Shh...DOn't TELL Anyone - Poornima Sardana


We have learnt that a  mutual conspiracy of silence exists, above is  a graphic version of just one incidence  where we suggest “Don’t tell anyone”. I am representing here what transpires. I am tempted to tell you what to do, but I trust you to have the ability to think yourself. Reasons to voice the right are much greater than the addled fears that stop us.

Zoe Weil illustrates beautifully in words: “The world becomes what you teach”



Of Capriccios, Portkeys and Internet

More often than not I find my surroundings surreal. When I first came across ‘Magical Realism’, it was my research on narratives; little did I know I would accept its presence in the daily nuances of urban life. I know these are different genres; I experience the essence of both.
Photograph by poornima sardana, Gram Vikas, Orissa

Like most of us, I have grown up in a vibrant visual and aural culture. A bus journey to Delhi would involve a sensorial experience of mustard fields, the green mosque, orange toffees, entertaining salesmen (selling anything from imported table cloths to all problem- one solution masalas), children crying, music (A particular genre of Bollywood that plays only in buses or tea stalls) and Red Cola. We would reach the bus stand, get onto an exciting auto rickshaw and come across a strikingly different plethora of stimuli. Every transition had its symbols of different spaces and timelines which I would associate with. In time, they became different identities of those places for me.

Photograph by Poornima Sardana


Photograph by Poornima Sardana


Now Canaletto’s works (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/24/arts/design/24cana.html)

are amongst the many others which rest in my father’s collection of “Great Artists” and are often looked at with awe by his wide eyed bespectacled daughter (me).

From internet


Canaletto’s Capriccios are fascinating juxtapositions of the real with the imaginary; of ambiguity in fact, with travelling visual vocabulary. Of an osmosis and surprise that we come across in the cultural montage we are enveloped with. Exquisite craftsmanship and aesthetics in (so called) protected monuments choked with the Lego like buildings and/or vertical eruptions  that flank it, history and skill notwithstanding, it is a much underrated and incredulous sight. Their presence, quite often ignored, seems unreal, at times, almost celestial.

I assume there are two categories of urban capriccios: One of the unintentional montages: Past extending its arms to the new, where the new despite no space, tweaks and twists and fits in. (Some also call it Glocalization) The former surprises with its existence because the new has been accepted as more real. Or it is the neo with tinted glasses and borrowed aesthetics that suddenly comes and sits next to the seemingly older new. This neo holds its ground despite glaring disparity and lack of connection with its surroundings.

Photograph by Poornima Sardana
photograph by poornima sardana, kanyakumari


photograph by poornima sardana, chennai
photograph by poornima sardana, jhabua


 The second occurrence is of the intentional montages with borrowed imageries and senses, like the much hyped augmented reality: Experiential restaurants, Theme Parks, Museums, Three dimensional movies, Games and so on. So you get off the car after having howled at the traffic, and who knows you might be tasting Lucknow’s Kebabs and talking of bygone eras while next doors lots could be happening over coffee.

Folk entertainment at a resort, photograph by poornima sardana


On a bus journey to Mount Abu from Gandhinagar, I was quite amused to see Torrent Hotel when only day before my co-passenger and friend had been downloading a movie on it. The moment I got off the bus, VOILA! Eiffel Tower! Though a much stunted version, it was right there. As if the series of surprises weren’t enough, we went to Chacha Cafe’  which we both read as Coca Cola from a distance, thanks to the Fancy Type exercise they must have had.

from google


Four years ago, a walk in Singapore’s Chinatown, took me to Mc Donald’s Filet-o-Fish and I felt the security and relief that is so embedded in familiarity. But what struck me the most was how taste and space had enabled me to be transmitted from my present to another zone, a zone that could also be reached from Green Park market in Delhi or a terrace in Ahmadabad with just a bite (or a few more). It was something like the hyperlinks on internet or the portkey (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Portkey) of J.K. Rowling’s fancy. A few years later, I am experiencing something similar with the Metro. As long as I am inside the metro or the station, I become oblivious to the world outside. I get transmitted from Kashmere Gate to Rajiv Chowk/Noida/Huda City Centre without any variation in my response till I move out and see the world/webpage I have reached. Yes the amount of time varies, but I seem to not notice that also and indulge in conscious ambiguity.

photograph by ankur sardana
metro, photograph by poornima sardana
subway, photograph by poornima sardana


A few weeks ago I was at a village in Orissa and to my surprise I heard Ringa Ringa, a song I had been introduced to by a friend from Mysore at Gandhinagar. I smiled, while clicking pictures of the village’s water arrangement, I could recall the cold water from water cooler back in Gujarat. I had been transferred, this time through music, which interestingly belonged neither to Gujarat, nor Orissa, much like the omnipresence of internet.

