Delhi Lens: Art Show: Deck of Cards

Deck of Cards | Taash Ke Patte brochureOn a recent Saturday, while I was struggling – and failing – to paint a vase of impressionistic flowers, a friend invited me to join her for the preview of an art show at the British Council. Titled Deck of Cards | Taash ke Patte, this is a unique show that juxtaposes the state of Indian art in 2016 with that of the UK from the 1970s.

It all started in 1976, to be precise, when a UK-based gallery sent 54 leading British artists a playing card and asked them to interpret that card using any medium of their choice. The show, when it opened, was a resounding success. Over the years, the entire collection has toured to over 22 countries and resulted in a physical pack of very artful playing cards that are still available today.

On the 40th anniversary of the first showing of The Deck of Cards in London, the British Council has brought the original artworks from the exhibition to India for the very first time. And in an interesting twist, curator Laura Williams invited some of India’s leading and emerging contemporary artists to do exactly what the UK artists did in the 1970s – reinterpret a card in a medium of their choice. This new Indian collection is called Taash ke Patte.

Each set of cards (for example, the fives of all four suits) is exhibited side-by-side – and is an interesting commentary on the art scene in the UK in the 1970s vis-a-vis the Indian art scene in 2016. Some of the older cards look like they could have been done by a child – and it’s interesting to see what was considered gallery-worthy art in the 1970s – some bold colors, almost child-like handwriting, outlining with a graphite pencil. At the same time, some of the cards have a lot of depth, and a number of them were deeply influenced by the tarot. In fact, some of the cards did tell an entire story – much like a tarot card – which I found absolutely fascinating!

Compare these to the Indian interpretations, and that’s when you can really see how much art – and the mediums – have evolved. Some cards – like the nine of hearts – have an almost graphic quality to them. A couple of the cards were heavily influenced by traditional Indian painting styles, but I was really interested to see the more funky interpretations, like the Jack of hearts that has a man’s foot pumping a jack, the seven of diamonds that is made of a ton of staple pins stacked together, and the whimsical Joker – a whimsical mash-up of a sunflower with a stereobot.

The exhibition is on view until 15 May 2015, so you have plenty of time to make your way to the British Council, New Delhi.

Sorry about the poor lighting on the images – the lighting was primed (obviously) to highlight the artwork, not to make it conducive to take photographs! The watermarked images were taken at the venue. The others are photographs from the brochure.


Of Epilogues & Sequels

noun: epilogue; plural noun: epilogues; noun: epilog; plural noun: epilogs
  1. a section or speech at the end of a book or play that serves as a comment on or a conclusion to what has happened.

There are a lot of books that pull us into their world, and when they end, we wish there was a sequel.  Or something more. We long to know what happened next.

One example is the Harry Potter series. Seven books later, and the internet still breaks every time J.K. Rowling gives us another little snippet from that world. Or Erin Morgenstern‘s Night Circus – where is the circus now? Whatever happened to Celia and Marco?

One book that’s been haunting me recently is Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Djinni. This is my epilogue to the story.

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read the book yet, you may not want to read the rest of this post!


After handing over Ibn-malik’s flask to his fellow djinis in Syria, Ahmed returns to the desert, to the spot where he had built his castle. As he looks upon the crumbling edifice, he reflects on his past mistakes, on his long imprisonment, and on his stay in New York. But burning at the back of his mind is the golem.

Back in New York, Chavva and Anna get together and open a bakery and cafe. Years pass by – Anna’s child is now grown up, the cafe has blossomed into a small oasis of peace and beauty in the bustling heart of New York. Meanwhile, Chavva waits, patiently, for Ahmed – she’s sure he will return once he has forgiven himself. She can wait for an eternity.

And finally, years later, after Ahmed cannot stay away from the golem any more, he returns to New York, where he gets together with Arbeely to undertake fine, commissioned metalwork projects. But as they will never age, every couple of decades they settle down in a different city, a different country. Who knows where they may be today? Perhaps that delectable, freshly baked salted caramel muffin is Chavva’s creation. Maybe that gorgeous filigree gate or delightful little intricate animal is Ahmed’s creation. They could be living among us – hidden in plain sight. Or maybe the Djini has taken the Golem back to his land, and they both are spending their days in Ahmed’s fascinating castle in the Syrian desert.


