A World Without Art

In a world without art, I would wake up in a house with blank walls. I wouldn’t pass my Mughal miniature while padding to the kitchen for coffee or stare at the sculpture of The Thinker while sipping it. My mug would not have a semi humorous/sarcastic quip saying, ‘Hold on, let me over think this.’ Consequently, after the caffeine kicks in, I would not be able to recognize the return of the chatter in my head as my stream of consciousness. It’s because James Joyce wrote Ulysses and made an ordinary person’s internal journey relevant. I wouldn’t wipe the dust from Nick Rowling’s Art Source Book lying on my coffee table and vow (albeit unsuccessfully) to spend the following Sunday morning perusing its contents. Even though I admit to being inadequately informed about the art world, I don’t know who I would be without famous paintings like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night or Edvard Munch’s The Scream had the interpretations not settled into my sub-conscious to inspire it.

The absence of art would subdue my experience of the world, even numb it. I would have no black and white op art frame in my kitchen to get lost in before the toast pops. And somehow, a plastic scrub without a hand painted ceramic holder would look like itself; a drab plastic scrub. Besides, on days when I’m feeling dull, I appreciate my colourful kalamkari quilt all the more. And if it wouldn’t be for creativity, instead of looking forward to A Death at the Party by Amy Stuart (or another racy bestseller), I would be reading only the news. Even a newspaper minus the culture section telling me about art exhibitions (never mind if I don’t have the time to go for them) and shows (that are usually sold out) would limit my experience to the daily humdrum of civic life. Hell, I wouldn’t even be able to appreciate my mirror image without a quirky scarf thrown over my shoulders or fashionable pants.

I can’t imagine what it would feel like to step into a bland world. There would be no amusing/ offensive graffiti-such as the apocalypse is coming or capitalism has failed- to balk over. I couldn’t listen to Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You while driving or quickly switch to Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chilli Peppers at a traffic light if someone peers at me curiously from the next car. I may not have much to share with my friends if I couldn’t pick sides in Marriage Story or send my reactions to memes. It’s as though language was not enough to express the sentiment so we went and added emojis. In fact, I wouldn’t enjoy planning dinner with my family at a restaurant that serves good food if my surroundings were basic. Give me Scandinavian wood or Mediterranean blue walls because I need aesthetics to feel at ease.

In a world without art, I wouldn’t be standing at the Temple of Poseidon wondering if the ruins were more impressive or the Aegean Sea. Or marvel at the realization that we as a species expressed the beauty and gore around us through art and architecture and created Gods and demons from our imaginations to make our existence real, almost immortal. It is because of this collective effort that I know who I am. Besides the obvious influences of nationality and lineage, my character has developed through reading the works of poets and authors like Wordsworth and Shakespeare, by the retelling of tales from Indian mythology and pondering over Plato’s philosophy. I like learning about new cultures through books and films, and travel when it is possible. Somehow, the experiences of others find their way into my thought process and my personality is a result of that alchemy. Moreover, I am never alone. Over the centuries, someone, somewhere, made food into an art form and brought cooking demonstrations to a screen in my home because of which I can try my hand at making sushi and eat it while listening to either Ella Fitzgerald or Mehdi Hassan depending on what I pick from my varied playlist. It’s all art. The delicate carving on my spoon, the blooming iris on my chinaware, the ornate wooden chair in my living room and the book under the alluring cover that I will open to read. Art is our way of saying that life is not easy but we can always make something beautiful out of it.

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