/माझा mine मेरा/
Audio-visual mix media installation by Gaurav Ogale x Farah Mulla © Sarmaya Arts Foundation
Is land an emotional space? How do we mark boundaries to an idea that exists only in our mind? If emotions, memories and affection define our land, then how much of it is solely ours and how much of ownership is shared? As I move homes and cities, many windows have always been my recluse.
Ogalewadi, circa late 1990s
I would often have to raise my toes to see the world of roses my abba (grandfather) had created. The window of Amma’s (grandmother) room overlooked this poetic garden. Since I could never see the whole garden from the room, I often tricked myself to believe in a dream beyond the window. Amidst the scent of the blooming roses, I dreamt of growing older, of freedom.
The last time I visited our house, over fifteen years ago, crippled cacti had taken over this window from inside. I did not inherit that home, rather no one did. But through the crippled cacti, I could still see the world I never really saw but believed was mine. I thought of myself as the king of this fragrant undiscovered world.
Ogalewadi, circa late 1990s
My grandfather’s room was an oasis of dreams. Where the window became a bystander, standing adjacent to the world’s most beautiful mirrored cupboard in the corner. This eight mirrored cupboard had travelled with my great grandparents all the way from Bangalore in the early 1900s. The reflections on its mirrors became my window to the world that my grandfather created for me. A world adorned with Monet’s garden and patterns created by my hands. Where I could see all sorts of strange insects and dragonflies hovering inside a macchardani, perenially placed on the raised bed.
When my amma and abba left that home, they carried the cupboard with them to Poona. I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to live in that house, all I want is to cherish the mirror cupboard. It might be empty now but it has treasured and witnessed so much over the years – especially my conversations with my abba – who always addressed me as Sridhar and never as Gaurav.
Bombay, circa 2014
Before I moved to a house with bigger and broader windows – windows that could breathe, I lived in a few cramped up buildings around Bombay, locally called MHADA. The only view one had was of someone else’s home, a peek into their world, their struggles, their intimate moments and secrets.
Every morning my window created a cinematic frame for me. I woke up to the sound of her pressure cooker, yet I never saw her face. She would pull together strands of her oiled hair, then part them and make place for a little rose – the only bright thing in her otherwise pale, slow-paced world. This was probably the only time of the day she got for herself. For me, it was like watching the same film every day.
One day she disappeared. The window had someone else’s clothes, someone else’s secrets.
Bombay, circa 2015
Bombay is home, but I have never owned a home here. My existence here has been anonymous, between leases that keep renewing. From some homes, one sees faint lines of the robust waves while some have a closer, almost a cake in a colour palette kind of a sea view. When I think of my own place in Bombay, I rarely think of the cramped up drawing-room, the kitchen where I spend a lot of my time, or the balcony that witnesses all kinds of eerie sounds. For me, my Bombay is my part of the Arabian sea – as if the city inhabited underwater, inside conches, echoing familiar soundscapes. The expanse of the city in my visual memory is finite, it is big enough to engulf my dreams and at the same time, it fits into the glass jar that sits calmly on my window sill.
Poona, circa 2020
There are days when the window becomes a wall, a cocoon. On days like this, I feel like I want to be away from the world, away from the noise and find solace in myself, my body and my gestures. The four walls seem thicker, cobwebs emerge and time stands still. All the curtains are drawn, leaving just a little bit of an opening for the light to dance around. With my little niece, I play around with shadows, create a world for ourselves- a world I want her to keep constructing and inherit someday.
These journals are a testimony of my existence. Since the time I started travelling by myself, they have been my sole companions. There are conversations, recipes, fleeting thoughts and a lot of hope hidden inside the preserved petals and old restaurant bills. I often wonder who will inherit these journals that have captured a story lived. Would the person manage to read my illegible handwriting? Would they be able to relive every visual anecdote just by running their fingers across the dusty pages?
I don’t know, I never will.