Page 1

www.livemint.com

New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Pune

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Vol. 6 No. 2

LOUNGE THE WEEKEND MAGAZINE

BHAICHUNG BHUTIA TAKES A BOW >Page 8

THE LAST GREAT MODERNS Syed Haider Raza and Akbar Padamsee, legendary torchbearers of the Indian Modern sensibility, tell us what it took to create art without a market and hasty experimentation

THE INEFFICIENCY OF ‘ECONOMY’

Hands­on time with the world’s cheapest tablet is more depressing than disappointing >Page 9

‘WISH TREES ARE MY ONE HIT SONG’

In India for her first exhibition in the country, Yoko Ono talks to us about her art, performance, criticism, and her first patron >Page 13

>Pages 10­12

Artists Akbar Padamsee, 83, and (top) Syed Haider Raza, 89.

GAME THEORY

REPLY TO ALL

THE GOOD LIFE

THE CONTEMPT FOR MANMOHAN

THE LOSER’S GUIDE TO COMIC RELIEF

ROHIT BRIJNATH

BE QUIET, I CAN SEE THE BALL

T

hanks, God, I will say in homage to Wasimbhai if someone can invent a device which can stop me hurling the kitchen sink at my television. No, not a clichémeter to go with snickometer, wherein commentators receive a low-voltage shock every time they intone “run in hard”, but something far simpler. In this age of Hot Spot, super slo-mo, ball trackers, why isn’t there a button on my remote which allows me to watch television with the sound on but the commentary off? I want the percussion of wood on... >Page 4

AAKAR PATEL

H

istorian Ramachandra Guha has sent down his pronouncement on Manmohan Singh. Writing in The Telegraph, he dismisses Khushwant Singh’s view that Singh is the best prime minister we’ve ever had. Khushwant Singh, Guha observes, is not the best judge of leaders. He thought Sanjay Gandhi would save India. For Guha, Manmohan Singh has been a disappointment and even, this is in the headline and may not be Guha’s view, a failure. Singh has never been a... >Page 5

SHOBA NARAYAN

A

s 2012 kicks in, it is time to think of resolutions to make and keep. Philosopher Robert Nozick called it “The Examined Life”. After examining mine, I came up with three goals: to be more disciplined; to remember not to forget; and to become funny. The last one is somewhat pathetic because I have resolved to become funny for the last five years. Clearly, I haven’t made much progress. You readers may know me as a writer, but what I really am is a comic trapped in a... >Page 6

CHUGGING INTO THE NEW YEAR

Popping champagne, dancing to the DJ’s rhythm, and an unscheduled midnight view of Dudhsagar Falls—on the Golden Chariot train >Page 14

Take a holiday where your kids stay free


HOME PAGE L3

LOUNGE First published in February 2007 to serve as an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian Dream.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

LOUNGE REVIEW | KIDVILLE, MUMBAI ABHIJIT BHATLEKAR/MINT

LOUNGE EDITOR

PRIYA RAMANI SEEMA CHOWDHRY SANJUKTA SHARMA

TEATIME, FOLKS

MINT EDITORIAL LEADERSHIP TEAM

(EDITOR)

NIRANJAN RAJADHYAKSHA (EXECUTIVE EDITOR)

ANIL PADMANABHAN TAMAL BANDYOPADHYAY NABEEL MOHIDEEN MANAS CHAKRAVARTY MONIKA HALAN SHUCHI BANSAL SIDIN VADUKUT JASBIR LADI SUNDEEP KHANNA

New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Pune

www.livemint.com

With reference to “Beijing brew up”, 7 January, I wish we Indians could learn to respect tea as the Chinese do. All that we now see is a plethora of coffee houses. The humble tea has been pushed to the background. I have seen few dedicated tea centres. How about opening more Only­Chai houses? Give me my ‘chai’ anytime! SARITA

R. SUKUMAR

©2012 HT Media Ltd All Rights Reserved

inbox

Write to us at lounge@livemint.com

DEPUTY EDITORS

THE WEEKEND MAGAZINE

How the integration of a confident, independent music scene and Bollywood is transforming film music >Pages 10­11

A

a model road with a traffic light, a water play space, a giant jumpable piano and walls made to scribble on. The preschool programme, titled Kidville University, is expected to open in June. The current range of activities caters to children from toddlers up to the age of 7. To use Kidville, parents need to sign up their children for membership.

The good stuff Safety and hygiene. The space was being vacuumed constantly in preparation for the next class when we were there. There are hand sanitizers for the adults, Kapur explains. For the children, there are large, handy and, most importantly, spotless sinks for washing hands. The children have aprons for water play and the walls in the activity room have been cellophaned so they can paint on them. The paints, and even the glue, used are edible, so if a child ingests them by mistake, they are not harmful. The Kidville staff seems to actively encourage the children to make a mess and have a good time doing it. The toys used are manually operated to enhance a child’s involvement with a toy. The curriculum devises agespecific activities and the gym, for instance, is rearranged as per age group requirement.

The not­so­good While the staff seems to undergo train-

ing with Kidville and seems friendly, the certification for teachers is not specified. Membership prices are steep.

Talk plastic Kidville offers classes in music and dance, gym, art, enrichment, parenting, preschool and camp categories. The first time you sign up for a class (prices range from `12,000-15,000 for a fourmonth class), you are entitled to basic membership, which is a silver membership. If you want to upgrade to a paid membership, then in addition to the class fee you can opt for a gold membership (`10,500) or platinum membership (`14,500). The paid memberships come with additional discounts, and extra play passes (which allow children to use the gym for play during fixed hours outside of class hours). Walk-ins for the KwaKids creative space cost `500 (parents need to stay within “hugs distance” for, as Kapur says, “it is not a day-care centre”). Birthday parties cost `56,000 for 15 people and the packages include a basic welcome room, games, an art project, a birthday theme cake, food and return gifts.

BUSINESS LOUNGE WITH MAHENDRA MOHAN GUPTA OF JAGRAN PRAKASHAN >Page 8

MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN

In the first of our series on Olympic medal prospects, we find out why Ronjan Sodhi is a hot contender for gold >Page 7

BEIJING BREW UP

A tourist trap, a businessman’s haven, a quiet cuppa—a modern Beijing teahouse has many avatars >Pages 12­13

WHAT ABOUT OUR FOOD SECURITY?

(from left) Vishal Dadlani, Monica Dogra and Nikhil D’Souza, three musicians who go back and forth between Bollywood and alternative music.

The Capital has India’s first dog­feeding sites. We meet the dog lovers at work >Page 18

THE GOOD LIFE

zip-line across the gym space makes you want to start playing. If you do bang into a wall, don’t worry, it has padding that is 6ft high and 6 inches thick. There’s more: Tumble pins, obstacle courses, monkey bars. Kidville, the first Indian franchise of the American child activity centre chain, is located, oddly enough, in a mall. Why in a mall, we ask Rosenyn Kapur, the co-owner of KwaKids Learning Pvt. Ltd, which has brought the Kidville franchise to the country, and she ticks the benefits off on her fingers: security, floor space, light and ample parking. Kapur, a working mother, decided along with business partner Mallika Timblo, another working mom, that Mumbai’s children needed a space which had the quality of learning they had witnessed on their trips abroad. Kapur and Timblo researched similar centres in other parts of India, Dubai and the US two years ago, and sat through training programmes at Kidville, US. Their first class opened in Mumbai on 9 January. Kidville does not encourage walk-ins, except in their retail space, which sells toys and clothing. You can book for birthday parties, which they organize, or for haircuts for children at their inhouse salon. There is also an innovatively designed KwaKids activity space (separate from the Kidville space), with

Vol. 6 No. 1

LOUNGE

WATCHMAN

SHOBA NARAYAN

THE REVIVALIST BUSINESSMAN

OUR LITTLE BIT

Saturday, January 7, 2012

C

lad in a khadi kurta-pyjama and Ferragamo flats, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, 37, is having lunch at the ITC Sonar, Kolkata. It is 4pm. We are at the coffee shop. He orders lal maas. I have already eaten. I order jhalmuri. “You can’t have muri (puffed rice) in a five-star hotel,” protests Mukherjee, who calls himself a “street food and puchka (panipuri) connoisseur”. He dismisses the famous man near the Park Hotel as selling “Marwadi puchka with snow peas and chana in it”. >Page 4

REPLY TO ALL

SIDIN VADUKUT

MY WATCH WISH LIST FOR 2012

I

know what this sounds like. But this is not a list of watches I aspire to buy, or in any other way acquire, in 2012. That list would be much too long to print in just one or two editions of Lounge. But if there are any readers out there who do truly care for this watch columnist, I’d like one of those new Ocean collection diving watches from Harry Winston. No? Ok. In which case we will talk about the things I’d like to see the watch industry and some watch brands do in 2012. Not all the things on my wish list... >Page 4

AAKAR PATEL

DON’T MISS

in today’s edition of

THE TWIN STRAINS OF A SYMPHONY

S

outh Indians are familiar with Raga Hamsadhwani, the call of the swan, through a song written by Muthuswamy Dikshitar, who died in 1835. Dikshitar composed a bhajan in it, which is one of Carnatic music’s standard songs. The lyric is Vatapi Ganapatim bhajeham (I bow to Ganesh from Vatapi/Badami). The raga was brought to Hindustani music by Aman Ali Khan, a singer of Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar gharana, who died in 1953. His lyric is “Laagi lagan... >Page 5

I read “What about our food security?”, 7 January, with interest. Having accompanied Sonya Ghosh on one of her feeding trips, which incidentally extended to a troop of monkeys in the forest behind Vasant Kunj, I am glad ‘Lounge’ did this story. Mayank Austen Soofi did his homework well. However, I am not sure about the contradiction bit. While Ghosh and others work for animals, there are many more organizations working for humans. It’s a parallel process. I am sure it can be no one’s case that we wait for all humans to be fed, clothed and sheltered before we start caring for animals. Those who work for humans are doing their job. We are doing ours. RAJDEEP PHOTO ESSAY

BIRDING ON WHEELS

AN INDIAN MELODY ‘Lounge’ should carry more columns such as Aakar Patel’s “The twin strains of an Indian symphony”, 7 January, which deals with cross­cultural, cross­religion art. This is the only way we can truly be Indian in every sense. AVINDER BINDRA

WELL­DESERVED Rohit Brijnath’s “The running man”, 31 December, was an excellent article about a great athlete. Somdev Devvarman deserves to get more prime media exposure. V.V. SINGH

CHEF SECRETS

Kidville, Third floor, Atria mall, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai (09820045970).

Shoba Narayan’s “When your food sings to you”, 24 December, was a heartening article for vegetarians who can at most fancy ‘paneer’ or mushrooms. Paying `15,000 for undercooked pistachios and stale risotto is a rip­off, but I would still give the benefit of doubt to the chef. On many occasions, a visiting chef is hamstrung by the unavailability of ingredients and suitably skilled hands. I am not defending him, just stating a possibility. Perhaps these chefs should bring along their entourage of cooks and unique ingredients. AJIT BALGI

Gayatri Jayaraman

ON THE COVER: IMAGING: MANOJ MADHAVAN/MINT

LOUNGE PREVIEW | SINGAPORE TAKEOUT, NEW DELHI

N

ow you don’t have to fly down to venue,” explains Randall Tan, regional Singapore to enjoy a feast. Singa- director, South Asia, Middle East and pore Takeout, which started its journey Africa, Singapore Tourism Board. from London in 2011, has already travIn each city, Singapore-based chefs elled to six cities around the work with local chefs to present world and is in New Delhi dishes inspired by Singathis weekend. The Capipore’s flavours and ingreTell us who enjoyed tal’s foodies can choose dients. In Delhi, three eating salad in ancient from a host of Singachefs—Benjamin Seck times (see “Shoots and leaves”, pore-inspired dishes. from True Blue Cui7 January), and you have a Part of the Singasine, an award-winchance to win an invite for two pore International ning restauto the Singapore Takeout on Culinary Exchange rant serving 15 January. Mail your answer to (SPICE), a Singapore Peranakan loungemint@gmail.com with Tourism Board initia(Straits Chinese) your name, age and phone tive, the event is a showcuisine; Manisha number by 1pm on case for Singapore cuisine Bhasin from 14 January. through a travelling pop-up ITC Maurya kitchen. “While most of the prepand Rajkamal Choarations will be done in the back kitchens, pra from WelcomHotel Sherathe finishing and plating of the dish will ton—will helm the Singapore happen out of the mobile kitchen, which Takeout. In Delhi, the event is by takes about 4 hours to set up in each invitation only whereas in other cities

Þ

people could sign up to attend on Facebook. However, two Lounge readers have a chance to enjoy this culinary feast (see box) by participating in our contest. Chef Seck will be preparing Nyonya Prawn Curry with Roti Jalal (Lacy Pancakes). This is a dish which the Peranakans have adopted from Malay culture. Commonly eaten with chicken curry, Seck will add a twist to the dish by pre-

senting this with Nyonya Prawn Curry, usually served on special occasions. Keeping in mind that vegetarians form a large part of the Indian population, chef Seck has included Popiah Goreng (fried spring rolls) and Hun Kwee Jagong (coconut corn jelly). Seck’s version of Popiah Goreng has deep-fried spring rolls with cabbage and carrot filling, served with a piquant vinegar and sugar-based chilli dip, while Hun Kwee Jagong is a chilled, coconut corn jelly dessert made from green bean flour and wrapped in fragrant banana leaves. Besides this, Indian chefs Bhasin and Chopra will present two fusion dishes. Laksa, a popular street food dish, is a spicy coconut rice noodle soup Indian twist: Laksa Pulao at the Singapore Takeout.

but chef Chopra reinterprets this traditional dish by incorporating it into a pulao, using Basmati rice cooked with French beans, laksa paste and Indian spices. The Laksa Pulao will be served with spiced yogurt. Bhasin will showcase Duet of Asian Inspired Antipasti, a dish that uses scampi and lemon grass ceviche in a traditional methi dhania (fenugreek coriander) papdi shell, drizzled with galangal (blue ginger) tamarind sauce. Accompanying it is ITC Maurya’s speciality chicken tikka with a Singapore twist, marinated with laksa paste and finished on a charcoal grill. The Laksa Chicken Tikka will be served with a sweet basil naan. The Singapore Takeout started on Friday and will conclude on Sunday at ITC Maurya, New Delhi. Entry is by invitation only. Seema Chowdhry

Take a holiday where your kids stay free

Plan your days of leisure with a host of activities while your children indulge themselves at the Trident Kids Club.

Special prices starting from Rs. 9,800 which include a complimentary room for children under 12 years*, daily Trident breakfast and more. AgrA | jAiPur | udAiPur | CoChin | bhubAneswAr

1800 11 2122

|

tridenthotels.com

offer valid till 15th April, 2012. Conditions apply. *subject to availability.


L4 COLUMNS

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

ROHIT BRIJNATH GAME THEORY

Be quiet, I can see the ball cut to square

T

TOM SHAW/GETTY IMAGES

hanks, God, I will say in homage to Wasimbhai if someone can invent a device which

can stop me hurling the kitchen sink at my television. No, not a clichémeter to go with snickometer, wherein commentators receive LIVE IMAGES

EVENING STANDARD/GETTY IMAGES

a low-voltage shock every time they intone “run in hard”, but something far simpler. In this age of Hot Spot, super slo-mo, ball trackers, why isn’t there a button on my remote which allows me to watch television with the sound on but the commentary off? I want the percussion of wood on leather, the concert of the crowd, the chorus of the appeal to umpire. But the punditry on ESPN—while superior to the shameless peddling during the Indian Premier League or the churning chattering on other channels—can be unenlightening and exhausting, to the point where a friend mutes his TV and puts on the radio. Having once spent half a day in Adelaide behind Tim Lane, Peter Roebuck, Harsha Bhogle and Kerry O’Keeffe I know why, for radio can be convivial, imaginative, amusing. At dinner in India last fortnight, with writers Pradeep Magazine, Sharda Ugra and Rahul Bhattacharya, radio kept coming up, especially a phrase attributed to the lunatic O’Keeffe, who is rumoured to have once said that Virender Sehwag thinks that “leaves are only for autumn”. What he definitely did say recently, and hilariously, on watching Ishant Sharma run in, was, “If he appeared in a police line-up, you’d say Colombian drug runner.” A single line can make a session. Just a few pithy words can make a morning. When Mark Greatbatch, criticized by the media for dismal catching years ago, took a blinder at slip in Australia and wagged his finger furiously at the commentary box as if to say “take that, you bastards”, Richie Benaud simply remarked, all fine timing and brevity: “He’s probably reminding them that he missed a couple earlier in the series.” Bhattacharya once wrote beautifully that “there is something ethereal about cricket at dawn”, speaking of awakening years ago to cricket in Australia, of white-painted faces trying to destroy chewing gum—but he was also referring to the television experience. Then it was Channel 9, which set the standard for years but has turned somewhat

parochial, and to its discredit—not to mention other Western broadcasters— still hasn’t always managed to correctly pronounce Indian names, when all it takes is a producer’s trip to the dressing room for a phonetic list. Mate, it’s Say-Waag, not Sea-Wag. It’s Ush-Win, not Ash-Win. It’s Za-Heer, not Zaaah-Heer. Even Indians can tell it’s Swonn (as in “on”) not Swann (as in “ran”). Really, it’s not that hard. If radio commentators paint wider, colourful pictures of what we can’t see, television commentators must offer analysis of the picture we do see. It is not easy. Three commentators are hurled together often, all scrambling to insert an opinion. Advertisements leak into the broadcast and this constant commercial intrusion restricts the storyteller’s time, a bit like telling Neville Cardus: “Sir, you have 300 words, no more.” Furthermore, host broadcasters can ask producers for specific shots, demanding that those taking the feed be nimble-worded (to use a Bhogle phrase) when the pictures abruptly change. It is why commentary is considered to be an art form, yet even as picture coverage of all sport has improved, commentary in most places has not kept pace. The sheer clutter of words has reduced the quality of the experience. Pictures tell their own tense tales— the taut faces and fidgeting bodies before a Wimbledon final—and then a microphone will poke a player in the face to ask a question to which the only answer can be banal. There is too much talking, in all sport, as if in a twittering generation (once I get on Twitter I’m going to regret this line) something has to be said, but no sport is so profound. Not even cricket. No act is to be considered now, no pattern must unfold, the words must simply come. In tennis, Luke Jensen, at last year’s US Open, was speaking—gasp, gulp—over second serves. Dan Maskell, whose stuffily superb comment on a girlish mob chasing

Björn Borg across Centre Court was, “This is sacrilege. She is wearing high heels”, would have had a coronary. Even in golf, which can go gooey about tradition—while conveniently skipping past the sexism of men’s golf—words will follow a putt when all we want to do is watch its trajectory. To talk endlessly is to turn commentary from deft dissection and elegant explanation to recitation and, alas, repetition. Recitation is allowed in football, whose script unfolds rapidly, but not in cricket. Repetition, which comes from over-speaking, has its own solution, except producers don’t appear to recommend it: Be Quiet. I can see the ball cut to square, I can see them running two, I can see the fielder diving. I have a picture before me requiring no words. It is a single shot, it is not fatal field-setting nor a national disaster, it is to be enjoyed, not intruded on. Perhaps we should xerox and distribute the 10 Commandments which David Hill of Channel 9 wrote years ago, and which was worthy of listing in Benaud’s book, Benaud on Reflection. Hill’s third instruction read: “Remember, silence is the greatest weapon you have in your armoury”. But young producers are possibly in awe of the men with mikes. Reputation perhaps has impeded professionalism.