I am adding a few more pictures to the existing ones to elucidate my thought:

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To Paint or not to Paint

(The color wheel prepared for an assignment) 

“I could never draw. Even if I make a sketch now, a kid would make a much better sketch you know.”

A gentleman who sat next to me in the bus confessed, when I told him of my chosen path, design.

He had naively assumed that I must have the best of skills in visual representation and had raised me to the pedestal of admiration and regard that only people quite unlike me receive.

I grinned and added on to the stream of confessions, “I once got 40 out of 100 in Art in School and lied to my parents that it was out of 60. I had to practice much more before a drawing examination as compared to Maths throughout the year.”

I think he still isn’t out of shock, its been more than a fortnight though.

I was never the one with skills. I am what they call “butter fingers”.

I appreciate aesthetics; I admire brilliant works but don’t necessarily produce them. Not that I don’t wish to, I constantly work on improvement.

Does that mean I don’t have the right to express how I can until I achieve celestial excellence? Of course I do! The naive skills/expression that we are born with is the most intrinsic response we can produce. We all are artists/designers, in whichever way we choose to communicate. Howsoever we draw/paint/click/create, we have the ability to put our mind and soul in a representation through hands and fingers and eyes and feet and speech and words and whatever we choose, so what if it’s not trained?

In fact, not everyone perceives the complicated and high-end information as it’s supposed to be, at times the simplest and the most basic does the job.

And if you say that you draw like a child, or have never taken an abstract picture before (yes people say so), congratulations, you have been able to retain an untainted reflex that most of us have consciously wiped out of our systems.

My work with paints was never appreciated, and when it came to water colors, well the sheet never lasted. My intentions were noble but the execution still requires years of practice. I know one day I will! So this time when I felt like painting, I thought, Ok, no paper, let’s do something else. I picked up rotting pieces of sculpture and colors. Dipped my fingers and expressed. I cried, I laughed, I produced, and honestly it’s much better than all my previous works. I am still at it, and am thoroughly enjoying it. Yes I cannot hold the brush, but I can certainly apply the colors.

This is my request to one and all, you want to make something, please do. (That does not mean you need to forgo skills completely, please don’t misunderstand my humble note).Art, Design are within all of us, it’s just a matter of listening to that voice inside.

children · gender and sexuality · image identity · people · society

Children are Watching…

                                        (Photograph: Poornima Sardana)

Just like the “common man” illudes us into believing that they are people sans identity so does “children”. We begin to fit them in roles carved out by the myths we dwell in. They could be objects of display/paintings of adult understanding of the perfect /marketing gimmicks/urban consumers/subjects in rural photographs/images for activists/punching bags/teddy bears/pets/heroes/stars/performers/trophies/flowers/clowns/fashion statement/pillows/pain/monkeys to be caged…anything but human!

“Children”, apart from the fact that this term is generic and emanates romanticised visions of angels and candies and balloons, there is much more to them. They are living, thinking, and human beings like the rest of the adult world. Much more observant, agile and sensitive though.

Now on reading this, most of us would say, “Obviously!” Regrettably, in practice, this obvious isn’t so obvious. I do not wish to undermine the existence of excellent parenting, but this is an attempt at highlighting the nuance of the other extremes.

We over protect them and act silly with puckered lips/ senseless (and comic) baby talk or/and become absolutely indifferent to our own behaviour and responsibilities as facilitators in their holistic growth and learning. Though I much condemn unnecessary celebration of esteemed unreal innocence, the latter is much worse.

How we build our relations, how we deal with our situations, our reasoning and reactions have an influence whose roots spread deep enough to sustain for years together in the minds and hearts of our children. They watch, they hear, and it gets stored in the conscious as well as the unconscious.

I shall narrate a few recent incidents:

An irritable father, after a long day at work, shrugged off his boy as troublesome and foolish. The boy generally scores above 90% if that satisfies the judges of intelligence. He is quick at picking up languages, and has an astounding general knowledge. He is brilliant at acting and enjoys sports. He has a tendency to win friends. But for his father, and an equally irritable grandfather, that boy is to be treated like some mosquito that drinks their blood. Every time the child reasons he is asked to maintain silence. He has begun to sulk. Now exactly ten years later, these are the very people who would be complaining against him being shy/introvert/coward.

