Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sorry sir, Myth is not science or its methodology

Today Prof. Manoj Das, a renowned Padmasree awardee writer from Odisha in his op-ed in today’s New Indian express advocates a highly problematic proposal to consider myth as scientific methodology and be included in Indian science congress.
Let me acknowledge that I do have highest respect for his literary accomplishment and contribution to Indian literature and culture. The portion under “Professor “ are extracts from his writing and “counter point” is the take on it.
Professor: Now that the 105th edition of the Indian Science Congress to be held at Imphal in March this year has been announced, this author who, like thousands, expects this ever-dynamic branch of human quest to quench our thirst for knowledge on several aspects of life and nature, would like to appeal to it to reconsider its attitude towards a vital subject that has impacted our faith and thought since time immemorial.
The urgency for this appeal lies in the fact that three years ago the organisers of the Congress were very unkindly criticised for allowing presentations of a few papers on that particular topic in one of its sessions.
The topic was myth. Some intellectuals picked up the cue and continued to condemn that frail endeavour as if myths were a handful of filth hurled into the sanctum sanctorum of science. And this attitude seems to have prevailed till its last meet.
Counter point: In India, science and scientists have always kept faith at an higher pedestal by way of their engagement in their personal and professional life. From Visheshika school time itself the idea of faith was liberated from Sabda – word or testimony of past or present from reliable experts as means of understanding knowledge. So from beginning our ancestors themselves had asked asked us to reject hearsay/ oral tradition to that myth, a traditional story telling technique that involves supernatural phenomena or incident, is a subset. The incident professor quotes as unkind criticism was only a rational response from that tradition to a stupidity of presenting vimana myth as empirical truth.
All over the world flying has always been a dream or a property in traditional story telling to highlight the super human quality for heroes including Gods and Ghosts. The impact value of that idea for creating awe factor in human society is studied extensively by cultural theorists across the world. Instead of treating a Ramayana story “prop” as only a narrative ‘prop’, if one presenst an irrational text written by someone in 1948 as an engineering marvel in 21st century science conference, what else a rational mind coming from the legacy of questioning and debating (tharka) as heritage for thousands of years would do?
At this point, I also would request professor to take note of the fact that we have not forgotten the bullock cart building technology, ayurvedic practice, mathematical theories, astronomy and all those philosophical schools over these thousand and odd years. So one is curious to know that what could be the reason that he thinks that we have forgotten this vimana making technology, Gandhari’s bio technology, Ganesha’s plastic surgery and Mahabharata’s nuclear weapon making technology?
I don’t think anyone of sensible mind would ever claim myth as filth at the sanctum sanctorum of science. But all that people had said or warned was to consider myth as myth and leave it for people’s literary and artistic or humanistic imagination.
Professor: This is a deplorable Indian situation, because we understand that in the international arena, science is marching into new domains, as confirmed by the British physical chemist-cum-creative writer
C P Snow in his acclaimed Rede Lecture, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution: “The boundaries of science have expanded in recent decades in a rather interesting way. Emotion, consciousness, human nature itself, have become legitimate topics for the biological sciences.” Why should then myths, the cryptic treasure of all those basic human elements, remain untouchable for science in India? No doubt, several myths have bred superstitions and taboos. But that itself is a major justification for science taking them up and stripping them off their superflux. To do that science should be prepared to adopt new and imaginative means of probe.
Counter point: Sir, looks like you are completely confused. CP Snow, who is famous for his take on structures of scientific language that are unable to be communicative enough with literary people for its obscurity of technicality, is talking about some empirical factors in human life that science also agrees to certain extend based on scientific study. Where as you are talking about communication methodology sir. I am sure as an authority in Indian literary traditions and historical methodologies you are very well aware of the difference.
Sir, It is the role of sociology, literature, theology, history and politics to study the role myth in society and its reformation, not that of science. I believe these subjects of humanities is already doing a great good job in that area that of course many people with vested interest are finding it difficult to accept. I am sure you will agree that these humanities subjects and its subject matter experts are equally capable and imaginative as any scientist in this world.
Professor : Once some groups in the US were out to patent the qualities of neem for their medical products and India contested the move legally and won. During the interval at a conference, a NASA scientist asked me, “What kind of laboratory your country had a thousand years ago to discover such qualities of neem which we did in our modern laboratories?” “The laboratory of consciousness,” was my answer, for I was familiar with the myth of the Rishis getting identified with different plants through their meditative concentration and finding out their beneficent qualities.
Counter point: Sir, here you are going from confusion to completely absurd and wrong. by terming the great medical research with an equally competent methodology of practice through data information collation from length and breadth of this country by Charakas as “something developed in the laboratory of consciousness”. You did a great disservice to world’s one of the old medical scholars. Kind request to revisit, Charaka Samhita taught by Atreya, Agnivesa, Charaka, Dridhbala and millions of other vaids painstaking studies in this area. So you decide which side of the fence are you.
Professor: It is well known how the outstanding scientist August Kekule, after hours of vain brainstorming exercise, found the solution to his problem of the structural formula of benzene molecule through a dream featuring a serpent in a whirling motion biting its tail. In India it is well known to scholars how the genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, according to his own statement, received in his dreams solutions to the most perplexing mathematical enigmas from Goddess Namakkal.
We may term such cases, if we dismiss any occult intervention, as cases of solutions built up by the subconscious. But that does not diminish the efficacy of the dreams. And dreams form a considerable area of our myths and they could be items of sealed significance.
