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LEAD STORY Vibrant Wall Art Traditions

TRIBUTE Mother Teresa




editorial note

September 15

NEELAMPEROOR PADAYANI Showcases an ancient ritual dance; performers wear elaborate headgear, music is provided by a one-sided drum. Effigies of swans are carried in processions. Where: Kottayam, Kerala September 1-15

September 17-18

MUSSOORIE WRITERS’ FESTIVAL This edition will focus on authors writing for children, teens and young adults. Illustrators, publishers and storytellers will also attend. Where: Woodstock School, Mussoorie

GANESH UTSAV Colourfully dressed idols of the Lord Ganesha are installed in homes and public places. After 10 days the idols are taken out in processions amidst singing and dancing and immersed in water. A special sweet, modak, is prepared as an offering. Where: Across India



LADAKH FESTIVAL In the monasteries there are lion, yak and mask dances through the fortnight, elsewhere there are folk songs, handicrafts on sale, a polo-match and painting exhibitions. Where: Leh and surrounding villages

September 19-29

September 15-17

September 8-October 6

EXHIBITION OF J. SWAMINATHAN’S WORKS Transits of a Wholetimer will feature vignettes from Swaminathan’s autobiographical notes, some early drawings, family photographs and early catalogues spanning 1952-1964. Where: Gallery Espace, New Delhi

MAGIC FESTIVAL Around 30 magicians from India and abroad will participate, visitors can also buy handicrafts and enjoy food and music alongside. Where: Dilli Haat, New Delhi

September 19-21

TARNETAR FAIR It is a meeting place for young tribals looking for marriage partners. Intricately embroidered umbrellas (chhatris) embellished with mirrors are a special attraction. Where: Thangadh, Surendranagar, Gujarat

September 27-30

SOUTH ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL Dedicated to 100 years of Indian Cinema, it is a platform for filmmakers from South Asia to showcase their films and discuss social, cultural and political features of the region’s cinema. Where: Goa

eople have been decorating walls and floors of living spaces for thousands of years. In fact, the history of man can be traced through cave painting, the earliest — a simple red dot — some 40,000 years old and has been recently discovered in Spain. In India, the earliest art can be seen in the rock shelters of Bhimbetka in the foothills of the Vindhyas. Some of the paintings here go back to the Paleolithic Era about 30,000 years ago! On looking at them, images of dense jungle populated by fearsome beasts like the tiger, the bison and the elephant come to mind. These and other animals have been immortalised in the paintings that adorn the walls of the caves. The dwellers have also left behind impressions of their life and times, their beliefs and dreams and scenes of everyday life — from hunting, and drinking to dancing and marriage. The colours are few, the lines simple, the artists unknown, the canvas open to the vagaries of the sun and the wind, the art itself transient. History tells us that the hunter-gatherers of Bhimbetka, and others like them all over the country, gave up the nomadic life to settle down to village life. But they seem to have kept alive the ritual of painting their homes. From Madhubani in Bihar to Pithoro art in Gujarat, the tradition is alive even today. Simple and functional it has survived the march of time, being handed down from one generation to the next. The lead story this month looks at a living canvas that is village India. For women and men in rural parts of our country, wall art is a reminder of the transience of all things material; a rite of renewal. In most part, painters prefer to remain anonymous, since the purpose is not to create a permanent “work of art” but to purify the earth and their home. For them, the act of painting is often more important than the finished product. Once complete, the painting waits to give way to another and another and another. In Global Perspectives, we take a look at India’s evolving partnership and its engagement with ASEAN. Recently, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna travelled to Cambodia to attend a series of meetings, a precursor to the Special ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit to be held in December in India. The visit highlighted the significance India attaches to its partnership with ASEAN and set a positive note for the future of the partnership.

Riva Ganguly Das



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PERSPECTIVES September 2012 n VOL 26 No. 6/2012

SEPTEMBER 2012 Editor: Riva Ganguly Das Assistant Editor: Ashish Arya


MEDIA TRANSASIA TEAM Editor-in-Chief: Maneesha Dube


Creative Director: Bipin Kumar


Senior Assistant Editor: Urmila Marak

India Perspectives takes a look at some vibrant folk art traditions that have stood the test of time in different parts of the country

Editorial Coordinator: Kanchan Rana Design: Ajay Kumar (Assistant Art Director), Sujit Singh (Visualiser) Production: Sunil Dubey (DGM), Ritesh Roy (Sr. Manager) Brijesh K. Juyal (Pre-Press Operator)

India This Month Chairman: J.S. Uberoi President: Xavier Collaco Financial Controller: Puneet Nanda


Send editorial contributions and letters to Media Transasia India Ltd. 323, Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurgaon 122016 Haryana, India E-mail: Telephone: 91-124-4759500 Fax: 91-124-4759550

India Perspectives is published every month in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sinhala, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Views expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the Ministry of External Affairs.

Global Perspectives: India-ASEAN: Road to Bonding


Partnerships: International Conference: Passage for Connectivity


Tribute: Mother Teresa: Face of Love


Travel: Discover India’s Coastal Cities from the Sea


Exhibition: Vignettes from J. Swaminathan’s works


Review: Film: Unstitched Glory



Verbatim: Theoretical Physicist Ashoke Sen



This edition is published for the Ministry of External Affairs by Riva Ganguly Das, Joint Secretary, Public Diplomacy Division, New Delhi, 0145, 'A' Wing, Jawahar Lal Nehru Bhawan, New Delhi-110011 Tel: 91-11-49015276 Fax: 91-11-49015277 Website: Text may be reproduced with an acknowledgement to India Perspectives For a copy of India Perspectives contact the nearest Indian diplomatic mission.