What do I want? Well, Ian Chappell, Ganguly, Sanjay Manjrekar, Nasser Hussain, David Lloyd. What I want is the occasionally lyrical line.

Sourav Ganguly, the most appealing of Indian voices, for instance, is sharply honest, uses well the advantage of having breakfasted for years with V.V.S. Laxman and shared a bus with Rahul Dravid, and is rumoured to be a cricketing fanatic who follows the game in all its geographies. But, young to his craft, he can occasionally over-speak, as if trying to score a century before lunch, and it requires only a gentle word: Pace yourself, dada, an entire career of conversation awaits you. Ganguly has a natural flair for commentary, a certainty of opinion, which is a bonus, for cricket by and large has a predilection for the famous name irrespective of talking talent. Tennis’ sublime Mary Carillo, for instance, would not cut it here. Who is she, we might ask? But cricket, which undoubtedly lives on the expert, pursues the great name ardently, uncaring if great batsman doesn’t morph naturally into great coach or great commentator. Come, speak, they say, and you can almost feel the hubris which follows some commentators into the box: I KNOW THIS GAME. But its translation into words is the art he must pursue, the idea that his knowledge is useless without communication. It makes you wonder, Do they—some, not all—learn the medium as dutifully as they once did their sport? The only part of Navjot Sidhu—who will rightly tell you how dreadfully inept I was in my only attempt at cricket TV presenting—which was faintly agreeable was his homework. He thought about his words, so what if they became an unpunctuated, unlinked collection of absurdities. But research seems to be rare. A European golf commentator recently told me he had quiet dinners with players during events, picked up on family distractions, on new coaches, on stroke struggles, but cricket talkers rarely offer the impression of off-mike reporting. Only the greying yet un-ageing Chappelli, of those I heard in Australia

Men of their words: (clockwise from above) Today’s voluble commentary would have given the superb tennis commentator Dan Maskell a heart attack; still new to the art, Sourav Ganguly has a natural flair but tends to over­speak; and the pitch­perfect Richie Benaud knows the importance of reflection. this time, tells sufficient and engaging stories, for he has not just a voice but a ear to cricket in his nation. What do I want? Well, Ian Chappell, Ganguly, Sanjay Manjrekar, Nasser Hussain, David Lloyd. What I want is the occasionally lyrical line. I want a streak of amusement now and then, for this is sport, not real life, it need not be invaded by grimness always. I want repartee and there is none in cricket. I want nationalism banished, for the commentator—whether Australian or Indian—is observer and analyst, not panderer and flag-hoister. I want to feel what it’s like to face a glowering Peter Siddle, to comprehend nuance, to hear about the art of taking a catch (Chappelli long ago once told a terrific tale of him and Shane Warne and a conversation on catching), to listen to a subtlety on a field position, to be made aware of what takes place in dressing rooms (does Dravid throw bats, is it true Laxman sleeps?), to be told of how the Australians chatter, when, what, to whom. Not broad-brush pomposity, but eager detail. Else there goes the kitchen sink, hurtling towards my TV. Like a tracer bullet, of course. Rohit Brijnath is a senior correspondent with The Strait Times, Singapore. Write to Rohit at gametheory@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Rohit’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/rohit­brijnath


COLUMNS L5

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

AAKAR PATEL REPLY TO ALL

The shallow middle­class contempt for Singh

H

FENG LI/GETTY IMAGES

istorian Ramachandra Guha has sent down his pronouncement on Manmohan Singh. Writing in The Telegraph, he

dismisses Khushwant Singh’s view that Singh is the best prime minister we’ve

ever had. Khushwant Singh, Guha observes, is not the best judge of leaders. He thought Sanjay Gandhi would save India. For Guha, Manmohan Singh has been a disappointment and even, this is in the headline and may not be Guha’s view, a failure. Singh has never been a popular leader because he lacks charisma. The middle class’s SMSes laugh at him because he’s seen as weak. However, most academics think highly of Singh. Guha also did once, as he suggests. He then tells us the reasons why he no longer does, and we should look at them. Four things about Singh disappoint Guha. The first is that he is timid towards Sonia Gandhi. He yields to her on the appointment of ministers and legislating of laws. Yet this is how cabinets are put together. There are ministers that must repel Singh, certainly. But they are probably also the ones that repel Sonia—the men nominated by the Congress allies. But as for the Congressmen in key positions, it’s likely that Singh has no problem with most. It’s true Singh has no free hand. For instance, it is believed that he wanted Montek Singh Ahluwalia as finance minister, but got Pranab Mukherjee instead. But no prime minister has a free hand, especially one whose source of power comes not from his popularity, but that of his underwriter. This is linked to Guha’s second point, Singh’s “timidity in not contesting a Lok Sabha seat”, choosing to remain a Rajya Sabha member. The problem is that Singh has tried once and failed. South Delhi defeated him in 1999. The Indian votes confessionally or he succumbs to charisma. The intellectual has no popular appeal in India. B.R. Ambedkar was defeated by Bombay in 1952, two years after he drafted the Constitution. He never won a Lok Sabha seat either. Guha believes Singh would have more authority if he won his seat. I

don’t believe so. His power would still come from Sonia, who has imposed him over Indians on sufferance. Guha’s third point is Singh’s lack of judgement in picking advisers. His two principal secretaries, Guha says, are not respected by the bureaucracy. One of them is a “notorious intriguer” and the other a “Gandhi family loyalist”. I know nothing about this and have no light to offer. However, Guha does not illustrate how these men have affected Singh’s work. Guha is right in pointing out that Singh’s media advisers were both academics and not reporters. Someone else, Guha feels, would have suggested Singh meet with common folk. I don’t think Singh needs a reporter to tell him that he should be seen on television meeting villagers, as Guha thinks he should. The fact is that he chooses not to. The question is why. I can speculate on this and suggest that the reason is that Singh does not think it valuable to listen to the aam aadmi. If this is the case, I do not know if it is, I think Singh is right. On the other hand, should he do this to get good press? He could, but it’s doubtful this works either. Rahul Gandhi means well but is laughed at for the most part in his attempt to reach out to rural India. In any case it isn’t the villager who has a problem with Singh, it’s the middle class. Guha’s fourth disappointment is that Singh is keen to “win good chits from Western leaders”. This is a personal disappointment for Guha. It need not delay us other than to make the observation that even if true (I don’t see what benefit could accrue to Singh in such chamchagiri), there’s nothing wrong with it. It is obvious that foreign leaders like Barack Obama and Angela Merkel are soft on Singh. He won Newsweek’s vote among world leaders as their most admired fellow leader. Newsweek called him “the leader other leaders love”. It is obvious also that the foreign press fawns over him. Whether this is so because Singh solicits it is debatable. Other than these four reasons, Guha refers to the corruption in the

Tough act: Newsweek magazine called him ‘the leader other leaders love’. United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. He believes Singh should have done more to act against it. But what? Guha says Singh should have sacked Suresh Kalmadi immediately on news of the scale of the Commonwealth Games scandal breaking. Actually, he could not have done this. Kalmadi was not in the government. He headed the Indian Olympic Association, which sacked him the day after he went to jail. Some of Singh’s ministers are demonstrably corrupt. But it’s also true that they have been acted against. Guha names Kalmadi and A. Raja, but they are both in Tihar, and being prosecuted. What else should Singh have done? Guha says Singh should have broken ties with the DMK when the Raja scandal became obvious. He should have done this “even if that meant the fall of the United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi”. Elections are not fought on issues in India. Such high principle would not be recognized, would have brought no reward and been without meaning. It is also easy for someone with no Lok Sabha stake to run away from the problem.

It is staying on in such thorny circumstance that is hard. There are many humiliations, and often defeats. But Singh persists. This is the source of his greatness, his heroism. A weaker man would succumb to Guha’s prescription of martyrdom. And what would this achieve? It is not difficult to imagine this. Would the two mercenary Tamilian parties vanish after an election? Would the Yadavs go away? Or Mamata Banerjee? Why throw the dice expecting to roll a 13? It won’t happen. The other thing to consider is: Can Singh convince Congressmen to give up power merely because his life is made difficult by allies? This is difficult to swallow. The best that could have happened is his personal resignation. Another would have taken his place, and our problems would remain. Guha says Singh “clings to office”. To what end does he cling to office? Guha offers two stories of Singh’s probity and incorruptibility. One, that Singh’s daughter hid her father’s address (when he was finance minister) when she approached someone for a recommendation. The second that he politely refused a friend’s request that Singh’s office car be used to drop him after lunch. So it

isn’t about that. Is it for fame, then? But Guha himself says that Singh is most reluctant to meet Indian journalists. I have written about this before, explaining why he doesn’t. He’s probably our most reticent leader ever (Nehru often delivered himself of three speeches in a day). Guha says he remains in office “at whatever cost to one’s reputation, one’s party, and one’s nation”. This is harsh. Is Singh harming India and his party by braving the problems that face the country, most of them internal and the making of Indians? In listing his disappointments, Guha gives us the audience’s view of the stage. We already have this from the television anchor, and the middle class. It is moral and lacks nuance. He doesn’t give us an understanding of Singh’s environment and his options, except asking him to fall on his sword, or the kirpan he doesn’t carry. We haven’t discussed his achievements, and this may not be the place for it, but there are a few. Singh’s sobriety in the face of Pakistan’s recklessness, his delivery of high economic growth which we now take for granted, his government’s writing of some of the most effective and humane laws ever written in India—the right to information and education, the national rural employment guarantee scheme to name three. And his doing all this with little support. Nehru had majorities of 364 in 1952 and 371 in 1957 in the Lok Sabha. Lal Bahadur Shastri inherited Congress’ third sweep of 361. Indira had 283, then 352, and 374. Rajiv had a majority of over 400. Manmohan was given minorities of 141 and 206. It’s fairer to compare his position to Narasimha Rao’s, but even Rao got 244 seats. Guha does not touch upon this. Perhaps it is obvious that Singh is a disappointment if not a failure and I’m missing something. But given the poor hand that Indian voters have dealt him, he has played well, even brilliantly. Aakar Patel is a director with Hill Road Media. Send your feedback to replytoall@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Aakar’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/aakar­patel

THINKSTOCK

MY DAUGHTERS’ MUM

NATASHA BADHWAR

A NEW KIND OF HOLIDAY

I

t feels so weird to see you,” said six-year-old Aliza to her father as he came down the stairs. She actually used the word “weird”. “What?” he said. “I haven’t seen you for so many days,” she said. “But we just spent a week together in Lucknow,” he said. “I didn’t see you at all,” she said. “You two were always going off together without us.” She turned to look at me. There is something very reassuring about Aliza’s version of our family holiday. As soon as we had reached Lucknow for a family get-together, the children got busy. They joined their cousins and waved to me from faraway. Even little Naseem trooped off, far more independent in a new place than she is at home. For us, it was an unexpected oasis of couple time, despite being among extended family. I

volunteered for all errands that required going out of home. Then went to Afzal and asked him to show me the way. We walked into the early morning streets of Lucknow. The fragrant smoke of litti-chokha being sold from a cart. A small crowd around a seller of makhan malai, a version of ice cream unique to this city. I am looking for fresh guavas. And gooseberries. Lucknow is one of Afzal’s homes. He is busy trying to recognize shopkeepers he used to buy groceries from as a schoolboy piecing together fragments from his memory. I pause to take a photo, then run to catch up with him. Just like old times. As a parent person, I want this moment of liberation to be noted. I unfurl an imaginary flag against the blue winter sky. I am walking with my love through old streets again, listening to his stories, taking photos.

“Stop acting like an NRI,” he says to me, as I take a picture of a cart loaded with red chillies next to a pile of raw yellow turmeric. “Tourist, is it? Watch me,” I say. I compose a shot of a cow sitting next to a shop’s display of plastic Santa masks. A girl, sweeping her doorstep, looks up at me just in time to be part of the picture. “Not you,” I reassure her, “I was taking a photo of the cow.” She looks even more bewildered than before. There was a family function, where just the act of meeting each other again dressed in our finery was enough to get us high. Our daughters cut loose again to be part of a gang of children stalking waiters with tray-loads of starters and soup. From a distance, I watch them balancing tissue paper for plates and nibbling at hot chilli-coated kebabs. They receive compliments and say their salaams, then pick up their ghararas to chase new adventures at the juice counter. When we had been a one-child family, we used to do extended road trips and river-rafting adventures. With two, we travelled to beaches and

Home buddies: One big reason we travel is to come back home. cities, staying in hotel rooms. We even went for separate holidays. With three… well, frankly, three children just did us in. The first summer, I realized that two of them wearing swimsuits and splashing in bathtubs at home while baby sleeps was all the holiday we were going to manage. I duly took photos and updated my Facebook status. Served mangoes on the side and called it a Mango Tub party. Or something like that.

In Lucknow last week, whenever we had to go out and would start to round up our children, they would collectively yell: “We don’t want to go with you. We are playing!’ What an achievement, Natasha! I patted myself on the back. Run out and get stuck in traffic. Soak in the world. Count statues, have a coffee on me. Find your love again. “I love this city, I said to Afzal. It’s even better than Benaras (Varanasi).”

“Yes,” he replied, “they were so much younger when we had gone to Benaras.” “And even younger when we were pushing strollers in Rome,” I remembered. And burst out laughing at the exhaustion. At our outrageous courage. Freedom. Liberation. Fresh guavas from the street. Arms free to lock with each other again. We have grown up as parents. Every moment of this seemingly ordinary holiday is a celebration. As soon as we get back home, the comment from Aliza. I know she means she is happy to see her father coming down the stairs. Her mother cutting papaya at the breakfast table. One big reason we travel is really to come back home. To see each other again. We’re home. Back together. Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three. Write to Natasha at mydaughtersmum@livemint.com www.livemint.com To read Natasha’s previous columns, visit www.livemint.com/natasha­badhwar


L6 COLUMNS

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SHOBA NARAYAN THE GOOD LIFE

The loser’s guide to comic relief

A

AFP

s 2012 kicks in, it is time to think of resolutions to make and keep. Philosopher Robert Nozick called it “The Examined Life”. After examining mine, I came up with three goals: to be more disciplined; to remember

not to forget; and to become funny. The last one is somewhat pathetic because I have resolved to become funny for the last five years. Clearly, I haven’t made much progress. You readers may know me as a writer, but what I really am is a comic trapped in a householder’s body. The day I start earning money from stand-up is the day I will quit all my other gigs and go into the business full-time. It will take me years, maybe a lifetime. I may be the first octogenarian, wrinkled, walker-carrying, almost incontinent comic—and that’s me trying to be funny; and now you know why it will take a lifetime. But hey, what do I have to lose? For years, this comic desire remained latent. Now, it has become a full-blown obsession. I watch stand-up acts on YouTube continually, try to create jokes in my head and look for material everywhere I go. I tried forming an improvisational comedy group in Bangalore. For the first meeting held over a relaxed lunch at Ebony, I invited a few people I thought were funny. None of us had any idea how to do “comedy improv” but we all agreed that “hot snacks and hard liquor” were a must for all subsequent meetings. I disbanded the group right after, not because of the pressure of providing serious sustenance to this comic crew, but because the people I had invited were highly accomplished. One was the country’s leading architect, whose swearing could make a sailor blush. Others were CEOs and entrepreneurs who had created and sold companies. These were high achievers whose time was extremely valuable. Here I was, trying to get them to do comedy. What was I thinking? I had violated the first cardinal rule of creating a comedy troupe: Gather around jobless losers like thyself. I mean that as a compliment. Read on. Doing comedy takes time. Watch any Judd Apatow movie and you’ll know what I mean. Most comics are guys in boxer shorts, who lie on the couch, eat popcorn and come up with one-liners. In order to do comedy, you have to either

be a loser or aspire to be a loser. George Costanza of Seinfeld is my model. I am a loser trapped in a householder’s body. Worse, I am a wannabe loser. The pressure of creating comedy with successful people was too much. I couldn’t handle it. That’s the other thing. Comedy requires you to make imaginative, strange associations that are original and spot on. It requires quick thinking. For example, how would you finish this sentence: Doing improv with successful people is like… What? The trick to being funny is to come up with such analogies quickly. Doing improv with successful people is like playing ping-pong with Rafael Nadal? Nah. Not funny enough. I come up with such analogies throughout the day. Except that it is hours after I actually need to use them. Mumbai during the monsoon is like…what? A pregnant woman with PMS? Sorry, that’s really bad; factually incorrect and in poor taste. But that’s the best I could come up with on the spot and I am a feminist. But come up with a clever, funny analogy. I dare you. Munnabhai could have; but then he had scriptwriters for help. Being a comic involves boldness. For a woman, that’s doubly hard because we are socially conditioned to maintain the peace. We like to be liked, which is probably why Christopher Hitchens wrote his essay, Why Women Aren’t Funny. I hated that piece. But abrasiveness doesn’t come naturally to women. I’ll grant Hitchens that, God rest his soul. Birthday parties are the worst. They are full of elegant mummies in flowery summer dresses, carrying Fendi, wearing Prada, sipping champagne, and smiling serenely—the perfect audience, in other words, to ruffle a few feathers. To combat this urge, I make up scenarios. What will happen, I wonder, if I stroll up to that acquaintance with blown-out

Role models: (above) The brilliant cast of Seinfeld; and Tina Fey is among the few successful comediennes.

ANDREAS RENTZ/ GETTY IMAGES

hair, channel my inner Aziz Ansari, and say, “Do you think a 700-thread count sheet will absorb body odour or repel it?” But, of course, I don’t say these things. I wimp out. I need a new social circle, I tell myself; populated by socially awkward losers (and again, I mean that as a compliment) where I can mouth all the lines that enter my head without fear of repercussion. There are people who do that. We call them weird. Amateur comedians use swear words and scatological jokes as anchor. I find them extremely funny, but I have a juvenile sense of humour. Wit takes practice because it is subtle. Last week,

I watched a superb theatre production of A Man for all Seasons. I went because a friend was acting in it, but what struck me was the script in which Sir Thomas More delivers line after witty line—sotto voce and sans expression, with great comic timing. If wit is hard, self-disparaging wit is almost impossible. I know one couple who have this—my cousins Urvashi and Narayan Mani, who live in Delhi and work in IT (he does. She paints). Their wit is so good, it’s disgusting. I stare at them with barely disguised envy and wince every time they deliver line after comic line. Man, it hurts. I have found help in the most unexpected quarter: memory books. Not Moonwalking with Einstein, which I found opportunistic, but the old classic, The Memory Book by Jerry Lucas and Harry Lorayne. They talk about using word associations to improve memory. To remember a list, you have to make up imaginative images—your grandmother running naked through a field of corn is a good one—that will remain etched in memory. Trying out this rule has a happy bonus. Forcing your imagination to form random associations helps with forming strange analogies and similes. They aren’t all good, but they are a start. Here’s a go: Attending fashion week is like… faking an orgasm? All air kisses and fake sighs? Attending a Delhi farmhouse party is like sleepwalking with Einstein? I know, I know. I have miles to go before I can sleepwalk or do stand-up. If you really want something, the universe conspires for you to get it; and no, I haven’t been reading Paulo Coelho. Last week, I got an email from a stranger called Nisha. She had trained in comedy all over Europe and wanted to join a comedy improve troupe. Promptly, I asked her to be my guru. Now, I just need to figure out the hot snacks and hard liquor; not to mention wannabe jobless losers like myself. Thank you (spoken in a Johnny Carson-like voice to the sound of imagined applause). Thank you very much. Shoba Narayan has discovered that when she speaks Hindi, people burst out laughing. She cannot figure out whether to be insulted, or awed that someone actually finds her funny. Write to her at thegoodlife@livemint.com www.livemint.com Read Shoba’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/shoba­narayan

PRIYANKA PARASHAR/MINT

150g flour (maida) K tsp baking powder 100g chocolate (chips or a bar of good-quality chocolate chopped into small chunks)

PIECE OF CAKE

PAMELA TIMMS

COOKIES THAT SAY ‘I’M SORRY’

I

’ve been depriving Lounge readers in the most heinous way and it’s time to make amends. As part of the whole taking stock and moving forward process required at the turn of the year, I was looking back at the recipes I’ve done over the last year or so and to my astonishment discovered that only one of them is remotely in the chocolate category. Even then the Chocolate and Cherry Muffins were egg-free, so they hardly count as full-blown chocy wantonness. Inexcusable, I know, and I can’t really account for it except to acknowledge that my baking with fruit tendencies have got way out of hand. By way of an apology, and in the spirit of a fresh start, my New Year’s resolution is to step away from the cape gooseberries and lavish you with chocolate.

