An Exhibition of Whimsical Paintings for Children

An Exhibition of Whimsical Paintings for Children

…in the age group 5-90 years, by Nalini Misra Tyabji.

I was enchanted by this exhibition at India Habitat Centre last month.

Nalini says that she paints happy pictures because the child in her never got a chance to, as a child.

She paints cats, owls and more recently, pictures of herself as a little girl.

 

She doesn’t profess to be an intellectual. She is happy if her paintings make you smile.

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I did.

Indira Gandhi NCA Part 2

The National Centre for the Arts showcases musical troupes from all over India.

There were also some fine examples of rangoli – coloured sand, poured into patterns.

I love the textiles which were on sale.

These stylised paintings of musicians and a dancer were on the walls of the exhibition centre selling traditional crafts, clothing, jewellery, metal ware and material.

I enjoyed walking around for a couple of hours, taking in all the colour and drama.

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Delhi Queer Pride 2016

My boss and I decided we wanted to support the LGBT community in India, so we joined the march on Tolstoy Marg with about a thousand others. This was the ninth such parade. It was joyful and everyone was well-behaved. The police videotaped the marchers, but there was no trouble at all.

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“Humein kya chahiye? AZAADI!”

Drummers and dancing

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Flags

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Humour

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Law 377 of the Indian Penal Code states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life…”

But the police were marching, too.

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Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts

Thirty one years ago, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi set up this National Centre for the Arts , in memory of his mother. It is a wonderful place to visit which is rarely frequented by tourists. Every few days, there is a different artistic project or event. I went to a superb exhibition of primitive paintings which were displayed outdoors.

This was called Tat Tvam Asi, a phrase from the Upanishads meaning “That Thou Art”. The pure, original, self is identifiable with the ultimate reality. Way over my head, I’m afraid. But I loved the paintings.

Christmas Presents

I had a brainwave. I could solve the problem of buying Christmas presents for the ladies in my life by photographing the display cases of jewellery at the National Museum shop. This is strictly forbidden, but when I explained my plight to the manager, he was happy to let me go ahead.

“Take your pick, girls,” I said. “Anything you fancy. Far better you choose something you like and will wear than a gaudy geegaw that I have picked out which you will keep in your jewellery box and never use.”

“We just want you home for Christmas, Dad,” they said, “That will be the best present we could have.”

Anybody else see anything they fancy?

Morning Ragas at Habitat Centre

There’s nothing quite like a bit of raga in the morning. Raga means “the act of colouring”, a metaphor for arousing love and desire, joy and delight. The improvised songs use between five and nine notes to form a melody. According to Wikipedia, “the way the notes are approached and rendered in musical phrases and the mood they convey are more important in defining a raga than the notes themselves”. Just what the doctor ordered, I thought.

After the Senior Citizens walk/jog on Sunday, I decided I needed a bit of culture, so I went to an Indian Classical Music concert at the Habitat Centre. I arrived early and found a seat in the amphitheatre, situated in the shaded courtyard.

The lady in the seat next to me told me that I was privileged to hear Dr Ashwini Bhide Deshpande sing. She is from the famous “Jaipur-Atrauli” Khayal Gayaki tradition of Indian Classical Music. Her original training was in biochemistry and microbiology, but she abandoned a scientific career to become a musician.

She arrived fifteen minutes late, then spent another fifteen minutes correcting the sound levels. Just before starting,  the organisers of the event presented her with flowers. Then we were off.

She was accompanied by Paromita Mukherjee on hand-operated harmonium. She was sitting in the shade on the right of the stage. Her vivid red lipstick was so striking that my attention kept being dragged to her, away from the singer. Vinod Lele was playing tabla in his usual lively style. Two other ladies accompanied Ashwini playing tanpuras and occasionally singing a refrain.

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The tanpura is a fascinating instrument. The base is hemispherical, made from a hollowed out gourd. It has a long neck, with five strings, but no frets. The musician plucks the strings rhythmically and this keeps the singer from going “off key”.

The audience of 250 was 95% Indian. There were some French people behind me; a Chinese lady who applauded over-enthusiastically; an old Brit wearing the same Clark’s Active Air sandals I have, without socks; and a young man who looked like Gregg Allman from the “Eat a Peach” (1972) period. The Indians in the audience were mostly elderly. They were well dressed, with smart Nehru jackets for men and resplendent saris for the ladies.

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the names of the ragas she sang for us. She is famous for her rendering of “Kabir Bhajans” (devotional religious songs), so I suppose this is what she performed. She repeated the lyrics over and over again, each time with a slightly different tone for each phrase. To emphasise the subtlety of this, Ashwini would slowly twirl the fingers of her left hand as she smiled or closed her eyes in reverie. Her right hand was plucking her tanpura.

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Once or twice, she stopped for a quick beverage. She made a comment to the audience, unscrewed the top of a steel thermos flask and poured herself a drink. On one occasion, she motioned to her vocal accompanist to carry one with the raga for a few repetitions until she could take over the lead again.

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The ragas would gradually build up to a climax and then subside. I could see members of the audience copying her hand movements, almost as though they were conducting the concert. After a particularly beautiful section of singing, they would nod their heads laterally in approval. Clearly she had struck a chord in their hearts.

In a sentence, it reminded me of the permutations of Johann Sebastian Bach, with jazz improvisation in the style of Miles Davis, using the voice as a musical instrument.

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Some younger men sitting in the back row were more interested in the brilliant tabla playing of Vinod Lele. They would be mirroring his rapid hammer-like finger movements on their thighs. Forget air guitar in India – this was air tabla.

Finally, the raga would come to its ultimate climax with the tabla and harmonium players speeding up.  Polite applause. She only sang four ragas during a two hour set, finishing at 1pm.

Afterwards, I wandered around the Lodi Gardens on my way to a Metro station. I was truly spell bound. The music was still pinging off the inside of my skull. I didn’t understand it intellectually, but I could feel it. It made musical sense to me. And that’s what it’s all about.

There are three clips I have uploaded to my Google Photo account which you can access at https://goo.gl/photos/uo8FiRXH5jHFXqMbA