COVER PHOTO: Madhubani Painting of Bihar COVER DESIGN: Bipin Kumar



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Wall is my

Canvas For generations, painters in rural India have been adorning the walls of their homes. Now, this act of worship has moved on to more permanent and portable media, grabbed the world’s eyeballs and become money spinners. India Perspectives takes a look at some vibrant folk art traditions that have stood the test of time in different parts of the country



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Blue or Indigo The palaces here are so profusely painted that the entire region is called the largest open-air gallery in the world TEXT: ANSHUMAN SEN

his is a journey to the land of painted havelis (palaces). My base for the three-day expedition to the Shekhawati region is Mandawa. The havelis in this cluster of towns and villages, in northeast Rajasthan, are so profusely painted that the entire region is known as the largest open-air art gallery in the world. Walking into the baithaks or meeting rooms of haveli after haveli, I am awestruck by the intricate paintings on the walls and ceilings. The themes vary from family portraits and mythological themes to Rajput and Marwari ceremonial processions. Most common are myths related to gods like Shiva and Vishnu, Krishna and Rama. Folklore, portraits and floral patterns also make an appearance. The significance of murals in Shekhawati is linked with the history of the Marwaris, a business community. In fact, some of the large business and industrial houses, among




them the Birlas and Dalmias, trace their roots to this region. The rich Marwaris constructed grand buildings in their homeland, Shekhawati. And as status symbols decorated the faรงade, gateways, walls, parapets and ceilings with frescoes. Many of the merchants have migrated to big cities where their business interests lie, but continue to maintain their ancestral homes in Shekhawati. Each haveli is unique in ornamentation but very similar in basic layout and design. The level of craftsmanship varies, but almost every inch is covered with paint. The outside has large figurative motifs, the more intricate work is reserved for the interiors of the houses. Most of the mansions in Shekhawati have been built between the 18th and early 20th centuries, therefore it is no surprise that sahibs and memsahibs make an appearance in the paintings, as do automobiles and airplanes.


l Floral: Use of fewer colours. In later

periods, floral work was mostly reserved for arches and pillars. l Historic: Tales of valour depicting scenes of battle and portraits of well-known rulers. l Religious: In the interior spaces and around the main entrances. Also included themes based on mythology. l Secular: Represented aspects of life that were truly aspirational or a commentary on the lifestyle of the people.

GETTING THERE By Air: The nearest airport is at Jaipur. By Rail: The main line joining Delhi, Jaipur and Bikaner passes through Shekhawati. By Road: Shekhawati has a good network of roads connecting it to other cities in Rajasthan. Private and public transport is available.



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Ancient Legacy Once the sole preserve of women, commercial viability has meant that men have also taken up the folk art TEXT: ARUN SINGH


l Red: Beetroot juice is extracted, dried

and mixed with glue.

l Green: Hibiscus flower is dried, boiled

with lemon juice before adding glue. l Black: Rusted iron is kept in jaggery for 10 days and boiled thereafter. l Yellow: Turmeric is used. l Golden: Alum and pomegranate skin are boiled to get the colour

GETTING THERE By Air: Patna is the nearest airport. By Rail: It is linked to the rest of India by express and superfast trains. By Road: Being the take-off point for the Buddhist circuit, it is connected to Kathmandu, Gaya, Bodhgaya, Rajgir and Nalanda. Bihar State Road Transport Corporation plies buses that depart at regular intervals from Patna.



adhubani, means forest of honey, and this region in Bihar derives its name from the hundreds of beehives that once dotted its jungles. The painting tradition that has made Madhubani famous has been practiced by generations of women. They paint the freshly plastered mud walls of their homes to mark festivals and rites of passage of their family. All Madhubani paintings are based on two central themes — love and fertility. Scenes from Ram-Sita swaymavara (the ancient practice of choosing a husband from a list of suitors) or Radha and Krishna in amorous poses are some of the motifs. Fertility is depicted by motifs like fish, parrot, elephant, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo and lotus. Often the deities are placed in the centre of the mural or canvas, with their consorts and flowers forming the background. The human figures are linear and often the profiles are painted.


There is no preliminary sketching, everything is done with the brush. Although a lot of synthetic colours have made their way, in the beginning only natural dyes were used. Powdered dyes were mixed with the resin of banana leaves to make them stick to the wall surface; now powdered colours are available off the shelf and are often mixed with goat’s milk. Initially, Madhubani was the sole preserve of women, but following commercial success and increase in demand the women needed extra pairs of hands, and men joined the bandwagon. By then the paintings had moved on to fabric, paper, ceramic and canvas so as to reach a larger market. The temporary and anonymous nature of the paintings was replaced with permanence and ownership. The region’s paintings have maintained their distinctive style and content over the centuries earning them the geographical indication (GI) status.



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Mud and Mirrors Wall art is part of a festive celebration or a ritual for a special occasion in the state TEXT: ANIL MULCHANDANI

y first whirlwind tour to Kutch was a perfect excuse to have a look at a cross-section of the district’s attractions. But what stayed etched in my memory were the picturesque villages in the Banni grasslands with their circular houses called bhungas in hamlets called vandhs. Set on low platforms, these bhungas have circular walls built from rammed earth and brick, crowned by a conical thatched roof. The walls are plastered with lippan, a mud and cow dung mixture. During festivals the owners, especially women, decorate them with floral, geometric and abstract motifs, some are inlaid with mirrors, others look distinct with human stick figure forms done in reds, blues and yellows. The windows and doors are often laced with line work, paintings and mirror work. While the paintings on the bhungas of Kutch primarily serve a decorative purpose, they acquire a completely




different idiom in the pithoros of southeastern Gujarat. Pithoro has been an inherent part of rituals, symbolising life and all that comes with it. Walls are painted to usher peace and prosperity or to vanquish illnesses and bad luck. When a person makes a wish, tipna (five dots) are marked on the wall and if the problem is resolved happily, the pithoro painting ritual begins. The process starts with treating the walls with cowdung and white chalk powder, usually brought by unmarried girls. Images of everyday life, figures of bulls, horses, birds and tigers are part of each pithoro. Today, the Rathwas are bringing pithoro into the mainstream at craft fairs. But, the tradition of wall art with natural colours lives in the villages of eastern Gujarat as a ritualistic form, an art and a ritual that perhaps will never die.

