Thursday, February 4, 2016

AUROVILLE and my Art Musings



When I reached Auroville on 12th Dec, 2015, my bank account showed limited money. I had spent on framing my art-work, on transporting them and now was almost in a financial breakdown. I didn’t even have enough money to print catalogues for this first solo show of mine that I looked forward to for an entire year. Kala Kendra, the gallery in Auroville was providing my lunch and breakfast and co-sponsoring my accommodation. I just had the minimum amount to roam around in the Sun and be happy.

To be on the safer side, I had asked help from my parents, in case there is a financial emergency and the shame of it was eating the core of me.  This was the state in which I moved to Auroville. Needless to say with so much pressure that the relaxed, calm looking faces of the visitors there were clashing with my inner state and aggravating the inner turmoil in me.

First Impression
“It’s a place to chill and have sex.” A friend had said.
“It can be a very disturbing place for artists.” An artist had said.
“It takes time to understand Auroville.” Somebody had said.

And I was lost. By the evening how it gets so dark with lack of streetlights there, that dark was the state in me. For an entire year everyone had questioned me, “Why do you want to exhibit in Auroville, why not Mumbai or Delhi?” I had answered,” For appreciation. People there would understand. I know I will not make any money.”

And now I was even in a doubt that sacrificing my financial shame what I came looking here for I would even get that minimum artistic benefit.

“Its ok. You have wasted your money. Your time can still be saved! You planned it for 1 month here! Cancel the exhibition and go back to Delhi. Do it properly there. Mistakes happen. Rectify it in time.” One me told to me.

“Wait, you deserve a break too. Now that you are already here accept it! Forget about the exhibition. You made a mistake. Let it happen. You can still add that to your resume. Just help yourself switch to the relax mode. It’s sunny and nice here by the beach. You have worked hard for an entire year. Revive your energy so that you can work harder when you are back in Delhi.” Added another part of me.

The Inauguration
“Inaugurations here are not that impactful. So don’t get disheartened if very less people walk in. But later people will flow in.” The gallery had said.

At night I cried.
I could see how stupid I was. My parents gave me the best education. I can have a great job and earn money. I dismissed everything. For one year I locked myself in a room and painted. They all said I was stupid. I knew I was right. But now they won. I really am stupid.
How do I now face my own stupidity.

Towards morning, I had got a little sleep. And in the middle of my sleep, there was a tune, some colours, a flow, some music…

I woke up to a wonderful sound of flute, so soothing.
At breakfast, I met a new visitor, a musician, a flutist. He just moved in to my next room and did his regular riyaz in the morning.

“I would like to play in your inauguration.” He said. My eyes twinkled with gratitude.
“I am an artist too. I have to do shows in many places. If sometimes you feel the place is not getting you the best, you have to make the best of the least it can give you.” The musician over the morning tea said to me. And as I sipped into my tea I breathed in a new light of hope that morning.

It was an amazing inauguration. As unique, as unpredictable, as soothing and as moving as Auroville itself is.

The visitors
Ok so the start was good. Now just be there and talk to the few people that walk in. Not much promotion is done except for the few posters that get stuck among hundreds of other posters fighting for attention and space in the boards. But whatever comes, make the most of it.

A lady of Indian origin who has now settled abroad walked in. She came out of the gallery. Her eyes were moist. She held my hands and looked into my eyes with water in hers. 2 pairs of eyes met. One had doubt and one had assurance.
“Thank you for doing such wonderful work.” She said.
“Thanks to you.” I murmured.
The cicle was complete.

There was no stopping since then. People walked in from nowhere. Wonderful words tumbled down their mouth and into the comment book.
These were not the intellects. These were the people who had understanding. These were exactly the kind of people looking for whom I could put my last coin and bet the entire world to come to Auroville.

They walked in strangers and went out friends. That special space being in which I created my work, they could see and recognize. It was sharing that same space that made us familiar. I was hugged, kissed and blessed.
I was so overwhelmed that I was beginning to say, “This is even much more than what I had expected!”

