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”.


Thursday, December 18, 2014


Thought behind the thought:

Social media is an interesting place to meander sometimes. It’s amazing; the lives people live or project to be living. Exotic holidays, celebrations and achievements are all well documented and presented in the form of stunning photographs. Yet the other day a photo was shared that shook me to the core of my being. It was a photo of a group of girls and all of them had one thing in common. They were all victims of acid attacks. It shames me to think that we are the so called human beings, “the evolved species”. Are we really civilized, cultured and sensitive people? How in the world can we unleash such brutality on innocent people? Is loving someone an emotion that makes you harm them beyond imagination? Is hating someone reason enough to cause such pain anguish and trauma? So who do these attackers think they are that the world owes it to them, to fulfill their desires? It’s time we stood behind our daughters and became more supportive and strong. It’s time we are no more bystanders but come to the aid of a victim. It’s definitely time to ask ourselves am I being a Human.

About The Art:
Lakshmi is an acid attack survivor herself. She began the Stop Acid Attack campaign to give a voice to victims of such heinous violence. She wanted to create a safe haven for these girls where they would get support, care and advice on building a self sustaining life. Café Sheroes Hangout (She Heroes) is an attempt to put these fighters back into the mainstream society that had shun them in the first place. It is an effort not only to make them financially independent but also to give them confidence and courage to face their hardships. The café serves food prepared by the fighters. It is a readers' cafe that displays and sells works crafted by the Sheroes. It also houses a community radio hub and works as a space to conduct activism workshops. Ironically the café is situated right opposite the Taj Mahal in Agra. One, a symbol of a man honouring the woman he loved and the other, a sanctuary to women who suffered brutality at the very hands of people who claimed to have “loved” them, or who were their “loved ones”.

On their web page a few lines are written that give you a sense of the horror that these girls face.
“When dreams die, they do not make much noise. When hopes are crushed, the sighs are soundless. Acid corrodes gently. Eating away at her skin, bones and her dreams. The rest of her life begins now. A battle against unending, excruciating pain, deformity, social negligence, ostracisation and an invisible justice system.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

gravity glue

Thought Behind the thought:

A friend of mine frequently goes paragliding and I am completely awe struck by the whole idea of being in the air high above the ground and flying like a bird. I am a bit jittery about air and sea travel and love the connection I have with the ground when I am on a road trip or travelling by train. I eagerly wait for the tyres to make contact with the runway or the boat to reach the harbour. The security that hard ground provides us is unparalleled. So are we so meant to be attached to the earth’s surface by some magic glue? Apparently some of us are not and being propelled down a bungee line or jumping off a cliff with a para glider makes them one with themselves. So then, can we categorise humans as amphibian humans, reptilian humans and avian humans? It’s an interesting thought but it goes without saying no matter how high you fly or deep you plunge you will always return to the earth’s surface thanks to gravity!

About The Art:
Stone balancing is what Michael Grab does but he elevates the entire process to a new dimension by turning it into an art form. Gravity defying balancing and artistically composed arrangements are his forte. Slow breathing, steady hands, keen eye, knowledge about the weight distribution and infinite patience are only some of the skill sets required to do what he does. His compositions are almost meditative and he believes, these creations sometimes in the most turbulent situations, are so still that they inspire him. They teach him to be calm and unmoved during challenges that life has in store. His compositions are not joined by any adhesives but stay connected by what he calls “gravity glue”. Why does he do them? Well they provide him a chance to distress, connect and introspect.
Do go to his website to learn more about his philosophy and process of working.

Photo and Information Credits:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

comic books

Thought behind the thought:
In a day and age where television channels could be counted, on the fingers of one hand, comics books were the single most form of entertainment to young minds in the 70's and 80's. Millions of children who grew up back then in India have fond memories attached to these comics. Mandrake the magician, Phantom the ghost who walks, Flash Gordon and Bahadur (Indrajal Comics) transported every child into a fantasy world full of drama, action, wonder and discovery. Simple, entertaining, affordable and knowledge based material was what Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle provided the average Indian child. Comics like Amar Chitra Katha made mythology seem so exciting and enjoyable. History books could never compete with the charm that Amar Chitra Katha offered. Tinkle bought humour, trivia, general knowledge and quizzes to every child that eagerly waited for it to be delivered monthly. I happened to find a very different looking bound volume of Tinkle recently and bought it for my kids. Apparently Supandi and Shikari Shambhu still hold the same magic, as I distinctly heard my daughter laugh out loud as she read it.

Amar Chitra Katha First Issue no:11
Krishna Illustrated by Ram Waeerkar

 Amar Chitra Katha's unique colour illustrations

Cover of first Issue of Tinkle December 1980

Anant Pai 

17th September 1929 – 24th  February 2011

About the Art:
Comic books and Anant Pai, or fondly known as Uncle Pai, are synonyms in India. In February 1967 in a quiz contest aired on Doordarshan (official Indian Channel) children were able to answer difficult questions in Greek and Roman Mythology but failed to answer basic questions like "In the Ramayana, who was Rama's mother?