We’re going to limber up with everyone’s favourite, choc chip cookies. Like many bakers I’ve had my share of choc chip disappointment—too hard, too dry, too sweet. Trial and error brought me to this recipe, a simple one but so good it has been pinned to my fridge for years now. It’s what we make in our house when sweet/chocolate cravings have to be staunched quickly. They take about 5 minutes to make, 10 to bake before reaching biscuit perfection: crispy around the edges and chewy in the middle. Warm from the oven and savoured with a glass of cold milk, you’ll be in choc-chip heaven. Nothing you buy will ever come close. The recipe, of course, is merely a template to be adapted at will. For emergencies, I keep a pack of chocolate chips to hand but it’s best to use a good-quality

chocolate (anything with more than 70% cocoa content). My current passion is a milk chocolate bar (which ordinarily would be against the rules) containing chunks of almond brittle. Chewy, crispy, buttery, caramelized, nutty and above all CHOCOLATEY Quick fix: Bake cookies for choco emergencies. perfection. So good. Here’s to a choc-tastic 2012! Choc chip cookies Makes about 16-20 A word about size: It isn’t everything. In the choc chip Ingredients cookie stakes, less is definitely 125g salted butter more. No one needs a 12-inch 75g Demerara sugar cookie—I guarantee you’ll be 75g caster sugar bored to death of it by the fifth 1 egg, beaten bite, so don’t be tempted. 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method You will need a large, greased baking tray. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Begin by melting the butter in a small pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and two types of sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat again. Sift in the flour and baking powder and stir until all the ingredients are combined. Finally stir in the chocolate. At this point, you could chill the cookie dough until ready to bake the cookies. Usually though, I’m responding to an urgent chocolate/cookie need so I make them straightaway. Spoon dessert-sized spoonfuls on to the baking tray. A little irregularity is no bad thing with home-made cookies but if

you’re a neat freak, roll the dough into balls somewhere between the size of a walnut and a golf ball. Make sure they’re spaced well apart because the cookies spread a lot during baking. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 10 minutes. If you like a crispy edge and chewy centre, take the tray out when the edges are lightly browned. If you like a crispier cookie, leave them in for a few more minutes. But watch them carefully, they burn quickly. Note: I use a large stand-alone electric oven for most of my baking. For this recipe, I switched on both top and bottom elements and the cookies baked in about 7 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com Write to Pamela at pieceofcake@livemint.com

www.livemint.com For a video on how to bake choc chip cookies, visit www.livemint.com/chocochips.htm Read Pamela’s previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/pieceofcake


www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012

L7

Health

LOUNGE STUDY

When the mind’s on the scale Trying to slim down, but can’t? You could be one of these five personality types

B Y M ELINDA B ECK ···························· osing weight is simple: Eat less and exercise more. Why that’s so difficult for so many people is embedded deep in the human psyche. A growing body of research is finding intriguing connections between personality traits and habits that can lead to obesity. The same parts of the brain that control emotions and stress response also govern appetite, several studies have shown. Early life experiences also set the stage for overeating years later, researchers have found.

L

“If we can understand how personality is contributing to weight gain, we can develop interventions to help people deal with it,” says Angelina R. Sutin, a researcher at the National Institute on Aging, US, who led a study published last year comparing the body mass index, or BMI, and personality traits of nearly 2,000 residents of Baltimore over 50 years. In the study, those who scored high on neuroticism—the tendency to easily experience negative emotions—and low on conscientiousness, or being organized

and disciplined, were the most likely to be overweight and obese. Impulsivity was strongly linked to BMI too: The subjects in the top 10% of impulsivity weighed, on average, 24 pounds (around 11kg) more than those in the lowest 10%. People who rated themselves low on “agreeableness” were the most likely to gain weight over the years. The study was published in July in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The link between emotions, food and weight control starts at a very early age. Toddlers

who had low-quality emotional relationships with their mothers are more than twice as likely to be obese at age 15 as those who have closer bonds, according to a study of 977 children funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland, and published in the journal Pediatrics. Diet coaches, nutritionists and cognitive-behavioural therapists have long warned against eating for emotional reasons and urged people who overeat to identify eatTHINKSTOCK

ing triggers. “Is there anybody who doesn’t know that broccoli is better for you than a Big Mac?” asks Renée Stephens, a San Francisco weight-loss coach and author of a new book, Full-Filled. “What’s important is identifying what’s going on in our heads and what we’re using the food for.” Otherwise, any diet is bound to fail, she says. Untangling emotions about food may seem daunting, but some therapists say it can be effective in the long run. “You don’t have to change your whole personality. You just need to change your thinking, which allows you to change your behaviour,” says Judith S. Beck, president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Several personality traits and behaviour patterns set people up for weight gain, sometimes without their knowledge:

The stress junkie People who thrive on competition and deadline pressure may seem high-powered, but what powers them internally is adrenalin and cortisol. Those stress hormones supply quick bursts of energy in fight-or-flight situations, but when the alarm is unrelenting, they can cause health problems, including obesity. Cortisol stimulates a brain chemical called neuropeptide Y, which boosts carbohydrate cravings. It also makes the body churn out excess insulin and accumulate fat, particularly in the belly, where it raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other diseases. People who feel chronically stressed often use food for energy and comfort and rationalize that they’ve earned it. The fix: One of the best ways to burn off excess cortisol is exercise, doctors say. And almost anything that pampers, distracts or relaxes The you night owl can serve as a reward, says Cleveland Clinic psychologist Susan Albers, author of But I Deserve This Chocolate! and 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food” (No. 26: a hot bath; No. 34: knitting). “Really, what you deserve is to feel good in your clothes,” she says.

The stress junkie

The mindless multitasker

The stress junkie

The giver

The mindless multitasker

The perfectionist

The mindless multitasker People who habitually work, read, drive, watch TV or do anything while dining often eat more than they realize. “Anything that takes our focus off the food makes us more likely to overeat without knowing it,” Brian Wansink, an expert on food, marketing and consumer behaviour, wrote in his 2006 book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. He now directs the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. His research shows that few people overeat because they’re hungry, but because of myriad other subconscious cues, from family and friends to plates and packages. The fix: Keep track of everything you eat for several days, then make a commitment to only eat sitting down, giving the food your full attention. Eat slowly. Put your fork down and assess your fullness level after every bite. You will likely eat far less without ever trying to diet.

The stress junkie

The mindless multitasker

Holistic solution: Understand your type and look for specific solutions, besides making exercise a part of your life.

The giver

The giver The giver

The

People who constantly put other people’s needs ahead of their own often become emotionally depleted and seek solace in eating. Eating coach Karen Koenig, author of Nice Girls Finish Fat, writes that many of the clients in her Sarasota, Florida, practice are “ultra-nurturing, self-effacing, unselfish, generous and caring to a fault”. Food works because it’s close, it doesn’t require burdening others, and it signals comfort and love. But because it doesn’t really fill the emotional void that givers have, they keep eating more and more. Some “givers” also live in fear of disappointing other people or engaging in conflict, so they try to stifle their own feelings with food. The fix: Among Koenig’s “denicing” techniques are to set reasonable limits on your time and energy; identify your frustrated yearnings and find new ways to take care of yourself. Venting unpleasant emotions—in a journal or in the mirror—will diffuse them faster than food.

The perfectionist

The night owl

The perfectionist

Unless they have the luxury of sleeping late, night owls are often sleep deprived. That drives down levels of leptin, the hormone that signals fullness, and drives up ghrelin, the hormone that fuels appetite, particularly for high carbohydrate, high calorie food, numerous studies show. Even short-term sleep deprivation can make healthy people process sugar as if they were diabetic, according to research from the University of Chicago. Night owls also tend to skip, or sleep through, breakfast, missing an important chance to get their metabolism going early, and they often snack far into the night. That sets the stage for “night-eating syndrome,” when people consume a significant portion of their daily intake after dinner, which is associated with obesity and diabetes. The fix: Shifting one’s biological clock is tricky. Start by foregoing caffeine after noon, keeping lights, TV and other electronics low in the evening and scheduling can’t-miss appointments very early. Or simply declare the kitchen off limits after 9pm. Staying up late may lose some of its appeal.

Like givers, people who drive themselves to be perfect often use food to relieve the pressure. And many set themselves up for failure with impossible weight and fitness goals. Bariatric surgeons say they see a high correlation between perfectionism and obesity; experts in eating disorders say perfectionism is often at the root of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Many perfectionists also engage in all-ornothing thinking that leads them to get discouraged easily with dieting and seek solace again in food. The fix: Try to set realistic goals; strive for progress, not perfection, and remember that many people are loved just as much for their flaws as for their best attributes.

The stress junkie The night owl The mindless multitasker

giver The stressThe junkie

The perfectionist The mindless multitasker

Write to wsj@livemint.com

The giver

The perfe


L8

www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012

Play

LOUNGE

IN FOCUS

Bhaichung takes a bow As his career ends, India’s most popular footballer looks back at the 16 years and tells us what he’ll miss

B Y R UDRANEIL S ENGUPTA rudraneil.s@livemint.com

···························· t his farewell match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi against Bayern Munich on Tuesday, Bhaichung Bhutia cut a forlorn figure. This is something he is used to. He has been in this situation too often in his 16-year career for the Indian football team: waiting patiently in the opponent’s area for that rare half-chance to come his way. When it did, as it did even against Bayern Munich, you could count on him for a few seconds of magic. A feint here and a turn there to almost get past three Bayern defenders crowding him, a combative takedown of a high ball under pressure, a powerful surge past another defender, only to find himself surrounded, and with no teammate to pass to. Every time he did get the ball, the over 35,000 people in the stadium would erupt in joy and chant his name. This was always how Bhaichung was supposed to go. Instead, he could have quit in 2006, and he almost did, out of sheer hopelessness and anger at the way Indian football works. Not a grand exit, but a desperate one. In 2005, when former India captain Syed Nayeemuddin took over as coach of the national team, Bhaichung had a threeyear stint at English second division club Bury FC (he is the only Indian player to have played for a European club) under his belt, had battled for almost a year with a knee injury, and had won the 2003 Asean Cup with East Bengal, the only international tournament win by an Indian club. But Nayeemuddin’s coaching style drove Bhaichung and the players up the wall. “There was never any strategy, or plan. Players never got any feedback about what their role in the team was,” Bhaichung says. Instead, Nayeemuddin would spend all his practice sessions disciplining his players, making them go through harsh physical training, and obsessing about why players should not have long hair. On the eve of a crucial Asian Cup qualifier match against Japan in 2006, Nayeemuddin held a 6-hour practice session that left the players too exhausted to play properly the next day. They lost to Japan, and failed to qualify. Bhaichung knew he was heading for a breakdown, so he decided to quit international football. Soon after, Nayeemuddin was sacked after a string of poor results and player complaints, and Englishman Bob Houghton was brought

A

in. Houghton wanted a chance to change Bhaichung’s mind, and he called him to his hotel room in Kolkata after taking charge. He laid out a carefully constructed and detailed longterm plan for Bhaichung to see, and it changed everything. “I had never seen such a strong plan for developing a team from any coach before,” Bhaichung says. “And suddenly, I felt excited again. I took the best decision in my life, I rejoined the team.” What followed were the best years of Bhaichung’s international career, where the Indian team won three Asian Football Confederation (AFC) tournaments in three years starting 2007, and qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 26 years. Between 2007 and 2009, Bhaichung scored 11 goals, making it the most productive three years in his career. If the 43 goals he has scored for India, the highest individual tally in Indian football history, are a well-known marker of his exceptional talent, it’s the time he spent fighting for the ball that defined him as a player. Renedy Singh, who played alongside Bhaichung for almost a decade for the Indian team, says he was born with the necessary toughness. “Even if you give him a shit pass, he will come charging to get it with everything he’s got,” Singh says. “Fight, fight, fight, it was always his only thought on the field. Being that tough, you are born with it. I’d love to be like him, but you just can’t get it like that, it’s an elusive quality.” How do you manage to become and remain the only star in a team sport like football for over a decade? How do you become an icon across state lines in India playing a sport with little or no following in most states, and a national team that is ranked 162 in the world, below countries like Curaçao, Nepal, Palestine and Fiji? And, most importantly, how do you maintain a standard that is above that of your teammates, and keep improving in a game that is a victim of acute administrative apathy? The day after the farewell match, Bhaichung relaxes at Sikkim House in New Delhi, the peace and quiet of the leafy embassy area of the Capital a stark contrast to the noise and excitement from the evening before. He has never really thought about these questions. If you think about them, he says, you can’t go out and play. That’s the only thing he’s ever thought about—to go out and play, and do it the best you can. “You have to be really hungry,” Bhaichung says. “I might have had depressing moments off the field, but on the field, I always transformed into a person who just wanted to score goals. My motivation came from inside—it has to. Even if I had all the support, it would still need to come from within.” Much of his talent on the field too came from within. Born in a remote village called Tinkitam in Sikkim to farmer parents, Bhaichung won a Sports Authority of India football scholarship at the age of 9, and by 14, he was playing in the Gang-

GURINDER OSAN/AP

tok-based team Boys Club, managed by his uncle, Karma Bhutia. In 1993, Karma decided that Bhaichung had outgrown local football in Sikkim, and needed to go to Kolkata to get his break. East Bengal, one of India’s biggest and most successful football clubs, had already decided to bring him on board. Karma was to take Bhaichung to Kolkata for a trial, and then the signing of the contract. But when they reached Bagdogra airport, they found their way blocked. Mohun Bagan, East Bengal’s biggest rivals in India, had sent their men to get Bhaichung picked up and taken to Delhi. “Even the airport police were in on it,” Karma says. “They refused to help us, and we refused to budge. Finally, I left Bhaichung at the airport, and went to a phone booth outside to call Mohun Bagan’s top official. It was only after I pleaded with him, and told him that we would not sign a contract like this, that they let us go.” At the East Bengal trial in Kolkata, Bhaichung got his first taste of a Kolkata summer. The game was played in the searing heat of May, and at half time, Bhaichung came running to Karma: “Akula (Sikkimese for uncle),” he said, “I can’t go on any more. It’s too much, don’t ask me to play more.” But his akula steeled himself, cajoled and threatened Bhaichung to get back on the field. The next day, Bhaichung signed his first contract for a major club. For two years, Karma handled the contract negotiations. “Once I was taken to a flat in the interiors of suburban Kolkata,” Karma says, “A 2-hour drive from the city centre. I was taken to a room with nothing but a table and a few chairs, and one of the club officials was sitting across the table, decked in fat gold chains, and surrounded by henchmen. These kind of things don’t happen so much any more, but back then, it was all about intimidation and threats.”

‘My motivation came from inside... Even if I had all the support, it would still need to come from within.’

Beyond borders: Bhaichung Bhutia’s popularity cuts across state lines—he is well­known even in regions with little interest in football.

“I was excited about taking up my first offer for East Bengal,” Bhaichung says, “but I was also lucky that it worked out. Anywhere else in the world, they slowly break in young players, they help you to get settled. But in India it’s not like that, you get thrown into the middle and you are expected to do it all yourself. So many young players I know just got lost after the first few years.” But Bhaichung was always preternaturally calm. Even as a 16-year-old, he only felt excited by the highly volatile and tense atmosphere at Kolkata matches, not nervous. Kolkata, 2003. Arch-rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are about to clash in an IFA Shield match. A game that divides the city right down the middle and is a sporting symbol of Bengal’s painful partition in 1947. Hundreds of supporters are arriving in open trucks, the air is choked with dust, and brightly coloured team pennants are swirling in the haze. Thousands of people are chanting, car horns are blaring, and firecrackers periodically kaboom to add to the high-octane, primal symphony. Tense policemen line the roads outside the stadium. A lone dog runs for cover. Inside the East Bengal dressing room, the 20-odd players are surrounded by some 30 club officials who have no business being there. They have come to remind an already tense bunch of players just how important this match is, and how losing would be disastrous. There is a mist of muscle spray in the room, and the players stamp their studs on the floor to check their fit. They have a manic look in their eyes, courtesy the tension and the adrenalin. All except Bhaichung, who calmly stretches his back in one corner of the room, oblivious to the chaos around him. When East Bengal manager Subhash Bhowmick leads the players out, he repeatedly screams: “Fuck those motherfuckers, fuck those motherfuckers.” Salt Lake Stadium is a cauldron of war, the roar of the nearly 100,000-strong crowd is deafening. “I loved that feeling,” Bhaichung says, “Loved the crowds, and the atmosphere, and that’s why Kolkata will always be home for me. That’s what I will miss the most.” But more challenges await him now—running United Sikkim, a club he founded and co-owns, and where, he says, he will aim to rectify the mistakes he has grown up watching clubs make. “Clubs in India don’t think beyond winning or losing the next match,” Bhaichung says, “they never think about how you win or lose. At United Sikkim, our first priority is strong youth development. Then we want to focus on proper coaching, diet, physios. We are working with a five-year plan, not the next match.” He is also working on expanding the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, which started operations in Delhi in 2011, and will open in Mumbai this year, before expanding to Bangalore and Hyderabad. He wants to bring in Pele, and some of the world’s biggest football legends, to Sikkim and Kolkata for exhibition matches this month. Then there’s the lure of finally going back to Sikkim. “I haven’t spent much time with my family for the last 18 years, and apart from Madhuri (his wife), I’ve never had the chance to be close to anyone in my family. So yes, I am looking forward to being back with my family again.”