Counterpoint : Sir, first you are requested to decide whether you are talking about intuition or dreams or myths. Over and above the theories of Freud and Jung, modern Cognitive science and psychology have done a lot of advancement in understanding the first two areas. So I don’t think any Indian scientist would ever reject intuition and dreams as occult interventions. But problem is you are again confusing your self with subject matter by equating intuition and dreams with literary and oral tradition methodology myth with them.
Professor:There prevails some reluctance among the intellectuals, including our scientists, to respond even when a myth invites them with a promise of revealing something worthwhile. Otherwise why should we shy away from the obvious evidence of a submerged Dwaraka? Is it because the discovery will justify a Mahabharata myth?
Counter point : Sir, hereafter I wouldn’t say that you are confused because now one can clearly see certain complex agenda in your writing. It may but not necessarily the role of scientists to respond to archaeological excavations. It is the role of archeology to study of this subject and so far they are proved to be much more capable than many other scientific areas to carryout this responsibility. For your information, apart from drawing inputs from subjects of humanities like anthropology, history, art, ethnology, geography, literary history, linguistics, semiology, textual criticism and scientific subjects like physics, information science, chemistry, statistics, palesciences it also has developed subdivisions in this subject like historical archeology, ethnoarcheology, experimental archeology and archaeometry to study this subject in detail. Apart from this humongous efforts to understand our historical relevance, it also has developed many advance technological and scientific tools for this purpose. Computational archeology, virtual archeology, Geo mapping and dron technology are few among them. If this is not an advance science subject, I do not know what do you mean by science.
Professor: If some scientific survey by foreigners suggests that the row of rocks that once linked India with Sri Lanka were placed on the oceanic sand, is it not strange that there is not even any sign of curiosity in the relevant quarters on such an exciting claim? Is it because it would highlight a Ramayana myth?
Counter point:Interesting question. Let us first understand the modern scientific process. In scientific method, one discovery or projection or findings will not be accepted as scientific truth on its arrival. It takes some times decades and other times hundreds of years and hundreds of thousands of people’s studies and efforts to substantiate those findings and that too repeated at different locations and by different people to confirm those findings before the discovery to be accepted as a scientific fact. For example, I am sure you would have heard about recent discoveries of gravitational wave, Bose-Einstine condensation and God particle etc. These were the theoretical discovery more than a hundred and odd years ago. It took hundred years and thousands of man hours and efforts to substantiate its veracity and still scientific community has not approved it completely. Their efforts were on to disapprove it.
As far as your claim about the said scientific survey by a foreigner’s group about the link finding some stones under the sea I am sure is based on the video circulated in whatsapp and youtube. Sir, this video is produced by a video production group under the garb of mystic seekers is a CGI production. Kind request to ignore it. For your information many oceanographers and geologists have already undertook the study and concluded that this link originates from the ocean currents in Indian ocean. Also I do not think any oceanographers would ever reject a proposal to study this sand accumulation to understand the sea undercurrent behaviour. Request you to use your influence to get funding for them.
Professor: To explore a myth is not to endorse it, but to probe its core and assess the truth entangled or buried in it. Sometimes an invaluable truth could wear the mask of a myth—and prevail for millennia precisely because of the mask. Let us examine the riddle of Sphinx, originally an Egyptian myth, comparable to the Indian myth of Nachiketa.
Atop a hill beside a lonely road sat the strange creature Sphinx—consisting of the face of a woman, the body of a lion, paws of a dog and a serpent for its tail. It would challenge any passer-by to name the being who walked in the morning on four legs, on two legs as the day grew and on three legs in the evening. If the traveller stood mum, by sundown the creature would pounce upon him. At last the hero Oedipus encountered it with the answer, “I am that being—I the man. Man walks on all fours in infancy—the morning of his life, he walks on two legs as he grows and takes recourse to a stick—the third leg in the evening of his life!”
The Sphinx jumped to its own death the moment the riddle was solved, conveying the message that death dies when man knows himself. The very constitution of Sphinx, symbolising death, was unreal.
When Einstein wrote in his Out of My Later Years, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”, he meant the essence of religion—the human aspiration for truth.
Counter point: Sir, as mentioned earlier, this is the job of the well developed disciplines in this area such as literary study, cultural theory, ontology, semeotics and so on and so forth. You don’t have to drag an empirical study into it. These disciplines are highly capable to handle this.
As far as Einstein is concerned, he also wrote “"For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them.".
Professor: It should be possible for the Science Congress to assign a few of its members—surely there are some interested in the lore—the task of probing the myths with an integral approach. Since the time of paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, we have seen how anthropologists have traced the beginning of human civilisation to earlier and still earlier times. Maybe some primeval wisdom could be recovered through the project.
Counter point: Indian science congress is already a laughing stock across the world. So Let us not denigrate it further. If at all you want to present a subject that study historical myths, let us bring those scientist who are studying DNA structures to understand race, culture and its hisotry. Perhaps you may not want to agree with them as their latest study on Y-Dna haplogroups within five continental population proves that there was a race mixture took place in India around 4000- 4500 years ago between Eurasians and Indians ( recall the Aryan invasion theory built through linguistic study). If this theory gets further ratified then this game of cultural insider and outsider game will get permanently settled for those myth as science champions in this country.
Sir, we have high respect for your literary scholarship and authority. Such high position you hold in society should be used better to spread the socio-cultural values this country offers to its generations and world- first to be proud about their cultural values and secondly about their great literary traditions in epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana and Kalidasa’s writings and others. You don’t need a scientist’s ratification for such great values and traditions our wonderful country has produced

