How does love blossom in the world that is the internet? What do you feel as you swipe left or right, deciding instantly on a pose, or a hashtag or just the numbness in your thumb? I’m always fascinated by how love shapes itself online. Which is why when I came across #100IndianTinderTales, an art project by the fantastic Indian artist, Indu Harikumar or Induviduality, whose work I’ve been following for years, I just had to share some of it on my site. The project has “true stories and experiences of people using Tinder in India and Indians using Tinder abroad” with images by the artist. They’re full of glee, sex, intrigue, crushes, obsessions and in some cases true love. Curl up this Valentine’s with a few of my favourite ones. For more, head to the artist’s Facebook or Instagram page.
Day 22: P from #Delhi writes about a night of unbridled passion
“By age 37, I have experienced the truest of loves and its devastating loss. A heart that has loved so singularly & lost so purely becomes either fearless or reckless. So when a chance Tinder encounter (truly chance because he is only in the same location for a couple of hours when we ‘match’) reveals himself to be perfect in all ways except that he’s married, I don’t disqualify him. It is the coldest thing I’ve ever done – to pursue an intensely sexual encounter with an absolute stranger from whom my heart wants nothing. It also makes me feel alive. We meet and have a spectacular night without an ounce of sleep. I get a cab in the early hours of the morning and as I ride back, there’s a smile on my face, a glow in my body and an absolute absence of guilt.”
I found my first Gond story in a Gond painting exhibition by Indra Gandhi National Centre of the Arts in Bangalore. The series of paintings, in ten by ten feet frames, was a graphic narrative like I’d never seen before. And I was wowed.
It’s Ramayana, I exclaimed, a story I knew, peering to understand the visuals and corroborate it with the story my grandmother had told me ages ago. The story I’d seen again in Ramananda Sagar’s Ramayana TV series which was inspired by the Awadhi text Ramacharitra Manas written by Goswami Tulsidas. However, I couldn’t decipher the visual story. It didn’t collaborate with the Ramayana tale I knew. The one I considered the right one. Curious and fascinated, I contacted IGNCA, started to research on this unusual Gond version, emailed people, called scholars, read books and piece by piece constructed the story that is sung by the bards of Gond, where Ram isn’t the main hero. And so I build up the whole story. Or atleast a version of it. For I’m a storyteller too.
Have you heard the story where Lakshmana is the real hero in Ramayana? And Ram, that ideal husband and king is but a side character who orders his younger brother to fetch his dice for a game and then blames him for trying to sleep with his wife. I hadn’t.
So I’m going to retell one of the Gond Ramayani tales to you.
This was just sent by Harper Collins team. It’s the cover of Anantya Tantrist’s first adventure in book format and I feel butterflies the size of dinosaurs in somewhere in the deep dark pits of my being. So I wanted to distract myself by telling you all a story. (For that’s what stories are for, no?) This one is the story of an incredible artist and his various kindnesses.
On a lazy Sunday a year ago, I headed to Leaping Windows (now unfortunately closed) with a twinkle in my eye. Two weeks before that, I had just finished reading one of the most amazing graphic novels in recent times, Moonward. I had stolen it from Jerry, who runs The Jam Hut in Hennur. My husband’s a drummer and I accompany him with a book sometimes. Much to my delight, that sunny day, I found a signed Moonward in Jerry’s little library. In it, I discovered the wise dragonfly I had first seen in the old Mojo’s pub off Residency Road.
Mojo’s was the pub I headed to in my first weekend in Bangalore. The only thing I remember of old Mojo’s with fondness (an otherwise seedy bar where you have to rub your eyes to see, get soggy popcorns and the loos always smelled of pee) were the frescoes done by Appupen aka George Mathen. His lovely frescoes, especially the artwork above, were the first thing that had made me feel part of the city I call my own now, Bangalore. ‘It’s the same artist,’ I exclaimed, touching the old, wise dragonfly guy.
Moonward turned out to be a similar journey of a creature in a fantasy world called Halahala, both marvellously witty and socially sharp. I hogged it in a day, delighted, thrilled and left with an unfinished feeling. So I went online looking for its creator and a copy for myself. After I hounded him over Facebook, George agreed to meet me to sign a copy of his works.
So the Sunday mentioned above happened. As I marvelled the frescoes George had created at the little café in Indianagar, he walked in, a kind fellow with a sparkle in his eye and a self-deprecating smile. He signed two copies of his Moonward and Legends Of Halahala (one for me, one as a wedding gift for pals Thej and Anju) and then spend a whole hour with me, telling me tales of literary festivals, how he draws the spectacular graphic novels (by getting a bit high on mutton and other stuff) and how much he loves playing the drums (he was part of the popular Bangalore-based band Lounge Piranha). I heard his tales, full of wisdom and wit and laughed and giggled. A cup of coffee later, I realized it was more than an hour that we’d been chatting, that I had poured onto him ALL my hopes and fears about publishing Anantya Tantrist‘s first book. Secretly, I so wanted him to draw her out but how does one ask such a favour from such a big artist? So I didn’t. I left instead because I had stranded a dear pregnant friend, forgotten all about her, while I was there, chatting with George. But being evil is worth it sometimes.