THE ARTISTS The pithoro painting is executed by the Lakahara, a group revered as witch doctors and trained by the community as pithoro artists. Only the male members are allowed to learn the art with the badva officiating as the head priest for the rituals. The presence of Pithora Baba (tribal lord) is considered as a panacea for ailments and evil. Legends and events related to this revered tribal lord dominate the pithoro. These days the drawings borrow heavily from modern life — guns, televisions, cars, trains, planes, oversized locks on storage units are common.

GETTING THERE By Air: Bhuj is the major airport of Kutch district; another airport is at Kandla (Gandhidham). By Rail: Gandhidham is the most important railhead. By Road: You can hire cars at Bhuj or Gandhidham for visits to the villages.



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Motif on the Wall Tribals here paint with natural colours using their fingers as a brush; each tribe picking its distinctive design TEXT: PREETI VERMA LAL


l Mundas: Instead of brush, they use

their fingers to paint their favourite motifs of snakes and plants. l Teli: Known for their comb-cutting technique of wall art. l Oraon: They use the comb to etch geometric designs, squares, circled lotus, arches on their mud walls. l Turi: They only use earth tones and their motifs take inspiration from flowers and the forest. l Santhal: Warring figures in black are their signature style.

GETTING THERE By Air: The nearest airport is Ranchi. By Rail: The nearest railway stations are Barkakana and Koderma. By Road: State transport and private buses ply between Hazaribagh and major towns and cities.



typical Oraon home in Jharkhand is usually a good example of the ancient art of comb-cut painting in which the ordinary comb is run over fresh paint to give it a definite style. The colours are assiduously picked out from everyday things — the grey from ash of the hearth, black from pounded charcoal, red from red soil or the vermillion plant, blue from indigo, yellow from the dried pumpkin or squash flowers, orange from palash (flame of the forest) flowers, white from ground rice and when a new colour is required on the palette they pour one colour over another in the earthen pot, blend it with a twig and the wall gets an unusual tinge. All tribal homes in Jharkhand are not as monotonous as the urban homes. A generic categorisation would demarcate tribal wall art into kohvar and sohrai. Kohvar is a marriage art obviously replete with fertility motifs, while


sohrai is a harvest genre that abounds in designs and pictorial narratives propitiating deities. The motifs are not common either, they are so tribe-specific that if you knew the nuances of Jharkhand wall art, you would know the tribe of the home owners by merely looking at the wall. Not just motifs, even colours are picked scrupulously. Tribals are very innovative about the brushes, and their best brush is their fingers, which they dip in paint and etch their designs. The Munda, Birhor and Bhuiya tribals only use their fingers for wall art. For other tribes, it could be anything from a piece of cloth tied on a stick or a thin fabric held in the hand like a mop. As I drove away I thought of that gorgeous mural on the mud wall in the middle of nowhere and as inspired to give the four walls of my home a new sheath this Diwali. My walls will then look stunning and my urban home shed monotony.



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Depiction of Life It is mainly done to celebrate weddings and is essentially a stylised activity of the tribe TEXT: VINITA DESHMUKH

he backdrop of the Sahyadri mountains studded with verdant greenery form the perfect background to Kalmipada village of Thane district, Maharashtra. Here all you see is rice. Not just as staple diet but also as the sole alibi to eke a living. But rice is not what gives Kalmipada its eminence, it is the simple, yet exquisite tribal art form called warli. The art of mixing powdered rice in water to depict agrarian life is not a new phenomenon; scholars date it as far back as 2500-3000 BCE. Warli comes from the word warla, meaning a plot of land or field. Kalmipada is the only place in the country where sanctity, passion and originality of the art exists; for here lives the legendary warli artist, Jivya Soma Mashe, 78. When Jivya picks up the finger-length brush made out of bamboo which he has chiselled with his teeth to give it the apt smoothness and sharpness, the dainty lines and dots







slowly metamorphose into stunning men, women, animals, trees, birds, fields, fire and water. Warli art would have faded in oblivion and treated like a mundane community art, had it not been for the Government of India, which revived various tribal arts in the 1970s. Warli is traditionally painted only during two occasions — marriage and harvest time. “It is our cultural tradition not an art,” says Sadashiv Mashe, Jivya’s son. Warli painting was the exclusive prerogative of women, who were specially invited before wedding ceremonies to paint the walls. Surprisingly, women no longer hold the brush. The purity of warli manifests in the use of natural colours. The paintings have only three backdrops — red, green and black; the red from the red earth; green from cow dung and black from charcoal; with the sticky rice paste as the base.

LINE-DRAWN HUMAN FIGURES The paintings depict multitudes of tiny human forms hunting, dancing or cultivating land against the backdrop of huts, plants and trees. The human figures are typically line-drawn. They are shown performing daily chores or singing and dancing. Unlike other folk paintings in India, the artists rely more on line than colour. There is a great degree of angularity in the faces of both men and women. The head is a small circle and a woman is distinguished from a man by a small circle drawn next to the bigger one. With just this basic form, the warli painter is able to convey every activity of life.

