It was sometime in 2011 that I conceived the project "Call of the Hills" to present the hills and all the facets that make them so alluring - beautiful landscapes, simple folks, heritage and culture. The plan was to present all this visually and in a multi dimensional way. I roped in Mumbai based artist Chitra Vaidya to work on this project.
In the first part, we covered the hills of Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar and Matheran. This collection was presented at the show at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai in March 2012. The show was well received and appreciated with significant media coverage and positive feedback from friends, well wishers, artists and several who bought the paintings and sketches. Full details related to this show are available on Indiaart's website.
In November 2012, we decided to travel in the hills of Kumaon and this turned out to be a wonderful experience. I saw some of the most breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountains especially views of seven to eight layers of mountain ranges as far as eye could see, with colours changing from black to grey to blue. The first hour from just before sunrise was not only a visual treat but was also a divine experience. The first rays of the morning sun glowing the snow and the rapidly changing colours of the snow and the sky was a spectacle well worth the tiring journey we undertook to reach the camp site at 8000 ft.
This collection is a result of the exploration of Kumaon - the mountains, landscapes, heritage and Kumaoni people. I must thank Mr. Santosh Pande for suggesting (actually almost insisting) that we explore Kumaon hills. Once the decision to travel to Kumaon was made, Suvrat Kher who is a geologist and also a football coach apart from an avid traveller suggested the camp sites in Kumaon operated by Wildrift. The locations of their camps were not only scenic but allowed us to live in rustic surroundings and experience first hand the culture and the life in remote areas of Kumaon. We walked quite a bit on foot to see the mountains, remote villages at close quarters and interact with the hardy folks out there. It was very touching to hear from a local village lad on one of our walks that he wants to be a scientist when he grows up. I asked him this question when he was playing and was expecting to get either Dhoni or Tendulkar for an answer.
We have decided to donate one third of the proceeds from the sale of the paintings and sketches from Kumaon. Theis will support a unique initiative which will be administered through Wildrift who promote Eco friendly tourism in Kumaon and operate a unique business model in which locals are partners. This project will involve conducting art workshops for children in the hill areas. This will be done by making available suitable resources such as videos, art materials and engaging local art teachers. Indiaart is proud to associate with Wildrift to announce this unique initiative.
I am hoping that when some of you travel in the remote hills of Kumaon in future and ask a kid playing around as to what would he or she would like to be in the future and get "I want to be an artist" as an answer!