Sunday, March 18, 2012

Of Battery Powered Noise & Other Distractions

In Maheshpur, I had expected relief from the incessant blaring of loud speakers from my neighbourhood Tara Ma temple in Calcutta. But, ever since I started staying in this village, my nights have been disturbed by loud speakers blaring devotional songs. I wondered how in this place, devoid of electricity, one could create such an immense racket. Battery powered havoc I realized to my horror! The sound carries very far due to the absence of buildings that act as baffle walls as in a city. Week after week the direction of this noise changed as each village in turn held a three to four, day and night long Horinaam Sankirtan. Now it’s Maheshpur’s turn.

On closer inspection of the handbill one notices that the programme is on the occasion of Bonodebi Mata’s Puja– a Hinduisation of Bonobibi: the Goddess of the forest. I will not write about Bonobibi here but, will once again recommend Annu Jalais’ book Forest of the Tigers for further details on the religious hierarchies of the Sundarbans. What I want to stress here is the power of the battery – it's giving me sleepless nights! I shudder to think what it will be when these villages are electrified. Of one thing I am sure – I will not be there to witness the decibel wars between competing villages.

Photo courtesy: Laurent Fournier
There is an irksome fallout of the Horinaam Sankirtan – some of my workers want to take leave to attend the festivities. “This is the most important annual festival here in Maheshpur”, they explain.  “So, Mr. Olive Ridley Shelter you have to wait. Religion comes first!” I tell the mute, half constructed bamboo skeleton.

Work had been stalled on more occasions than one for a variety of reasons and not being able to complete a project within a deadline is something that has never featured on my curriculum vitae. This is ridiculous! Expenses are mounting and I have a limited budget. I never believed that I would see this day. I tell myself not to get worked up. Working in the city is an entirely different ball game from working in the countryside with semi-skilled people. I confer with Binoy and decide to set strict deadlines for each week and hope that these are met. As I am a non-believer, I cannot even expect Hori to deliver.

Details of the roof work in progress

However, the structure is taking shape and that is my only consolation. There is much that remains to be done and hope they are achieved without any more hold ups.

Art Practices: Intended & Otherwise

Prasun has relieved me from spending the whole week in Maheshpur and I am ‘relieved’. He too has time on his hands when in the Ashram. Having struck a chord with the boys there, he has initiated them into clay modeling. He called me up to say that there were a lot of stuff under my bed and that I should photograph them for this blog. I found out that there was a lot of small works in clay in various stages of disintegration. The cat must have been at it or it could have been the large field rat that often scurries out when I enter my digs. However, I get the boys to take them outdoors for the shoot. I separate them in terms of subject. There was a lot of clay pots with wilted real flowers stuck into them. A few birds, carts and trucks, but what caught my attention was the number of diesel generator and pump sets.

These too were falling apart and looked like they belong in a junkyard. I shot them accordingly. This is a photograph by me of an installation of objects created by the children, directed by Prasun. The youngest member of the Ashram – Pathik, a three year old, Phelu for short, picked up the biggest of the generator-pump set-combo and claimed he had done it. I played along and told him that he had done a very good job. Emboldened, he decided to drive home his advantage, “Ami sob korechhi!” (I did it all) he proclaimed.

As for myself, I had taken along a few small canvases and they sat in my room for weeks. The light of the solar lantern did not encourage me to even try to confront these whites.  Finally, I did use them. A precious gift of a good camera helped in no uncertain terms. The canvases were waiting for images and that is what they received. It is a study of shadows cast by the Olive Ridley Shelter in progress.


 Canning Local Update

Well almost. This is an update with a poser. Does the “scratchitti” in the train compartments - an expression of passenger frustration, qualify as protest art?

 I leave you with this question. Until next week then!


somnathsays said... see... the olive ridley...slowly taking its shape....HORI will definitely finish it on time..... but nothing can be done jodi SYSTEM DISHTUB THAKEY.....:) BEST WISHES ALWAYS...

Krishnan said...

Fear Not!! The day Sundorbon graduates from Battery to Hydro / Thermal they will have no time for Hari bhajan, instead they will be busy enjoying all that the TV world has to offer or who knows if promised ' Akash' comes good they may go straight to what wonders tablets has to offer !! Shelter looks cute!! Keep up the good work!!