Logbook of an Unknown Artist | Paintings Of Animesh Roy

Logbook of an Unknown Artist | Paintings Of Animesh Roy

Art of Animesh Roy Please keep in touch with my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/animeshroyartist Still Life with plate o...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reminiscences of an Unknown Artist

Reminiscences of an Unknown Artist

There is an old proverb in India... "an artist can change society.."
And like the most old sayings, its not applicable in this twisted world of today!! 'For an artist, poet, et al to do so, they must come up from cream of the society...' V.S. Naipaul said somewhere. Since most of the bright and talented are driven these days to opt for other lucrative careers, less and less talented are into writing, paintings... etc. And thus we see a drastic fall in the standard of thinkers, poets, writers, artists, musicians, intellectuals... most are of poor intellectual level and without real talent. This trend is more defined in the last 20 odd years. Back in school, I remember when we had to chose in Senior Secondary School (Class/Standard 11 & 12) after completion of Secondary School (Class 10) I was the only one among boys to take up Arts (Humanities) rest in my group were all forced to... as their grades/marks were too low!! All the "bright ones" en mass joined the other two branches: Science and Commerce... All the top graders/toppers went to Science, the next best took up Commerce.. and the rest, the rejects, the dumbs, the stupids.. had no choice but to take up Humanities or leave studies!! In Art college, which one could joined only after the completion of 2 year of Senior Secondary(+2) many boys came came via a stint or struggle of few years in Science/Engineering/Commerce colleges etc. The only exception were the girls, they all came straight from school as Indian parents consider 'painting' as the ideal hobby-course for their daughters!! It raises the bar for them, in 'arrange-marriage-market'!! In the case of boys it was a disaster to be in an Art college!! A common joke in our art college days:
One mother to another:
"What does your son do?"
"He is painting... artist."
"OK, but what does he do?"
Painting, sculpture, pottery etc were meant only for girls, it enhances their charm in the arrange marriage!! I am sure things haven't changed much since.

An artist can change society etc. only when he has come up the right way.. Through his talent and hard work... An artist who is weak, corrupt, one who is here only for the lure of money can hardly do anything worthwhile.. As a child my father would constantly say: "Only the best should be in Fine Arts, there is no place for the the second best in art... You are either an artist or not at all.. You can not be a 'bad artist'... its a misnomer!!"

But now, like most old sayings, proverbs it's not so.
The art world is a crowded place... all and sundry can be artist!! The right connection, the right look, ability to speak English and you can be one!! Your ability to draw or paint is of no consequence!!

I continue to paint... the only gift I was born with...
River Warta, Poznań, Poland Dec. 2009
Artist community driven only by the lure of money has created a strange kind of breed. Let me illustrated the point with some real life anecdotes.

One of my aritsts' friend's father also an artist, in his younger days had gone to Kathmandu, Nepal for a show with his fellow artists... The show was a dismal failure in terms of turn outs and sale, as was the case with most art shows during 60s, 70s. At the end of the show they sat looking at the 'streatched canvases' and wondering how they would take it all back etc. Having exhausted all their money in putting up the show in a far away land.. Some hanger-ons and passerby suggested "Why don't you leave it here?"

The group of young artists decided to burn their works outside the venue on the street in a huge bonfire and came home empty hand...
That was the case then... And now... read on... 

Now let me give you today's scenario: one of my buyers from Bombay, who I feel is a bit of a connoisseur tells me this:
"Roy, tell me what's wrong with you guys? You know I love to browse through art shows/galleries etc after my office. Many a times after office, love to go to Jehangir art gallery, but if it happens to be the last day of a show and closing time... then I had it!! Artists exhibiting would follow me out and beg on bended knees:
"Please sir, please pick up any work.. price no issue.. its our last day etc.!!"
"Please sir, we don't have money to take them back!!" "
My face turned red and burned with shame as I heard this about my fellow artists, I wanted to disappear..

Here is one moreanecdote..
There is an old-old distant aunt living in Italy... once a contemporary of M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Biren De etc. fairly successful artist of 50s, 60s.. Then she like many migrated to Europe, and she is very honest about it... "Animesh all these artists who are now big in India, all drove away to the West for money. India in the 50s, 60s, 70s was a tough place for artists with a very bleak future.. One could only at best get a school teacher's job... So don't you believe all these romantic bullshit about being driven by desire to see Cezanne and to study European art, it is all a cover-up... All were looking for a way to be able to sell, survive from the sale of their work.. and what better place than the West in those times?" Many got married there and settled down... And many more managed various scholarships year after year to prolong their stay... And once there, their artistic stature too raised back home... 'Indian Artist in Paris/London/Rome' had a charming effects on Indian collectors...

