ‘Charles’ again. Basking under the glory of this friend, I grew up but I noticed him becoming recluse and once prodded and provoked, becoming too violent to control.

We went to the same college and after a few weeks, he decided to drop out. Then, in the village, he became the leader of a group of young and violent guys, who all practiced martial arts. They called their gang, ‘The Company of Eighteen’. I did not know then, whether the name was based on the number of members in the gang or it referred to their/our age.

The name and fame of the Company grew within the village as my Charles could defeat a few of the established goons of the village. The old generation of thugs was replaced by this new gang. As his name became synonymous to that of ‘Gabbar’, he started getting assignments from the neighboring villages; at times to settle a property dispute, to defeat rival gangs, to bring back a girl who had eloped with her boy friend, to teach a lesson to the boy friends and so on. In the process, one gang member lost a couple of teeth, one of them lost a finger and most of them often had bruises and bandages all over, which they flaunted like war trophies before the not-so-impressed village elders. Each boy in the village secretly aspired to become a member in that gang.

I had this special privilege to boss over Charles as he considered me ‘educated’ than the rest of the boys in the village. I used to go and spent time with them in their hide outs. Sitting amongst the young thugs and their crude weapons that ranged from long bamboo sticks to shining swords, nanchuks, brass and steel knuckles, gave me a sort of creepy feeling, though I used to enjoy the kind of ‘power’ they emanated within the village. Girls used to admire them secretly and each thug thought he was a wronged lover. Most of the time, these boys fought with the boys from the neighboring villages in the name of protecting the girls from our village, who, they thought, were in love with them.

Years passed by and in the meanwhile, I witnessed another generation of local thugs declaring wars against the ‘Company of Eighteen’. Many of the members had gone to gulf countries to eke out a living. Many were imprisoned for serious offences. Charles too lived between police lock-ups, jails and village junctions. He also went to Dubai for a while where he was arrested and imprisoned for bootlegging. With nothing in hand, he came to back to the village only to witness a different generation of boys who copied music in CDs and sold them to their classmates and neighbors. They were not interested in street fights. They fought and showed their prowess in simulated war games in computers.

Charles was a disillusioned man when I met him last. His marriage was in trouble. Eight years back, when I was visiting my village, I met him at the main junction. There was a power cut at that time. We stood there in darkness and smoked cigarettes and tried to remember the day he flew his imaginary flight across the play ground. I had stopped him calling ‘Charles’ for long time. That moment I held his hands and called him, ‘Charles’. Even in the darkness I could see a sad smile flashing across his face and I saw his eyes gleaming. “I lost it, my friend,” he murmured. “Hey, come on, you have not lost anything? What are you talking about?” sensing his trouble I tried to pep him up with some ‘urban centric’ self-help tips. “You don’t understand,” he smiled again.

Next morning, someone came to my home and told me that Charles was no more. “He hung himself yesterday night,” the messenger said.

I did not go for his funeral. But that evening I went to the spot where we stood and talked on that fateful night. I tried to feel him. But he was gone.

Yesterday I saw him again, behind the banana plantains, over the boundary wall and above my father’s grave, Charles was sitting and smiling at me.

“You could have told me then. Why did you do that?” I asked him.

“That night you called me, ‘Charles’ again. I could see all my life spent and wasted, at that moment. I wanted to become that Charles again, the one who flew an imaginary flight across an imaginary Atlantic Ocean. I went home and wanted to fly again and hanging myself was the only way to do that again……,” he said.

“You are a fool,” said I.

But he was not there to listen to my words. He had vanished into the thin air, without leaving the grandiloquence of a wronged king or the sly smile of an ugly cat.

Fooled by knowledge, I walked back to my room. I could hear the souls sprouting from the banana trunks.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Anyway, This is not My Story

(Rathi Devi's work image is for representational purpose only)

Niv Art Centre, New Delhi, may not be a very popular gallery as of now. But it has all the potentials to become one as it has artists’ studios, residency spaces and three levels for exhibition. Located near the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Neb Sarai, Niv Art Centre is new to the art map of Delhi. Funded by an art lover and businessman, Shaji Mathew, the programs of this gallery are devised by T.K.Hareendran, a Delhi based artist. So far there were four shows and two of them were eminently forgettable. The opening show was by T.K.Hareendran himself, which had his paintings, photographs and a video. The fourth show titled ‘My Story’ opened on 9th April 2010, is one show that could have taken Niv Art Centre to places.

