Vinaya, our Pune-based interviewer, has been a fan of Aalok’s art for over two years now. Aalok, a dentist by profession, does sketches of popular colonial structures around Mumbai such as the GPO, Vasai fort, Sassoon Docks, and the Gateway of India. Read on to find out more about Aalok’s passion for art.
Dr. Aalok M. Joshi, 31, Dentist, Mumbai
Interviewed by Vinaya Kurtakoti
Why did you decide to give an interview about art?
If you look at things from a traditional point of view, most parents don’t encourage their children to pursue art. The average middle class Indian looks at things only from an economic point of view. The idea of a good life is to graduate, get a good job, a wife, two kids and a nice house in the suburbs. There are some who allow their kids to take up art grudgingly, some vehemently argue against it and then there are those who didn’t have these options themselves and would happily give their children the freedom to make their own choices. But I’ve seen that the families who give their children choices are not the ones usually with financial problems.
Which of these categories do you fall into?
My parents encouraged me to follow my passion but I personally chose to take up medicine because I thought it would sustain me financially so that I could do what I wanted with the rest of my time.
My grandfather happens to be a reasonably well-reputed artist in his heydays. He’s 89 now and probably not recognizable to most people. He worked as an artist for magazines, but he was less of a cartoonist and more of a commercial artist. He would design company or shop logos, signboards, but he wasn’t able to keep up with the times. Computerised art finally drove him out of business. He was in his 60s when computers seemed to take over the world. But he wasn’t an artist whose paintings sold in lakhs. So my parents had seen the financial troubles my grandfather had faced after choosing art as a career.
I think there are other problems that come with choosing art as a career. You become pretty moody and impressionistic and unpredictable. All artists and scientists have personality quirks. The greater the personality quirks, the better the artist.
So what’s your quirk?
I’m not really a good artist.
How was it like growing up with an artist as a grandfather?
My grandfather was a bit of a misanthrope who didn’t really get along well with anyone, including me. So in school whenever I won art competitions, 90% of the time people suspected that my grandfather helped me. Especially for projects that we had to complete at home people would say, “Oh, you did this at home. So your grandfather must have done this for you.” At that point, I had proven myself so most of the people were convinced that I was reasonably good, if not the best. The rest who weren’t convinced I don’t really see them doing art now.
Did your passion for comic books factor into making you a better artist?
My grandfather had a big collection of books that inspired him to draw. The only problem was that I never had access to these books. He used to lock them away in a cupboard. My parents on the other hand were kind enough to get me a lot of books. They were the ones who got me into the comic book craze. The comics that they bought me were very different from the ones you see nowadays. Though I loved reading the comics, it was the art that got me really excited.
What’s interesting is that reading about something makes you imagine what the writer is talking about, on the other hand reading a comic book includes reading the prose and seeing an aspect of the narration that the artist sees but you wouldn’t have been able to necessarily imagine. So that gives you two imaginative pictures, not one. If you take a prose story and ask 10 different artists to draw it, they will all draw their own interpretations. Art is limitless, but prose is limited to 26 letters of the alphabet.
The last question has noting to do with your interview topic. But we ask everyone we interview – What does love mean to you?
My idea of love is very different from today’s popular notion. We live in a society that lays too much importance on physical features. When you’re looking to get married, what do they first show you? Photographs. Only once you like someone’s photograph will they tell you what the person does, his dreams, his aspirations.
To be honest, I have never been physically attractive myself, and as a result, I’ve only encountered one-sided matches. My love is very simple just like dal and rice. For me, love is to be there for the person no matter what. Gifts and words don’t matter as much as actions do.