Roundabout: Cow jumps over the moon

  • Nirupama Dutt
  • Updated: Nov 29, 2015 14:14 IST
Destruction of a sculpture on cow at the Jaipur Art Summit turned out to be the case of sniffing an insult that was not intended by the artist. (i-stockphoto)

The past few days had me worried that I was regressing into childhood because a quaint nursery rhyme often relegated to the nonsense verse genre kept coming to the mind.

It was one with the catchy opening line of ‘Hey diddle diddle’ that goes on to talk about the cat playing the fiddle and the cow jumping over the moon. There is more to follow by a little dog, laughing and watching the fun, and the dish running away with the spoon.

Perhaps the echoes of this rhyme returned when a city artist put up the pictures of his paintings of cow and the cowherd on the social media, inviting suggestions that how should he disown these works that he had painted years ago. He was in a predicament how to do so because the works were no longer in his collection.

All this was a bit puzzling that why would the painter wanted to disown such lyrical works, reminiscent of Krishna playing flute to gather the bovine creatures. I pondered over it for a while — the tubelight that I am — till it finally dawned upon me that it was being said with sarcasm.

The pointer was to the ‘Divine Bovine’ floating cow installation that recently caused a row at the Jaipur Art Summit. An artist, Siddharth Kararwal, had attempted to show his artistry by hoisting the Styrofoam sculpture of a cow with a hot air balloon at the height of 50 feet. However, some guys went a cow-wow about it thinking that the cow was being desecrated. A police complaint was made and the cops for once acted promptly and pulled down the installation.

It turned out to be the case of sniffing an insult that was not intended by the artist. He intended to show the human relationship with environment and pointing to the plight of abandoned cows choking to death after swallowing plastic waste. But ‘hey diddle diddle’, a protester thought that it looked that a cow had been hanged to death. The social media raised a hue and cry over the dismantling and destruction of the sculpture by the police. As a result, a constable and station house officer from the police station were removed for their panic reaction and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje tweeted that the Rajasthan police commissioner had apologised for what happened; all this not after the protesters had garlanded and worshipped the dismantled Karawal’s Styrofoam cow.

Honestly, there was much ado about nothing and it turned out to be a case of an artwork getting such great attention for reasons extraneous to artistry.

Some parallels indeed with the ‘Hey diddle diddle’ nursery rhyme were first seen in the print in the 18th century. Many critics tried to read meanings into the nonsense verse in which the cow jumped over the moon and the dish ran away with spoon. Some felt it alluded to Countess Catherine Grey’s clandestine marriage.

Nowadays, people like to read the meaning into just about everything, even a nonsense verse. Perhaps that’s why I was hearing the echoes of this poem recently.

So I was not regressing into childhood, after all.

As far as the worry of the city painter goes, he should rather be happy for he may be in the running for a great attention. It is not every day that a contemporary work of art is worshipped unless the artist is a Raja Ravi Varma painting Lord Rama.

also read

Union cabinet approves closure of HMT tractor unit at Pinjore
Show comments