My editor friend texted me “Press Conference at Hotel Kalakar. Warli paintings. Please attend at 5 pm today.” Although I have nothing to do with the Press, the invitation aroused curiosity. I told my wife that I was going to the Press Conference.
“Hotel Kalakar” I told the Auto-Riksha driver. “Where is that?” he asked.
“I took out my mobile, and read the sms. Karnik had mentioned ‘near Castle Mills Naka.’ Addresses in India are not complete unless you give two co-ordinates, X and Y. It is like establishing the exact location of a point in a co-ordinate geometry problem. Just ‘near Castle Mills Naka’ is not enough. Never. You must also say behind this or opposite that place. That makes an address complete. Addresses are like the name Patel. Unless you say ‘Patel who is son of X or brother of Y,’ you cannot locate the Patel of your search.
I asked the police on duty. He in turn asked his plain clothes man. ‘It is somewhere here, but I cannot say anything definite.’ Not much value addition as MBAs would put it.
I decided to move in the direction of my home. I asked two persons. One of them pointed towards the road leading to ‘Hotel Kalakar.’ Artists and Kalakar hotel share one thing in common I realized – it was the neglect by ‘aam adami.’ I walked some distance moving in the direction pointed by the
well informed man, but the hotel was not in sight. I stopped at one spot and asked two gentlemen who were engrossed in their discussion. ‘Look there, on the other side of the road” he said. Hotel Kalakar was located. I was expecting to see a big building with a big conference room and an assembly of about fifty persons. It was a small restaurant! I stepped in. ‘I am Vivek Patwardhan,’ I introduced myself. There were six persons there. One of them, a handsome old man, was obviously an artist. I did not ask his name. Why show ignorance? He welcomed me. He was finalizing Press release.
Hotel Kalakar is a small place. You notice the difference when you settle down. There are beautiful paintings hung on the wall. A small sticker informs you that they are for sale and the price. Not very expensive. Similar paintings in Jehangir Art Gallery would be offered at double the price. [Ask me. I have always regretted my inability to buy.]
I turned to the handsome old gentleman. ‘I am Sadashiv Kulkarni,’ he says. ‘Welcome.’ The other gentleman whose name I learnt later was ‘Kureshi’ said he was the owner of the hotel. A group of three persons sitting at the other table was discussing the lighting arrangements for the paintings. “You can pick up any painting today at 10% discount” Kulkarni said in a jovial mood. Not a bad bargain I thought, but spending a few thousand rupees for buying paintings would only confirm the view of my wife that I am becoming unpredictable with advancing age. No I can’t take the risk, I told myself.
One lady in maroon top and blue jeans entered the hotel. A confident person she was obviously known to Kulkarni and Kureshi. Another girl in white dress joined her. ‘She had written an article on our restaurant in DNA’ somebody said and asked for the photocopies of it. Everybody received a photocopy of the story in DNA. The girl in white was obviously very pleased. Another girl joined them. Now I realised that they were three reporters. A few minutes later three men, also reporters, joined.
Mr Kulkarni stood up. He addressed the small audience. He informed them that this was a unique
hotel which promotes art too. He mentioned that there was one such restaurant in London. But that did not impress people much. Small restaurant with tables near the walls which displayed paintings was uncomfortable arrangement. The reporter in maroon picked up the point – ‘When people come near the wall they have to come too close to the diners’ she was trying to convey. Nevertheless a good idea to combine art and food, Malavani food to be precise, a unique idea. Kulkarni continued, “A young boy from Wada will be here tomorrow. He will demonstrate how to do the Warli paintings. Now we find many colours in Warli paintings but the original paintings of the adivasis do not have such colours. People ask where your gods are. They do not worship the Hindu gods – their Gods are from nature. Rajesh Bhangda will do paintings tomorrow. If you buy the profit will go to the welfare of the Warli tribe. In this exhibition thirty Warli artists will display their fifty paintings.”
The reporters were in a hurry. They had to give the story to Press. They left. My editor friend had not arrived. So I too decided to leave.
Laudable effort to launch Warli paintings. But space matters. Art with food [or vice versa] is a wonderful idea but not if the space is a constraint. Like a good picture-frame, it makes a difference. A big difference.