If you loved the book as much as I did, you’d be delighted to know that there’s going to a sequel! Squee!! But we have a long wait ahead, because it will only be out in 2018!

FINALLY I can share the official news: There will be a sequel to THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI! Mark your calendars (if…

Posted by Helene Wecker on Friday, October 9, 2015

The Word

I’m fairly new to choosing a word of the year – last year was the first time I did this exercise. My word was Transform. I mapped out the areas of my life that I wanted to change and put down some milestones against them. And then, I wasn’t quite sure how to make it work…how it would be any different from regular New Year resolutions that you make on 1 January and break by the end of the month – if they even last that long?

But I needn’t have feared, because intentions truly have power! I certainly did not achieve everything that I had mapped out at the start of the year, but I made huge strides in all of those areas, which is a lot more than I can say for New Year resolutions. Some strides were more visible – like my art practice – others were more under the surface – like losing that weight already! Last year was about researching like crazy (and no, not on the latest fad diets, but on more wholesome nutrition and exercise and the mind-body connection to wellness), breaking up with “diets”, examining body image and working on self-acceptance.

As December rolled around, I already knew my word for 2016 – and some mind mapping and inquiry proved that it was the right choice for me…

Word of the year 2016: Create

To my mind, it’s a natural progression from transform. Transform was more subtle – almost like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. The process was hidden…things were happening inside that cocoon, but there wasn’t much that was visible to the outside world.

But now that the transformation is complete – or almost complete – it’s time to be out in the world and CREATE.

What’s your word for 2016?

Best books of 2015

I read over 50 books across a variety of genres  – literary fiction, fantasy, YA, memoirs and more – in 2015. Here’s a round-up of 8 of my absolute favorites. Please enjoy.

Seahorse Janice Pariat

sehorse-k4r-310x465livemintNem was not like his college classmates. Instead of crowding around a TV set, Nem opted for lonely walks where he could indulge his passion for photography, until the night he saw Nicholas, a young professor from London, with another male student. The affair is passionate and brief. When Nicholas returns to London, Nem must move on. He graduates and soon finds success as a critic in New Delhi’s burgeoning art world. Then comes an invitation to speak to artists in London, and the past is suddenly resurrected. As London’s cosmopolitan art scene envelops Nem, he is haunted by the possibilities of a life with Nicholas. But Nicholas eludes Nem, avoiding a reunion with his old student, but leaving clues that lead to someone else: Myra, a woman Nem thought was Nicholas’s sister. Brought together by their love for Nicholas, Nem and Myra embark on a surprising friendship.

This book simply took my breath away! Pariat is one of the few Indian authors that I absolutely love. The language, the cadence – it’s almost like prose poetry at times. If you’ve never read any of her novels, do yourself a favour and add this one to your shopping list now! You can read the full review here.

A Strangeness in My Mind – Orhan Pamuk

21bookparmuk-master180Since his boyhood in a poor village in Central Anatolia, Mevlut Karataş has fantasized about what his life would become. Not getting as far in school as he’d hoped, at the age of twelve he comes to Istanbul—“the center of the world”—and is immediately enthralled by both the old city that is disappearing and the new one that is fast being built. He follows his father’s trade, selling boza (a traditional mildly alcoholic Turkish drink) on the street, and hoping to become rich, like other villagers who have settled the desolate hills outside the booming metropolis. But luck never seems to be on Mevlut’s side. As he watches his relations settle down and make their fortunes, he spends three years writing love letters to a girl he saw just once at a wedding, only to elope by mistake with her sister. And though he grows to cherish his wife and the family they have, he stumbles toward middle age in a series of jobs leading nowhere. His sense of missing something leads him sometimes to the politics of his friends and intermittently to the teachings of a charismatic religious guide. But every evening, without fail, Mevlut still wanders the streets of Istanbul, selling boza and wondering at the “strangeness” in his mind, the sensation that makes him feel different from everyone else, until fortune conspires once more to let him understand at last what it is he has always yearned for.