The clash
You would think what is the trouble now. You have finally found what you went there looking for. People were understanding and appreciating. So, now you must be happy.

But to my surprise my nights still didn’t get sleep.

Wonderful visitors walked in from all over the world. Like ocean was their knowledge and like fragrant air their presence. Each one was a soul with so much light that I was ignited each time. I talked about my work. I talked about me. We talked about the Universe. It was much more than two humans interacting. It was like a dance of light through the eternal tunnel of life and death and coming across that familiar dance and grooving to the moves with familiarity. When (s)he spoke I knew those sentences, When I did (s)he nodded with smile.

Each visitor was like a dancer I met in that tunnel and danced under the blazing, sparkling spotlight, that flash from which the Big Bang must have occurred and split us apart to only remember that light.

However, through all these overwhelming talks and encounters, I could see I was growing distant from myself. The more I talked about my work, the more my work stopped talking to me.

Then I reached a point when I no more felt anything. The music had stopped. The dance was over. When I looked at my work sitting at the gallery I could see a rectangular piece hanging there waiting to be sold, asking to be seen. There was now no more magic.

The promotion
The Christmas break had come. Gallery was closed. I got a chance to breathe outside the gallery once again and thought how I can make use of this time in my favour productively.

Few people had come to the gallery and said, “Why more promotion is not done of this? Such wonderful work is here. We were lucky to have just dropped in. There must be many who have missed. Why don’t you promote it more in the Visitor’s Centre? Too many people there are waiting to have amazing experience as this.”

I utilized my break now to see if I could sort this. I went to the lady who was managing the Centre and before I could say anything much she said, “Ok. So you are that artist. I have heard about your exhibits.”

Do you remember the stories you read in your childhood when somebody would walk, ocean will part to make ways? Those are true stories.

An invisible force was helping me. Was again and again putting me through quarrels with myself and again and again was helping me. I was feeling a bit ashamed asking for my own promotion. And I didn’t even have to ask it. I was still in my mind trying to structure the sentence which will help me sound humble and still work out a logical solution to highlight me. You would not believe, I didn’t even have to speak it.

She said, “We can do more for your promotion. Look at those 2 trees, you can place your posters there and one here on this slab, so that more people can get informed about it.”
She walked with me to the security and informed and I thanked her and ran like a little child excited to get more posters printed from the gallery.

Was I then sleeping peacefully?
I live in a Wonderland. In my world the trees talk, the flowers whisper, the mermaids sing.

In my world the trees are not long wooden slabs, you see. They are my friends. We converse regularly. As I advanced the tree with my poster and stuck, I touched the bark. I had a closer look on the cracks, the crisscrosses, the hard outer crust and the soft inner stock within.

I looked at the tree again and again as many times as I passed. My friend was helping me promote my work. We were happy.

Whose friend are you, Tree?
And in the evening after my dinner as I was leaving the place, I looked at the tree. The poster was gone! I asked the security guard. He said, a lady has removed it. She does not like poster on the tree.

I don’t know how simple or complex this situation seems to you. To me it was a slap right on my cheek.

Looks like I was not the only Alice roaming in the Wonderland. There was another Alice who is worried about the feelings of the trees. She has decided that the tree is not feeling too good with a piece of paper stuck on it. And she felt she was a better friend to the tree and had the authority over her friend to remove it.

“I have put the poster here with permission!” I screamed, “If you want to remove it, you have to take permission at least!” I wanted to howl and cry. Somebody had put a dagger right through the most sensitive part in me.

“These are common in Auroville, Aparajita.” The cafeteria staff who by now was my friend told me. “You still have one poster on the slab. Forget about it.”

But I didn’t forget.
It was not as simple as it looks like. The slap went much deeper. It shook my wonderland. It put my entire friendship with this Universe I had believed without doubt in a doubt. From that very faith had come my work you see.

The disconnection
That night I cried the loudest. I cried like a dog over whom a vehicle had passed squeezing the bones. I screeched.

Next morning was a Sunday and I had booked for my meditation in Matrimandir. What a day, I thought. I had booked thinking I will go there to connect with myself. And I am here with the biggest fight, in a total mess, broken and tangled, shattered and smashed.

