Archive for April, 2011

History of Indian Academy of Fine Arts-Amritsar/Galleries losing interest / BY Vandana Shukla


BY Vandana Shukla /SAANJH

ESTABLISHED in 1928 by Master Gurdit Singh and his friends, Indian Academy of Fine Arts , Amritsar, acquired its present status by dedicated pursuit of S G Thakur Singh, who went all the way to Bengal to master wash technique and later became a scene painter in the nascent Bombay film industry. He retuned to Amritsar with name and fame and dedicated his life to promotion of art. It was due to the efforts of Thakur and few other like- minded artists that the government gave 4000 square feet land for the gallery in 1958, for which foundation stone was laid by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India. Kartar Singh Duggal gave Rs 17.5 lac to the gallery for the air conditioning of the gallery and the auditorium.

Since 1928, every year IAFA has been holding national art shows, barring 1947, when show could not be held due to partition. The prestigious gallery has got into an ugly controversy due to alleged unlawful constitutional amendments by a few self- proclaimed office bearers, who are neither artist not have any love for art. These office bearers, allege the artist community, are realtors and brick kiln owners, who are trying to amend the constitution to own the space which is a prime property. The artist community from the entire country is flabbergasted, as the cultural space, created with the help of the government for the purpose of art alone is being used by the office bearers of political affiliation for commercial activities. The artist community is up in arms against this blatant show of disregard by a few for artists and art in a state which is as such in dire need of more such facilities.

The missing galleries of art
Punjab has given many great artists to the world of art, but, opportunities for the growth of art remain abysmally poor in the state. Of the two existing art galleries in the state, one is mired in controversies.

BY Vandana Shukla

PUNJAB has given one of the most celebrated artists to the world of visual art- from Amrita Sher-Gil, Manjit Bawa, Arpana Caur, Paramjit Singh, to T&T ( Thukral and Tagra) and Vibha Galhotra. The artistic journey of these artists has made an impact in shaping new trends in the art world, which resulted in receiving global appreciation for their works. Unfortunately, in their own state, they hardly ever had a chance to showcase their talent, receiving laurels is a far- fetched proposition. Reason, the state does not have galleries and other infrastructure that can cater to dynamic needs of art world, which is evolving and growing beyond the bounds of available resources. As a result, artists migrate from the state to other places to grow.

“The state continues to provide great artistic talent to the country and the world but it fails to grow appreciation for art for lack of infrastructure,” says Rahi Mahinder Singh, secretary, Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi.

The continued migration of artists comes as a greater surprise, since, one of the first ever galleries that opened in the country, was, Indian Academy of Fine Arts at Amritsar. The state body of art, Punjab Arts Council, does not have a budget allocation worth mention. NZCC ( North Zone Cultural Centre) , another body that is supposed to cater to needs of art, flip flops, depending upon the efforts of the head of the organisation, especially when it comes to promotion of visual art. At Kalagram, Mani Majra, the ambitious project of NZCC, a corridor was converted into an art gallery, which was in fact, an apology of a gallery, where upcoming artists could exhibit their works. Even this facility was closed, further reducing availability of space for exhibitions. Virsa Vihars was another effort initiated by the state government for the purpose, but, there too exhibitions are held only with collaborations. At Jalandhar, Apeejay College of Art has turned Virsa Vihar, Jalandhar, into Satya Paul Virsa Vihar Art Gallery. At Bhatinda, Kapurthala, and Patiala, Virsa Vihars are still waiting to take off. After closure of NZCC gallery at Sheesh Mahal, Patiala, one more option to showcase works for budding artists is closed, in the almost non- existent private gallery scenario in Punjab. Punjabi University, Patiala, which runs a successful master’s programme in Fine Arts, had a gallery and museum attached to the department to promote talent of its students. Due to some bureaucratic decision, the gallery and museum were separated three years back. Now, the gallery in- charge has to take permission from the vice chancellor, instead of a panel of artists- as is the norm, if an artist wants to hold a show.

Artists need exhibitions, without a critique, their art cannot grow. If one excludes Chandigarh, which has a sizeable number of good galleries, barring just two galleries worth mention, there is no other place in Punjab where adequate facilities are provided at a good location to showcase works in a professional manner. Many senior artists, who hail from different towns of Punjab, and have shown works across the country, lament the lack of facilities, which, newly emerging towns like Gurgaon have aplenty in places like EPI Centre and Art Mart. The state is untouched by the way markets and styles have undergone transformation in the absence of professionally managed art activity. There is hardly any interaction with evolved viewers for the artist. It is a catch- 22 situation, artists do not grow for the same reasons that fail to provide discerning viewers of art.

Admitting apathy of the government bodies, Rahi Mohinder Singh adds that it is primarily work of the Akademis to organise seminars, shows, talks etc to support growth of art in the state. Unfortunately, Punjab Arts Council depends on office bearers to extract money from the government, which, till date has no fixed budget allocation for arts.