I read this novel soon after I returned from Turkey, which made me fall in love with it just that little bit more. But regardless of whether or not you’ve been to Istanbul, this is a beautiful book that chronicles the growth of a city through the eyes of boza seller Mevlut (and a whole host of charming characters) and the trials and travails of his incredibly hard – yet beautiful – life. This is a must-read for Pamuk fans and newcomers to his work alike.

The Golem and the Djinni – Helene Wecker

IMG_1606In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free. Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

This entirely beguiling novel pulls you into its world from the very first page and doesn’t let you go until long after you’ve put the book down. An absolute delight and a definite must-read. You can read the full review here.

Time for Tanechka – N.A. Millington

There are two very special ‘egg timers’ in the world, both capable of transporting their handlers to any specific time they wish to visit… or that the timer wishes them to visit. Down-and-out suicidal loner Arthur Benjamin discovers one of these timers and unwittingly transports Tatiana Nicolaivna, a Grand Duchess of 1918 Imperial Russia confined to the Ipatiev House with her family, to his sanctuary by the sea in present-day South Africa. On a mission to uncover the truth behind certain historical events, Arthur and Tatiana begin to experience the timer’s power as they discover what isn’t recorded in today’s history books. But they aren’t the only ones with a mysterious egg timer – the unscrupulous Winston Peabody, a master jewel thief from 1912, has stolen the other timer and won’t stop until Tatiana tells him where the most valuable of the Fabergé eggs is hidden…
Millington takes a light-hearted gander at clearing away some of the mystery surrounding the murder of Czar Nicholas and his entire family in Imperial Russia in 1918. Not really – because this is pure fiction – but he’s penned a thrilling journey that explores the ties of family, the bonds of love, and pure human greed. Imaginative and engaging, this novel by an author I’d never heard of before was an absolute delight!

Lips Touch Three Times Laini Taylor

  • 6369113Everyone dreams of getting the kiss of a lifetime… but what if that kiss carried some unexpected consequences? A girl who’s always been in the shadows finds herself pursued by the unbelievably attractive new boy at school, who may or may not be the death of her. Another girl grows up mute because of a curse placed on her by a vindictive spirit, and later must decide whether to utter her first words to the boy she loves and risk killing everyone who hears her if the curse is real. And a third girl discovers that the real reason for her transient life with her mother has to do with belonging – literally belonging – to anther world entirely, full of dreaded creatures who can transform into animals, and whose queen keeps little girls as personal pets until they grow to child-bearing age. From a writer of unparalleled imagination and emotional insight, three stories about the deliciousness of wanting and waiting for that moment when lips touch.

This delightful collection of three novellas by fantasy author Laini Taylor captivated my imagination. She’s woven three incredibly beautiful stories of longing and loss that will leave you wanting more!

Windhorse – Kaushik Barua

windhorse1Windhorse follows the lives of a group of Tibetan rebels who set up an armed resistance movement against the Chinese. Lhasang grows up in Eastern Tibet but is forced to flee after the Chinese occupation, making the death-defying trek across the Himalayas with his family. In forced exile, he realizes his only option is to fight to return home. Norbu is from an affluent Tibetan expatriate family based in Delhi. As he befriends Dolma, a young college student, and interacts with the newly arrived refugees from Tibet, he is drawn towards the resistance. They join a motley group of fighters: an ex-monk who has renounced his vows of non-violence; a former serf who is scarred by his past; a trader who joins the resistance for profit but stays on for his beliefs. But in taking up arms, they have to defy the instructions of their spiritual head, the Dalai Lama. To restore their religion in its home, they have to first relinquish their faith.

This is the first novel I’ve read that’s set in Tibet and that tackles their culture, their flight from an increasingly intolerant Chinese invasion, and their plight on fleeing their homes and being forced to settle in a foreign land. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Barua’s novel, and would recommend it without reservations. You can read the full review here.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton

51setprhlhl-_sy344_bo1204203200_When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?

