Saturday, 10 December 2016

Petra portraits -- of humans, animals and stones

It's been too long.

I've missed you. Let's meet soon.

Does the first weekend in December work for you?

How about Petra?


Just over a week ago, Angela and I found ourselves, bathed and ready, waiting for the door that led to the breakfast buffet to open at 5:55 am. The doors opened at 6 sharp and we entered. This was a first for both of us, waiting for a restaurant door to open for breakfast. Angela had another first to follow -- her first time in Petra. This was my second time in 7 years but this time I 'd brought my blogging eyes with me, i.e. my camera.

Going through 500 plus clicks to pick just enough to give you a feel of the place but not spoil the surprise for those of you who are planning to visit Petra in the not so distant future, turned out to be an enjoyable and tedious task. Reliving those magical moments (and there were lots of them) has put a song in my heart and even though the kitchen sink is full of unwashed dishes and there's no sign of dinner, I'm humming a happy song.

Come, feel the sun on the ancient rocks.

See how each layer, sediment and pigment lights up under the blue sky.

Lose yourself in the kohl rimmed eyes of the charming Bedouin men who flirt with you with such confidence and charm that you can't help but smile back.

Sip sweet sage tea offered by Bedouin women who show you pictures of their children on their phones and whose skin glistens and eyes smile.

And just like the clip-clop, clip-clop of the hooves on stones laid down almost 3000 years ago by the Nabataean tribes fades when the animals cross over to the sandy patches in this ancient land, dissolve in the silence of the stones.

Listen with your eyes.

And let the silence of all those who've walked these parts before us keep you company...

These pictures are in no particular order. I surrender to this wonder and let Petra show me the way...with just a few words, I promise, just the bare minimum...

Monsieur Camel, they whispered. 
 Ahmed, our guide.

 This is Hassan. He sells silver bracelets.
Saw him cleaning the Siq on our way back.

Look up!

The 450 year old tree.
Straightened her red jacket, she she caught sight of us wielding camera and phone:)

A rich man's cave, joked Ahmed, with two car garage:)
 Audi and his donkey, Michael Jackson
And we walked into an Asterix comic strip; as if the obelisks around weren't enough.

Made in India:)

That's a fully grown man in the foreground-- the Monastery.

Fifteen year old Mohammed whose family lives in the Bedouin village, down in the valley. 
He sells snacks in this shop and sleeps in a cave nearby as it's not practical to go back home everyday.

Fix roofs, add solar panels and then breathe-- inhale, exhale.
 Camel caravan...his legs wrapped in toga and the camel's belly become one with stone and history.

Art's never far...bought a portrait...will share another day.
Sad eyes, happy laugh.


Silent stones
that speak volumes
tug at you;
at the bit in you
that was there when light first touched earth
the bit that feels the connection
of air and ether
 of the cosmos within
and human history on show.

Hope to see you soon.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Surabhi: from Goa to Doha

Imagine this:

The postman drops a letter. You've been waiting for this letter because your daughter has told you you'd be getting it.  She's told you that your four year old granddaughter has been writing a letter to you. You can hardly wait for the postman to drop it in your aangan. Your fingers are so full of love that they fumble when you open the letter. You don't want any rips on this treasure.

"She's learning her ABC." your daughter had mentioned it.

You open the letter. But, it has no words. None! No A, B or C.

It's a letter full of drawings: innocent love of a four year old for her Nani sketched out in pencils and filled in with crayons.
Almost a month ago, I sat in a sunny sitting room in Doha talking to the four year old, who's all grown up now and who's an artist and whose art I stumbled upon on facebook and instantly fell in love with.

When I asked her about her first art memory, she told me about her letters to her Nani. I knew I was taking more than just her art to decorate my home that day. I knew I would imagine what those letters looked like, what pictures the four year old chose to draw, how her Nani felt when she first opened the letter, how this story passed from grandmother to mother to daughter in India and then got shared with me in Doha on a sunny autumn morning, every time I look at this piece of art.

The artist is Surabhi

This is Surabhi with the portrait I fell for... can you blame me?
Surabhi's art is like her, beautiful and so infectious. Her warmth permeates through each brush stroke.

If I could, I would get all of these too. These are some of Surabhi's other completed works:
"What's that?" I asked.

"Do you see that day bed? Surabhi pointed towards the big windows, "I painted the cardboard it came packed in and my husband framed it for me."

How could I not love this artist and her art?
Her living room, every nook and corner, is so beautifully curated, it was a feast to savour and I managed to take a few shots to drool over at leisure.

The three abstracts on the right are her artwork.
And then there is her homage to Picasso...her brush, her strokes recreating his masterpieces.

These two larger abstracts are  Surabhi's own work..."I'm fascinated by how artists play with colour in abstract art, so I'm trying my hand at it..." she confesses.

I admire the way all the colours balance out the space: the cushions, the screen saver, the pink blossoms and even the mouse pad...LOVE it all.
"When did you know you wanted to pursue art?"

"My mother tells me that I was three when they got me a blackboard to practise my A, B, C. One day she saw me drawing a perfectly symmetrical duck with both my hands. She says she knew art was me and she always encouraged me to follow my passion."

Her smile broadens and her eyes shine a little more when she talks about her mother and her grandmother. I sit on her sofa, looking up to her while she talks, surrounded by the portraits she's painted and soak in the love and the stories of her childhood.

The women in her life inform her art and through the pigment on the tip of her brush dissipate the love she got from them onto her canvas for every portrait I see shows a woman's soft strength: soft like a mother's touch and strong like a Nani's belief.

Surabhi graduated from Goa College of Fine Arts and did her Masters from Hyderabad Central University.

Her husband's job brought her to Doha.

Yes, if I could, I would take more of her work home with me. But art needs space like music needs silence to be truly appreciated.

When I find the right space, I'll be back. Or maybe, another space will suit this work more...who knows.
For now, I bask in the warmth of Surabhi's art, even when I'm on the floor -- cleaning:) Her portrait has brought the colours of autumn (which I miss) close to me.

Surabhi can be reached at 
If you would like to buy her art,
you can--

Have a wonderful weekend:)
See you soon.