On my way to Sutton, I saw a flock of birds crossing the road. When I mentioned to my hosts that I saw what I thought were pheasants, they were very impressed. "Those are Wild Turkeys!" they said. I was told that it was a rare sighting and one that visitors like me were privileged to see. Later as we drove around Sutton through winter landscapes, we spied a flock of Wild Turkeys again. This time I managed to get out of the car and actually photograph them with my trusty point and shoot. After I shot the turkeys with my camera, we shot one of them with a gun and then we took it home and made a meal of it.
I must say that country life is very exciting. First visit I got to hunt and eat wild mushrooms. Second visit, it is Wild Turkey on the table! Okay,we didn't kill a Wild Turkey. The last picture is a marinated, very delicious turkey served to me from my first ever Thanksgiving meal here in Montreal :-)
When you take a flying leap, you expect to land with a thud, and then, after a period of dithering around, you expect to grow roots and stay
put. But things never quite turn out how you expect them to; so here I am suspended
in mid-air for what seems to be a very lengthy amount of time. When I look
around me, much to my surprise, I find everything else is suspended in mid-air too. I am told that this, what I am experiencing is
called ‘Middle of Winter’.
sky turns the colour of snow and the bare black skeletons of nature suspend
themselves within it.
When water doesn’t turn into white ice, it turns into black
pools, curious dark shapes floating in the middle of nowhere with wisps of
smoke coming out of them.
I look at this beauty with the same incredulity that one
looks at outer space shots taken by NASA.
But I will not idealize. The pristine snow outside Montreal
turns into brown sludge within the city, the extreme cold gets maddening, the
bulky clothes heavy and tiresome and the lack of sunlight goes interminably on until you forget that there was something called colour and life and brilliance.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in
your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like
books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the
answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will
then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
The things that I wanted most happened to me last year when
I least expected it, when I was occupied doing other things, like doing what I
loved and enjoying life. I achieved a kind of professional success I never
imagined would happen to me - fantastic assignments, great fees and a sale of
paintings which astonished me. But before I could let it sink in, it was time
to leave, to new adventures and onto something that I had planned and worked so
hard upon for the last four years and wanted so much for the last twenty.
When you return from studying abroad back to India or when
you move to a foreign country from Indian shores, there are always high expectations
of you. The underlying expectation is always variation of the same presumption and
always unimaginative – you have to become an instant success immediately. The
word success is always defined by one thing alone – money, or the appearance of
having some. The resulting anxiety created when you are in your twenties and
thirties is enormous, a façade has to be created for the approval of the
community lest you be ignored and discarded, if you don’t flaunt yourself instantly
and continuously, professionally and personally you are quickly assumed a
failure, the times become strange, empty and anxious, nobody waits for roots to sink
in or branches to spread.
I came to Canada at a time when I have the right
mindset to face the challenges of being an immigrant alone in a foreign city. In
the last six-months I have thankfully manifested no headline-grabbing success.
Instead, I experience each day as it comes and spend my time learning,
integrating and absorbing. I am trying to fit in pieces of a puzzle to make a
complete picture, but I am discovering that with each piece I search for and
fix into place, the picture constantly changes and takes a life of its own. I have to accept that and follow it through to see where it leads me. The
act of creating this picture was once a vision in the distant future. It is now
the task of the present.
A less bleak post for my rather neglected blog - Handmade cards to be given to people I don't particularly know very well, but who have been very kind to me. Making a card is probably a more appropriate gesture of thanks than going to a fancy shop and spending 5 bucks on something trite. And Monochrome on white is most suitable. It is the combination I love best and it is what I see all around me.
months. Lush green tropical summer, rich golden red autumn, bleached out bare grey branches,white of full-blown winter... the contrasts are shocking, the dramatic changes of light and colour play tricks
on a tropical brain, I am hallucinating, everything shimmers, I am underwater.
White people turn colourless in winter, their skin completely desaturates, transparent, bloodless, I walk through a city full of ghosts. The sidewalks are piled high with melted sugar.Black flowers grow in them.
This is what I see in films, art films where everyone is talking
animatedly and eating plates full of salad before wearing dark coats and
walking out into the cold searching for lost love.
I have to tell myself over and over that this life around me
is not film but reality, a tangible reality which I am within
and part of...but the darkness around me says otherwise,
I am inside a cinema theater, I am an observer watching my life in a story on
Winter is a strange dream, monochromatic, abstract, bleached of all inessentials. Unusual images, alternate textures, pieced together on white paper. It is dark at noon and snowflakes fall. Flurries. Oh, the utter absolute frightening beauty of it all.