Friday, January 26, 2018

The confused design thinkers and Design thinking :The problematic narratives of Design thinking in business and its implications

Of late in the corridors of corporate world, one has been quiet often hearing the buzzword “design thinking” and as the day go by it is getting louder leaving one wonder what do they actually mean by this big buzz word called design thinking?
One can trace back the genesis of this urge by the business conglomerates to present design as thinking tool to the developments that had taken place in early 90s when ERP (enterprise resource planning) was introduced for the seamless operation and process standardization to augment business practices among European countries as necessitated by the post European Union formation. To enforce this augmentation process, they introduced the ISO standardization where industrial process streamlining was being emphasized as a priority consideration to do business in Europe.
One of the primary set back of this standardization process was the enormous time consumption and frustrating bureaucratic process emerged in the decision-making. The pragmatic decision making processes existed in the business houses were all got replaced by a very rigid and lengthy multi level procedural complaisance. Although this rigid and strict seamless process standardization had helped the business houses from it’s audit troubles and government regulatory compliance, unfortunately the customers and users found the delay in decision-making a very difficult and frustrating affair.
Considering the enormous investments that had already gone into the overhauling of business practices and operational procedures, instead of addressing the issue at software system level rigidity, the design thinkers as predictable had tried to minimize the cost impact by trying to address the issue at user and system interaction stage.
They assumed, if the user-customer interactions in ERP systems are made comfortable, this issue of user/customer frustration could be resolved amicably. They developed user interface design tools, techniques and methods as a tangible solution to address this issue. During the process a lot more investments were again made along with many other design additions to facilitate this hypothetical assumption of a better coordination between user and operational bureaucracy. When these user interface designs still could not meet the expectations of pragmatic user needs beyond its peripheral interface comfort where the problems still remained embedded in a non flexible process flow, in order to facilitate a further ease of interaction between user/customer/market with software systems, the designers developed the next level of solution by defining user interaction and user experience design. But since the problem continue to remain at the lengthy operational procedures embedded in software systems, the newly developed user interaction and user experience design also could not resolve the issue of the customer needs, one of the important value point entity in any market.
Many times facts are stranger than fiction in corporate world. In spite of these setbacks existed in these operation process streamlining software systems , across the world this hydra headed software monsters and its bureaucratic decision making processes slowly and steadily found its way through all the areas of corporate business governance and its operation management.
As a consequence, between these bureaucratic operation systems and pragmatic customer (market) needs, business executives and their corporate leaders started feeling the stifling effects in their business from their operational procedures. So once again they sought the help from designers. They in turn stepped in with another set of solutions. They suggested an amalgamation of all those previously designed tools, technique sand methods on one platform to address the issues at multiple levels ie at interface, interaction and experience level. This new approach - user centric design but unfortunately once again failed to address the core issue of non flexibility in operational procedures.
The prolonged period of adherence to a very strict linear operational procedure by business was not without its adverse impact on approaches in business systems. The approaches in business decision-making process also started becoming something linear and bureaucratic devoid of any lateral thinking or imagination. A conflict started emerging not only at user/market end, but also at executive decision making among fast paced technologically accentuated innovations. One of the first such victim may be is Nokia. Its collapse exemplifies the dichotomy existed between fast paced technological innovations and delayed executive procedures.
Unlike ever before the window of time and opportunity these technological innovations and changes are leaving for an industry to make or break its existence with decisions and its implementations have never been so alarmingly skewed than they exist as it now. The industry and business executives no longer enjoy the liberty of time for their decisions and its implementations.
In response to this critical development, many among the corporate world today believe that a lateral design thinking process can only salvage the situation. They believe the “creative edge” of lateral design thinking can collapse or pace up with technological time in their decision-making to propel an effective seamless operational process. Even as it would be difficult for them at this stage to side step a twenty and odd years developments and investments in their operation standardization, they believe there is still a scope for an alternate creative lateral imagination that would help them to overcome the troubles.
In 2012, this was one of the primary reason that the industry reorganized their priority in design education from skill/craft to design thinking. But the complexity of this transition was not as simple as industry had imagined. Although most of the design education and practice across the world had the components of systemic thinking and system design tools in their learning or practice, their expertise unfortunately remained limited owing to their sphere of practice. Across the world, design owing to its discipline centric approach has always been practiced at micro level than at macro level systems like corporate world. Today there may be certain emerging exceptions like service design methods and others who are trying to address the issues of macro level systems, but unfortunately the tools, technique and methods have to be derived for macro systems from its present micro level conditioning. In other words one has to accept that these systems are still at an infant stage to be taken seriously for a design solution at macro level.
This inadequacy of designers and their expertise had an adverse impact in introducing lateral design thinking. Many designers in their attempt to get entangled in this design thinking process at macro level have either burned their fingers with their granular discipline thinking models or they started copying many existing macro level business systems that are already at the core of the problem. As in the case of user centric design models, both have failed or are failing owing to its peripheral user end micro management conceptualization.
More than this issue of procedural delay in systems brought up by the standardization of procedures that are becoming counter productive to efficiency of systems, another important issue that the world of business and society at large are facing today is the inadequacy of speed that the technology is accentuating in society. In other words, although computers and phones are able to keep on increasing the speed of operations in their systems, the human experience and interactions that are defined by socio-cultural facets of political and economic factoring of equity and justice or decision making hasn’t changed much in the system. Considering these are the facets that determine the efficacy of any system, especially in governance and administration defined by interpersonal relationships and ego, most of these technological advancements in speed is turning out to be a futile exercise especially in Industry.
Industry and design thinkers have responded to this system once again from user centric design tool at experience and interaction stage. They brought up the business philosophy of “value addition” to their existing business models, by introducing related or unrelated features to their products to sustain the user interest in their product or systems. A classic example could be the mobile phone that has not changed its basic physical form of rectangle derived from Men’s shirt pocket. These days all that they do is keep on introducing some “value” additions in terms of “ apps” or recording features to their product in order to divert human attention span from actual product quality or needs.
Frustrated with their unsuccessful attempts to be the solution providers in this chaos, many design thinkers are now putting forward a suggestion to augment the existing design practices back to the age-old system-thinking model. They argue, to grapple the situation one has to return to the basics with holistic design thinking process to comprehend the system or address its problem from scratch. So far so good, but what they do not unfortunately foresee is, the difference exist between the micro and macro systems are not about the scale difference in the part and whole where one can apply reductive or deductive methods, but they are about the evolutionary form difference exist between them. Today in a micro and macros system one may be able to disintegrate a part without affecting the whole or a whole without affecting a part. Remember in business amalgamation, take over, sell out or liquidation are completely different things for company and corporates.
So where does the solution lie or how do we solve this vex question of business and economy that are getting into deeper water day by day? Another important question is what could be the actual design thinking.
To answer this question, considering the macro systems are not a metaphorical lean structure but are colossal evolutionary build up, for the time being let us set aside the formal “form follows the function” granular design thinking or the” part forms the whole” reductionist thinking.
The monarchs and Oligarchs of world of business :
Although the multi level seamless procedures imposed by these operation standardization systems are not without its implication, but in a globalized business environment with innumerous structural differences that exist in legal protocols and compliances from country to country and state to state, these systems are highly important to be rigid for not only the effective administrative control but also for its legal and tax complaisance to the state from country to country.
The problem does not lie here; the problem lies in the corporate governance structure that exists in our world today. All of them operate their business like those old European monarchs and oligarchs in their practices and in their chain of command for decision-making. Most of these big corporates act like absolute monarchs or elected monarchs and rest of the other businesses are run like Oligarchs. These standardized operation procedures have interrupted their chain of command with its compulsory procedural compliances that also are statutory in many ways with the involvement of multiple agencies from taxation, company law board, banks, stock exchanges, state and nations. The problems exist in their business because they are yet to come out of their opaque and arbitrary monarchic and oligarchic power structures to adopt these transparent and democratic standardized operation procedures.
This is the actual design thinking – understanding the political structure of these business houses and its operations to understand their real problem. One cannot gloss over this core structural issue and its subsequent behavior pattern that exist in these organizations while giving the “creative face lift” at user interface or experience level as design solutions.
Today, unlike the old pre-democratic world where many of these monarchic and oligarchic business models have formulated, in this post internet globalized world where a citizen/user/ customer are highly conscious of his/her democratic rights including equity and justice. If these business houses want to be surviving and viable, then their practices need to be restructured. Their chain of command needs to be reorganized. The role of executive power structures needs to be in compliance with democracy and its practices of the world they live. There cannot be a better lateral thinking than democracy, the best human dignified model we so far have invented.
There cannot be a better design thinking than democracy where decision making are decentralised, legally complaint and ethically coherent. The issue of corruption and nepotism would be tackled at a greater length in this model and the enforced transparency linear operational procedures will not become the problem.
All those designers who are goofing around at user ends or all those who are holding on to their monarchic and oligarchic business structure will be erased from human history in a very near future, specifically in countries like India where the gap between rich and poor are widening too fast and too much with its adverse consequences.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Vincent Van Gogh, who used brush and canvas to make the Japanese wood cut images, never understood his art.