A few months happened and Harper Collins after a long haul said yes to publishing Anantya’s series. I was superbly happy. When my editor asked me who should do the cover, I knew, I knew I had to ask George then. So I did and crossed my fingers, because HC couldn’t pay that much to an artist like him!
But George, though he might say a vigourous no to being labeled with the the term, is super-kind. So he agreed to draw Anantya’s face, to recreate her as a goddess, as Kali. The result was completely different from what I had imagined and the brief I had doled out (and I am so thankful for that!). When I was writing Anantya Tantrist‘s book, I imagined her face and body and expressions in many, many ways. But it was never, ever like this. I was surprised, gutted, shocked when I saw Anantya drawn like this. And that’s the magic of George’s pen. His paintbrush slashed perceptions and prejudices and went to the very core, cutting Anantya to the bone. She would like that.
My heart is still beating, because I love it so much and can’t wait for reactions to Cult of Chaos, Anantya’s upcoming book in December. I am lucky to have found such kind people in the city I belong to now. Thanks, George, for your kindness to a stranger.
Connect with Appupen online on Facebook. George’s older art can be found on his personal Facebook page, here, here and even here. I highly recommend his latest graphic novel, Aspyrus (Amazon // Flipkart) which is a fascinating exploration of silent comic.
Till last year, I didn’t know who Paul Fernandes was, though I had seen his artwork all over Bangalore, occasionally colourfully covering up a bland restaurant wall or even an old space. I loved his work, without realising it was his work. Then, on a day walking during lunchtime, I stepped into his shop at Richard’s Park and connected all the humourous comic chronicles of 70s Bangalore I had seen strewn around in Bangalore. (And fell in love with a bag, but that’s another story). I stayed, my eyes crinkling with laughter at each of the framed poster.
As I left, I saw a man standing outside, chatting with the manager of the shop. He looked like any old man, white beard, unassuming kurta and a khadi bad slung around his chest, standing next to a moped. Being the curious girl I am, I stood in the circle too, chatting about old bungalows and how hard it was maintaining them. Afterwards, over lunch my friend told me that the person we had been chatting to all this while was Paul himself. I turned back as if to see him again, and imagined an unassuming man who could be missed, lost in a crowd. Everything lost, except for the satisfied smile. This was eight months ago.
Then August happened and my debut novel The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong released. In December, my graphic novel The Skull Rosary released. Two releases in the market meant a lot more of marketing. Ever since then, I have had to struggle with my writing. My time travelled between one more online update, one more connection in the marketing industry and then one more chasing the journalist who wouldn’t remember my name. In the lists of neverending tasks-to-be–done, my writing (the reason I quit my job and career in journalist), lay in a corner, gathering dust and wondering why it was being ignored.
So it was with a heavy, confused heart that I was at the Times Literature Carnival last Sunday. I had been feeling lost since a couple of weeks (my wise mother named it rat-race of the author’s world), not getting enough time to get into the blackhole that is required for creativity. Not able to switch off from the constant stream of social updates as well as public updates that wave after wave came to my shores. Not able to back off and go back to the closed room.
Then I saw Mr Paul Fernandes, standing in a corner, smiling at the festival. The same smile I remembered from the sunny day in Richard’s Park. I headed to him and made conversation about this and that. All the time my mind was whirling, at unrest, wondering. Finally, with a deep breath, I said it.
‘Sir, can I ask you something? It’s sort of vague and personal but I just have to ask.’
He nodded. My cue was here and my best bet was to be as expressive as possible.
‘Sir, how does one balance marketing with creative works? I mean, once there’s certain level of success, once you have achieved the first step of success, how do you stop that ambition from taking root and go back to your work? What you loved doing in the first place? Writing for me and painting for you? How do you switch off?’
‘Me? I just love what I do. I love to draw and so I do it.’
It wasn’t enough. I needed more.
‘But sir, how? How do you switch off?’
‘Well, I go back to my table, see all my pens and papers strewn around and then leave the world outside. I close the door.’
‘But sir, how do you control ambition? I mean I have a certain level of success, but I want more. How do I stop wanting more?’
‘But, ambition is a good thing. Just leave it outside the door when you go inside.’