GETTING THERE By Air: The nearest airport is in Mumbai. By Rail: Surat-Mumbai Express links Dahanu Road, 30 minutes away from Kalmipada By Road: Gujarat highway is the best option.



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ART REVIVED Art is not the sole leitmotif of this unique crafts village, it is synonymous with Gotipua dance, an earlier form of Odissi, as well. It was in this village that Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra picked up the basics of Gotipua and later enhanced it with his own abhinaya (art of expression). To take forward the tradition, Maa Dasabhuja Gotipua Odissi Dance School has been established in the village under the guidance of Guru Maguni Charan Das.

GETTING THERE By Air: The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar, 50 km away By Rail: It is 10 km from Puri, the nearest railhead. By road: Hiring a cab from Puri or Bhubaneshwar is the best option.



Picture this One! Raghurajpur has a unique crafts village that has revived wall art and preserved hundreds of ancient traditions

or hundreds of years, Raghurajpur was just any other village — cooped amidst jackfruit trees, palm fronds and lush mango orchards. It lived its banality monotonously and it could have been any place else and no one would have added it on the map. Such was its ordinariness. But when Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) chose Raghurajpur to create a crafts village it turned into the chosen land for artists from across the state. The initial motive was to revive patachitra, the ancient wall art of Odhisa. Today, in Raghurajpur hundreds of artisans live and practice different kinds of art — palm leaf inscription, sodhai work, mural painting, cowdung toys, coir, filigree, appliqué, terracotta and bell metal work. Name it and you will find everything in this coconut palm shaded village. However, it is most famous for traditional patachitra painting



in which pictures of animals, flowers, gods and demons are painted on a specially prepared surface. In ancient times, patachitra was Odhisa’s most famous art, but with time it lost its sheen and the buyers. By the turn of the century, not many were left to carry forward the tradition. It took the efforts of an American, Halina Zealey, to promote the art and gradually patachitra regained its lost glory. The chitrakars (painters) are closely associated with the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri where they are called to decorate the holy chariot during the annual Rathayatra. Raghurajpur owes its fame to the idea of preserving and reviving the wall art of the state. So beautiful is the wall art that if you walk into the crafts village now, you would think you have walked into an art gallery. Even on an ordinary day, you might see an artist hunched over a palette, assiduously selecting colours for his wall. n




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India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna (extreme right) during the opening of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

ndia, host of the Special ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in December, has a busy calendar of ministerial meetings, cultural programmes and people-to-people initiatives in the run-up to the event. The Summit is significant for two reasons, it marks 20 years of ASEANIndia relations and, also, 10 years of ASEAN-India Summit level partnership. India’s relationship with ASEAN countries has been progressing positively over the years, nine ASEAN-India Summits have already been held. To foster this evolving partnership and further build on it, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna attended the 10th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting, the second East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting all held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in July. The relationship with ASEAN is a cornerstone of India’s


Road to Bonding The 10th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting helped foster India’s evolving partnership and strengthened its engagement with the region TEXT: MEENAKSHI KUMAR



foreign policy, as also its ‘Look East’ Policy. It is no coincidence that both its ‘Look East’ Policy and its Dialogue relationship with ASEAN were initiated in the early 1990s. Though driven by economic considerations initially, the partnership now encompasses a wide array of sectors. In October 2009, at the 7th ASEAN-India Summit, India had announced that it would make a contribution of US$ 50 million to the ASEAN-India Co-operation Fund to support ASEAN-India projects across various sectors, including trade, science and technology, agriculture, new and renewable energy, telecommunications, transport and infrastructure and tourism and culture. In 2011-12, S.M. Krishna pushed to utilise the fund towards implementation of the ASEAN-India Plan of Action 2010-15, suggesting multiple projects across sectors to the ASEAN countries. At the annual ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting, foreign



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India’s relationship with ASEAN is a cornerstone of its foreign policy, and also the foundation of its ‘Look East’ Policy

ministers of the member countries took stock of the partnership and deliberated on its future direction. The meeting, held in Phnom Penh, acquired added significance as it was held prior to the Commemorative Summit, a forum where the leaders of ASEAN and India are expected to chart the future vision of the partnership. Speaking at the meeting, External Affairs Minister Krishna highlighted various efforts made by India to develop people-to-people interaction: “The civilisational strengths and historical linkages between India and ASEAN countries need to be extended to further improve road, sea, rail, digital and people-to-people connectivity. This is an imperative if we are to reinforce the economic foundations in our region for collective progress and prosperity”. In keeping with this thinking, during Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Myanmar this May, India had undertaken the task of repair and upgradation of 71 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa Friendship Road and also upgradation of the Kalewa-Yargyi Road segment to highway standard as part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway which would help establish connectivity from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand. Expressing satisfaction at the growth of trade between India and ASEAN, S.M. Krishna said: “The story of economic growth in our partnership is meeting expectations despite the global economic downturn. Two-way trade in 2011-12 reached US$ 80 billion”. Minister Krishna hoped



that “the early conclusion of the ASEAN-India Services and Investment Agreements would give a strong fillip to our economic engagement”. He also welcomed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership initiative which would help “accelerate regional economic integration”. The highlight of the Phnom Penh meeting was the release of the ASEAN-India logo. It represents energy, motion, progress, connectivity and dynamism, reflecting the expanding canvas of ASEAN-India partnership. The ASEAN-India website ( and ASEANIndia pages on the social media domains such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Google+ were also launched at the event. A much-discussed event was the ASEAN-India Car Rally 2012 to be flagged-off from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on November 26. It will pass through several capitals and cultural and commercial centres and traverse nearly 7,500 km before reaching Guwahati, Assam, on December 16. The other event is the expedition of INS Sudarshini. The sail training ship of the Indian Navy is retracing ancient and current maritime routes. Flagged-off from Kochi on September 15, it will cover over 12,000 nautical miles over 121 days and visit 13 ports in 9 ASEAN countries. In addition to the trade and development partnerships, India is keen on constructive dialogue on the political and security co-operation in the region. India attaches importance to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the

