The Astronomy Tower (Week 3)
The Astronomy Tower (Week 3)8 mins 188 8 mins 188
I will not say
What thoughts immediately were ours, nor how
The happy idleness of that sweet morn,
With all its lovely images, was changed
To serious musing and to self-reproach.
These are a few lines from William Wordsworth’s poem “A Narrow Girdle of Rough Stones and Crag.” that aptly depict the emotions as the author and his friends move through 'one day' in their life which changes them forever…
As a child, I used to love the poem ‘The Daffodils’ by the same author. As a child, I also used to love that life was so carefree… But things changed as I grew up. They say, they always do. I say, do they have to?
I have seen people – friends, relatives, build lives, make money, build castles, travel abroad. I have seen the kind of ‘out of sync’ life that they lived for reaching wherever it is that they are today… And I feel… Is it worth it? I don’t know.
I don’t want to judge, neither do I want to make my life decisions basis a few examples of disappointment and frustration. But I think it would be good to take stock every once in a while… you know what I mean… As in… getting in touch with what is it that you really want, who you really are…
As a child my uncle used to take me, my sister and his own children to visit the planetarium; for the ‘sky show’, so to say. While there, I was so amazed by the dark pitch projection of the sky in the dome. Honestly, what amazed me was the vastness. Not the stars, nor the planets, the vastness of the sky. To date, I don’t know why? Sometimes I feel maybe because it is all-encompassing, never-ending. In a way when I think about it today, I feel the sky depicts an unnerving sense of eternity. It symbolises the non-linear nature of time making it evident that there are lives that are going to be, and, those that have been, and somehow, 'SPACE' knows all about it!
A few years back, say, ten years or so, I used to hang out with a professional group who was into sky watching. Even then I wasn’t amused by the stars. But what I was attracted to, was, the laser beam which our instructor used to point out the stars to us. With a child-like innocence, I used to find it interesting that, that sharp, bright beam of light can reach the space…. How wonderful!
Quite surprisingly I don’t remember having drawn the picture of a night sky, ever. I don’t know if it's weird or not, but looking back I know I wasn’t very good at drawing or painting. I was interested but lacked the aptitude. Lately, I sort of got a hang of it, enjoyed it thoroughly, and, also found it particularly interesting to try out different art forms.
I think what draws me to different art forms are the thoughts of the artist, their inspiration or pain alike, which could have triggered them to splash the plethora of colours, in a moment of joy or despair, which we then see as a beautiful painting!
Someone could argue that not all paintings are passionate works of creation and I completely agree. But there was one particular exhibit I had visited at the Jehangir Art Gallery which made me realize my capability of ‘feeling’ through ‘paintings’ for the first time…
If you have ever been to Jehangir Gallery, you will know that there are big hallways of varied sizes on the ground floor and depending on the number and the size of the paintings, artists select their hallways.
That besides, there is one to the right immediately after you enter the main building. I am referring to the very first one.
That day there were two exhibits in that hallway. Mostly that place is compartmentalized into two, one bigger and the other smaller section to accommodate exhibits accordingly. Both the exhibits were worth remembering that day… How many times does it happen that an experience stays with you? How many times does it happen that something fills your senses so deeply that you don’t mind reliving the moment? Once in a million, I would say.
It was one such experience for me… In this vast scheme of life when life does not always go the way you want and we are all challenged by our own ups and downs, such experiences are something to cherish. They form a part of our being and give us the hope and strength that we need I feel… By now you must be wondering what was so special about it? I’ll come to that in a bit…
So, as a child, after a good two hours or so spent at the astronomy tower, it was fun hanging out with cousins and spending time by the sea with a hot, spicy morsel of vada pav held in one hand and a tiny bite of green chilly in the other.
I love the sea even today. A friend of mine used to say that the sea is all absolving… It has great capacity for taking in anything and everything that you throw at it, both literally, and metaphorically.
I don’t know about that. What I do know is that the state of our seas and other water bodies is not where it should be. As a part of a volunteering organization, I have had the opportunity to attend a mangrove cleaning initiative four or five years back… don’t remember exactly.
The group had two tasks at hand, one to build bunds near the shore to help obstruct the water so that the mangrove microflora could get trapped thereby supporting healthy regeneration of the mangroves. Second, to physically clean all the dirt and filth that was being washed away at the shore and getting trapped in the existing mangroves thus uprooting or damaging them.
Can you believe that we actually collected about 15 – 22 huge black bags full of dirt that included plastic waste, torn clothes, etc. and placed it at the entrance of the coast where the BMC officials would find it easily and take it away for disposal.
I had a weird sense of frustration and satisfaction that day. Satisfaction because I felt I changed something for the better. But frustration, because I really don’t know if the change is going to be sustainable and if anyone really wants it? And if people want it then how can they be so insensitive and ignorant to these natural resources that we have.
I mean how can you throw used, torn, filthy, clothes in water?
I felt if this does not stop there will be a day we will not be able to tell take our children to show them the sea… It will be a long-lost memory as are some of the zoos and the national parks around the world that are closing because so many animals are being endangered due to poaching and wildlife trade. But that is another topic for discussion…
I remember by the time we were heading back home after the clean-up it was about to be sunset and the splash of auburn fire in the water filled my senses… Just as the orange zest that filled the hallway with the painting exhibit at the Jehangir Art Gallery…
The exhibit comprised of twenty-odd paintings I think…, all of them with huge white canvasses that had spurs only of yellow, orange and vermillion, in the different objects that were painted. As I paced my way through the room something stirred in me that made me uncomfortable and I could not understand what it was. It was as if the artist was repetitively conveying a message and I couldn’t but pull myself together to go and have a word with him.
Fortunately, he was present in person, as isn’t the case always. When I was just about to approach him, there were some administrative people who wanted him for a discussion and so I was stalled midway. Meanwhile, I realised that I was now standing in front of the centrepiece of the exhibit… And that’s where I got the insight about the fervour that his paintings wanted to depict through the bold hues.
The painting was of a woman, a mother. Before I could get hold of myself, I saw him walking towards me, having finished his discussion with the staff. I think he too must have seen it in me what I wanted to see through his work. I gracefully complimented him for his work and before I could even pose my question about the insight, he started narrating his story…
He was an engineer employed in the private sector in Hyderabad. Both he and his wife were educated and working for the telecom sector if I remember it right. I am not sure. It occurs that the inspiration for his exhibit was the rage that he and his wife had experienced during their marriage because they did not belong to the same community.
Not only that, their community had gone to extent of afflicting physical violence on the wife during her first pregnancy and even had attempted to kill their first child because she was a girl. After that experience, the couple had somehow managed to flee away from all their relatives and community members to establish their safe haven.
Today, they have two children, both daughters, but even today the scars of their past, at times, mar the prosperous and abundant life that they are trying to build…
Being a woman, I couldn’t help but feel the surge of pain that the artists’ wife must have gone through, both physical and emotional. I mean if he was standing in front of me after all these years making an attempt to make art out of his broken heart, and he was a mere witness to his wife’s agonies, and if that stirred me, I cannot imagine how I would have felt if I met his wife in person!
I am not a feminist or something… but the incident awakened something in me. What? I can’t place it even today. Somewhere I felt, no one in this world deserves pain. No one… And that change has stayed with me through these years…
It was as William Wordsworth says at the end of his poem, “A Narrow Girdle….” I met my point of “POINT RASH - JUDGEMENT”, so to say…