Navigating the chaos of the world around us, the arts provide ample instances in which to find quiet beauty and haunting melodies that fill us with restive hope and a future of gentler realities
One of my simple pleasures is to find the daily newspaper stuffed into my front door grill and get a sense of what the world has been up to the day before. I am not a creature of habit, and this is probably the only one I have held on to doggedly for decades. But recently, I stopped this daily ritual after the overdose of depressing news. News of the city and country that seem to care less and less, with insane amounts of violence and malice directed at others. It doesn’t seem like a world I want to live in. It surely seems like the world has gone mad.
It felt like I was a sprightly 23 just the other day – a joyful feeling – before the nefarious 40s snuck up on me, unannounced. But that slightly distant other day seemed to belong to a more restive and gentler world, peopled with somehow nicer people. Or to blasphemously quote my teenage god, Pablo Neruda, ‘Tonight I can write the saddest lines…’ So, with tired eyes, a receding hairline and lesser energy as youth is quickly giving way to a slightly unpleasant middle age, my desperation to be a part of the better world is getting stronger. How did we allow ourselves to be become a race of such horrible people?
As a creative professional, I find that my ilk should have our work cut out for us and we must rise to the occasion. We must, with quiet determination, strategise, conceive and deliver projects that allow us to be better people, to question and feel very uncomfortable when things are not what they should be. Do parents introspect when their son becomes a rapist or a murderer, of how did their sweet little child become this monster of a man? And how do these people live with themselves, what makes them such? I am reminded of a series of drawings that the artist, S.N. Souza did about 30 years ago. The drawings resembled a head with criss-crossing jagged lines that seemed to dismember the head, as if illustrating a very disturbed person.
I spent the last three days in a wet Bhubaneswar. I am a second-generation, displaced, mixed-breed Odiya-Gujarati, with a large part of my identity shaped by both the cultures and yet not. As a part of the JD Centre of Arts in Orissa, we were hosting two 90-year legendary figures from the world of architecture – BV Doshi and Mahendra Raj. Hearing them speak about their work was incredibly humanising. While their work in itself is inspiring, it is their approach, their journeys, based on a strong sinuous life of integrity that made everyone in the packed audience realise what makes a person an exceptional human being. Hundreds of students and professionals sat around them, softly and reverentially asking innumerable questions. The two sat patiently in the centre of this circle of adulation and with generosity and warmth answered them. Reminiscing about this lovely day, it somehow feels that everything is not lost.