The 50:50 Home – Journeys beyond Mumbai and back

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A new art exhibition in Mumbai explores the circular journeys of migrant families between the city and their villages in Maharashtra’s Konkan region.

The title of the show, “Mumbai Return: Journey Beyond the City”, personifies a life divided between the twin spaces of the adopted home (Mumbai), and The Home (the migrant’s place of birth and early life). By implication, the exhibition is also an ongoing narrative about themes of home, belongingness, ancestry, and alienation from the migrant’s perspective.

However, the scope of its inquiry and research is not only limited to the familiar themes of home and dislocation. Curated out of a research project by an urban planning collective and a think-tank studying the future of global mobility, the exhibition analyses the transformation of cities and villages as a consequence of migration.

What does home mean to the migrants? Can a migrant belong to two different cultural and geographical spaces at the same time? What is the impact of that migration on their ancestral home? How do the “circular” migrants’ cultural roots shape their life in a new city? The exhibition, on view at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, seeks answers to these questions through mixed media art-works such as installations, films, architectural models, photographs and the traditional Warli painting.

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“For many Mumbaikars, home is here and there, stretched between two inescapable and complimentary polarities,” says the exhibition’s curatorial note. Just as the village house is transformed into an “aspirational city house”, thanks to the new money, some residential areas in Mumbai emanate the communal atmospherics of rural life. The transforming village home and the city flat constitute “the two inescapable and complimentary polarities”, cemented by the migrants’ desire to simultaneously belong to both these spaces.

Such “homegrown” neighbourhoods are Bhandup, Ghatkopar, Naigaon, Shivaji Nagar and Dharavi, the exhibition shows. The community of migrants in these areas live in close proximity to each other just the way they would, back in their villages, according to urbz architect Marius Helten. However, the proximity may also have to do with the city’s space constraints, unlike a village that has a lot more open space.

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Public transport systems of the railways, auto-rickshaws, and buses inevitably contribute to the paradigm of the circular migrant’s life. Artist Sandeep Bhoir essays this back-and-forth movement of migrants onto a large circular “canvas”, placed at the exhibition’s entry. Bhoir’s traditional Warli art-work represents two worlds, the idyllic pastoral life and the rhythmic chaos of cities. The folk element, which personifies the Warli art form, pervades the city-village representation. Perhaps, it’s an implicit pointer to the fact that the memory of “the historical” never fades, irrespective of a migrant’s present geographical location.

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The question of belongingness continues to return, or haunt, the migrant’s narrative. In one of the documentaries shown at the exhibition, a man says he belongs 50 percent to his village and the rest to his city home. The belongingness, he adds, is complete.

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The exhibition closes on July 31, 2017.  

Prabha Atre’s Mira bhakti

What is bhakti? Prostrating yourself before the gods to ask for a favour, again and again? Or taking arduous pilgrimages only to come back home to your misery and sufferings? Can bhakti mean devotion to something or someone for purely self-less reasons?

Bhakti could be less and less of yourself and more and more of what you are devoted to – a process of peeling off layers and boundaries of ego that we create with every breath. It could also be a conscious process of “undoing” yourself that culminates in a unison with whatever you’re devoted to.

I think of Mira bai, who devoted her lifetime to Krishna bhakti and eventually disappeared one fine morning in Gujarat, where she spent a night at a Krishna temple. Legend has it that she “merged” herself with the idol of Krishna in the shrine.

When I think of the Rajasthan-born bhakti poet, I also think of Prabha Atre, one of India’s highly revered Hindustani classical music vocalists.

Thumri “mai bairagan” simmers with bhakti ras. It humbles you and gently brings you back to the earth, so to speak. The song is Mira’s plea to Rana ji, probably the king she was married to, that she will be a bairagan and unite with her Hari, Krishna.


When I listen to this song, and it’s mostly on repeat mode, I imagine Atre sitting in a barren courtyard with her tanpura, immersed in Krishna bhakti. In her unwavering invocation of Mira and her lord, Atre becomes Mira. Her voice embodies the power that bhakti possesses. You forget yourself. The recital uplifts you to a space that does not belong to you and yet somehow you feel treading into an unknown territory. It is intangible but it engulfs you and you cannot describe it. Maybe this is bhakti and that is precisely what Atre intended to do in this thumri – bhakti.

Let me end this post by sharing two photos from a recent visit to Vrindavan, where Krishna is believed to have spent his childhood. The first was shot at the ISKCON temple, where a devotee chanted “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”. In the second, a young boy-turned-guide speaks to devotees at a temple.

A Birthday Message From A Man Who’s No Longer 30

A free photo illustration from http://photobucket.com/

I’ve over 30, and I’ve realized I am no longer young;
I am not very smart, and I sometimes fart;
I’m not tall, and not bold (or bald, yet)
I was never handsome, and my heritage made sure the width of my nose maintained a certain dimension;
And my eyes and back are occasionally starting to fail me;
(This is starting to sound tragic)

But thinking from a different perspective,
I also have, like all of you, much to be thankful for.
I am still able to undertake my daily struggle to earn a living, find a purpose, and try and do the right things (what’s the fun in being handed everything on a platter, right?)

I am able to enjoy, to mourn, to care, and be cared for.
I am still breathing, which means I am still given the opportunity to change the world in my own little ways, like all of you.

And undeserving as I am, I still have friends and a family, people who look out for me and who I look out for (I’ve realized a long time ago that it’s not just about me) And I think that’s pretty swell.

What I am trying to say is – what the hell am I writing? Good lord.

Anyway, I hope all your birthdays and experiences give you the knowledge, the maturity and the goodness to find your purpose and the ability at the end of the day to say – I did my bit. God Bless.

And to Mark Zuckerberg – Can you spare a hoodie, and some change, like a few million American dollars?

– anonymous.

A Man’s Letter to Wife Ahead of FIFA World Cup

My dear Wife,

The Fifa World Cup is close by.
Let me give u a Few Rules that will
preserve your beauty.

1. The remote control belongs to me for the whole month.
2. Tell all your Friends not to give Birth or Wed or Die or wateva…..during the World Cup coz we won’t go.
3. You support the teams that I…..support.
4. No Talking during the Game……wait for half-time or end of the
game.
5. Repeats & highlights are as good as the main match…..so I am
going to Watch Them…
6. We can watch STAR WORLD…….provided actors and actresses ARE……wearing Soccer Jerseys and they are in
Brazil.
7. You Don’t Just Pass In front Of The TV IF I Am Watching football…….You Better Crawl On The Floor.
8. Make sure you don’t ask silly questions such as…..Is This Chelsea versus England ???
9. No funny faces to my friends……when they come for football.
10. Smile every time EXCEPT when my Team is Losing.
11.There shall be no comments about Cristiano Ronaldo’s looks. Professinolism shall remain an absolute part of the WC.
12. If you miss the line up please don’t ask, ‘who is that guy?’
13. Ronaldo the Brazilian and Ronaldo the Portuguese are not related, Tanzania and Kenya did not qualify.

Thank you,
GENTLEMAN’S ASSOCIATION.