Now this aunt few years back was planning an exhibition in Delhi and asked me to take her around some galleries to catch up the trends and to see gallery-space etc. So we go into a public gallery with a show going on, she looks at the works hanging on the wall, the 'Artists' is present, rushes with his price list. My aunt asks the young man some questions about his works, prices and gives her good wishes and we leave. As we do so, the artists has followed us out and confronts us with:
"Madam how much you want to pay?"

Once my old aunt, in the 60s was exhibiting in Bombay and a very well know starlet had dropped in.. I don't remember the details, but she threw out the film star on a minor issue:
"Miss, please get out!! This is no film-set of yours..its an art gallery!!" etc.

That was then and this is now... I see innumerable snapshots of todays' Artists getting their shows "inaugurated" by nondescript actors, TV anchors, politicians, models... I just cringe in shame!! These artists have plummeted to an abominable depth... Lining up with two-bit starlets and politicians to sell their wares...

Do we really need them to enhance our work?!

According to an aspiring Artist, I meet some time back, we do. I was planning a show in the capital after a 10 year hiatus!! Someone suggested I speak to this young artist, well versed and up-to-date with present day scenario!
Called him up and he replies like a pro:
"Look dude, this is long term."
"Yes I agree, " my reply.
"See I am doing it very methodically..."
"Sure that's the way to do it.. long रिअज़, लगन,  practise, साधना.. as our Gurus, our उस्तादs would say..." I added my bit.
There was long silence at the other end and then the young upstart says:
"Look I have been going through 'Page 3' of all English Dailies and making cuttings.. and now, I know fairly well 'who's who of art' and what to do.. I advise you start your research too."
He sounded dead serious !!

As I reached my venue to put up my works on the D-day... the artist who's show had just finished, was winding up.. He was in high spirits. He had managed to sell most of his works, wares.. No, he wasn't from any recognisable Art Schools!! He had put up his show with his equally enterprising wife, a broad spectrum of works, paintings - acrylic on canvas depicting Ganesha (Diwali was right around the corner), and portraits of a grotesque looking man he proudly claimed to be of Buddha!!
"Buddha is very popular now.. more than Ganesha!!" he proffered.
There were sculptures, pottery and a huge eagle in plaster of Paris!! His show looked more like an Indian Government School Art Room!!
"So who is inaugurating your show?" he asked, as he started to pack the huge plaster eagle...
"No one in particular.. actually no opening ceremony... just some of my friends are coming etc.." I mumbled at him.
"No-no-no-no.. you have to call some celebrity, then you see you get mentioned on Page 3 etc. etc.,"  was his shocked response.
He looked at me as if I was suicidal!!

My show was a quiet affair and most disappointed were the gatekeepers of the gallery:
"किया साहब, आप भी... "
"किसी Mandira Bedi को बुलाते, दीखते कितने काम आपके बिक जाते!!"
(What sahib, why didn't you call some starlet? All your paintings would have sold!!")
He obviously did not mention his chance at ogling at some skimpily clad starlet!!

He was right, I didn't attract much crowd during the show and sold even less!! During the show one of my old gallery owners from a now well-known gallery came to cheer me up... While with me at the gallery he was busy talking most of the time on his mobile.
"Yes, yes, lots of Page 3 people are coming (and he parroted off a list of 'VIPs of Page 3' from Delhi)...."

Needless to say he was in the processing of organising an Art exhibition, à la India style!!

You can view my works here..


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Unknown Artist

When I got out of art college (early 1990) I use to sign my paintings in front, lower corner as just 'Roy'... paintings of that time 1986-92 would have this... then an Art College Professor pointed out "If you want to make a name etc. sign your full name, there are so many Roys around etc!!" I then started using my full signature ie 'Animesh Roy'... Post 1992-3 works would have my full name in front.
But I grew disillusioned by this urgent need to be recognised by our signature alone... and as I became aware and studied more of our traditions in Indian (and the oriental) art and culture I realised that in our traditional arts our artists do not sign at all... they remain humble, anonymous and would attribute all their skills and talent to Nature or God and their art as an act of devotion etc!! I have been inspired by this concept since then... and have stopped signing my name in front but I do sign (full name) all my paintings at the back/on the reverse side (for the record etc.)

