Through the lens of Cop Shiva

Cop Shiva believes that he is still a village boy even though it has been many years since he left Ramnagar, his birthplace and came to Bangalore in search of a livelihood. “Everybody needs jobs and I have not studied much. I have studied only till the 10th standard. I used to work in different kinds of jobs but I was very good in sports. Because of that reason, I applied for the police services and got it”. Before becoming Cop Shiva, the photographer he was Shivaraju BS, the policeman and even before that he worked as railway policeman. The need for a secure job was important for him as he was the sole breadwinner for his family. “My job as a cop gave me a lot of strength, it has resulted in me respecting people and has taught me how to deal with people”, he says with a smile. This helped him a lot in the long run when he started capturing the lives of ordinary people with extraordinary stories through the lens.

Although he was happy about his job, Shiva had an artistic side which hadn’t yet seen the light of day. He recalls his days as a young boy when he used to read novels and was fascinated by Kannada art films. Apart from him, nobody in his family had any affiliation with the arts. “During my free time, I used to work as a program coordinator at 1 Shanthiroad art gallery. I used to go there and attend the exhibitions and I helped director Suresh Jairam in running the place”. This was the moment for him to discover his passion. He met a lot of artists from different nations who came to the gallery as part of residency programmes. By this time he had taken charge of organising events there and helping out the artists in building their projects. He was also in charge of documentation and picked up a camera for the same. “I started out with a small camera and I was always surrounded by artists, filmmakers, photographers. Over time, I realised that I wanted to do something similar”, Shiva says. But why photography? The answer lies in his 14 years of service as a policeman. He was always out on the streets, surrounded by people, people and more people. This made him understand their lives and as he was a local guy, things were all the more convenient for him. “It is easier to work within your community or within your own people. I feel that as an artist, you always have to work with your community; you have to look around within your circle. No need to look somewhere else”, he says. This resulted in him creating two of his very finest projects Being Gandhi and I Love MGR. Both of these projects have been exhibited in countries like the US, UK, Switzerland and Bangladesh. The former project was recently displayed at The Frank Museum of Art in Otterbein University, Ohio. He remarks that the Gandhi project which started in the year 2009 is still ongoing. “There was a time when people thought that Bagadehalli Basavaraj (the man impersonating Gandhi) was mentally ill. But now they respect him more than ever”, his voice has a tone of achievement.

Shiva has had a knack for looking at what he calls the “hidden” and this has been sort of a driving force for him to keep looking for new subjects. There are untold and ignored stories of people hiding in plain sight. He believes that one has to be curious and observant of the things happening in his/her surroundings. It is not entirely necessary that one has to go to faraway places to document something when there is so much that is waiting to be discovered in your own neighbourhood. And this is clearly reflected from his most recent project titled Ecstasy which chronicles the many obscure festivals and rituals happening in Bangalore. In a time when media has decided not to bring these facets of life to the mainstream, Shiva believes that these stories can be unearthed only if one is constantly observant. For him, this might be capturing some tree or wall while people around you wonder what on earth is there to take a picture of. The eye of a photographer finds beauty in the most mundane. “It is difficult to describe how I have developed that instinct, it is a connection in your mind itself”, he says. He has been a witness to the change this city has gone through but his eye as a photographer still revels in the way he was brought up. “I have been living in this city for a long time now but I still consider myself as a village boy. Maybe the way you look at things is what matters. For me, I think the city is changing only for a certain kind of people”, Shiva quotes.

Pictures from I Love MGR (L) and Being Gandhi (R) Source: copshiva.com

For a photographer, consistency of work is paramount. True, there are times when one may not be able to find the perfect subject but that doesn’t mean one should get disheartened. The reason why Shiva chooses not to take names of people whose works he has admired is due to the fact that many of them have given up photography altogether. “The thing is, now it is easy to buy a camera and consider oneself as a photographer. But you constantly have to keep continuing your work. Only then you will get a good grip, you will get good subjects and it will be possible to create a good body of work”. Of course, there have been times for him when the project reaches a point where it moves slowly due to various factors. It takes time to build up a connection with a person as a subject and that requires a lot of planning. It is a two-way process in which the subject has to be comfortable with the artist as well for a fruitful outcome. For Shiva, a project can go on for as long as ten years but it can never actually reach a point of conclusion because there will always be a new perspective which will mushroom up. He gives the example of his Gandhi project and goes on to say that now he is finding new ways to project it differently. There are a lot of ideas and some of them might not work out but that doesn’t count as a failure.

