Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Thought behind the thought:

It’s will be 25 years, since our batch passed out of school this year. Reunion means going back two decades to a place where you spent some of the most carefree, innocent days of your life. I was instantly reminded of a video of a song by Enigma, The return to innocence. Literally, I felt like I was taken back two decades bit by bit assessing each and every decision of my life. Technology has easy ways of dealing with change. A  camera simply formats everything, at the touch of a button and turns  a memory card into a clean slate. A second hand mobile handset casually asks you if you want to discard changes and return to default! It is next to impossible to format our memory or discard changes we made to our personalities! Life does not give you the liberty to do so. I have met a great number of people who claim “I have no regrets, won’t change a thing if I had to go back”. My guess is such foolhardy statements are made because we know we are incapable of ever getting a chance to do so. So what if a reset button was made available to you? What would you change about your life and what would be the repercussion?



About the art:

So what about the ill effects of pollution and the threats to the environment? Can we reverse that? Can we at least make people aware of what these emissions are doing? Can we make a statement through art about this? Apparently there is a movement called Reverse Graffiti that is doing exactly this. Two artists, UK’s Paul Curtis a.k.a Moose and Brazilian Alexandre Orion have been doing some unique art that involves cleaning up dirty walls of tunnels and cities. What could be so great about cleaning a dirty wall one might ask? The sheer genius lies in looking at the wall and seeing the potential for art. Finding potential in a dirty wall to make a powerful poignant statement is a phenomenal idea.

Ironically in both countries the reverse graffiti is not encouraged and while Moose was charged under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, Orion’s graffiti was watered down. When he moved to another part of the tunnel to carry out his work the authorities just cleaned up the entire tunnel. One is left grappling at what exactly is going on in the world. Hopefully we can reset certain things before it’s too late. Hopefully art can make statements like this one that makes us sit up and take notice. Please visit the web page of the artists to get a better insight into their philosophy.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

leave a mark

Thought behind the thought:
Weddings in India mean back to back events which normally are opportunities to eat, drink, be merry, deck up and revel. The grand start to the festivities happens with the Mehendi night. The bride and all the women in the family (and in some cultures the men too) apply henna on the hands as a mark of auspicious beginnings. Henna marks its presence on the brides hands and quietly submits itself into the background. With every passing day, as the henna on the hands slowly fades, the bride wistfully realises that her days of abandon too are fading with it and a new life awaits her where she will be responsible for people around her. Henna does not aspire to be remembered forever. She just want to leave behind a memory that is a happy reminder .

About the art:

Mehendi or Henna is one art form that explores all the classical elements of design. If one decides to study all the styles and motifs an exhaustive research would emerge. An art form that dates back 3000 years, it has found its roots in African, Arabian, Pakistani and Indian cultures. Different countries have adapted and added their own elements to the application of henna. A brief study of how different design elements are used in this art form: 

Points: Dots or points are effectively used as points of focus or fillers. Dots can vary in size and scale making them prominent or giving the design a fragile delicate appeal.

Lines: Lines are explored in every imaginable type. Thick, thin, wavy, zigzag, alternating, dashed, crossed and many more line types are used to create wonderful patterns and motifs.

Gradation: Line gradation and colour gradation are two techniques that are used to create contrast and add interest to the design. One has to predict how the dyed pattern will emerge and pre-plan the gradation in order to achieve fabulous results.

Patterns: One of the most fascinating elements of mehendi designs are the number of patterns that have come about. There are scores and scores of designs and everyday new additions are being made from influences from allied art.

Fill: Indian style of Mehendi usually is filled with no empty space or solid fills are also very common. Nails too are dyed solid which is essentially done to add colour to the nail and keep it moisturised as well.

Negative and Positive space: Arabic style of Mehendi is usually sparse with some amount of vacant spaces left to make the design more impactful.

Symmetry: This is an element that needs precision and years of practice. Some unbelievable symmetries can be achieved by mirroring patterns on both the hands.