Another problem is attached to practising artists who have decided not to grow beyond realism and copy work in the name of art. People open galleries in Ludhiana and Jalandhar with fanfare, galleries last till the space is rented out to a more lucrative offer. The kind of commitment art requires has somehow failed to grow, as a result those who wish to pursue art, migrate to Delhi or Mumbai. In the past Ludhiana has seen opening and closing of Tag gallery, Artmosphere and few others. If you compare the scenario with Jahangeer Art Gallery, Mumbai, where waiting list runs into years, galleries don’t even hold shows on a regular basis, which explains apathy to art in the state.

Usually artists migrate from small towns in Punjab to Chandigarh, where their journey begins, then, they move on to bigger cities to grow. Art cannot grow without a journey, true, but like MNCs art must not grow in metros alone. And, this can happen with facilities made available, as has happened in smaller towns like Jaipur, Pune and Bhopal.

AMRITSAR – Anna Hazare’s turning point/ By Lt Gen Baljit Singh (Retd)


Seem Eons past, a seasoned journalist of AMRITSAR told me that Amritsar has an uncanny distinction!—‘You will notice that Any significant event in the world somewhere has an incredulous connection with Amritsar”. Strange as it may sound his words are evolving to be prophetic and I am slowly starting to believe this gentleman.
I came across this write up –“Soldiering for village uplift”, a first hand account of Naik Anna Hazare by Lieut-Gen Baljit Singh (retd) published as ‘middle’ in The Tribune, recently.

Soldiering for village uplift
by Lieut-Gen Baljit Singh (retd)

HIS demeanor and emphatic, measured speech have not changed a whit since I first and last met him in 1989. The men I once commanded were from the Pune-Sattara-Ratnagiri region and in moments of informal interaction they would often talk of Anna “Sahib” who had led his village from dire poverty to assured prosperity.

Traditionally, soldiers reserve the “Sahib” appellation for their officers and JCOs only; so who was Anna? Well, he was one of the several thousand vehicle drivers of the Indian army. During the 1965 Indo-Pak war he had a close call with death. His was one of the 15-odd lorries ferrying ammunition in the Amritsar sector when this convoy was strafed by PAF Saber-jets.

All the lorries exploded, except Naik Anna Hazare’s. When he regained composure, he had a divine vision; “Bhagwan boley too ja, apney gaon ki seva kar”. And over the next two decades, village Raleagan Siddhi became the beneficiary of “faith moving mountains”.

Short of outright deifying him, his ideas and guidance were accepted by Raleagan citizens as “Dharma”. The women of the village emerged unconditionally empowered and enjoyed vis-à-vis their menfolk the Orwellian status: “All animals are equal but some are more equal than the others!” No more pregnancies after the second child and freedom to acquire skills both in aid of the community and their households.

Land holdings were miniscule but the collective agricultural output increased phenomenally because rain-fed cultivation was replaced by assured, well-water irrigation. Consumption of alcohol was ruthlessly rooted out and with the combined, energized labour force, open wells were dug and a water-usage roster was drawn for each family based on their acreage under tillage.

Every house became a brick and concrete structure with piped drinking water and cooking gas from two community sized, bio-gas plants, at fixed times. Community toilets were clustered around the bio-gas plants, the human faces supplementing its “gobar” feed-stock. Kitchen waste was dumped into community compost-pits.

Anna Sahib was able to convince the Houses of Tata and Kirloskar of the viability of his mission and obtain interest-free loans as also irrigation lift-pumps and diesel generators at concessional rates. Loan instalments were honoured post the Kharif and Rabbi harvests; the last being in 1986 !

Onions and pulses were the main cash crops. In 1986, the produce earned close to a whopping 2.5 lakh rupees. A Cooperative Gramin Bank was created and staffed exclusively by the Raleagan women. Each family had fixed deposits of five to thirty thousand rupees by 1989.

I cannot recall how the school was funded but free and compulsory education was provided to each child up to matriculation. At least two able-bodied youth enrolled in the Army each year.

I shared this experience with the late General B C Joshi and suggested that the Army ran an orientation course, for soldiers about to retire under Anna Hazare’s aegis. The General visited Raleagan and launched the initiative with the hope that many more soldiers would replicate the Raleagan template in their villages.

Media ‘Jugaad’- Telex to Twitter…SWAM (South Asian Women in Media)….By Rashmi Talwar


Media ‘Jugaad’- Telex to Twitter
By Rashmi Talwar


Two essential tools carried by a reporter- are a ‘nose-for-news’ and ‘Jugaad’- the quick-fix cleverness- the ‘mantra’ behind a great story or visual. Hence it was no surprise when women mediapersons attention was grabbed by ‘Telex to Twitter’ journey that changed ways of news gathering and threw open a novelty of routes with publics and where ‘Jugaad ’frequently played centre-stage .