My signature with other details on the reversed side of one of my works.

There are some contemporary artists who do not sign in front..over their painting. But I haven't met one yet. I am not against it but I see so many paintings spoilt by an ugly signature!! There are some who have used it very aesthetically like Claude Monet.. and some like van Gogh's are terrible!! Thankfully many of his works don't have his signatures!! Mine have been more of a protest.. while all rushed in with their 'style and signature' to earn name and fame... I wanted only my work to speak up.. and would boast: "In museums they put small plaques along side..  next to every work with all details..and there the art enthusiasts can see!!
I do get very surprised collectors.. who wonder why they don't see any signatures on my work?! Some walk away, some are very uncomfortable to invest.. on an artist without a name!!

Oil on Canvas
78x74 inches / 198x188 cm
Oct. 2009

You can view my works here..




You can read my blogs here..



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Price of Everything and The Value of Nothing

Art Today... in India

The other day I received an email inviting me to give few of my paintings in a 'charity exhibition*'.. the terms were they mustn't be more that fifty thousand Indian rupees and I get 50% from sale... I agreed and gave away some of my 'better works' priced within the prescribed bracket, for it was a good cause. After a few days I get an email from unknown person claiming to have seen my works on the net and has been very impressed etc... and asking the prices of 2 of my works etc. (Not the works I had set aside for the Charity exhibition.) I gave her the prices but never heard of her again; Acting on a hunch I just 'googled' and 'facebooked" her email ID and found her to be some 'potter' (one of those who sell 'designer pots' to the elite.. not the humble potter who makes clay pots for our daily use, they are generally not on Facebook or on the Internet!!)

I was amused as the person wasn't old enough to look like a serious art collector..

Next day I hear from the 'Charity people' that I have priced my works over "my market price"... The 'Potter' was their spy/ decoy customer... who had enacted the entrapment!!!

This funny and sad episode truly exposes the decadence and utter ignorance that has set into the consumerist Indian society today...

Let me briefly go into the details for the one who are not aware of murky world of "Indian Art" today:

I have been painting and exhibiting my works since 1990 after my completion of four-year of art college from Delhi College of Art, India. I never really took up any job as I wanted a fairly independent life and never believed a true artist should do a 9 to 5!! And fortunately didn't have to work in a claustrophobic binding environment... Maybe I was more lucky than the ones who had to sustain their families, and thus went on to join various 'jobs' available for art graduates...

Its been 20 odd years now... a life of hardship, struggle and most importantly of joy and fulfilment!! I have exhibited and sold my works around the globe... I still remember the money earned (Rs 1500) form the sale of my first work.. it was in Madras... well that some other day!!

When I had my first solo show in 1992 there were some really good art critics and they were the old school types... especially I remember Krishna Chaitanya, K.L. Kaul.. both dead now.. was fortunate to get very encouraging reviews not to mention Keshav Malik. Later the art critics and writing about art and artists turned into a business... For a bottle of whiskey or cash one got a headline with razzle-dazzle reviews in our National dailies!! By late 90s the bosses at the newspapers got wind of the this nefarious activity and put an end to publishing reviews altogether... the critics went to town: "It is mass commercialisation, the media doesn't want to waste its precious columns/newsprint on something as insignificant as art...when they can earn huge amount from advertisement etc!!" The reason must have been both. The once mighty art critics went around writing for artist's brochures and invitation cards!!

The one thing I have always have been intrigued is how to sell a painting and how to set a price... here I must tell you the story of my ragging:

I was being raged by two very serious, senior, arty types, the first day of my art college...

Two-serious-senior-arty-types: 'What is art"?

Me-nervous-fresher: 'Art is the out pouring of our soul...blah, blah, blah..'

Serious-senior-arty-types: 'Is it like a part of us etc?'

Me nervous-fresher (now falling in the trap): Yes a part of us...

"Like our own blood... like our offspring?"

"Yes, yes..." I replied getting very carried away now..

Their next remark still rings in my ears:

"Then tell me how come we sell our art? Would you sell your son or daughter?!!"

It was a funny comparison but it made sense...

