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Art attack

They entered an art gallery to kill time. Little did they know the shock that awaited them…

The common man in Bombay enjoys many benefits, which s/he cannot avail of in other Indian cities. You can absolve yourself of any error or oversight
merely by bringing up the topic of traffic. The traffic problem is so atrocious and omnipresent that most people immediately give you the benefit of doubt.

This is only one of the many benefits. Bandra Bandstand, in the evenings, can easily cut down your cost of DVD rentals by a large percentage if you know where to stand and look. More than ever before, couples are bringing out their relationships into the open; shunning the taboos of society and picking open the shackles of conservative older generations, besides other assorted fasteners.

Husband: Wife?! Where were you last night? What was that smell?

Wife: Oh terrible traffic at Mahim. My taxi was stuck forever and the car was getting stuffy. I had to finally borrow the cabbie’s deo to freshen up the interior.

Husband: Oh my dear. I should never have doubted you.

Wife: No matter dear. I am going to Borivili tonight. Will be late. The traffic you know.

Husband: Of course.

Last weekend we were introduced to one of the city’s many delights – its art galleries and modern art exhibitions. A group of us friends had left for South Mumbai for the usual lunch-movie-dinner routine. We were all supposed to assemble around Café Leopold at 1 pm. However, two members in the party were slightly delayed and landed up only around 4 pm. It goes without saying that we were quite incensed at them, but then they said it was due to traffic, and we mellowed considerably.

We were too late for the post-lunch movie show and decided to go in for one of the 6:30 movies. This gave us a full two hours to while away. We sat at the bus stop outside the National Gallery of Modern Art wondering what to do. We were sure we wanted to do something indoor as it was quite hot. Preferably some place air conditioned. But not a shopping place, which would be full of people on a weekend afternoon. After some thought we decided we needed to go to a museum or an art gallery type place. Bombay, thankfully, has a good number of such places. But were could we find one right now?

Suddenly one of us had a brainstorm. “Idiots!” he said as he looked at all of us. “What do you see across the road?” We looked and told him, “The Prince of Wales of Museum”. “And what is behind us, you imbeciles?” We turned around. “The National Gallery of Modern Art”, we said in chorus. “What does this mean you fools?” Suddenly it hit us and we slapped our foreheads in acknowledgement. “Of course!” we said in unison, except for the one guy who was holding a half drunk bottle of Coke in his forehead-slapping hand sand was very quiet for the remainder of his day.

This could only mean that the Jehangir Art Gallery was down the road. So off we went with a spring in our step and art in our hearts.

There was a line of sculptures and paintings along the wall of a large circular room. In the centre there were a few other selected large sculptures. The artist indicated that he had been inspired by the sea and “my own innermost turmoil and existential angst”. As we looked around, the angst and turmoil was quite clear to us. Not to mention the copious amounts of prohibited substances he must have taken to get over them.

The first few were comprehensible enough. They were interesting combinations of wood pieces and glass sheets that looked endearing. With the right lighting they would make interesting additions to any home for the blind. The next one was an array of glass balls in a wood box. It was titled “Perfunctory Glances of Desire”. We stood looking at it for some time.

“You think this indicates a certain restraint in expressing ones emotions perhaps? You know each ball could be an emotion, a feeling that is tied in by the boundaries of the accessibility of one’s emotions. Perhaps to oneself even. Very existential. A little sorrowful I would think. But never sad. Never.”

The speaker was a bearded gentleman who was explaining the work to a ravishing young woman. The woman seemed to enjoy his analysis of the balls in the box and smiled at him. She had a notebook and pencil and was taking copious notes. Immediately we decided to shadow this bearded man who could not only explain the art well to us but, and more pertinently, had a hottie with him.

The next one was a grey ball of stone that seemed to be giving birth to a little red man wearing a suit amidst a flurry of white foam. In other circumstances, we would have thought it was ridiculous. But the bearded one thought otherwise. “Tremendous how he shows the moment of epiphany, no? That stone ball is definitely a sphere of consciousness. A realm of satisfied longing. A realm that may, in most cases, hold him back. But the human surpasses that. He has emerged triumphant. What do you think young man?” He pointed to one of us.

Now this was an awkward moment. The friend in question was no master of the artistic, and was at that very moment at the very limit of his sophistication, i.e. ogling at the woman. “Err. This sculpture? Umm. Ok. I think it communicates to me at multiple levels. At some level there is angst. Pure angst.” The man began to nod and smile. The lady listened enraptured. My friend seemed encouraged further. “And at some other level there is a need to explore. To spread my wings. To go forth.” The woman seemed very impressed.

The beard man spoke. “Brilliant young man. For a man of your age you understand art well. Shyamsundar what do you think of the sculpture?” What Shyamsundar? Who was Shyamsundar? “Beautiful work I think”, said a deep booming voice. It seemed to emit from the lady. Shyamsundar? What? “The message I received was to explore. Explore myself. Seek liberation. Seek truth. Why don’t you boys join us for the rest of the exhibition?”

We excused ourselves at once. The traffic, we said, would be too much on the way home. We had to leave right away. We did not speak to each other as we stepped out. Thankfully the movie would make us feel better again. Nothing like a good film to drive the thought of Shyamsundar out of us. So we walked over to the theatre and stood in line for Brokeback Mountain.

– Sidin Vadukut

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