It’s hard to consider my first successful drawing to really have been mine, as I was only four at the time. If I recall correctly, I was trying to draw a threatening image for my older brother, a gory drawing of him with a stick broken over his head. But my uncle saw something very different – far more grandiose, if not quite as potent. He gave it to a friend of his, a newspaper editor, who ran it alongside a poetic call to arms. A few days later, these were picked up by newspapers across the country. And a few weeks after that, my drawing was being pasted on walls, being carried by people chanting in the streets, being carved into the ground in front of the governor’s house.
Years later, spurred on by a popular song on the radio, I entered a competition: Who can draw the saddest image – something that can make you cry immediately. Thinking I was being funny, I painted an image of a sack of onions; thinking I was being clever, I painted it with onion juice. While doing the cutting my eyes did indeed become teary; viewed later, however, even from close distance, my painting bore a faint odour but inspired nary a tear. Nonetheless, as fate might have it, again, the painting was exhibited just as onion prices began to rise throughout the country – and there was my stinky painting, again, adopted across the country as a symbol of public anger and fear and turmoil.
Well, I was hooked. And who wouldn’t be, after two such successes? I’ve chased that vision ever since, calling out against corruption and madness and greed. But I have never again been able to emulate that fission of collective passion, of the masses in darkness casting about for the light of the dawn.
This image is by Shishir Bhattacharjee, a Dhaka-based artist, and is part of Himal’s commentary on artwork from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka.
Oil on canvas, 1987.
Romila Thapar addresses invitees at the
Southasian relaunch of Himal Southasian,
IIC, New Delhi, January 2013.
China, Southasia and India
On May 19 2013, newly appointed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in New Delhi for a series of meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The visit is Keqiang's first outside of China since assuming power in March.
From our archive:
Purna Basnet discusses Chinese engagement in Nepal vis-a-vis security issues in Tibet and broader geo-strategic plans in Southasia (April 2011).
Fatima Chowdury relates the story of Calcutta's Indian Chinese community through the lens of political and economic upheavals in Southasia and China (May 2009).
Simon Long notes the importance of the Sino-Indian relationship for the rest of Southasia (September 2006).
J.N Dixit ruminates on the strategic concerns of the 'Middle Kingdom' in the wake of India's 1998 nuclear tests (June 1998).