Click here to listen to Kavita Ramdya talk about “Bollywood Weddings” on the Dallas-based “Dilshad Deyani Show” (Friday, 23 April 2010).
Monthly Archives: April 2010
On Thursday the first of April, Aicon Gallery London in Mayfair hosted Kavita Ramdya’s “Bollywood Weddings” book launch. Guests celebrated the vibrance of Indian popular culture and the arts at the UK and Europe’s largest gallery dedicated to promoting contemporary South-Asian art. The gallery is currently showing “Royale with Cheese”, works by modernist South-Asian artists similarly invested, interested and inspired by popular culture (Ashish Avikunthak, Sarnath Banerjee, Debnath Basu, Simon Bedwell, David Blandy, Shezad Dawood, Simon Linke and Sadequain). Special thanks to Niru Ratnam and Jagroop Mehta for hosting the event at Aicon Gallery London and Mala KV and Rakesh Mathur for their photography.
Click here to read a “News in Brief” about this event in the “Mayfair Times“.
Click here to read “Climate change in India” by Kavita Ramdya (“News India Times”, 9 April 2010 edition).
“Climate Change in India” by Kavita Ramdya (“News India Times”, 9 April 2010 edition)
As readers know, I recently visited India, my first time as an adult. I was surprised that that the level of poverty I witnessed when visiting the country more than ten years ago with my parents no longer existed in Rajasthan. Expecting to see young children shining shoes, disabled siblings begging, and throngs of dirty children in tattered clothes, I was amazed at the conspicuous change: kids were no longer part of the urban landscape. They were no longer “outdoors”, homeless or reliant on the streets to find their next meal.
However, what I also observed was that poverty was replaced with pollution. India, from what I remembered of it in the mid ‘90s, was a dusty country. But dust is but particles of the earth, kicked up and inhaled, a necessary evil in the urban developing world. What I observed this time around was the seemingly-spontaneous appearance of plain garbage. In place of non-existent sidewalks in Delhi I observed paths of litter. In the same city there are heaping mounds of construction site debris as a consequence of building new subway lines. The shanty towns which connect Rajasthan’s cities display piles of paper and cardboard outside their storefronts as proudly as a suburban mom parks her new SUV in the driveway. Where did all this garbage come from?
Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat’s show “The Astronomy of the Subway” suggests that India’s expanding middle class, unbridled economic growth, and status as a global consumer market have shaped the country’s physical environment into the shockingly unfamiliar one it has become since my previous trip. In his large-scale photographs, Kallat tackles “foundational themes of sustenance, survival and mortality in the contemporary urban environment of Mumbai”. These photographs offer nowhere to hide: despite their size, the works are “streets fit-to-burst, where the cumulative impression of daily existence is pushed to the extreme”.
Kallat’s photos are uniformly populated with a claustrophobic number of items: people, cars, buses, billboards, and street sellers practically crawling on each other as they go about their daily routine (commuting to work, bantering, selling) of engaging in commercial activities. Everyone is trying to make a buck, or rupee in this case, and the subjects’ focus on the task at hand is the cloud of denial which isolates them from the pollution in which they thrive.
The artist’s rendering of Mumbai as a city overtaken by success and marketing, capitalism and economic growth in the extreme provides an understanding as to how there are legislators, leaders and laymen who continue to disregard climate change. The consumer-oriented environment we’ve created and in which we conduct our social, political and financial selves provides an opium-like haze in which we can deny the fact that our natural environment is experiencing radical change. We have become immune to radical change since that is what we consciously implement. So used to our physical environment morphing at a constant pace, the notion that we are unknowingly destroying the natural environment is well below the surface, hidden beneath the billboards advertising mobile technology, delis displaying man-made news on their magazine racks and posters seducing us to a warmer, cleaner and less fast-changing vacation destination.
Ironically, these symptoms of success (radical environmental change and untreated pollution) also foreshadow decline. Jared Diamond, an ecologist and author of “Guns, Germs and Steel”, describes “people inadvertently destroying their environment” and climate change as two primary factors which lead to a culture’s dissolution. When societies build up and quickly gain wealth, as India has done, there should be even more focus on keeping the environment intact. Of course, environmental and climate change are not the only factors or even the most detrimental ones in enabling a society’s decline. However acting in oblivion of the physical environment in which we function allows for unmonitored growth of previously non-existent pathogens and a clouded reliance on natural resources that may one day disappear if we continue to rely on the environment for energy and raw materials.
Another scholar and expert in global health Dr. Hans Rosling concedes that India is successful in establishing vibrant and influential urban centers of economic growth, but economic and social inequalities remain obstacles. He suggests that in order to forge ahead of the West and China, India needs to “create a domestic market, avoid social instability, and make use of the entire capacity of the population” by making “social investments in health, education, infrastructure, and electricity”. However, Rosling doesn’t ignore the serious threat climate change poses to India and its neighbors in ensuring economic and social stability, two factors necessary for India or even China to become the global centers of both power and the markets. He invites India and China to forge a partnership around establishing a global climate policy.
The environmental chaos I witnessed in India and which Kallat immortalizes in his photographs gives insight into the modern invention, the megalopolis. These megalopolis environments are cropping up all over the world in countries like India and China but also in Africa and the rest of the developing world. It’s no sheer coincidence that the megalopolis is a phenomenon characteristic of the quickly growing, newfound markets. Local and global companies alike are feasting on the natural resources and raw materials which flourishing economies such as India and China offer and benefitting from the consumer markets they breed, enough so to ignore the perils of climate change and the effects of accelerated growth on the environment, leaving it to the laymen to see the forest for the trees.
Kavita Ramdya is author of “Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement and Marriage in Hindu America” http://www.bollywood-weddings.com/Home.html