But….but this show featuring the works of eight contemporary women artists, namely Bini Roy, Kirti Chandak, B.Padma Reddy, Shah Mosmi H, Rathi Devi, Rituu Kamath, Ruchika Wason Singh, Sajitha R.Shankar failed to become one of the best shows in town mainly because of the conventional display strategy adopted by the artist director and my dear friend, T.K.Hareendran. The works are simply hung on the walls, whereas they could have become independent installations, transcending their nature of paintings and sculptures thereby generating a new idea about the art practices of these featured woman artists.

However, I do not discount the ingrained possibilities of this show. The show stealer amongst the artists is Rathi Devi with her four works generally titled ‘Password’. These paintings show four unidentified/unidentifiable women clad in beautiful burqua. These intricately painted burquas hide the person behind them, creating an ambiguity regarding the presence of a woman in the public spaces. Though burqua is related to a particular religion, in Rathi Devi’s works, it becomes an ornament that in many ways ‘covers’ the identity of women, irrespective of their religious leanings. The ambiguous presence of these women is so strong that it outshines the rest of the works. Had these paintings been presented in a dark enclosure, with spot lights highlighting the ornamented fabric and accentuating the deeper silence of the images, they would have created an absolutely haunting impression amongst the viewers.

I may be making certain unpalatable comments in the coming lines and my request is that the artists should take it as comments on their aesthetics not as opinion on their integrity as artists. Bini Roy’s works could be called naïve paintings. She paints flowers (Night Blooming Cereus) with certain amount of passion but unfortunately the viewer is not any position to share that as the works do not have any painterly quality. Most of the artists in this show are existentially inclined. Ruchika Wason Singh, in her works on paper, tries to bring out the private/domestic moments into the public realm. Her works remind the viewer of the early works of Nalini Malani, therefore lacking in freshness. Ruchika should not have attempted an installation, or she should have found out a strategy to present the paintings as a part of the installation or vice versa.

Kirti Chandak, in her watercolors on paper, attempts to capture her ‘dream realities’ in selective visuals. At times, she is successful in doing it and at other times they make the viewer to think about Jogen Choudhury than herself. B.Padma Reddy’s graphic prints show the performance of a protagonist who is the artist’s own surrogate self. Padma has done her job well though she does not move out of the conventions of traditional printmaking (she openly admits she loves to do print, which is her only medium). Shah Mosmi H, has semi-abstract works with a lot of texture and symmetry. It could be her story, very neatly done, but does not covey much to a viewer like me. Rituu Kamath’s painterly mixed media works represent a particular mental state of the artist, in which she feels herself as caught in cells and she retains the hope of liberation by painting creepers moving through the holes. She should have definitely avoided doing that sculpture. Sajitha R.Shankar’s existentialism takes the shape of expressionist paintings. But Sajitha, isn’t it an overplayed lingua, which has become a worst cliché?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Waiting for Her Resurrection

Last year, on the Easter day, quite unexpectedly I chanced upon three girls whom I knew from my college days. We all had left college almost twenty years back.

You may wonder why I still call them girls. To tell you the truth they are all forty years old. I, being couple of years older than them, used to be in a senior class in college. But I had this strange friendship with three of them.

Now in hindsight I can say that my friendship was based on mutual admiration. I was not particularly handsome. But they were considerably beautiful and used to be potential head-turners.

The mutual admiration amongst us was based on our interest in poetry. I used to be known as a poet within a very small circle of students and friends. But during those days having a small circle of admirers itself was a great thing. Generally, those guys who were active in students politics, theatre groups and so on had this luck to have admirers around them.

Poetry, though they say, holds a lot of power to move people, in fact does very little in people’s lives. But poetry does things to people, when they strongly feel for words and ideas expressed through words.

And as you know, words are very powerful, when used in the right contexts. But to be in the right context, one should be prepared with a sort of enhanced awareness; awareness about oneself, about people around him or about the physical contexts in which one finds oneself.

As young, budding and aspiring poets, I could say, we four were aware of ourselves and people around us. We couldn’t have avoided the context of our times, which was comparatively less threatening politically, though it was quite pressing economically.