(Top) Foreign Ministers of ASEAN Regional Forum meeting the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, in Phnom Penh; (above) S.M. Krishna greets Hun Sen

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The highlight of the ASEAN-India Ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh was the launch of the ASEAN-India logo by S.M. Krishna and his ASEAN counterparts

largest dialogue forum in the Asia Pacific Region which was set up in 1997 and has 27 members. At the 19th ARF meeting, S.M. Krishna called upon the member states to work together to meet the challenges, instability and insecurity. Terrorism he said was a ‘grave threat’. To tackle it, he suggested: “It must be addressed by all the States through a comprehensive global approach and strengthened commitment to combat it in all its forms anywhere. The global regime against terrorism needs to be hinged on a holistic framework for which the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the United Nations requires early conclusion.” To further its overall objective of a secure and prosperous Asia, India has been an important participant in the East Asia Summit (EAS). At last year’s Bali Summit, Dr Singh had said: “The resurgence of Asia is dependent on the evolution of a co-operative architecture in which all countries are equal participants. We will work with all other countries towards this end.” EAS brings together 10 ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partners and aims to foster broader political and economic strategic dialogue, promote co-operation in political and security issues, boost economic growth and integration, and secure financial stability. Keeping these objectives in mind, India has actively contributed to the six priority areas in EAS, including connectivity. Speaking at the second EAS Foreign Ministers’ Meet, Minister Krishna highlighted the progress at the first EAS

(Top) S.M. Krishna meets Secretary General of ASEAN at Phnom Penh; (above) attends a session at the Summit

Education Ministers’ Meeting in Yogyakarta this July where “India has taken on three of the thirteen projects recommended by the EAS Educational Task Force”. On Nalanda University, he said: “The Nalanda Mentor Group and the governing board held regular meetings. The university’s website and logo have been launched and its statutes have been published in the Gazette of India. The varsity has appointed a steering committee to oversee the Global Design Competition” and companies from the EAS member states would be invited to participate in the contest. He also announced that India would host an EAS Conference on “Building Regional Responses to Disaster Management” in New Delhi this year, bringing together National Disaster Management Authorities of EAS member countries to share expertise and experience, as well as to build capacities. Calling for a “collaborative approach which transcends individual limitations on capacity”, S.M. Krishna emphasised the need to focus on food and energy security, including the use of energy efficiency technologies, towards a sustainable developmental architecture. The series of dialogues and conferences that the External Affairs Minister attended during his visit to Cambodia, which is the current ASEAN Chair, has further strengthened India’s engagement with the Group, reiterating India’s emerging importance in the region while highlighting the significance India attaches to its partnership with ASEAN. n



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CONNECTIVITY The international conference explored the significance of building substantive co-operation and engagement between India and its neighbours TEXT: MEENAKSHI KUMAR

he Northeastern state of Manipur, called the ‘Jewel of India’ by Jawaharlal Nehru, played host last month to an international conference that discussed India’s relations with its neighbouring countries — Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Maldives. For India, good relations with its neighbours are central to its foreign policy. Stressing this fact, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said: “We believe a peaceful periphery will enable us to focus on the essential task of development. A stable and prosperous South Asia will contribute to India’s own prosperity.” The two-day conference, “India and her Neighbours: Revisiting Relations with Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh”, was hosted in the idyllic surroundings of the Manipur University, located in the state’s capital Imphal. The University is spread over an area of 287 acres in the historic Canchipur, the old palace of Manipur. The choice of venue, Manipur, was significant. Says Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Special Secretary, Public Diplomacy (PD): “The PD division of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has supported such conferences earlier in different cities across the country. This year, we decided on Manipur recognising the fact that our Northeastern states share borders with our neighbours and hence, have views and various issues with our neighbouring countries. Also, the Northeastern states provide the bridge for connectivity to Myanmar and other ASEAN countries and are, therefore, pivotal to India’s ‘Look East’ policy.” Mathai, too, highlighted the same point when he said, “I believe that in Manipur there is particular interest on how


Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai (left) and Special Secretary, Public Diplomacy, MEA, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty (centre), with Chief Minister of Manipur Okram Ibobi Singh; (facing page) enjoying traditional lunch at Manipur University



India’s relations with Myanmar develop. Myanmar is the only ASEAN country with whom we share a land boundary. When we talk of a ‘Look East’ policy – we obviously know that we first look at Myanmar. From my own experience in the region in the 1990s, I am aware that in Manipur you were already looking East and wanted a policy of greater engagement from decades ago…” The two-day conference provided insights into several key aspects that concern India’s relations with its neighbours. Bilateral trade and development partnerships are the main areas guiding the relations. Nepal, for instance, gets 60 per cent of its foreign trade from India, and the development co-operation programme covers a broad canvas, including infrastructure, health, civil aviation and so on. Similar programmes are on with other neighbours too, and as the conference highlighted, many more are in the pipeline. The conference saw an active and intellectually stimulating participation from countries such as Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. During one of the sessions on India’s relationship with Myanmar, Daw Yin Yin Myint, Director General, Training, Research and Foreign Language, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Myanmar, acknowledged the importance of the Northeastern region in deepening India’s ties with Myanmar. A collaboration between Jadavpur Association of International Relations (JAIR) and the Public Diplomacy Division, the conference also brought alive the vibrant culture and heritage of Manipur, a treat indeed for the participating nations. n



