Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mario Miranda 's Bar Lady

Mario’s Bar Lady
The moon presents itself above Bergstrasse,
disentangling from its wobbly twin on the Rhine.
White glory showers. Work worn customers
trudge in like obligatory raindrops beneath
a dim archway. A spark flies every time-
clicketyclack! Heels connect with shiny stone.
A bearing swift, but in all her speed, never
a drop spilt.

Six gullets quenched by six massifs, delivered
vice like. She moves, mugs close to breast,
mugs that can hardly compete with her enormity.
White apron flashes, paling the moon.
She makes her rounds: ‘Was willst du denn?’
A return order: everfoaming kegs with an aperitif-
a smile.

The brash customer mellows. Dependent on
deepening dimples, empties jealousies and terrors
with beer. Her nods advise, a heaving chest berates
whatever scratches her sensibilities. Empty flagons
raise groaning feet, propel them homewards, yet
in passing, a Mark is pressed with a wan grin:
Danke schon, Maria. ‘Bitte, libeling.’ She returns
to beckoning bar, ready to gush forth every time:
‘Bier, bitte?’

This poem was inspired by Mario Miranda's very lovely drawing posted here. This dates from March 1984, when some of his drawings from (I think) Germany in Wintertime were featured in Midday. I had cut this one out and ensconced it safely until today when I scanned it and put it up here for all to see. This is really from way back when- Indira Gandhi was still Prime Minister, and the back of this clipping retains part of an advertisement for a cola, now defunct called 'Do it'.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rediscovering Mario Miranda

On a recent visit to Goa, I had the opportunity of visiting a work in progress- a museum to house the works of the cartoonist Mario Miranda by the architect Gerard da Cunha. Apart from the delight of seeing a building at the bare bones stage (a delight for any architect, as any fule kno), it was the rekindling of association with the lines and forms, the crosshatching and the subtle colour infills of a cartoonist and illustrator whom people of my vintage 'grew up with'.

We knew Mario before we knew R.K. Laxman. Mario's illustrations filled our English textbooks- the venerable Bal Bharati. Right from 'This is Tim. This is Mini.' from Standard I to the later and deeper poems of Walter Scott (Kenilworth), we negotiated the byways of language mainly because of the illustrations that went with them. Mario could be funny, caricaturish but also dark and noirish as needed, and we absorbed this all. Mario's illustrations are now part of the visual vocabulary inside me and there is always a frisson, a kickback of nostalgia when I encounter (now rarely) his work.

His cartoons and illustrations were all around us too in the seventies and the eighties- mainly in the now defunct (and missed) Illustrated Weekly of India and several newspapers including the Times and Midday. These were of course contemporary and political, although Mario could, on occasion delight with full page spreads teeming with more characters that Michelangelo's Last Judgement but identifiable as people around us. Mario is from Goa, but for us Mario was quintessential Bombay- with buses, beggars, big bodied and bare bodied Bombayites teeming in Boribunder and Bhendi Bazaar. The word 'buxom' may have been coined specially for Mario's women- from the society ladies of Bombay to the fisherwomen of Goa- all bulging impossibly fore and aft.
Although Gerard da Cunha's museum is yet to see a single drawing installed, the architect must be commended for the monumental archive of Mario's work he has put together for a single book- 'Mario de Miranda', published by Architecture Autonomous and Art India. It has over 2000 images of Mario's work (sadly no Bal Bharati reprints though) from all the decades of his active life and it is a delight to possess. I have been immersed in it for the past few days and have no immediate need to emerge from it sometime soon. I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who knows his work (or doesn't).
Mario's work is also an architect's delight. In his later illustrations are single drawings of Goa, New York, Paris and Portugal, detailed and evocative of both time and place. Mario's work put together is a sociological document of many decades of work. You only need to see the New York suite to know that this is the city from the early Scorsese/Taxi Driver days and not the post Giuliani/post9/11 present.
Gerard da Cunha has also put an extensive exhibition of Mario's ouvre in the Cymroza, which I have yet to
see. Fortunately it is still up for a few more days.

...and in the end the memories of the Bal Bharati days still most vivid are Mario's renderings of hands- open and clasped, fingers extended and expressive, that speak to me across the years. Yes, they are all there in the book and are as evocative as I remember them.
The illustration by Mario displayed here is of the coming of the Konkan railway- 
a wish fulfilling event about a decade ago for most of its denizens.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Memory is fickle

Memory is fickle, as any fule kno.

The internet, particularly broadbanded, has been a great resource for retrival - for the remembrance of things past. Music, images, snatches of culture, bits of film, the books, comics the quirks of childhood and middlehood all bob about together like so much flotsam, allowing one to wallow about to heart's content. It is a life kept alive and enriched.

After four and a half decades, this trackback is oddly reassuring. One can go arm first into the mulch of the world wide web, feel about for an hour or two and come up trumps. This assurance is satifying. Saving to favorites and occasionally downloading allows the retention of these snippets of one's past in much the same unorganised manner as the protagonist tattoos information about himself on different part of his body in Christopher Nolan's Memento.

This blog is another way to tattoo for the short term memory challenged. Keeping the mundane day to day alive for no other reason than to wallow in later. I have never had much truck with keeping a diary. But going headfirst into the blogworld is another kettle of fish, as any fule kno.