• praveen u

    Praveen Upadhye has vivid recollections of this ashram in Karnataka. It was adjascent to the school he spent his boyhood years in. The saffron they were attired in reminded him of the flowing robes donned by the Jain ascetics visiting his family. The respect ingrained for those who’d renounced worldly comforts easily transferred itself to the sages at the mission. “Gyani”. The world would crop up in his head everytime he met one of them.
    But as the years went by, Praveen realised not all the sages were enlightened. Not all of them aspired to attain spiritual heights. Envy, jealousy, greed- the vices had not renounced them when they donned ths saffron. “Dhongi”. This word would cast a fleeting shadow on his consciousness whenever he encountered one.
    The same saffron, then, weaves an interplay of values and emotions in the Bahmachari series. There is tranquillity on the visage of some. There is a hint of slyness in some others. The bells chime the glory of religiosity. The glint off the trishul hints at ruthlessness of the sould. The good, the evil, the faithful, the faithless: how can the world tell them apart?
    The ashram was also home to those just initiated into the order. Young, impressionable, vulnerable, these boys freshly in the colours of sacrific have given up on less than their gurus. They have surrendered not only the pleasures of the youth they have not seen, they have also written off the innocent joys of boyhood. Green and blue, yellow and red, the kites soar towards the sun. Riding the tip of slender string, they would plumbh the heights of the sky, they would test the strength of the other kites surveying the clouds, they would pass a judgement on the skill of those manoeuvring from the earth.
    Sheer blis it would be, to hold that string and fly that kite. But no, the initiate must not fritter his concentration in such pleasures. He must pin his being to attain celestial heights, but for his soul. The sublime, the divine, that is his goal, he’s told. The here, the row, it’s gross, he must convince himself. Is such a sacrifice nourishment for the soul, or is it incarceration in a saffron guise?
    Such bewilderment, caused by the ebb and tide of emotions, had earlier inspired the artist to do another series. Poised at the crossroads of life experiences, Praveen had expressed confusion of the mind through movement of the hand. Now he uses the transparent shades of the waterbased medium to portray saffron in reds and oranges, ochres and browns. Praveen, in other words, sketches an institution that’s not all black nor pure white.