Looking back at his life as a young boy from a small village, Shiva regrets the fact that he wasn’t born 20 years earlier. With gleaming eyes, he goes on to describe how as an artist it is necessary to look back in the past because it shapes who you are; all your experiences and ideas are noteworthy. “You can compare them and maybe work on an idea which came to you five years ago”, he reveals. His love for films has been a constant for around 20 years and every now and then he has an urge to work in that direction. As of now, this ambition is kept for another day because there are always financial aspects to consider first. No matter how ambitious his aspirations have been, his family has been a constant support for him. “My mother and sister don’t know much about art but they are happy with what I am doing and they are confident about me because I started working when I was 15 years old. I took care of my sister, my nephews. They are all settled now” he says with a smile.

At the onset of his career, Shiva was working rigorously without taking any breaks but now, he has reached a point where he can slow down a bit and reflect on what he has done. But still, he feels that there is a lot that needs to be done. One of the things that he wants to make a reality from his long list of to-dos is to travel across the country. He has been to many places abroad; he recently attended a three-month residency programme in Sweden and there is an upcoming one in Switzerland. “Because of my life and job as a policeman, I couldn’t travel much. There are a lot of things I have missed” he says. Apart from that, there are three projects in the pipeline which will be seeing the light of day soon.

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Sartre’s version of hell

Spanning over two hours, Jean Paul Sartre’s seminal 1944 play No Exit (Huis Clos) is an acquired taste. It has to be consumed one take at a time, like the gentle chewing of undercooked rice. As part of Bangalore Little Theatre’s (BLT) three-day French Theatre Festival, Alliance Francaise de Bangalore staged the play on 20th August. BLT’s Director Training programme is an initiative to propel new artists and directors to come up with live productions within three months while learning to manage a theatre production. The third edition of the festival saw two more plays staged; Jean Anouilh’s Dinner With The Family and Moliere’s Tartuffe.

 

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Joseph Garcin in conversation with the bellboy

 

The afternoon show at 1 seemed auspicious with the patchy sky and the venue had a sombre air, synonymous to what an existentialist play would demand. Although it wasn’t a full house, as expected on an afternoon, the people present in the room had not come to watch just any other play. Sartre demands your attention at all times and fraying from this rule even for a moment means one cannot comprehend the next scene. The play, directed by Deepak Mote is a mélange of many sensory elements. One has to shift between what is happening on stage to what is happening on the other part of the stage while being in tune with the rumbling bass, snare drum with the cymbals against the backdrop.

‘Hell is other people’ is the meaning behind Sartre’s No Exit. As three individuals find themselves in a not-so-everyday living room sans the ‘devices of torture’, their conception of how the afterlife of damnation would be like comes crashing down. A bellboy with neatly combed hair in a snappy black jacket comes on stage and brings into the room its first occupant Joseph Garcin and answers many of his stock questions about torture chambers and hellfire. Garcin is soon followed by Inez and Estelle, two women who are to be his roommates for eternity. “It’s like this”, says Garcin in an inquisitive manner. “It’s like this”, answers the bellboy in a bored fashion.

The three occupants start showing their connections to the real world, portrayed by dancers on the other part of the stage, separated by a flimsy cloth. It gives the idea that it is within one’s reach yet unreachable. There are no mirrors in the room and the furniture is colour coded to match their personalities. Estelle frantically looks for a mirror to check on her appearance. Inez offers to be her mirror and tells her to look into her eyes. As Estelle frantically tries to put on her lipstick, Inez reveals the many dark secrets of Estelle and frightens her to the core. The three of them serve as mirrors for each other and in turn become unrelenting torturers.

