[song by Shankar Barua]
Many years ago, an exporter from South India won an order for supplying live crabs to an importer in Japan. Freshness was imperative, with a good percentage of the crabs contracted to reach Japanese kitchens live, so strict guidelines were also laid down with regard to packaging the crabs for their journey. ~ so many crabs per package of such and such size it went, all covered with a lid perforated generously with vents and so on and so forth. And all efforts were to be made to improve upon this while nevertheless holding the crabs very secure till their destination.
In time, as the story goes, a steady stream of crabs began winging their way to Japan from India by these means on a daily basis and all was well,.. except for one little matter that mystified the Japanese importer right from the very outset when the first consignment arrived. With business booming however, the matter never came up till he eventually visited the exporter in India one day and asked him ~ "How come you never put lids on the crab cases? And how come the crabs never get out??"
As most Indian know of course, the secret is that these were "Indian" crabs ~ i.e. the minute one looked like getting out, all of the others would grab onto his legs and drag the poor sod back down!
Not surprisingly, this tale is told allegorically of the challenge before almost all individual enterprise in this land, and I'm therefore delighted to have now taken up my turn at bringing it up here at last, since it is certainly something we have had to deal with.
On a slightly different note, when The IDEA was launched in January 2000, many questions arose from well-wishers on why we had not taken the institutional path with the concept as an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). It's a question that's arisen before with many another thing I've done in life over the years, most recently on such a scale perhaps with launch of our sister/parent enterprise "Public Affairs Management" (PAM) in 1995. On the basis of much of what it does, PAM too could probably have done a lot better a lot quicker over the years by traveling the NGO route with institutional and government 'funding'.
However, we're pleased to be almost 'anti-NGO' people over here, quite happy to honestly plod along outside the ambit of what we've perceived for a long time to be a hugely filthy Non-Governed sector across much of India, South Asia and the world.
And here's what brought it all back to mind:
At the opening of a recent exhibition in New Delhi, I was happy as always to meet with new folks and also people I knew. One set of individuals present in fact represented an institution that's been featured on an earlier gazette of The IDEA, who've been to unnecessary pains since then to 'guard' their funding sources from discovering us. Another individual present happened to be an artist we know from the city's art-world elite who's more than made a name for himself by playing the NGO circuit's periodic excursions into 'charity' shows, auctions and the whole social whirl behind it all for years. While he has in the course of this also projected himself exceedingly well as a leading city light with digital imaging, he's nevertheless been avoiding sharing any works with us on these gazettes because he's got 'problems' with some of the sorts of material we carry.
So what's my problem here? Well, living in the capital of a developing nation of a billion people yields up strange case scenarios with regard to subjective matters like 'art'. For example, the 'top' galleries in the land are easily to be had by artists here for shows just against simple rental-bookings, and there's nothing more easy for the media massed in the city than to survey and project this activity as the cutting-edge of art across the entire land! And nowhere can one find any mention of how barrenly these shows actually run after the media and cocktail crowds of each show-opening are dispersed.
One of the major ideas behind the IDEA has always been to do with getting around this mess to provide even "the man in Madagascar" a respectable platform alongside artists whose greatest foundation of fame may often be just that they live in big cities like Delhi, and we do like to think that we've addressed the concern along a rising graph rather well thus far.
H-o-w-e-v-e-r, we originally set out upon this enterprise with a commitment to give it very little money, but as much personal energy and time as we could, for just three years (i.e. six gazettes). Beyond that, we felt it should pay for and drive itself, if it is at all worthwhile.
So, while we haven't really tried yet to fully raise advertising/funding for the enterprise, we're delighted to have nevertheless gathered the little bit of support manifested on this gazette. We'll obviously have to do better to carry on much longer, but I do believe we should expect many of the artists who've participated thus far to lend a helping hand here by pointing us towards others and also pointing others towards us.
Let's see how it goes, because that too is a part of the idea of The IDEA.
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