The painter's and 20th century art lover's tragic hero was a victim of styles, technique and methods. Three things complicated his artistic life -his love for Japanese wood cut prints, his understanding of colours as light and the painting as image making medium. These three strands continued to trouble him through out his life and failed him at every stages of his life. In the beginning, as evident in his potato eater painting and such works before, if quest of post baroque light and the visual sensibility was his concern, perhaps due to the romanticism of Japanese art works that existed in Europe during those days, it later on became his obsession with Japanese wood cut print images the  intense negotiation between painting as medium and its technique.

His explorations from baroque highlights to illusionary pointillism to the idea of segregated colours forming the image in the eyes of viewer as impressionism argued to a complete confusion and disillusionment at the end speaks volumes about the tragic fate of this artist. His woollen colour balls to understand the colour pallet had complicated it further. He could not comprehend any of the above conventional artistic merits that his profession demanded.
We may be able to classify his works into three stages. Stage one is his black and white drawings to understand highlights that defines forms in conventional paintings, especially Baroque and post baroque formalism. Stage two is his realisation that the light in baroque style limits colour from its possibilities as argued by impressionists who rejected darkness in their work. During this period he went on to study colour but could neither decide nor understand the method to achieve it in painting. In his famous painting Garden with courting couples, he showcases this struggle between pointillistic and impressionistic style differences and his confusion.

