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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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When I was about to start a new life with marriage, my father planted twelve Haritaki, or Xilikha trees and told me to see them after 20 to 25 years as they gets maturity. That was how my father taught me investment. And I remember most my mother while weaving at her handloom. She is a fine weaver, and used to weave day and night. I grew up playing at her loom as a child. When I heard Gulzar saying to Kabir, “Mujhko bhi koyi Tarqeeb sikha do yaar julahi”, it touched me. I have seen the warps and wefts of my mother’s loom.

When we came to the village Paradsinga, by choice my task as artist was none but observing things and collaborating with other artists. I dropped the idea of doing a disposable theatre what I planned initially and spent time in roaming around meeting people and looking after the works happening. Such a nice village it is, full of fertile fields surrounded by hillocks and beautiful people all around. I cannot give anything to this village.

I made an illustrated book to increase interest in toilets which was the central concern of the “Eco-sani-irri” residency program by Gram Art. On 18th July, towards the end of the residency, I initiated a performative event across the village which I call “Jhini Jhini Chadariya”. It’s a piece of cloth that travelled door to door. It’s a river that made a journey. It is the human body.

We celebrated a mock-ritual. It is a mock ritual because it is secular, and associated to none of existing practices, but at the same time borrowing some elements from multiple rituals. Chadar plays an important role in both Hindu and Muslim rituals. Then smearing mud on body, enchanting some notes- which were actually nonsense in character, carrying seeds and banana leaves – all these activities looked like rituals only. In fact making a procession across the village itself is a ritualistic gesture.

Visiting each and every household was not possible in one go. Moreover it started raining. It turned to a heavy rain in fact. In the rain we all walked door to door, we offered the sanitation-book, a demo leaflet on water purification, a seed covered with mud and cow dung, shaped like a toy to the households and in return we asked for something that they would willingly like to offer back. Then we also asked them to make some marks on the white cloth, the chadar we were bringing, referring the phrase from Kabir’s song: “sur-nar-muni sab ne hi odi, oud ke maili kini chadariya”.

Finally we reached at the Gothan, the playground near the flowing stream. All the people, children and grownups, did hold a cow-dung-covered-seed and recited an Ute prayer, “earth Teach Me”. Then we threw all the seeds randomly to the field. It was heavy rain. For the rain we shortened the procession, but for the rain only the procession got a different dimension. The nature helped us, since we were talking over ecology, water, river, seeds and trees, mud and the body made up of soil, somehow the sky also wanted to join us in the procession. Our procession ended, the procession of clouds in the sky was still continuing.