Mumbai’s T2: Neighbour’s envy, India’s Pride
Pardon me if I sound extra proprietorial about T2. Simply put, it is breath taking and awe inspiring! There are reasons for this. Of course, as a pucca Mumbaikar, I am a legit stakeholder and all that. But beyond local pride and parochial chest thumping, lies something else. And that is friendship! There! I have stated my interest plainly and openly. Full, frank and final disclosure, as it were. The genius behind the spectacular art displayed at our T2 , is my friend Rajeev Sethi. We have known each other for close to 40 years. It was evident even back then, that this was no ornery chhokra boy flirting with the arts. He may have been hand picked by cultural Czarina Pupul Jayakar , and exposed to the best of the best that India had to offer . That priceless grooming was his good fortune. Pupul’s impeccable eye may have helped Rajeev ‘see’ better. But all that followed ( like the opulent Festivals of India hosted in several cities of the world ) was a reflection of his own incredible vision. His passion. And his profound understanding of all that is beautiful about India…. and the universe. It is this finely honed sensibility that finds expression in the dazzling T2. Rajeev has created a palace of rich and inspiring art works that narrate our stories back to us…. and then convey them to the rest of the world. This is a monumental accomplishment that would not have been possible had a certain Sanjay (GVK) Reddy not invested his full faith in Rajeev.
On Thursday evening, as night fell over Mumbai, and a convoy of cars drove up the brand new ramp leading up to T2, all those of us who were blessed to be taken on a conducted tour by Rajeev himself, drew in our collective breaths at the first sight of the magnificent structure. Thousands of white peacocks magically danced before our eyes as Rajeev explained the architects’ tribute to India’s national bird. It is a motif that is repeated in different and innovative forms across 80,000 square feet. The walk through, leisurely as it was, could do no justice to the monumental ambitions of the art project. It will take several trips and many long hours to appreciate the depth of what has been conceptualized by Rajeev and his dedicated team of painters, craftspeople, artisans, designers from across the length and breadth of India. A better showcase for our heritage and skills would be hard to find. The numbers tell their own story. With an expected footfall of 40 million visitors annually, the T2 will attract more attention than all the best museums in the world put together, the Louvre included. And this much I can confidently tell you…. a lot of flights will be missed by passengers mesmerised by the art on parade.
But this is not about T2 alone. It is about Rajeev – a man who opened my eyes to beauty and beyond. Who made me ‘see’ so much. Who, in fact , taught me a new way of seeing! Decades ago,on a trip to Saurashtra, he introduced me to new words, a new language. In a cramped , modest village home, his eyes accurately picked out an abandoned, grime covered ghadaa. “ Look at the patina,” he instructed. All I could see was a layer of dirt. He wiped off the muck… and sure enough what emerged was a gleaming ‘objet’. It could have been crafted out of beaten gold. But it was brass. I hadn’t heard of that delicate word ‘patina’ at the time. I haven’t forgotten it since!
It is the same gift of seeing the extraordinary in what we lesser mortals may dismiss as ordinary, that continues to define Rajeev’s vision today. As he pointed out intricate details of the many, complex installations that narrate the story of Mumbai in so many wondrous ways, he left our group enthralled and enchanted. We were effortlessly drawn into his world. A world that honours our artistic traditions going back centuries. And does so in ways so innovative… so futuristic…one can only marvel, bow down and say ‘Dhanyavad!”.
For all the multiple Indian and International awards, recognitions and accolades that have come his way, the essential Rajeev remains the same. To me, he is still an adorable imp. I love the child in him (even though he is a grand- father, now). And I know it is the purity of that childlike curiosity that continues to drive him to explore… to keep searching for that incredible something which perhaps nobody else can find…but the wonderful thing about Rajeev is that once he finds it, he joyfully shares his delight with the world. It is this act of unconditional generosity that makes him who he is.
Rajeev Sethi, Mumbai owes you a big one.