Garcin is a dapper figure dressed in a beige coat and white shirt, a journalist from Rio de Janeiro by profession. As the heat in the room rises, he sheds his civilised self and the caricature of the coward and the unfaithful wife abuser he came out. He flees his country during the outbreak of the war and gets killed in action. Estelle, clad in a lilac one piece dress is a chirping flirtatious lady from Paris but like Garcin, her true face of a hypocrite and a child murderer propelled by lust and vanity emerges. Inez is a cold and calculated figure who is not afraid to say her mind and stand up for the same. A lesbian postal clerk, she ends up turning her cousin’s wife against him resulting in the murder of the latter. She doesn’t flinch away from showing her sexual desire towards Estelle who never reciprocates. Estelle, on the other hand, shows her lascivious nature towards Garcin because he is a man. Although reluctant at first, Garcin finally gives in to Estelle’s advancements, much to the distaste of Inez. He begs Estelle to not call him a coward and while she complies, Inez remarks that Estelle is doing the same just to feign attraction because he is a man and at this point, any man would do for her. This causes Joseph to make an attempt of escape from the room and although the door opens up, he isn’t able to leave because his redemption lies in convincing Inez that he isn’t a coward.

As their verbal paroxysms shoot up with the temperature in the room, the trio is able to see the characters they formed while they were alive. Now, in hell, nothing can be changed but to shed their outer pretentious selves and embrace what lies inside them. Isolated in space and time, in a room when the night never comes they are able to perceive the torture device they themselves are to one another. For all eternity, Estelle won’t care that Garcin is a coward till he kisses her; Garcia won’t be able to kiss her because he knows he is a coward while Inez will always despise Garcia and lust after Estelle in vain.

The lighting and the musical score in the backdrop play a crucial role in the play, highlighting the moments of crescendo. Somehow, the electricity cuts in between the play would not have surprised the viewer as it fits seamlessly into the atmosphere of it. The dancers depicting the earthly lives of the three characters are able to portray the emotion that is expected from them. The play gives Sartre’s message that for the living, change is always possible until the final choice is made.

On Raksha Bandhan

There was one occasion every year which my sister devotedly followed and that was Raksha Bandhan. I remember her waking up earlier than usual on those days, taking a quick bath and arranging the thali. As I came out of the bathroom, she used to stand ready with a lighted diya, a rakhi, a bit of tika, some flowers with rice and some sweet, mostly a rosgolla. She used to wear a churidar on those days, tie her hair up and put some kajal. Mother stood close by as she did the aarti by doing the whole ‘thali in a circular motion’ in front of my face. There was something in that warm glow from the diya which stayed with me for a long time. The rakhi stayed on my wrist till the end of the day. Afterwards, we used to hurry off to school. I never gave her anything as a gift for quite a long time. I felt kind of shy in front of her during those days; mostly because this was too much of sudden sibling love and it was unlike us because we used to fight with each other all the time.

My earliest memory of gifting her something goes back to 6th grade. By that time, I had gathered knowledge that one is supposed to give something to his sister during Raksha Bandhans. TV ads and the fact that my sister got gifts from her bro-zoned classmates made me realise that. I gifted my sister a chocolate that year and I remember the Cadbury Celebrations that she got from some classmate-turned-brother in school. I followed this never-seen-before box all the way to the refrigerator and hoped earnestly that she would share it with me. She did share but she consumed most of its contents herself. My tiny 20 rupee Dairy Milk seemed inferior against that large cache of chocolates. By the next year, she had moved out of Tezpur for her higher studies to Guwahati and things changed a lot. There were no early morning aartis anymore but instead, the rakhis started arriving by post, with a hand written letter in the envelope. I received the first letter of my life in 7th grade written by her using sketch pens. This was also very unlike of her and I was surprised that she wrote something for me. Needless to say, I felt very special and for the first time, sensed that someone was actually missing me. I mentally did somersaults and blushed as I read that letter which was filled with a sort of sibling love that I hadn’t experienced before. Her words conveyed a lot than her physical presence ever did. It said all the things we could never say to each other verbally and it made her absence all the more profound. I felt that the letter deserved a reply and I wrote and posted one, tried my best to convey everything that I was feeling and mentioned that we will talk more over the phone and share things from now on. I promised her over the phone that I will gift her something when she comes home during the vacations.  The next year, I received a similar package and I decided to act mature. I asked my sister over the phone as to what gift she wanted this time. I had saved a bit of money by now as I was ‘old enough’ to handle money on my own. She told me that she wanted an eyeliner and a few good nail polish bottles. I didn’t have any knowledge about cosmetics so I had to confirm which colour of nail polish she preferred. After getting an idea of everything, I went to the market on my own to buy the same. Mom didn’t know what was happening. It was the first time I was buying cosmetics for someone so it took me a while to figure out which brand to get and what Lakme Colossal Kajal actually was. I gave her gift when she came home during her Autumn Break and she was happy with the nail polish colours I chose. I felt glad as a level of competence flashed on my face.  My mom gave me surprised looks because I had managed to do everything so discreetly.