A painting/sculpture is very dear to us artists and selling, parting with it is a difficult act. Leonardo carried Mona Lisa around for 16 years (it was a commissioned work)... on pretext it wasn't finished yet!! But then it is also a happy occasion that its accepted and appreciated. I still feel the pang when I finally pack a work off to a buyer.. never to see it again. But I think these emotions are now a thing of the past with the crazy advent of art as a commodity, as an investment... the craze to sell overpowers all other emotions. Agree selling our work is important as its also our only source of livelihood.. here am referring to artists who are refereed to as "full-time". But that's how it is and has always been.. since a long-long time.

Something changed, as we entered an era of liberalisation etc... suddenly there were loads of buyers with black money... Overnight 'artists' sprouted and 'art galleries 'mushroomed (these are not to be confused with galleries in the West... these are basically basements or unused garages etc. in residential areas owned by bored wives of rich husbands... who let them do a bit of arty business!!). Artists and buyers alike were now in a frenzy pace to become hot selling artists and big collectors respectively!! Like this diamond merchant from Bombay who bought some of my paintings sometime back. Within a few months he emailed me to know if my "works are going to go up or has they gone up etc?"!! I told him they don't go up and down like the stock market and anyway I am no 'investment' artist!! He felt betrayed and remorseful!! I don't expect him to buy my works ever in the future!!

Some years back when I was in Delhi I would visit my artist friends' studios while they are painting. They all painted in a frenzy... and all using Acrylic, the most important invention of all time in the medium of painting! No fuss, no smell (Oh I love the smell of linseed and turpentine...my wife loves me more because of that..she says!!) drys off as it leaves the brush!! And once in a while these artists would move away from their 'masterpiece' and ask:
"बिकेगी? Will this sell, Roy?" Not how the work is coming along etc!!

They all goaded me as to why am not exhibiting and that there are so many buyers... and mostly they would laugh at my size... that is the size of my paintings!! I generally paint "small size" accordingly to them like a 9x6 inches or a 10x12 (20x30cm, 30x40cm) etc!! The maximum size I would paint was about 20x30 inches or 30"x40" (100cmx90cm). Well the arguments was if you paint large sizes you get more money!! That is, a large painting is valued more in the Indian art market than a small 10x12inches!! So all these frenzied mad artists were busy painting humongous sizes like 78x120inches!! Also during this time I heard the bizarre story that artists in Bombay (the so-called Art capital of India) are now selling their works at 'square inch rate'... that is each artist has a rate say - Rs 1000 per sq. inch'!! I, of course didn't believe it till I got this email from the 'Charity people' who 'calculated' my 'rate' by taking a quote of some of my works and then dividing it by the size of the canvas!!! God please help me... (this is coming from a staunch atheist!!)

Size does matter?

Yes size can be one of the factors.. but it is not the only factor which can make up the price of a painting!! Size only can affect the physical part of the painting.. like a big size canvas, more paint, more on logistics, may take more time and 'labour'!!... But these cant makeup the cost-value of the painting... a paintings cost because of its artistic value..it cannot be calculated with the size of the canvas... it makes me sick even to explain all this... this is so fundamental, even a child knows!! So what are those? The quality of the work is first and foremost... and this the artist decides..mostly...we asses our work first and then put a price, also I have had many a discussions with gallery owners or friends and have taken their views too... I judge my works very critically.. why it should be so priced..etc and it's always the quality of the work.. the workmanship, skill... For artists are all human and we don't paint, cant paint in the same quality every time.. that's why we have this concept of a Masterpiece.. meaning a master's piece.. the best of the best.. and likewise we do produce some bad paintings..trash!! And those, I paint over...reuse/recycle. Linen / canvas is expensive!!

An artist can't possibly paint consistently, our quality, skill, workmanship, etc. keep changing from canvas to canvas.. from one period to another... So lets say a canvas 24x30 inches can't possibly be exactly as beautiful as the next one.. so how can 2 works with the same size be priced same? Yes its convenient for the galleries (Art shops) to price them evenly... but the artists among us must hold our ground... this his territory. He must decide.

There is also a policy, a 'senior artist' must price his work high...than a younger one!! And I don't get it either!! There were some who sold all their life works' at a very consistent and affordable prices.. even when they were very famous.. I recall an artist from Bengal who kept her prices very 'middle-class' through-out her life!!

And now we have most artists (who are senior) trying to command unheard of prices only because they are old.. and have been painting for long!! Beauty of the art is not a qualification here!!

