A Something in a Summer's Day

"I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees"
-Pablo Neruda

*bursts into flowers *

Summer is here. 
I think of Humming. The smell of Oranges, your hands, piano keys, swaying.
the wind, thirst, gold sun, remote controlled planes,  Paper cranes flying on little lights,
 rustling, verdant, the taste of plums. the sky is blue and it made me happy. 

It's been a season of festivals, I last left Bangalore in December having finished my 
Kabootar installation, went to Goa for Fullmoon new year cycles and onward to the Kumbh Mela (the worlds biggest and oldest festival) where I ran with Naga babas, painted walls in Benaras, and sat on the back of an enfield for 2 months(but more on that later).
The second I got back home, I was flown off like a sparrow to Bombay for 'A Summer's Day' headlined by Norah Jones with a week to spare, an installation to create and a suitcase full of oversized flowers. 

And it was beautiful. I've spent a lot of time and energy in the last few months following the 
Women's movement in India, I was at the protests on 21-12-12 in Delhi witnessing the angry mobs and cries for death penalties. Coming back home to this place/work/festival of beauty and of femininity was healing. And Rumi reminds me: 

and flowers I will grow.

Here Come's the Sun
and I say, it's allright. :)

The installation was inspired by the poem behind the name of the festival. Emily Dickinson's 
'A Something in a Summer's Day'. It was all abundant-feminine-whimsical Midsummer Night magic and pinwheels and peacocks and Alice in Wonderland oversized flowers. 
'Wordless tunes transcending ecstacy' 
Norah's stage was lit up with fairylights and floating paper cranes.
I managed to meet her and her cousin Gingger backstage over some mangos. All girls of summer. 

A very pleasant surprise was all the Bombay love I recieved. So so many people came up to me and said they'd been following my work, took photographs and more :) *blush *. If you are reading this: Thank you. Your love makes me happy. 

Pinwheels and stars inside guitars
and at night it glowed :) 

"We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That's fine with us. Every morning
We glow and in the evening we glow again.”

Uber special shoutout to Elena Periera who made all the flowers by hand, and Kirian Meili who came rushing in at midnight armed with staplers when I needed more flowers.

Also, behind every glowy installation is a group of happy boys and girls putting it up,
Thank you Vijay Nair and Dhruv Jagasia. Also you, Dharam and Ishan and Francis and Arlene. You are all amazing!
Ps- speaking of sunshine, I'm currently designing and drawing for an amazing app called Sunlight that reads your brainwaves while meditating and all kindsa crazy stuff. More on that later. x

What we Worship, We shall Become

"My feeling is that mythic forms reveal themselves 
gradually in the course of your life ,
if you know what they are 
and how to pay attention to their emergence'
'What we worship we shall become'  became a particularly important affirmation for me these last few months while travelling through the Kumbh. I once had a conversation in an old temple somewhere in the north with a Sadhu where I asked him "Why do men worship the goddesses on our walls, but rape the women in their homes?" and in his smokey haze he said to me  "When you(and women) see your own divinity and strength, all else will follow". At that point in my life, I felt like that was a very convenient thing to say. But perhaps there's truth in this, instead of waiting for patriarchy to liberate me, I'm making an active effort to liberate myself and reclaim my right to my body, to public space and to spirituality. 'Fearless' is one step towards that.

"By the time I reached my mid-twenties, I was thoroughly conditioned by masculine spirituality to believe that the feminine body is more than anything an inconvenient obstacle, and I didn’t want to use my energy on these earthly matters. I was seeking a transcended state of enlightenment. One day..it became apparent that there is no 'out of here', that what I had been seeking outside myself was (and is over and over) realized by opening to love, the love that is the very fabric of which I am made. This realization challenged me to embrace life in its totality, my body also being a manifestation of this same love, and it brought my awareness to the cycles happening around me and within. When I listened to these rhythms, new dimensions of awakening revealed themselves to me.
~Chameli Ardagh

Paintings walls in public spaces is an extremely symbolic way of reclaiming the streets, and being in Benaras- India's Hindu and Spiritual center, I felt like I wanted to leave my mark and message on the walls there. No permissions and buckets of paint, for 3 days I stood by the banks with some of the local kids jumping in to help.

