Have been wanting to write on the idea of home for months now but, could not really get the words flowing.
I remember understanding home to be the house and times from childhood – such as a stray memories of coming back to the coolness of the house on a hot summer afternoon with a glass full of cold of Rasna ready in the fridge – essentially linking the idea of home with nostalgia. However, today that feeling of being ‘at home’ has come far away from that nostalgia as well which brought the question to the fore again, what was home exactly. I remember the feeling coming first while watching the sun rise or while watch trees go by as I moved further on the highway. This strange feeling of comfort was something that I did not understand then but, fell in love with deeper than the last time.
Comprehension dawned in another city which was alien and distant when seen from outside on a particularly breezy evening which complemented the warmth emanating from the setting sun’s rays. The joy which was felt in that moment was exactly the same that my mind had so far associated with nostalgia of home. That is the moment that mind started seeking to understand – the idea essentially was to understand and think through the concept of ‘home’ – in lieu of the constant tussle in my head as to where was home for me as so far the head believed home only to have a place in nostalgia. Was it a place, a person, an experience, a time or was it, after all, the version of self one is most comfortable being? Was it not the spatial or time based understanding? Questioning and looping in the same thought process for some time, I left the question hanging again since there did not seem to be a concrete answer whatsoever.
The thought process sprang back to action last Thursday after visiting an exhibit of four artists who basically express the idea of home in urban dwelling today – looking at smaller spaces, killing of natural and open spaces to build concrete jungles etc. The idea around which the question of home and spaces as represented in a few art works was more around the developmental critique of mindless urbanisation, creation of gated communities at the cost of a ruined environment and the foolish association of culture and status with being a part of these gated communities.A few strips from the latest series of Adarsh Balak (literal: the ideal male child) – the only one artist I knew of before visiting the show – were also up for display. His work being presented at the exhibition talking about ‘home’ is precisely what got the cogs of the machinery in the brain running. I won’t really get into the varied topics around urbanisation, environmental concerns etc. here – more on the show later in another post.
Going back to the point of this post. What is home exactly – I think home is a feeling that you associate a place, house, person, time with that makes you happy, that really soothing feeling of contentment. It could be anywhere, with anything being the trigger of contentment but, essentially, home is where one is absolutely happy – be it alone or with people or in communion with nature.
The Great Punjab Hotel, Bombay.
This building is my favourite building so far. I’ve seen the other old ones and the others with rounded corners as well but, this building is just so beautiful that every time I go past it, I cannot take my eyes off it. Mind you, I’m no architecture geek or even an enthusiast but, I think time has made me one. Or rather, incidents have made me one. The thing about history is that traces of it that can be seen live are in the form of buildings, some as beautiful as this one.
In the more modern or Euro-fetishised ways, this building won’t stand a chance at even being compared with those pseudo-Athenian buildings (like the exhibition hall on the same road as this one) but, its more about what they talk about. This building, I think sums up what I love about Bombay and what I know Bombay to be. It is old, decaying and untouched in places and still stands in a glory that is unfathomable. The kind of old that Bombay has spells more starkness, more reality than other monuments or buildings in other cities one has seen before. Old here is real. Its dusty without any need for a refurbishment or any plastering for the eye. Old here exists as it is irrespective of the fact whether the eyes that glance at it are really looking or are just closed.
The picture’s from one Saturday when the entire day was spent walking in town with the heart leaping with joy at the sight of every old building – be it the Fire Temple at the end of the road or the library across and also ignoring the fact that I cross them every single day. I remember spending more than an hour sitting at the bus top right opposite this building. I really do love everything about it – the giant and old (not necessarily decorated) facade, the many balconies with each room, the blue plaster on each balcony, the singular wooden chair in each balcony as if there would never be 2 people sitting there!
In class we keep on talking about the semantics. The other day, there was a lecture on the different ways in which Ravana has been depicted in art. Religion giving me the kicks, ignoring one of the usual migraine attacks, I went for this lecture. The venue was one old gallery by the name of No. 1 Shanthi Road.
The lecture was by Dr. Paula Richman and bits of it (as she ‘unofficially’ stated) can be found on YouTube.
Anyway, the reason for my writing this post was the Tibetan art on display at the gallery. Due to lack of space and time, I could not speak with the artist. The artist was a young girl who had come all the way from Tibet in order to spread the word about the individual stories of the Tibetan freedom struggle. The world knows very well about the Tibetan struggle for freedom against the Chinese government. But, this knowledge or awareness gets limited as a knowledge of the collective, ignoring the individual stories that form the collective.
She had depicted individual narratives of self-immolation by many Tibetan people as a sign of protest, on pieces of paper with burnt edges, using ink and water colours for the narrative.
One narrative that particularly captured my attention was that of a 20-something man who immolated his body for freedom and his corpse was then taken away by the Chinese government. The artist had depicted this man’s story/struggle painting the Chinese government in the shape of a black/dark grey cloud with a few hands visible in the mass, taking away the corpse by way of a scarf/banner of dark(black)-ness. While the cloud was up in the sky, the ground showed the candlelight vigil of the other Tibetan people demanding the return of the corpse. The artist had painted the vigil as being conducted by many differentiable individuals painted white in colour.
Think my fascination with this particular piece is due to the constant questions of citizenship that keep on buzzing in this head. The constant questions around whether democracy is a farce, whether we truly are multicultural, whether we truly are cosmopolitan, easily got translated in this narrative. Goes the WikiLeaks way questioning the legitimacy of the state when it’s operations are no less discreet than the mafia, if one may please?