Monday, April 15, 2013

Art.... and the woman!

I just love the architecture of this book display in Chennai!
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This appeared in The Week...

                                         Art and the woman…
I met a fascinating European lady at a friend’s home recently. As we got talking ( after I had taken in her carelessly sophisticated and very arty appearance), I was delighted to discover her true calling in life – she is an art student at fifty plus! You might say there are thousands like her. Main, non! This fiery and fabulous lady of a certain vintage ( I am guessing she is closer to fifty than forty) has made India her home for the past seven years. And is in no hurry to get back to the country of her birth.Since she is married to a successful businessman ( also European) , and they have three grown up children, the former art student lurking within her, pushed her to explore possibilities to work towards a Master’s degree in Mumbai. She decided to enroll as a student at one of  Mumbai’s oldest and most prestigious art schools. This is where the fun starts. She was told it was “impossible” since the school did not accept foreigners. She argued her case with the dean asking him why she should be discriminated against and debarred when so many Indian students routinely attend art schools in Europe! Her point was well taken… and voila!She was in! Trouble was all the other students were much, much younger… and they weren’t in a hurry to make friends with a foreign woman , old enough to be their mom! It started with resentment and hostility since they believed she had deprived a local youngster of a seat. Then came a turning point. She had observed the many subtle and not so subtle ways through which teachers were targeting certain students, especially girls. And she decided to speak up. The authorities were red faced when she pointed out several irregularities and inconsistencies towards those being victimized and asked to stand outside the classrooms like they were errant school kids. After a thundering lecture from her on human dignity and the rights of students,  the teachers backed off. And the students cheered! But that still did not mean she was accepted.  She had to jump over countless cultural barricades and bridge the language gap first. Eventually, and after excelling in the final exams, she managed to make friends!
 Interestingly enough, her experience back home was not all that different! Once she got her Master’s degree from Mumbai, she started attending specific art courses at an art school in her old city. Same story. She laughs, “ If anything, it was a little worse, since the students were far more direct , blunt and un- diplomatic. They told me “you are too old to be in art school and you are a woman! Why do you want to take art classes?” The implication being, “Why don’t you stay home and look after your husband and kids and leave art to the young ”. Did she not feel offended? Not at all, she grinned. She had anticipated a shutting of doors and had decided her passion for art superseded all such reservations. She loves what she does and understands why her decision to pursue art must seem puzzling to those half her age. But that doesn’t deter her in the least. She recalls her own father’s lack of support when she had expressed a desire to join art school as a young girl. He had refused to support her decision way back then, leaving her filled with resentment and longing. Today, she is in a position to follow her heart and enjoys the full support of her family. As to why she picked the art school in Mumbai to do her Master’s degree, her explanation was still more interesting.  She said art is still taught in the classical way in India, using live models and a traditional approach. It is difficult to find that in Europe these days. Art schools cannot afford to pay models and the methods are a bit too futuristic for her taste!
The good part of her pioneering effort at the Mumbai art school is that it has led to a change in the admissions’ policy. Today, there are over fifteen foreigners studying at the institute. And the bureaucratic atmosphere there is sufficiently relaxed to allow a far more liberal, relaxed and modern atmosphere throughout the campus. She remembers her early days there when students would want to bum ciggies off her and would ask naïve questions about the permissiveness of the West.Today, she is a part of the fraternity, she belongs to the art community in Mumbai and is totally immersed in what she loves – her own artistic journey that refuses to recognize borders, gender, biases, age. And to think she had to travel to Mumbai for that! Lovely!

20 comments:

Zeeshan Zaveri said...

amazing

Ritu Nair said...

My story is somewhat similar... I started learning Kathak at the age of 37 (little late as people start as early as 5). It took me 6 months to convince the teacher that I could do it. After much persuasion and pleadings, she agreed to have me on trial basis for a week. Even though she was pleased, my fellow students( eldest one was 15 and youngest was 6) refused to even talk to me except two(in a class of 16) who would tell me about their school. It took me one year to be friends with everyone and it has been 4 years since. They now miss my presence when I do not attend the class. May God bless them.

Natesh Subhedar said...

nice read :)

TSV Hari said...

I can give two historical examples of this from India.

Acclaimed as one of India's greatest classical poets and dramatists Kālidāsa [probably lived in 5 century CE] was believed to have been a goatherd. He was sicked on to a conceited princess by a set of angruy suitors. Upon realising what had happened, the woman spurned the man and ordered him to return if he ever became erudite. The tale goes that he was blessed with linguistic aplomb by Hindu Goddess Kāli. He called himself her servant - or Dāsa. The poet's works are legendary.

In the 18th century, there was this man Ram Shastri - who was a wastrel brahmin youth till his middle teens and a near illiterate.

All of a sudden, the chap took a liking for education, reportedly went to Benares [then a famed destination for knowledge seekers] and returned home a scholar.

His works are considered to be the most erudite in the fields of the Hindu Advaita philosophy that has been compared with the Koran and the Bible.

Ambika said...

I think the lady deserves a HUG. Good for her! And, for several others like her who are doing what they love - not with "I give a damn attitude"; but with, "Maybe we can be friends attitude"

Suzanne Bernert said...

I love your stories..any time I come across one, I want to tell you..so here it is!!!

Anita Jeyan Sandeep said...

Never too late to realize a passion :-)

simple girl..... said...

this is so inspiring :) hats off to her

Ravi Patel said...

Well done to the European lady! Very inspiring stuff. Some come to India for a nobel and enlightening cause and to better themselves and yet many come here to experience the joys (more like the evils )of Islamic sex. A Scottish friend recently mailed me this shameful and terrible tale of Islamist debauchery, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph UK. Wonder where the forever sermonising and often Hindu bashing Javed and bibi Shabana, the other Javed and his begum Terrible Teesta, their fellow closet islamist, like them masquerading as egalitarianist, Shabnam, are all hiding from this one. No outrage let alone any demonstrations at such religious sanctioned lasciviousness. For some, when it comes to nocturnal lust and libido, ethics and morality can go down the sewer! Read on the sorry tale.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/9993453/Teenager-exposes-Indias-one-month-wives-sex-tourism.html


SHIVANGI RAGHUVANSHI said...

Woman can change women .
That's what it is all about
nice one mam....

clickpeclick said...

a++ for art and women i read it and like+ for this post.

Reflections said...

Loved the post:-)).

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Inspirational

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ramana venkata kalakata said...

great uropian lady
ramana

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