In a most beautiful verse poet Rumi says, “What you seek, seeks you!” The surroundings must have been blissfully conducive, the artist-at-heart and a devout art-lover, I was witness and an observer in various artistic processes in my growing up years and after. I grew up singing, learning Classical music and attending concerts in Bombay passionately dissecting a mehfil (musical presentation) for its raags (melody), taals (rhythm) and genres with my teachers and peers. Such cumulative training, howsoever indirect, is precious in the sense that it trains one’s ear inculcating a taste to decipher good from bad.
Later I studied architecture at Bombay University in a five-year degree course – a high that I feed upon! The immersion, the enigma, the fulfilment this period held seems to sustain me to date, almost. Many influences did compound to make this period formative. The imposing Gothic buildings in our campus housed the university departments of Fine art, Commercial art, Sculpture and Photography and we were surrounded by art and artists all the way. We routinely watched chunks of marble being chiseled away at the hand of aspiring (and bearded!) sculptors and enthusiastically tried brush strokes with some fellow students, speaking each other’s lingo and imitating each other’s garbs. Some of Mumbai’s best art galleries like Jehangir were a stone throw away, and we checked them out often. After graduating we parted ways but the influences, imprints and impacts stayed.
Three decades out of college, and I am still the same lover of arts – active, obsessed and ardent, drawing endless pleasure from and feeling immensely enriched after an artistic encounter. I was lucky enough to stay in music learning, listening, meditating, performing in my style and at my pace never thinking about it as a tool to make living. The process of releasing my first ever music album was particularly enlightening, providing an eye-opening peek into the aspects of management and technology among other things. There were so many pieces to the puzzle! Painstakingly collected live music pieces from a host of artists on tabla, sitar, piano, sarangi, santoor and guitar (musical instruments). The high-tech sound consoles enabling the ‘mixing-mastering’. The crucial- essential place of complex software with the perseverance of the young sound engineers. The artists, arriving in a humble auto-ricksha notwithstanding the sweltering summer heat, simply walking into the studio and fluently-prolifically panning out most beautiful interludes, all to my amazement… The conceiving-directing-producing of this album amply illustrated how such a project needs and deserves vision, leadership and finances apart from core artistic skills. I also learnt how it direly needs marketing, promotion and brand building.
Curiously, this musical project later expanded into a dance production that integrated two Indian Classical dances – Kathak and BharataNatyam. This stage show, my debut direction-production too was well-received, and during its India run it also traveled to France with the prestigious support from the Government of India, to perform in a historic opera theater impressing upon a full-house French audience. All this was a bonus, a blessing, given the fact that my art agenda was optional, and mostly joy-driven. Arts and Architecture were synonymous; guaranteeing me livelihood as I enjoyed the soul-nourishing right brain perks.
There were also a few other projects that brought me to the point of Renu. Outside the joy they brought, my observations on a deeper plane were slowly becoming consequential and purposeful, inspiring the idea of Renu. I was zeroing on Arts to be the focus of my service, and was beginning to think of the mechanism, the modus operandi. To steer away from the limitations of solo working seemed like a must. There had to be a respectable platform, a support system, a formal identity for this work. Among other things a think tank was needed for advice and as a sounding board. We would need a brick and mortar office with a business address, and we would need to hard line options for fund-raising. I found the answers in the formation of Renu – The Foundation for Art.
Renu is an arts nonprofit corporation registered in New Jersey-USA today, and in the mission of taking the uplifting Indian arts to global audiences, creating opportunities for artists and building audiences, Renu is lucky to have a treasure in the board of directors. Renu aspires to be an esteemed institution, a conservatory, a temple of arts in the times to come.