You’d think a book where the Nagasaki bombing plays a central role in the lives of the central characters would be depressing and unbearably sad. Yet that isn’t so. This is a book about love – unrequited, unresolved, smothering, liberating, cut short, lost, found – love in all its beautiful and terrible glory. Love between lovers, between mothers and daughters, between grandmothers and grandchildren, between a doctor and his young patients. This is a story that needs to be read and savoured and re-read and remembered. I especially loved the meanings of the different Japanese words and traditions that headed each chapter.

Love Stories – Annie Zaidi

16180033A woman who won’t let the shadow of death disrupt her love life, another who falls irrevocably in love with a dead police officer, a devoted wife who steps out twice a week for Narcotics Anonymous meetings, friends who should have been lovers, the woman who offers all her pent-up love to a railway announcer’s voice … Annie Zaidi’s stories are at once warm and distant, violent and gentle – and, above all, untroubled by cynicism. This is a look at love, straight in the eye, to understand the alluring nature of the beast.

I admit I left this one on my bookshelf for a really long time after I read some less than complimentary reviews. But I’m so glad I finally decided to give this one a chance. As in all short story collections, you won’t love all of the stories. Some are really a bit silly – after all, who falls in love with a voice? – but all of the stories take a hard, unflinching look at love in all its avatars. It’s a beautiful collection; I’ll be looking out for more of her work.

Intention setting: The impact that one word can have on your year

the power of a word of the yearDecember is a month for reflection – for some quiet contemplation on the year gone by and planning for the year to come. While a lot of people set goals and New Year resolutions, I’ve learnt that this really does not work for me. What does seem to work is desire and intention. But first, we start with…

Contemplating the year gone by
Set aside an afternoon with a hot cup of coffee or tea (or even some mulled wine!) and look back at the year gone by.

Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • What stood out for you this year – positive and negatives both?
  • What did you finally achieve?
  • What made you happy?
  • Where did you trip up, and what did you learn from your failures and struggles?
  • What do you want to work on some more?
  • What do you need to learn from the year gone by?
  • What do you need to release as you move forward into a new year?
  • What are you grateful for?

Or you may just wish to reflect, remember, and give thanks for the year gone by.

Once you’re done, set your journal aside and stretch…go for a walk…dance to some music…do some yoga…basically, use motion as a release for everything that came up.

Mapping out the year ahead

Once you’re finished looking back, it’s time to look forward. There are a number of ways and tools that you can use to plan the year ahead. One that I tried last year that worked really well for me – and that I am doing again this year – is choosing a word of the year. One word that will serve as a guidepost to how you design and plan your year.

 As you think about this concept, you may have a word that pops out for you based on your reflection on the year gone by. Don’t worry if nothing comes to mind – sometimes it needs a little bit of an intervention to find the word that’s calling to you. Here’s a very short list of words that you could choose for yourself – see if any of these resonate for you.


If you don’t know how this works or need some help to choose a word, Susannah Conway has an excellent (free) 5-day email class to help you discover your word.

Now that you have a word, what’s next? 

One word has the power to shape and change your life. It just requires a little effort.

Start by contemplating the following questions in your journal:

  • If you lived and breathed your word in 2016, what would be different for you?
  • Are there any ways in which you’re already living your word?
  • What can you do to bring more of this word’s energy into your life?
  • Think ahead to December 2016. As you reflect on the year gone by, where do you want to be with regards to your work, relationships, spiritual practice, health and fitness, and any other areas that are important to you?
  • As you look at your answers to these questions, do you see a theme emerging? How can you make this theme work for you?

Plan out your year

Now comes the fun part! Download and print out a 2016 weekly calendar and start fleshing out your year. Plot out the things you want to start and when you want to start doing them. Don’t forget to pencil in some holidays and some rest time. And remember, this is just a rough guide to get you started. You can change, add or subtract anything at any time during the course of 2016.

Here’s wishing you a beautiful holiday season!