The very world I thought was my playground was denied to me. Isn’t this what religion is like? In Ayodhya somebody is fighting thinking he is doing Ram a great favour. Another fanatic is fighting thinking he is pleasing Allah by defending. Each one of them are thinking he is a great soul working as a God’s instrument in the favour of Almighty. And nobody really knows if God feels or doesn’t feel anything about it.

The exact same situation was with me and the lady and the tree. I was in this scenario just another fanatic. I had all my life thought I was friend of the tree. She has also felt the same probably. And either of us are unaware of what the tree has to say about it. 

As the bus took me to Matrimandir, on the way I looked at all the trees. There was something alive for me in this Universe. Today for the first time I looked at it like it was dead. These were all my fantasies. I am just another fanatic.

As I sat in Matrimandir, I could feel I died. There used to be a poetry inside me. Lots of music. Lots of magic, talking trees, singing birds, playful bees. They are all dead. The entire spiritual world is a gimmick. It’s another hallucination of the mind. All that I have worked on is stupid. What I called “The Truth” is not true.

The hatred
Next day my eyes were swollen. I wiped again and again to put my eye-liner. I have to now wear my bindi and saree and look pretty and be at the gallery. I am a prostitute. I have to talk nicely to sell myself. Something that was once very personal and sensitive to me is now my business, indifferent to me.

My "clients" had come to visit. They were full of appreciation. I nodded and tried to sync. Spoke of my work and spiritual journey but didn’t feel any of it. I was faking orgasms now. I was in business. My emotions had nothing to do with it.

As I looked at my work, I was so much filled with hatred, I wanted to take them down and break, tear and spit on it. Too many lines. Too many forms. Too many words. Too much intellect.

I indeed am the prostitute. I am that fanatic who feels nothing. Just had loads and loads of thoughts to blabber upon. "If you had really felt anything, you would have represented silence. It would have been a blank canvas" The new me was telling the older me.

And I hated myself. I even hated to be inside my body.

The first sale
Though I was going through a storm within and my own work had stopped working for me, it still continued to work for others it seems. People were still full of appreciation and it had started to sell now.  

I made my first ever receipt!

Even in my distress over the rainy, stormy days there was a rainbow that the first sale had brought and I wanted to celebrate. Among different visitors often some people would come to ask me out for lunch or dinner. I accepted each one with gratitude. An Italian guy had come that day.

In a place far away from my known ones, where I had no old friends, I thought this would be my friend here with who I could celebrate the joy of my first sale of painting.

After we ate, I offered to pay the bill. “I will treat you. Its the first earning from the exhibition.” I said. This money was holy to me. Spending even a coin from it was priceless. And then I looked at his face.

It wasn’t the face of a friend. It was the face of a stranger who met another stranger and was thinking, so stupid of her to want to pay the bill. May be she has too much money. But what do I have to lose. I just save some money from my dinner tonight, thats it.

He just shrugged. Indifferently.

He didn’t say, “Hey! No way! Lets share the bill and we can still celebrate!”

He didn’t say, “Okay. You can treat me now. Tomorrow lunch is mine then.”

He didn’t say, “Ah, come on. It’s your first earning. Treasure it. I will pay.”

Those are the sentences my friends would have said. And I would have still insisted and paid.

He just shrugged. And I paid.
We went for movie then. On the way back he was patting my thigh on the bike wanting to check if more treat was lined up that night.

I was as cold as the night sky. I couldn't give any more. I have given through my work and am empty now. I had given through my good spirit and I was stupid. I was a prostitute. It was now hurting my flesh to give.

The friends
Even in all these fights, chaos, struggles and quarrels, I made some wonderful friends. And these were the most genuine friends because these were made during my bad times, when I was not a soothing person to be with. They listened to my nag. They wiped my tears. They consoled and restored my strength.

We started the days together, met at breakfast in the guest-house with loud cheerful “Good mornings” that made the Sun look brighter every passing day. At night we would again meet at the dining hall before we went to bed and discussed each one’s travel stories.