Perhaps he had not been able to understand or was not convinced about the impressionist painters argument that segregated colours has the capacity to form seamless image in the eyes of a viewer. Or may be he thought that he found his solution for this vexed question for colour separations in Japanese wood cut prints, a style he continued for the rest of his life. His first colourful self portrait as an assertive artist speaks great volumes about his new found confidence. It looked like he thought that he finally cracked it. Unfortunately he could not realise the difference between colour separation in print from colour forming the image in the eyes of a viewer. The stage three is the era he worked with Gauguin and the journey where he had finally tried to separate form from techniques like modernists only to hopelessly give it all up.

He could not understand why the art world could not accept him as artist and he could not realise that for conventional art markets his works were only images of wood cut prints and the rest were only exploratory paintings, like the works of art school students who would try out different techniques from Renaissance to Baroque to pointillism to Japanese wood cut images to modernism to learn the making of art.

Between those two paintings and the three years :

In 1887, during the days he spent in Paris in the hope of understanding colours and other art practices of the day, he painted "Garden with courting couples: Square saint" using pointillism and wood cut image technique in his effort to move away from his dark Baroque style of light and its highlights,
This garden with two pathways from both ends of the painting joining into one, where couples were courting in love, where trees were blooming under the pale light blue sky, marks opening up of an artist who was discovering a new world of art and its possibilities. After this painting, he went on to assume that he had cracked the vex question of impressionist's argument of colour through the wood cult image colour separation. His portrait series gives evidence of this confusion. Later on he realised that Paris modern art world had moved ahead from these kinds of confusions, he went on with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to brothel hopping in his attempt to be a contemporary artist who captures movements of form and colour in human body and its performance. Once again he found that his relationship with colour, light and form was slipping out of his hand. He decided to move out of Paris to a more natural-rural setting to explore art and its facets as a human desire. There after he hopped Gauguin will help him to resolve this complication for him. But Gauguin, with his profound understanding of form and colour, could easily identify Vincent's problem. Even as Vincent tried to imbibe Gauguin in style and treatment, Vincent also realised his incapacity to understand Gauguin's mastery colour and form in composition. His world started to fall apart slowly but steadily and his Starry Night emerged from an asylum where darkness of baroque, brush patches of wood cut image and movements of modernism clashed with each other in vibrant colours and forms, which was his eternal agony.
The 1889 painting "Starry Nights", a step before his "Wheat field with Crows" which was painted in 1890, shows that he still had some hope. Then in 1890 came the Wheat field with Crows. After three years he went back to his hopeful days of Paris to the same garden- The" Garden with courting couples : Square of saints". But this time it was devoid of blossoming trees of hope, courting couples of love, peaceful and pleasant pale blue sky and the enthusiasm to experiment with painting techniques of pointillism, wood cut style. The Garden looked barren with post harvest dried yellow wheat field . The two pathways that joined into one was no longer hopeful of finding a common path but it was hopelessly reaching out to nowhere. There is a storm building in the sky where his wood cut style patches losing out to darkness of baroque. The garden of his engagement with art world offers nothing to him except the dark crows of doom looming over at large. He became hopeless or the conventional art world was successful in convincing him that he was hopeless in the art world. Although he painted a few more paintings later, this painting becomes the end of his three years of his evolution and the end of his life. Art world of his time considered him as an image maker of an existing image making technique : Japanese wood cut prints. Vincent accepted that verdict. In 1890 before his death he wrote "I feel – a failure – that’s it as regards me – I feel that that’s the fate I’m accepting. And which won’t change any more."

But in my 16 years of art teaching, I've never found anything as intensive and successful as the life and works of Vincent as tools to inspire students to live their dreams and imagine their art. He never realised that an artist's failures, fault lines and vulnerabilities that defines an artist's life of intense passion is the art and it is not the popular consumption or the niche understandings of technique and treatments that market defines is the art. Both, the market and Vincent, failed to understand those three years journey between 1887 "Garden with courting couples" to 1890 "Wheat Field with Crows"- as the metamorphosis of an artist and his art.
Forget the world, Vincent, who used brush and canvas to make the Japanese wood cut images, never understood his art. What a tragedy!

Monday, December 11, 2017


At CEPT University, during one of the lectures architect prof. Vasavada once jokingly had a curious thing to speak about windows. He said whenever his client checks him about windows in their house, he would suggest them to keep a painting or print of windows in place of actual windows. He continued to ask why would one want to waste the wall space as in any case one would not open it for the fear of dust or for their AC and over and above one will cover it with cloth curtains to make room more dustier!
Although it was only a joke, he reminds us that today the role windows in our urban life remains a grim reality. Historically windows in building serve the purpose of an opening for a room from its dark enclosure to a bright world outside. It brought tamed harsh light and breeze into our home with many nostalgic memories and emotional encounters. In fairy tales, the captive princes were saved from fortified citadels through these windows and many romeos and Juliets exchanged their expressions of love from these romantic points. The role of these windows in our love stories are so important to the extend, some of the most beautiful hindi film songs like "mere samne wali kidikki pein.." were written to celebrates the youthful role of windows in human life. In Arabian nights stories, the Persian windows that are opened to the moon light skies and the sufi songs that eulogies the philosophical role of windows to express the reality of life and its meta-world immortalised its philosophical and cultural role.
In a building windows are beautiful from within and outside. Between embellishment and function, the windows becomes the eternal representation of human need and its aspirations. From outside when it becomes the social status symbol of inhabitant in architecture, from within it becomes the escape route for one from the claustrophobic built environment.
The famed hawa mehal in Jaipur tells us another story of Gender negotiations of windows : the unseen women behind in the middle of hustle and bustle of cities. Windows also act as secret passage to social and gender considerations: an opportunity to the oppressed to be one with the forbidden world outside within their social fears and without breaking social customs. In Kerala there is this famed traditional architectural element that covers the windows. This marvel of carpentry allows only the view of outside world from within but restricts the inside view for outside world. Today the partially reflective glasses we find all over our cities perfected this game.
During my artistic journey, I always found these strange spaces in human life a fascinating aspect. When I was in Paldi, in Ahmedabad there was one of these Gujarati bunglows near parimal char rasta. It's transparent glass windows always remained closed. There would always be a play of light behind its transparency. More than that the very idea a fragile transparent glass window giving the sense of security to the house hold from with violent world outside amused me. In my art life, I have painted windows and its role play in human life many times to understand this complex connection windows have with our life.
Slowly over a period I realised between ornamented frame outside and functional necessity inside, the role of windows are not a simple narrative. It manifest in front of us as a highly complex human negotiation in civilisations.
Today as the pollution and dust takes over our cities one by one, the windows go closing one by one. For weeks and months it remains closed and slowly people in urban chaos have forgotten about those windows. For many city dwellers, today windows are their biggest problem. They remain closed and along a passage to nostalgia, memory and the last connect to city for its houses, today it remains shut.
(Photos taken from Ahmedabad during my recent trip to city with students.)I

