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Beatles Ashram, India 2017

In 1967, the Beatles visited Rishikesh, India to study transcendental meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Beatles stayed and apparently wrote much of the White Album at this ashram. The ashram was closed for over 3 decades during which period it was consumed by creepers and jungle trees until it was reclaimed by the Uttarakhand Forest Department.

The first annual Rishikesh Art and Film Festival which was held in Rishikesh in March 2017 displayed artwork by photographers and painters from all over the world for the first time ever at the Beatles Ashram. The following is a peek at some of my works exhibited in what was formerly the Beatles Art Studio within the ashram.

 

A Proud Grandmother

A Proud Grandmother

RANTEPAO. INDONESIA. 2015

Enroute to the village of Batutumonga, there is a small, anonymous, seemingly unwelcoming, monotone village. It looks abandoned, but clothes of little children hang out to dry beneath the tongkonans, which are traditional houses in which the deceased of the family are buried. You sit on a rock and take it all in: the walk up here has been long and rocky. And you see a little child peeking out of a tiny window to play with a rooster that has popped up at its window, and you snap a photo. Suddenly, the entire village comes to life as people come out of hiding, and a stern looking grandmother steps out of her house and calls you over. The village pauses as you make your way there. Is she angry? You wonder.

Then she bursts into a bright smile and shakes your hand, looking on proudly at her two-year old and invites you to come sit with her. And you do. You cannot converse because you do not speak the same language. But you talk with the eyes and smiles and gestures. And she puts her hand over your head and says something calmly. And suddenly you become a very part of this invisible little village. This is advaita

The Story of a Bhopa

Rampal Bhopa

PUSHKAR. INDIA. 2014

The story of Rampal, a Bhopa living in Pushkar, Rajasthan is a sad one. Bhopas are folk singers who used to perform using a bowed stringed instrument called the Ravanhatta for the villagers of Rajasthan in front of a scroll depicting folk tales. This performance was considered a healing ritual and involved the whole village. Now the Bhopas have no home, and live in poverty in tarp tents on the outskirts of the village making money by playing for music for travelers passing through.

I first saw Rampal in Pushkar Market, a busy street around the ghat of Pushkar Lake where cows, stray dogs, vendors, people- both local and foreigners, musicians, dancers and various artists live together in total harmony. He was playing his ravanhatta for a young Australian couple, mainly bollywood songs but they didn’t know that and it didn’t matter and he made ₹10 at the end of a 20 minute long performance. But he invited us over to his little tarp home docked in the capricious desert sand anyway, to eat under the starry night sky, in the warmth and light from the glowing red embers from a perished fire. Two chapatis shared between four of us with a little potato, served more on our plates than theirs, of course. 

Tune of the Erhu

Playing the Erhu

DALI. CHINA. 2015

It has been raining. The cobblestoned streets are dull, almost empty for China, and there’s a heavy unease in the air. Tunes float out of pastry shops where women crush rose petals and fill cookie dough balls with the same to bake flower pastries which they will sell for 10 kuai each, a perfect warm thing to eat on cold Yunnan days. It is January 2016 in the Yunnan Province in China. People walk by without a word, for such is China and its people: reserved, closed, bubbled, alone. No one talks to strangers. No one smiles at a foreigner. Everyone is alone within their aloneness. Everyone is busy going nowhere. A man plays a melancholic tune on his Erhu, an instrument also called the Chinese fiddle and originating in the Tang Dynasty. He’s an unrealized consciousness bringing us all together. He’s the inconceivable instrument of advaita on these cold windy streets of Dali, who cracks open, albeit slightly, the souls of everyone who walks past him.

Japanese Paper Skin

IMG_1968

BALTA. INDIA. 2016

Not many people in India know their dates of birth, and hence their age. They seem to skip through the years of life in tens. That is, for ten years, they’re 80, then suddenly they’re 90. Laxmi Devi is 80 and lives in the midst of dried red pines in the tiny village of Balta in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand with a population of 850 people. She’s frail, less than 5 feet tall, her skin is impeccably wrinkled in sharp contours like handmade Japanese paper, and she offers us to come with her for a wedding in her village in exchange for a bike ride there.

Babas of Pashupatinath

Baba

KATHMANDU. NEPAL. 2016

Followers of Shiva (babas) walk all the way from Varanasi in India to the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu for Mahashivaratri, the night on which, according to the Vedas, the Universal spiritual energy generated by planetary positions is at its peak. To allow this natural surge of energies to find their way, people stay up all night i.e. remain with their spines vertical, or in other words, stay awakeIt is the night of profound stillness. In the Yogic tradition, Shiva isn’t worshipped as a God but rather as the first guru from whom knowledge originated and prayers offered to Shiva on this night has a profound impact.


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