PLAY L9

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

REVIEW

The inefficiency of ‘economy’ Hands­on time with the world’s cheapest tablet is more depressing than disappointing B Y G OPAL S ATHE gopal.s@livemint.com

···························· ndia, home of the Tata Nano and the Bajaj RE60, recently added another name to the checklist of the inexpensive: the Aakash (or UbiSlate 7) tablet from DataWind, developer of wireless Web access products and services. The Aakash is, at `3,500, the cheapest tablet available today, being a quarter of the price of most “economy” devices available in the market. The Aakash was developed as an initiative of the human resource development (HRD) ministry. When HRD minister Kapil Sibal unveiled the tablet last year, he described it as breakthrough innovation, thanks to which every student in every corner of the country

I

would have access to technology that defines the 21st century. The shockingly cheap 7-inch tablet was something that shouldn’t have been possible at its price, and to have it developed entirely indigenously, instead of sourcing parts from Taiwan or Korea, was a point of pride. It was a foregone conclusion that the device would not have great specs. The 256 MB RAM it comes with seems practically luxurious compared to the 366 MHz processor. Resistive screens might be hard to use but are far more practical than their expensive capacitive counterparts. So it was with suitably lowered expectations that I pledged my money towards a pre-order, knowing full well that I was likely to get a slow and unwieldy device, and that I wasn’t the target user for it. The Aakash, however, falls short even of this. Its design and

Out of touch: The Aakash tablet is let down most by a near­unusable touch screen, worsening the prob­ lems of weak hardware.

construction fail to impress. The on-screen keyboard is a painful experience, and the charger and microSD don’t fit well with the device. These lead to quite a few problems: Media playback from the storage is affected, and getting the tablet to charge is hard. These problems, while annoying, are not disastrous. If the Aakash functioned as a reasonably reliable Web browser and e-Reader, then at its price it would be fulfilling expectations—providing students with a tool they could actually use, and get tangible benefits from. So, a viewable screen and a working Web interface would have been enough to impress. Coupled with purpose-built apps for education, which eschew heavy graphics for simple, easy-to-read information, the Aakash could have been perfect for schoolchildren. But the Aakash doesn’t deliver. The touch screen seems possessed. The screen registers swipes only when tapped, and that too, two out of five times. For the rest of the time, the device functions as a 7-inch plastic panel you can practise percussion skills on. Is this because of the weak processor? Or because the Android code has not been optimized to make use of the available resources? Or because the developers had severe budget restrictions and so used the cheapest screen they could find? Whatever the reason, the Aakash is not a tablet suitable for a student. The patience that visiting just the Wikipedia URL demanded made that clear. The tablet also falls short of Google’s minimum require-

New hope: OLPC’s new XO­3 is what the Aakash should have been. ments for the Android market, so users will have to manually load any applications they can find that run on it. This, of course, presupposes that the user has access to a computer to download the applications. While the Aakash is clearly not meant as an entertainment device, the lack of custom-made educational applications that can be updated and replaced with new content regularly is a missed opportunity. Having the screen freeze routinely is a jarring experience, particularly when you’re just trying to scroll a Web page. This isn’t a case of the screen not registering your tap either—after some time it lurches back to life and zooms around the page madly, taking all inputs on board at once. Entering a password and not seeing it on screen? Either the screen didn’t register your tap, in which case you need to press it again, or it’s trying to figure out what to do next, in which case you need to wait. Which one do you do? There’s no way of knowing. Price is only one part of the value of a device, and the Aakash fails to deliver actual usability, particularly over the long term. You can’t use free online software because of the device’s limitations, and a battery that dies out in 5 hours makes it hard to imag-

Q&A | NARRY SINGH

THE TABLET PC

Universal by default The maker of Talking Tom on the state of mobile apps in India B Y G OPAL S ATHE gopal.s@livemint.com

···························· he Talking Friends collection developed by mobile app company Outfit7 has more than 70 million active users, and has been on the top downloads list for the Android Market and the App Store, according to Outfit7. The first app in the Talking Friends collection—Talking Tom—is still extremely popular. For those who don’t know, the app features an anthropomorphized cat that listens to everything you say, and repeats it in a high-pitched squeak. You can punch it or pet it, depending on your mood, and the cat will react appropriately. The collection has been downloaded 270 million times, according to Outfit7. In India, the company announced recently, the apps have been downloaded over two million times, with this number growing at 200% annually. Narry Singh, executive chairman of Outfit7 Inc., is a

T

ine people getting much use out of the tablet. That the Aakash has garnered 1.4 million sales (according to an announcement from DataWind) since it became available in December shows that a lot of people had high hopes of it. But those who had pinned their hopes on the Aakash but didn’t actually buy it might be better off. For at the Consumer Electronics Show that took place in Las Vegas, US, this week, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative unveiled its XO-3 tablet. OLPC plans to sell these tablets exclusively to governments and aid organizations, and hopes that the device will be available before the end of the year. The XO-3 tablet prototype looks a lot more promising than the Aakash. The 8-inch tablet will come with a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and a PixelQi display that barely uses any of the system’s battery. If it does run low on charge, then you can peel back the cover to reveal a solar panel for charging without having to rely on the power grid. The tablet can be configured with either a Linux or Android operating system and will be sold exclusively to governments and aid organizations. The price is expected to be around `5,400.

serial entrepreneur with two decades of experience. Based in Silicon Valley, US, Singh was in India recently to look at strategic partnerships for Outfit7 among Indian handset makers and carriers, and spoke to us about the creation of Talking Tom, and the emerging mobile space in India. Edited excerpts from an interview: What are your plans for India? India is a booming market, and while smartphone adoption has slowed down around the world, in India it’s rising fast. We see phenomenal growth happening, and believe that along with China and other emerging markets, India will account for over 50% of the global smartphone market by 2015. As a developer, this is clearly a market we need to address, and part of the reason for this visit is to look at distribution to build up our reach in India. We’ve had discussions with the equipment manufacturers and the carriers to see how we can reach these new audiences, and while I can’t say too much right now, it’s been positive. What’s really interesting is that mobile Internet usage is not a metro phenomenon. The big cities only make up 40% of the traffic, and to serve that

Applied logic: (left) Narry Singh; and Tom, the face of the best­selling Talking Friends apps. audience properly, it makes a lot of sense to partner with local companies. When you talk about reaching that audience, are you looking at localized content? That’s one of the things that we are looking at, of course, but there’s a lot more to it. They repeat whatever you say, regardless of what language you’re talking in. They are visual, and have universal cues, so anyone who is completely unfamiliar with technology also understands the app and can enjoy it.

What we are looking at is local characters—we haven’t finalized it but we were talking informally among ourselves about a Talking Chacha Chaudhary app, or an app in the likeness of a Bollywood hero perhaps. How did you start with the Talking Friends apps? We started 14 months ago. We were working on something else and bought the design of Tom on a whim. We thought there was something hypnotic about the cat, and just for fun, developed a little toy. We had bought the character for €40

(around `2,760), and developed the app in half a day and released it. We had no big hopes for it, and you can imagine that we were really surprised by the response. In a month, we had seven million downloads, and Tom alone has seen over 60 million downloads. Combined with the rest of the Talking Friends, we’ve seen 270 million downloads, and over time we’ve come to have a better eye for design. The first one was created overnight. Has the process changed since then? Definitely. It’s changed a lot. The first app we made overnight. The latest one, Talking Pierre the Parrot, took seven months. Not because it’s that much harder to conceptualize or design. But because our team is obsessed with design. The parrot has over 17,000 feathers, and any animator can tell you that a feather over muscle is one of the most difficult things to design. Our animators took seven months because eight feathers of the 17,000 on Pierre were not flexing properly. We weren’t willing to release it until it was perfect.

Tablets are often called expensive toys because you can’t connect your work to them, but OnLive—already famous for cloud gaming—wants to change that. OnLive can produce stunning results in gaming. Playing high­end PC games on your iPad is nothing short of amazing. This is accomplished by carrying out the processing tasks in the cloud—OnLive runs the games, and streams them to your tablet. Now, the company will offer access to a virtual Windows 7 desktop, with 2 GB of storage, to run MS Office programs such as PowerPoint, Word and Excel, along with a small selection of games and other apps. The app is free, but there is also a Pro mode, which adds more functionality and 50 GB of storage, for $9.99 (around `525). Paid users will also have priority access. Gopal Sathe


L10 COVER

LOUNGE

COVER L11

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

ART

THE LAST GREAT MODERNS PRADEEP GAUR/MINT

Two legendary torchbearers of the Indian Modern sensibility tell us what it took to create art without a market and hasty experimentation

AKBAR PADAMSEE

THE SOCRATIC ARTIST The intellectual among artists, Padamsee’s bastion among the Moderns remains his devotion to a mathematical rigour, which he wields with scholarly wit

SYED HAIDER RAZA

B Y G AYATRI J AYARAMAN gayatri.j@livemint.com

A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS

································· skeleton hangs by a thread from the corner of Akbar Padamsee’s Prabhadevi studio. In front of it, on an easel, is a canvas still wet with a work in progress. It is an older work: Head. A collector with most of Padamsee’s series Heads had bought it for `85 lakh from the Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 2008, but brought it back when he damaged the paint while trying to wipe away fungus. He asked 83-year-old Padamsee to fill in

A

He holds the record for the most expensive Indian artwork ever sold, but Raza’s artistic journey has been a long and solitary one B Y A NINDITA G HOSE anindita.g@livemint.com

···························· aul Cézanne—who both Matisse and Picasso referred to as “the father of us all”—painted the Sainte-Victoire mountain from the window of his house in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France over 60 times. Cézanne had stated his aim to organize nature according to geometric forms: He was painting the Sainte-Victoire in long-views, sideviews and close-ups. With each painting, Cézanne was getting closer to the mountain. “You must think of the mountain when you’re painting the mountain. Not the trees and the elephants and the horses,” says the 89-year-old artist Syed Haider Raza, now wheelchairbound, recalling how he’d sailed from Mumbai to Paris in 1950, at the age of 28, with a singleminded mission—“to see the works of Cézanne”. A founding member of the Progressive Artists’ Group in the late 1940s—which became synonymous with Modern art in India—Raza is the only one left among his peers: F.N. Souza, K.H. Ara, H.A. Gade, S.K. Bakre and M.F. Husain. He is arguably also the most commercially successful: His Saurashtra, a magnificent 7ft painting in terracotta hues, sold at a Christie’s auction in London in June 2010 for `16.3 crore. It holds the record for the most expensive Indian artwork ever sold. Having returned to India only a year ago, in his studio at a two-floor apartment in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Development Area, Raza is labouring away at a canvas with two entwined snakes. It belongs to the Naga series—a series he started in the early 1990s. Propped against the wall is another painting, one that he’s recently finished—and which has already been bought by a Delhi-based art collector. Black, yellows and blues leap out of the canvas. Titled Vriksh Bija (The Seed), it is one of his iconic Bindus, those flaming whorls of colour that have come to be recognized as the master artist’s leitmotif. There are several other canvases around the room, including some in bubble wrap. A few of these will go to a large exhibition planned in Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery in

P

March, or to another one this summer at the Grosvenor Vadehra Gallery in London. “But when I paint, I don’t paint for a show; I do it for the necessity of painting,” says Raza, wheeling himself closer to his latest bindu, so that it frames his face like a halo. And so it is. Frail, having to stop to catch his breath every now and then, Raza wakes up every morning and asks to be wheeled into his studio to paint—at least whenever his health allows it. Elsewhere in the room are paintings by his wife, the French artist Janine Mongillat, who died in 2002. But the most prominent one is by Manish Pushkale, a young abstractionist whose work Raza has taken to. Writing in The Sunday Review on Raza’s 80th birthday about the artist’s studio in Paris, his friend Ashok Vajpeyi, a former bureaucrat and Lalit Kala Akademi’s head, had observed that it had assorted objects from India—a Shiv lingam, a conch shell, a watch which constantly showed Indian time...amid poetry books by Kabir, Sant Tukaram, Rainer Maria Rilke and Arthur Rimbaud. The 60 years he spent in Paris gave him the space to evolve as an artist, but it also gave him the much-needed distance to distil the essentials of what was close to him. Every morning, before Raza starts work, he still prays—invariably a few lines of Rilke in French translation, “to catch the continuous message which emanates from silence”. And sometimes, a wish: “Let God take away everything but not this fever of the soul.” Raza’s fevers, first his determination to get to Paris, then his dogged pursuit of the bindu, were spawned by a comment by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Although Arun Vadehra, Raza’s gallerist for the last 25 years, calls him “the most brilliant colourist India has ever produced”, the artist values construction above all else—and this he owes to Cartier-Bresson. After commending the young Raza for his works in a group show in Kashmir in 1948, Cartier-Bresson told him his paintings were wishywashy, lacking in construction. “He told me that I would benefit from a study of Cézanne,” recalls Raza. Born in the forest village of Babaria in Madhya Pradesh, where his father was a forest ranger in

the colours. “But I am not a restorer. I am a painter,” Padamsee says, so soft-spoken that even the hum of the fan is louder. “I told him, if you want, I can repaint it.” Facing the Head, at a distance of about 4ft, is another, larger canvas, recently finished. It is a vertical Metascape: one of Padamsee’s “metaphysical landscapes”, his preoccupation for the last decade, and a continuation of a series he began in the 1970s. A collector in Delhi had expressed interest in the new painting, but only has a horizontal space on his wall. “I do not

paint for spaces. I paint what I paint,” Padamsee tells the dealer over the phone. “Dealers haggle, but we should remember art is selling,” Padamsee says in an aside. He recalls a time before galleries, when then film-maker Bal Chhabda set up Gallery 59 in 1959. “We had an exhibition there: Raza put his painting up for `2,000, Husain’s was `700 and mine was `300. Husain got furious: ‘How can this fellow’s (Raza’s) painting be more expensive than mine?’ So he priced his at `3,000! That night, at a dinner at Chhabda’s place, Husain coined some poetry: Lota ulta ho gaya, paisa khota ho gaya (The urn was upturned and the money proved worthless). Everybody was laughing,” Padamsee says, adding, “None of us were rivals because there were no sales.” Lower in profile than his associates, among the Progressives, it is now, with earlier works coming into the market, that Padamsee is scaling the heights of valuation. Collector and industrialist Harsh Goenka admits he takes inspiration from a Padamsee Metascape (Mirror Images series), which has hung in his office since 1994. “The Metascapes he did in the early to mid-1990s are what I have found greatest interest in. There has not been much hype around his work, but he is not an active marketer like Husain. He is a wonCOURTESY SOTHEBY’S

ABHIJIT BHATLEKAR/MINT PHOTOGRAPHS

COURTESY

DELHI ART GALLERY

The seed: (clockwise from above) Raza in his studio in New Delhi; an untitled 1979 painting shows the beginnings of Raza’s bindu—as it emerges and unfolds out of blackness; and Germination (1995), which his biographer Geeti Sen believes encapsulates all that Raza has done so far. ‘A painting grows gradually, organically. The bija, the seed, is the begin­ ning of human life,’ writes Sen in Bindu: Space and Time in Raza’s Vision.

British-ruled India, Raza attended art school in Nagpur, and arrived in Mumbai in 1943 with a scholarship to attend the Sir JJ School of Art. It was during this time that he met Souza and the others who went on to form the Progressive Artists’ Group. “Some were older, some like (Akbar) Padamsee and Krishen Khanna were younger, but it was a healthy climate of critique,” says Raza, who was deeply influenced

by his years in his first big city. After the encounter with Cartier-Bresson, though, he became obsessed with the idea of travelling to Paris. “All I wanted was to see the works of Cézanne and van Gogh in the museums...,” he says. He started studying French at the Alliance Francaise and was awarded a three-year scholarship by the French government to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Raza confesses that he “loved Paris at first sight”, staying at the heart of the art district of Montparnasse. “He went to the opera, the ballet, read Albert Camus, JeanPaul Sartre, fell in love with the poetry of Rilke,” says Vajpeyi. “He was sucked into the French way of living.” He was the first nonFrench artist to receive the prestigious Prix de la Critique in 1956, which afforded him both interna-

tional recognition and the financial freedom to travel throughout his adopted homeland. In 1959, Raza married his fellow art student Mongillat, whom he would first come to respect, and then love. One of the most significant works from Raza’s early Paris years, Village with Church (1958), previously owned by the art collectors John and his wife Blanchette Rockefeller, will be up for auction in March by Sotheby’s in New York. The auction house pegs its estimated price conservatively at a gargantuan $1.5-2.5 million (around `7.8-13 crore), and it may well cross the artist’s existing record with Saurashtra. “Village with Church exudes a dynamic, tempestuous energy so characteristic of the artist... and the vibrancy and direct colour treatment of a Rajput miniature. It stands out as an enduring legacy of one of the pioneers of Indian Modern art,” says Maithili Parekh, director, Sotheby’s. While Raza’s early works are significant, it was with the turn of the century that he earned the sobriquet of “France’s most expensive living artist”, not least because of

Saurashtra but also because from the vantage of the art market, Raza’s subject matter—his landscapes and abstracts—have always ensured him a broad collector base unlike, say, nudes by other artists. Raza is no newcomer to commercial juggernauts: His works have crossed the $1 million mark several times. Kiran Nadar, art collector and chairperson of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi, who made headlines when she bid for Saurashtra at Christie’s in London, felt compelled to do so because its “vibrancy epitomizes Raza’s colour palette... it is the perfect balance between his trademark, early abstract works and his geometric works.” Only months later, in September 2010, La Terre, sold for around `8.8 crore in another auction by Christie’s in New York. But Raza speaks of how his bindus weren’t always lauded; in fact, they were barely understood when he started working on them in the 1980s. After tasting success in France—as a landscape artist known for his thick, impasto TURN TO PAGE L12®

Aesthetics of colour: Padamsee explains at his Prab­ hadevi studio how deeply he was influenced by Gandhi, whose talks he would attend as a boy; and (above) the reclining nude (1960) that hung above the doorway of a Chelsea hotel for 50 years. It earned a record price at a Soth­ eby’s auction in 2011.

derful human being, well-versed with scriptures. His paintings are getting the good prices, which they deserve. The proliferation of his small black and white paintings in the market may be affecting the overall pricing of his works,” he says. There is word of at least three major early works scheduled to come into the market—one via an international auction house, another two from private collections—by mid-2012. “Christie’s sold his canvas Jeune femme aux cheveux noirs, la tête inclinee in March 2010 for $578,500 (around `3 crore)” says Sonal Singh, associate director, Christie’s India. In 2011, a work that had hung over the doorway of Hotel Chelsea, New York, for 50 years peaked the price for a Padamsee. Maithili Parekh, director, Sotheby’s, which sold the work, says: “In 2011, Padamsee’s Untitled fetched a record price of $1,426,500 (estimate $500,000-700,000) in March at an auction. It was executed in 1960, a critical period in the artist’s career, at a time when Padamsee produced few paintings and only worked in shades of grey.” The work was described by the artist himself as one of his “best” paintings, and is part of the important Juhu series. Padamsee says, “There are, in fact, six in the Juhu series: two with Husain, one of which we can’t find, two with Chhabda, one with Krishen Khanna and one was with Shammi Kapoor.” Dara Mehta, 42, Modernist collector and managing director of one of India’s oldest investment banking firms Darashaw & Co., pegs the one in the private collection of fellow Modern Krishen Khanna, as “Akbar’s finest work”. A 15ft canvas, just completed, is carted away to the bedroom by Bhanumati, his wife, just as the interview begins. This Mirror Images is heading to Priyasri Art Gallery, Worli, Mumbai, for a first showing along with numerous new Metascapes and Heads in February-March (the dates are yet to be announced). An early Padamsee Metascape hangs on a wall in Bombay House, across from Ratan Tata’s desk. Padamsee is the thinker’s artist. He is a Socratic figure: full of anecdotes about his evolutionary journey. About Husain, who named Padamsee’s daughter Raisa; Raza, who, when awarded a French government scholarship, invited Padamsee to accompany him to Paris in late 1950; artist Ram Kumar, who received the duo at Paris, and artist Francis Newton Souza, who would hop over from London. He speaks of Le Dôme Café at Montparnasse, where he met surrealist influences Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi. About artist Krishna Reddy, who introduced Padamsee to his surrealist mentor Stanley Hayter, whose studio, Atelier 17, Padamsee joined. He bursts with provocative metaphysical questions and a boyish humour, which he uses to punctuate years of study and dogged devotion to form. Padamsee told a journalist from The Statesman, Kolkata, in an interview in Paris in 1952: “I am 25,000 years old.” He was 25. When someone asked him why he had said that, Akbar said: “A boy of 25 cannot paint. You need age and experience.” Even then, he was an old soul. Padamsee has had a categorical, lifelong stance against the perception of art as a mystic, soul-driven activity. He was the first Indian artist to dethrone subject as superior to form. “Akbar’s handling of his materials has evolved like an exquisite handwriting. His subjects are only hooks on which he hangs his formal and conceptual concerns,” as critic and curator Ranjit Hoskote puts it. It is a language that Goenka too finds compelling: “Akbar Padamsee has been quite reclusive. Though he has done a large body of work, he was still not as prolific a painter as Husain or Raza but his style and the way he articulates himself in his paintings is spellbinding. The use of the palette knife gives his paintings a distinctive quality and depth, setting him apart.” The front door to collector Mehta’s south Mumbai home swings open to reveal a 1962 Nude. “It is the one that hung in Padamsee’s Paris home for over TURN TO PAGE L12®