One such conversation was of “the moonlight celebration”.  Since I had to be at the gallery the whole day, I hardly attended any events. But this one was luring and tempting me.

When they came back we sat in the dining hall and I was curious to hear of their experience.

I had assumed, they would sing and dance by the Moonlight. And so had they assumed too! If you would look at the sky that night, anybody in their “right mind” (the lunatic mind) would want to sing and dance to celebrate.

But they were made to sit in a hall and someone read out verses from Mother’s texts. Each participant was then made to read a verse as others listened.

Pheww! I sighed.
Another spiritual entity is being religified!
If only you understood what Mother had to say, what Jesus had to say, what Muhammed had to say, what Buddha had to say or what Sri Aurobindo had to say, you would have been irresistibly dancing and singing by the moonlight!

Great people did not just give us texts. They gave us philosophy. If you knew what it meant you would be breathing it, putting it out in the soil while you walked, curving it out in your strokes while you painted or dusted it out while you cleaned.

The boring, dull sentences that come out of your mouth starting with, "What Mother said…", "What Rishi Aurobindo said…" would have come out as, "While I sat by the beach that day I felt…" or "When I walked in the Moonlight I felt…". And you would have been surprised to know what Mother or Rishi Aurobindo or Jesus or Moses had to say were the same as what you have to say. It is that common song all souls know and want to say.

“Well, lets celebrate the moonlight then!” A guest house friend had said.
“Yes. Lets celebrate!” The others joined in.

And very soon we were a team. A wonderful, insightful, amazingly powerful, soulful, loud and cheerful…yet peaceful, vibrating team.

A unique instrument was brought. Wonderful was its sound. Mild and soothing like the moonlight itself. As he played, we danced. We danced under the open sky, proceeding towards the farm in the middle of the night.

It was a mysterious madness. We celebrated like fools the stupidity of being. The randomness, the meaninglessness. We celebrated being there together from different countries and finding each other out of mere chances, each one carrying the happiness and sadness, scars and victories, boundaries and fears and freedom. We celebrated each other’s company and warmth.

We hugged each other fondly and passionately before we left that night for bed.

The break up at Matrimandir
I had felt my spiritual reservoir was drying up everyday. Since that was the place my work had come from, I was even thinking this was the beginning of my journey as an artist and ironically this is also the very end.

I have seen so many artists who keep repeating themselves. Once upon a time they were a breathing soul and now the soul has left them to imitate their own past, in their own dead body to rejoice their once living self.

As I thought of this I felt respect for all the artists in the world, of any medium, any style, any subject, in any country, in any endeavour. What a difficult task it is to nurture the artist self. What a demanding procedure. What a thorough cleansing of the "self".

I still continued to struggle. I needed to align myself back. I needed to restore faith in me. I needed to believe beyond the mundane again. I needed to meditate.

I had asked if I could come to Matrimandir every morning before my gallery opened. The people there had seen me crying in and crying out and probably had known the emergency I am in to access this place. They gave me a permission before the regular timing to sit at the lotus pond for a week everyday before I left.

Every morning I went there like a mad woman begging the Universe to once again make me the medium and instrument.

“Do not leave me.
Do not leave me.
Please do not leave me.”
I repeated again and again and again as tears rolled down my cheeks everyday.

As I closed my eyes, I could see my inner door has been shut. Disturbing thoughts like darts were now shooting rapidly to the door with bangs.

There were thoughts and noise and glimpses and pictures. None got a chance to establish itself. My brain had become so receiving and tender, it was receiving too much from everything around. It had a story to tell about the bird it saw this morning. It had a message to decode from the fight of the dogs in the afternoon. It had perceived something interesting in the lady I chatted with last night. It had a brilliant idea it wanted to share. It had a plan. It had a goal. It had a complaint. It had a thanksnote. It just had gathered too much from the surrounding!

As I sat there helplessly to be recovered from this situation, unable to decide it is boon or a bane, one image from the thousands of images that criss-crossed my brain felt very facsinating.

