Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Beauty of Impermanence a.k.a The Metamorphosis of the Beatles Cathedral Gallery

It was early evening. The guitar played in the background accompanied by Kim’s voice. Kim was French. And if you strained enough, you could hear Coey’s mouth harp. Coey, Kim's friend from Hong Kong, could play the didgeridoo too. And then there was Josh, who had a zonked look all the time, but he was playing the drums well – he was from San Francisco, all proud of the hippie legacy of his land. Pan Trinity Das (PTD) and Frase were painting the walls at the other end. Another bunch of people was swaying to the music. And a faint sweet sticky smell wafted in the air occasionally to complete the narrative.

[The Beatles Cathedral Gallery is part of the abandoned Ashram of Mahirishi Mahesh Yogi.]

I landed up at the place a few hours ago, having heard from the horse's mouth that the Gallery rework was on. As I walked in, a whole bunch of them were meditating. I took a picture and walked out to avoid any disturbance to them. I was never good at meditation anyway. [Later that day, I sat inside the #9 stone hut where Lennon had stayed and tried meditating there for ten minutes. I was supposed to feel great, the gatekeeper of the Ashram had assured me, but I discovered that I just grew restless with every passing minute.] 

After an hour, it was left to the locals and their round of cricket. This is one game you would see us play anywhere in India - inside temple complexes, cemeteries, cricket grounds, main roads, side roads, mountains, beaches, and even abandoned ashrams.
Wait...dijju see the white patches behind the cricketers? Those are not sight-screens for the bowlers. Those are the new canvases for the artists recreating the Gallery.

Though my association with the place was new, it was hard to see the whitewashed wall. The wall of art that existed previously had made me swear in sheer wonder, a few days ago. They say in a clichéd way that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. I’m sure that even moderate philistines would agree that the stuff below classifies as sheer beauty which should stay forever. But it was not meant to be. First created by PTD in 2012, they were whitewashed in April, 2015 by the same team, to make way for the new. 
The cricketers retired after an hour or so, and by 3 in the evening, the musicians, artists, and travelers started to troop in.
I was witnessing something extraordinary, like the birth of a baby, for the lack of a closer example. 
PTD and Frase W Dub at work. Frase, btw, is a musician. Don't believe me? Check this out!
Kim, Coey, and Josh in action.
More people were walking into the gallery, taking pictures, listening to music, tripping, meditating, and some even swaying to the music. Most were complete strangers but it sure felt like one huge family with the some unspoken bonds of the vagabonds linking them. Borrowing the words from a now-whitewashed message, "Within these walls, one group of backpackers, became first a community, then a Sangha. We are painters, musicians, writers, sculptors, daughters, sons, lovers, bhaktas, rebels, renegades, yogis, strangers, and friends. This is our Gallery. This is our Cathedral. This is our Satsang Hall. This is our story." That day, I witnessed the story in action.

I wish I could stay till the party ended, but it was 4.30 and I had to leave for Mussourie. I promised PTD that I would be back in a week to see how the wall shaped up.

After few days in Mussourie, and a refreshing trek to Kedarkantha, I found myself walking back to the Ashram and its renewed Gallery.  I hoped to see the artists giving finishing touches, but that was not meant to be. The task was complete and they had moved on. 
One for the Fab Four!
Another for the gurus!

And, one for love! I had seen this "logo" in PTD's stickers before. 
And the glory in its entirety. The 100% Love insignia was a stark colorful contrast to the B/W works on either side, but I still wondered  about the choice of the central artwork at that point in time. That was explained in the FB page of the Beatles Cathedral GalleryWe're on a mission to spread Looove, and since we were feeling that no one person should be in the center, we painted a big ass 100% LOVE!! Tell me about it!
And a brief story of the Gallery with an even more important message at the bottom.
I find it extremely relevant in the age of idiots who take to charcoal or pen to scratch their meaningless names in the middle of something fabulous. (Not artists, we are talking about the types that belong to railway restrooms.)
I would not compare the old and the new - both are beautiful in their own right. I did wonder how they gathered the courage and conviction to obliterate something that was already cult. In a post on their FB page, PTD had said… It was kinda heavy to roll over these walls. I found my way as an artist in this hall. Creating the #‎BeatlesCathedralGallery was one of the most heart opening and euphoric experiences of my life! I left a changed man. SO... to honor the Gallery properly meant starting fresh. 

Amen to thatOr, to Kyrie's (PTD's wife) words, "but street art gets covered all the time. The impermanence is also beautiful." I had heard about the impermanence of beauty, but here was a classic reverse sweep - the beauty of impermanence!
PTD & Kyrie @youonlyalways

The gallery has seen organic growth over the years with colorful additions from scores of artists - no nudging, no branding efforts, no monetary compensation. I met another artist at work in the Gallery that day. From the looks of it, Sam was on his way to something big, something he said would take a week to complete, but I had to return from Rishikesh. This will be worth another visit!

Here's to more and more layers of work from some of the finest artists of our times!
There was something missing in this entire place. My language. And I rectified it with charcoal.
ബീറ്റിൽസ്. അല്ല പിന്നെ. 

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