Wednesday, March 16, 2016

52 (Or, the Full Deck of Life)

52 cards in a pack. 52 weeks in a year. But my thought a few days ago on turning 52 was, "Does this mean I now play with a full deck?" The thought makes a strange kind of sense because at this point, you've probably got yourself together more or less. What-what (as we say) can you see, learn, think, do, experience in 52 years?! A lot! I thought I might write about those things but I cannot.

As my birthday comes to a close, I am filled with great gratitude for the abundance of affection that has marked these weeks, this day in particular. People who did not need to have taken the time to think about my birthday, about my being away from home and about my tastes and preferences, and put together a day that I will not forget.

From the birthday cake that friends brought upstairs early this morning (and I do mean early!) to the phone calls people took the trouble to make--trouble for local friends because I am not usually around for them to call and trouble for friends and cousins who had to figure out a new location--to the profusion of balloons and handmade cards that greeted me at work, every single act was performed with caring. The plan for lunch, the careful and secret scheming and the office cake and song ceremony. There was no need for any of it but people thought about me and went out of their way.

The real birthday present tucked away in the middle of this warmth-filled day is to be able to start this new year feeling that abundance is real and grace is infinite and expressed in countless small acts of giving. The real celebration is a day when your heart brims with gratitude and your ego is diminished by the generosity others show.

My heart is too full to pontificate about anything.

(And maybe 52 means that even though our blogpact is stuttering, I can still embark on a scheme to write at least one blogpost a week for the next 52 weeks--all of which will of course, count towards the blogpact 100!)

A little art and beauty

I have come to Colombo a few times over the years but I have not really taken the time to be a tourist here. This time, I wanted to make that effort.

I learned online that Colombo has an art street. I don't know much about art, but I was curious. The "Art Street" is right across from Vihara Mahadevi Park and its offerings compete with the magnificent trees on that road for one's attention.

The stretch actually begins with the National Art Gallery which is a crying shame. It's a medium-sized hall with about 30 paintings, mostly portraits that are dusty and in disrepair. There are a few landscapes towards the end of the collection, almost like someone forgot to pack them when they moved. A few busts stand in a row in the centre of the room. Really, Southasia's museum spaces, the official ones, are something we should be ashamed of. Of course, there are exceptions but they really only prove the rule.

I have been reading about all sorts of interesting art movements and moments here since Independence, but if I were to judge just by the art gallery, I would think this was a country with zero visual arts sense.

Anyway, you just have to walk a short way away from the gallery, which, by the way, has some pretty flowering trees along its walls, to arrive at a stretch where artists bring and display their own work.

Again, I should say, I don't know much about art. Hanging out with my sister and brother-in-law, I am marginally less of a philistine than I ever was. 

The paintings on display vary from fairly stock images of perahera elephants and fishermen perched on poles against a twilight background, to what seemed to me more interesting work. Why it is interesting, I do not have the depth of knowledge or the vocabulary to tell you. But I chatted with the artists, and then took advantage of their generosity to take a few pictures so I could share them here. 

 I loved these. I loved the colours and I found the technique eye-catching. They are by Rohana Kumarasiri (Rohana Kasthuri Arachchi on Facebook).

I also really liked these lotus paintings by Rajakaruna B Ananda.

Both artists are on Facebook, and you can contact them that way.

But a walk down this little stretch is totally worthwhile, even if you feel intimidated by "art" as I sometimes do. It opens up another person's creativity. In their desire to do something creative and expressive, you find reflections of your own. You are refreshed by the memory of that desire even if you walk in sweltering heat under the scorching sun.

Go. Look. If you like something and can afford it, buy. At the very least, you can ask the artists about their work, and learn something you didn't know before.

And these are the young artists who were indulgent enough to chat with me and answer questions during my visit.