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Face of Love On Mother Teresa's 15th death anniversary, Navin Chawla, who authored Mother Teresa: The Authorised Biography, remembers the Mother who saw the face of god in everyone she met

eople from all walks of life have fascinating experiences to relate about Mother Teresa. I understand these anecdotes to be lessons in faith, peace, tolerance, goodness and compassion. Her work — indeed the continuing work of the Sisters and Brothers of the Missionaries of Charity — became possible because she saw a manifestation of God in each person she ministered to. Deeds such as adopting an abandoned infant on a Kolkata street or helping a destitute sleeping in a cardboard box on a cold wintry night under London’s Waterloo Bridge, were possible because of her deepest conviction that she was ministering to God. Otherwise, as she often told me, “You can look after a few loved ones at the most. It is not possible for you to help everybody. Our work becomes possible because to me and my Sisters, they are all God.” So, the work that I witnessed over years — dressing the ulcerated hands of leprosy patients in Titagarh, or comforting those dying at Kalighat in Kolkata, or just reaching out to one’s neighbour — not only became possible, it was often joyful. This also helps to explain the ease with which the Sisters smile. During our 23-year association there were many things Mother Teresa would explain to me in her







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Mother Teresa comforting the sick at Mother House, Kolkata





simple and unaffected way that became more meaningful as time went by. My relationship with her grew into one of trust and confidence, often deepening with increased understanding. In the beginning, when Mother Teresa spoke to me or spoke in public, it seemed she was talking about everyday truths, and they seemed much too simple. My mind accepted them because of the respect in which I held her — that intensified as there was no difference between her words and her deeds, between her precepts and her practice and the fact that she could understand the poor because she herself was poor. But over the years, I began to apply the meaning of her words in their spiritual sense in my daily life and they began to affect my inner being. Soon after 1992, when my biography on Mother Teresa was published, I thought of using the book’s royalty, which I was beginning to receive, for social causes. I believed that a book selling in her name should not enable me to keep all the income for myself. I posed my dilemma to her. She suggested I must at least keep aside some amount for my daughter’s education. She had encouraged my elder daughter to study overseas and provided a reference to a university in the UK. The rest of the royalty I could devote to charity if I wished to, for the marginalised, the disabled and, especially, the leprosy-affected, who had a special place in Mother Teresa’s scheme of things. One day, I asked her what numbers I should begin with. She said, “Don’t get lost in numbers. Begin humbly. Begin with one or two. Even if the ocean is less by one drop, it is still worth doing.” While writing her biography, I sometimes went through frustrating moments that any biographer will



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Mother Teresa in Kolkata, 1977



understand. I would sit with her on a bench outside her office at Mother House, her ashram in Kolkata. Sometimes, in the course of several hours, I would pose many questions, but would hardly be able to get one or two satisfactory answers. Each question would be frequently interrupted, for she would reach out to someone waiting to meet her. That morning she sensed my frustration and said: “This is my apostolate, they come from far and I must comfort them.” When I thought I was finally able to get her undivided attention, she received a message that a cyclone had hit the Bangladesh coast, killing many and rendering thousands homeless. She immediately decided to go to Dhaka. I reminded her that her doctors had not permitted her to step downstairs, let alone go to Dhaka, and that her pacemaker needed to be changed the following week. But she would heed none of that and proceeded to get ready to leave. That was not a particularly fruitful morning for me. Mother Teresa never ever imposed her religion. She never once, even by inference, suggested any such thing. She knew I was at best vaguely spiritual. Like many other persons I know, I only prayed in times of trouble. With a smile, she would often say she prayed for me everyday, and yet urged me to learn the power of prayer. Sometimes, when she distributed what she called her ‘business card’ (on which a prayer was printed), she would also hand one to me, and with a twinkle in her eye, would say that maybe this would help me to learn to pray. What an unlikely biographer I was then — not born into her religion and only occasionally spiritual, but a person like several others to whom she gave so abundantly without any expectation of return. n —Navin Chawla is the former Chief Election Commissioner of India and biographer of Mother Teresa



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A journey from Kochi to Kandla is a chance to catch the charm of some of India’s coastal cities from the sea TEXT: KANKANA BASU

ne of the most beautiful ways to step on Indian soil is by taking the sea route and disembarking in Kochi in Kerala. One minute the ship is sailing under endless blue skies, with nothing but the azure ocean as far as the eye can see, the next the sea narrows down to an inlet that cuts through a large section of the city, verdant foliage springs up on both shores, mainly banana plantations, and the ship glides past gracious villas and country clubs with white walls and red-tiled roofs. The lush, sprawling lawns abutting these colonialstyle bungalows are as green as the banana plantations. Almost before one has finished taking in the riotous competition between every conceivable shade of green, one comes upon the famous Chinese fishing nets — mammoth nets strung on tall poles that




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dip into the sea ingeniously and come up with a wealth of sea food. Cantilevers, I learn later, with large stones suspended from ropes as counterweights to the outstretched nets. Lining the banks, very close to the Chinese fishing nets are little shacks which sell the freshly caught fish and one can make a hearty meal of squid, crabs, mussels, clams, ladyfish and oysters cooked in typical Kerala style. In sharp contrast is the approach to Goa from the sea. Mounds of rust-red ore and a dusty landscape greet the visitor. On exiting the port one encounters a fleet of two-wheelers and cars for hire, in most cases manned by garrulous drivers who double as guides. One can visit St. Francis’ church, the flea markets, some popular beaches FISHERMEN OUT ON THEIR BOAT IN GOA SEPTEMBER 2012 u INDIA PERSPECTIVES