Abstraction & Symbolism: Lot of animals, birds, natural objects are integrated in the designs by abstracting them. The usually have a symbolism connected to them. As this art dates back many centuries it is evident how artists were influences by nature and how they have tried to use these inspirations in making innovative designs.
Some symbols from different cultures:

Peacock – stands for beauty
Swan – stands for success
Bird – stands for messengers (between heaven and earth)
Butterfly – stands for transformation
Parrot – stands for messengers of love
Dragonfly – stands for rebirth
Fish – stands for woman’s eyes
Scorpion – stands for love and romance
Flower – stands for joy and happiness
Vines and leaves – stand for longevity, devotion, perseverance, entwined lives and vitality
Snake – stands for seekers of enlightenment
Tortoise – stands for protection and fertility
Lotus Blossom – stands for grace, beauty, creativity, sensuality, femininity and purity
Sun, Moon and Stars – stand for deep and lasting love between lovers/partners
Paisleys – stands for fertility and good luck
Bud – stands for new beginning after marriage and a new life
Zigzag – stands for rain
Ripples – stands for running water, which purifies and brings life
Square – stands for magical, used to heal and protect the sick


Monday, December 29, 2014


Thought behind the thought:

Recently on one of my trips to Chettinad, in South India I got a chance to see original Tanjore style paintings of goddesses, by Raja Ravi Verma, so claimed the owner of the house! Being a traditional Chettinad home it had treasures from the world over. Italian marble, original Venetian tiles, Burma teak columns with intricate details, Belgian glass chandeliers and what have you! There in the middle of all the treasures from the world over, were the paintings. The owner turned off the lights in the hall and the paintings literally radiated in the dark room in front of our eyes. My students tried every possible photography technique to capture that radiance without the use of a flash but couldn’t do justice to what the actual feeling was. Some things have to be experienced and cannot be captured in the lens. We all sat there, in complete silence, in awe of the painting and tried to capture it in our memory.

Painting of Vayu

Processional scene with Amar Singh, ruler of Thanjavur and Sarabhoji

Venugopala Krishna flanked by Gopikas

About the Art
Tanjore or Tanjavur paintings hail from the Tanjavur city in south India. Dating back to the 9th century, Chola rulers encouraged this art form and gave it patronage. Tanjore paintings are an extremely unique art style, in which a lot of attention is given to detail. Vivid colours, bright sparkling gems, precious and semiprecious materials are used in the construction of the paintings. The process of making these paintings is extremely laborious and needs expertise. Normally the paintings have Hindu deities as the primary subject. Well bodied and radiant, the subjects of the paintings always grab the attention in spite of all the embellishments and finery around it. The treatment is such that even in a dark room the radiance exuding from the subject cannot be taken away.



Thought behind the thought:

Social media is finding new ways everyday for people to reconnect. We leave behind so many people and move ahead in life. Yet there are some mysteries of the past that remain unsolved. I caught up with a friend recently and he updated me on the latest news about these people I had long forgotten. I was truly amazed to see how certain people turned out to be once life was done with them. Some shined, some buckled under the pressure while some left me disillusioned. That got me thinking do we actually see people for who they are or are we under some mass hypnosis of youth and are just too impressionable. Most things in life are illusions that we choose to believe but when the veil comes off the reality is pretty ugly to deal with. What we see is actually a dual picture …the further you go away the more it makes sense.

John Lennon

Charles Darwin

Tsar Ivan


About the Art:

Oleg Shuplyak’s oil paintings are astounding optical illusions. The composition of his paintings is such that objects, characters and colours are used to create a dual painting. Painting portraits of some of the greats from the art world like Pablo Picasso, John Lennon,Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Paul Gauguin, Shuplyak manages to convey the ideology of the person through his portraits. The way he integrates the landscape, culture and famous personalities one has to really look at the painting in minute detail in order to reveal all hidden images. His works are similar to those of the famous Mexican artist Octavio Ocampo,who is well known for evocative paintings in which detailed scenes are woven together to create larger images Most people are like these paintings . They project themselves in a certain way yet on close inspection so many of their true facets surface.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

inner strength

Thought behind the Thought

We are perpetually at war with ourselves. And we undermine our abilities, use our disabilities as excuses even, to justify giving up mid way!