Such contexts are good for the flourishing of romantic poems. You can look into the eyes of your admirer whom you secretly adore as your muse and can spend endless hours entertaining her with rhyming words.

These three girls, now in their forties, used to write poems and show me their works almost thrice in a week. We met in a coffee shop near the college and discussed the poems. Being elder to them and having a bit more popularity as a poet than that they had for their good looks, they took my words quite seriously.

As days passed by, I started deriving a strange kind of pleasure by ripping off the poems of one of those girls. My criticism on her works was so strong that it sent her to the brink of tears. The other two girls often wondered why I singled her out for my scathing criticism.

Psychologically speaking, it was my strategy to find a special place in her mind. The image of your tormentor lingers on in your memory than the image of your benefactor. I knew there was something called Stockholm syndrome; the captive develops a soft corner for the captor. I was trying that out and to tell you the truth it became a successful method.

To put things in a nutshell, we became lovers.

Circumstances were such that we could not lead a life together. But we had created several memorable moments together so that we would never forget each other or the precious moments of our union.

As I told you, it was not a politically threatening time. But my love affair with this girl brought politics into my life; and the introduction was a very harsh one.

Till then, I was the hunter and she, the hunted, in the jungle of words. Now I became the hunted, and the hunters were many whom we call now a days, ‘political thugs’.

I went underground. I did not know what happened to those girls.

Eighteen years later, we met last year on the Easter day in front of a Church, where we all had gone to pray.

Don’t ask me how we all happened to be in the same church at the same time. In stories such things happen.

My ex-beloved looked very detached and indifferent to things around her. The other two girls/women looked quite enthusiastic about the meeting.

From the conversation we had amongst us, I came to know that all of them had settled in the US with their husbands. I was happy to see them all. One of them had become an economics analyst and the others had become teachers there.

There is always something disappointing about re-unions, whether it is accidental or pre-planned. We expect too much in these meetings. Most often we are unaware of the time that had flown by. People change as per the demands of their lives. You may not be able to re-live the past the way once it used to be. However, what is important in such meetings is the momentary surprise of seeing people whom you had known closely once, in their new garbs, roles and attitudes.

We were happy with that surprise element in our meeting. But something was getting frozen in between. I couldn’t discern whether it was time, passion or the erstwhile admiration for each other.

Two girls, who were not my girlfriends, were so happy because they thought it was a very special moment in which the long lost friends found each other.

“It is quite befitting to an Easter day,” said the finance analyst, “for it means resurrection from death and oblivion.”

“True,” I said, “you have not lost your poetry,”

“Perhaps, that is what keeps us going,” the other girl/woman said.

My former girl friend kept silence.

“Why did you say that?” I asked.

“Life is not a picture framed within the golden frames,” said the economics expert.

“Nor is it like a game in Farmville, every day giving us surprises,” said the teacher.

“Quite true,” I said. I was expecting my ex-flame to say something.

She was constantly trying to avert her eyes from my gaze. Some kind of discomfort was growing within her.

“Tell me, do you remember the circumstances of my disappearance from your life?” I asked finally.

“How did you assume that you were in my life?” she asked coldly.

I was more surprised than confused. The other two girls/women were also looking at me with a strange expression on their faces.

“What are you talking? Who are you talking to?” the finance analyst asked me.

“I am talking to her, my….” I pointed towards my ex-girl friend.

My friends together put their hands on my shoulder. It was for the first time that I noticed their dresses. They were wearing embroidered white saris, very sober looking and they were holding white flowers in their hands.

“Hey, what happened? Why are you looking so serious? Come on....,” I said.

“She is no more. Two days back, on Good Friday, she left us. She was suffering from lung cancer,” teacher said.

“What?” I screamed. “I saw her with you…right…she was coming out of this church with you,” I said.

They were silent and both of them were now crying.

We met once again at the same café where we used to discuss our poems. They recounted the happy times in my girl friend’s life.

A few weeks later they left for the US and I never met them after that except for a few emails exchanged between us.

Today is Easter again. I am waiting for her to resurrect from her oblivion and death.

I just want to ask her why she thought that I was not in her life at all. May be that one answer would make me happy again.

I am sure she would resurrect; if not today, one day.