When pain, agony and compassion brings out the best in you

It is that time of the year, when my ears strain to hear the plaintive and wistful song of the koel and the papiha as they play hide-and-seek amid the mango trees outside my window. I wonder what it is about the saawan that triggers off an almost romantic mood in us — never mind clogged rain drains and potholed roads. And mind you, saawan is yet to arrive.
When I lived in England, the firangs could never understand why I felt elated and not depressed about the rains! Even if the rains came in droplets rather than in torrents there, I would just allow my heart to feel the Indian monsoon as I recreated it with the magical monsoon music around myself. Of course the ultimate monsoon music for me will always be the jhoolas and the kajris and the various malhars — by the way there are 105 types of malhar.
The Ragamala paintings and the miniatures from both Kangra and all over Rajasthan have given a visual form to the music so when the ragas and raginis are mentioned; the paintings are part of the beautiful aesthetic memory recall. Needless to say this was during times when beauty was still a necessary pre-requisite to art.
It is the dream of many a singer to sing like Begum Akhtar, but do they even realise that kind of voice and the range of emotions it could express came only from a lot of living and pain? No offence meant, but even Begum Akhtar, whose voice we associate as hers didn’t sound like that in the initial years. I was listening to one of her earlier recordings and I couldn’t help making the odious comparison — she sounded like one of the Mangeshkar sisters. The amazing depth and the unique full-bodied tonal quality of Begum Akhtar’s voice only developed over a period of time.
What was it that set it apart so much that it would stand out in a million voices? To my mind it was the fallout of the journey that was her life that “caused” it. Pain is an important component of compassion and it is the ananda that emanates from the experience when the person blooms like a veritable lotus after being mired in agony that causes it. If you look around, all the artists or artistes who have touched you in any way, are invariably the ones who would have made the journey and found their path again that leave their mark on your head and heart. The great Mallika Pukhraj used to say: Jo faan ka rishta hai dard se woh hi toh faankaar ki samajh ka sarmaya hai…meaning the relationship of pain between the artiste and his art is the real culmination of his understanding.
As Faiz Ahmad Faiz put it:
Dard aayega dabe paon,Woh jo ek dard dhadakta hai kahin dil ke pare
This was my observation for quite a few youngsters now showing with Art Floor at a show in Gurgaon. It is commendable that in these times of recession they are still taking their commitment to art forward. The moving spirit behind Art Floor, Dashmeet Singh’s own work has shown remarkable growth and he has managed to include two very good names as part of the show: sculptors Subodh Kerkar and Neeraj Gupta. The sculptures featured, too, are serious and good works and will enhance and energise spaces.
Many of the artists promoted by the group have even got commercial success and are rightly pleased with themselves. But, to my mind the work of many of the youngsters featured still has rough edges that need to be smoothened out and grow and gather depth. Sometimes I recall what my mother would say about commercial success that if it comes too soon, the desire to strive takes a second place. This brings us back to the question of creative impulse. However, in this age of instant gratification, the barometer of success is monetary success and who wouldn’t like to take shortcuts if they can help it? But, they would do well to remember that for even gold to be purified into becoming kundan it has to go through the process of melting before it can be created anew…

Alka Raghuvanshi is an art writer, curator and artist and can be contacted on alka-raghuvanshi@yahoo.com

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