The tragedy is that many of them try to fix a price according to their years in the circuit...which can sometime calculate to such an astronomical figure that they don't end up selling at all!! Recently one of them committed suicide as he was unable to sell!! I had known him since my art college days... a humble stupid man.. he rose high and for some years was very successful... but then he kept increasing his price.. trying to keep up with others of his hierarchy... and a time came there wasn't any buyer left who could afford him!! He died penniless!!

I am not in their league and I have kept my prices very humble... giving away many of my work free at times. I have been trying since long to follow this simple but difficult quote to follow:

"An artist must never be a prisoner. Prisoner? An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success, etc." ― Henri Matisse

But my price is my price and I set it...not by size!! By my conviction of what it's artistic merit is..

To come back to the 'Charity Art people' ...they told me I would have to bring price down and they gave me a figure!! Of course I had already backed out of the show!! But they were not used to artists standing up to them... they lectured me: "The (Indian) art buyers are well-educated and well versed with both trends as well as pricing of the works of the participating artists..."!! The farce of selling and buy art has come to such that it's now reduced to just taking a sample (of painting/sculpture) and a simple calculation.. lo and behold you have the pricing of an artists!!! Just the way one shops for curtain/upholstery material, fabric!!
My wife when she heard this said: "Tell the 'Potter-spy' to make large-sized pots... it would definitely fetch her some big money!!!

This is where we have fallen..in a dark damp pit!! Imagine now sculptors selling their wares by kilogrammes!!! Rs 1000 per kg!! Or by volume?

What about writing? Poems? And short story writers? Lev Tolstoy's War and Peace would make a killing while Hemingway's Old Man and The Sea would find it tough going!!

When we judge some of the well-know works around the world do we do so it by size?

Les Iris, Oil on canvas 71 cm × 93 cm (28 in × 36.625 in) 1889 Sold Price: $105, 000,000!!

What is the size of Mona Lisa? (77 ×53cm), Sunflowers (92.1×73cm) and Irises (71×93cm) by Van Gogh... some of Monet's Lilies are large.. but his intention were not to get more out of buyers!!

"An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision."
 − James Whistler

Here lets talk only of living contemporary artists... The pricing farce has reach such ludicrous level that some time you just feel like you are in a mad house!! For example we all are aware there is a price for things attached to famous /infamous people... those who are dead and gone long back... like if I had an umbrella used by Monet, it would get me good money... it's knickknacks like these which 'item collectors' pay and is often auctioned, quite understandable... they have their charm. But does it make sense in a country like ours where the so labelled 'famous senior artist' selling their scribbles, mindless drawings etc. for over cores of Indian rupees?!! This idiotic piece of 'Pen and Ink' on paper by Jogen Chowdhury (alive, famous-senior-artist-type) is priced at Rs.1,500,000 / USD $33,333 ?!! Its laughable.. and plain stupid that someone will ever may pay such an amount!!

I want to end this essay with S.H. Raza, was in news recently for his work went for around $3,486,965 or approximately Rs 16 crore, a record amount and the media and all sundry have gone mad over this... In fact some of them are already waiting as to who will now break this 'record' and reach a Rs 20 crore bracket!! à la cricket score?!! The record setting painting was as excepted bought by the wife of a wealthy Indian business man!! I am shocked at the vanity of this lady!! Spending such an vulgar amount on a painting which by all account is just a painting... one hangs on one's wall to decorate one's home or office!! I say so because a 'Raza painting' is not going to drive millions to line up outside her house to gaze at it.. thus earning her or the Indian government any revenue. It's not a 'Van Gogh' or a 'Monet'. Some years back I went to Basel (Switzerland) to see Van Gogh's landscapes.. the exhibition was mounted on such a scale that the entire country was involved. From airlines, trains, buses, hotels.. all were geared up for millions of art lovers and tourists, who came from all over the world. Last summer I spent a month in and around Firenze (Florence) and saw the queue outside the museum.. people were waiting for over 5 hours to just buy the tickets to get in!! Imagine how much the Italian government earns from its' collection of Leonardos and Michelangelos.. India and Raza have to wait for some time for that!! In the meantime I wish this buyer could have bought up a 'museum full' of works by talented artists from the same amount!! $3,486,965 could easily have bought her as many as 1162 paintings @ rate of  $3000 (approx. Rupees 1,50,000)!!