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and much more in a single day. Seaside shacks are great for dinner, on offer is spicy surmai (kingfish) curry, Goanstyle lobster, pork vindaloo and many other regional delicacies. The best way to wash down this feast of flavours, is feni (a local spirit made from coconut or cashew), the locals will tell you. Back on the ship, one can see the shore dotted with lights twinkling like little stars in the far distance. Mumbai port can only be described as stunningly spectacular. The view of the Maximum city from the sea is majestic. At dusk, skyscrapers and heritage buildings are no more than silhouettes against the fast darkening sky. Not for long, soon neon lights and the sparkle of bulbs from thousands of windows sets the night ablaze, a sight that has to seen to be believed. There is GATEWAY OF INDIA, MUMBAI SEPTEMBER 2012 u INDIA PERSPECTIVES


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gentle irony in the lonely swish of the waves and the vitality of the city merely a few miles away. Many a Mumbaibased sailor has experienced a stab of nostalgia, a tug at the heartstrings when they see the city receding in the distance once they set sail. The approach to Kandla in Gujarat is radically different. Miles and miles of barren wasteland dotted with shrubs lies along the banks of the inlet, these uncannily change from blue-green to ochre before one’s very eyes. The hypnotic effect of the mirage leaves the viewer strangely charmed by the inhospitable terrain. There is an inexplicable charm of seeing places from the coast, a fleeting feeling of having captured the soul of a place, even though the body may have given one the slip. n SOMNATH TEMPLE, GUJARAT SEPTEMBER 2012 u INDIA PERSPECTIVES


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Transits of a Wholetimer, curated by Swaminathan’s son and art critic S. Kalidas, focuses on the crucial two decades of his life

ransits of a Wholetimer is a wedge from my father’s archive. It takes its title from the phrase ‘Wholetimer’ used primarily by communist cadre to describe those who give all their time and energy to work for ‘The Party’. The phrase also plays on the word ‘whole’ as in complete. The exhibition, however, is not a full-scale retrospective of J. Swaminathan’s works, but instead, it offers a small window focusing on the highlights of the crucial two decades of his life when he makes the transition from being a leftwing political activist to a journalist-critic-artist and then to a fulltime artist. This is essentially an art historical display. It comprises vignettes from his autobiographical notes, some early drawings, illustrations and sketches from his exercise books, some family photographs, some letters written to him by his colleagues and friends, some early catalogues and photographs of works — all spanning roughly two decades from 1950 to 1969. It also includes a few original examples of J. Swaminathan’s paintings from the early 1960s. Swaminathan was fond of quoting Gandhiji’s famous saying “My life is an indivisible whole”. The quote ties up with his favorite sloka (couplet) from the Isa Upanishad: “Purnam adah purnam idam/purnat purnam udichyate, purnasya purnamadaya/purnam eva vashishyate. (That is whole, this is whole, whole comes from the whole. The whole subtracted from whole, remains whole.) Swaminathan, or Swami, as he was called, was quite taken by this metaphysical concept of the ‘whole’ or ‘totality’. It came handy when he mocked the notions of Progress and History. “Progress assumes a beginning and




Transits of a Wholetimer, J. Swaminathan: 1950-1969 The exhibition provides vignettes from the artist’s autobiographical notes, some early drawings, illustrations and sketches from his exercise books, some family photographs and some early catalogues — all spanning roughly two decades from 1950 to 1969. When: September 8-October 6 Where: Gallery Espace, New Friends Colony, Delhi

thus a Creator. How can there be progress in infinity?” he argues in his unfinished autobiographical notes. In his painting, too, perhaps by intent, he completed the circle as it were, by returning to the kind of pictorial imagery at the end of his life that he had started out with in the early 1960s. So, to trace the arc of his oeuvre, this showing has a few examples of his paintings from the last and more well-known stylistic period of his life, which have been described as his tribal/folk inspired abstracts. NATIONHOOD AND IDENTITY These two decades (1950-70), were not only seminal to what is now somewhat facilely called Nehruvian Modernism but also to Swami’s own becoming and oeuvre. These were the decades when with his often contrarian polemic and his rapidly evolving art practice he was setting about to impact the Indian art scene as a self-proclaimed ‘stormy petrel’ in a heady and tempestuous binge. He called it ‘clearing the field of scrub before planting it anew’ and he went about it with an aggressive passion and acrimonious anguish that, in retrospect, prompts Geeta Kapur to describe him as a “commissar in camouflage”. He has himself confessed in his catalogue of 1969: “If I had an artist’s scruples in politics; I perhaps brought something of the revolutionary’s ruthlessness into art. Quarrelling, contradicting myself, blowing hot and cold at the same time, I have enjoyed it all these past few years.”

