We Walk a Tightrope

She must have been eleven or twelve years old. Cyan-ish salwar and a short, but bright red Kurta. She carried an uneven pole to help her balance on the tightrope walk. I watched for a while, as I was leaving.


One of the great events that Mumbai is proud of, is the annual arts festival held at Kalaghoda, every year. My best friend is an artist, so we usually make it a point to visit the festival at least once while it is on. It is an amazing smorgasbord of art. Very smart and creative people from various places come there, every year. These are sensitive, aware, and emotional artists. The Kalaghoda Art Festival (KAF) features “burning” issues – environment, child-abuse, over-consumption, religion, support for local artisans, fusion music and the like.


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Her father wore a bright blue lungi and kept an even beat going. I imagined, it helped her focus, in the din that this city is. I almost imagined her telling herself, just one more step, and then, again, just one more step. The rhythm of dad’s even beta resonated well with the girls chant, I thought. I played it in a few regional languages I know. It seemed to be in sync.


It is quite endearing to see artists represent their emotions of the socio-political issues that affect them. Large, scalar installations that demand of us, to make discrete sense of the abstractions of an already discrete problem. I am amused, sometimes, but I maintain the perspective. The taller and garishly-attention-seeking these installations are, I see lesser of art and I see more of personal, shrieking statements seeking recognition.


She and her father aren’t allowed in the conclave that exhibits registered and learned artists. Socially-acceptable art requires a certificate: institutional or commercial. Unfortunately they have neither. To my mind, every person in this city would be more appreciative of her tightrope walk: she epitomises the struggle of every man and woman in this city. In a single action she makes their abstract life discrete; in a single action from one end of the rope to the other she presents a performing art. Yet they are all blind to this abstraction.


Tomorrow’s blog and news had flowery reviews of the installation art about child abuse. I read it. I smiled. I put the paper away here and closed a tab there.


She asked of me, who had apparently noticed the presence of master art in her performance that was bereft of any intention except one – to survive for tonight’s dinner – what did you do? I told her, I am no different. I took your photograph, I also wrote a post (for what it is worth, it was about you). Beyond that, I did not do anything. Success, to me, unlike you is not about “just one more step” – my success is measured in the like count and positive graph on page view statistics.


Unfortunately, for both of us, I have become one of those that I criticise.


PS: Please resist the temptation for Mumbai-bashing.


2 thoughts on “We Walk a Tightrope

  1. Lovely read. A quintessential gaizabont …

    Does certification require intent? The reason why the girl is outside, is that the abstraction is a unintentional to her as it is to the organizers, right? But you are essentially raising the question: is art only intentional abstraction? I’m no expert on art, but right now it looks a bit on the other end: it’s as if every intentional abstraction is an art — it does not matter if the abstraction actually embodied itself in the art, or if something else (like vanity) did in its place. While every unintentional abstraction by definition is not an art, because art has to be produced by an artist, and not the other way round.

    On a side note, it reminded me of Dominique and Gail’s dialog:

    “Most people go to very to very great lengths in order to convince themselves of their self-respect.”


    “And, of course, a quest for self-respect is proof of its lack.”


    “Do you see the meaning of a quest for self-contempt?”

    (The last line is just for completeness sake).

    So does art elude those who seek it intentionally? And by corollary, sometimes embrace those without any intentions?

    Won’t comment on the last part about you turning into those you criticize. May be that’s where the last line (“do you see the meaning of quest for self-contempt”) comes into picture.

    Thanks for the read.



    • This could have been a post from you, you know – this comment.

      The “artist” strives to abstract something discrete for an audience to view the abstraction to make a discrete meaning. There is intention there. Whether it is art or not does not arise from the intention itself, but also by what it “is”. (which is a big, never-ending debate, in itself). I was more thinking of the blindness caused, to a discrete event that was crowded by too much of abstraction, which made the discrete event almost invisible. Who made it invisible? The artist by over-abstracting? Or the audience, who were only curiously and doggedly seeking abstraction to feel triumphant that they could make some discrete meaning.

      To my mind, art eludes anyone who seeks it with any preconceived notion. The corollary, in this case is not necessarily true.

      Regarding the last section, part of it was a disclaimer to the smart people who *will* ask me – what about you; aren’t you the same? But more so, the complete picture has to include yourself. Your own view and point of view are critical (to yourself) in constructing the meaning of what you see.

      You are most welcome, and thank you for, “A quintessential gaizabonts.” You may (or may not) have an idea – but it means a lot and much to me.


      PS: I haven’t commented on the dialogue, but I have not missed the significance. 🙂


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