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Yaksha - Yakshi, a journey from Sujata

It was in 1988, during my trip to attend a job interview,  that I first saw these sculptures. Two  tall and strong sculpture of yaksha and yakshi that intimidate any one who walk past it  as guards of RBI in Delhi.  Although Delhi was a strange place for me  during those early days in Delhi,  on my way back I could not stop getting down from bus at RBI  to have a second look of these sculptures.

Later on I learned  from Lalit kala academe library that these sculpture of yaksha and yakshi  were drawn its inspiration from "Parkham yaksha" and "Besnagar yakshi". During those pre internet era, there were no other way a computer professional like me could have accessed that information. Years later,  in my study of Indian sculptural traditions and sculptors, I revisited the aesthetic constructions of Ram Kinker Baij's art works and found out a new narrative for these two wonderful works: Yaksha -Yakshini, the journey of Sujata and an artist's love.

                                            Besnagar yakshi                        Parkham yaksha Manibadhra
                                            3rd - 1st century BC                  3rd- 1st century BC

Besnagar Yakshi and Parkham Yaksha represents the early sculptural traditions of Indian art. One will certainly find the influences of early Greek/ Hellenistic sculptural traditions in these two sculpture from Mauryan empire times.  It is said that, Carl Khandalawalla, an eminent art critic appointed by the RBI at the instance of JRD Tata, considered these two sculptures as inspiration for the yaksha and yakshi to be installed at RBI gate,  as  he thought they represent  the Hindu mythical characters Kubera the guardian of wealth and his female counterpart of fertility.  

If one look at these possible Mauryan sculptures, one would not miss the similarity  exist in the  style, posture, structure and their dress. Its Hellenistic influence can be identified from its resemblance to the Bharhut yavana relief sculpture dated circa 100 BCE. This sculpture of dwarapala is also assumed to be of the Menander, an Indo- Greek king. 
Bharhut Yavana

The story of Ram Kinker Baij the artist with political leaning begins here. Although he in principle got the approval of his design in accordance to the curatorial vision of Carl, he drops the Besnagar yakshi and Parkham yaksha from his inspiration in his quest for form keeping the context  of RBI the controller of money, the vision of progress, idea of guarding or guard and its politics. 

He goes back to his Sujata, his sculpture of the important lady in Buddhist tradition,  the one who gave milk to Buddha before his enlightenment, installed among Shanti niketan's woods.  In this sculpture Ram Kinker gave a complete twist to her form. A tall beautiful lady, who almost  looks like becoming the bodhi tree herself with an elite grace, something one would not see in his sculptures.  Although  the graceful Sujata  walks with a pot on her head like  the ladies  we often encounter in  Indian villages, Ram kinker  changed her physical features to that of a tall lady of elite grace, whom a viewer always will have to look upto. It was almost as if Ram kinker was paying a tribute of reverence to Indian village lady's labour and  Sujata's important position in Buddha's life in particular. One may also  read it as his tribute to the Shanti Niketan's trees that gives the  imputes for many creative activities.  It is also important to note  the placement of a Buddhist icon among a largely Hindu iconography lead Shantiniketan to understand the artist's love for Sujata, the Indian female and his political position.
Sujata- 1935

After dropping Besnagar Yakshi, one of the rare yakshi sculptures who has a covered  torso during the Mauryan period and Parkham Yaksh with the Greek Hellenistic sensibilities, he moved on with Sujata to Sanchi in search of his inspirational forms. Probably on two accounts he could have rejected those two sculptures and its aesthetics.
One, they have the western iconography that he would not prefer in a free India,
Two the capitalistic under current in the story of Yaksha and the reductionist patriarchal nature of male gaze in Besnagar Yakshi that consider her  only  as an operant of fertility and the associated sensuality. 
Yakshi from Burhut, the expressions of sensuality

Coming back to our story, the tall slender Sujata camouflaged among  other tall trees of Shanti niketan, but  took Ram Kinker  from there to the Mauryan times Sanchi stupa and the Temptations of Mara in particular that tells  the story of the wicked king Mara,  who tried to trick Buddha with his beautiful daughters and his army,  to meet his  yaksha and yakshi.  