While this wall was done without permission (save an OK from the Chaiwallah perched outside it), I was pleased to find that the tenants of that particular wall work with girls rights in particular.

Synchronistic. While painting this wall I also had a lot of interesting discussions/debates with locals there about women and violence in India.

Special Love and shoutouts to Suki Zoe, new friend and co-cosmic traveller through the Kumbh on diets of veggie juice and barfis, who has taken all these pictures (and many more)- more from her here - http://qito.co.uk/2013/02/06/shilo-shiv-suleman/

annnnd Avijit, who always carries my metaphorical and real ladders. Also special love to all the children in Benaras who painted with me, the parrot who sat beside me and more. Next time you're there- Go check out my wall near Vaatika Pizzeria at Assi ghat, on the same wall that says gangamahal ghat. :)

This one was painted for Kitsch Mandi's Neighbourhood festival and says  'The F-word- Feminist is not a bad or angry word, fearlessly reclaim the streets' It was inspired by conversations and articles by two friends Aarthi and Anisha.  While the Benaras wall is placed within the context of hindu-heartland, this wall is all urban. You can see it outside JNC college in Koramangala and it inspired this movement of women :  http://www.talkingcranes.com/In%20the%20news/the-importance-of-loitering
You can spend your life hoping that
when only you get rid of the fear,
when you are a little bit more enlightened,

when you have built up your self esteem, 
then you will show up and give it all.

Or... you can get out of your own way,
make yourself available,
and bow down to the One who plays you.
~Chameli Ardagh

Remember, Pi

When I started the Fearless Campaign, I was spending three weeks living out of Goa, in a happy goa fearless bubble with a glass of port in my hand as I rode around with no thought about whether my body was covered or not, I watched women from all over the world walk fearlessly on sand, wind in hair. 

My journey from there continued onwards on Bike with my partner to the North of India on a rusty old enfield towards the Kumbh Mela over three days, and it's this ride that really turned out to be my super symbolic "fearless" test.
While we rode through rural U.P. I have never been as aware as I was on that bike of what I was wearing, how desolate the highway was, how many trucks and big cars full of men there were, how few women were on the streets and in the villages. To add to this test, our bike broke down on all three days that we were riding in U.P for hours at end.

Suddenly we found ourselves in rural U.P, in the middle of hillbilly nowhere, with hungry eyes and claws staring at me in every mechanic shop, every dhaba and every chai stop. My first reaction was to add more layers onto my salwar-kameezed-winter clothed self. I wore a dupatta around my head, and every time we would stop I would avoid eye contact with all the staring men. My paranoia even went as far as a thought crossing my mind that I should make myself look "uglier" so that I attracted less attention.
I've lived in small town North India, and travelled extensively across villages in Kutch and Rajasthan while working, but this was the first time I had felt this kind of fear. In my head played articles about Rape in Haryana and U.P, thoughts about how "these people" are all repressed, and all sorts of judgments. I messaged a friend about my fear who replied saying "Remember Pi, the world reflects your fear, replace it with strength and that will be reflected too".

And so I raised my head and faced the journey with greater strength as I would in my hometown Bangalore or in lala Goa. I became the tiger and the mirror. And to my surprise, a lot of the people who I wouldn't even have looked at in the eye but judged as creepers, were kind and full of love to us while we got our bike fixed, as more often than not has been the case when I've travelled through India. And yes, some of those stares were more lecherous, but my hiding wouldn't help the hundreds of women that would and should make their way across India on a bike.

Fear, making ourselves "blend in" or a Wallflower is all counterproductive to the larger change we need to see. We need to face not only the 'tigers' in our societal boats, but also the tigers inside us. My calling rural men in UP "repressed" is the same as them calling me (a city girl) a slut.
This is not a time for judgement or divisions, but relearning and re-forming our ideas about men, women, sexuality and ourselves.