L10 COVER

LOUNGE

COVER L11

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

ART

THE LAST GREAT MODERNS PRADEEP GAUR/MINT

Two legendary torchbearers of the Indian Modern sensibility tell us what it took to create art without a market and hasty experimentation

AKBAR PADAMSEE

THE SOCRATIC ARTIST The intellectual among artists, Padamsee’s bastion among the Moderns remains his devotion to a mathematical rigour, which he wields with scholarly wit

SYED HAIDER RAZA

B Y G AYATRI J AYARAMAN gayatri.j@livemint.com

A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS

································· skeleton hangs by a thread from the corner of Akbar Padamsee’s Prabhadevi studio. In front of it, on an easel, is a canvas still wet with a work in progress. It is an older work: Head. A collector with most of Padamsee’s series Heads had bought it for `85 lakh from the Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 2008, but brought it back when he damaged the paint while trying to wipe away fungus. He asked 83-year-old Padamsee to fill in

A

He holds the record for the most expensive Indian artwork ever sold, but Raza’s artistic journey has been a long and solitary one B Y A NINDITA G HOSE anindita.g@livemint.com

···························· aul Cézanne—who both Matisse and Picasso referred to as “the father of us all”—painted the Sainte-Victoire mountain from the window of his house in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France over 60 times. Cézanne had stated his aim to organize nature according to geometric forms: He was painting the Sainte-Victoire in long-views, sideviews and close-ups. With each painting, Cézanne was getting closer to the mountain. “You must think of the mountain when you’re painting the mountain. Not the trees and the elephants and the horses,” says the 89-year-old artist Syed Haider Raza, now wheelchairbound, recalling how he’d sailed from Mumbai to Paris in 1950, at the age of 28, with a singleminded mission—“to see the works of Cézanne”. A founding member of the Progressive Artists’ Group in the late 1940s—which became synonymous with Modern art in India—Raza is the only one left among his peers: F.N. Souza, K.H. Ara, H.A. Gade, S.K. Bakre and M.F. Husain. He is arguably also the most commercially successful: His Saurashtra, a magnificent 7ft painting in terracotta hues, sold at a Christie’s auction in London in June 2010 for `16.3 crore. It holds the record for the most expensive Indian artwork ever sold. Having returned to India only a year ago, in his studio at a two-floor apartment in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Development Area, Raza is labouring away at a canvas with two entwined snakes. It belongs to the Naga series—a series he started in the early 1990s. Propped against the wall is another painting, one that he’s recently finished—and which has already been bought by a Delhi-based art collector. Black, yellows and blues leap out of the canvas. Titled Vriksh Bija (The Seed), it is one of his iconic Bindus, those flaming whorls of colour that have come to be recognized as the master artist’s leitmotif. There are several other canvases around the room, including some in bubble wrap. A few of these will go to a large exhibition planned in Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery in

P

March, or to another one this summer at the Grosvenor Vadehra Gallery in London. “But when I paint, I don’t paint for a show; I do it for the necessity of painting,” says Raza, wheeling himself closer to his latest bindu, so that it frames his face like a halo. And so it is. Frail, having to stop to catch his breath every now and then, Raza wakes up every morning and asks to be wheeled into his studio to paint—at least whenever his health allows it. Elsewhere in the room are paintings by his wife, the French artist Janine Mongillat, who died in 2002. But the most prominent one is by Manish Pushkale, a young abstractionist whose work Raza has taken to. Writing in The Sunday Review on Raza’s 80th birthday about the artist’s studio in Paris, his friend Ashok Vajpeyi, a former bureaucrat and Lalit Kala Akademi’s head, had observed that it had assorted objects from India—a Shiv lingam, a conch shell, a watch which constantly showed Indian time...amid poetry books by Kabir, Sant Tukaram, Rainer Maria Rilke and Arthur Rimbaud. The 60 years he spent in Paris gave him the space to evolve as an artist, but it also gave him the much-needed distance to distil the essentials of what was close to him. Every morning, before Raza starts work, he still prays—invariably a few lines of Rilke in French translation, “to catch the continuous message which emanates from silence”. And sometimes, a wish: “Let God take away everything but not this fever of the soul.” Raza’s fevers, first his determination to get to Paris, then his dogged pursuit of the bindu, were spawned by a comment by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Although Arun Vadehra, Raza’s gallerist for the last 25 years, calls him “the most brilliant colourist India has ever produced”, the artist values construction above all else—and this he owes to Cartier-Bresson. After commending the young Raza for his works in a group show in Kashmir in 1948, Cartier-Bresson told him his paintings were wishywashy, lacking in construction. “He told me that I would benefit from a study of Cézanne,” recalls Raza. Born in the forest village of Babaria in Madhya Pradesh, where his father was a forest ranger in

the colours. “But I am not a restorer. I am a painter,” Padamsee says, so soft-spoken that even the hum of the fan is louder. “I told him, if you want, I can repaint it.” Facing the Head, at a distance of about 4ft, is another, larger canvas, recently finished. It is a vertical Metascape: one of Padamsee’s “metaphysical landscapes”, his preoccupation for the last decade, and a continuation of a series he began in the 1970s. A collector in Delhi had expressed interest in the new painting, but only has a horizontal space on his wall. “I do not

paint for spaces. I paint what I paint,” Padamsee tells the dealer over the phone. “Dealers haggle, but we should remember art is selling,” Padamsee says in an aside. He recalls a time before galleries, when then film-maker Bal Chhabda set up Gallery 59 in 1959. “We had an exhibition there: Raza put his painting up for `2,000, Husain’s was `700 and mine was `300. Husain got furious: ‘How can this fellow’s (Raza’s) painting be more expensive than mine?’ So he priced his at `3,000! That night, at a dinner at Chhabda’s place, Husain coined some poetry: Lota ulta ho gaya, paisa khota ho gaya (The urn was upturned and the money proved worthless). Everybody was laughing,” Padamsee says, adding, “None of us were rivals because there were no sales.” Lower in profile than his associates, among the Progressives, it is now, with earlier works coming into the market, that Padamsee is scaling the heights of valuation. Collector and industrialist Harsh Goenka admits he takes inspiration from a Padamsee Metascape (Mirror Images series), which has hung in his office since 1994. “The Metascapes he did in the early to mid-1990s are what I have found greatest interest in. There has not been much hype around his work, but he is not an active marketer like Husain. He is a wonCOURTESY SOTHEBY’S

ABHIJIT BHATLEKAR/MINT PHOTOGRAPHS

COURTESY

DELHI ART GALLERY

The seed: (clockwise from above) Raza in his studio in New Delhi; an untitled 1979 painting shows the beginnings of Raza’s bindu—as it emerges and unfolds out of blackness; and Germination (1995), which his biographer Geeti Sen believes encapsulates all that Raza has done so far. ‘A painting grows gradually, organically. The bija, the seed, is the begin­ ning of human life,’ writes Sen in Bindu: Space and Time in Raza’s Vision.

British-ruled India, Raza attended art school in Nagpur, and arrived in Mumbai in 1943 with a scholarship to attend the Sir JJ School of Art. It was during this time that he met Souza and the others who went on to form the Progressive Artists’ Group. “Some were older, some like (Akbar) Padamsee and Krishen Khanna were younger, but it was a healthy climate of critique,” says Raza, who was deeply influenced

by his years in his first big city. After the encounter with Cartier-Bresson, though, he became obsessed with the idea of travelling to Paris. “All I wanted was to see the works of Cézanne and van Gogh in the museums...,” he says. He started studying French at the Alliance Francaise and was awarded a three-year scholarship by the French government to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Raza confesses that he “loved Paris at first sight”, staying at the heart of the art district of Montparnasse. “He went to the opera, the ballet, read Albert Camus, JeanPaul Sartre, fell in love with the poetry of Rilke,” says Vajpeyi. “He was sucked into the French way of living.” He was the first nonFrench artist to receive the prestigious Prix de la Critique in 1956, which afforded him both interna-

tional recognition and the financial freedom to travel throughout his adopted homeland. In 1959, Raza married his fellow art student Mongillat, whom he would first come to respect, and then love. One of the most significant works from Raza’s early Paris years, Village with Church (1958), previously owned by the art collectors John and his wife Blanchette Rockefeller, will be up for auction in March by Sotheby’s in New York. The auction house pegs its estimated price conservatively at a gargantuan $1.5-2.5 million (around `7.8-13 crore), and it may well cross the artist’s existing record with Saurashtra. “Village with Church exudes a dynamic, tempestuous energy so characteristic of the artist... and the vibrancy and direct colour treatment of a Rajput miniature. It stands out as an enduring legacy of one of the pioneers of Indian Modern art,” says Maithili Parekh, director, Sotheby’s. While Raza’s early works are significant, it was with the turn of the century that he earned the sobriquet of “France’s most expensive living artist”, not least because of

Saurashtra but also because from the vantage of the art market, Raza’s subject matter—his landscapes and abstracts—have always ensured him a broad collector base unlike, say, nudes by other artists. Raza is no newcomer to commercial juggernauts: His works have crossed the $1 million mark several times. Kiran Nadar, art collector and chairperson of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi, who made headlines when she bid for Saurashtra at Christie’s in London, felt compelled to do so because its “vibrancy epitomizes Raza’s colour palette... it is the perfect balance between his trademark, early abstract works and his geometric works.” Only months later, in September 2010, La Terre, sold for around `8.8 crore in another auction by Christie’s in New York. But Raza speaks of how his bindus weren’t always lauded; in fact, they were barely understood when he started working on them in the 1980s. After tasting success in France—as a landscape artist known for his thick, impasto TURN TO PAGE L12®

Aesthetics of colour: Padamsee explains at his Prab­ hadevi studio how deeply he was influenced by Gandhi, whose talks he would attend as a boy; and (above) the reclining nude (1960) that hung above the doorway of a Chelsea hotel for 50 years. It earned a record price at a Soth­ eby’s auction in 2011.

derful human being, well-versed with scriptures. His paintings are getting the good prices, which they deserve. The proliferation of his small black and white paintings in the market may be affecting the overall pricing of his works,” he says. There is word of at least three major early works scheduled to come into the market—one via an international auction house, another two from private collections—by mid-2012. “Christie’s sold his canvas Jeune femme aux cheveux noirs, la tête inclinee in March 2010 for $578,500 (around `3 crore)” says Sonal Singh, associate director, Christie’s India. In 2011, a work that had hung over the doorway of Hotel Chelsea, New York, for 50 years peaked the price for a Padamsee. Maithili Parekh, director, Sotheby’s, which sold the work, says: “In 2011, Padamsee’s Untitled fetched a record price of $1,426,500 (estimate $500,000-700,000) in March at an auction. It was executed in 1960, a critical period in the artist’s career, at a time when Padamsee produced few paintings and only worked in shades of grey.” The work was described by the artist himself as one of his “best” paintings, and is part of the important Juhu series. Padamsee says, “There are, in fact, six in the Juhu series: two with Husain, one of which we can’t find, two with Chhabda, one with Krishen Khanna and one was with Shammi Kapoor.” Dara Mehta, 42, Modernist collector and managing director of one of India’s oldest investment banking firms Darashaw & Co., pegs the one in the private collection of fellow Modern Krishen Khanna, as “Akbar’s finest work”. A 15ft canvas, just completed, is carted away to the bedroom by Bhanumati, his wife, just as the interview begins. This Mirror Images is heading to Priyasri Art Gallery, Worli, Mumbai, for a first showing along with numerous new Metascapes and Heads in February-March (the dates are yet to be announced). An early Padamsee Metascape hangs on a wall in Bombay House, across from Ratan Tata’s desk. Padamsee is the thinker’s artist. He is a Socratic figure: full of anecdotes about his evolutionary journey. About Husain, who named Padamsee’s daughter Raisa; Raza, who, when awarded a French government scholarship, invited Padamsee to accompany him to Paris in late 1950; artist Ram Kumar, who received the duo at Paris, and artist Francis Newton Souza, who would hop over from London. He speaks of Le Dôme Café at Montparnasse, where he met surrealist influences Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi. About artist Krishna Reddy, who introduced Padamsee to his surrealist mentor Stanley Hayter, whose studio, Atelier 17, Padamsee joined. He bursts with provocative metaphysical questions and a boyish humour, which he uses to punctuate years of study and dogged devotion to form. Padamsee told a journalist from The Statesman, Kolkata, in an interview in Paris in 1952: “I am 25,000 years old.” He was 25. When someone asked him why he had said that, Akbar said: “A boy of 25 cannot paint. You need age and experience.” Even then, he was an old soul. Padamsee has had a categorical, lifelong stance against the perception of art as a mystic, soul-driven activity. He was the first Indian artist to dethrone subject as superior to form. “Akbar’s handling of his materials has evolved like an exquisite handwriting. His subjects are only hooks on which he hangs his formal and conceptual concerns,” as critic and curator Ranjit Hoskote puts it. It is a language that Goenka too finds compelling: “Akbar Padamsee has been quite reclusive. Though he has done a large body of work, he was still not as prolific a painter as Husain or Raza but his style and the way he articulates himself in his paintings is spellbinding. The use of the palette knife gives his paintings a distinctive quality and depth, setting him apart.” The front door to collector Mehta’s south Mumbai home swings open to reveal a 1962 Nude. “It is the one that hung in Padamsee’s Paris home for over TURN TO PAGE L12®


L12 COVER

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM COURTESY LA TERRE

CATALOGUE

A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS ® FROM PAGE L11 L10

strokes—Raza recalls having asked himself, “Where is the India in your work?” It was then that he launched into an exploration of Indian heritage and started research on the bindu and the mandala (a circular diagram symbolizing the universe). He started visiting India every year, and reading, among other things, the Bhagavad Gita. The idea of Swadharm interested him in particular. “The idea of concentrating on one thing at one time...You need to focus your energies. That’s what the bindu is about,” he says, gesturing at the painting behind him. Raza modestly credits his schoolteacher, Nandlal Jharia, for his pursuit of the bindu. Jharia had drawn a point on the wall for an eight-year-old Raza to concentrate on, and it was this that transformed his vision. Sometimes criticized for flogging a pet theme—as Husain was for his horses—Raza has a tempered response. In religion, he explains, repetition is all important: “You say ‘Ram Ram Ram’ to rest your mind… It is how you arrive at the truth.” Punaraagman(Homecoming), Raza’s first solo exhibition since he returned, at the Lalit Kala Akademi and at Vadehra Art Gallery in November, overstated this. The exhibition had four long banners, each containing an un-apology. “I

have no apology for my repetition of the form of the bindu. With repetition you can gain energy and intensity—as it is gained through the japmal, or the repetition of the word or a syllable, until you achieve a state of elevated consciousness,” read one. Does he consider each bindu a development of the last? He smiles. “I’d like to think it grows. Each is a different story.” “I have people saying your bindus are getting feeble as you are getting older, we can make a better bindu... Ab kya bataye unhe (Now, what should I tell them)?” Raza speaks of how he moved from modest prices, `30,000-40,000, to the crores his artworks fetch now. “Prices don’t move an artist. The idea is to do a painting; to develop a style.” Not only are Raza’s works in prestigious museum and private collections, his work is often the starting point for new collectors. Back in the 1940s, he was a favourite of European patrons such as Emanuel Schlesinger, Walter Langhammer, Rudy von Leyden and the Rockefellers. In that sense, patronage for Raza’s paintings has been universal over the decades. In January 2009, Raza’s annual homecoming was marred in a way he could hardly have expected. He was invited to inaugurate a show of his early works at the Dhoomimal Gallery in Delhi and was shocked to find that, barring a few, all the works were fakes. “It was a

The Parisian welcome The two artists share more than a canon. Their 15­day journey by ship to Paris would change their lives

Slow, and steady: In Mumbai, a young Raza contemplates his future. sad incident,” he recalls. The promoters were nephews and the gallery had not bothered with the usual verifications. Now, well aware of the pitfalls of fakes, Raza obliges collectors who send him letters and pictures asking for authentication certificates. “I have a record of most of my paintings in the last 10-15 years,” he explains. A gallery assistant comes in for a quick signature dur-

ing our meeting and Raza patiently dispenses of his duties, saying later that he signs a dozen such letters every week. “It’s tiring, really. It’s a waste of my time.” While Raza isn’t one for sensational quotes or flamboyant gestures like Souza and Husain were, and although he doesn’t denigrate the others, he has a clear response for Modern Indian painters he thinks are “important”: Souza,

The ship that left Bombay with Raza aboard her also carried the artist Akbar Padamsee. Raza must have been glad for the company, for he was entering a world very different from the Central Provinces, one that was circum­ scribed by timings and social mores and something he absorbed, but which must have caused him no little anxiety. They disembarked at Marseille, from there taking a train to Paris where they were received by another Indian artist, Ram Kumar, who had preceded them. On 3 October, 1950, Ram Kumar waited for them at the Gare de Lyon station, and would be their guide and mentor for a while.”

“I had planned the trip and Akbar, who was three or four years junior, said he would like to come along. In the evenings, on the ship, we used to discuss about our future. We used to tell each other: I want to be second to none. We will be second to none. We were so young!”