Such a small conversation. It took two minutes of standing in the bustling Carnival of literature but it hit home. I left smiling, suddenly lighthearted after so many weeks of this heavy stone in my heart. It wasn’t that I didn’t know this before, but when Mr Fernandes said it, it just somehow hit home. And so I decided to close off everything, all tasks, all lists, all the world, and close to door, with only my paper, pen and laptop for company. It was hard before, but suddenly, after hearing it from Mr Fernandes, it became so easy. Thank you, Paul, for that.
Paul Fernandes is one of Bangalore’s well known illustrator and artist and cartoonists. He has illustrated many books, including On a High Note and Peter Colaco’s Bangalore. To see his work, head to his gallery in Bangalore, aPaulogy.
Made a recent trip to Kolkata during Durga Pooja. I planned to write a blog on the travel (before I went there) but after experiencing the whole city during the throngs of art, aesthetic, stories, religiosity, happiness and sheer sublimity, I am kind of out of words. Hence I have decided to share with you a poem I wrote on the airplane while I was coming back from the trip. My head was clogged with sinus and my heart heavy with what I had just witnessed. As is the way of emotion and words, I hope to give you an essence of the transformation I went through seeing the beautiful idols on display and being immersed.
And lo! Durga falls down
The fire of right
Shines through your starry sari
As you stand slightly staring
With those big, diamond-shaped eyes
On to the little girl with oiled pigtails
Black lips sucking on an ice lolly.
In red and white
And purple and silver
With necklaces wound delicately
Like slumbering snakes
You merge burning desire and danger
In everlasting serpentine curves.
You ethereal mystery, you.
How you smile slightly, almost ironically
Moist clay corners of your lips tilted upwards
As she stares at you
Hoping to find
For her broken tears.
You float freely
Hailed by harnesses
In the bright light falling
On your bejeweled bosom.
Your calm, cushioned cheeks
Plush like apples.
He looks up, his belly stirring
With a rush of guilt and desire
As he takes off his black glasses
Carefully wiping off the sweaty dust
That has gathered
Standing in the sweaty crowd.
Your feet play hide and seek
In your bridal sari.
One delicate foot
Crushes the demon’s arrogant neck
Suffocating him to death
Your spear tears off his chest
Spurting a stream of blood
A new coloured river.
We look at the blood
And thank you
It’s not us.
You coy, shy bride!
Your hands and feet
Stained with crimson red.
Hold the sword and spear
And move with a tinkle
Of green glass bangles
Awaiting a love, long lost.
I look at you and think
Your job’s almost done
Tomorrow you will be gone too.
I know but don’t know
How and why
You would go.
In the dark, sultry night,
Your million hands and arms
Spread like the sun’s last rays
A magician’s card trick
About to be played.
The drums beat tireless
As palpitating excitement burns
Under the orange flood lights.
This is the moment they were all waiting for!
In the truck’s shadow you stand
Silent, waiting for the policeman
To flick his final hand.
The drums beat into a frenzy
Fleshy feet and hands and arms and breasts and hips
All jive and twist and turn and swirl and dance
As the drums beat and beat and beat and beat.
The artificial lights sparkle like stars
On her shining waters
As her soft, clingy, fine mud
Beckons you to come.
She waits for you
Her dirty arms stretched
Her body covered
With centuries of filthy flesh dips
And carcasses and mellowed flowers and broken ceramic cups
And shiny plastic packets.
Sins of flesh and heart and mind and greed
All churn and mix and become one
In her accepting waters.
She is bejeweled too
Her boils ooze plastic like
Her blackened skin moistened with electric lights.
Her brown blood oozes
Onto the shores
With silt and sweat and tears and piss
Her waters call out in anticipation.
They look at you
They look at her
With cultivated disinterest.
From their vantage point
On a small luxury cruiser
Nursing a glass of wine.
Fashionably crinkling their noses
As the slight moldy smell of retch
That rises up to the deck.
You look at her
Your deep, dark eyes
Marked red in corners
And maybe your heart heaves
Becomes so heavy
That the fleshy men carrying you
Slip on her fine muds
One almost being crushed.
He mumbles a quick thank you
As he pushes you again
For just a moment
You stand in all your regalia
Your dress resplendent
Like a thousand suns
Your hand raised in blessing.
And maybe you are slightly perplexed
As to why?
But then, splash!
Your face looks upwards
At the heavy stars
Hanging low, like overripe jewels
In a dungeon sky.
Her cooling waters
Takes your paint away.
Black eyes and small red pout and cushy cheeks and double chin
Is all ripped off by its skin.
You cannot see or hear or smell or taste.
As she sucks you further into her womb.
Like she sucked centuries of flesh and blood and sweat and piss.
They turn you upside,
And the cold, murky waters
Set to work,
Your skin and bones and veins and blood.
You float and feel
The million others like you.
Your bones softly bumping
Into another you, then another, then another
And then another.
You cannot see or hear or taste or smell
Only feel, only feel
The cold, weathered snake-like hand
That coils on your now empty breast
Pulling, pushing, peeling, pushing.