"Remember Pi, the world reflects your fear, replace it with strength and that will be reflected too".

the Fearless Revolution

Fearless started on a december afternoon as a spark of 2 posters I made for myself, and a conversation with Laila Vaziralli of Kitsch Mandi who fueled the flame.

I was at the protests for Nirbhaya in Delhi following the gang rape, I was exhausted. I'd shared every media article on every horrifying rape story, had endless conversations with people about masculinities and gender roles. I felt helpless, but what I was most tired of was people telling me I needed to be afraid. 
I found myself afraid of taking buses, taking autos, taking any public transport. I was afraid of the streets, and I was afraid and deeply mistrustful of any man unfamiliar to me. And people would fuel that fear, they would tell me not to drive my own car home, not to wear anything too attractive, to not talk to strangers, to not be out at night.  I was tired of hearing politicians have foot in mouth moments, I was tired of being afraid. And the media followed suit, with more fear mongering and sensationalism

While I felt like these articles needed to be shared, these stories needed to be heard, I also felt like Fear is counterproductive to the larger change that India needs to see, the more women reclaim the streets and the more men that support that: the stronger we are. 
As long as we cower away hiding at home, nothing will ever change. 

We need to keep going out at night, taking public transport, wearing what we want, dancing, singing, being beautiful and reclaiming the streets. 

I put up a poster on facebook to reaffirm this just to myself. I wanted to remind myself that I never asked for it, no matter how skimpy my clothes, or how late at night. This was the first poster I made. 

Followed by this one, inspired by a night when me and some friends went out dancing in Sarees and were asked if we were prostitutes in one of Bangalore's biggest clubs, and it felt like regardless of whether  I wore traditional indian clothing or a "miniskirt", my dancing would always be looked at as enticement. I wanted to reaffirm for myself that I would keep on dancing because I danced for myself.

Laila said she'd put them up at a Kitsch Mandi event, and in one conversation I decided on whim to put up a 'Call for Posters' on facebook. 

Little did I know what was going to follow. Close to 300 posters and around 200 artists across India with exhibitions all around the country (and world) 

 It became a way for Artists across India and the world to reaffirm Fearlessness and Feminine Courage in a world that was looking rather bleak with floods of stories about how one could potentially get sexually harrassed and raped anytime and anywhere. And it's been beautiful.  

Here are some of the posters :

by Aarti Chawda 

by Nayantara Sarah Surendranath

by Taaneya Balaji and Maheshwari Janarthan

by Abhishek Choudhry

and what's amazing to me is that apart from the posters being beautiful, so many of them came with long emails and stories, women who after seeing the posters felt like they needed to take action against people who had abused them, people who realized how contagious fear can be, discussions on what Indian-Culture is. It's become a growing movement of artists who are using their voices and social media to send out positive affirmations. Moreover, the campaign doesn't attempt to change the world as much as it attempts to change the self, and in that lies the truth. 

You can read some of my favourite stories on the facebook page and see all the posters: www.bit.ly/thefearless

In the last few months, I've also travelled around the country taking the campaign to the streets: 
In Delhi we were all over One Billion Rising: 
thanks to Preethi Herman and Change.org

In Bombay we were at the Norah Jones' Summers Day festival thanks to OML

In Bangalore we were all over the streets at Kitsch Mandi's Neighbourhood festival 
(our biggest partner to date) 

and in Singapore we were exhibited by MadderMoon Gallery who also hosted Poetry Jams,
Live art and more inspired by Fearless! 

And more and more and more. And running the campaign has been a challenge, all my fears came pouring out, test after test the universe sent at me, but more on that later. 

There's a lot been said about the Art of Asking, but I want to spend a moment 
saying something about the beauty of receiving. All I did was put out a small small request on facebook for posters, but what I received was SO much more glorious than anything I could have ever imagined or dreamt of. It's been humbling to see how many illustrators, non artists and men and women alike have come forward and contributed. I am grateful. I am grateful and yes, I am fearless.