Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The on-again-off-again atheist

Dear Snowflakes, 

I was already an hour late to get home when Sid called to say that AJ was on the door crying "Mahmmamah". He is sick, and as would luck would have it I had some deadlines to manage. I felt so dejected.

But then, as I left work the tram arrived just as I reached the tram stop, as did the train. And all the pedestrian crossings were green! Never in my memory has the public transport of Melbourne been this obliging. I reached home in record time.

Someone somewhere is feeling kind towards me. It is unlikely to be the General Manager of Public Transport Victoria. Could it be ... God?

The on-again-off-again atheist (aka Mumbaikar in Melbourne)

PS: This one's for you, AJ. I hope you always see life through rose-coloured glasses. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Art, Life and Chris Ofili

The New Yorker is a cup that just keeps on giveth.

Ofili's Turner Winner
Last Wednesday, it published a fabulous profile of Chris Ofili. And today, the New Yorker has dug up seven artist profiles from their archive, which specifically look at how their life and experiences have informed their art.

Chris Ofili is the British artist of the elephant dung fame. Of course, it is only when I read the article I learnt how much more than that he is. The writer visited him at his home in Trinidad, where to he has moved with his family since 2005, and built a profile by weaving his life story and career with little details of his current daily life.

What struck me was how much the British artist reminded me of Barack Obama. Here are the things they share in common: an absconding father, a strong mother, immense intelligence and self-confidence, and an ability to carry their blackness so lightly. Yes, they are black but they are so much more.

That is how I feel about being Indian. Yes, I am an Indian but I am so much more.

The work of any artist is intimately connected to his life, experiences and times. His race, sex, history, friends, surroundings, travels and his own take on these experiences is what defines his works. When that take is unique, the works can be astonishingly revealing. However, when an artists take on his life experiences is derivative - meaning, I am lesbian woman artist hence, I make this etc... I am an Indian artist, hence I make that etc... - the works become cliches.

Ofili is clearly a case of the former. His ethnicity, his Catholic upbringing, his travel through Africa, his love for hip hop, and his life in Trinidad: they all inform his works but what shines through is his relation to these experiences.

On the other hand, I feel that latter is the case with a number of Indian artists. The overt political commentary their works make about Indian life somehow doesn't leave enough room for them to explore their own position vis-a-vis the society they are commenting on.

So now my goal for the week is to read the seven profiles and use them to further my understanding of why I find overtly political Indian artists somehow unsatisfying. The one I am most looking forward to reading is Damien Hirst's.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Understanding parenting "Reality Bites" Style

Dear Snowflakes,

One of the most amazing things for me to experience is Chuk-Chuk's increasing vocabulary. She is not-quite-three but every time she uses a new word correctly, I find myself just a little bit stunned. Where did she learn that? I ask myself. Each time.

Today's addition: almost.

I know. I know. What a dorky thing to say. What's there to be stunned over when every not-quite-three girl out there is literally programmed to spout new words at this age?

Nothing. Except that parenthood is all about dorkiness. Every parent since the beginning of human history has had the same experiences. But each parent is programmed to experience them as something unique and stunning.

I guess a good analogy to my life before and after kids is the 90s cult-classic Reality Bites. (Because, you love movies).

Before having kids, I was Ethan Hawke. I would never allow anything to surprise me, shock me, thrill me or hurt me. And post-kids, I've turned into that puppy dog Ben Stiller. For was there ever a more eager line spoken on the silver screen than Stiller's: "Have I crossed some lines on the sands of coolness with you?"

But then again, to understand this transformation, we must revisit that uber-cool question that the magazine editor throws at Ryder: How do you define irony?

The answer: "When the actual meaning is the exact opposite from the literal meaning."

I guess, when it comes to experiencing life with irony then it would mean finding something miserable in the joyful and something joyful in the miserable. Which is why it is so hard to be ironic and a parent. Parenting is hard enough (no, there is nothing joyful about its miseries) without you refusing to experience its little joys wholeheartedly.

I guess as for "irony", I will  leave it for the day Chuk-Chuk throws the word at me.

Mumbaikar in Melbourne
PS: So in the pursuit of uncoolness, here's one for you Chuk-Chuk and AJ (minus the French kissing of course). You both make me so proud.