This tradition continued till 10th grade, although the length of those letters decreased to the size of a note. By then she had moved to Bangalore and the rakhis took more time to arrive by post. Instead of me giving her gifts every year, she made sure that the parcel contained not only a rakhi but a small gift as well. There was a t-shirt one time and when she wasn’t able to include one with the rakhi, she made sure she got something on her visits during the vacations. Each time I made the same promise of yeah, I will give you the gift when you come home. By the time I had reached 12th grade, I already had three years’ worth of pending rakhi gifts that I was supposed to give her. That backlog lives to this very day.

Truth be told, I have seldom protected my sister from anything and over the last year, Raksha Bandhan isn’t the same for me anymore. I understand the essence of a sibling connection but I am so not okay with the whole brother-protecting-sister thing. My sis has protected herself just fine all these years so why follow some tradition just because our history and parents tell us to? For issues involving family and parents, I have covered up for her, more so in recent years. She has protected me equally but more than that she has been a guiding post and that matters a lot more for me. Last week when she told me to meet up as she wanted to give me the rakhi in advance, the feminist in me was in a conflicting position. I texted her saying that I don’t want the rakhi as I do not comply with the tradition behind Raksha Bandhan anymore. I told her that should a case arise, I would be there to ‘protect’ and support her in all ways possible and that a thread wasn’t necessary to make sure that happened. I used sentences like “patriarchal traditions” and “why are we still doing this”.  She agreed with what I was trying to say but she urged me to understand that this was something she wanted to do, regardless of what history or tradition says about it. I was glad to see that she took this tradition for what it is meant to be, a bond between siblings. That’s all. She didn’t want to break the bond which was created well before I was in 6th grade and I couldn’t say no to that either.

Actually, I feel like I should tie a rakhi on her wrist as well.

 

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Me and my sister c. 1998

 

Ma isn’t that mad

The first instance I remember of my mother showing her wrath for me was when I refused to go to kindergarten. It used to be a daily ritual for me to cry like a lost chicken while my mother would hurl curses and abuses from the balcony above. Our maid Parul didi would try to tug me like one would tug an adamant, immovable cow. Teary eyed and sad, I used to reach my school with Parul didi and sit beside this certain girl who fed me apples during recess for an entire year when I was in Nursery. There was very little conversation between us and I don’t remember anything apart from the pieces of apple she gave me. After reaching home, I used to recite the rhymes that were taught to us in class and say one line in the end, “Ma, we don’t have school tomorrow. It’s a holiday.” Of course, it wasn’t always a holiday and the cycle continued.

