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The world that is India 

Iloosh Ahluwalia is an artist who uses only the palette. And visually, her major concentration is on the eyes of her subjects, mainly women and children this time, at an exhibition on at the India Habitat Centre from November 19 to 22. The present exhibition takes in the wide range of dress women wear in a country of continental proportions, from the North East to Tamil Nadu, from Gujarat to Kashmir, among the tribes of Central India and a young girl of Goa getting ready for the Carnival.

This series reminds one that an artist need never leave the shores of India if he or she is on a serious quest of expressing the myriad hopes and desires of humanity.

If one is sensitive enough, knowing India well, one can catapult oneself into almost any other part of the world. The proof of this is the manner in which the writer Nirad Choudhary recreated England in his mind, living in old Delhi.

Another aspect that comes out in Ahluwalia's work is that art does not require bright accoutrements and trappings tocommunicate a message. Her portrait of a Bengali woman in a simple white cotton sari with a red border conveys a great deal about the successful struggle of women in independent India for their dignity and equality as it evokes a province where they are well-organised, have joint rights to land with their husbands and almost nothing like `eve-teasing' to counter.

Similarly, in other works too, the status of women is differently nuanced, reminding one that unitary visions of India do not really under- stand this country as well as those that concede that only an acceptance of our diversity can create the voluntary unity that we have today. Ahluwalia has given us visual proof of this.

Other works of her's highlight how a heavily populated country like our's, while it suffers considerably from the attempt of Europe and the US to keep it hemmed in within its borders with immigration laws totally out of keeping with the globalisation process, still shines with optimism. This optimism reminds us that we are arich and varied stock of humanity without whose concurrence, no global schemes can succeed. It reminds us that those who choose to ignore India can never really say they know the world or cope with its vagaries.

--Suneet Chopra

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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