Thursday, 15 February 2007

Name Dropping On Friends

Name dropping on Friends: Chagall, Kandinsky, Laxman Pai, K.S. Kulkarni and V.S.

GVK ,. You refer to a lot of Coffee house friends including V.S, the painter. You made me reminisce even more about my year or so in Delhi as a reporter. I met V.S and a multitude of aspiring painters most of whom avoided the Coffee House but gathered in a dark carnivorous (not cavernous) upstairs cafe called I think Anarkali . I had the first taste of lamb meat in this august place. There was Swami Nathan, the elder; Inderjit. R.K. Dhawan, the three names I can remember. I broke my Brahmanic vows and tucked into a lamb curry and proceeded to throw up soon after. I also had my first taste of whisky among these devil-may-care addicts. V.S had the urbane good looks of an East European playboy, with his broad Slavic face and abundant hair, his smart pseudo-peasant clothes which were then fashionable. Chain smoking cigarettes that one rolled oneself were in vogue, and the little upstairs room in Anarkakli was often dense with tobacco smoke and smell. Painters were struggling to define a new individual and collective idiom, with little help from their elders. Talk was about Venice Biennale, of Beaux Arts in Paris (premier college of Fine Arts in Europe) and indeed about the influence of Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, Giacometti, Fernand L├ęger, Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy on young Indian painters. Jamini Roy’s works and Kalighat renaissance had come and gone, as had temporary passion for cubism. American painters like Rothko were rarely discussed. There was the perpetual love hate relationship with the elders of the tribe; Francis Souza who was enviously successful in London, Laxman Pai in Paris, and K.S Kulakarni lording it over Triveni, a modern New Delhi elite gallery funded by the government. The elders never paid Anarkali a visit.

V.S heard from me that I was headed for Europe with no money, but optimism and dreams. I had not realised that I was becoming a mini legend even before I had departed . I did not know then he would follow me to England , taking the easier route of travelling to Istanbul on a prepaid coach trip and then on what became the Orient express to London within 3 months of my arrival in London.

GVK, he did work in the mail room of Indian High Commission and spent his lunch hours chatting with me in my niche isolation as a photo librarian, I am afraid these conversations were very much one-sided, since V.S was in love with the only daughter of a famous Indian historian who was studying Socio-anthropology at London School of Economics. He may well have said: “Being in love is a 24-hour job; it’s impossible to be in love and do much else at the same time”. They did get married and had two children , although sadly the marriage did not last. V.S now lives in salubrious Regents Park and wanders the streets and the park with a sketch pad and crayons in his shoulder bag, idly drawing what he sees of the multilingual affluent residents of his parish. His lines are fluent and deft and speak of a promise not quite delivered. Very often curious subjects, flattered by his bold attention end up buying these instant sketches.

He never had the success he craved for as a painter. He used to visit my London home unannounced with a bottle of wine dying to tell me of his latest love affair with a 21 year old Scandinavian beauty he met in a cafe, a pub, the bus stop or the park. He seemed to unable to tell the difference between love and sexual attraction. There was something youthful and touchingly sweet if naive in his need to be perpetually in a state of love with someone. He spends his year wandering around Europe, visiting his old flames and often goes to India like an earnest pilgrim in love with its cultural wealth and its iconic outposts and its historical ruins. His last visit left V.S deeply disappointed, even upset by what he saw as public squalor and private wealth, and tawdry commercialisation of religious institutions. V.S’s pride was the fact that he had been tutored in a Hindu Gurukul in the foothills of the Himalayas, in classic Vedic tradition. He had always seen this place in a romantic hue as a paradigm of Hindu culture. He was equally disappointed by his erstwhile theatre friends who had now become part of a well guarded institution, with a code of conduct and etiquette of public behaviour which V.S did not share. We remain friends and I always look forward to his unannounced visit (looking more like a weathered Mexican shaman than a Slavic playboy) with pleasure and apprehension.

GVK, re connecting with old and absent friends is a great good fortune and I hope you will find Satish, Sushil Nangia, Speedy (S P Dutt), easier now in the days of the Internet. I have a story to tell of how I found my dearest school and university friend Joe who retired as an Air Force officer, after 42 years of remembering and searching for him. That can wait for another day of blogging.


Previous related Blogs of B2B-K-K (Kini-Krishnan)


G.V.Krishnan, my gifted friend and his blogsite

A blog-to-blog chat with my friend Kini

Blogging It Out With My Friend Kini

B2B: Our Fleet St. Days'

Remembering Mr. Chandra in Fleet Street

Blog Magic: How Irfan Reconnected With Kini

B2B: Recover soon, Kini

The Sixties: A New Renaissance

B2B with K : My indebtedness, to Satish, Subash

B2B with K : Of crossover book and a cross-country trip

B2B with K: Kabul in the hippy, happier days

The Journey Begins

B2B with K: My take on the names you dropped...

B2B with K: Leaving London, home-bound

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Why did you return to India?

My friend GVK has finished his response in B2B with K : My indebtedness, to Satish, Subash with several intriguing questions unanswered. GVK what did you think of the 60s renaissance? Did you feel a part of it? Did it excite you? Did you sense a new cultural and political paradigm shift in the mid sixties England?

The second question is why did you leave England and return to India when virtually tens and thousands were even risking their lives to come and live in England?

Finally, I had completely forgotten that you returned to India overland in a 12 seater minibus – a daring thing to do, considering you were walking on the wild side in Afghanistan where the warlords habitually kidnapped European travellers and kept them as slaves. Tell us more: You have enough material for several long blogs to explain.


Previous related Blogs of B2B-K-K (Kini-Krishnan)

G.V.Krishnan, my gifted friend and his blogsite

A blog-to-blog chat with my friend Kini

Blogging It Out With My Friend Kini

B2B: Our Fleet St. Days'

Remembering Mr. Chandra in Fleet Street

Blog Magic: How Irfan Reconnected With Kini

B2B: Recover soon, Kini

The Sixties: A New Renaissance

B2B with K : My indebtedness, to Satish, Subash