Temptations of Mara
Saanchi, 3rd to 1st bc
In this panel of Jataka tale, one will find the Sujata at the extreme right corner next to Bodhi tree, standing with her milk pot  and fruit bowl, strangely  nude!. Also notable in this panel is Mara and his  seductive daughters remain body covered till waist!. The right side  of the panel stands the army of Mara, the soldiers who supports or tries to facilitate the temptations to trick the holy buddha. Here Sujata introduces Ram Kinker his Yaksha. Look at the second sitting soldier, one will find the Yaksha there. Unlike Parkham yaksha, Ram kinker's yaksha is stout, powerful and an aboriginal, who only out of his loyalty to the wicked Mara, attempts to facilitates  temptation or guards the temptation drama. Ram kinker found his  Yaksha in those loyal aboriginal soldier who guards the seductive temptations but not unleash temptation himself or remain just labourer.   Most notable in this panel is the physical features of Mara and his daughter, a perfect fit to the idealisation of beauty:  the slender body of aryan, while the demon army is made of "fat" aboriginals/Dravida, a trait till today remains to be the representation of  villainess  in mainstream Indian visual culture. 

Second important point is the similarity Sujata has in physical features with Mara's daughters.  It was not acceptable to Ram kinker. Ram kinker wanted his sujata  in spite of her nudity,  not being naked like the seductive daughters of Mara or in other words her virtues of  compassion and service had to surpass her nudity.  He found his  Yakshi in her; in his sujata. For him she represents  the value of compassion, loyalty and service  of Indian women.  Since he could not find these virtues in Mara's daughters, he did not want any resemblance of them in  Sujata.  So he copied the Sujata in the same posture from panel with the expression of  service, loyalty and compassion in her nudity but with the loyal soldier's physic.  Sujata became the chauri bearing yakshi far away from elite aryan Besnagar yakashi.  

The ten years evolution (delay) of these sculpture tells this romantic story, one that is evolved with Sujata. An intricate story of a politically left leaning artist, who had his intensive negotiation with his art and its form.  A journey of love for  identity and its politics. He tells us the story of an average guard in this country through Yaksha; an average aboriginal Indian of discriminated economic and cultural strata, the one who protects the temptations of this country (here for instance the money minting RBI) . Also this guard, even as he fights to protect or facilitate the temptation drama, he never becomes  an element  of that seductive trick himself.  He looks stout as thug and still remain only a loyal soldier,  one  who is discriminated as ugly by the outsider-insider game of  aryan- Dravida visual culture, the  aesthetics of the society of economic affluence. 

 In his Yakshi, although he found  the depiction of   loyal agency of service in womanhood, but he brings in the grace of feminism by abolishing the construct of female form in elite visual culture and its male gaze.  He construct her as stout, aboriginal counter part of yaksha in nude.  Her existence,  one that is  on your face and as a provocative nudity of confident aboriginal female who's dominance in existence disturb the mainstream society.  The nudity of Yakshi and its presence there in front of RBI  went upto the level of a parliament discussion to decide the righteousness of her existence as a confident nude labourer, something that proved the merits of Ram Kinker's political construct of Yakshi, the marginalised female laborer's  body politics.  In his first  Sujata, if she remains an  aesthetically slender lady of elite grace for  male gaze, his second Sujata,  Yakshi  becomes a powerful, confident,  assertive on your face naked  lady of eminence,  who is not ashamed of her "Labour" status. Sujata becomes the  lady, we often encounter in the fields of rural India or among factory labourers. Ram kinker's yakshi becomes the epitome of  the aboriginal female labourer who  fill  the length and breadth of this country and still goes missing from main stream visual culture.  Ram kinker, the left leaning artist immortalise her by placing at the most important sight of this country, where money is produced and maintained, one that defines  the value of labour and its associated visual constructs. Most importantly they were built with constructivist style of  art. 

Sujata and Ram Kinker epitomises the love of every artist with his or her socio-political or cultural positions in life that determines one's art and its form.  Ram Kinker Baij's Yaksha and Yakshi at RBI Delhi, defines it. 

Emperor Ashoka tries to  take Buddha's  relics from nagas. Sanchi. Here again we can see  Sujata at second position from second pillar form right

Image courtesy : RBI,ASI and wiki 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

