I cross Adoni, a small town- dusty, a little disorganised and a bit chaotic. I wonder how would it have been 50 years ago when my mother was born in this town. The land in this part of Andhra has some black soil and red soil, hinting towards the change in States, Karnatak to Andhra.
Its 12:30 when we cross this area… All the villages between Adoni and Gutti are slow… Old men stretched out on the Kadapa slabs of the small shacks that sell nick-nacks, food and that of mechanic shops.Young men sit together playing cards.
In the fields, there are few men and women at work. But one thing quite intriguing in this part is that, there are quite a few manual ploughs that are pulled by the bullocks and with one man to direct the bulls, I saw two men to the left and right of the plough minding the bulls and a women standing on the plough.
This painting is done on a canvas with acrylic pain using palette knife mostly and some brush. This painting came to me as I contemplated on the times we live in which is quite ‘advanced’ in many aspects but the basic longing of the being within still remains the same as that of any other human beings’ centuries ago. Only that the times we live in have become graver than the past. This graveness is the greys in the background.
All the bars in green, yellow and blue are representative of the digital data. The white stroke outlining the bars is the analog that these bars try to translate into digital, binary, the zeros and ones. The red lines ( thin ones above the bars) is time. I read it as past to present to future from left to right. Each half circle above this red timeline is representative of an individual. The doubled up are two individuals, trying to complete their halfness through their relationship with another half. All of these aim to become a whole , and feel complete by some means. Many of them do it unconsciously and some consciously….The full that they long to become is represented by the red dot on top of the canvas.
This painting is made by mopping a paper ( made up of cloth fabric) with water first and allowing colours to drop off the brush on to the paper and just take their course. These colours ( that are individuals) think foolishly that ‘they’ decide their course of life, unaware of the invisible factors ; just like the invisible layer of water; that determine their course.
Or should I call it Life? 🙂
This is how society and its individuals look in my mind. The brown color in the background is the social fabric- the norms, ethics, rules,regulations and morals on the basis of which a society is run. The society just like the dense brown color is heavy and weighing.
The dots are the individuals and the lines are their interactions with other individuals. These lines were allowed to form by tilting the paper and allowing the color to flow. Which ever direction you turn the paper, the lines will flow predominantly in one direction. This sort of regimented flow and interactions among individuals is dictated by the society, most times without the conscious knowledge of the individuals that make the society.
This painting is made on a handmade paper with flower petals and few stocks as a part of the paper’s original surface.I have added red to the already existing petals of the paper and made it more red. Along with that I have also painted more red petals on plain parts of the paper. I have also made the stocks greener and added more stocks with my brush.
Inspiration for this painting is a book I am reading – The social history of the the Deccan by Richard M Eaton.In that book,the author says how history of the Deccan region of India is not as dense as that of North India due to lack of “enduring geopolitical centre” in this geography especially between 13th and 19th century.
And this paper with petals and stock in its basic fabric always came across to me as people and moments of past captured and frozen at some point in time. Both the book and the paper communicated about past in their own forms.
So with the help of already existing medium that is rich in history, I added colors; just like a historian adds more depth to history by adding more information from lores, tales and stories about individuals from communities; to tell the story of history of the Deccan in relationship to the north of India. If you look at the top portion of the painting its dense with both the petals( which in my imagination are significant historic figures) and the green stocks and stems ( that represent events) and the yellow at the top portion is also deeper background knowledge of the region). But as you come down to the Deccan all of it becomes scarce.
An ariel view of the Deccan Plateau
The proverbial Indian summer was at its peak when I toured this part of the deccan plateau known for its almost punishing weather. The three hot months from March to May leave every single being – animals, human beings and plants with a heightened sense and desire for water. I was there to see how some of the villages in Ahmednagar and Pune districts’ distant parts cope with their water requirements in such difficult climatic conditions. The villages clearly appeared to have been dealt a crooked hand by nature. Geographically they are located on the leeward side of the Sahyadri mountain region, which on one side acts as a nourishing mother blessing plentiful water and productive abundance and completely forgets about the other side. Well, so it looked. But perhaps it is more to do with my relative perception of nature. What I see as a mean deal by nature was not how the people I met related to nature.
In the full blast of summer heat I was cruising on the melting tar of narrow roads stretching out into the horizon. In these parts one can witness mirages in the wholeness of their spirit and as espoused by the poets in their most lyrical words. In these mirages there was something real floating within – the herders and their livestock that walked along these roads. Some of them had horses with the family’s belongings loaded on, bells jingling as they trudged the dusty footpaths. The men and women walking along wore their traditional dresses – sarees and bright colored turbans, that added color to this monotonic landscape made up of brown and black soil dotted by dry shrubs. The herders walked at an easy pace, migrating to a distant place, where they can find food and water.
The villages I visited were remote with the nearest habitation lying over ten kilometers away. An array of terracotta tiles marked the sight of villages nestled by the ridges and dry valleys. At this time of the year land had already been ploughed and made ready to receive the first rains, when they arrive. There was an anxious wait for the rains even as the people went about their daily lives.
