Signs Of The Times!

By Humra Quraishi

When I’m viewing art -exhibitions in any of the art galleries dotted in and around the capital city, I’m more than tempted to question and query: why don’t these artists and art- lovers carry the art works beyond the confines of the galleries, from the stifling confines of exhibition halls and grounds. Nah, not towards the banks of the river Yamuna. That we can leave for the likes of Sri Sri Ravi Shankars!

New Delhi is in dire need of some semblance of life and what could be better than art spread around, on the street corners and along high walls of the shopping malls and community centers. Perhaps, it would be the best possible way to conceal broken boundary walls, withering patches, dusty exteriors; not to overlook the paan stains our city spaces are infamous for.

Also, why should only the supposed who’s who of this city view art? Why not a passer-by or even a labourer or a worker, who doesn’t carry the means, nor the confidence to walk into an art gallery? If the municipality cannot construct unbroken pavements, the least they can do is to pave way for the disadvantaged to get somewhat distracted from the daily grind that this city heaps on the ordinary.

And as I sit introspecting, I’m going even beyond. Once this concept picks up, the well- known artists can engage students and even amateurs to help them paint. Jobs for the jobless…a way out for the depressed and lonely souls. It will bring life to their lives and with that add another dimension to the spread around, which seems to be low…fading away, more so as Spring paves way for a harsh Summer stretch.

And as my mind goes about wondering and wandering, I would love to see the hospitals and hospices and also jails and prisons look somewhat brighter and happier. Inmates can pick up the brush and together with painting the walls can also brush away their blues; after all, painting heals! It’s a pity, we have confined inmates, with the varying backgrounders, all too stuffed into stifling compartments. Let them paint, also meet and interact with artists and art lovers.

It’s a pity that we have not really ‘used’ art to its fullest. We tend to concentrate only on the known artists or those who carry the officially approved tags or those who are busy networking on the circuit. What about the lesser mortals of this city who, perhaps, need more attention than the ones who have somehow made it to the top.

Next time you are driving, jogging or even walking around the city, see the empty blank patches. A strange vacuum holds out…lurking around the piles of dirt and garbage and filth. What if in that place a piece of art comes up! It sure will bring along not just relief to the eyes but also to the taut nerves…paving way to much more along the strain.

With summer already here, all set to leave its dents, let trees and art patches and splashes under their shade, carry some semblance of hope to the weary commuter of this city, who has to walk miles to that destination he’s in search of. Pollutants of all possible hues are sure to hit all along but their impact would lessen if only some distractions meet the eye.

I’m not too certain to the crucial ‘whys’ to the fact that till date we have not reached out to the city’s street children. Their condition shocks but beyond holding seminars and meets and discussions on their plight, we do nothing very much! Why not involve hundreds and thousands of our street children into the world of arts and crafts? Why should they be begging or pleading for alms when they are given an option – a paint brush and colours and, of course, a guide who can help them colour… We owe it to our children especially, the children who are out there on the roads and streets, roaming about helplessly and aimlessly. They are not in need of our sympathy or those screechy political speeches. They need anchorage and means to earn their basic livelihood, away from the clutches of the mafia which controls them with barbaric moves….Let’s rescue our street children by the simple and uncomplicated ways of street art and crafts!

Are those in the ministries and commissions for child welfare hearing my pleas – please reach out to our street children. Don’t overlook their talent. Artists and art -teachers to help them discover their potential and with that we can see many more artists come up…yes, right there on the streets of this capital city. Close your eyes and imagine what a lovely sight it would be to see our children holding painting bandobast, happily painting, settling the creases in their own lives and in the atmosphere all around.

I would go a step further and say that even refugee children who are seeking shelter in the capital city should be involved in this art – for -all! Why shouldn’t we reach out to the refugees here? After all, half of this city’s population had been refugees at some stage of their lives so why this apathy for the hapless refuge –seekers! Whilst you ponder on this, I’m going to pick up the brush and paints and paint away.