We cannot and must not give up on ourselves, ever. In fact, that is the easiest and the most defeatist thing that we could do. Fighting on is the only respectable option, not just with the situation that is so bothering us, but with the inner weaknesses that we all have.

Just like these physically challenged artists who maybe disabled in the body, but not in spirit.

About the Artists

Members of the Indian Mouth and Foot painting Artists' association, they produce amazing art, without using their hands!

Formed in 1956, the MFPA is an international, for-profit association wholly owned and run by disabled artists to help them meet their financial needs. Members paint with brushes held in their mouth or feet as a result of a disability sustained at birth or through an accident or illness that prohibits them from using their hands.

Over the last 50 years, MFPA has brought to the forefront, the aesthetic creations of these disabled artists by providing them a platform to express their artistic talent. Instilling a sense of freedom and dignity, the Association offers its members an opportunity to earn an independent, honest and secure livelihood through the sale of their artwork.

Source and credits for all information

Friday, December 26, 2014


Thought behind the Thought

Little children performing on stage are such a delight to watch! The way they wait for their cue, and break out into a jig at the sound of the first notes, the way they get into the whole act of dancing with fervor, and the way they lose themselves to the rhythm of their own tapping feet!
As I watched the little ones dancing away with abandon, I thought about the tranquility it had brought to my mind, that had been trying to work out the logistics  and the nitty-gritty of work to be done during the day ahead.

The sound of their song and their little feet dancing to it surely changed my mood, and elevated my mind to a happier place. Yet some kids are not so fortunate and have turbulent lives....can dance become their hope?

Can dance become a channel to move on to a better life? Rebecca Davis and her dance company are doing just that in Rwanda. Homeless children, victims of genocide, have a means to better their lives through dance.
RDDC is an international NGO that runs dance and educational programs for street children and underserved youth in post-conflict and developing countries. Using a three-part model, RDDC prepares street children to re-integrate and succeed in the formal education system while gaining valuable job skills through vocational training.
In Phase I, street children improve 11 cognitive skills through a standardized dance curriculum. In Phase II, children acquire job skills through vocational training (IT or English Language). In Phase III, top performing students are sponsored to attend local boarding schools – thereby exiting life on the street and giving youth the power to advance their own lives.
 Information and Credits:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

a pinch of salt

Thought behind the Thought

I wondered one day, as I heard a relative recount the loss of a dear one, what it means to love, lose and suffer! How does one go on living after having lost a person who was a major part of your life? 
How do you fill the hole in your heart? I guess, the human heart has a great capacity to restore itself. After all, doesn't it expand to accommodate a new person in your life? Maybe a friend, your spouse, kids?

The secret is to take both the situations in your stride and live life to the fullest. Happiness or sorrow, both feed your heart, only you have to take both with a pinch of salt!

This seemingly humble ingredient can raise the quality of life, both figuratively and literally. As demonstrated in this fantastic art created by salt artist Motoi Yamamoto in his 'Labyrinth' series.

About the artist:
Motoi Yamamoto is an internationally renowned artist, known for working with salt, often in the form of temporary, intricate, large-scale installations. Salt, a traditional symbol for purification and mourning in Japanese culture, is used in funeral rituals and by sumo wrestlers before matches. It is frequently placed in small piles at the entrance to restaurants and other businesses to ward off evil spirits and to attract benevolent ones. Motoi forged a connection to the substance while mourning the death of his sister, at the age of twenty-four, from brain cancer, and began to create art out of salt in an effort to preserve his memories of her. His art radiates an intense beauty and tranquility, but also conveys something ineffable, painful, and endless.

“Drawing a labyrinth with salt is like following a trace of my memory. Memories seem to change and vanish as time goes by; however, what I seek is to capture a frozen moment that cannot be attained through pictures or writings,” Motoi has said. “What I look for at the end of the act of drawing could be a feeling of touching a precious memory.”

source and credits for information and images:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Thought behind the Thought

I have lately been suffering from an obsessive compulsive disorder ... to write! This writing is so impulsive, it seems almost as if there are all these words crowding my mind, waiting for their turn to appear on paper.
On being asked how I am able to write, and the origin of my words, the only answer I can offer is, "I don't know". Because I really don't. All I know is that if these words are put down with care, they surely communicate what I want to say, to the other person.

