Ashish Dha’s passionate engagement with the world of music became accessible to an eager bunch at the last Kaapi LILA. The muses conspired for an exploratory music appreciation session at Nasheman that day, despite a scary power shut down which resumed less than a minute to the scheduled 5 pm. Delhi temperature soared at 45 Degree Celsius and Nasheman felt like a real nest; in Urdu, Nasheman means a bird’s nest.
Andolan, Gamaka, Kan-Swar or Gitkari, Meend or Murki: the Alankars are multiple in types, and innumerable in practice. Each melody acquires its ornament, each note, its body. Alankar, a term for aesthetics in the Indian arts, is the adornment, the embellishment, the process that reveals the beautiful from within – the inherent beauty. Fascinating paradox: the Alankar is wilfully produced, coming above and beyond the theme, but it only enhances a beauty already proper to the art. Alankar permits beauty before the accompaniment – Alankar recalls how the inner light is still shining.
In the midst of my monotonous modern life (essentially my 10-6 job about which I have mixed feelings), last Sunday for Kaapi LILA at Nasheman, I met a girl in her 20s, a teacher of literature in English and a researcher at Sahapaedia, an online encyclopedia of Indian arts and culture. She told me about a month long workshop where you had to practice sensing your feet, and some more about the organisers or founders. She mentioned George Gurdjieff, the Armenian spiritual thinker who brought Einnegram, the Sufi symbol of transformation, to the West from the Naqshbandi order.
Through her poetry, Heike makes statements about various questions, such as gender issues or local politics. Broader topics also emerge, across societies, such as the way we treat strangers. My curiosity was caught, as Heike presented details of pieces that she created during her residency in India, and narrated their stories. Through her works, she tried reflecting on her experience here, on the incidents that inspired her process of working, thinking, expressing. It felt like entering a conversation with her, discovering pieces stuck out of one’s memories. The exchange also went into gender issues, her experiences in public spaces in India, her Kochi travel and… her discovery of the sweetest fruit she ever tasted!
The wait had been long to return to the crossroads, to the organic romance of this familiar yet deceitful opposition. Indeed: there is lightness in the serious, and seriousness in the light. Lila, the play, rejoins the realm of decisions, of choices; surrender and detachment merge again with the most active of engagements; immediacy and vision come back together. For the launch of its new banner for reflective thinking and philosophy entitled LILA Menso, the foundation brought together three very special kinds of players, to undertake a new event concept and a unique thought exchange. On this Saturday 7 March 2015, speakers, partners and audience accepted to play a game that started right outside their doorstep, as the skies found amusement in also inviting an unexpected springy rainfall… Yes: with Lila, the play is cosmic!
Handicraft is not simply decoration; to artist-weaver Priya Ravish Mehra it is also part of the art of life. Out of nothingness, a thread is woven. A cloth’s lifetime is prolonged by the art of rafoogiri, or darning; an art that itself remains invisible. Weaving thus lends itself easily into poetry and metaphors: of Kabir’s devotion woven into a cloth, of poetry woven out of silence, and of healing and repair.
Between the conception and the creation indeed: a shadow. But, between the lines, and beyond the lines, and below those lines, this simple note left by Eliot: life is very long. Besides the spotlight, the words and the delivery, this is perhaps what transpired from BN Goswamy’s Ramkinkar Baij Memorial Lecture: a deep, sensual, intimate relation with the very long story of life, and of all its creations. When centuries-old artworks return, to greet and celebrate the legacy of the most influential sculptor of an era, one voice is needed: the historian, forerunner in astonishment, mediating through the thousands of our past, opening a few doors to the attentive audience.
Last Sunday, I had the honour to participate in the first Kaapi LILA. A very special meeting among friends, conceived by LILA Foundation. I really thought of carrying a parachute: it was certain that we would fly high… We were invited to gather in the (temporary) studio of a Dutch artist who would tell us about her current project, still in progress – a multidimensional artistic work based on Delhi. And this was the occasion, for me, to reunite with my friends, the marvellous people that make LILA.
“ ‘Why can’t you be a dutiful son like Rama?’ – here is one common reference to mythology in everyday life that many, many Indians have heard in their childhood.” Paula Richman, acclaimed specialist of the Indian epics, joined LILA once again for a Special Lecture, searching, this time, for the contemporary insights ancient narratives can offer us. “Epics touch us, but too often they do in the form of two extremes: either we want to follow them literally, or we deny them altogether since they are ‘from another time’.” The tension is inherent from the very nature of epics: those stories narrate the lives of archetypes, ideal kings, ideal queens, etc., setting the bar high, indicating the path to an ideal life… but epics also contain very concrete and easily applicable messages, lessons that can help any individual in the small and big questions of life – millennia ago, just as today. Paula Richman’s presentation highlighted a few of these.
What I have to say can be honest only in clay.” Resonances were palpable on this last evening of the PRISM Lecture Series 2014, initiated in last August with another practice of touch: puppetry, with Eddin Khoo. Acclaimed and prolific ceramic artist Kristine Michael opened the doors of her own tradition of continuity. Continuity, and immediacy. “With clay, one has to start again each time. Even the fire we use is a unique event. Each time both predictable and unpredictable.” And from immediacy, back to time, and history: “Ceramic is also connecting us to the past. It allows you to touch pieces made 5000 years ago!” added Kristine.
Through the designs of ceramic, the environment and cultures of humanity come together . The works of Kristine testify to this matrix of inspirations.