HOSTILE WITNESS

Size: 4×4 feet

Medium: Acrylic, archival ink, wood.

Hostile Witness, Esplanade Mansion/ Watson’s Hotel/Kala Ghoda/Bombay/Mumbais

The damp walls of Esplanade mansion, once Watson’s hotel had become too fragile and tired with the fear of losing its tenants to mass eviction. The walls could not contain the tenant woman Shahnaz’s dream of Gabrielle, the angel of the large wings, landing on the terrace of the coveted building to rescue her. The dream transmitted and played in the heads of all the residents and they climbed up the sturdy iron structure to get rescued by Gabrielle. Twenty seven years ago, time froze forever for the two clock-faced men after they were picked for questioning during an unrest in the city. Now they kill time playing cards all day long, waiting for law to take its course. Ghosts of the guests from the past walk in and out of the rooms of Watson’s hotel, they sometimes walk into the lawyers offices and listen to the lawyers asking their clients if there is a witness who can prove their innocence. As the sea rises, the last song played at the Watson’s

Hotel gets drowned in it.

Note: The residents of Esplanade Mansion have been evicted and the building has been sealed.

Size: 4×3 feet

Medium: Acrylic, archival ink, wood.

Hostile Witness, Bhopal/ Iqbal Maidan/Naqqar Khana

They live in a magnetic town, this boy who cut his turban to survive the night 35 years ago andh this girl with big dry eyes. Her town, tucked away in the deepest recesses of time, welcoming and laid back, attracts all kinds of elements. From the leaked MIC gas of the now defunct Union Carbide factory that refuses to leave its earth, that has seeped into the crevices of its being, to the violence that is never sudden, always present, sometimes boiling, sometimes simmering and erupting occasionally. The violence that took away her two brothers one curfewed afternoon, how carefully she had placed her brother’s guts back inside the lacerated belly before she carried his body inside the house, she said. Her tear ducts have dried since.

She lives seconds away from the city square and its rising monument Shaheen (Eagle), seconds away from the couplet inscribed on the monument:

Tu Shaheen hai parvaz hai kaam tera
Tire samne aasman aur bhi hain
(You are the bird of the legends, your job is to fly, ahead of you are many more skies)

The bird stands witness to her dry eyes, to the turbanless boy and to the extinction of Valerianella Affinis from the Valerianaceae family, a flower found mainly in Yemen

Note: A part of the structure in the painting was demolished in 2018.