Friday, December 30, 2005

Wherefore adulthood

When is an adult an adult? Is it when she takes her first sip of wine? Is it with the first falling in love? Or with Big Brother's reluctant admittance?

Or is it when she realizes that the raindrops and rainbows, sunflowers, wet earth and brown sparrows, and even time itself, in its infinite and mysterious manner, are all a part of her?

If so, I was an adult at ten.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Art (of) Premonition

I have an uncanny knack for premonitions that come true. It is not supernatural dexterity: just a finely-tuned sixth sense mixed with a touch of magical dunnowhat. So this morning I was shocked yes, but not altogether surprised to wake up to the news (http://hindustantimes.com/news/181_1583187,0035.htm) of taxmen raiding 200 art galleries across India. I knew it already!

Indian contemporary art has been steadily growing in popularity over the past decade, and figures match up to the rhetoric. Behind all the heady cheers, though, has been lurking a fat, fat ghost. Yep, the ghost of price-fixing, inflated pricing and under-invoicing. There have always been rumours, first niggling fly-sized ones, then bigger glitches-in-the-glass, which finally grew at viral proportions to become the present monsters. Harshad Mehta, match-fixing and tax evasion simultaneously! A triple whammy!
(There has been media coverage on the issue here and here. You can also follow the interesting viewer comments on the Indian Contemporary Art and Views on the Indian Contemporary and Modern Art Market blogs.)

Why am I concerned? Two reasons. One, I love art. I love watching it, indulging in it, collecting it, even investing in it (with the little green means I have!). So this issue directly concerns my passion and purse strings.

Second, and more importantly, I am confused/struck by the inability of the art market to regulate itself, and want to explore reasons for that. Being a staunch free-market capitalist, I want to explore free-market/libertarian alternatives to the current structure. I invite help in pinpointing reasons for the current state of our art market and suggesting ways in which it can improve price-accountability.

In the meanwhile, in light of friday's tax raids, here's my list of future events. First of all, I think, there will be more raids, tax threats, shut-downs, shut-ins... but I suspect that ultimately (within a year,perhaps) and inevitably, there will be major price corrections. Some artists (especially the younger lot who have seen a meteoric rise within a short span of 2-8 years) will lose the proverbial ground under their feet, some will see price downshifts which may take a while to recover from , while still others will remain unscathed.
Collectors/investors will be disappointed, angry, tense. They will wait for a while to see if there is any scope for their pieces to regain original values, else will undersell. The market, I think, will see a lot of initial underselling. It might take a while to stabilize, anything between a month to a year, but will eventually regain lost footing (it is important to note that Indian Art has, and will, definitely see a steady rise in international markets. Hence, the corrections will be a minor setback, and in the long run, a shift towards the right direction ).
Artists, especially the younger lot, whose prices had been falsely inflated, will lose face and value immediately. Ultimately, those among them who concentrate on the quality of their work will get back slowly into the fray. In the situation, quality of art will be the winner. I suspect also that many till-now minor artists will gain recognition, seeing as they will no more be repressed by price-fixing.
And finally, auction houses and galleries will (have to) become transparent in their dealings. Be as questioning of (most) taxes as I may, I think the market will have to stop underhand deals in order to evade taxes. And taxmen, bless them, will have no more need, or cause, to 'monitor' the situation.

These are not premonitions. Just logical analyses.

Deconstrucing Holy Matrimony

Eve of Christmas Eve brought with it a some good news- that my research proposal had been selected for the Sarai-CSDS Student Stipendship (www.sarai.net). Yippeeeee! Seeing that I was uncertain about applying, confused about the area of research and sent in my proposal a full 2 days late, it was a pleasant surprise to receive the affirmation mail.

My brother and I, and most probably a friend too, shall be working together on the topic: 'Deconstrucing Holy Matrimony: The Politics of the Matrimonial Classified in Delhi's leading newspapers'. Phew! That was long...

We will be scanning the matrimonial sections of several newspapers, starting from the Sixties, and mapping changes along the way. Our primary aim will be to map differences in content/form of the matrimonial ad pre- and post-liberalization. We will also take into account socio-political and technological factors. And along the way, we hope to resolve the age-old (mostly) Indian mystery of parents advertising for mates for their kids!!!

Any comments/suggestions/advice on methodology, approach or merely interesting anecdotes are most welcome. And ofcourse, I shall publish our findings later next year on this blog. So keep watching!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Golden Winter

I wrote this piece almost 2 years ago, on a freezing January morning in Delhi, for a Katha writing workshop at the IIC. The half-hour effort turned out to be more a personal rejuvenation than veritable prose. But it broke my six-year long writer's block, hence the attachment. Here it is...

I love this morning, now, this moment of seven ’o clock in the twentieth winter of my life. I love the dark cold biting at my ears and numbing the tip of my nose and swirling around me in harsh strokes, making each drawn breath a painful victory. My body is bundled up in colourful layers of wool, yet I rub my numb hands together and stamp the ground with my feet in order to keep those micro cellular structures within me from forgetting themselves. And I smile with suppressed joy into this winter’s effervescence, like a young lover secretly reliving the night’s first love.

I surprise even myself. For after twenty years, this is the first winter day that I love. It has taken two decades for a winter morning’s brisk cold to permeate every pore of my body, to have found an opening into my soul. It gives me hope, a shivering hope.


OCD can do that to you. It can slowly turn you into a stranger to your own self, an alien residing inside your body. Numbness becomes you. Blissfully, beautifully ironic, then, that this morning’s chill seems to have warmed up my brain, revving it up into highway speed. I want to sing out loud and shout to the world --‘I am back! Look everybody…I Am Back!’ And while I think this, each stabbing breath of the morning seems to confirm that.


Un coup de foudre

"In a minute there is time
for decisions and revisions,
which a minute will reverse."


I fell in love with Eliot's poetry the minute I began reading Prufrock, with no other thought than that of tackling the huge 3rd year syllabus. The first line, "Let us go then, you and I...", and a new love affair had begun.
Disjuncted thoughts and dissillusions mirroring mine.
Divine, absolutely divine.

Write. Write.

Write. Write.

Thoughts that yet doubt me
Are ready to be put to page.
Else, I have learnt,
They shall dystrophy.
Their fight is not mine, but
a world’s rage.

This is a reawakening...an artistic and a spiritual one.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blog Disclaimer

Blog Disclaimer

This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Also, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time as I come to learn more and develop my understanding about the things and issues that I am blogging about. This blog just provides a snapshot of the knowledge, views, and opinions that I hold at a particular point of time and these might most probably change over a period of time. I reserve the right to publish my knowledge, thoughts and viewpoints as they stand at a particular point of time. I also reserve the right to evolve my knowledge, thoughts, and viewpoints over time and to change them without assigning any reason.

My blog includes links to other sites/blogs operated by third parties. These are provided as a means of convenient access to you to the information/opinion contained therein. I am in no way responsible for the content of any other sites or any products or services that may be offered through other sites.
December 15, 2005
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Please note that I have deliberately backdated this disclaimer so that it is not visible as a post on the main page of my blog. Needless to say, it applies to all the posts, regardless of when they are published.