Once upon a time, long ago in another world, I used to go to
a place of worship. Sometimes I would be asked to read from the Holy Book. When
I stood at the lectern, ready to read, I would glance up for a moment at the
faces before me, and this drawing above is what I saw.What terrified me was that once I finished reading from
the Holy Book, I had to step down, walk towards this congregation and be a part
I have done this drawing with giant sticks of Senelier Oil
pastel. They provide a kind of knobbly resistance when used on Moleskine
sketchbook paper giving a strange crude texture which is appropriate for this
Crowded cafes, beautiful people, green hair, red cups, I set
time backward...I am turning the pages of a glossy magazine I am inside photographs watching unreality around me. Shops sell diamond salt from the
mines of Kashmir, there is a Papier-mâché table before me, black chandelier
above me, person in front of me eating a donut, he dissolves into an artist in
Mont Royal eating pumpkin cheesecake who crumbles into an architect from Mile End
drinking cappuccino, they have silver hair, their faces are paper white, they wear
coal black, they look alike and multiply...then their faces melt, like pumpkins
after Halloween, there is a deer skull on the shelf.
Autumn. Flowers like my dreams at night retain their
structure, the desaturation button moves slowly, slowly to the
The thoughtful amongst you might think that
this serene picture is one of a poet out for a walk in the woods in search of inspiration,
at one with nature, in touch with his inner soul. But think again discerning
readers, look again! This picture has a far more chilling undercurrent to it
than what seems apparent on its warm, dappled surface; clutch your hearts and hold your
breath, this here is a picture of a hunter, the most lethal of them all – A Mushroom
Before I detect the slightest smirk on your faces allow me make my point. Hunters
of wild beasts saunter around the jungle with large guns and upon sighting prey
in the distance, merely lift their guns and pull a trigger, BANG, the prey
staggers and dies, the hunter walks up to the bloody carcass, takes a selfie
with her foot on the body, drags it over to the jeep and drives away. Yawn. Anybody
can do that. It is The Mushroom Hunter who is far more dangerous. One moment he
is merrily driving along peaceful country roads chatting about graphic novels and
ground coffee and the next moment he screeches the car to a halt much to the
surprise and consternation of his passengers, “Good heavens! Is something
wrong? Why did he stop?” And that is the instant when you see a Mushroom Hunter
in action. He darts across the road to an empty field, unsheaths his sharp, special
mushroom dagger, swoops down with a yowl of delight on helpless, quivering
little shaggymane mushrooms huddled together, swiftly chops off their heads and
places them in his trophy basket. If that isn't chilling enough there’s more mind you! A mere walk in autumn
woods is fraught with action. You might have had a meditative
stroll in mind, that moment of getting in touch with your Shakti that your Guru
so recommended, that you were so eager to experience, you are admiring the colors
of the trillion, zillion autumn leaves on the forest floor, you are just about
to attain nirvana through peace and happiness when the Mushroom Hunter
screeches to a halt before you and plunges his dagger into gazillion leaves on the ground and comes up with a teeny weeny quivering mushroom which he is
ecstatic about and which he holds aloft before your bewildered eyes. “See? See!”
And then as you sit trembling in recovery at the dining table, these mushrooms
are fried in butter and brought before you to be eaten. No blood and gore of
animal killers mind you, just swift, lethal, ruthless decapitation and dinner. Takes nerve to be the guest of A Mushroom Hunter I tell you. Phew!
And yes, well, here is the photograph of one of them.
weekend with friends in Sutton
A constant downpour of nature
An endless overflow of all of life’s good things
How does one process so much beauty?
How can one truly give thanks for this much blessing?
I am not yet ready to know how to make my palette retell this abundance of new colors and emotions.
‘You look well-settled’ is the phrase I hear most often for
the pictures I post on Facebook. There are others, less gullible, more curious,
who want to know what the immigrant experience is really like. To give the
right answers, I can perhaps do best with drawing out the series of images that
keep recurring in my mind. These days my experiences are images and emotions which I know will fall apart completely if described in words. Maybe these drawings will become proper complete works one day, but for
now, they are within the pages of a sketchbook, a visual record of a slow careful transition from one world into another, where every decision has to be weighed
carefully before it is acted on; putting down roots takes time, the past has
wiped itself out, the future is hazy, my goal is clear.
"You will find your own ethical dilemmas in all parts
of your lives, both personal and professional. We all have different desires
and needs, but if we don’t discover what we want from ourselves and what we
stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled. Sooner or later, we are all
asked to compromise ourselves and the things we care about. We define ourselves
by our actions. With each decision, we tell ourselves and the world who we are.
Think about what you want out of this life, and recognize that there are many
kinds of success."