Wrinkles from hardships, eyes of wisdom, a skin tanned by years of a farmer’s sun embellished with tattoos. A Gujarati woman from the interiors of the state visits the holy hamlet of Rishikesh with her husband.
The quiet powerful beauty of mountain children can’t be comprehended by those of us living in cities. The beautiful balance of ferocity and calmness, feminine and masculine, of simplicity and pride that they display tells a lot about our forgotten ways.
EXHIBIT AT THE UTTRA ART GALLERY. 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.
SHANGRI LA. CHINA. 2016
The sun descends slowly behind a Naxi woman in Shangri La. Wearing stars and the moon is the general motif of a Naxi woman’s traditional dress: wide-sleeved loose gowns, blue or purple waistcoats, red caps, woolen sweaters, and long black trousers with seven round circles and vertical ears on the sheepskin cape to represent seven stars.
The Naxis consider love as the ultimate reality. If a couple in love can’t stay together, they will die for love. On their final night in this body, they buy the best wine and food, put on their best clothes, choose a nice place to spend their last hours, most often somewhere on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and dance all night long. Then they step hand in hand onto the road which leads to the Paradise of Love to sublimate their lives by love.
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.
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.