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MEMORIES OF GROWING UP. -  Memorable Art
The Fuschia Tree
Editor's Note.
How do we remember? Not with calendars or clocks. Certainly not with the eponymous temporal lobe.


We remember by looking at old photographs, their wear and tear telling time. We remember in a grandfather's waist belt that we no longer know how to wear or by the taste of fake sugar cigarettes that we couldn't smoke. We remember by tasting a spice used in biryani or by feeling the wee corners of our ears turn icy cold.
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By Rahul Bhattacharya
My library work was over, and we often caught up for tea and cigarettes. Then one evening Chinmoy was busy: after weeks of waiting the department had just received some stone. With itching hands he began drawing on the stone... a skull appeared… rendered in bold lines with piece of brick.

It was a rough piece of marble... people who have grown up in art colleges will know that many survive on free loads of quarry rejects. It had grains and cracks all over... the sun was setting as Chinmoy started carving into that piece of stone.... and I no memory of how long it really took Chinmoy to carve the sculpture. Every evening after classes… or just on some lazy afternoons we would be sitting, sharing cigarettes, talking, as Chinmoy carved way... he even let me try my hand at carving it… careful to let me chip off a block only where the stone was to be broken and discarded… and not a part of the main sculpture... yet with very watchful eyes, because the stone had deep grain lines running through large portions... one false chip and it was laiable to break.

By then I had already fallen in love with how he understood the medium of sculpture, how, based in academic understanding of material and form, he was able to conjure up an extremely contemporary visuality. So I was eager... waiting to see Chinmoy finish the work.

Later, months later, I found myself in Ellora. Coming from an academic institution that that almost hyper-specialized in medieval sculpture and architecture, we spent days in Elllora… waking up every morning... discussing every ground plan, every motif... every sculpture... and it was there that I learnt that I can only understand the sculptor’s understanding of the human form, and know the quality of carving by touching the sculpture.

By the time I came back Chinmoy had received a BFA in sculpture. His final piece was a beautiful, daring rendition of the skull. Standing in front of the piece, I could not resist my urge to touch it. At the very first touch I fell in love completely. As the hand traveled to the back of the skull--feeling the subtle invisible modulations--I could feel the sheer joy the artist had taken to sculpt the form. If you closed your hand and simply touched the back of the piece, you’dyou would know that it was a skull.

Eventually, as it always happens, time passed. As we grew up, authorship, form , even carving became unfashionable words. Much later, after college, when we were all floating and trying to find some ground beneath our feet, I learnt that the work had been acquired by the prestigious collection of Anupam Poddar (Devi Art Foundation was yet to be conceivedthough the collection was already viewed as a benchmark for emerging ‘new art’. It gave us all an impetus, chiseled us into a swing of high spirits. We quickly forgot the far off cities and the occupation called survival.

Then again, as it always happens... time passed again. By now I was in Delhi, writing and editing, and Chinmoy was gaining recognition as one of the best talents emerging out in contemporary Indian art. The artist was visiting Delhi, to see his work on display.. On that visit I traveled with Chinmoy to see the collection, where I met old friends such as the skull that I myself had a hand in.

As Istood in front of the skull after so many years, I could not resist the urge... I reached out and touched the skull. I was glad to know that all that memory was not just fantasy... that the cold marble touching my hands still had the same effect. Cold, but polite stares from the staff made me realize that my touch was no more welcome. I mumbled an apology, smiled and went outside to smoke a cigarette...

By Rahul Bhattacharya, a writer living in Kolkata

Also in this issue

  • Some cities have their writers. Lisbon, for instance, will forever be Fernando Pessoa’s ~ steeped in the saudade of his words, frozen by his poetry, restless as the disquiet between his journal pages. Paris is haunted by the ghost of Hemingway, tied to his heart and bleeding sweet, bitter wine.
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  • Dhrupadi Ghosh is an old friend of mine. We have often had long sessions of adda late at night, discussing her dream projects since her college days at Santiniketan, where she majored in Sculpture. I always...
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  • Second row from the stage – I felt smug in my seat of privileged view. It wasn't going to be the usual evening of taking a test for hypermetropia or digging out wax from my ears. I would have a crystal clear vision...
    Read More

Illusion: Seeing Beyond Seeing
Meaning: In Search of Significance.
Melody: A Different Tune
Rhythm: Ordering Time

Dhrupadi Ghosh is an old friend of mine. We have often had long sessions of adda late at night, discussing her dream projects since her college days at Santiniketan, where she majored in Sculpture.