Kelambakkam, 30th of November 2016
Our last night in India changed our perception of the country a lot!
We can’t lie – we saw some beautiful things here, like Taj Mahal, and met some very nice people like our hosts in Delhi, but somehow we still couldn’t see ourselves in India.
Before we set off on our trip, we decided that in each place we travel to, we’ll be trying to focus on exploring the everydayness of local people’s lives and imagining what would have been our way of living, if we were born here.
By the end of our time in India, we were convinced that this country didn’t stimulate us enough to let ourselves imagine living here. Don’t get us wrong – we were ‘stimulated’ a lot, especially by the people, but it seemed like not in the right direction. The advice we were given was great, but it must have been not in line with our interests. The people we met were helpful and lovely, but they didn’t seem to understand the way we approach life. Maybe that’s why we didn’t feel the connection between us and India. This made us feel quite lonely.
It all changed though on our last night, when we met Anamika and Rama…They were figuratively and literally a breath of fresh air!
When we visited the DakshinaChitra Museum in Tamil Nadu, we stumbled upon an exhibition “I see what I draw”. I was totally mesmerised by it because I didn’t expect to see something that contemporary and open-minded here, near Kelambakkam, where we stayed.
Majority of people, who we’ve seen on the streets, seemed to run little businesses, restaurants or have stalls, where they sold everything and nothing. We haven’t seen any art galleries and only a handful of museums. So when we stumbled across this exhibition, we were quite moved and suddenly forgot about the busy streets where you need to be assertive towards cows, if you want to have a space to walk, and at the same time not to step on some seller’s goods spread out on the ground.
The artworks didn’t give us any clues on who the author might be – a woman or a man, an Indian citizen or a foreigner? Only when I walked up to the table where the author’s books were placed, I started reading about her background and previous projects. Suddenly someone walked up to me and introduced herself. Only then I realised that it was the artist herself!
Anamika said she noticed my interest in her works and thought she would surprise me. Indeed, that was an excellent surprise, which I didn’t expect!
Two days later, Zach and I were on the way to Anamika’s studio. Our Uber was finding the way through the muddy streets and suddenly we stopped in front of the house. The driver drove away just when we realised that it wasn’t the right door number…We could see the beginning and the end of the street so when I called Anamika and she said she is standing in front of her house but can’t see us, we got a bit worried – we had no idea where we were… I showed the map to a local lady, who happened to be outside her house and staring at us (like the majority of the people living on this street…), and soon we were calling Anamika again. With joint effort we managed to describe where we were.
Rama, Anamika’s partner, advised us on the phone to stay where we were. He would come and pick us up. In a few minutes we saw a huge jeep emerging from behind the houses. A friendly bearded man, whom I recognised from the exhibition, was waving at us from behind the wheel.
Rama later told us that he didn’t have a trouble finding us – wherever he stopped to ask people if they saw someone walking here, they would immediately respond: “THEY went this way!” and would point the direction Zach and I walked in.
Although we only planned on staying at Anamika’s studio for a short time, making a little interview about her works and taking a few photos, we ended up staying there for almost three hours!
We got to know that Anamika and Rama work together and they are both established artists. Rama introduced us to his newest project, an amazing wooden cabinet with 64 little windows, which, when opened, take you to the world of Indian streets. You can find there whatever there is in the world to find!
We also listened to the story of their marriage and couldn’t believe how similar it was to ours – the wedding just for two of them, and then two more: one for each family. The only difference was that we still have these two weddings to go!
We talked about the world of art and commission and the balance between the work that one has to do and the work that one wants to do. Their story was not only easy for me to relate to, but I believe for a lot of artists, wherever in the world they are.
What was striking about Anamika and Rama, that was different to all the other people we met whilst in India, was that they recognised the problems existing in their country and they openly talked about them. With their open-mindedness, both of them confirmed the understanding of the differences that exist in the society. Understanding this in itself is what let them comfortably move around a variety of people: doesn’t matter whether they are educated or not, whether they are doctors or manual workers.
This was easily noticeable also in their personal art projects – the artworks were a mix of satire and street style, a collective of objects, which could reach to any person, as long as the receivers are open-minded.
The exhibition that we stumbled across in the Dakshina Chitra Museum was open to absolutely everyone and seen by people from all walks of life. People were also allowed to write their reviews in the open book. There was one that really attracted our attention: “How could you show such perverted works like this here?! Have you forgotten your Indian heritage?” – all four of us discussed that it was quite a success to make a person, seeing Anamika’s art, react to it. The art in itself made the observer feel and think.
We got to know that Anamika and Rama also love travels. We exchanged some tips and they suggested visiting the places in India that we haven’t been told about. And believe me, everyone, who we have met so far, had a lot to advise us on! The difference in this case was that finally someone recognised what would appeal to us.
We also saw their enormous art studio/house and as we walked through the little corridors, there was always something to surprise us: a cat, a collection of masks brought from all over the world, a beautiful blue glass works’ collection, a cabinet full of paints.
That night we left our new friends’ house feeling uplifted. We both couldn’t remember when was the last time that someone made us so happy. Because we do travel to see the beautiful wonders of the world and nature, but what would be the world without the amazing people? This is the reason we keep going – to find our soul mates on the other side of the world.
Thank you Anamika and Rama, we feel very lucky to have been able to spend our evening with you!