economic mess

Post Lenin, Stalin wanted to uproot the socio-political & economic system of USSR, Pol pot in Cambodia and in our immediate past Messy American leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. They all had the same trait - the top down arrogance to implement an "artificial untested macro" vision. For their "utopian" macro vision mired with utopian idea of economic progress and business interests, they tampered and destroyed the vital micro economic structures, the roots that sustains every macro structures. Human tragedy and its cost were very high in all these instances. Eventually in their fantasy utopian imagination, they killed both micro and macro structures of those nations leaving the trails of largest ever human tragedies in history.
There are few biggest blunders these leaders have committed
1. They tried to change the nature of transaction of money believing they are changing the course of economic structure. But what they forgot to remember was money derive its value from its classic economic definition - “demand and supply” , where supply can be a macro activity but the demand remains a grass root transaction. Elaborately speaking the demand always emerge from human condition and it’s needs at individual level -a micro level activity. In effect all these leaders disrupted the individual lives for their macro utopian objectives and made it tragic both at micro- individual level and macro –national level.
2. They believed economic transactions can be ideologically designed. Again, since the idea of money is defined by a discriminatory process of deriving profit from supply- demand deficit is not changed, considering human demands are defined by not only basic necessities and contingencies but are also driven by aspirations, ego and greed, for money the demand and supply functions as individual capitalistic adventure. The material transaction in it is only a reflection of it. Both communism and capitalism failed on this account, for they confused that transaction control defines the economy. Communism believed in the transaction control of demand while capitalism believed in controlling of supply. They both failed to understand that so long as the idea of money remains at the core of human activity, economy lies in the balancing act of the transaction( deficit management) not in its control. Tragedy of socialism was that it tried to even the demand and supply deficit by subsidising the supply cost to reduce the discriminative profit burden , that in turn evened the flow, destroyed the value of deficit/profit yield possibility or became an undue advantage to suppliers or in other words created corruption.
3. They over rated the capacity of state and its political power to enforce utopian changes through drastic interruption of individual lives and their monetary transactions. They believed a complete uproot of society by total alteration of transaction control in a very short span of time (revolution) as an effective method to alter economic condition. As briefed in above paragraph, as economic demand is largely driven by individual needs, contingencies, aspirations and egos and is not defined by a selected few macro economic parameters as these leaders confused, all such revolutions have became a negotiated settlements between the power and the powerful, leaving the people to the mercy of lurch. Often the factors that affect an individual transactions remains to be of a socio-cultural, ethical and moralistic including religious in nature. Kindly note even today, two moral traits: cheating and stealing remain to be the biggest economic hazard in the world. These are evolutionary factors in nature embedded in individual faith and value system. History proved it again and again that except in the instance of Prophet Mohammed, there has never been a social transformation including economic (denial of interest in economic transaction) that took place in a short one man’s life time. Such a monumental economic transaction transformation was possible only because the Prophet was able to converted it as a socio-cultural and religious issue than an economic issue.
In other words, any systemic economic change require an adequate time span to evolve as an individual faith, perspective and belief system to restrain their justifiable profit to alter the nature of their transaction and in turn economy. Historically on that front, all other systems have failed– some violently, some tragically and some by creating genocide and famine.
4. The present BJP government is also no different. In their eagerness and belief in the utopian idea of decisive leadership of change, without changing the fundamentals of belief system and practice of economic transactions at individual level and without giving ample time to transform, the government has disturbed human lives at grass roots in a shortest ever possible time. It has not only tampered the transaction method ( from neo-capitalist individual ownership of money to a forced banking and digitisation), it enforced a curtail on demand (by bring the moral hazard of treating individual as suspect/ using threat of Aadhar/pan trails) and supply (digitisation and money supply control) through demonetisation and GST one after the other in a short succession.
Government wanted to change its economy that by and large remained a socialist economy to a highly regulated, almost to the level of a communist economy in a very shortest possible time.
One must say this government is in a complete confusion on economic front. First it wants to be pro-rich capitalist/market economy (supply focused) and at the same time it wants to have a complete control of the individual transaction (demand) like in communist economy. The government’s over emphasis on a puritan moral policing of grass root economic activities at individual level by Aadhaar/ pan trail and IT threats have destroyed the freedom of transaction enjoyed by the public at demand level and that in turn has drained or are draining the driving force in creating the demand a fundamental activity for generating supply of industry and other economic actors. During the last one year, this government has eroded all those benefits public enjoyed as freedom of transaction built over 25 years of economic liberalisations that generated the economic growth. The present government is confused about the economic corruptions. Please note 99.9 % cash in circulation returned to the bank after demonetisation proves that there were no large scale corruptions taking place at demand side of the economy but it was taking place at supply side of industry and its crony capitalistic side. Government is yet to do anything on that front. So despite demonetisation, GST, Aadhar an income tax terror, the economic corruption still remain intact in this country.
Please remember economy is an evolutionary factor in a country’s life. From micro-grass root level to macro national level it intertwines with many human factors such as faith, morality and aspiration, greed and ego defined by socio-cultural and religious materiality. One can not change them or tamper them over night. It takes time and it has to be evolutionary and transformatory in nature. Historically, across the world demand side defined by the grass root individuals and their transactions have rarely been found to be as much corrupted to impact an economy at macro level, but it has always been at supply level that derive profit yield that causes corruption and eroded economies. Considering the method of deriving deficit defines the profit yield, the corruption always brood at generating or widening deficit and as a result the gap between the rich and poor are widening day by day across the world and in India in particular. So any government who wants to change a system should start from supply level (industry). So long as the money at the present form exist there is no escape from this reality.
One can not undo the damages of improper implementation of demonetisation and fear psychosis generated around Aadhar and income tax terror to the economy by way of eroding the demand but if this government wants overcome this economic crisis it should at least begin with
1. First it should decide what it wants to be – capitalist, communist or socialist, one can not be a kichedy in economic practice.
2. Stop disturbing grass root demand side to build individual confidence and sense freedom for transaction to boost the demand. This include

Stop Aadhar threat of creating transaction trails. Let people understand your idea of moralistic transparency. Give them sufficient time.

Stop income tax terror and raise taxable slab to fifteen lakh an average salary of a middle level business executive to build the capacity of entrepreneurship and to create small scale entrepreneurs/ demand generation for material transactions

Differ GST implementation among smes and kinara shops for another couple of more years
Take action on supply side to curtail large scale corruptions and ill effects of crony capitalism.
Instead of disturbing and controlling demand and supply chain, bring in control over deficit definitions to bring down the unjustifiable profiteering of deficit and subsequent human discontentment (price rise, corruption and crony capitalism)

Stop creating monstrous symbols “antila”s of monstrous statues and bullet trains to as mock and contrast the larger public’s economic helplessness created by the crony capitalism