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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Artist's Daughter Durable Link to this BLOG
The Artist's Daughter

The artist I wrote about the other day (see: House is full of kids, yard is full of shit) came from a family of distinguished artisans and temple-builders (his last name was "Templemaker"). He himself was a skilled sculptor and painter. Unfortunately he� lived in a time when there was no patronage for his skills. The ivory was banned, and the sandle-wood (two of the base materials for his sculpting) was rarely available. He made a living by preparing ephemeral wedding decorations, and personalizing umbrellas (writing names on them) and automobiles.

© Vikas Kamat
Artist and Daughter

He had many children. One of the daughters was in my class. She did not get through IV grade and became a classmate of my younger cousin, then she failed again, and became a classmate of yet another cousin during the VII grade, and again a classmate of yet another cousin who is five years younger than me, during her IX grade, and hence was the subject of many hilarious jokes.

Then I left Honavar, studied engineering, joined a computer company, and once again had the opportunity to visit Honavar under a Rural Development Project. I wanted a sign made for our office, and decided to call upon our artist. I was told that due to debts and financial poverty, he'd had to sell his shop and now worked from home. So I went to his house.

I was happy to see the artist and greeted him -- he was a role model for me when I was growing, when I used to watch him make fantastic carvings from dry wood -- although he didn't recognize me in my expensive clothes. He had become old beyond his age. He then pointed me to the adjacent� living room� and said "they are in there".

Two of his daughters were sitting inside the room and one of them, my former classmate, approached me. She recognized me, and asked me to come in. I quite didn't understand, and told her I wanted a sign painted, she then referred me back to her father and said a sweet tone to visit her when I was free.

My family members then told me what had occurred of the artist's family. The girls had taken to prostitution. It made me sick to my stomach that a girl who had studied with me had had to go to the flesh business, and whose father I had so looked up to, knew about it and possibly was now acting as a pimp.

As I have grown older (this incident occurred ten years ago), I have nothing but sympathy for the artist and his family. Systematic destruction of forest resources denied him the only means of livelihood. There was no role for an artist in a society where the temples were being built only illegally, and plastic and manufactured art was gaining popularity. What could he have done? What else could his daughter have done?

You know, poverty is the worst form of violence.

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(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Thursday, November 27, 2003
Last Modified: 11/28/2003
Tags: honavar


Brahmin Boy and Village Pimp Durable Link to this BLOG
Friendship of Brahmin Boy and the Pimp

Yesterday I wrote about how Indira Gandhi kept the members of the opposition in jail without trial during the dark days of Emergency in India.

One such leader, a family friend, was kept in the police-station/jail of our town. The food that was provided by the jail-contractor was horrible and my family talked the officials into us providing meals to this political detainee.

For eight months in 1976-77 I hand-carried lunch and dinner for this gentleman. Here's a picture of me of that period, so you can imagine.

Vikas carrying water (1976)

I do not think visiting jail everyday at such a young age has had any negative impact on me. On the contrary, I developed a broad sense of the legal system and its abuse. Even today, I am more guided by what is right and wrong, rather than what is legal.

"Men make legal systems. But there are higher powers
that rule the destiny of men and nations" -- Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Anyway, back to the story.

During my daily visits, I became friends with the food-contractor Mr. Bhatta* who seemed like a religious man with his fresh namas and a soft personality. Everyday, he would ask -"What's for dinner today?" and reply -"No change in my menu!" We would greet each other even when we met outside of the police-station.

Sometime after this, one day (after Indira Gandhi lost power, and after her own arrest), some boys and girls wanted to play games in a spacious yard with lots of mango trees, that we had never played before. I knocked the door of the house to ask, and Bhatta answered. He gladly allowed us to play. We played to our hearts content, till it became dark.

There was a furor in the town the next day. Apparently Bhatta was the town pimp, and everybody was shocked that brahmin children -- some of them teenaged girls, would play in the proximity of ill repute.

Hey, we didn't know!!

* Name altered to protect identity

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Last Modified: 11/27/2003
Tags: honavar, desitale

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