Anyway now about artist S.H.Raza, alive, famous-senior-artist-type. After spending over 50 years in France when Raza wanted to donate his works etc to the place where he lived. The city municipal refused!! Non of his works have been acquired by any of France's innumerable Museums... He returned to India few years back and remember... I had gone to a nondescript art gallery in Haus Khas, New Delhi.. to get my works back.. as I waited patiently.. being told curtly by the gallery manager, "We have customers!!" As some foreign tourist walked in.. and all staff got busy sucking up to them!! Of course I raised hell and shot back, "And an artist is nothing? Is this a shop or an art gallery? Hold your customers at bay and return my works at once!!" In this melee an aspiring journalist who had come to interview the gallery owner came up to me and I took the opportunity to give 'the interview'!! Told her some hard facts about the state of art we live in!! And all along this on one corner of this 'art shop' sat the company parrot making one phone call after the other, à la telemarketing. Parroting the same line over and over in a frenzy, frothing at mouth:

"We have Raza, we have Raza, Raza, Raza world-famous artist, Raza, M F Husain's friend blah-blah -blah etc"

It was pathetic... Neither the caller nor the ones he was calling had any idea about the artist!! They must have got hold of his work as the old man was in town!!

Now wheelchair bound and painting in his lonely apartment.
Outside a long queue of art galleries, art collectors awaiting to snatch up whatever Raza can feebly put paint to canvas... The scenario is like on National Geographic TV Channel:
The vultures, hyenas closing on an old dying majestic elephant!!

*These were the people and the organisation!! Anyone dealing with them beware.
Anita Dhillon / Bindiya Sawhney
Concern India Foundation
Manager – Resource Mobilization
Concern India Foundation
A52, 1st floor, Amar Colony Lajpat Nagar 1V
New Delhi – 110 024

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tea At Flurys...

Tragic-comic dependence of English Language in India!!

The issues relating to language is very close to my heart and it make me feel at time very frustrated.. especially when I see students here in Europe and then in India... the pressure of studies which we keep harping in India is an altogether alien subject here!! Students don't have any tension or ever commit suicide here and my inference is because of language!! They study/understand all their subjects in their mother tongue... Not like we do.. so they understand better and don't need to do any रट्टा (to memorise/to mug-up)!! We don't understand the subjects.. we mug up the answers and in exams just vomit it out!! Many students would be heard proudly proclaiming that they remember or know nothing as the leave an exam hall... all they had stored in their head has been flushed!!

Our study is all about रटा... because we don't understand the medium of instruction ie English... like I remember being taught history, geography, social studies... sciences when I was still a little boy in English and didn't follow anything... and was always considered a weak student etc.!! Once I was explained in Hindi or Bangla I comprehend all but then again how do I write the explanations/answerer in good English?!! So we go into the whole new process of learning a new language (English) and as we all know it gets tough when one has crossed a certain age... and also its not a language one can pick up from others.. I mean English is not spoken among children while they are outside their classroom... in the parks and play grounds... we speak our mother tongue etc... like I didn't know a word of Hindi when I landed as a small boy in a small hill town of Kumaon..and within months was speaking in Hindi/Kuamoni.. but English took many years..to master.

This affects our studies in all subjects... and thus no thinkers, poets, scientists (where is the time to think..when all those fat books have to be rattofied (mug-up).

The Japanese, the Germans, the Pols, the French (not to mention the Americans and the English!!) all, I have observed learn mathematics, sciences etc. in their mother tongue... and see the kind of people they produce... not the 'order' taking or the call centre idiots !!!

Tea At Flurys... You will need to speak in English here to be served!

I was recently in my home town Calcutta after a gap of over 20 years and went to have tea at Flurys on Park Street.. the waiters all came up to me with a big "Good Morning Sir" etc. and started to speak in broken English... I answered in Bangla.. they kept replying in English!! When I complained to the manager about this.. he sheepishly answered..

"Hee-hee you shee saar you have come to the reshtoorant na, shoo.. blaha balaha etc.!!"

Next to my table came and sat a very middle class Bengali bhodorlok couple, and started the process of 'ordering' a cup of tea etc in broken English.. and the waiter taking down and offering his expert advise... all in equally bad English... Both continued this facade for some time in very bad English!! Once in a while the Bengali bahdorlok would whisper to his wife in beautiful Bangla about the 'order' !!

To explain how he wanted his tea and some cakes took a considerable time!! By this time I had lost all my appetite and the nostalgia of visiting a childhood place!!!