I have seen the not-so-pleasant side of my mother multiple times. Some of them have been so extreme that I possibly cannot write about them here. There have been times when I have refused to do household chores or bring oil from the nearby departmental store. This has produced two kinds of results; one is that my mother gets a bit irritated and mutters under her breath without further action and the second is that she transforms into one angry human, spewing venom and sometimes throwing the only nearest thing that she can deem as a weapon. This has varied from chappals, brooms to moisturizer bottles and spoons. I was stressed most of the time during my PU years and as I was a science student, the prevailing atmosphere at home was stressful as well. My mother had all of her stress visible on her face as she contemplated my purpose in life in front of our neighbours and practically everyone who came to our house. My poor marks during tests in school didn’t help to the cause and my prevailing laziness in terms of everything else made things worst. My mother was totally dissatisfied with my existence and she used to repeat time and time again, “Why did I give birth to this good-for-nothing creature”. I could understand her existential questions. “At least study and get some marks man, we know you can’t do anything else anyway, So, at least be good in your studies. How hard can it be to be good in one thing?” she repeated the same for two years. It hardly changed anything. There were days when I used to wake up really late; waking up at 9.30 AM is the biggest sin any mortal can make in our household. My mother would be doing her kitchen chores and she would start with her morning ‘why-did-I-give-birth…’ chanting early in the morning, in a voice loud enough for me to be heard. Let’s be real, it is certainly not pleasant to wake up in the morning and hear your own mother curse about her decisions in life, especially when that decision is you yourself. It gives such a bad taste in your brain, the likes of which is equivalent to getting a whiff of vomit while walking on the road. On other days, she used to come to my room with a broom to sweep and howl in order to wake me up. I will describe how the scenario actually feels like as best as I can. Your mother barges in and starts shouting at you, the day is hot and humid and the first thing she does is to switch off the fan and you start sweating immediately. Maybe you have been already sweating. The vomit distaste of the brain has already set in and the first question that pops up in your mind after you wake up is “why on earth did I ever take up Science”. Your mother goes on to describe how Sunny who lives five houses away, goes to play cricket at 6 in the morning and is also preparing for his medical entrance exams while you are doing nothing, not even maintaining your health. She sweeps the room angrily while you choose to be adamant and stay on your bed. “Uthiso ne nai?!” she shouts at the top of her voice and threatens to call your father who is busy working in the room upstairs. You realise that things wouldn’t turn out well if the father gets involved so you make a move to get up but your mother isn’t convinced. She gets really angry by now and the broom comes crashing down on your bare legs which tears apart the remaining sleep that you had like mozzarella cheese is detached from a pizza when you take a bite. It just snaps away and all you are left with is a lasting burning sensation and a very bad start to the day. There have been times when I had stayed put even after she was done using her weapon, just as a sign of protest and there have been times when I have angrily snapped back at her. This happened to many times during my gruesome two years as a high school Science student. Sleeping and waking up on time is a big deal in our family and my parents still haven’t been comfortable with the idea that every individual has the right to sleep and wake up whenever he/she desires.

There is one more topic which irks my mother like anything. And that is me and my sister’s marriage. Time and time again, both of us have tried to show my mother reason that it might be alright for Brahmin people to marry non-Brahmins because we live in a modern time and old rules and ways should change. My mother is not okay with this ideology and once she told me angrily that she wouldn’t think twice before disowning me and giving away all of my father’s property to some charity or orphanage if I end up tarnishing the family name. She has cursed our generation, for us being “so modern” so as to forget our family values and culture. Above all, she believes that cell phones are the reason for this abomination of the mind and it will give all of us cancer. She has become a lot more liberal now but her stand on marriage remains more or less the same, especially when it comes to me.

“It’s only because of marriage that I had to leave my job, or else I would have been in a good post by now”, one can hear this line emerging every now and then in our household, mostly after my mother has had an argument with my father. This is the time when she reviews many of her life decisions like her marriage to my father, her deciding to give up her job. In the midst of all of that, she would turn towards me and blame me for my existence as well. If the maid is absent on such a day, she would be blamed as well. According to her, she was a teacher in some adult education school before her marriage but after the wedding was fixed, she had to leave her hometown and come to the sasuraal, which was situated some 250 kilometers away. The saddest part is that she never tried looking for a job again. Even in front of relatives, she has expressed this loss in her life as she mentally calculates the salary she would have been earning right now. Mother gets mad for the most trivial reasons nowadays, sometimes I feel like she is getting more and more short tempered with age and there’s nothing that can be done about it. “We come from a different era. Just like there is no point in giving manure to a matured tree, there is no point in giving me all your modern ideas okay”, she would say as a concluding remark to every argument. In a way, it is true.

 

A Childhood Curiosity

His mother always told him that boys seldom paid attention to their appearance. That, the dressing table was only meant for the ladies in the house while the men were occasional visitors who came to put a bit of moisturiser or comb their hair, whenever necessary. Men looked good the way they naturally were and didn’t spend time in front of the dressing table like women did, she remarked. It somehow created an air of mystery for our boy Philip here. The more his mother told him about the dressing table, the more he was intrigued to open all the individual drawers and peer into the secrets that they held. But alas, all the drawers were kept locked in the only wooden dressing table his house had. Apart from the regular cold creams, perfumes and combs that were kept outside, he couldn’t see the rest which were locked away safely. Fortunately, he went to his relatives’ house quite often. Thus, a childhood curiosity was born.

