I went to the Natural History Museum again this Sunday, and while coming back I decided to take a walk through Central Park. It was a warm and sunny evening and Central Park was pretty crowded, with children running about and adults either walking for exercise or just sitting in the sun. As I walked about with my camera, I saw two bronze sculptures. The first one was a large statue of Alice sitting on a giant Mushroom playing with a kitten while the Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, Dormouse and Cheshire Cat surrounded her (See picture on left). An immortal literary creation immortalized in bronze. The statue is large enough for people to climb over it and pose for pictures. It is also safe enough so that children can easily climb up and down, and play on it without falling down. As soon as I saw this sculpture, I imagined a large bronze statue of Tyansh Goru, or of Gomratherium, or the king of Bombagarh (all are characters created by Bengali writer Sukumar Ray) in some park in Kolkata. Couldn't we have them?
Then a little distance away, I came across this second statue. A man reading a book and a duck listening to him. The man is Hans Christian Andersen. This statue is also larger than life size and strong enough for people to climb all over and pose for photos. A look at the open book revealed that he is reading "The Ugly Duckling" which explained his audience. In India, statue of a famous person is usually the 3-D equivalent of a passport photograph: as formal as possible. Most of them are too crude to be called sculptures, and they end up on some important traffic intersections of our cities, to be pooped upon by pigeons and garlanded on their birthdays. Rest of the year, few people even notice those statues. Do we have a shortage of great men? Not the last time I checked. Do we have a shortage of famous fictitious characters? No way! Even if we don't consider mythology (people climbing on a Ganesha statue to pose for photos may hurt the religious sentiments of some people), we still have the characters of regional literature and those from works of authors like R. K. Narayan. We could easily create such informal looking statues and place them in parks. Are "pub culture" and eating junk food the only "good things" that we want to learn from the West?
Here, both the statues are beautifully sculpted (as are all the others in Central Park) and the use of bronze makes them stand out from the surrounding stone and concrete, along with providing the strength needed to withstand the torture they endure. It is highly unlikely that anybody in any position of power in India reads my blog, but if they do, it is my sincere request to them to consider this idea the next time they want to have a monument built. I don't believe we spend any less money on these things than the Americans do. We only need to look beyond our age-old ideas and notions about art. And we need the will to create something good. Maybe that way we will manage just one really good statue instead of five hideous ones (to appease five different communities), but I still think that would lead to a more beautiful India in the long run.