—An excerpt from ‘Continuum: The Progressive Artists’ Group’ catalogue, Delhi Art Gallery, January 2010

20 years,” he says, pointing out the variations in texture and light within it. “Padamsee’s nudes are not sexual in nature. They are crafted with a brush stroke and technique similar to a landscape within the outlines of a human figure. If you hid the face, you would see that it is a landscape,” he says. To the immediate right is the rare 1977 Metascape—an immaculate study in the properties of light. It is one of the few with an identifiable house—a physical object in an otherwise metaphysical plane—in the lower righthand corner. Lining the extended passageway are the monochrome watercolour Nudes that depict the deep Chinese influence on Padamsee’s art. A brilliantly reflective diptych, a Mirror Images, stretches across the wall of the living room. This is one of the most definitive privately owned Padamsee collections, inclusive of paintings from each phase of his work, from the 1950s on. Mehta and his brother Baman acquired their first Padamsee in their 20s. Mehta explains why any collector would be drawn to Padamsee’s art: “First, the depth and quality of thought that finds expression on canvas, second is his individuality, and third is the sheer breadth of Padamsee’s work. You can hang a room full of Akbars, one from every phase of his work, and each would be different.” This defiance of a label is unique to Padamsee as an artist. Parekh explains: “Padamsee is individualistic, original and experimental. His artistic oeuvre is a formal exploration of a few chosen genres—nudes, prophets, heads, couples, still life, grey works, metascapes, mirror images and tertiaries, across a multitude of

media—oil painting, plastic emulsion, watercolour, sculpture, printmaking, computer graphics, and photography. It is this tremendous breadth of work he handles so adeptly that makes him a true master.” Their leitmotif is his unique schema—the algebraic grid which Padamsee devised to plot his art, the science of colour and a mathematical construction of light. Padamsee says he draws from Kalidasa’s Abhijnanasakuntalam: The principles “Ye dve kaal vigattah (These two controllers of time)” indicate the simultaneous presence of the sun and the moon. Each aspect of the painting is elemental: “Sarva bija prakruti (That which is responsible for the growth of all seeds),” Padamsee says. This duality, at once spiritual and aesthetic, and the core of much of Indian and Chinese philosophy, defines Padamsee’s art. An almost spiritual creativity across mediums is his signature. “Do not label me or my art,” he says, wagging his finger. Padamsee waves his hand in the direction of the 15ft Metascape (Mirror Images). “It talks about all the senses and the eight elements. I use sun and moon and water. Earth and water and fire I use. It is actually Shiva’s Metascape. Shiva, as an element, is fire. But if I put the word ‘Shiva’, they will say ‘See what this Muslim is doing’. So I just call it Metascapes,” he says. As gallerist Dadiba Pundole puts it, Padamsee’s art “doesn’t even have to be about anything. They are landscapes, abstractions.” If you were to simply follow the lines in his work through the decades, their composition changes from knots, to nets, to diffusions of light. He diffuses lines, Padamsee explains, to allow for movement between colours, and oppositions. “Padamsee is a painter’s painter,” Parekh says, and Sudhir

serious organization...we would go to exhibitions together. Of course, there were the evenings and the nights. I was very fortunate,” he says, nursing his glass of wine—another thing from France that he has grown to love. The wine is one of Raza’s disciplines; two glasses of wine—one at 12.30pm and one at 7pm. But there is enough poetry to soften his schedules. “I’m looking at being seduced by a young, beautiful girl,” he says, with a gentle smile. Raza’s return to India is also, in part, to finalize his plans for the Raza Foundation. Before his return, he’d told friends over the phone: Mujhe bas jeena hai aur jeena hai mere watan mein (I just want to live, and live in my country). This March, he is planning a trip to Mandla in Madhya Pradesh, close to where he was born. The artist, aided by friends, is on the lookout for a permanent museum space in the Capital, which will host emerging artists. “I want to tell young painters that they should not be in a hurry to succeed. You can’t start exhibiting in two or three years. The Gita says, ‘Ritu gan se prabhav se (By the influence of the right climate)’... I am no intellectual but I have achieved what I have by working in one focused direction—the bindu and its infinite possibilities.” For all his talk of persistence, Raza never uses the word “perfection”. For if you’re perfect, you’re finished. “Cézanne kept painting the Sainte-Victoire till he reached it. We’re all reaching the mountain,” he says.

“I had studied French as a second language in school so I knew a few words. The first thing that Raza and I did in Paris was go to Le Dôme Café. I told a waiter, ‘Un café s’il vous plait (One coffee please in French).’ So my friend (Raza) said, ‘Okay, yes. You will be able to manage.’”

—S.H. Raza ABHIJIT BHATLEKAR/MINT

THE SOCRATIC ARTIST ® FROM PAGE L11

Tyeb Mehta, Padamsee, Ram Kumar and Krishen Khanna. “One thing that made him stand out from the Progressives was that he valued the contribution of those artists who came before him. Souza rejected the Bengal School outright, but Raza believed that the evolution of the Indian art idiom began with them,” says Ashish Anand, director, Delhi Art Gallery, which held a large retrospective on the Progressives last January, the first-ever group show since the group disbanded in 1950 after Souza left for England and Raza for France. “Raza has spent his entire life in search for the ‘Modern Indian’—as one of the founders of the revolutionary Progressive Artists’ Group, while exploring abstracts that are influenced by the Rajput miniatures, and later in his study of geometrics in the form of the bindu or the third eye,” adds Parekh. In India, the artist may well be remembered by his bindus; the art produced during his years in France having been obliterated by the local gallery scene. “I had never left India,” Raza insists, who, for all his time abroad, retained his Indian passport. “It just so happened I married Janine Mongillat and in her I had a wonderful partner.” Raza speaks fondly of their partnership, which appears to reflect his favourite poet Rilke’s thoughts on love: “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” The two had separate apartment-studios on the same floor. “(In the morning) I was at my studio and she at hers, we met for lunch, and after lunch I went to my studio again. It was a

—Akbar Padamsee

The Meta view: (left) The 1995 Mirror Images from the Darashaw & Co. collection; and Padamsee in Paris in 1952.

COURTESY PUNDOLE ART GALLERY; AKBAR PADAMSEE

Patwardhan, whose essay on Padamsee’s Grey period (Akbar Padamsee: Work in Language, Marg Publications) spans the senior artist’s preoccupation with monochrome, explains why a classicist like Padamsee is an abiding influence on artists of his generation. He says: “My first references in Indian art were people like Tyeb, Husain and Akbar. One, of course, is influenced by Western art but you tend to translate that influence through artists like Akbar. While Husain was about his engagement with the overall landscape of India, Akbar is about structure: how a painting is built.” Padamsee’s elevation of form to a riyaaz is obsessively mathematical at a time when, with the influence of various media upon art, the focus has turned to sociocultural narratives, most insufficiently mediated. It is not that Padamsee’s works are without soul. His human faces capture the gamut of human suffering and exaltation, Hoskote points out. Atul Dodiya wrote of Padamsee: “With what ease do Akbar’s faces occupy the ground between head and heart!” His eyes, almond slit, or blank sockets, rarely connect with the viewer, creating what Padamsee describes as “a look”—an expression of disembodiment. Pundole explains the pact Padamsee had with his daughter, Raisa, who comes to visit him from Paris once a year: “He told her, ‘if you read one good book of philos-

ophy to discuss with me, come, otherwise, don’t come.’ I don’t know if they kept the pact, but that is how important the elevation of discourse is to Akbar.” The quest for learning has dominated Padamsee’s entire career. “He emphasized the specific importance of a larger culture of which art was a part,” Hoskote says. “If you were only focused on art, you would probably be a good professional artist, but to be visionary, you had to be active in a larger culture. Akbar has always been insistent that art should relate itself to philosophical discourse.” In Paris in 1954, Padamsee came across Vivekananda’s commentary on Patanjali’s yogasutras in Brentano’s, an American book store on Avenue de l’Opera. Deeply influenced, he requested his friend Prof. Godbole, then head of the department of Sanskrit at Wilson College, Mumbai, to teach him Sanskrit. He then studied theories of aesthetics in their original Sanskrit. Now, on a Mac desktop and with his iPad, he works on the Shilpa Shastra. “I spend hours trying to form the dimensions it specifies for the perfect human earlobe,” Padamsee says. Padamsee’s grandfather, sarpanch of a village in Gujarat, earned the title “Padmashree” or “Padamsee” after distributing his entire granary to the village during a famine. The family’s original name was “Charanyas”, their

ancestors being court poets. His is an inherited creativity, Padamsee says. As a child, Padamsee began copying images from The Illustrated Weekly of India across his father’s accounts books at his Chakla Street, south Mumbai, store. His first mentor was his teacher at St Xavier’s School, Mumbai: Shirsat, a watercolourist, who tutored him in the medium, wines in Khandala, and nudes at a special class on Charni Road, in preparation for his studies at the Sir JJ School of Art, enabling him to join the course directly in its third year. His first exhibition in Paris, which required artists to stay anonymous, saw Padamsee sharing the prize awarded for it by the French Journal d’Arte in 1952 with the surrealist Carzou, then in his 40s. Hayter once told Padamsee, “Do not try to be influenced by me.” Despite a world of influences, Padamsee’s work is sustained by a fierce individualism. “When we went to Paris, we didn’t go to learn from them, we went to show them. Now, when artists go, they find out ‘What do they like?’ and think ‘We must produce that’,” he says. Incandescence filters out of the 1962 Landscape in a home in south Mumbai, transforming its viewers instantly. This is what Padamsee calls “anubhaava”, or “receiving the experience”. The greatest Padamsee ever painted sublimates viewer, painter, and the painting itself eventually, to light.


www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012

L13

Culture

LOUNGE Q&A | YOKO ONO

‘Wish Trees are my one hit song’ PRADEEP GAUR/MINT

In India for her first exhibition in the coun­ try, the avant­garde artist talks to us about her work, criticism, and her first patron B Y A NINDITA G HOSE anindita.g@livemint.com

······························ he sits against a white banner that says “Dream”. Dressed in black, she is a diminutive diva, with a five-member staff fussing around her. Speaking in somewhat halting English, her fedora tilted preciously, and peering above the dark glasses perched on her nose, 78-year-old Yoko Ono doesn’t put a face to any of the sobriquets about her: cryptic avant-garde, once music’s most hated person, the woman who broke up The Beatles (she refers to them as “the four men”). Ono is in India for her art exhibition, Our Beautiful Daughters, which opened on Friday at the Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi. This is the first time her art is being exhibited in India, and the second time she’s visiting the country—she first came here in the late 1960s, after her marriage to John Lennon. Spread across three floors, the central piece of her exhibition is Remember Us, a large-scale installation which has wooden coffins bearing disembodied girls and women, created in collaboration with a women’s crafts group from Bikaner. There are six other instruction-based artworks which depend wholly on audience participation. These include My Mommy Is Beautiful, which invites participants to write about their mothers, and Soprano, which asks participants to scream into a microphone—“against the wind, against the wall, and against the sky”. A parallel exhibition called The Seeds will document Ono’s older works to provide a contextual framework. And public art projects across 20 venues in the Capital will accompany the exhibitions: These will be Ono’s well-travelled Wish Trees. Ono, whom Lennon famously pegged as “the world’s most famous unknown artist”, started her experiments with the avant-garde in the early 1960s in New York. She was influenced by

S

musicians John Cage and La Monte Young, as well as artist George Maciunas, who’d coined the Fluxus movement—an association of artists who were experimenting with Neo-Dada noise music and experimental art. Ono’s early art involved installations such as the Eternal Time clock, a clock with only a seconds hand encased in a plastic bubble. She once took a fly for an alter ego; and at one of her early “concerts”, microphones were hidden in the toilets so patrons could be heard urinating and flushing on stage. There has been a renewed interest in Ono’s work, often misunderstood, over the last decade. In 2009, she was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale. Our Beautiful Daughters is in keeping with her long-running interest in feminism and women’s issues. Edited excerpts from an interview: Was ‘Remember Us’ created especially for this exhibition, or was it an existing work that you believed could address the gender issues in India? It has something to do with what I was working on in my head but it took a definite shape only when I learnt that I was exhibiting in India—around a year ago. I’ve been engaged with gender issues for a while now. I have an incredible respect for Indian women who, despite having had so much suffering, are still standing. I was expecting to be greeted by men when I arrived— artists, gallerists, critics—but I’ve only been meeting the most intelligent and beautiful young women since I came here earlier this week. How do you contrast memories of your previous visit to India with this 10-day stint? I can’t remember exactly when I was here, but it was with John and it was definitely after “the four men” had visited (in 1968). John kept talking about India and so we came. The idea was to visit (Sathya) Sai Baba’s camp and we

STALL ORDER

NANDINI RAMNATH

CAST TENSIONS

P

layers may not have set the Arabian Sea on fire—initial reports suggest the movie is doing only average business—but it does prove that directors Abbas and Mustan Burmawallah have good casting instincts. All of the movie’s actors seem to have been signed on more for their ability to carry off their costumes rather than their acting skills. That’s not a bad thing at all in a movie of this kind. Players is truly an ensemble piece in more ways than one: Appearance is all and the slit in a gown and the cut of a suit are as important as human beings. Players liberates actors like Bobby Deol, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Bipasha Basu and Sonam Kapoor from the burden of having to act. There’s no earthly

reason why a star should appear in a fashion magazine as well as win a National award. Not too many Hindi movie stars are yet like Brad Pitt, who can sell a magazine cover, drive audiences crazy with lust, command top acting fees, get nominated for awards, win over hardened critics as well as produce meaningful and lasting films. We cannot and should not expect stars to multitask—it is enough that they look as lovely as they do, age so wonderfully, dress so impeccably and encourage us to keep the retail economy going. That’s why film-makers like Abbas-Mustan are important: They correctly judge the limits and abilities of Bollywood’s beautiful people and point them to their

Centre stage: stage: Ono, 78, started her art practice in the early 1960s in New York. were there for a few days... I remember trekking all the way up a mountain, and it was an incredible experience. At the camp, the men and women sat separately but John and I insisted on sitting together. Maybe it was rude...it was all quite odd. Your ‘Wish Trees’ have been all around the world. What are your plans for it in India? Yes, they’ve travelled since the 1990s. They stem from the wishes strung in Japanese temples. People write their wishes on a piece of paper and tie them on to the branches of a tree. People started asking me what I was going to do with all these wishes I was collecting and I thought about one of my earliest ideas—the Light Tower! So what we’re doing is we’re collecting all

rightful places. The challenge for actors like Deol and Mukesh is to stay right there and not get too ambitious. Unfortunately, Bollywood hasn’t produced a range of saleable faces as much as Hollywood. There aren’t enough comediennes around, so Kareena Kapoor and Katrina Kaif are called upon to exercise their non-comic timing. There aren’t enough women to play romantic roles, so Kareena Kapoor and Kaif are asked to play them. There aren’t enough men who can flex bodily as well as facial muscles, so Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have to do both. There aren’t enough villains who can sell a picture any more, so leading men are adding baddie roles to their résumés. There is a serious shortage of faces in an industry in which hard-won success is measured purely by the success of the last-released film. The list of A-listers is limited, which is why there is a list of B-listers to back them up. But what if Sonam Kapoor were

these wishes from across the world and sending them to Iceland, where there’s an Imagine Peace Tower. Millions of wishes from around the globe will be together. Togetherness is very important...we can move the mountain if we’re willing. I remember this beautiful project by women artists in Mexico where they took “bucketfuls” of a mountain and moved it a few metres away so eventually this mountain would be gone and another would be built. It was just to show that it was possible. It was beautiful. The book, ‘The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story of The Beatles’, mentions this incident where one of your early public artworks—a couple of acorns you and

Lennon planted—was stolen. How has your response to public art projects changed since then? It was a “living sculpture” for which John and I decided to plant two acorns. The thing is, once a concept is set, nobody can destroy it. Even though they stole the seed the next day, the actual conceptual seed still remains. You’re doing a performance called ‘To India, with Love’ in Delhi on Sunday. Tell us a little about this performance. It’s difficult to do that because my performance work is so interactive, as is my instruction-based installation art. When I stand on a stage and look at the faces in the audience, I feel like I know them: their life story, what they’re thinking. I don’t

have fixed plans for performances. What’s important is that this particular show will never happen again. Even if we were to register every audience member and call them back five years later—the performance would be entirely different. The people would have changed; the energy would have changed. How has your art been interwoven with music: your music, Lennon’s music, John Cage’s music? Where does the art and music meet in your work? Well, I’m not that aware of it. When I conceptualize an artwork, I do think of the music—music is an incredibly strong vibration— but sometimes the absence of music is important too. In Our Beautiful Daughters, you’ll see, there’s 3 minutes of really powerful music and then that disappears and there’s total silence. That, I think, is much more musically interesting. You tried to kill yourself after a critic in Tokyo accused you of plagiarism. Do you take criticism that seriously? How has your response changed over time? In my early years, because my work was low-key, people didn’t really bother to attack it. They didn’t care. But when I staged musical dance programmes in Tokyo in 1961, an American critic said I had stolen all my ideas from John Cage. When I confronted him, he denied it and suggested that the magazine had misunderstood. I went to the magazine’s offices and they showed me the original English version from the critic…he’d just lied to me! I was very hurt; I felt unaccepted. He was part of this very macho group of artists in Japan at the time and I suppose they were all just upset that I came back and did something. Lennon sponsored your first big show, the ‘Half-A-Wind Show’ in London in the 1960s. Would you call him your first patron? There were benefactors of my art in the US. But yes, he was the only one in Britain. John was one of my first patrons. Our Beautiful Daughters opened on Friday and will run till 10 March. For details, visit www.vadehraart.com

restricted to roles in films like Players and not called upon to carry half a movie on her elegant shoulders, like Mausam? What if John Abraham did only one The Transporter-type movie every two years? Would Bollywood fill the vacuum with C-listers, who are vastly greater in number but have to be satisfied with bit parts in big-budget films or leading roles in rarely seen mid-budget projects? Perhaps film-makers should stop trying to micromanage their films to such an extent that every one of the main actors has to look as gorgeous as the leading pair. There are stars, some of whom can even act decently, and then there is much more talent that can work and is correctly cast. After all, the rinse-and-repeat formula doesn’t even work for shampoo. Nandini Ramnath is the film critic of Time Out Mumbai (www.timeoutmumbai.net). Vanity fare: Players liberates Basu from the burden of having to act.

Write to Nandini at stallorder@livemint.com


L14

www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012

Travel

LOUNGE Welcome aboard: Traditional musicians welcome guests on the Golden Chariot at Yes­ vantpur station in Banga­ lore; and (below) the plush interiors of the coaches.