Imagine this is happening right in the heart of the capital of Bengal... a language spoken by over 300 million (could be much more.. if you just see the population of Bengalis world over) !! (Population of France 65 million and spoken by about 500 million worldwide, total population of Bangladesh and West Bengal is about 240 million!! I didn't include Tripura, Assam, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Burma etc!!!

Now imagine the same scenario in a city like Warsaw or New York, London or Paris... in a tea/coffee shop!! Will it be possible that the citizen of these places will be heard struggling to place their order of coffee or tea and cakes in an alien language?!!


Why do 99.99% of Indians (only in Indians you will see this peculiar trait.. I haven't notice this among others nationals) post English as the 1st language they know on their Facebook Profile and their Mother Tongue as the last?!
And sometime if they know more languages like a 'foreign language' viz French, German et al. and some Indian languages viz. Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Bangla, Sanskrit..

Be sure it will be listed in this sequence:

"English, French, German, Hindi, Bangla, Konkani, Sanskrit" !!

Sometime it is so pathetic to see how we cling to 'English Language'... and then the list can read like this:

Languages known: "British English, American English, Indian English...." !!!

Maybe we are still struggling to get out of our days of repressions under the English rule...
A very relevant video on this by late Rajiv Dixit here:


or listen to this audio version by Rajiv Dixit

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My friend Prof. Subhachari Dasgupta

When I heard the news of Prof. Subhachari Dasgupta* passing away in February 2007, I was walking towards my shack in Colva, Goa for a hearty meal of fish and rice!! I was shocked and sad but as I looked at the spread on the table and the blue sea beyond, I felt joy in my heart.. for I think I may have imbibed some of his qualities in my life…

I last meet him when he had came to my painting exhibition in October in New Delhi 2006. We were meeting after a long gap and to me he looked very tired and ill but still had that regal stance! When I told him he didn't look too well – he shot back- "I am absolutely fine!" We discussed contemporary Indian art and he looked angry and amused at the other show he had just seen "nudes in Garter Belt " calling it "that's pornography!!" He told me to go on my path and we talked about my sojourn at Naggar – where I had done most of the paintings for that show. He looked visibly excited about Naggar and said he had been there many years back. Naggar in Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India was the abode of Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich, Russian painter … and later I came to know he and Mrs. Dasgupta had gone away to Naggar to be amidest the mighty Himalayas…

I was a raw, upstart in 1984 when I met Prof. Dasgupta.. in tearing hurry to become an artist… though I was still in my secondary school.

There was an age difference but I never felt it, because of his mature sensitivity towards me. I would go and spend long afternoons and evenings over endless cups of tea and lovely food at his Malvia Nagar home. Those were my growing up years in the world of art. But now I think it was also about life and how beautiful it is if we grow to appreciate and enjoy the little nuances… this I think I imbibed a lot from him.

He was a connoisseur of all things beautiful.. A beautiful artist but had stopped painting and was immersed in doing his work at PIDT**. Once I helped him take out and dust up old works, get them framed etc for a show in Holland. All works were sold!! Later in life he painted privately and wished one day to showcase them but Delhi art galleries weren't ready... I went to some but without success!! He was humble and would say philosophically: "Ma Sarsawti doesn't bless all..."

We spent endless hours drinking tea discussing Cezanne to Nandalal Bose.. I could throw anything at him and he would always have a very different and alternate idea. Never the conventional cliché ridden sermons I used to hear from all my college professors… Be it my stance that Gandhi's role in India's freedom movement was too exaggerated or my intense dislike for Bengali sweets…later in life I have grown to love both!!

At his invitation during my summer vacation from Art College in 1987 I went to Jagdishpur, Bihar. It was an enriching experience to draw and paint in the countryside – a part of India I didn't know existed. So backward that the sight of my sketching pen would generate excitement among the tribes. I would often show him my works and he always was very gentle and the criticism was very constructive. He never derided my work.

In 1990 when I was on the verge of graduating from Art College, he came to see our annual art show. And my friends asked me if he was my father…

So as I dug into my Goan fish curry and rice, gazing at the white beach and gently lashing blue Arabian Sea I knew he would approve of this… for he loved the treasure of this world – sights, sound, smell and taste…

Goa, March 2007

Son of Surendranath Dasgupta (Bengali: সুরেন্দ্রনাথ দাসগুপ্ত) (1887–1952), a scholar of Sanskrit and philosophy. Prof. Dasgupta was an artist and a social worker and founder of PIDT. His sister was Maitreyi Devi, the writer.