Where do these words really come from? Is it that words just 'are'? Or can we make our own words? If we can, surely it is a very creative act, an art in itself!

About the art:
In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Erin McKean encourages — nay, cheerleads — her audience to create new words when the existing ones won’t quite do. She lists out 6 ways to make new words in English, from compounding to “verbing,” in order to make language better at expressing what we mean, and to create more ways for us to understand one another.

About the artist:
The co-founder of Reverb Technologies, and the maker of the online dictionary Wordnik, Erin McKean is reshaping how we interact with language itself.
Erin McKean's job as a lexicographer involves living in a constant state of research. She searches high and low -- from books to blogs, newspapers to cocktail parties -- for new words, new meanings for old words, or signs that old words have fallen out of use. In June of this year she involved us all in the search by launching Wordnik, an online dictionary that houses all the traditionally accepted words and definitions, but also asks users to contribute new words and new uses for old words. Wordnik pulls real-time examples of word usage from Twitter, image representations from Flickr along with many more non-traditional, and highly useful, features.

Source and credit for all information and video:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

madness and sadness

Thought behind the Thought

My partner and me, between us, share a very strange pair of minds! Often I have realised that what was just a caterpillar in my mind, turns into a butterfly when I pass it on to her.
I sat down to watch a programme one day, having just finished sharing a mad idea with her. While I sat engrossed in the stage performance, the thought grew in her mind and by the time the programme was over, it had turned into an idea that added immense value to the work that we did together.

That is when I thought, that the madness in our mind simply multiplies when it is passed on, because there are now two minds in the grips of the same madness. Sadly, the same is true for sadness, which when passed on also affects the other!

This 'quality' of multiplication of madness is what comes through in some of the great group performances or duets too! The individual qualities and creative talent simply pools together, to give birth to a scintillating performance!

Taufiq Qureshi and his band 'Mumbai stamp' live performance

Taufiq Qureshi and his band 'Mumbai stamp' live performance

About the art: 

Recently, in 2005, Taufiq conceived his own unique band ‘MUMBAI STAMP’ It is an innovative band formed by Taufiq, where trash material is put to use creatively to explore new rhythmic horizons. ‘Mumbai Stamp’, led by Taufiq; consists of 5 to 6 young drummers who play on all sorts of waste materials like bins, cans, tin boxes, buckets etc. Vibrant patterns of rhythm originating from these non conventional instruments take the audience to another level of energy. The power emanating from these spirited trash boxes, the superb co-ordination of the band and the phenomenal ability of Taufiq to stroke a rhythmic cadence out of any surface make MUMBAI STAMP a unique band. ‘Mumbai Stamp’ has entertained many an audiences, all over India. The amazing rhythmic motifs Taufiq weaves along with his band members leaves the listener wanting for more, the band enjoys the appreciation of all types of audience-be it music lovers, corporate world or the novice. This band catches the pulse of the audience and in fact is a spectacle to watch as well.

Taufiq Qureshi and Shankar Mahadevan: jugalbandi

About the artists:

Taufiq Qureshi, an ace percussionist of India, is also an acclaimed composer. Being the son and disciple of the legendary tabla maestro Ustad Allarakha; Taufiq’s performances showcase the traditional flavour and intricacies of Indian rhythm, interwoven with his phenomenal command and sparkle of contemporary world percussions.

Taufiq’s trademark style incorporates body and vocal percussions to create unique rhythmic motifs spanning across cultures. His sense of tone and his command over a wide variety of percussion instruments and styles is commendable.

Taufiq’s albums have been released world over and he has performed at prestigious music festivals all over the globe. Taufiq has been featured as a performing artiste on the 2009- Grammy award winning album ‘Global Drum Project’. Taufiq’s album ‘Rhydhun’ amongst others is said to have set new standards for world music in India.

Taufiq Qureshi is the worthy torchbearer of a rich legacy of percussion, being the son and disciple of the legendary Ustad Allarakha and brother of the maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain. Taufiq has been greatly influenced by his illustrious brother, Ustad Zakir Hussain and is privileged to receive guidance from Ghatam Vidhwan, Pandit Vikku Vinayakram.

