Chapter Open.

I’ve never read a single book in my life (other than my school text books) and yet, I house a significant library, both at my home and in my office. I’ve also published 2 books of my own plus I write my own blog and sometimes, also for leading publications as a guest writer. Never ever have I felt the temptation to read (other than Rumi’s quotes) simply because my world in purely visual, the books in my library are coffee table books full of wonderful images and my own books are also based on photography. What this essentially implies is that I am more than content in my world of visual nirvana where words are merely used to express thoughts connected with strong imagery.  Yet, I have scores of friends who are avid book readers; some almost go weak in their knees when they get their hands on a paperback or hardback they’ve been (im)patiently waiting for; so whilst I’ve never understood the euphoric moments of such beings, I’ve always respected the literary types for their passion and knowledge. Recently however, I almost secretly wished, perhaps for the very first time, that I had the interest of reading in me and what triggered this rare desire was a simple book shop!

Chapter 101, a bookshop located in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon (now dismally renamed as Guru Gram) is pure romance! It is owned by my friend, Raju Singh (a fact that i was not aware of when someone suggested that i visit the store), a book-crazy banker and entrepreneur to fulfil his lifelong dream of owning such a bookstore. In their own words: “A den, a private retreat, the charms of a classic understated era… Chapter 101 is a bookstore intended to build a quiet literary atmosphere with carefully curated books beyond the bestsellers. It draws on the quiet to create a space where people are encouraged to spend time with the books and browse at leisure – a safe space for revisiting the time-cherished classics and also to find a new favourite among contemporary authors.” To drive home the point that there is pure passion behind the concept, the store is also managed by Rohan Dahiya, a young author, blogger and visual artist whose love for books drew him to the store.

As always, I find it unfair to give away too much in a blog (the images will speak as much as they can) as it is my belief that spaces created with such love are meant to be experienced to be able to assimilate the romance that they permeate.

Whilst i may still never get down to reading a book, I do see myself visiting C101 several times… to listen to the great background music, to enjoy the (free) coffee (and hopefully some interesting company), and to witness several enlightened individuals select, from the multitude of options available, a place to rest their derrière on, to browse through an inspiring and rare collection of published treasures whilst simultaneously experiencing what i am sure would only qualify as induced literary orgasms.

PS* Raju Singh, whose baby this wonderful store is can be spotted in shorts matching his hair in one of the images.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

 

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Transported!

It happens often… that one keeps seeking treasures elsewhere even whilst they exist right under our noses OR more commonly, the ironical belief that if something is in the vicinity of your home, city or even in your country, it’s simply not as special as something which is hard to reach, often even impossible. Its human psychology; we covet what is distant and seemingly hard to get and in turn don’t even realise what we’re missing in the easily accessible.

Last weekend was a testimony to this reality for me.

For some years, my dear friend, Hotelier Tarun Thakral, had been insisting that i come by and see what he’s done with his collection of vintage cars. Partially due my schedule but mostly out of sheer laziness, I kept my visit pending but finally succumbed to the guilt of not supporting a friend’s initiative and more importantly, not celebrating his dream with him. It just had to be done! After a short drive with my family (40 minutes out of Delhi on the road to Jaipur), I finally arrive at a large modern building, but nothing quite prepared me for what lay inside. Never had I seen such an amazing private effort made for the good of many….. never had i imagined that one individual could create such a beautiful space for his passion and then throw it open for others to savour. Curiosity and the passion to collect homogenous objects, the search for the rare, unique and often elusive is what impassions all collectors. Over two decades of research about the evolution of the modes of transportation forms the plinth of the collection in possession of the Trust run by Tarun, making the Heritage Transport Museum India’s first comprehensive transport museum.

The museum showcases the evolution of transportation in India and sets a benchmark in interpretation, exhibition and in communication and also houses Art and Art Objects inspired by Automobiles. As the first private museum of its scale in India, it is conceived as a didactive space that engages visitor participation in learning while remaining a family experience. A built up area of over 90,000 square feet of air conditioned space spread over four floors houses the exhibition galleries, library and reference centre, conference rooms, mini auditorium, the museum shop, and a restaurant facility.

Facts aside, whilst the museum enjoys a significant patronage of many, I can assure you that most in Delhi and India would still not be aware of this incredible space and the passionate spirit that resonates in its every square foot. My photographs could express my sentiments more accurately, but a strong word of advise, don’t lose any more time to transport yourself to this beautiful labour of love. And if you plan weekends, you’ll meet the man himself there and his lovely wife Mandeep, who will (literally) have you eating out of her hands!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Jaypore

Whilst my erratic and ever changing schedule has bestowed upon me a degree of remorse for not being able to accept the generous invitation from Samir Andrea Kasliwal for his birthday celebrations and also the royal one from the Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur for Holi festivities at the palace, I am left with no option but to try and create peace within by reminiscing some sweet moments from the past.