He grips your bared bones
Sweat mingles with forgiving waters
His dhoti stuck stubbornly to his innards.
He hauls you and thinks of home
His plate of rice and hot fish curry
His empty stomach rumbles as he sees
An endless assembly line yet to heave
Of you and you and you and you.
Maybe you cannot feel now.
I hope you cannot feel anymore.
The rusted crane clutches your innards
With her big, metallic claws
Away from her cold, murky womb.
For a moment
One of your arms
Still white with green bangles
Shines in protest
In the darked up night
Trying to reach to the skies.
But then the crane heaves
Dashing your brittle bones
On a hill of empty
Maybe you wondered why.
Maybe you knew.
What is born and made
Will crumble to down to dust.
Your holocaust of carcasses
Stands tall as a reminder
Silent, nursing, resting, tired.
Waiting to rise
When time turns
And yet another demon
Needs to burn.
For one moment
My painful heart sinks and cries out
And maybe my soul sours
Up in the dark, murky sky
Grieving for you,
I trip and fall backwards
On the deck of the civilized carcass
Floating, for now,
On the balmy river bed.
Touring the Vatican museum, the audio guide informed me that a beautiful Roman time statue I saw in front of me (that of a marble woman, her curves delicately hidden by a flowing gown) was in fact a copy of the same figurine of a Greek sculpture, now destroyed. Copycat! I shouted, gleaming at the fact that it wasn’t a new phenomenon. I thought this was the only one. To my surprise though, the whole gallery (and the Vatican museum has huge galleries) all the statues there had the same inscription. See how the plaque explained it.
Belvedere Apollo, by Leochares. Roman copy of 130–140 AD after a Greek bronze original of 330–320 BC. Vatican Museums (source: Wikipedia)
Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC. Vatican Museums (source: Wikipedia)
Copying you see was an ancient form of appreciation in the Greeks and then the Romans. The helpful audio guide continued while I stood there astounded. So you see the Greeks copied other cultures, the Romans copied the Greeks, the Renaissance artists copied both of them and then the neo-classical ones copied all of them. In the meanwhile the same period artists copied each other. Arch rivals copied with envy, while the students copied their master’s work to celebrate it. It was all in good faith. Woah! What was that again? For me, who belongs to an increasingly copyrighted world, this is downright blasphemy! ‘Copying is very, very bad! Almost evil! Don’t ever do it again!’ I remember by art teacher saying it as I peeked into a friend’s sketchbook on how she was making that tree. It’s the same with mythology btw. I just wrote a graphic novel on Krishna, a grand figure from the Mahabharata and am slightly ashamed by the guilt feeling that came in me which told me that it’s not an original (Gosh, did I just rewrite someone else’s story?).
I mean why didn’t the original Greek creator, the original one please, sue all these others? What did the law court do if not sue these copiers? As if telepathically, the audio guide gave me the answer. Apparently copying a sculpture in the ancient European world (Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Renaissance and then Neo-Classical periods) was not only considered good, the copy was considered an ORIGINAL!How can a copy ever be considered original? It reminded me of something an artist friend of mine told me. ‘Shweta, he said. Don’t ever think that you copied a mythology. If you have written the story, it’s an original, even if it’s a story that all grandmothers of India know by heart.’ If you create it, a part of it becomes yours. Did he by any chance knew how the Romans thought? Maybe, maybe not, but that is not the question. The question is, Is copying, gosh I can barely say it, the highest form of appreciation? After all, aren’t we all copiers of nature? We try to xerox it in words, visuals and sculptures.
In our copyrighted world, where branding is everything, copying is the eight sin. Forget celebration, the copiers are usually struck with a lawsuit and sued for millions (depending upon who is the artist) and paralleled to devils and evil people. It’s considered the worse kind of creativity, in fact, there’s no creativity in a copy. Oh, and btw, I was sure about this myself. As an author who’s writing my first book, I dream of a time when I wont be financially dependent and the only way to do that is to copyright and sell my creative work. if someone copies it, I will be completely heartbroken.
But then what about the new copy-paste generation that is coming up? Aren’t they, with information just a google search away and no qualms about copy-pasting articles, thoughts, ideas from the online world, going the same way as the Romans? There’s one difference though. The Romans were crediting the master they copied. So if someone copies you as a creator and credits you for the original, would you be all right? Or do you need a part of the royalties?
I just took a two week trip to Paris and Italy. Instead of a one-shot summary of the travel, I am breaking my experiences up in thoughts, ideas and learning I took away from the beautiful continent. Presented in a series of blogs called Notes from Europe, it will be written across a few days, weeks or months, I am not sure which. I aim to present things I remember to have thought when I was in the continent from where modern culture as we know it has stemmed from.