Deeply shocked and pained by this Anant Pai, who then was a junior executive in The Times of India books division, left his job and undertook the work of Amar Chitra Katha. He assumed the position of writer, editor and publisher. The series went on to become a publishing milestone for the Indian comic book scene, selling over 86 million copies of about 440 titles.

Writers like Kamala Chandrakant, Margie Sastry, Subba Rao, Debrani Mitra and C.R Sharma joined the creative team of Amar Chitra Katha. The illustrators attached to ACK were Ram Waeerkar, who illustrated the very first issue of Amar Chitra Katha, Krishna. Some of the other eminent names are Dilip Kadam, C. M. Vitankar,Sanjeev Waeerkar, Souren Roy, C.D Rane, Ashok Dongre, V.B. Halbe, Jeffrey Fowler, Pratap Mullick and Yusuf Lien aka Yusuf Bangalorewala.

The first issue of Tinkle was launched in April 1980. As of today 622 issues have been printed. The whole interactive format of the magazine was what held its audiences. Children wrote directly to Uncle Pai! He responded to their letters. Drawings were made, stories were written and they could actually be printed in the magazine! Former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was one of the fans of Tinkle due to its educational and entertainment format.


Monday, December 15, 2014


Thought behind the thought:

We communicate so much with our hands. In fact we have even come up with an entire sign language which people use to communicate effectively with the hearing impaired. A lot of times when conversation is of an engaging kind these hands just start their magic to emphasize everything that's being said. Yet in a contemplative frame of mind they join in prayer and seem to draw energy through them.Hands play such an important role in non verbal communication! In fact, after the eyes, which are probably the most effective medium of communicating emotions and intentions, it is the hands that convey a lot of what is not said verbally, to the other person. The movements of the hand, the way they are held, even the fingers moving in a certain way, all combine to communicate the thoughts of person without speaking a single word.

Bibhatsa rasa  

Shanta rasa     

Raudra rasa

  Shringar rasa   

 Adbhuta rasa   

Bhayanak rasa

  Hasya rasa 

  Karuna rasa   

                                                                        Veer rasa

About the Art
Indian classical dance uses of hands to explore their full potential as visual communicators. Hast-mudras (Hand gestures) form a language in their own right while performing 'Abhinaya'(expressive technique).They help the dancer to express almost anything and everything. Natya Shastra emphasises the importance of hand gestures in the following quotation :

"Yato hastastato drishti"..."Where the hand is, the eyes follow"

"Yato drishtistato manaha"..."Where the eyes go, the mind follows"
"Yato manahastato bhava"..."Where the mind is, there is the expression"
"Yato bhavastato rasa"..."Where there is expression, there is mood/flavour (i.e., appreciation of art)

Shambhavi Dandekar, a prolific Kathak performer, versatile choreographer and a successful teacher expresses the nava-rasas , as seen in this series of photographs, with hand gestures and facial expressions that are the echoes of the mind!

Shambhavi took her lessons in Kathak from her mother, Guru Maneesha Sathe, a renowned Kathak exponent and her advanced training in Indian rhythm (laya-taal) under Pad. Taalyogi Pt. Suresh Talwalkar .She maintains the solid base of tradition, training (taleem), authenticity and dignity in her dance, while also trying out 'fusion' with a dash of new thought, technique and look. She hopes to spread her love for Kathak, to the new generation and connect the past and future through her scintillating performances and her passionate teaching.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

sand castles

Thought behind the quote:
As children the the most exciting part of going to a beach is making sandcastles. My daughter is very artistic and loves detail. So on one such trip she insisted on making the castle very elaborately. Sand is a difficult medium to work with, yet fun and versatile. That brought to my mind, making a life is like making sandcastles. You know you are building on the beach and after hours of toiling you leave everything you created to the will of the tides. You might return tomorrow and find nothing exists of what you so painstaking built. Fate is a factor that no one controls yet it exists in all our lives.
The Geeta says
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ -४७
Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani
What it means is that you have the right to work but not the right to reap the fruit of your efforts. We leave fate to decide the worth of our efforts yet we do not leave success only in the hands of fate without toiling.

About the Art:
Legend goes that Balram Das, who was a great devotee of Lord Jagannath built a chariot of sand for the Lord some seven hundred years ago. ever since this tradition is carried out and still prevalent in Orissa, an Indian state.Sudarshan Pattnaik is an internationally acclaimed artist who has crafted some sand marvels very painstakingly. He was awarded the Padma Shri by government of India in 2014. A self taught artist Sudarshan Pattnaik has won several competitions across the world. His themes are both social messages and creative wonders.