From one of my recent trips to Jaipur (or Jaypore as it was known in British India), and before this memory gently ambles into the mind’s recesses, I thought it wise to share my joy on my very brief visit to Bar Palladio. This lovely space (not surprisingly run by a European), besides being an aesthete’s delight, was quite the gastronomic discovery, especially since one did not expect Jaipur to throw up anything like it. Much recommended to anyone visiting the Pink City… Go and enjoy the exotic embrace of the perfect shades of Turquoise, Teal and Indigo whilst sipping on a fine aperitif and savouring delectable Hors d’oeuvre. (Which I delightfully indulged in, courtesy the company and conversation of my dear friend and restaurateur extraordinaire, AD Singh).

Personally, I’ve always loved that wonderful twist that happens to the expected when expats set up something in India… the synergy of an alien mind fuses magically with the environment that only India can offer and, more often than not, throws up some wonderful hybrid experiences. The reverse also holds true, and unlike the past, where every immigrant fom Bangladesh and Nepal invariably opened a very sad, aesthetically deprived, agarbati smelling “authentic” Indian restaurant, today, one can find fine gastronomical experiences in various parts of the world run and owned by Indians.

I’ve always looked forward to such instances of osmosis…of food, of music, of soul… of love… to me, the coming together of beings, of cultures is extremely exciting and the byproducts of all such mating are generally exotic in nature. More of this spirit is required in the world today … the oneness of humanity, above race or religion has never been more relevant before.

Finally, a very Happy Holi to all of you ( for those of you who’re not aware, it’s the festival of colours in India and Nepal which signifies the triumph of good over evil and also heralds the onset of spring)… so bring in as much colour as you can in your life as well as in others lives. It really is a beautiful world full of beautiful souls… just look at all with different eyes and you’ll be amazed at the magic that you’ll be able to witness.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Making the Cut.

I have to be really honest here. When I was invited to judge the L’Oreal IHA Finale in Goa, I was unsure about whether I should even go. After all, what could I possibly contribute and imbibe (i’m a strong believer in the process of osmosis between energies) from a set of ‘barbers’? Sure enough, as i went straight from the airport into a room full of a significantly large group of ‘hair cutters’ and subsequently sat for 4 hours seeing them snip, colour, wash, straighten etc. etc., i became even more convinced that my initial thought had been well founded and this was a mistake. A couturier in the midst of this lot?

Then came the next day, and as the organisers hustled us into the venue of the Grand Finale followed by the guests entering the large venue, I had a doubt again! … this time about my earlier doubts. An elegant setup awaited us, and as the emcee came on stage with giant LEDs and stunning graphics morphing behind her, the 3.5 hours (which by any standards, is rather long) simply melted away under the spotlight of the intense creativity that followed on stage.

L’Oreal really gave it all they had and besides presenting a fabulous evening in a luxurious hotel, MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, they gave wings to the dreams of several ‘artists’. That’s precisely when it sheepishly hit me, that for the first time in my life, I had been surrounded by artists and not even realised it. IHA are the Oscars for hair stylists from across the country, the preliminaries go on for a year all over India and are judged by a fantastic jury in each city, and then it all culminates into this one magical evening of (in)credible talent. They come from each and every corner of India, from insignificant small towns to large cities… besides the tools of the trade, they all carry one common dream within them…A dream to excel …A dream to be judged by the best and to be the best… A dream to reach for the stars… A dream to become stars!

This was the stage that set the ball rolling for the chosen ones for future fashion greatness, for being a woman’s (and man’s) best friend for life, for being coveted by celebrities, for possibly even becoming the next Vidal Sassoon. As I watched the nervous and not so nervous walk the ramp, and others create live magic right there on the stage, I felt a sense of gratitude… for being fortunate enough to be there that night and perhaps, for even having played a small role in introducing some future stars to the world.

Many congratulations L’Oreal…IHA is something you should be very proud of and the team that you have nurtured in India is truly exceptional… add to that the brilliance of my dear friend and your choreographer, Anu Ahuja! Thank you for making me a part of your story; the talent that I saw and the presentation that followed was flawless and I, for once, am truly glad that i was proved wrong about my own initial thoughts!

Aseem Kaushik and Team L’Oreal India…Take a bow.

PS* Please excuse the quality of the images this one time; digital zooms and excited fingers often have this effect on Photographs.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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The Soul in the Space

 

When it comes to making images, I’m equally passionate about people and places as subjects. THE SOUL IN THE SPACE is my second photographic show and is both, more abstract and more personal. The focus is on details of architecture shot in three locations that connect with my own biography: Jodhpur (the city of my birth), Chandigarh (the only city designed by Le Corbusier and where I was raised and spent some of my best years), and Dufftown in Scotland (where I first discovered architectural photography during an artist’s residency at the Glenfiddich Distillery). In this show, I chose to concentrate on mass, line and texture in both black & white and colour works, composing starkly dynamic scenarios that approximate a painterly aesthetic but also unmoor the subject from its original context. My palette is purposefully reductive yet highly sumptuous, relishing the much to be discovered in stone, metal and concrete, three materials that I associate with greatly.

The show is currently on exhibit at ID 2017 (India Design) organised by Elle Decor in Delhi. The selection of prints on view range from large-scale blow-ups that communicate a monumental grandeur to sets of smaller prints that are grouped together, creating syncopated rhythms.

If in Delhi, do drop by… It’s on till the 19th of February.

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