GOLDEN CHARIOT

Chugging into the New Year DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP

COURTESY KARNATAKA STATE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

Popping cham­ pagne, dancing to the DJ’s rhythm, and an unscheduled midnight view of Dudhsagar Falls— on an Indian train

B Y A RUN K ATIYAR ···························· his New Year’s eve found me in a railway compartment. Don’t commiserate. Instead, exercise control over your envy. The compartment was on the Golden Chariot; and being there is not exactly the unfortunate equivalent of being caught on the Virar fast in Mumbai or at Kalighat on the Kolkata Metro or the Rajdhani. This was a swishy railway coach that, barely 24 hours earlier, had been fitted out as a fullfledged bar, where I had picked up a dram of smoky, malty Bowmore and settled down for a masterclass by executive chef Deepak Chaubey. Chaubey taught us to effortlessly turn out a killer Kundapur Koli Saaru (Kundapur Chicken Curry; see Masterclass). And now, the same coach had a DJ rocking—and literally rolling—us into 2012. The 75 guests on the Golden Chariot were somewhere between Badami and Goa. But if you had asked them, each would have claimed to be in some delightful part of seventh heaven. The Golden Chariot, a cousin of the much venerated Palace on Wheels, is a luxury train in south India that covers Bangalore, Mysore, Kabini, Hassan, Halebid, Sravanabelagola, Hampi, Pattadakal, Badami and Goa. It recasts the idea of luxury tourism, combining it with slow, unhurried travel. Over its eightday journey it stops by little towns where the largest auto

T

MASTERCLASS At the bar Madira, executive chef Deepak Chaubey teaches you some local food

Kundapur Koli Saaru Serves 6

showrooms display half a dozen tractors and where pushing the dirt below your feet could uncover the remains of forgotten 14th century temples. In contrast, the train has two dining cars with immaculate silver service, butlers, masseurs, a gym, a business centre with Internet connectivity, giant Volvo buses to take you around heritage sites and compact, clean bathrooms attached to each cabin that proudly sport white fluffy bathrobes, bathroom slippers and—you didn’t guess this next one, right?—Mysore Sandal soap. It’s no surprise that the Golden Chariot train journey is rated as one of the seven best journeys in the world by Vanity Fair magazine. It counts with others like the Eurostar, Rovos Rail between Cape Town and Pretoria, the Trans Siberian Express in Russia, the Orient Express between London and Venice, and the Royal Canadian Pacific between Vancouver and Montreal. Waking up on a double bed with a duvet to keep you warm, the spectacular purple of sunrise bleeding through the horizon as the countryside blurs past, the smell of fresh south Indian coffee delivered to your door, and the newspaper read in the coach lounge are great ways to start the New Year. There’s no point telling you about the incredible heritage of the country that unfolds on the journey—you can read all of that and more online or in a history

Main ingredients 4 tbsp coconut oil 1 tsp cumin seeds 10­15 curry leaves 4 tbsp onions, chopped 4 tbsp tomatoes, chopped 1 kg curry­cut chicken 6 tbsp Kundapur paste Salt to taste 2 cups water 15g tamarind paste Coriander leaves for garnish

TRIP PLANNER/GOLDEN CHARIOT The simplest way to book yourself on the Pride of the South Golden Chariot is to visit www.goldenchariot.org/enquiry.htm and fill Badami up the online form. The Golden Chariot team Hampi will call back and ensure you can make your Goa booking with an authorized travel agent near KARNATAKA Southern you or take the booking themselves. The Splendour same page has links for online payments. At the time of booking for this journey, this author did Bangalore Chennai not succeed in making an online payment. Hassan There are two options available on the Golden Chariot: Mysore Puducherry Pride of the South: Bangalore-Mysore-HassanHospet/Hampi-Badami-Goa-Bangalore TAMIL NADU (R1.05 lakh per person, excluding taxes, on KERALA Thanjavur twin-sharing, for seven nights). Southern Splendour: Bangalore-ChennaiKochi Puducherry-Thanjavur-Madurai-Kanyakumari-Madurai Kochi- Bangalore (R1.26 lakh per person, excluding taxes, on twin-sharing, INDIA for seven nights). Kanyakumari There are many websites that could be mistaken for the official Golden Chariot website. The official one is www.goldenchariot.org GRAPHIC

book. What none of the descriptions of the journey will tell you is the remarkable warmth of the staff on board. We—nine in all—had five cabins booked on the Golden Chariot for the New Year. This meant an entire coach, a lounge area and an additional cabin in an adjoining coach was for us. It’s a recipe for disaster, noise, confusion and utter despair for the attending butler. But the 45-strong staff on the train didn’t wince, nor did their smiles wane, even when they were confronted with the three young adults in the family who boarded the train with guitars

BY

AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

on their backs. In fact, to help with the private celebrations of a 50th birthday in the family, the train staff went out of their way to set up the lounge area, send along a silver ice pail and champagne flutes, and serve snacks while we popped a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial just an hour or so before the New Year. At about 30 minutes to midnight on New Year’s eve, the general manager of the train, Abhijay Verma, casually informed everyone that the train would make an unscheduled 15-minute halt at the Dudhsagar Falls in the dead of night. The

New Year party, now almost at a boil, was brought to a simmer by the DJ, the train came to a halt in the middle of nowhere and the doors were thrown open. Everyone—senior citizens included—was helped off the train into pitch darkness with the spooky thunder of the waterfalls in the background. Halogen lights hooked to the train were switched on and—phew!—suddenly we could see water plummeting more than 1,000ft. Dudhsagar is the fifth tallest waterfall in India and 227th in the world. The falls are located in the watershed of the Mandovi river that begins its journey on the border of Karnataka and Goa, deep in the Western Ghats. Just as quickly, everyone was back in the train, sipping wine, ready for the countdown to 2012. When New Year arrived, cocooned in the darkness of the hills, surrounded by the elegant interiors that reflect the royal dynasties of Karnataka, it was easy to get disoriented. I must confess it was a rather charming way to bring in the New Year. I won’t mind staying disoriented for the rest of 2012. Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins and has extensive media experience spanning music, print, radio, the Internet and mobile phones. Write to lounge@livemint.com

For the Kundapur paste 6­7 cloves 1 tbsp peppercorns 1 tsp cumin seeds 4­5 cinnamon sticks 2 tbsp coriander seeds 4­5 red chillies (whole) 100g coconut, grated 2 cups of water Roast and grind to a fine paste Method Heat oil in pan. Add cumin seeds, curry leaves, chopped onions and sauté till light brown, then add the tomatoes and sauté. Add chicken, Kundapur paste, tamarind paste, salt, water and stir well. Cover the pan and cook for 15­20 minutes or till the chicken is done. Garnish with coriander. Serve with steamed rice.

CHILD­FRIENDLY RATING

No attractions/activities for children other than at Kabini, Bandipur and the beaches in Goa. SENIOR­FRIENDLY RATING

Provides special facilities for seniors: emergency first­aid, wheelchairs, etc. Guides glad to interact with seniors. LGBT­FRIENDLY RATING

No apparent prejudice


TRAVEL L15

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

LOST WORLDS

Never the Twain to meet Racist, obnoxious and disparaging; in ‘The Innocents Abroad’, Mark Twain was not an ideal travelling companion

B Y A ADISHT K HANNA ···························· ark Twain, the man with a good claim to being the US’ first noteworthy novelist (throughout his life he refused to accept the claims of the other contender, James Fenimore Cooper), did not actually start out as a novelist. He achieved fame with a short story, then became a travel writer for the Alta California newspaper, sending travel letters from Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands). His first-ever published book—The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress—was also a collection of travel letters, this time sent from a tour of Europe and the Near East. Later in life, once he was established as a man of letters, he would take up travelogues again, in his Roughing It, about life in the Wild West, and towards the end of his career, Following the E q u a t o r , a b o u t his journey around the world, and especially through India. In The Innocents Abroad, then, we get to see the early Mark Twain, and we discover that he is

M

not a nice man. Twain repeatedly crosses the line that separates satire from mean-spiritedness. While Twain does recognize his own (and his fellow passengers’) failings and pokes self-conscious fun at them, his takedowns of the people and places he visits are much nastier. He hopes for the imminent downfall of Ottoman Turkey, finds the women of the Holy Land ugly, and the people of Italy diseased and unhygienic. In an aside, he says that he would be happy to see Native Americans slaughtered, a piece of racism far more disturbing than the usage of “n****r” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And yet, this is not a completely unredeemed piece of writing. Twain is capable of realizing that this wretchedness has been forced upon people by their political masters, and is not inherent to them—unfortunately, he does not let this come in the way of making a joke when he finds one. This book has traces of the more compassionate humanist Twain would become later in life, but only traces.

Where the book does excel is as a counterpoint to existing travel literature. Unlike other books featured in this column, which were explaining new countries for the first time to their readers, The Innocents Abroad was written at a time when tourism had become mass-produced and there were guidebooks to all the places Twain visited. For 60 chapters, Twain mocks the romanticism of the guidebooks and the bombast of the travellers who came before him, and the willingness of his fellow travellers to adopt the same romanticism. He’s particularly biting in a bit where he finds that his co-passengers are finding women with “Madonna-like grace” on every street in Nazareth. The Innocents Abroad was first published in 1869, and is now in the public domain. Lounge presents selected excerpts. The 1869 first edition text may be found on Project Gutenberg at http://bit.ly/wmA4uD Write to lounge@livemint.com

FRANCIS FRITH/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

Poking fun: (from top) An illustration from the book; Twain thought riding donkeys was a great way to travel in Egypt; and the author.

ever an isolated house. Greece is a bleak, unsmiling desert, without agriculture, manufactures or commerce, apparently. What supports its poverty-stricken people or its Government, is a mystery.

Twain on relics The priests tried to show us, through a small screen, a fragment of the genuine Pillar of Flagellation, to which Christ was bound when they scourged him. But we could not see it, because it was dark inside the screen. However, a baton is kept here, which the pilgrim thrusts through a hole in the screen, and then he no longer doubts that the true Pillar of Flagellation is in there. He can not have any excuse to doubt it, for he can feel it with the stick. He can feel it as distinctly as he could feel any thing. Not far from here was a niche where they used to preserve a piece of the True Cross, but it is gone, now. This piece of the cross was discovered in the sixteenth century. The Latin priests say it was stolen away, long ago, by priests of another sect. That seems like a hard statement to make, but we know very well that it was stolen, because we have seen it ourselves in several of the cathedrals of Italy and France. ERNEST H MILLS/GETTY IMAGES

Twain sets off, and discovers Schadenfreude

know that that is St Jerome. Because we know that he always went flying light in the matter of baggage. When we see a party looking tranquilly up to heaven, unconscious that his body is shot through and through with arrows, we know that that is St Sebastian. When we see other monks looking tranquilly up to heaven, but having no trade-mark, we always ask who those parties are. We do this because we humbly wish to learn.

I knew what was the matter with them. They were seasick. And I was glad of it. We all like to see people seasick when we are not, ourselves. Playing whist by the cabin lamps when it is storming outside is pleasant; walking the quarterdeck in the moonlight is pleasant; smoking in the breezy foretop is pleasant when one is not afraid to go up there; but these are all feeble and commonplace compared with the joy of seeing people suffering the miseries of seasickness.

Twain learns to appreciate Renaissance art We have mastered some things, possibly of trifling import in the eyes of the learned, but to us they give pleasure, and we take as much pride in our little acquirements as do others who have learned far more, and we love to display them full as well. When we see a monk going about with a lion and looking

This is still a problem

tranquilly up to heaven, we know that that is St Mark. When we see a monk with a book and a pen, looking tranquilly up to heaven, trying to think of a word, we know that that is St Matthew. When we see a monk sitting on a rock, looking tranquilly up to heaven, with a human skull beside him, and without other baggage, we

From Athens all through the islands of the Grecian Archipelago, we saw little but forbidding sea-walls and barren hills, sometimes surmounted by three or four graceful columns of some ancient temple, lonely and deserted—a fitting symbol of the desolation that has come upon all Greece in these latter ages. We saw no ploughed fields, very few villages, no trees or grass or vegetation of any kind, scarcely, and hardly

The ideal mode of transportation When we reached the pier we found an army of Egyptian boys with donkeys no larger than themselves, waiting for passengers—for donkeys are the omnibuses of Egypt. We preferred to walk, but we could not have our own way. The boys crowded about us, clamored around us, and slewed their donkeys exactly across our path, no matter which way we turned. They were good-natured rascals, and so were the donkeys. We mounted, and the boys ran behind us and kept the donkeys in a furious gallop, as is the fashion at Damascus. I believe I would rather ride a donkey than any beast in the world. He goes briskly, he puts on no airs, he is docile, though opinionated. Satan himself could not scare him, and he is convenient—very convenient. When you are tired riding you can rest your feet on the ground and let him gallop from under you.


L16

www.livemint.com

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012

Books

LOUNGE

THE MAN WITHIN MY HEAD | PICO IYER

Our man in the world The novels of Graham Greene become the framework of Pico Iyer’s own writing life in this memoir

B Y D AVID S HAFTEL david.s@livemint.com

···························· here are certain types of readers who return and return again to the novels of Graham Greene: cynics, Catholic schoolchildren (in excerpt form, the lurid bits edited out), those interested in colonial landscapes, and foreign correspondents, to name a few. The travel writer Pico Iyer—whose 10th book, The Man Within My Head, is an exploration of his relationship with the English author—also fits the mould, having opted for an itinerant, writing life, often wilfully estranging himself from loved ones in favour of travel, though he is certainly less of a misanthrope than Greene was. Books from Greene’s late period are where the action is. The aptly named Querry, the protagonist of A Burnt-out Case, is a typical character from this period, which began after Greene, the English author of more than 30 books, was rendered homeless by the Blitz—or rather used the Blitz as a pretext to go on the road—and ended only when he was slowed by age (Greene died at 86 in 1991). Sick of his vocation and bereft of faith, Querry, a renowned architect of churches, drops out. He steps off a river steamer at a leper colony in the Belgian Congo, simply because it is the boat’s terminus, only to be hailed as a selfless missionary. Though Greene has become known as a “Catholic” writer, many of his later novels, like A Burnt-out Case, are populated by fallen Catholics on the run from themselves in what Iyer calls the

T

“shabby, forgotten margins of the world”. Querry, like Greene, is so obsessed with his disbelief that belief couldn’t be far behind. Similarly searching characters inhabit the pages of The Quiet American, in which Greene is credited for presaging the US’ calamitous intervention in Vietnam, and an early masterpiece, The Power and the Glory, where Greene’s “whiskey priest” hides his Bible between the covers of a pornographic magazine. In The Man Within My Head, Iyer, who has spent much of his itinerant reading life in the thrall of Greene, has written a memoir that is part rumination on the influence on him of Greene, whom he at times has regarded as an adopted father—one he never met—and part meditation on his own father. The title is adapted from The Man Within, Greene’s moody first novel, published in 1929, in which Greene introduces what would be a lifelong theme: the presence of constructive as well as destructive inner monologues. The Greene ecosystem is nicely summed up by Iyer, who writes that Greene is “often taken to be the patron saint of the foreigner alone, drifting between certainties; his territory is the small apartment in the very foreign town, the passion that is temporary, the border crossing that seems the perfect home for the

The Man Within My Head: Knopf, 238 pages, $25.95 (around `1,400).

Father figure: A 1982 photo of Graham Greene at his home in Antibes, France. man who prays to a God that he’s not sure he believes in.” For Iyer, fathers are a constant theme in Greene. “Again and again in his fiction, a young male protagonist is spirited away from home and from school, to disappear into a half-lit underground world, guarded by a kind of unofficial father and his moll,” he writes. This gets Iyer thinking about his own philosopher father, a former Bombay University professor, who, though he uprooted the family for an academic job in California, sent his son to school in England. This gave Iyer a sense of rootlessness. He describes a childhood paradoxically characterized by English private school hierarchies and a disturbing predilection for The Grateful Dead and other 1970s West Coast hippie sensibilities. Iyer draws a link to Greene from W. Somerset Maugham, another itinerant writer of the late colonial period who was also interested in colonies only as backdrops for interpersonal and

emotional calamity, though Greene rejected Maugham as an influence. Likewise, as heirs to Greene, Iyer cites John le Carré, whose The Tailor of Panama, he says, is derivative of Greene’s Our Man in Havana; R.K. Narayan, whose career Greene championed and whose books Greene proofread, and, of course, Iyer himself. In his travels, Iyer sounds more like the history-less, unremarkable “gentleman in the parlour” Maugham could become on the road, than the escapist Greene. Iyer writes that “so long as I was loose in the world, uncompanioned, I was never bored or at all at loss. Freed from my usual routine and small talk…I was away from the sense that I had to play a role, or to choose one self over another, I could find what lay at the heart of me, my core, and so bring back something clearer and more rounded to the people I loved.” There are lessons in Greene for the young travel writer, though.

BLUE | EDITED BY AMEENA HUSSEIN

Island love The stories in this new collection of Sri Lankan erotica are only partially sexy B Y S UPRIYA N AIR supriya.n@livemint.com

···························· n literate cultures, erotic writing has had a longer history than many kinds of literature. It operates on the level of the universal as well as the particular. Sometimes it can even be a turn-on. The difference between erotica and pornography is a long-standing matter of debate, and perhaps a line between the two kinds of writing can only ever be drawn in an individual writer’s—or reader’s—mind. It may be convenient to theorize that erotica functions at one remove from its affect: It doesn’t only want one thing from you. Certainly, a collection like Ameena Hussein’s anthology Blue means to do more than titil-

I

Blue—The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories from Sri Lanka: Tranquebar Press, 157 pages, `250.

RALPH GATTI/AFP

Iyer writes of him: “His peers (at school) were learning strength and how to go out and administer Empire, already in its first stages of dissolution. Greene, meanwhile, was learning the opposite: how to do justice to its victims, on both sides of the fence, how to make a home in his life for pain and even fear.” And, “I sometimes thought that that was what school trained us for—Empire in the post imperial age, toughing it out abroad and living in Spartan places by ourselves, learning to observe, to read the world, to play at being unofficial spies.” In this regard, Greene himself is seductive, whether he’s traipsing through West Africa with his team of porters long after the age of Victorian travel came to an end or, again, in West Africa during wartime when, working for British intelligence, he was nearly successful in setting up a brothel for German soldiers in which he hoped his honeypots would extract Axis secrets. Partially because his life leads

itself to be romanticized so easily, Greene still continues to be fodder for writers and film-makers. Last year saw the release of the journalist Tim Butcher’s book of reportage Chasing the Devil: A Journey Through Sub-Saharan Africa in the Footsteps of Graham Greene, and there was a well-reviewed film adaptation of Greene’s Brighton Rock in 2010. Nor is Iyer the first writer to produce a memoir through the prism on Greene—Shirley Hazzard’s good Greene on Capri comes to mind. Iyer’s could be the best, though. He is masterful at describing travel, a genre in which many writers run out of ways to say things differently. This ensures that The Man Within My Head is a rewarding read, albeit more so for Graham Greene enthusiasts who want to revisit the novels in a different way. IN SIX WORDS The enduring allure of Graham Greene

KUNI TAKAHASHI/BLOOMBERG

late. Its subtitle, The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories from Sri Lanka, directly suggests that these stories are meant to tell us something about the country’s “spicy fantasies” (I quote from the synopsis). Hussein names her introduction “Literary Isurumuniya Lovers”, referring to the famous sixth century Buddhist temple carving. In its repeated themes of young, despairing love, of repression and the furtive pursuit of the forbidden, they certainly explore a culture that may be singularly familiar to Sri Lankans, and in varying degrees, to all South Asians. Many of these stories are as much about turn-offs as turnons, like Shehan Karunatilaka’s grimy, troubling, frankly fantastic Veysee, a middle-aged nobody’s failed fantasies about a young girl, or Nazeeya Faarooq’s No, a strange, disturbing little tale about the aftermath of a first sexual encounter. There is both male and female frustration aplenty. It happens to everyone: Muslim housewives, Catholic schoolgirls, bored office workers almost erased out of their own stories. Undercover, Hus-

Experiments: Blue explores a culture singularly familiar to Sri Lankans. sein’s piece about a much-married woman who consents to the sexual advances of a stranger in a movie theatre, may be the collection’s best story about straight female sexuality. By contrast, the three lesbian short stories are all about pleasure and fulfilment, and although each tells a different story, they are, as a category, perhaps the most successful—and the sexiest—stories here. But not all the writing is effective. Vignettes like Natalie Soysa’s Bi-Cycle, or Marini Fernando’s The Lava Lamp are well worth

reading because they are brief, stylish mood pieces (only a partial euphemism) rather than fuller narratives. Much of the success of erotica is its pleasure in allusion, in suggestion, in developing an atmosphere where writing about sex is not just about finding synonyms for private parts. The writing in many of the longer stories can take us out of their narratives because of an unfortunate deployment of language. Tariq Solomon’s Bookworms, for example, was going well until the two male protagonists “lay on the

wooden floor in the 69 position”, a phrase almost too deflatingly literal to print. The less said about some of the poetry—one of the works even employs a floral metaphor for the vagina, a literary conceit which ought to have been retired some millennia ago—the better. Not all of it is ridiculous: The partial self-assurance of poems like Layla’s Sex in the Hood is an authorial inhibition, rather than a character’s trait, but Sex in the Hood’s last line, “Now will ya come?”, is one of the book’s greatest successes. Even Hussein’s own story, sadly, uses the word “sensations” at one point to describe sexual response, which is the sort of thing that makes schoolgirls laugh. Hussein writes that the collection began “as an amusing exercise”, and some of the self-consciousness of that early purpose hangs over many of these stories, perhaps preventing them from becoming something more than experiments. But she also says that her collection is a landmark in Sri Lankan writing; while the writing often falls short of this claim, Blue is undeniably a book which doesn’t want only one thing from you.


