Wednesday, August 18, 2010

'I had made 300 sketches of her'

On a visit to Pune, acclaimed artist Laxman Shreshtha talks about how he wooed his wife, his passion for art and the Himalayas as an inspiration

"I am a maverick and an artist. I never follow any rules," says Laxman Shreshtha, who was in Pune to meet some city-based artists. Shreshtha who hails from Nepal, was born in an aristocratic family and pursued his passion--art. He had to move base to Mumbai, as in those days, being an artist was not a respected profession.

Elaborating on his artistic journey, the 71-year-old artist says, "I had written a letter to the then principal of JJ School of Arts, JD Gondhalekar, that I would be coming to visit him. But when I actually landed in front of him, it left him amazed." He says that he was a rebel in the JJ School of Arts too. "In the class, I would follow whatever my teachers used to say, but when I returned to my room, I would change whatever I had drawn and try something new," he recalls.

Shreshtha also remembers meeting his wife Sunita at the art school. "She was my junior and was very attractive. She used to model for paintings and I had made 300 sketches of her, which I would carry with me always," he says. He was very shy to let her know this, but when his classmate did the honours for him, Sunita came to see the sketches and fell in love with Shreshtha. "We have been inseparable since then. When I got a scholarship to go to Paris, I asked her to accompany me. We had to get married as her parents wouldn't allow her to join me otherwise," he smiles.

Shreshtha started painting abstracts in 1964. "I won a gold medal in portrait paintings, but I decided to go ahead with abstract as it is more fulfilling," says Shreshtha, who was born in Siraha in Nepal. He says that he comes from a land of boundaries and he visits the Himalayas once in a year, which inspires the artist in him. "As an abstract painter, you don't have to depend on any subject, as you can just paint what comes to your mind," he says, adding that artists such as V Gaitonde have influenced him.

Shreshtha is pleased to have some serious collectors of his paintings across the globe. "Kumarmangalam Birla is one of my serious collectors," he says. He reveals that most of the collectors who collect paintings as an investment, do not really understand art. "Few collectors take the effort of talking to artists and collecting information," he says.

Talking about new and upcoming artists, he says that they want to break free from all the rules that have been set. "I would walk 10 miles in search of a good painting and encourage the artist. There have been times, when young students would visit me and we would chat about art over a cuppa."
"MF Hussain would call me El Greco after seeing my portraits," he says.

He adds that when you listen to good music or taste the food you like the most, you get involved with it cent percent. Similarly for an artist, the search of the ultimate and trying to find known from the unknown, is fulfilling.

A fine wine experience!

A guide on wines for beginners and wines that enhance the taste of various cuisines

Be it red, white or sparkling, wine has always adorned platters belonging to different cuisines across the globe. Wine is a popular beverage that accompanies and enhances a wide range of European and Mediterranean-style cuisines. And it's not just a beverage, but a flavour agent, as any connoisseur will tell you.

But if you have never tasted wine, how do you go about it? Many city hotels and restaurants have now started suggesting wines with the food that they serve, to make it simple for the novices to choose wines. Chef Chandan Thakur, assistant food and beverage manager, Westin Pune Koregaon Park says, "A beginner needs to start with simple yet exciting wines which have a good bouquet and aroma. In whites, you can start with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Italian pinot Grigio and in reds, one can start with Californian merlots or Australian Shiraz."

The Aromas chain of restaurants too suggests wines with their food on their menu. Sapana Malhotra, senior vice president, Ideal Hospitality Pvt Ltd, says, "We have a total of eight varietals each of red and white wines from Australia, Chile, France, Italy and India." She adds that wines in India change preference as per the season as each wine suits the different ambience around it. "We are trying to put wine on the table as a casual drink and not very complicated to understand, thus making the wine drinking experience a daily and enjoyable affair," she says.

So which wines go well with Indian cuisines and our ever-spicy dishes? Chef Thakur answers, "Indian dishes have a very complex flavour and aroma. Therefore, wines highly eminent in tartness like the Sauvignon Blanc or Australian Shiraz or the young Cotes du Rhone will go well with such dishes." Wines should be served cooler with Indian food as spicy foods taste better with cooler accompaniments. "A White Zinfandel, which is a pink wine and sweet makes a good marriage with paneer tikkas, reshmi kebabs and tandoori breads," he says. Sparkling wines too go well with Indian food. So, having champagne with your Indian meal isn't a bad idea.

Chef Thakur says that the wines that are served accompanying Indian food should have alcohol above 12 percent. "With desserts like rasmalai, wines such as a sweet Muscat or rich Semillon goes well," he says. With so many types of 'suggestion ready' wines, it won't be difficult for beginners to explore them and have a great meal.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Keeping it short

Kala Ramesh has mastered haiku, the Japanese form of 'one-breath poems'

An old cliche goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. But when it comes to haiku -- a Japanese form of poetry--the observation can't get any better. Haiku, which is an ancient form of poetry dating back to over 400 years, is like a painting of words.