After a long and arduous journey of over twenty years, Taufiq continues to evolve as a percussionist in the ever- inspiring world of live-audience performances.

By virtue of his amazing versatility as a percussionist and as a composer of sorts he has carved himself a special niche in the field of world music and is fondly referred to as: Prince of Percussion.

Shankar Mahadevan  is an award-winning musical composer and playback singer who is part of the Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy composing trio team for many Indian films.

Information source and credits:

Monday, December 22, 2014


Thought behind the Thought:

The thought came to me in an auditorium, when there was a thunderous applause after the curtain fell. The little performers on the stage had given their best to the act. They were beaming with pride as they presented their performance, decked up in their costumes and wearing their make-up. I could sense their excitement, and also the need for appreciation. Should we have clapped while they were on stage, instead of waiting for them to exit?

And is this not what happens in life too? We are all giving our best to this act of living. Some  get their applause while they are still on stage, and others receive it only after the curtain has fallen. But that does not change the fact that we are all performers and we all need the applause.

And also that, if your have given your best on stage, the applause will follow; even if it does so after the curtain falls!

As it did for the great artists who created the world famous painitngs at the Ajanta caves in Maharashtra, India.The highly acclaimed art of Ajanta was hidden for centuries until it was discovered by a British army officer in 1819, and today it is a world Heritage Site, one of the most vivid displays of ancient Indian art!

  Padmapani Bodhisattva

 celestial musician


 scene from mahajataka

  ceiling decoration

  ceiling decoration

About the art:

The world famous paintings at Ajanta fall into two broad phases, t
he earliest  being datable to the second century B.C. The second phase of paintings started around 5th – 6th centuries A.D. and continued for the next two centuries. The main theme of the paintings is the depiction of various Jataka stories, different incidents associated with the life of Buddha, and the contemporary events and social life of the times. The ceiling decoration invariably consists of decorative patterns, geometrical as well as floral.

The paintings were executed after elaborate 
 initial preparation of the rock surface. The ground layer consisted of a rough layer of ferruginous earth mixed with rock-grit or sand, vegetable fibres, paddy husk, grass and other fibrous material of organic origin on the rough surface of walls and ceilings. A second coat of mud and ferruginous earth mixed with fine rock-powder or sand and fine fibrous vegetable material was applied over the ground surface. Then the surface was finally finished with a thin coat of lime wash.
Over this surface, outlines are drawn boldly, then the spaces were filled with requisite colours in different shades and tones to achieve the effect of rounded and plastic volumes. The colours and shades utilised also vary from red and yellow ochre, terra verte, to lime, kaolin, gypsum, lamp black and lapis lazuli. The chief binding material used here was glue. The paintings at Ajanta are not frescoes as they are painted with the aid of a binding agent, whereas in fresco the paintings are executed while the lime wash is still wet which, thereby acts as an intrinsic binding agent.

Source and credit for Information and images:
Archaeological Survey of India

Sunday, December 21, 2014

traffic lights

Thought behind the thought:

As I waited patiently for the traffic signal to turn green one day, a whole army of cars and scooters and buses even, whizzed past me, as if the traffic lights were non existent.

It set me thinking about the purpose behind making rules, and the reason behind people not following them. Maybe, I thought, Rules are for the likes of me, who are 'followers', not 'rule makers'. Maybe I will never understand that people who can make their own rules, need not bother about rules that others have made, for their own safety!

I am sure I sound cynical as I write this, but for these rule breakers, Traffic lights will remain a source of entertainment while mere mortals look at them to guide them towards a safe journey.

But, on a lighter note, traffic lights could indeed become a source of joy and liven up the dreary road landscape, like the sculpture installed on a busy traffic roundabout in London, now removed.

 The Traffic Light tree created by French sculptor Pierre Vivant 

About the Art: 

The Traffic Light tree was created by French sculptor Pierre Vivant following a competition run by the Public Art Commissions Agency. It was situated on a roundabout near Canary Wharf, in one of London's financial districts.