A mother whose daughter has her board exams is a nervous wreck. She cannot sleep well. She talks about it day and night to her daughter. She keeps a check on her daughter while she studies. She compares her with others who had done well in their board exams. When the daughter’s grandparents call, she discusses what subjects she must choose next year because she will have to appear for the entrance exams of coaching accordingly. The situation has become so, that the daughter is unable to think beyond her performance. She is uncomfortable at social events and is now being teased by others for the same. Another reason for the mother to be a nervous wreck, right? The moment that girl will start with her job; this mother won’t care about her performance, but would want her to become a little less ambitious and graceful, so that a nice boy would marry her.

A Couple has violent fights. They shout, abuse and at times break things. They do not feel the need to maintain their unity in front of their children. Given a chance they involve their children in it as well. They both speak ill of each other with their children. They are not a unit. The children do not know whether to bank on them or not. Whom to respect? Their daughter has borrowed her mother’s temperament. When she gets angry, she does a public display. At that time, the parents unite in scolding and reprimanding her. But the roots lie somewhere else.

Though I can narrate one incidence after another, which is not the purpose, I request all of us to be responsible. Be aware of the gravity in words and actions. Know that life is too huge to be spoilt over trivial issues. Our children, their emotions and love are real, nurture in them true happiness and reasoning and empower them to sustain it. Careers and futures they will manage, they are smarter than we are.

A post on Kafila by Sohail Hashmi:


academia · critical theory · critique · people · reflections · society

The quest between the I and the Accep/expec-ted

Hierarchy of beliefs? (Picture taken at T3, Delhi, Poornima Sardana)

We face a constant dilemma: Is it about me or should I think like WE ought to?
The haunting uncertainty that many of us deal with, is but, an obvious consequence.
Most of us grew up watching our parents indulge and (at times) even revel in sacrifices for the sake of family, society, their contexts. As we explored, we realized that we had the liberty and right to ask, to question, to reason, and… to reject. We redefined roles and then …we re-redefined roles.
Traditions vs. Evolution
Faith vs. Individual Perception
Patience vs. Sacrifice
Rules and Rights vs. Relative to Context
Much as I support critical thinking I should not shy away from accepting that it is often manipulated and tweaked to suit different situations and different audiences. Because the sense of security and simplicity that is so deeply rooted and symbolized in “it has always been so/ yahi sahi hai/I warned you earlier” is yet to be substituted with the stability of a conscious will and grit to accept and face the changes we ourselves propel.
The mentor who might encourage his introvert student to travel on her own, could be the fearful father who sends three caretakers with his princess.
The guy who supports his girl for a career, could be the irritable/fatigued husband who would rather have his wife cook than take client’s calls.
The woman who wants to run her company, could be the little girl who needs her man to get her cellphone repaired.
The go-getter who wants to earn more than her husband, might express annoyance over a cheaper wedding gift.
Honestly and unfortunately, in our inability to fit ourselves in one image, we keep oscillating between the images from memory and the images born of reasoning. To gravitate towards fears or to fly in idealism? To pacify others or self? To be objective or egocentric?
I haven’t found an answer, I do not know if there is any.

academia · design, juxtapositions, pluralities, communication · india · people · reading culture · reflections · screens · society · travel

Faith in hand

A bus journey for three hours in Northern India: A panorama of the most incredulous yet unsurprising juxtapositions through the moving window. Disney Bakery and Gautam Travels take great pride in being flanked by blue coloured houses (shrieking of a certain TATA Indicom), while Airtel and Vodafone adorn all-purpose tea stalls next to (yet another) Agrawal Sweets. Red haired men indulge in spontaneous spitting tournaments, young couples exchange sheepish looks after glancing at ink smeared posters of YOUNG Monica, little boys run after buses with packets of water ” 2 Rs. ka ek” and women decked in their sparkling saris and sequin laden shawls, yell at their children ,while their men devour on ground nuts.
As much as I enjoy the varieties and surprises of this linear yet non linear sight, I cannot help but agree that this cannot be mistaken for a romantic reminiscence of a bygone era or nostalgia for small towns. This is the reality of a present, where a dishevelled bus will drop me at a cold metro station , post which I shall leave a numb tunnel and move out, only to be transported into a world of Louis Vuitton, Dal Moth and KFC.
I felt a surge of hopelessness, of grief and anger. Why? Will it never change?
Will I remain a part of helpless audience?
Questions am sure we all ask and in all likelihood move beyond and above.
I was coping with my oscillating reactions when I saw him, absorbing the sun and gloating in its warmth. He had his fists tightly clenched, kissed them twice, opened, and blew. In that indifferent cold, where people stood shivering, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, that boy had made a wish. He had nothing but Hope. Faith in himself and someone much greater than him and you and I, he believed in change.
Thankyou dear boy, I hope that we can also have your spirit and execute than just narrate the often told.