People usually do not pay attention to kids when they are drinking a cup of tea and munching on snacks. Usually, this was the time when Philip used to sneak into the bedrooms of his relatives’ house. Every bedroom had a dressing table by default, their appearances and configurations varied. Some were tall and made out of dark brown wood while others had a combination of wood and sun mica or even metal. Some had few drawers while others had many; all of them had one mirror which was the only similarity. Philip used to quietly open the drawers and marvel at the belongings inside. It had everything ranging from combs, cheap plastic bangles, kumkum and bindis, buttons and earrings, needles and threads, strands of hair to cotton balls, tablets and cough syrups, kajal, ear cleaning swabs.

There was a certain sweet smell which used to emanate from all these drawers. It was more of a damp, woody smell mixed with varnish that lined the walls of the drawer. Somehow, the contents inside lost their individual smells and got mixed with this smell giving the entire drawer one single, collective smell. Philip never took anything from all the drawers that he opened, he just used to look and poke around with the contents inside. Sure, he used to open the moisturizer bottles and perfumes to check what they smelt like, maybe use the perfume or deodrant once in a while if it was really good, but that was it. Sometimes, there were moisturisers having ingredients like Shea butter which smelt so good that Philip felt like eating a bit to see if they were actually sweet. But, he never did that because they were never sweet to taste. He was never caught during any of his inspections and always made sure that he kept things the way they were after he was done with everything.

There was always one drawer that was locked in every dressing table. When Philip was young and new in the vocation of opening drawers, he felt that the locked drawer had the most valuable secrets. He didn’t know what but he was very curious to know. At one time, he even felt that his mother hid all the cream biscuits in that drawer, considering the way in which he pillaged biscuits in the household. He still does though. But when he grew up a bit more, he got glimpses of that drawer’s contents whenever his mother used to get dressed to go out for occasions. Philip eventually came to know that the locked drawer contained jewellery which were precious and could not be kept out in the open or in unlocked drawers. As he grew older a bit more, he started to inspect the drawer’s contents in detail. It wasn’t a surprise for him that the drawer smelt the same like every other. It was just that the contents inside were of higher importance and demanded to be handle with care. Philip was conscious about this and always held everything with the utmost concentration. Sometimes, he used to put on his mother’s golden bangles which dangled awkwardly on his wrists. He used to feel the texture of those velvety red and purple square boxes inside which lay necklaces and other pendants.

Eventually, Philip grew up to become a young man and this childhood curiosity eventually got lost but what stayed with him was that woody smell. A close synonym for that smell would be musk probably.

 

Those deceiving paintings

I have had a track record of events not deceiving me. By deceiving, what I mean is that the events take place wherever they are designated to take place. It has never happened that I reach the venue to cover something and find out that the complete thing was a hoax and that there is no event happening at all. When I first saw the details of this event, I noticed the vague information that was put up on the newspaper. “Painting Exhibition – Gallery Third Eye (Till May 31st, 10:30 AM)”. There was a small thumbnail of what looked like a painting and apart from that no further detail was mentioned. Nevertheless, I decided to go and cover this. Painting exhibitions have been a personal favourite plus this was a gallery I hadn’t been to. I asked Vijeta ma’am if she knew about this gallery but she said no. Another thing which pricked me was the absence of the artist’s name. But I thought that perhaps this was an exhibition involving various artists or something like that.

After consulting uncle Google, I came to know that the gallery was situated in HSR Layout. Around 8.4 kilometers from Shanthinagar, so taking an auto was definitely out of the question. I searched for bus routes but that also turned about to be a complicated mess involving two bus changes at the least. I went for the cab apps and saw that it wasn’t going to come below 80 rupees. One way. I even tried to borrow the scooty that my landlord had but it didn’t have petrol and the honk wasn’t working. The day was hot, the sweat had started trickling down my spine and a slight irritation had already set in. Finally, I decided to go forward with taking a cab and packed my bags. I was confident that the event would provide sufficient material to write a decent piece.