With this friend’s request for photographs, these sights of the deccan came to my mind. What was remarkable then as it remains to be even now is the stunning ability of people to cohabit with nature in spite of its visible impact on their lives – socially and economically. Not once I recall that I would have heard a complaint about the place or about the land they call their home. I write this to remind myself that photographs are not the story. They are mere visualized moments of a story, of an experience and often of places, which the traveler must travel to and witness first hand. For what have you known other than an impression of a land captured in an isolated moment, reproduced without the noises, colours, faces and emotions that constitute the moments they were drawn out from.
Photo credit: http://univ.tifr.res.in/
My friend has been attending an interesting science writing workshop at NCBS in Bangalore. The two speakers yesterday – R.Ramachandran and Seema Singh, were to speak on sci journalism in India which of course has been close to us from our startup days. The workshop is offered by Anil Anathaswamy and Jessica Marshall ( more details here ). It was quite an eye opener. For instance, the following:
- General perception on science journalism in Indian media is that “science doesn’t sell”.
- Of all the Indian newspapers The Hindu gives the most space and encourages science journalism.
- Times of India (as expected ) turns out to be the news paper that gives least importance to science and technology news. Most of it is paid for by companies which use the news to promote their product. In short, paid advertising like articles on heart attacks, obesity and cosmetic surgery etc.
- Among magazines, Frontline does most justice to science journalism and India today gives the least importance.
- The mainstream media does not see the connection between science and business.
- In India most published science news are of nuclear, space and defence matters.
- There is a strong belief without any proof that people do not want to read about science.
- There are many motivated journalist who would like to write about science and technology, but most of the institutes like IITs and IISc where the science and technology research is conducted in the country, there are protocols that prohibit a researcher working there from interacting with the media. It is only the directors of these institutes who have the authority to communicate with the media. This makes it difficult to have regular communication about the work done in the institutes.
- Nature, New Scientist and few other international publishing agencies badly want people to write about science in India.
- Some international agencies also want stereotypical news pieces on India.
It was good to know that the magazines and news papers that I respect are the ones even these journalist have high regard for. But overall the landscape of science journalism in India appears bleak and the ecosystem weak. A career in science journalism looked a bit difficult. Very few full time jobs are around with lower pay compared to other areas of journalism. To start writing and to also become a credible science journalist might be an uphill task here. There are no clear cut routes to do that. Tips given to an aspiring science journalist to land an opportunity to write were quite similar to those an entrepreneur would need to get going in business. Things like : go to conferences, meet people, make friends in research circles etc. Seema and Ramachandran painted a picture for the group in which the publishing houses, science and technology institutions, and researchers are all difficult to work with. I sensed a visible disappointment and helplessness among the participants.
I find this entire situation of science journalism in India fascinating. The thought that came to me first is – ” here is a business opportunity.” A very good one at that. Why do we need main stream media to give attention to science journalism? Why can’t science journalism advance itself through new media. ( It is thriving in that space more than anywhere else, even now). Why not have a group of individuals passionate about science journalism come together and create something just like how Urvashi Butalia and her friend did to feminist publishing through Kali For Women and Zubaan publishing houses. ( link to her interview with Forbes India here). It is a difficult task to raise something like that. It is possible for people who write because they love science and don’t care much about their pay cheques or promotions or other such benefits of a regular job. I realize it is far easier said than done. But I tend to be entrepreneurial and have been part of a straight out of college type startup where we didnt have a plan, just an idea and worked with it. If a small group with little experience and tons of passion can pull through a small enterprise, it is possible for similar folks in science journalism and publishing too.
I take my notes on the things I read in my notebook ( made up of paper ). As I write,a consistent admiration for the pen I write with goes on in the background of my mind. I carry a smart phone, a laptop, a book reader along with me most of the time. I have tried to make notes on all these devices. But taking notes on none of these devices have ever been as pleasurable as writing with a pen on a paper; especially a fountain pen.
As a child, I was impatient to move from slate pencil to a lead pencil to a fountain pen and later on to a ballpoint pen. Those were exciting days, especially the summer holidays leading up to the new school year. The most awaited for things to cherish at the begining of a school is a new pencil box all cleaned up. It usually contained a fancy sharpner, an erazer, two pencils ( new one- long and sharp another small one- old and chewed over) of Natraj , a fountain pen of camlin , a ballpoint pen of reynolds and sometimes if you get lucky another ballpoint pen with transperant body and that can write in multiple colors ( mostly red and blue and at other times in four colors: red,blue, black and green ). In those days the ballpoint pen in that pencil box received the most attention. Although it did not matter to me that I hardly wrote until and unless it was completely non negotiable. There is history to my aversion to writing. I am a southpaw and in my kindergarden days I was reprimanded quite often as I wrote the ‘b’s as ‘d’s and mirror image of many other letters like ‘c’,’e’, ‘h’ and all. Even today sometimes when I am writing, I pause for a moment and write a word begining with b or d. All through my education even during my Masters, my handwriting remained illegible and hence a reason for complaint.
But I have moved from the ballpoint pens to fountain pens since the past few years. As the live ink flowing out of the steel/gold nibs painting on the pieces of paper and as these painting begin to aquire meaning in the minds of those read, I enjoy writing.