When I search for an answer within myself, I perceive that perhaps it is an unabiding quest for beauty in all its forms and expressions. We are immersed in it in our everyday lives, sometimes not being aware of it. Noticing beauty and creating experiences around them inspires me.
After I finished high school and before joining the PUC I spent several months with a well known painter Mr Krishnamurthy. Our interactions would start around 8PM and would go on till late night. He introduced me to various art forms and opened up avenues of appreciating them. I discovered the enchanting art of Batik under his tutelage and did a few paintings myself.
When I joined MBBS in JIPMER, I was immersed in its artistic ambiance. Reproductions of famous paintings and sculptures adorned every corner of the hospital and college premises. It was perhaps the only medical institution in the country which had a resident artist. There was also a photography club. I didn’t have a camera at that time and I borrowed one from my cousin (who is a well known, talented cinematographer). On weekends I used to cycle around in the environs of the college and in Auroville, which was taking shape at that time. During these forays I took photographs; sometimes my friends volunteered to be my subjects. When I showed some of these to the photographer in the college, he encouraged me to print and send them for a competition where they won prizes. I also sold some of my Batik paintings to my teacher!
After my undergraduate career, the transition was from the outer landscapes which I was trying to capture through the lens of a camera to that of the interior which I wanted to explore and understand. And a career in psychiatry was an organic choice. The environs of NIMHANS provided a creative space for reflection in thinking. I initiated a 'brainstorming' session which took place every Saturday morning in which trainees could start looking outside the conventional medical box. It provided scope for the students to share and discuss poetry, arts and issues of contemporary concerns. These conversations drew attention to the role of aesthetics both in personal and professional lives and enhanced many of the competencies in trainees: empathic communication, curiosity and reflexive capacity. During one such session, a student talked about her interest in birding and introduced me to it during a unit visit to Bandipur. It was a magical experience which has had a lasting hold on me since then.
Over the years, Ahalya and myself found time to explore many national parks across the country. More than sighting and photographing birds and other denizens of the forest, being amidst nature is itself a spiritual experience for me. For me it is akin to meditating in that small room in Ramanasramam.
My interest in temple architecture/paintings had its moorings during a visit to the terracotta temples at Bishnupur, decades ago. Clay is one of the oldest building materials used in the history of mankind. Terracotta is essentially baked clay and was largely used to make objects like pots for everyday use. I was wonderstruck to see the manner in which this material was used here. Intricate compositions, panels and friezes depicting various mythological themes adorned the walls of the temples. On my return I read about the history and background of the place, which enriched my understanding of the temple and its architecture. This spurned me to look closely at sculptures, starting with the pillars that adorn temples. Usually we walk past them to the main sanctum, in quest of perceived salvation. Every time I observe these pillars closely, I am amazed at the artistry of the unknown sculptors who have embellished even an innocuous structure like a pillar. Over the years I have also been drawn into the iconography of sculptures in temples. Each and every sculpture in a temple is imbued with symbolic meaning, the posture, gesture,number of arms, weapons and ornamentation. Even the placement of sculptures in temples is carefully planned. For instance one can find two beautifully carved female figures on either side of the entrance to the temple.They are Ganga and Yamuna, symbolically conveying that the person has to purify himself/herself before entering the precincts of a place of worship.
I used to dabble in painting. Though my painting brush has remained idle for a long while, paintings have an irresistible appeal and I make it a point to visit art galleries and museums whenever we travel. During a visit to the Virupaksha temple at Hampi, I chanced upon the mural paintings on the ceiling. I was mesmerised by their rich tapestry and play of colours. Besotted with them, I visited a couple of other places to discover and savour more Vijayanagar and Nayak era murals, some of them in relatively unknown places. It has been a fascinating discovery to become aware of many layers of mythological narratives that are portrayed in murals and sculptures. They offer immense scope for psychological explorations!
I feel inspired and passionate about life in all these forays. It sustains and nurtures the quest for beauty in everyday experience and stokes the creative spirit in me. It finds expression even in my powerpoint presentations!
Beauty abounds us in often the simplest of ways. It is always present in the hidden loveliness of all things. It may be found in places where we believe that beauty could never exist…like a withered leaf reflecting the evening sun and being illuminated by it: its inner brilliance comes alive at that moment.
Everything is beautiful when our hearts, minds, and souls are open to experiences.
In Khalil Gibran’s words, “Beauty is a reflection of what we are. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror”.
I would deeply appreciate your responses and look forward to them!