Sunday, January 31, 2016

Art Mandai

monsterdotcom (an installation by Saaz Aggarwal)
Kunal Ray, a professor at Flame University, wrote this descriptive article, Art in the Bazaar, and I was happy that The Hindu picked my piece monsterdotcom as an illustration (but not so happy that, in their wisdom, did not credit me for it).
The project began in December when Gauri Gandhi, who also teaches at Flame, called to ask if I would be part of an art initiative to integrate with public spaces in our city and show work with a group of other artists. The place she chose was Mandai, a market built in what would then have been the centre of Pune's 'native town' during the British administration. It is a beautiful place and very well organized for vendors to sit on platforms with their wares and storage cells under them. 
I felt that this was a fabulous initiative to integrate people from different walks of life and give us a more meaningful connection with our hometown, and was just delighted that she had considered inviting me to be part of it.
I have lived in Pune for twenty-three years and I love it for its pace of life (more leisurely than Bombay where I used to live); its beautiful trees that transform the skies with brilliant colours in summer; its fresh fruit and vegetables; its warm, smart and cultured people … and various other reasons! However, in the past several years, it has become terribly congested, the municipality and other administrative systems have been unable to cope, and the traffic is just terrible. There is also a huge and continuing influx of migrants from other parts of the country which has changed the fabric of the city and made it more interesting. 
We went to explore the mandai, a word which means market in Marathi, and were absolutely charmed. I had planned to exhibit my paintings at the event but after spending time at Mandai, decided to create installations which would blend with the character of the place. I bought small baskets and planned to paint little roadside stones for display and sale, a process which might fall under the category of 'Found Art’. In the end, when I picked up each stone and looked at it, brush in the other hand, I could see faces looking back at me and they somehow came to life. 
Ajay and I sold stones for Rs500 and Rs1000 each, having dressed the part of traditional vendor couple and which probably attracted visitors to the event as much as the faces themselves. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016


So, I was sitting there, watching the river flow by fast
And thinking about my dear friend who so suddenly left this earth
And wondering, “River, where do you come from? Where are you going?”
Expecting something more profound than a geography-test type of answer
Which in a way I did get, because I started thinking of other friends
So many of them, actually – 
So beautiful, so smart, so kind (some even on facebook, actually)
And when life has been cruel, which it often has, so brave. So very brave.
It was Ardha-Kumbh, the crowds were thick, though only half as thick, I suppose.
We sang, stayed in line, made offerings, gave money
Though I would not consider taking a dip or drinking the water
Since it is holy, peaceful and pure but also dirty and polluted (and cold)
Like most places on earth, I suppose.