|Two Friends At A Tea Shop, Noida Fields, Near River Yamuna. 2009|
As India is getting all excited and ready for the F1 (Indian Formula One) race event... I wonder, like me many more would remember the space, place we once cherished and occupied... the vast wide open fields around Noida, Yamuna. It wasn't long ago that I would spend time around these very places, where today ear-splitting sound of Formula One cars would be jet-setting.. and ironically this was my space!! A space I had found and cherished, for its quietude. To run away from the madness of city life, to be with wide open green fields of rice in autumn, wheat fields in winter. Not to mention the yellow mustard fields and innumerable vegetables I would get from large hearted villagers, mostly refusing money...
For some years the land around the rivers Yamuna and Hindon have been my happy hunting ground to paint and take pictures, to sit under a tree, to drink tea at my friend's small tea shop. Or just while away my time chatting with villagers under the warm winter sun.
I had just returned from Europe. One late September afternoon while out on a drive to spot Nilgai, a waft of strong aromatic rice being cooked floated in, but there wasn't a soul around! I stopped and looked around the ripened Basmati growing fields and then my friend told me the aroma is coming from the rice fields!! Later we saw those large beautiful animals crossing over the vast rice fields, their short, sharp pointed horns and beautiful gait. The concerned agency had taken away the land and cut them in huge chunks and laid roads in a grid pattern.. A layout our forefathers from the banks of Sindhu Civilisation did some 5000 thousand years back... Though the land had been taken away and some kind of roads were being laid, it was still cultivated by the enterprising villagers.. To extract the last benefits before being buried completely by an asphalt jungle...
My flat too is constructed on these plains and pointing towards that he said, "You know an entire village can feed and sustain from just the area of land these flats occupy?"
There are so many memories and paintings I have painted in these fields... But every now and then when I would go back to a favourite spot only to be greeted by huge construction machines and workers turning the spot into a huge dug up mess. The Kash flowers grow in abundance here (in the wild) during the autumn months, just as the rains go away and the festive season starts. In winter villagers grew vast fields of marigold and roses.
Now the land is gone, with little compensation in banks, these villagers don't know what to do... Some have bought land elsewhere and some have squandered it off..
India is in a frenzy, trying to make a statement to the world..."We need development. We need Formula one." I don't know. But the very place where these developments are happening - these vast area around Yamuna, the numerous villages and the Yamuna itself. I didn't see any development. The villages are a hotchpotch of houses, roads, lanes, narrow and not metalled, no drainage system, nor is there a sewer system in place and when it rains, there is knee deep slush in the roads and lanes. The roads are so narrow that two tractors won't pass by. Once while painting in the wheat fields nearby I was invited by one of the villagers to his house to have warm गर्म Buffalo milk, meaning freahly milked not boiled!! So I hopped onto his tractor, leaving my canvas and paints in the fields. His mother and others working there would be looking after. "Anyway there aren't any thieves here.. Only sometimes the migrants from other states can be trouble.." they informed me.
So off we went to his house... the roads were narrow and full of pot holes with open drains. The buffalo shed was cramped. All in all a big unplanned mess. A far cry from our heritage town planning form the 'Sindhu Days' we are so proud to tell the world. My friend milked his buffalo and then offered me a big glass of warm milk, it was nice.
|Cows Grazing - 2/ Noida Villages off Expressway |
Acrylic on Canvas 38cm x 38cm, 3rd Sept. 2006
While returning back we hit major traffic jam!! It was wheat harvesting season and tractors were all now heading back to the village. While we were to go back to the fields! The village road was so narrow that two tractors wont pass. And we went back and forth to find any vacant space to reverse into, someone's courtyard, someone's vacant plot! A mere 10 minute walk took us about an hour!! When we came out of this hell-hole called a village, I took a long deep breath of fresh air. And wondered why on earth, when so much land is available we cant have a planned village? I don't know...
Now we have spent Rs. 1,700 crore (around $400 million) to built a F1 track... and a stone throw away the villagers don't have playing fields, no gymnasium, safe drinking water and electricity supply is erratic. In stark contrast private builders are offering RO water swimming pool, spa with flats in the enclosed townships. The villages will be there, trapped amidst these private flats. Most have buffaloes and once there were many watering holes for them to bathe and while away time (buffaloes need to do that) now there aren't any left. All ponds have been filled up for optimum land use. I have talked to these villagers and they are most comfortable when they can keep buffaloes and can cultivate land. These are the two things they do well. Now when we take these away what will they do? I don't know..
As I gathered my paints and easel lying in the filed, with the moon shinning above, I remembered another evening...
|Noida Fields (with Flowers in foreground) Oil on Canvas 14 x 17 inches 2006|
I was painting the Sun setting beyond the Yamunas, over the Delhi-Faridabad skyline. I had put my easel near to where the farmers were busy tending to their vegetables.
I had finished one and wanted do one more of the setting Sun. And by now the group of farmhands had gatherer behind me to see me paint, having finished their work. We all watched in awe as the mighty red Sun went down and the evening was cast in a red-orange robe... and then darkness slowly fell. I quickly started to gather my paints and brushes. One loses them a lot when the light dims!! With a sigh I said to the small band of people around me..."So the sun has set for the day,".. But one of them told me to turn around quickly, as I did so I saw the dazzling sight of a moon-rise! Coming out from behind a small dark tree, a large sized ball of white and yellow, same size as the sun, only the sky was dark around it. I realised I had forgotten from years of living away from nature, that as sun sets in the west, the moons rises from the east...
|Marigold Pickers |
Marigold Fields, Noida
Oil on Canvas
Size: 15" x 30 inches
38.3 cm x 76.5 cm
One day I went to the banks of river Yumana to paint. The river now is reduced to a stinking-sewage-like-drain. As I neared the banks a strong stench came from the river. Still determined to paint the famed river, pitched my easel next to it and I got down to paint. Soon I noticed villagers crossing the once mighty river, just walking across! Of course the daunting task now was not how good your skills as a swimmer against the strong currents! But how not to throw-up midway!! Many of the simple villagers mistook me for some Government engineer making drawings for a new bridge and requested me to do so at the earliest!! Across this lies Haryana. Many of them come from the village across to work in the fields along Yumana.
I don't know how much money is needed to turn Yumana into a river again. But don't we need to remedy these flaws first and then move onto F1?
Saving Yamuna is really the need of the hour.. Our whole civilisation was born at shore of this beautiful river... A river held scared for its selfless, timeless service to mankind... A river which contributed so much for it's people. A million songs and stories and tales revolve around its magical quality, charm, romance and the pure blue waters ...
And now reduced to a stinking drain... And no one ever comes out on the streets of Delhi to save it?!!
So many street protests, senseless TV debates and waste of newsprint etc on useless issues... But non on Yamuna or Ganga?!!
Is it because it has a "religious" connotation that no one has come forward to save them?!!
Of course the rivers are scared to us... Anything which contribute so much is held dearly and it is but natural for humans to pray for its longevity etc!!
What has a particular religion got to do with it?!! The rivers were good too all! The rivers were "Secular" to all... Without knowing what that @#$% word means?!!
And we all suffer at their death!!