Monday, 27 June 2016

Art in the Time of Adversity

"I first thought not to tell him everything as the area is very sensitive which figures prominently on the Naxalite Belt. But he was looking very innocent and talking very gently. His name was Dharmnath Munda."

I was waiting for an auto on the roadside having upset face loaded with lots of desperation. When no any auto came to pick me up to Ranchi, I resorted to Jatri Devi's shop where I had a small tea and cigarette to lighten myself.

In the summer months, tribes usually go to jungle to collect firewood everyday which they store for the whole year. This custom made the participants temporarily unavailable for our project. It was clear that I would not be able to paint on this visit. As Radhesh (a local supporter of Udbhav Project) suggested, I finally had to postpone 'Udbhav' for this month.

When I found this visit unfruitful, I thought of using my day in consolidating my accommodation in the village. I always wanted a place amidst the people I have been working with so that I am in position to study closely their life and get a proper picture of how much and in what forms art can be possible there. Another reason I don't want to station anywhere other than Chandidih is the need to make more time for the murals. Going to Chandidih and coming back to Ranchi in total is 70-75 kms which almost devours one fifth of my waking hours travelling to and fro. This constant travel in autos in the scorching heat of Jharkhand is very troubling for my health, my pocket and my time.

Radhesh came forward to help me to fix me up at his own house. He offered me a room in which my co-occupant will be his hen and chicken. However, he has promised to deprive me of this adventure. He is too gentlemanly to allow me this. He has a folding bed and he will change its damaged straps to make it sleepable. As per his promise, It sounds lot more easier in the future for me to stay in the village Chandidih and work without having to bother climate and transportational hazards.

Hen_chicken_Goat_ photo  by ArtistAvinash Karn
Hen, goat, pigs are the common pet in the area.

Even after the promise for my accommodation closer to the murals, I was upset. Because when you leave all your personal works to engage yourself with a community art projects and you travel a lot for the same, and then suddenly, when you land in the area you find no one around to participate in it. These situations give you immense frustration- something which is too difficult to handle all on your own. I was feeling great despair at this lost chance (read sans mural trip). Nobody was there to help me at this level. However I had to control myself, started convincing my heart that I would finally overcome these challenges.

It is about 40kms long Journey from Chandidih to Ranchi. if you are very lucky you may get direct vehicle to Ranchi otherwise you need to change autos at intervals. I again returned back to the road to catch an auto after paying Jatri Devi for her tea and cigarette. Within a minute, a young boy came towards me and asked-

"Aap hi gaon me painting karte hain na?"

(You are the one who is painting in the village, isn't it?)

"Yes", I replied and started to inquire about him. I first thought not to tell him everything as the area is very sensitive which figures prominently on the Naxalite Belt. But he was looking very innocent and talking very gently. His name was Dharmnath Munda. He must be of 16-18 years of age. He only came to me to learn art. As per our conversation, he loves to draw mountains, house, flora and fauna. But due to preparation for his high school examination and earning liabilities for his home, he never gets chance to learn art.

He is the sole breadwinner in his family that consists of an unemployed father, a perennially sick housewife of a mother and one younger brother who is too small to earn spending most of his time with his pigs- so he is forced to do both- study and earn at the same time. 
Dharmnath has some chicken and few pigs from which he makes money once in a while.

Dharmnath Munda (left), his brother (middle), myself (right)and Dhamnath's mother (back)

Dhramnath invited me to his house to see the walls of his house. I couldn't say no to him and followed him to his house. It was right next to the road where I was waiting for an auto. I found his house with three walls ideal for the mural and Dharmnath has already prepared it with white wash.

Selling pathetic stories has never been my concern but to write about Dharmnath is a more obligation for me. I must clarify that Dharmnath has not prompted me in any way to take up his story. Long after hearing his story and leaving Dharmnath, this kept haunting me. The image of his mother who has been continually struggling with ill-medication after failed trips to hospitals in Ranchi and around. She is suffering as a result of proper diagnosis and care- something which has already claimed lives in his family in the past. The hopelessness Dharmnath is undergoing started growing on me. 
Medical facilities are a major issue in the area. I have came across many people who suffer ghastly diseases and try fixing it up locally and often without much success.
However, I am an artist with a heart. I consciously know  that I cannot completely erase everything that troubles these people I am working with for this project. Still I would love to garner help for Dharmnath who is a real hero in my eyes- a true warrior surrounded by adversities of all kinds. His family is important to him. That is why he is fighting tooth and nail to find food and health for them. 

I just want to aid him in this effort. There is one small way I can begin and that is by including him in my mural project. I would appreciate if people come forward and try help him in any way they can. Help in any way is welcome. Inbox us if you have anything for him. Udbhav will remain deeply obliged.

(email- /or /or Cc to both).

(This post is written by Avinash Karn and edited by Shantanu Das).

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