I rarely call my family up while I'm staying out of town. Don't need to, because they find ways to keep in touch anyways. My stay at Patna was the longest duration that me and my wife have spent apart ever since our marriage. She felt the pinch at every hour.... but I, on the other hand, was so engrossed in sculpture activities... and the incredible Patna life, that days seemed to pass away in a jiffy.
Met people from all walks of life... from potential promising artists to politically inclined ones. On one hand, we heard of bomb blasts that occurred at the very site of our camp, just one day prior to the exhibit... On the other, there was Patna city intoxicated with the festive spirits of Holi. Met artists who refused to be called by their original names and had adopted strange-sounding English titles.... Beginning with 'Sanyasi Red' (the hard-working chief of Rang Vikalp, Patna) to his little son 'Swami Green'... to an Arts student who chose to refer to himself as 'Narendra Kumar Nature'. That he planned to call his future kids by similar names, came as no surprise - "I'd name my child 'Love Nature' if it's a girl, and 'Save Nature' if it is a boy", the teenager elaborated in all his gravity. Life in Patna throws up such incredible instances... you wouldn't know whether to laugh or to cry at. Although I had my reasonable safety concerns before landing there, the hosts made sure each visiting artist was personally looked after. The hospitality was commendable.
Seen in this picture, I'm explaining My sculpture titled 'Under Pressure' to the Chief Minister of Bihar State - Shri. Nitish Kumar. Seen to the right in his trademark colour is Sanyasi Red. This man has toiled nights and days to bring about successful sculpture camps in Bihar. He has ambitious plans to set up a world-class university for Art in his homeland and these are ably supported by the Government of Bihar (read: Nitish Kumar). A few more people of this caliber and vision.... and Bihar would be ready to come out of its 'jungle' image set firm by previous Governments.
Everyone at the camp made me feel special. Apart from the fact that we gelled well personally, young students at the College of Arts and Crafts, Patna had a library of curiosities to clear in the period they assisted me at this Camp. Almost all of them were anxious about the ouster of Bihari residents from Maharashtra (my home State) that local political outfits have brought about. Though I do agree on basic employment principles that Government jobs should be offered to local residents first in every State.... at the end of the day, I'm a simple artist who doesn't have the wit, patience or inclination to study the politics behind these moves. The students asked me to voice my opinion on this serious issue, and I avoided it like plague. They wanted to know what I felt about their hospitality.....and if I would offer the same, should I meet a Bihari in my Maharashtra. Now, practically speaking... I never in my consciousness, ever disrespect a reasonable human being, Bihari or otherwise. And I wasn't altering my beliefs at all while saying thus... yet the saga of this issue has gained such terror proportions that even a seasoned politician would have turned 'yes man' at that moment. News of daily bomb-blasts and police raids didn't console either.
The second important factor was that I hailed from Mumbai - the finance capital of India - the land of infinite opportunities. Students and artists from other states wanted to know what scope they had in Mumbai. Most of them wanted to set up base here, and deliver the goods to their home state, as most migrants do. I returned with some ounce of goodwill from everyone at the camp.
One thing that still stings however, is that my old pals - Stephen Pepin, Murugan Vaiyapuri (aka Anna) and Mark Stonestreet - flaunted their Indian gear to glory at the inauguration function.... whereas I was left wearing a formal pink striped shirt more appropriate for office wear. Our experience at Pallava Symposium suggested that sculpture camps do not leave much time for socializing, sight-seeing or attending any celebrations. So my wife had packed in only a few casual outfits to keep my luggage light. And just when it was needed the most, those extra pounds of clothes were absent for me to choose from - pounds that I would have admittedly struggled to carry, as I was traveling alone this time. And yes, I called her up especially for that although I was out of town.