The Tribune - Spectrum

, June 23, 2002

A treat for both the connoisseur and the uninformed
Randeep Wadehra

The Art of Gulammohammed Sheikh
Roli Books, New Delhi. Price not mentioned

The Art of Gulammohammed SheikhARTISTS, like writers, are a society’s conscience keepers. They reflect what they experience in a manner that leaves a lasting impact. It is a privileged nation that facilitates the well-being of its artists.

India is a kaleidoscope that offers a rich variety of art and literature. Sheikh’s works are inspired by this cultural wealth. This artist from Gujarat "challenges his viewer with a slew of visual material" that implodes with detail. He frequently uses the tree motif. In his paintings titled "The Wall" and "Returning Home", the tree becomes a site with transcendental possibilities in which angels alight or worldly creatures live like silent interlocutors with another level of awareness. This small book contains exquisite photographs of the artist’s paintings.

Some of the pictures are the "Chase" with the tree symbolising a miraculous presence; the evocative "Returning Home after a Long Absence"; the "Beyond the Trees " representing a thermal sense of colour; and the "Speechless Cit"y making a telling comment on the Emergency.

A good artist, like a good writer, does not address himself to any particular social segment or market. His concerns are universal. He remains honest to his experience while articulating his feelings. Thus an enduring work is created that is enjoyed as much by the connoisseur as by the uninformed. We shall do well to remember here what John Ruskin once said, "Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together".



Man, Woman and Dog
by Indira Parthasarathy Rupa & Co., New Delhi. Pages: 28. Rs. 40.

"Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful!"
—-Samuel Beckett (1906–89) Irish novelist and dramatist (Waiting for Godot)

Man, Woman and DogA comparatively young couple has already slipped into benign boredom. While the husband passes time by reading newspapers and playing "Patience", the wife attends to her domestic chores all the while mouthing inanities. They argue over trivialities. She asserts that she is waiting for God’s arrival, he retorts that she is lucky for she has something to look forward to. Perhaps, David Pryce-Jones, the British author and critic, had such couples in mind when he remarked in Owls and Satyrs, "When you’re bored with yourself, marry and be bored with someone else". But beware of a bored life’s perils.

However, this allegory deals with more than marital equations and tedium.

The arrival of a puppy (nascent ideology) in the couple’s life helps it get rid of the ennui, albeit temporarily. It feeds the puppy’s insatiable hunger. With every intake of milk it begins to grow, and becomes a menace to the couple’s very existence in no time. We have seen how doctrines and dogmas devour trusting masses and classes alike. The couple has to stoop to the level of the hostile beast to get rid of it. Then the husband-wife team returns to the former humdrum existence.

Though a political satire, the storyline of this one-act play is simple. The set is uncluttered. Dialogues are succinct. One would love to see it enacted in Chandigarh, with the playwright’s permission of course.


The Teaching of English
by Baldev Singh, Jashan Publications, Faridkot. Pages: 283. Rs 70

The Teaching of EnglishWhat do you say of a book that is excellent in concept but less than satisfactory as a final product? I quote from the book’s Chapter 1, page 1, "The aims of teaching English and the skills or the languages components targetted for achievement can be easily understood by the underdrawn diagram:". Compounding the bad syntax, on page 6, the author begins a paragraph with, "English is such a global or international language…". He repeats these sentiments on page 7, "English is a great global language…". Surely "padding" is the motive behind such insipid homilies. On page 68 "definition(s)" is spelled as "deffinations" and "defination".

This book needs expert editing and diligent proofreading in order to make it beneficial to teachers and students of the language.


Dr. Ram Dhan Singh
by Shiva N. Malik Shiv-Laxmi Vidya Dham, Hisar. Pages: 208. Rs. 300

Dr. Ram Dhan SinghAccording to the author, Dr Ram Dhan Singh was a pioneer in making the undivided Punjab the breadbasket of India. The burden of this eulogistic tome is that some improved varieties of wheat and other crops were developed as early as 1940. However, it is generally believed that the Green Revolution began in the mid-1960s, when Punjabi farmers took to the improved crop seeds with their traditional zeal. Many scientists have openly acknowledged that the state was chosen for experimental sowing of new seeds because the local farmers showed rare enterprise. Other states followed suit after the Punjab experiment succeeded. This book might be useful to researchers.