Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Breaking a Taboo to Make Me Look Good
I believe in certain superstitions. I believe there is some invisible ‘stuff’ around us, always watching over our deeds. In closed spaces I look for some movement around me. In hotel rooms I look out for peepholes and surveillance camera. If someone secretly records my acts when I am alone, I may look like a lunatic trying to negotiate with invisible people around me.
I am not joking. In Mayur Vihar Phase III, where we were living in a rented flat, I used to find the bedroom lights on when we came back from our work. So we used to make it sure that the lights were off when we went out. But always the lights were on when we came back. I never tried to probe the reason. We lived in that house for three years with invisible forces watching over our life.
It was not my intention to talk about the ghosts in my life. But my intuitions are very strong. When I think that someone is going to call me, they do call. When I think that I may find my bike tyre flat I find it flat. There was a bad time in my life when I used to see dead bodies everyday. I could explain that there is grave yard, almost a kilometer away from my home. There was a time when I used to go for long bike ridings with my wife and we used to end up in some cemetery. And in those days we used to see a lot of black dogs and black cows crossing our ways. One day a very dark boy appeared before us in one of the traffic junctions in Delhi. He was so dark that he looked ethereal. We tried several times to see him again. But we never saw him again.
One of my superstitions involves getting dresses as gift. Almost five years back, again a very bad time for many of us in the art scene, I was looking for a job immediately after I was forced to resign from a job I was doing then. A friend offered me a job and said that my dresses were not good enough to suit the job, which he was offering me. So he took me to a shop that sold branded clothes. He bought some new clothes for me and I was happy. But in a few months time I fell out with him. Then I scrambled through my memory and I found that whoever had given me some dresses later became my enemies. So whenever a friend offered me a dress I politely rejected it.
But I think now I am getting over that superstition. When I look at my collection of shirts, to my shock I find except for a few T-shirts rest are gifted to me by my friends. I wonder when exactly I started accepting dresses. I cant call my collection of shirts a wardrobe. I have seen wardrobes of Oprah Winfrey, Jayalalitha, Bose Krishnamachari and people of their kind. Mine is just a collection of few shirts. Insignificant, that is the only word I can find to qualify my collection of shirts.
Bose Krishnamachari was curating a show titled SPY in Mumbai and I was there with him at the fag end of preparation for the opening day. Bose decided to buy some new clothes for himself to wear during the opening. He took me to the Narenda Ahmad showroom and asked me to choose any dress I wanted. But I declined to do so because I did not want to fall out with Bose, who is in a way a BOSS to many. If I make an enemy out of him, many may become my enemy in turn. I have experienced it. So I prevented him from buying a pair of clothes for me.
When my friend and business partner Dilip Narayanan, director of Gallery OED, Kochi and a guy with a decent dressing sense and a collection of good and branded clothes, one day took me to a mall and started selecting dresses for me. I don’t know why these guys want me to dress better. Is it because I have a poor sense of dressing or because they find my clothes are not up to their mark so I should wear something that would make me their equals. I don’t know. These are crazy guys. And coming back to the story, Dilip insisted taking some dresses for me and I asked him whether he would like to be my partner for a long time. Only that indirect threat could dissuade him from his buying spree.
But I remember it was Dilip who broke my superstition with dresses as gifts. On one occasion I wanted a black jeans and I found mine dirty. So I borrowed his jeans and wore it. Then I decided not to return it. Ever since that is my jeans. Nothing happened between us. But my consolation is that it was a used jeans and I ‘borrowed’ it from him. But later he ‘gifted’ me a shirt. I waited for my fears to become a reality. But nothing happened. Still we are friends, working together and facing it from both the sides.
Then there was a torrent of gifts for me from so many friends. Somu Desai, my dear friend and a ready man for all occasions, gifted me with two shirts, which changed my looks considerably. Then one day he was staying with me and he found the black shirt that he was wearing dirty. He pushed that into my bag and took one of the shirts from Anubhav Nath who was with me at that point of time. Now, that black shirt is ‘mine’. Yesterday night he called me from Mumbai and told me, “Johny, I am in showroom. I want to buy a shirt for you. Which colour would you prefer?” I was shocked. “Buy a black T-shirt with some prints,” I told him. “Okay done. But you are going to wear it for the next art opening in Mumbai,” he said. I assured him that I would wear it. Somu still remains a friend.
Chintan Upadhyay is another person who gifted me with a shirt (Actually two shirts, one of which I forgot to take from his home in Juhu). He made me to wear those shirts and went on clicking my photographs for three hours in a stretch. Myself and Somu Desai performed before his camera and we called that performance, “Artist and the Critic.” I am sure one day we are going to release these photographs for the public. Manjunath is planning to design a shirt for me. Vaishali Narkar, a Mumbai based artist, recently met me in a gallery and the same evening she brought a packet with three designer shirts and asked me to change myself into one of them, which I happily did. They all remain my friends.
I don’t know the ‘dress superstition’ is still there or not. But I want to tell one more thing, none of these people have ever asked me any favor from me. Nor these gifts have ever made me obliged to them for doing anything out of way.
Now I know why I wrote all these things here. Whenever I attend an art opening, my friends look at me and comment, “Johny, you look really good and different.”
I should thank all my friends who regularly update my collection of shirts. The compliments that I get from beautiful girls actually belong to these friends. I am just a medium to receive those compliments.
Now, it is your turn. I am open. Anybody interested to gift me shirts?