After travelling for around 50 minutes, I reached this four storeyed building near the BDA Office in HSR Layout. The time was around 12.30 in the afternoon and I was pretty sure there would be very less attendees. After a bit of checking, I approached the lift and proceeded to the 2nd floor. The ground floor had a spectacle shop and a SAMSUNG mobile dealer. The second floor had a small boutique and on the other side rested Gallery Third Eye with a small banner that can easily miss your eye. Through the glass door, I could see the paintings but couldn’t see any humans. Above the door I saw a rectangular banner which said Hygiclean Autowash Detachable Bidets on italicised fonts. For a moment, I was unsure if I was in the right place. Perhaps, the exhibition was happening upstairs? I lingered outside for a moment thinking what to do. I went inside and saw an uncle peering into a computer screen while a fat bunch of papers lay beside him. Behind him were three white and gleaming commodes, magnificent spotless beings placed on raised platforms. I went and asked if any exhibition was happening here and he curtly replied no. The place only sold paintings. I told him about the newspaper clipping I saw and he seemed unsure as to what I was talking about. He worked for the commode business but was supervising the gallery as well, I concluded. I realised that the whole thing was a hoax and that no exhibition was taking place. Heck! This wasn’t even an art gallery! A second uncle appeared from behind the room carrying a cup of tea. I tried to veer away from my frustration by looking at the paintings and reached the end of the room. There lay a microwave oven and a coffee maker with a small wooden table and three chairs. There was a transparent Tupperware box and inside contained what looked like Saranna. Lunch for those uncles, I thought. The room was filled with panels, most of them featuring abstract artworks by artists I do not know about. Others included vibrant landscapes, a few portraits of women and Gautam Buddha. All of them were oil paintings on big wooden glass frames.

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Some of the artworks at display. Expensive, of course

Since there was no other thing to do, I decided to gather some information of the place. I hadn’t given up hopes about not creating a piece out of this hoax event yet. I went to the first uncle and asked him as to when this place was opened. Three years ago, came the reply and he went back to his peering. I asked him about the prices of the paintings and he told me to check the website, this time without peering up from the screen. I nodded and didn’t say anything more. That was the end of my information mining and I resumed looking at the paintings, clicking a picture or two occasionally. So, a reporting piece was out of the question and what lay was a feature-ish kind of a thing. Also, I was hungry so that had to be urgently tackled too. The commodes gleamed and I was thinking as to who does a commode business with a so-called art gallery? But then, people have used commodes as an example for modern art so I guess it goes with that.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968
Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) Source: http://www.tate.org.uk

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// I have come to realise that human touch is important. Being isolated for a long time messes up the psyche quite significantly. More than anything, you feel extremely bored and mundane. For the first few days, it feels quite peaceful to retract away from the general, everyday maddening crowd. But then, this retraction becomes sort of a permanent phase and that’s when you realise that this is not what you asked for. For me, periodical isolation is fine but a prolong state of that starts eating me up as you crave for some human company. Sure, I can immerse myself into all forms of technology and back-lit screens to fill the time up or work on writing a piece or get busy with some internship work but no matter how much you try to divert away from the fact that you actually want to hang out with your friends or just anyone for that matter and no one is actually available, all of your diversion methods become futile. Even the PC games that you love playing so much become unappealing. //

// My teacher told me to write about sounds that you hear in summer. The sound that I can mostly hear when it’s summer is the whirring of the fan above my head although I can hear it throughout the year. But I guess the sound matters more when it is summer. I also hear the sound of ACs when I walk in alleys or beside buildings from where the AC exhaust boxes jut out. The loud whirring sound is accompanied by occasional pouring of water from it. I used to hear the sound of the blowhorn of the Ice Cream vendor who came on a small three wheeler with a box attached to the rear side in the afternoons when I was back home in Tezpur, and how the kid in front of our house always threw tantrums whenever he came. I also remember how the Ice Cream vendor used to deliberately slow down in front of our house as a result. I remember how people sighed and moaned whenever there was a sudden power cut and the entire area was momentarily filled with darkness until some of the backup generators came on. But the world used to be so calm during that flash of a moment of total darkness. //