“I’m just an insect
Trying to get out of the night”
Certain experiences manifest as blessings and one such experience last year was my trip to Varanasi. It was my first time visiting the Ganges, and as I walked by the side of the river for the first time, everything seemed still, yet charming and timeless. The morning was foggy and cold, the winter light came through the clouds greeting the river and the massive flocks of migratory birds flying really low around, all the boatmen played before my eyes like a scene from a film.
As I walked from one ghat to the next, taking in all that I possibly could, I was drawn to an old man sitting by this boat, and instantly knew he had a story to tell me. Banwari Lal, looked at me and asked if I would like to go across the river and offered to take me in his neatly painted green and yellow boat.
Dressed in a blue and white checked lungi and a brown jacket/coat Banwari Lal gently maneuvered this boat and brought it to shore. Asking me to step in slowly while it rocked and lapped in the river. He was such a gentleman and as he pulled the oars of his boat he told me about his relationship with his boats that have stayed on the banks of the Ganga at Prabhu Ghat for the last 32 years. He and his boats have crossed the river, floated back and forth from one bank to the other, witnessing the transforming life of people and moments that pass through the ghats, year after year.
He told me how every season he witnesses new changes, makes a few friends some of them re-visit while some don’t, but he and his boats remain a constant. He told me how he is driven by the art of rowing and that is what has kept him going. He continues to manually row his boat, despite the fact that many boats are now motorized. Banwari Lal chooses to continue to row through his journey with grace.
Varanasi – December, 2014.
May 2013 came with some overwhelming surprises one of which was a much awaited residency at Khoj in Delhi as part of the Peers 2013 Artist in residence.
A packed Suitcase with my essentials and a bunch of art material, and I was ready to begin my month of discovery at Khoj.
My work so far has always drawn me into the intricate details of the narratives that exist deeper within the lives of people I see on a daily basis, in the citys i have traveled to over the past few years, I have watched, observed, interacted with and documented the lives and work of practitioners of pre-modern. that dot the cityscape, jotting down ideas that I have later woven into narratives of contemporary urban street culture into my work.
During my time at Khoj, I explored the urban street culture at Shadipur Depot which is home to an assortment of street artists and performers, from singers to puppeteers and magicians.
I interacted with a slew of Shadipur’s singers, puppeteers and magicians, spending my time documenting their work, their lives and their home. The work that I developed at Khoj resulted in a translation of my experiences in Shadipur on to a wall in my studio, which played the role of a page in my visual diary.
Matchboxes, as faded bits of memories help translate the experiences through my interactions with the people of Khirki Village.Marking patterns of my memory on the wall of my studio, was like unfolding stories.
how and when does an experience become a memory?
Part 2 of Cult of the street:
Barbers shops speak of beautification of the body, sexuality, male power, and vanity depicted through the curiosity as an on-looker/passer by, to something that is considered to be otherwise private. This is where i began exploring the rich traditions of the Naayi /Hajaam’s of Mumbai city.
My exploration led to representations of what I saw, in a mix of different mediums.Through photographs, drawings, video and sound installation.
In the arsenal of your average Naayi: Blade clippers, trimmers, shears, razors for styling, straight razors, clipper combs: for all-purpose cutting and tapering, for free-hand clipper and clipper-over-comb work, to create outlines and trim beards; to cut, layer, thin, blend, shave. Brushes – round, paddle, vent, combs, oil, gels, foams, mousses, spray bottles, curling irons, blow driers…The stories of the barber are sometimes poetic, sometimes dark, and always poignant.
The Cult of the Street is a series of visual diaries that documents the ‘professional underbelly’ of the Indian city. It is an essay in mixed media, exploring the Naayi and the Had-vaid through photograph, drawing, video, sculpture and sound. The stories of the bone setter and the barber are sometimes poetic, sometimes dark, and always poignant.
Poster Design By Mana Dhanraj.