(Clockwise from above) Portrait of writer Nirmal Verma, circa 1956, drawing on paper; portrait of Swaminathan’s wife Bhawani, circa 1957, drawing on paper; Jawaharlal Nehru with Swaminathan and sculptor Raghav Kaneria and Harshavardhan (child) at the Group 1890 exhibition, 1963, archival photograph

COLOUR GEOMETRY OF SPACE 1966 was also the year when Swami took a pictorial leap in his painting. Gone were his pre-historic cave-painting inspired bison horns, left behind was the neo-Tantric phase with sperms and serpents of 1963-64. He now embarked on what he called The Colour Geometry of Space. It was a gem of a phase where he explored flat geometric planes of



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Unstitched Glory Delving into the history of the sari while examining its many contemporary forms


Exhibition catalogue with poem by Octavio Paz who was later awarded the Nobel Prize for literature

colour in a manner that was quite original and different from the geometric abstraction in the West. THE STORMY PETREL ROOSTS On a personal plane, these decades were also a time of great penury, passion and alcohol aggravated anguish. There was no market for art and Swaminathan kept shuttling in and out of journalism. He is offered the post of art teacher at Laurence School Lovedale and Rishi Valley School. He visits Rishi Valley but does not take the job. On his way back from Rishi Valley, though, he notices the amazing rock formations in the Andhra-Karnataka region and they soon surface in his paintings of the resplendent Bird-Tree-Mountain series. In the winter of 1968, he was awarded the newly instituted Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship. During the Fellowship, Swaminathan toured the remote regions of Kinnaur (Himachal Pradesh), Bastar (Madhya Pradesh)



and Kutch (Gujarat) extensively in search of what he called the ‘Traditional Numen’. After Betul of 1955 this was his more studied and extensive encounter with the tribal and pastoral peoples of India. The plight of these indigenous peoples in ‘Free and Democratic’ India moved him deeply and there is a note written around ’69 where he laments: “What is the price that civilisation extracts from the so-called backward communities for the dubious benefits it forces upon them?” This deep empathy with the tribal and pastoral communities lasted for the rest of his life and in 1982 he went on to set up the Bharat Bhawan in Bhopal where he juxtaposed folk and tribal art with the best of modern Indian art. His understanding of the term ‘contemporary’ was almost literal, encompassing all that existed under the sun at the same time. No longer quite the revolutionary, though still politically combative, J. Swaminathan was by 1970 confidently negotiating the turbulent currents of the Indian art scene. 

he sari is the only garment that celebrates you the way you are, because it adapts itself to you,” says actress Vidya Balan towards the end of this 23-minute documentary. Clearly there’s more to this unstitched garment than meets the eye. As it winds itself around the female body, the sari makes a cultural statement, it could be “a visiting card” giving you information about the wearer’s regional identity (as one expert in the film explains) and, as Vidya indicates, it’s a feminist statement too. Six Yards of Grace delves into the history of the sari while examining its many contemporary avatars, through the voices of historians, fashion designers, revivalists and female celebrities who have served as its brand ambassadors. Constraints of length have perhaps dictated that every Indian state does not get a mention in the film, but the research on the regions visited still makes this a useful beginner’s guide not just for foreigners but also for enthusiasts in the subcontinent. You may be a Kanjeevaram acolyte, but do you know that SIX YARDS OF GRACE Genre: Documentary this heavy silk sari’s unique properties are Director: Dheeraj Piplani attributed by some to the waters of two rivers Duration: 23 minutes Producer: Public which are used in the bleaching and Diplomacy Division, colouring processes? Who revived the Teliya Ministry of External Affairs, India Roomaal in sari form? Which state boasts of the maximum number of sari varieties? Fortunately too, the documentary does not point fingers at modern city-bred women who may consider the sari impractical, but points us instead in the direction of contemporary adaptations. Steeped in both tradition and pragmatism then, Six Yards of Grace is a well-produced envoy for one of the world’s most beautiful garments. It’s available in English, Russian, French, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese. —Anna M.M. Vetticad (The writer has authored The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic. She is on Twitter as @annavetticad) YouTube link:



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“I HOPE THIS AWARD ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO TAKE UP BASIC RESEARCH” SHOKE SEN, 56, a theoretical physicist and professor at Allahabad’s Harish Chandra Research Institute, has become one of the richest professors in the world. The reason: he is the winner of the first Fundamental Physics prize of US$ 3 million for his work on the string theory. Awards and recognition are not new for the professor, among them is the Padma Shri, one of the country’s highest civilian honours. He tells Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr about his work.


How significant is the award? I hope it will encourage students to take up basic research as a career. How would you explain the string theory to a layman? String theory is an attempt to understand the most basic constituents of all matter and the forces which operate between them. It is based on the idea that the elementary constituents of matter are not point particles, but one dimensional objects — strings. This theory combines quantum mechanics and general relativity — Einstein’s theory of gravity. It also has the potential to explain the other known forces of nature — strong, weak and electromagnetic forces. How does this theory affect our daily lives? At present, it is purely theoretical. However, it is hard to predict how it might affect our lives 100 years from now. Are facilities for theoretical physicists in India adequate?



In theoretical physics one can in principle work from any place as long as one has a computer and Internet connection. Also, India has many excellent people working in string theory. The facilities and the research environment are more than adequate. What is your special contribution to the string theory? The contribution that was cited in the prize is strong weak coupling duality. In the mid 1990s I devised strategies for discovering and finding evidence of symmetries in the string theory. This was used by others to discover other duality symmetries, and eventually led to the realisation that the five consistent string theories known at that time are all related by various duality transformations, and hence are different limits of a single underlying theory. Will the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle help in taking forward your theoretical work? Although this is not directly connected to string theory, the discovery of Higgs boson demonstrates the power of theoretical reasoning. We had to wait for almost 50 years for its discovery after it was predicted. What do you do when not working on the string theory? I like walking around in new cities and occasionally go to museums. Other than that I like cooking. Is India doing enough to encourage research? During the last few years funding for science has increased significantly, in our area at least. I do not see the lack of funds as an obstacle for first class research.




I plan to continue working on various aspects of string theory in the coming years. Although during the last 30 years we have learned a lot about this theory, there is still a lot to be learned.


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India Perspectives  

September 2012

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