Wild buzz: The nature of art

  • Vikram Jit Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Dec 13, 2015 11:30 IST
(Photo by Parveen Kumar)

Three years back, artist Parveen Kumar’s mother lay dead on a cot. As mourners filed in to pay respects, Parveen’s cellphone would not stop ringing. The first of a nearly 100 calls that day congratulated Parveen thus: ‘’Bahut, bahut vadhaiyaan hon’’. The rest of the calls were in similar vein. Those calls were from readers and environmentalists, who did not know Parveen’s mother had passed away. They were reacting to an article published that very morning in a vernacular daily highlighting Parveen’s remarkable photo-essay on rag-picker kids diving virtually naked into the polluted Budda Nallah, Ludhiana, in icy December and fishing out leather, aluminium foils, plastics etc. The article had carried Parveen’s cell number. The callers wanted to assist in the cause of the kids and Budda Nallah. But Parveen reeled under the surreal circumstance of his intensely-loved mother, who had nursed him through polio, lying lifeless and callers congratulating him.

Parveen, who teaches fine arts at Ludhiana’s Government College for Girls, is deeply anguished when humans wage a war of attrition on nature. His drawings, or refined forms of doodling accomplished with a ball-point pen, were on display at Chandigarh’s Punjab Kala Bhawan to mark World Disabilities Day. In a particularly sensuous drawing which pays homage to nature’s powers of creative energy, Parveen explores the theme of a mother goddess, a beckoning blend of procreative duties and yearnings of female sexuality, a merging of youthful physical splendour and mental vigour.

The goddess’ right thigh tapers to a fish spewing eggs from its mouth representing creation. A cruel, bear-like face at the end of the left thigh eats a fish showing destruction but one that sustains another creature’s life. An elephant with an extending trunk in the upper right thigh, representing male sexuality, is drawn by the beckoning right hand of the goddess. Breasts, like ‘’ripe mangoes’’ as Parveen describes them, show a female’s milk nurturing as well as seductive prowess. The ribs are snake hatchlings showing creation from white stone-like eggs in the left thigh upwards. The goddess reaches for the moon with her unfolding-flower-like right hand representing the softest of feminine touch, a flight of imagination reaching for cosmic sustenance. A tree, birds, roots, fish represent nature’s basic elements in this piece of art where diverse creatures create a unity in the silhouette of an apex human.


A rare picture of the Rudraprayag man-eater’s head taken by Corbett himself. (Photo: TWEED MEDIA / OUP ARCHIVES)

Many weapons custom-made for the Indian nobility by British gunmakers were bought after Independence by foreign collectors and now occupy niche spaces in gunrooms in the West. However, Jim Corbett’s .275 Mauser bolt-action Rigby rifle took a somewhat different path before it finally landed up in its parental home at the John Rigby & Co. gunroom at Pensbury Place, London. The rifle was presented to Corbett in 1907 by the then Lt Governor of the United Provinces, Sir JP Hewitt, as an award for shooting the Champawat tiger, which killed 436 humans.

Corbett’s rifle and the letter he wrote to OUP’s G. Cumberlege. (Photo: TWEED MEDIA / JOHN RIGBY & CO.)

The rifle first left Corbett when he gifted it to his publishers, Oxford University Press (OUP). The bachelor hunter’s letter to OUP’s Geoffrey Cumberlege of September 17, 1954, is an extraordinary tribute to his robust rifle companion: ‘’This rifle has accounted for many man-eaters, and its exploits are mentioned a hundred times in my books. My shooting days are now over and I am wondering if you can find a corner in Amen House (OUP’s then premises in London) where this faithful old friend, who has saved my life on many occasions, could pass his well-earned retirement in peace and comfort. He would not feel lonely at Amen House for he would know that he was among friends.’’

The rifle rested peacefully till 1978 when the Oxford Police impounded the rifle in a period of tightening firearm possession laws. The rifle had been moved by OUP to Oxford in 1976 from Amen House, London. Corbett’s rifle never faced trouble from Scotland Yard in the years it rested in peace (RIP) at Amen House.

Rigby’s has ensured that the rifle, though in firing condition, will remain faithful to Corbett. ‘’After the rifle was impounded, it was released to Rigby (on Pall Mall at the time) for storage. From there it passed to J Roberts & Son for storage when the name (Rigby) was sold to the US in 1997. Upon (the brand name) returning to the UK, Rigby took the rifle back into storage. Earlier this year, we contacted OUP to ask if we could buy the rifle. We felt very strongly that it should be on public display for everyone to enjoy. The rifle will not be fired while at Rigby in respect to Corbett’s wishes. In his letter to OUP he states ‘his faithful old friend should pass into retirement in peace and comfort’. After seeing this, we felt it inappropriate for the rifle to be used,’’ Rigby’s Managing Director, Marc Newton, told this writer.

Rigby has scheduled an India tour in April 2016 with the rifle, and will donate Rs 13 lakh to Corbett National Park.


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