It was an image of Radha holding the feet of Krishna from behind as he was moving ahead, pleading him not to leave. It flashed in my mind in the form of a calendar art. Those thousands of calenders of Radha-Krishna you see hanging in the shops and houses given as gifts by medicine or clothes store to increase their customers. Those have the same colour combination and style very typical, as if one artist has done all the calenders of this kind. The image I saw was by that artist.

When I thought of this later, I smiled. Its so funny the way our brain works. Even in that distressful situation, this was like a joke designed by my brain to tickle me.

Later, for days after days I sat there by the lotus pond every morning feeling nothing. Even when I felt disturbed, I still felt something. There were even days I felt neither love, nor hatred. Those were my most frightening days.

Pondicherry
By the last day in Auroville, my state was so bad that I had thought I would become mad now. I had even taken a sedative from a friend thinking my body now needs external help to relax. I forced it to sleep. And that was the state in which I left Auroville towards Pondicherry for 2 other Exhibitions there, one after the other exhausting the last nerve cell I had left working in me.

I had sold 4 paintings by then. Met wonderful, interesting people. Beloved India, my brand was beaming with opportunities.

In Pondicherry, the beach was right in front of the gallery. I went and sat in the evenings. I avoided too much talking and made excuses from dinner or lunch meets to my surprise. I loved meeting and talking to people. I would never refuse or run away from an opportunity to know another individual being kind to me but I needed to be left alone now. I needed time for my brain to one by one say to me all that it wanted to say and was fighting.

I listened. I allowed each one to speak. I appreciated the effort each of my senses took to pick messages from things it saw or heard to inform me.

Gradually I realized, what I had thought as disturbance was actually a knot of wonderful thoughts. I just had to entangle it.

I had finally began to calm down.
In total by now I sold 7 paintings. Few were being enquired still.

I was once again humble with appreciation as each visitor came. They kissed my hand and hugged me, wanted to take photograph, wanted to give me gifts, wanted to invite me home and wanted to share the stories and hear from me.

I looked at my work and loved again. I was full of gratitude to the Universe for using me. I was overwhelmed with the mystery.

I was so full of love towards everything and everything responded so lovingly to me. The traffic police would compliment me. The hotel owner would smile at me. While I waited for an auto, somebody random on his bike would come and offer to drop me.

My pot had been empty. It is again filling up. I thought I was done with giving and was a beggar now. I was again getting rich. I could once again meet people. I could once again listen clearly. I could once again dance and sing and love the trees.

I could once again sleep.

Love finally!
After the end of my exhibitions, I went to Matrimandir again for the final visit. My mind had organized its thoughts. I listened to each one and said thanks gratefully. As they gradually left I entered the silence quite briskly. Very soon we were in a state so deep. It was like a magnet. Like an embrace with the Universe. Like a kiss, lips locked. Like sex. This indeed is tantra. The two counterparts unite. The creator and the creation like Radha and Krishna. Shiv and Shakti.

And then I met those wonderful people for the last time before I left who I had learnt so much from during my stay in Auroville. Each conversation with them opened hundreds of doors within my consciousness and made it scorching bright. I was flooded with light and clean. I was grateful for everything. I could now sense Auroville had wrenched me and washed me. Through the disturbances and happiness and distress it made me an evolved person ready for the next step, for the next series, I could already see.

I was an individual who could now see more, feel more, hear more. I met the same person at the coffee table who I had met earlier as we were both trying to figure out what Auroville hype is. As I had my coffee with him I told him as someone else had initially told me,

“It takes time to understand Auroville….”

***Often people don’t know what the true Auroville is.
The real Auroville is not its buildings or its windmills or its trees. The real Auroville is the silent search for the invisible diamond.

Ask the Banyan, he will tell you.*** Taken from the book “What is this Auroville” by Jyoti Khare and Christine Devin

1 comment:

Mellow Muse said...

Such a complete repertoire of anyones state of mind who is in trouble and disillusion.
Gotta love the honesty with which you've poured it all out.
Patience and reeling with the time is probably all what it takes, to make some or get some perspective.
Would love to take you out for a coffee to my fav place.