BOOKS L17

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

THE LIVES WE HAVE LOST | MANJUSHREE THAPA

THE READING ROOM

Mao in the mountains

PAULA BRONSTEIN/GETTY IMAGES

A major Nepali novelist reports on the human consequences of conflict in the Himalayan nation

B Y S ALIL T RIPATHI ···························· he violent conflict in Nepal has taken a huge toll of civilian lives. Some 13,000 have died, many more have been displaced and scores of villages have been razed. The mountain kingdom has lost more than a decade’s potential for development and economic growth. The sensational assassinations of the royal family in 2001, and what followed, have transformed the way the country is governed. Maoists have tasted power, but their abuses are no less than those of the armed forces. If government forces have imposed collective punishment on villages for harbouring or collaborating with Maoists, the Maoists have conducted reprisal killings, targeting civilians suspected of being informants. The depressing story is similar to tales from other conflict-prone regions; what’s remarkable and perplexing about the Nepali conflict is its virulence and timing. Human rights groups have documented the conflict with considerable sophistication and persistence, and the UN has a mission working towards human rights protection and peace. Manjushree Thapa, the Nepali novelist and writer, has observed Nepal’s politics and recent history, and has responded, like any sensitive individual, with outrage. Her articles have appeared in Nepal, at the Centre for Investigative Journalism and The Kathmandu Post, in India in Biblio and Tehelka, and in the UK, in the London Review of Books, besides other publications. In The Lives We Have Lost, she combines her reportage and passion to portray a disturbing picture of Nepal. She draws on her skills as a reporter to meet victims of human rights abuses. In most instances, she lets the victims—or their loved ones—talk

T

Virulence: Recent armed conflict in Nepal has taken an exceptionally large human toll. of what they have experienced. The stories are often tragic; Thapa ends each harrowing incident with a plaintive question, asking: How was it that individual’s fault? In most cases, the answer is simple: It wasn’t. But it isn’t good enough for the army, which takes out its frustration on the villagers because of its inability to crack down on the rebels. Nor is it good enough for the Maoists, who are angry with villagers who don’t toe their line, thus complicating their narrative, of being the sole representatives of the masses rising against the feudal oligarchy. Thapa travels to many parts of Nepal. She draws heavily on reports, statistics and recommendations from human rights groups, in particular Amnesty International. Given her empathy, outrage and talent, this should form a winning combination. But instead of crafting a narrative out of the material, she lets her journalism talk, providing a compilation of her articles. The problem with reading newspaper or magazine articles is that in many instances they do not provide full context. They have raw data, anecdotes and often an accurate account of what happened in specific instances. But that may not be sufficient in filling the canvas with all details. Reporters who have covered

The Lives We Have Lost: Penguin India, 280 pages, `450. armed conflict often use their material to develop books—but they move from that, and write a comprehensive story that fills the gaps, to make a complex story understandable for readers whose familiarity with the issue may be minimal. Reading Thapa’s book is not an easy task. Partly it has to do with the grotesque nature of violence perpetrated on civilians. But partly it also has to do with the way the book has been structured. This is a sound compilation, but it assumes a certain level of interest and knowledge in the topic, which means it ends up being of interest to human rights practitioners, experts on Nepal or Maoists, or South Asia

specialists. But they often know the story. For the uninitiated, the book may seem daunting. If it is a lost opportunity, it is because Thapa is an excellent narrator, as anyone who has read her fiction would testify. A rearranged narrative, with reports set in context, providing the Himalayan narrative, would have made Nepal’s stories more accessible and comprehensible. For the sad reality is that in the past decade alone, South Asia has shown no dearth of violent conflicts which cry out for great narratives—think of Maoists in India, the uprisings in Kashmir, the disintegration of the Pakistani state, the conflict in Afghanistan, and the civil war in Sri Lanka. Nepal’s conflict is tragic and heart-rending, but Thapa doesn’t reassemble her very rich material. Passion for rights and compassion for victims are natural starting points. Thapa could have pushed the envelope further, and made the story real for those who have ignored the conflict. Perhaps these stories and the insights they offered will sow seeds of characters that she will one day turn into a Great Nepali Novel. Write to lounge@livemint.com IN SIX WORDS Reporting, not storytelling, from Nepal’s heart

TABISH KHAIR

HOLIDAY WORKOUT

L

ists of books to read proliferate before the summer and winter vacations. Summer reading lists tend to be the lightest, as the assumption (at least in the West) is that people want a frothy novel to put on their faces and fall asleep when out on a beach. Winter reading lists tend to have a bit more substance, but still seldom contain serious studies. The assumption in this case—and not just in the West—is that people do not want to engage with serious issues for Christmas and New Year. Keeping this long tradition in mind, I decided to read only serious studies during this Christmas vacation. And it was worth it. Three books in particular: Charles Taylor’s Dilemmas and Connections: Selected Essays, Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin’s Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation after 9/11, and Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper’s Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference. At a time when book titles containing the word “empire” make one shudder or cringe (and think of Niall Ferguson), Burbank and Cooper’s Empires in World History is a highly readable and well-modulated exploration of imperial power across the ages. Starting with ancient empires in India, China and Europe, covering Mongol, Ottoman, Spanish and other empires, and engaging finally with the current scenario, this is a history book that puts many matters in context. Even when one does not agree with its readings, one is left informed and illuminated. Written with the undergraduate history student in mind, this 511-page book is nevertheless a great read for anyone interested in how our world has come into being. It won the 2011 World History Association Book Prize, and deservedly so. Morey and Yaqin’s Framing Muslims is written for a more academic readership, but it too should be of interest to readers who do not confuse books with sunshades. In it the two authors dissect the ways in which stereotypes depicting Muslims as an inherently problematic presence in the West are constructed and deployed. One of the book’s strengths is the authors’ precise exploration of how such supposedly “crude” stereotypes also come, in complex ways, from highly intelligent elites. A book to read. In Dilemmas and Connections, the Canadian philosopher Taylor can also be said to engage with many of the matters that concern these two books—but at a more philosophical level. Whether expositing the philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer or discussing language, otherness, religion or nationalism, Taylor writes with lucidity and perception. Take, for instance, the conceptual ease with which he combines the matter of understanding and identity in a post-colonial context: “Real understanding always has an identity cost—something the ruled have often painfully experienced. It is a feature of tomorrow’s world that this cost will now be less unequally distributed.” One wishes these lines could be inscribed on blackboards all over places like Denmark and Holland.

Middlemarch ketchup One of my favourite English novels, George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1874) has the reputation of being a heavy work in some sunny circles, and definitely a very literary one. As such, it was quite eye-opening for me to read Simon Frost’s new academic study, The Business of the Novel: Economics, Aesthetics and the Case of Middlemarch. Frost examines the history of the composition of this tome, and its consumption—including Middlemarch ketchup and Middlemarch matchboxes! Of course, one knows that many of the germs of Middle­‘merch’: contemporary consumerism lie in the industrial Ever popular. capitalism of the Victorian Age, but it is chastening (and somehow heartening) to learn that even great works like Middlemarch have not been exempted from such viruses. Tabish Khair is the author of the poetry collection Man of Glass and the novel The Thing about Thugs. Write to Tabish at readingroom@livemint.com

LIGHTNING RODS | HELEN DEWITT

Polyester universe A frighteningly effective novel about an absurd plan to combat sexual harassment

B Y S UPRIYA N AIR supriya.n@livemint.com

···························· elen DeWitt is one of our greatest contemporary novelists, and would be even if she had written nothing but her 2000 debut, The Last Samurai. Yet, for the creator of a book almost universally adored by critics and other writers—Jonathan Safran Foer even created a child protagonist with echoes of The Last Samurai’s 12-year-old hero Ludo for his schlocky 9/11 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close—she also happens to be less well-known than many of her American colleagues who live in the US (DeWitt lives and works largely in Berlin) and, frankly, write books which are easier to read. Her third novel, Lightning Rods, will not win her any new fans. It is nothing like The Last Samurai, or like her self-pub-

H

lished, even more experimental second novel, Your Name Here. But readers who loved her earlier work for its imagination, its emotional honesty and its divine facility with language, particularly the language of casual, transactional human relationships, will see the hallmarks of DeWitt’s style here too. The Last Samurai was about an impoverished single mother and her small son—who both happen to have genius-level IQs—trying to come to terms with a world whose priorities are different from their own; highbrow in its style and concerns, but essentially realistic. Lightning Rods is a smaller story written in a more traditional vein, the satirical fantasy a la Jonathan Swift. Vacuum cleaner salesman Joe—the sort of character played by Steve Carell in the first half of Steve Carell movies—responds to prolonged career failure with a new corporate enterprise: a proactive sexual harassment prevention service. For a price, Joe will offer companies a benefit for their male employees: anonymous sex, with a female co-

Lightning Rods: New Directions, 192 pages, $24.50 (around `1,275). worker in the privacy of an office bathroom stall. The bargainingtable logic that Joe employs is simple: Sex is a need. In any company, the highest risk of sexual abuse comes from those highpowered male executives invaluable to the firm; just the sort of dudes who will never read a harassment pamphlet. Incredibly, the lightning rods service takes off, and the book is

about how the situation pans out. It is, of course, disgusting. Classical satire usually is. DeWitt has a great talent for recreating inner monologues with eerie precision. She recreates all the double-speak and the verbal flotsam of a hyperactive culture of motivation and self-improvement with painful exactness here. The offices are full of men named Pete and Steve and Ed. Sentences are always beginning with the lazy dross that comes so naturally to us; phrases like “What happened was that…” and “The thing is…”. The whole experiment begins because a salesman—because “Joe Schmoe”—thinks that the only profession in the world which involves seeing people as they really are, is that of a salesman. It is uproariously funny, but Lightning Rods will never make readers laugh. By taking something improbable to its logical extremes, satire shows us how thin the line often is between the things society considers inhuman, and the things it considers merely absurd. DeWitt is a brutal

humourist, and the universe she creates is as unattractive as a world which contains turd-coloured suits (“It wasn’t rumpled or wrinkled because that’s the whole point of polyester. But it wasn’t crisp, either, because polyester does not have it in it to be crisp”) can be. But it is, of course, our world, a world of saturated markets for vacuum cleaners and a stunning talent for ignoring the obvious. Lightning Rods is a feminist work in the way Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s television shows are politically liberal. Expanding this sort of pure satire to book-length doesn’t make it any easier to digest, and at least the first third of Lightning Rods left this reviewer with an ardent wish that DeWitt had chosen to write a short story instead of a novel. But as the book unfolds, Joe’s fervidly bright female employees start telling him what to do, and the legal and social ramifications of the lightning rod schemes deepen and multiply, and the thoroughness of DeWitt’s vision becomes clear.


L18 FLAVOURS

LOUNGE

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2012 ° WWW.LIVEMINT.COM

PHOTOGRAPHS

BY

DIVYA BABU/MINT

DELHI’S BELLY | SHREYA RAY

The music house Lost in song: (above) Iqbal Ahmed Khan (centre) with his students at Mausiqui Manzil; and Rashid Zafar (right), who teaches music at Delhi University, with his mother, Buland Akhtar.

The ancestral house of the Dilli ‘gharana’ is the physical repository of its heritage, and a reminder that the ‘qawwali’ will live

A

t one time, Mausiqui Manzil in Suiwalan, Daryaganj, would have been a house anyone could have given directions to. Its list of visitors included illustrious names like Hindustani classical music maestro Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bollywood musicians K.L. Saigal, and Roshanlal Nagrath. Today, surrounded by clutter and crumbling architecture, it is an old building you would be hard put to find. Mausiqui is Arabic for “music”, and this 200-year-old house is the physical repository of the city’s musical heritage, the Dilli gharana, where more than 150 of its descendants now live. After crossing rows of shops, clinics, negotiating pedestrian traffic jams and goats in full-sleeved sweaters, we finally arrive at our destination. A few steep steps up a dark stairway lead to the most historically significant room of the house, one where its legendary khalifa (head of the gharana), ustad Chand Khan, once lived. His descendant, ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan, sits inside, groggy after a night’s intensive riyaaz (practice), reading the Urdu newspaper Rashtriya Sahara. Covered with a carpet and a few bolsters as backrest, the only embellishments being pictures of Iqbal Ahmed’s ancestors on the walls, this is a room exclusively for, and of, music. The 58-year-old ustad is the current khalifa of one of the seven oldest gharanas of Hindustani classical music (all other gharanas are offshoots of these), according to Krishna Bisht, music scholar and former dean at the University

of Delhi’s faculty of music and fine arts, and an exponent of the gharana. “The gharana’s close association with the qawwals and music scholar and poet-composer Amir Khusrau makes it a rich carrier of history. You won’t find this style of gayaki and the rare compositions of Khusrau anywhere else,” she says. Iqbal Ahmed dates the gharana’s history to the origins of Sufi music in India. “In the 13th century, the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti came to India to promote Sufi thought. Inspired by the Indian devotional music (kirtans) in temples, he created the qawwali form (this is why qawwalis today use dholak, kartal and ektara, etc.). He was joined by Miyan Mir Hasan Sawant, a musician who gave up his services at the court of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish of the Delhi Sultanate’s Mamluk Dynasty, to became the first qawwal ever,” says Iqbal Ahmed. Around this time, Amir Khusrau, combining his knowledge of “Bharatiya music” with “Arabic-Iranian” music,

created a new style of singing, says Iqbal Ahmed. Khusrau’s music was promoted by the family of Hasan Sawant, his son Shams Sawant and grandson Miyan Samti. Samti took his music everywhere, from the dargahs to the courts, coming as he did from a family of qawwals. Miyan Samti’s descendant Miyan Achpal Khan, the doyen and khalifa of this tradition in the 19th century, was also the court musician at the time of the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The family of Achpal Khan’s brother carried the legacy forward, and in the later part of the 19th century, ustad Chand Khan, grandfather of Iqbal Ahmed, became the khalifa of the gharana. Chand Khan’s photo occupies pride of place in Iqbal Ahmed’s room. In 1911, when the British decided to shift their capital from Kolkata to Delhi, Chand Khan performed at the Dilli Durbar as part of the celebrations. Even today, this is an open house, with students, tabla players and members of the family

strolling in and out. A PhD student of Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, researching the “time theory” of ragas, has dropped in for a quick discussion, and causes a bit of a storm when he dares to suggest that the Dilli gharana is not the oldest. “Gwalior is considered the oldest because of its association with dhrupad, and because that is where Tansen came from,” says Iqbal Ahmed. “But when it comes to khayal gayaki, Dilli is where it started,” he adds. He says khayal is a subgenre of sawela, a genre created by Khusrau, which has one sthai (chorus/refrain) and two antaras (verses)—as opposed to the khayal, which has one sthai and one antara. “Khayals composed by Bahadur Shah Zafar, true to the sawela tradition, had one sthai, and two antaras,” he says, and breaks into a khayal composed by Zafar, in Raag Mavafiq. “A rare raga that not many would know of,” he says. Apart from this, there are countless other gems in the Dilli gharana treasure chest. There is the tarana, naqsh-o-gul, sawela,

kalvana, tirvat, dhamaar, chaturang, tala sagar, hawa, basit, tillerana, sawant geet, jhula geet, mandha (bidhai), out of 50-odd genres of songs. It was these that drew Bollywood musicians of the time like Roshanlal (father of (film-maker Rakesh and composer Rajesh Roshan), Saigal (who learnt at the steps of Jama Masjid from Samman Khan), and Bahadur Shah Zafar’s great grandson, who would come on an elephant. Shagirds (disciples) are important to gharanas since they carry forward the legacy. The legendary Tanras Khan, a shagird, was one of the exponents after Achpal Khan. In recent times, it has been Bisht, now the senior most living disciple of Chand Khan. Although teaching became formalized with the opening of the gharana’s school in 1931 (first called Saraswati Bhawan by ustad Chand Khan, it was dissolved and later restarted as the Amir Khusro Institute of Music in Daryaganj in 1941), the main mode of teaching has always been the

guru-shishya parampara (teacher-student tradition). At any given time, says Iqbal Ahmed, he has 8-10 live-in students. There are also students from Delhi, who spend many hours at the house, absorbing and learning as much as they can. A young girl, an undergraduate student of music at Delhi University, comes from Faridabad, adjoining Delhi, and spends the entire day there when college is closed. The students eat, live and sing with the family, but there’s no fee. “Man se khidmat karte hain kabhi, lekin main koi fees nahi leta. Khuda mujhe bhi dete hain (if they want to give me something, that’s different but I don’t charge any fees. God gives me too anyway),” says Iqbal Ahmed. In today’s times, a career in classical music is neither lucrative nor popular, but the current generation of the gharana knows nothing else. Iqbal Ahmed himself, as the head of the gharana, is always in demand, recording, composing and performing, even helping in archiving—in 2009, he recorded over 200 compositions of the gharana for the Ford Foundation. His brothers and cousins have to work harder to keep the music going. Some of them have taken up teaching jobs, like Iqbal Ahmed’s cousin Rashid Zafar, who teaches at Delhi University’s faculty of music and fine arts. Others are still “freelancers”, looking to perform despite the odds, and passing on the legacy to their offspring. Times are tough, but the gharana looks like it’ll fight it out. “Our family came here in 1712, and has stayed here ever since,” says Iqbal Ahmed. “Purane Dilli ke rehne waale hain hum. Kahin nahin jaayenge (we’re old residents of Delhi. We’re not going anywhere),” he says. shreya.r@livemint.com


presents

The Mint Real Estate Conclave

REVIVING REAL ESTATE: TRIGGERS BEYOND MONETARY POLICY

WATCH THE TELECAST ONLY ON: SATURDAY, 14 JANUARY, 6.30PM SUNDAY, 15 JANUARY, 1PM

(L to R): Getamber Anand, Vice President, CREDAI, Gaurav Karnik, Partner, Ernst & Young, Romi Roy, Urban Planner, Delhi Development Authority, Anil Padmanabhan, Deputy Managing Editor, Mint, Navin M Raheja, President, NAREDCO, Maneesh Srivastava, CEO, Muthoot Housing Finance Ltd, Vidur Bharadwaj, Chairman, IGBC, Delhi Chapter. Presented by:

Partners:

Lounge for 14 jan 2012  

Lounge for 14 jan 2012

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you