(Barkha Dutt) A Popular figure on TV and Managing Director NDTV, used ‘Jugaad’ during the unfolding events in Egypt recently via a flip-phone using 3-G services and got a complete stream of the uprise, using ‘skype’ after their cameras and transmission equipment were confiscated by jittery officialdom, as it was seen to embolden the protestors.
In contrast, she relates to time when Abdul Ghani lone was assassinated in Kashmir- and not a phone nearby to report. Another ‘jugaad’ during Kargil conflict when video-tapes were handed to chopper pilots for delivery. Technology indeed has brought a revolution in every strata of news. She was recently addressing women mediapersons at the ‘South Asian Women in Media’ (SAWM) Regional Conference, India Chapter, in Delhi.
Electronic media doubtlessly faces more challenges, though ‘jugaad’ by print media is no less significant in situations risky or requiring presence of mind. At times, a prompt rejoinder or catchword can turn advantageous. A mere ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘blank’ or ‘absence’ can draw a full fledged report.

However, mention of ‘Wikileaks’ made heads turn. (Siddharth Varadarajan ) The RE ‘The Hindu’ elucidated – the Breaking news- ‘MP Shopping’- Rocking Parliament, the connection with the ‘Virtual Internet Tsunami’ –Wikileaks. ‘The cables arrived in top-secrecy from London, uploaded using multi-passwords, studied, vetted before the dark lettering in print’. ‘Yes! We were figuratively labeled, even accused of ‘prurient’ interests for publishing this story’, he admitted and laughed and boomed ‘Journalism is eventually about ‘Power of media’ to take on the powerful’.

Ambika Soni as Chief Guest hailed women journalists as having touched cords and changed the way stories are told, “Stretching Frontiers”. Taking umbrage to gender bias she noted ‘Surely!’-‘it was crucial to sensitize both men and women to problems of women journos’ -We can’t shake hands with clenched fists’

Sunita Aron, RE HT drew nods when she related about covering dacoits, 25-yrs back. ‘Of the two rifled cops accompanying me, one of them asked ‘Are there no men in your office?’

While Shravan Garg Editor Dainik Bhaskar, admitted that women got hired in some papers only to cover women’s issues, the gender bias came to rule an audience that was genuinely perturbed over issues of equal pay, opportunity and maternity leave. All nodded in unison at the pointer that many incidents amounting to sexual harassment of reporters go unreported, because of strong urge not to be cowed down by demented men or self imposed ‘conspiracy of silence’ for being seen as ‘not’ tough enough.

However, it was the comment at the end of keynote address by Patricia Mukhim Editor, The Shillong Times, who called for a ‘break in the glass ceiling in a Ghetto of Patriarchy’ and at the same time censured those who have ‘slept their ways through’.
Sadly, despite Top Editors participation from media houses, not one had a ‘Jugaad’ to bring changes’ in their own establishment for women in media. …..

Let’s Riot with Colors….. BY ILMANA FASIH


This beautiful thought was penned by Ilmana Fasih ..I came across it on a FB page ‘Indo-Pak Peace Media’ …A write up with childlike innocence plays on ‘colors for construction’ …the scene therein of a fairytale where weapons of mass destruction are assigned a task unknown to them–of bringing smiles, happiness and glee in the lives of mortals who sing and dance to banish away the devils of destruction …Saanjh..
“Let’s Riot with Colors…”

BY ILMANA FASIH

I seriously think
We should develop
A bomb of crayons
As our next weapon-
Of mass ‘construction’.
A color bomb,
A beauty bomb.
Launched from –
– A happiness jet
-Or a unity tank.
As a peace missile.
And every time,
a crisis developed,
we would drop one.
It would explode
High in the air
– Explode softly
– and send hundreds
or thousands,
even millions,
of little parachutes
of colors, colors, colors
Floating down to earth
with splashes of colors
rioting into the air.
And we wouldn’t go cheap,
– not little boxes of eight.
Boxes of sixty-four,
maybe hundreds
with the sharpener built-in.
With silver and gold and copper,
magenta and peach and lime,
amber and umber and all the rest.
And cover the world with
colors and imagination.
And people would smile,
laugh, giggle and go hysterical.
Get funny look on their faces
twinkle in their tearful eyes.
Hope embedded in their dimples,
Peace sparkling from their teeth
And all one could have
Is hope and happiness.
As far as eyes could see.
With musical instruments
of peace and unity
playing in the background,
the music borne of them,
rocking in ecstasy and
dancing with the colors,
Until the dawn of ‘sanity’
Awakens this asinine,
‘sleeping’ mankind.
( Inspired by HOLI–the festival of colors, and with some colors stolen from it, & from a quote by Robert Fulghum, with some words taken from it).

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