Amar Sohor (My City)
“I won’t be able to complain
though I never found what I was looking for.
Near the dried-up stones and the husks of insects,
I won’t see the sun’s duel with the creatures of flesh and blood.”
While chasing the rabbit of light, I happened to enter your region of eternal spring and found myself among you as if it was the destiny. The rabbit caught me instead. Kozhikode received me with her intimate and enlightened humanity in her progressive socio-cultural-political fold.
Ganga chechi, now no more, invited me to stay here. She asked me to come home. So I came home with my Krishna to Prabhakaran’s Granma (named after the yacht that ferried Castro to Cuba in 1956, launching the revolution) house at Kannadikkal, my kannadi-kkal, i.e. Mirror made of Stone. It’s been18 years, since the ‘mirror of stone’ is ceaselessly showing me my changing portrait, constantly getting shaped by the chisel of time and baked by the tropical sun. This is the place where I belong to; my residence on earth. Your sky bestowed me with my personal treasure like a moon in the well. You can get me out of Kozhikode, but you can’t get Kozhikode out of me; spell bound by the unfolding scroll of the meadows laced with blue-green hillocks with innumerable white cranes. It resembles my childhood village way back in West Bengal, frozen in time, at a distance of 35 years. It resembles the 70mm screen of ‘Nostalgia’ as well. The days and nights flowed with the rhythm of a cradle. Forgotten lyrics caught up with the lullaby. Tunes resonated in the air. Echoes keep coming back to me with primordial assurance. My sense of time gets interwoven with the voices of children coming back home at dusk with their football bouncing along; prayers rising from mosques or bhajans from temples. It seems a bit like infinity.
Transforming from the appearance of an 18th century Dutch master’s oleograph of south India, the city came into life in no time. Gradually, Kozhikode manifested its reality of a multicultural co-existence. My encounter with the historical city turned to be a continuous process in decoding history in the making. Myth and reality played like light and shadow. It felt like a living museum of humanity. Kozhikode presented me with uncountable friends and comrades, offered me parentage and brotherhood. She taught me her lingo of puns and anecdotes. She is the one who adopted me from an ocean of anonymous dreamers. Along the locations of Bashir’s tales, among Uroob’s pretty women and handsome men, through SK's roads, KT's characters I revisit the fervour of the human bondage within the cosy city. Kozhikode made me walk through the street corners under the summer sun where young Baburaj sang with his angelic voice, belly-beating in rhythm. Those were my heritage-walks, where I met people like Shantha Devi and Mudi Venuettan among others, missing links between the past and the present.
It is you who let my sense of belonging have a nest. I wanted to communicate with you, and you agreed to listen. I communicated with my lines and colours, and you took the trouble to decipher the metaphor beyond all the emotional subjectivity. Publishing houses designed my road map in the city. With my visual wares, I visited the offices of Mathrubhumi, Deshabhimani and Chandrika, and other print media offices belonging to diverse political, religious or ideological affiliations. Thus, I got a rare chance to look at the city from different perspectives from the grassroots to a bird’s eye view.
I was painting ‘Oblivion and next,’ part of the series of our drawings and paintings titled ‘The Great Procession’, that culminated in 14 shows with significant feedback, spanning seven years in seven district headquarters. It started consolidating from here. Friends and comrades made this impossible possible by supporting and under taking the painstaking work to organise the exhibition.
P V Chandran, Managing Editor of Mathrubhumi gave a moral boost by collecting one of my paintings. M V Shreyams Kumar, Director of Mathrubhumi bought Prabhakaran’s water-colour, The Boat, and later supported the 12th show of the series -Jalasamadhi- back here by sponsoring gallery space enabling us to host Dr. K N Panikkar, Shabnam Hashmi and K T Mohammed to the seminar named “The Crisis in Civilization” in 2004. The then Editor of Mathrubhumi, Gopalji, bought ‘Mahaayaanam,’ also by Prabhakaran.
The pro-active student movements in and around Kozhikode kept me fine tuning my reflexes in communicating through visual art. I always consider this to be my most important duty as an image maker. Lately, in connection with illustrating an anthology on Saint Chavara, I encountered the editor, Fr. John Mannarathara, a mentor to students and and educationist. He entrusted to me a few students at Silver Hills Public School in order to fan their creative fire. I enjoy being with my new young creative friends from std. I to std. X, who fill me with high hopes for the future of a greener earth. They are like seeds in a first landscape.
“..I will go to the first landscape
of shocks, fluids, and murmurs
that seeps into a newborn child
And where all surfaces are avoided,
So I will know that my search has a joyful target
when I am flying, jumbled with love and sandstorms.”
- Living Sky/ Federico Garcia Lorca