Kala Ramesh, an exponent of haiku in the city, has won many accolades in this art form, and wishes that more people come to know about it. Kala, who is a Hindustani classical singer, came across haiku in 2005; she loved the form and started pursuing it. "Haiku is a very simple form of poetry. It has a fixed set of rules, and needs constant practice. Simplicity in anything is extremely difficult to master," explains Kala, who has learnt classical music for many years from Shubhada Chirmule in Pune.

Kala started writing haiku poems in January 2005, and her first poem was accepted in March by a publication called Bottle Rockets, and her haiku and tanka (a Japanese form of five-line poetry) were accepted for publication in Simply Haiku for their summer and autumn issues respectively. "There are plenty of printed and e-versions of haiku magazines.

Such magazines prove to be a source of information on the poetry form," informs Kala, whose credentials include an honourable mention in Mainichi Daily News Annual Selection in the years 2007-08.Haiku, which can also be called a one-breath poem, uses minimum words to express the meaning. Haiku is a three-line poem, but can also be written in one, two or four lines. Capital letters are generally not used in English language haiku (ELH) but there are exceptions.

"Basho, a master of this art form, has aptly said, 'Learn of the pine from the pine; learn of the bamboo from the bamboo', meaning, to become one with nature, is the most important ingredient while attempting to write a haiku," says Kala.

The poet says that in India, there are few Haiku poets who write in English. "Charoli in Marathi is similar to haiku," she says. Kala is keen to spread this art form by taking up workshops. She has taken workshops in New Delhi, Mumbai and in Pune.

"Many haiku poets, who are also professionals, feel good after writing them, as they get a chance to break away from the monotony of their life and spend some time with nature," she says.

Ageing too young?

It's no longer about mid-life crisis, changing lifestyles and ambitions have led today's youngsters to experience something called quarter-life crisis

Sohan Sinha is an engineer and has reached the pinnacle of his career at the young age of 30. But his success isn't making him happy and he suffers from stress, anxiety and sleep-related disorders.

Sohan is a classic case of a person suffering from something called the quarter-life crisis. Mid-life crisis is heard of, but now people aged between 25 and 30 years of age, are increasingly facing this disorder, hence the term quarter-life crisis! Sohan wanted to study fine arts, but due to parental pressure, had to take up engineering and excel in it. But after eight years of working, he finds his job mundane and non-fulfilling.

Vaidehi Atre (25), an IT professional has a heavy pay package, but still isn't happy. "I find my work very monotonous and feel that there is no creativity in what I do. I don't feel 'useful'." She adds that apart from this feeling a recent break-up with her boyfriend has made things worse for her. "I don't get sleep properly and day dream a lot. It is difficult for me to concentrate on my work," she says.

"Disorders such as stress and anxiety are becoming common among the youngsters. Unlike earlier, youngsters now study till the age of around 24, then get a job and get busy with their careers. Therefore, the marriage also comes late in the picture. Then it becomes difficult to adjust to the long working hours and the family," says clinical psychologist, Dr Natasha D'Cruz.

And then are people, who put in long working hours without being attached to what they are doing and looking only for monetary gains. "The cases related to quarter-life crisis have risen over the past couple of years. There is a performance anxiety in youngsters coupled with fear of failure and increasing expectations from the near and dear ones," says psychiatrist Dr Suparna Telang. "Nowadays, when it comes to choosing a career, interest becomes secondary and people generally opt for high paying jobs," she adds. People also spend less time with family which leads in aloofness.

"The lifestyle that youngsters follow also plays a key role in quarter-life crisis. Late-night outings, irregular sleep and faulty diet lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and acidity," says Dr Telang. She says that many couples come to her complaining of a troubled married and sex life. "Couples as young as 26 and 28-years-old, come to me for consultation. Mostly both of them are working and are very tired when they come home and do not enjoy the act. Even during weekends, they have to finish chores and meet family and friends, which again ends them up tired," she says. Erratic routine and lifestyle is a vicious circle, which engulfs the youngsters in it, adds Dr Telang.

Dr D'Cruz narrates a case of a 28-year-old married girl, who had to relocate after her marriage and look for a new job there. "After one and a half years of marriage, she became pregnant and things became very difficult for her. She suffered stress and depression as it was difficult for her to manage the new marital life, new city, job and the baby," she says.

This is also leading a number of youngsters to take solace in spirituality, with the hope that they can take better control of their mind and life. Amrit Sadhana, member, management team, Osho International Meditation Resort says, "Who is happy with their lives? Everybody is searching for something more than what they have." According to her, today's youngsters are mature and intelligent enough as they have to deal with a burden of responsibilities very early in their lives. "If they are stressed, they come here to meditate and forget all their worries."

(Some names have been changed on request)