From Scotland to India
What’s the likelihood that you’re in the remote Scottish Highlands and you meet a British Indian artist who invites you to participate in an art project in a remote Himalayan village? Remote, right?! And yet here I am. In India.
with Ketna Patel in Applecross, the Highlands, Scotland
It’s interesting to contemplate the Universe’s intentions for oneself when one is doing one’s level best to stay in the Highlands of Scotland (speaking as they do to my soul) writing historical fiction, and then one is suddenly thrust into an entirely different spiritual centre.
This is my first trip to India although not my first trip to a large Asian city. Otherwise Delhi would have been a shock. As it was it is just the heat that shocks. My brain knew to expect it – none of the rest of me did. The city goes on forever, as does the dust. The weather forecast on my phone, which in Scotland had said things like 3°, feels like -1°, or 1°, snow likely said 39°, widespread dust. You cannot see the sky in Delhi.
Our taxi threatened to break down several times en route from Indira Gandhi International Airport. It kept stalling and over-heating and I had visions of being stranded on the side of an insane Delhi highway with riksha drivers haggling to take Ketna’s massive amount of luggage. Indians don’t travel light – they insist on taking every ounce of their baggage allowance and more. In contrast to Ketna’s two and a half enormous suitcases, plus a bottle of duty-free whiskey and a light saber (for a friend’s son), I had one tiny piece of carry-on. The Indians are all amazed. Less is more.
We were ultimately greeted by the shining, welcoming face of Ketna’s long-time friend and fellow artist, Puneet Kaushik, our host for the night, and our travel companion the next day to Dharamsala and then the village of Gunehr.
Puneet’s home is a delicious accumulation of Indian furniture, artefacts, fabrics and colours along with his art: richly beaded canvases and long woven installations.
Puneet Kaushik at his home in Delhi.
Puneet and Ketna are partners with German-Indian Frank Schlictmann in a unique art project in the very northerly village of Gunehr where, among other things, Frank runs the Four Tables hotel. Their project will house a dozen mainly Indian artists in individual shops in the village for a month, with a theme of exploring the urban-rural divide, a phenomenon of particular extremes in India. I hope to both document in various ways the project, the artists, their work, the village and village life, and explore the surrounding region of Himachal Pradesh, home to many, many, many great and small spiritual centres. More to come…
Pop Art from Ketna Patel (left), and beaded art from Puneet Kaushik (right)