India Insight

India will be an important art centre in five years – India Art Fair director

If Christie’s debut auction in Mumbai last month is any indication, buyers are flocking towards Indian art as investors shake off the remnants of an economic downturn.

An untitled work by abstract painter Vasudeo S. Gaitonde sold on Dec. 19, fetching $3.7 million (237 million rupees) – a record for modern Indian art. Another of his works will be the showpiece in Sotheby’s South Asian art sale in New York in March. It’s not just Gaitonde. The Christie’s auction raked in $15.4 million (966 million rupees), doubling pre-sale estimates and defying the economic downturn. A November report by art market analysts Art Tactic said confidence in Indian modern art was on the rise.

That’s good news for Neha Kirpal, founder and director of the India Art Fair which opens in New Delhi this week. Kirpal told India Insight the Christie’s auction was a “booster shot” for the leading art exhibition in South Asia.

About 3,500 works by about 1,100 artists will be on display at the sixth edition of the art summit. The four-day fair runs till Feb. 2. Here are edited excerpts from an interview:

What kind of interest have you seen in the art fair in the past five years?
About 40 percent of the buyers in the fair are first-time buyers, and it’s throwing up a really interesting segment in the arts that previously wasn’t part of the art circuit. And in a sense the art fair is playing the role of market builders bringing in a new  audiences. So we have seen a great change in the buyer base especially over the last few years in terms of both Indian and international buyers.

Starbucks in India: Taste trumps price as fans rush in

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

The excitement on Garima Bajaj’s face is evident as she finally “makes it” to Delhi’s first* Starbucks store after dropping out of the queue twice before.

“Patience is always a virtue. It’s always good to wait,” the management student from Gurgaon said.

Delhi rape: what it says about us Indians

 Demonstrators run and throw stones towards the police during a protest in front of India Gate in New Delhi December 23, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

We Indians are an angry people now. Thousands of people have poured into the streets, indignant and outraged over the savage case of rape and assault on a young woman in New Delhi.

That anger degenerated this week into hysteria and bloodlust, with calls for capital punishment and castration of the rapists. The Internet was flooded with comments urging public hanging and beatings. One response on an Internet forum suggested that Delhi men be raped so that “the problem can be solved”; another advocated the rapists be urinated upon.

Delhi gang rape: protests for women’s rights attract politicking instead

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The perfect recipe of a bad curry is to do everything right, then add one wrong ingredient, or add the right ingredient in the wrong amount. In this case, the ingredient is the mango, or as they call it in Hindi, “aam.”

I attended a candlelight vigil on Sunday night in Bangalore to stand up for women’s rights in India. The vigil was a peaceful version of the protests that have swept the nation after six men were accused of gang-raping and battering a 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi last Sunday.

Delhi gang rape: a case for the death penalty

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

“It appears to be that a rod was inserted into her and it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines along. That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines,” he said.

According to sources, one of the accused persons who were brought to the hospital for a medical examination on Tuesday confessed to having seen a rope-like object — likely her intestines — being pulled out of the girl by the other assailants on the bus. The sources said that the girl had bite marks on her body.

Delhi gang rape case: ‘she deserved it’ is not a good argument

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The gang rape of a 23-year-old woman and the beating of her male friend on a moving bus in New Delhi Sunday night has produced debates about women’s rights in India and about whether the death penalty — or castration — are suitable remedies for the situation. It has not prompted, from what I can see, any speculation that the woman got what she deserved because she was dressed like a slut… until today.

For anyone who has missed the story, here’s what has happened so far, according to multiple media reports: the woman and her friend boarded the bus. They thought it was operating on a public route, but the driver and the men on board apparently were out for a joyride instead. They raped the woman, beat the pair with an iron rod, and threw them out of the bus and left them to die on the street. Police have arrested some of the men, politicians are in high dudgeon, and the woman is in the hospital. She suffered damage not only to her reproductive system, but to her intestines.

Gang rape puts spotlight on India’s rape capital

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Yet another rape has rattled India. As I read the details, I felt familiar sensations of anger, frustration, helplessness and vulnerability. Sunday’s incident, in which a 23-year-old student in New Delhi was gang raped, assaulted and thrown out of a bus, made the front pages of India’s newspapers and was debated in parliament.

The woman is hospitalised with severe vaginal, abdominal and head injuries. One of those arrested is a 30-year-old driver who ferries school children.

Why Delhi autowallahs take you for a ride

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Here’s a phrase that you need to learn if you’re new to New Delhi. Everyone knows it and anyone can teach you: “Meter kyon nahi chalta hai?” (“Why doesn’t the meter work?”) This will become an elementary part of your conversation with autowallahs, the drivers of the green-and-yellow three-wheelers that ferry people around the region.

Never tell them that you’re new to this part or that part of the city; you’re asking to be gouged on price. Look at the meter and say the phrase that I just taught you. Say it even if the meter is working. That means it’s time to negotiate. Be confident and you will only pay a ridiculous amount of extra money, rather than an insane amount. And if they do use the meter, be prepared for them to take you the long way around to your destination.

Photo gallery: Preparing for Durga Puja in Noida

There is a workshop near my home in Noida, east of Delhi, where sculptors mould clay into idols of Hindu gods and goddess all through the year for festivals. These occasions mean brisk business for the craftsmen, who work in a makeshift hut covered by tin sheets. The idols sell for 500 to 700 rupees, depending on the size.

The idols of the goddess Durga and other characters in her story are being built because the Durga Puja is only a week away. I asked the people in the workshop if I could shoot, and they gave in after a bit of persuasion. The pictures that follow are of these craftsmen painting the idols of Durga.

The annual Durga Puja is a five-day festival commemorating the death of the buffalo demon Mahishasura at the hands of Hindu goddess Durga. Traditionally a festival celebrated in eastern India — it is the biggest festival in the state of West Bengal — Durga Puja is now celebrated in north India with much gusto and fanfare.

Photo gallery: On World Sight Day, photography by ‘Blind With Camera’

Photographers say you need to have an eye to take pictures. These children, who lack some or all of their vision, have applied the same maxim to their photography. The pictures that you see below are images that I took of an exhibition by the Mumbai-based project ‘Blind With Camera’. The show is on display at the Alliance Francaise in New Delhi until Oct. 18th, and I shot these images on the World Health Organization’s World Sight Day.

“…Tactile, audio clues, visual memories of sight, warmth of light and cognitive skills are used by the visually impaired photographers to create the mental image before they judge to take a picture,” said Partho Bhowmick, a member of the project.

The first picture was taken at Dadar Kabutarkhana in Mumbai during a workshop in 2010. The photographer, Bhavesh Patel, who was born blind, according to the exhibition brochure, said he followed the direction of the sound of pigeons flying and took the picture based on the audio clue.

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