The terrace

The terrace

I was about 7 years old when my life saw a huge change. Up until then we had lived in a small out-house in a fairly busy residential area in Bangalore. We were now about to move to a suburb with houses far far apart. Sounds of urban traffic were about to be replaced with eerie noises of wind creeping through tiny gaps in the windows and doors. This new land was reigned over by a weed they called Parthenium.

In a place so sparsely populated, I learned how everyone gets to know everyone. Neighbors became more like extended family. We were on an island cut off from the city. It wasn’t a jungle (though there were poisonous snakes and weird lizards), not a city (there was no city water supply, tarred roads and other urbane perks) and not a village (though not far from us were small settlements where people lived with their cattle). We were in a strange space that was on the verge of being engulfed by the city.

An uninhabitable piece of land was slowly turning into a residential layout. Grey, half-constructed houses became the venues of our weekend hide-and-seek games. We grew up loving the smell of fresh paint and varnish, with the sounds of borewell drilling boring into our ears and with the sight of an ever changing skyline. One of our games was to pretend to be architects and draw floor plans for homes. Our summers were spent building castles with construction sand. We ran happy and free amidst Parthenium as tall as us.

One of my favorite places in our new house was our terrace. We could see a large part of the city from there given the elevation of the layout. At night, the city lights shone at a distance but the stars above were much brighter. ‘The houses look like toys from here’ I had said when I saw it all for the first time.

Soon, gaps were filled in and we were no longer an island. Parthenium no longer owned the land. There were more strangers than neighbors. The city was closing in on us and I could see it from my vantage point. We no longer have that unobstructed view of the distant city- we are the city now.

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More buildings

My relationship with the theme of buildings goes way back to my college days. Even today, if I pick a piece of paper and begin to doodle, my first instinct is to draw buildings. Of course, the palette, the composition, the mood and the metaphors change every time (fortunately!). But I am beginning to see that the buildings have unconsciously become the words of my visual vocabulary.

 

The island
The island (Ink on paper)
Silently they grew overnight...
The island (Ink on paper)

Objet d’art

Desert, Tea washTea wash study for clock

After that sketch, I was rummaging for something at Michael’s when I was in Minneapolis, and I found a square wooden clock face with the parts (meant for DIY projects). I was still hungover from my tea wash buildings, and still mentally in the Bangalore that sprouted buildings overnight. And somehow, it seemed superbly perfect to put the buildings on a clock face – to literally superimpose the hands of time onto a static image of the overgrowth. (The idea for the sky is a direct result of dabbling in the watery-ness of the tea wash.)

After we moved to Bangalore, I hung it in our bedroom by a window. It gives me a strange kick to find that when you look out that window, you find an ocean of buildings.

Clock

On neutrality

I like being in that neutrality when feeling happy and enjoying the depth of a deeply sad song are both possible at the same time! That neutrality of a quiet and solemn laughter inside…when deep pain looks like pure challenge, when successes look like cheeky tests of my humility, grave insult seems like a child’s pinch.
I wish it was possible to hold on to this neutrality!