Eight metres tall and containing 75 sets of lights, each controlled by computer, Vivant described the project thus:

"The sculpture imitates the natural landscape of the adjacent London Plane Trees, while the changing pattern of the lights reveals and reflects the never ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities."

The Public Art Commission Agency said that "The arbitrary cycle of light changes is not supposed to mimic the seasonal rhythm of nature, but the restlessness of Canary Wharf."

The Traffic Light tree was installed in 1998 on the site of a plane tree, that was suffering as a result of pollution. It was initially intended that the lights would be triggered to reflect flurries of activity on the London Stock Exchange, but this proved to be too expensive to put into practice.

Although some motorists were initially confused by the traffic lights, mistaking them for real signals, the sculpture soon became a favourite among both tourists and locals. In 2005,Saga Motor Insurance commissioned a survey asking British motorists about the best and worst roundabouts in the country. The Traffic Light tree was the clear favourite.

Photo and information crtedits: 


Thought behind the thought:

December is the month of weddings in India. Come December and one gets a front row peek at a spectrum of designer collections from shoes to jewellery. It’s an image conscious world today and what you wear is who you are and the projection of whom you are very important. Jewellery is of many kinds; designer, Indo-western, fusion, branded, imitation, natural, rare, junk, punk, real etc and the list is never ending. Surprisingly each kind of jewellery manages to make its own statement. It’s a layer added to ones persona and it becomes that individual’s identity.

About the art:

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a painting that was originally titled Girl with a Turban. Painted by Johannes Vermeer it’s a masterpiece regarded as the Mona Lisa of the North or the Dutch Mona Lisa. It is currently displayed in The Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands. The focal point of this painting is the pearl earring that the subject is wearing. Vermeer has eleven such paintings with women wearing pearls. There is a lot of speculation about the painting because allegedly pearls did not exist back then. So two inferences can be drawn from this that he painted the earring from his imagination or that he painted the earring such that the light quality gives it the characteristics of a pearl. Interestingly the pearl adds a new dimension to the painting. One that of mystery and enigma. Jewellery adds a lot to a woman, question is what does she want to add?


Friday, December 19, 2014

a new world

Thought behind the thought:

Recently a friend of mine was visiting India. This particular friend has moved to America decades ago and has had an illustrious career in advertising there. He had come to visit me and liked my home which is of a very traditional Indian kind. We got talking about Indian Art and he mentioned Sonabai. The story was so fascinating that the first thing I did was wrote a quote in her honour. Sonabai is truly remarkable as you will discover when you read about her art, her life and her journey.

About the Art:
Sonabai Rajawar was in complete isolation for 15 years and lived with her husband and son in a small village, Puhphutara, India. Her life was closed and empty and she had no contact with the outside world. Although Sonabai had all her faculties intact and was of a sound mind and body her only disability was her isolation and confinement. She began creating her own world by expressing herself through art .With absolutely no training in art she is a self taught artist who was guided by her intuition and innate sense of style .With the limited resources and materials she had access to, she began her art exploration. She started with creating mud toys for her child to play using the clay in her yard. Grinding spices, herbs and minerals to be used as paints she incorporated hay and sticks as reinforcement to strengthen the sculptures. It used to get really hot in the summers so out of necessity she crafted jalis or window lattices from  clay and bamboo. Her lattices are unique with birds and animals integrated within them making them very vibrant and alive. Her inconspicuous beginnings were  slowly recognized by the art art world and soon she made a niche for herself. Her art was commemorated by the government of India and  she was honoured with the President’s Award. Since her discovery her work has been exhibited all over the world ad she has taught her art to a lot of artists. Sonabai passed away in 2007.

Stephen Huyler, Ph.D., an anthropologist, author and photographer has researched Sonabai's work for several years and is the author of, Sonabai: Another Way of Seeing. The book talks about various aspects of her life and the people and artists she influenced.

Sonabai is a true example of courage, strength and talent. Her work also teaches us that no matter how frugal your resources are, how limited your reach is and how far flung are you placed in the world, if you have ingenuity and talent the world will recognise it one day. If you want to change your life you are going to need to change “how you see it”.