Visit to Delhi & Mumbai
School Run My first appointment on arriving in Delhi was lunch with Indian Historian and Academic Mary Storm. Mary’s writing was recommended to me only the previous week by Paul Kohl, my Photography AVPhD Supervisor in Singapore. A serendipitous stroke of luck meant I was scheduled to visit Delhi a few days later and Mary kindly invited me to lunch at her home in Chhattarpur.
Mary Storm and Frieda I have an enduring image of entering Mary’s gate to find her huge dog Frieda sitting Sphinx-like on the lawn in front of Mary’s elegant house, gazing at me with intense curiosity – a placid vision that contrasted starkly with the Delhi traffic outside on the street.
Mary is expert in an era of Indian history, philosophy and art that is key to my research - the Pala Period; renowned throughout Asia for the poetics of its visuality. Mary’s house was filled with stunning Indian art. She recommended that I visit the Patna Museum when filming in Bodh Gaya in January. She also suggested that I read the ‘Sadhana Mala’ (Garland of Visualisation) and that I check out Jawaharlal Nehru University School of Arts and Aesthetics in Delhi.
One of Mary’s ex-students Elizabeth Thelen joined us for lunch. Lizzy is devoting a year of her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley to live in Bikaner, Rajasthan in order to research 18th Century Rajasthani manuscripts.
Jamia Millia Islamia University My next adventure was giving a lecture on Visual Storytelling to students studying Media at Jamia Millia Islamia University. It was my pleasure to meet the students and staff including Professor Obaid Siddiqui; Head of the Mass Communication Research Centre, Filmmaker and Assistant Professor Ambarien Al Qadar (pictured) and many others. I was delighted to be invited to teach at Jamia again in the future.
Filmmaker Ambarien Al Qadar
A central purpose of my visit to Delhi and Mumbai was to attend Higher Education Fairs and to meet the agents who assist Indian students in finding suitable Filmmaking programmes and scholarships at UK universities. I learnt a lot about overseas recruitment on this trip and hope to embark on similar expeditions to China and Brazil in the not to distant future.
During a break at a fair in the Delhi Hyatt Regency, I met Snigdha Moitra of Le Cordon Bleu International Culinary School. Snigdha and I fell into conversation about art over lunch. She described her happiness when painting her artworks from a state of joyful meditation:
In Mumbai, I couldn’t resist a trip to Leopold’s, the café-bar where much of the intrigue takes place in the novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Sure enough the dark corners of the upstairs room oozed an atmosphere of shady goings on. Perhaps because of its notoriety, Leopold’s was the first target in the 2008 Lashka-e-Taibi terrorist attack.
On the last night of my trip, I was invited to dinner at Out of the Blue restaurant in Le Sutra Hotel, Bandra West by a graduate of my Goldsmiths Filmmaking programme Richie Taneja. Richie is now a Senior Producer in Indian Television.
I have to say that meeting Richie was a real highlight of my trip. We hadn’t met for six or seven years but soon discovered much in common including a love for the tasteful and ethical Fabindia stores. Richie described her dream of one day opening an Art Café in Dharamsala and I of course immediately volunteered to supply some art. Richie reckons her Art Café will be called ‘Still’ – a name that sits well with the underlying theme of Darshana Photo Art pictures - stillness at the centre of motion. It’s a theme that also sits well with my dream of one day staging a photography exhibition in Bhutan attended by the Dalai Lama. And of course the beauty of such dreams is the adventures to be had in their pursuit . . .
Even amidst the whirling chaos of Mumbai, it was possible to find stillness.
Keywords: Elizabeth Thelen, Jawaharlal Nehru University School of Arts and Aesthetics, Mary Storm, Pala Period, Patna Museum, Paul Kohl
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