Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Koh Samui: Making the Connection

I've travelled a fair amount over the years, but that evidently hasn't stopped me from planning dumb itineraries. After Jabeen and I decided to vacation in Koh Samui, I booked the tickets on Bangkok Airways, which now flies daily to the Thai capital from Bombay, and has the most flights to Samui (I read somewhere that the airline owns Samui airport). The cheapest available flight from Bangkok to Samui was scheduled just an hour after the arrival time of our Bombay-Bangkok flight. I thought to myself, "It's a squeeze, but Samui airport offers visas on arrival, so we just need to transfer directly to our connecting flight without any intervening visa hassles".
An elementary mistake, as I was informed at the check-in counter in Bombay. Since the Bangkok-Samui leg was a domestic flight, we'd need to get visas before boarding it. Recalling how long the visa process had taken on my last visit to Thailand, I recognised there was little hope of making our connecting flight.
But Bangkok Airways and Thai immigration outdid themselves in helping us out. Our plane landed just ahead of time and, as we entered the terminal, I spotted a Bangkok Airways staffer holding up a placard with our names on it. This was 6 am, IST. He rushed us to the counter where visa forms were handed out. By 6.10, we had filled the forms and changed money to pay for the visas. He then led us to a fast track counter, where our visas were stamped in under five minutes (the other counter was thronged with applicants, mostly Indian). In another five minutes we went through passport control. At 6.25 we passed security. At exactly 6.30, we were at the gate from which the Samui flight was to take off. It began boarding seven minutes later, and we touched down on the island by 8 am, Indian time.
I said to myself, "Here's a country that takes tourism seriously".
Despite all their efforts on our behalf, we almost managed to mess things up in another way. We'd completely forgotten that our photographs would have to be attached to the the visa form, whether we filled it in Bangkok or Samui. Luckily both of us happened to be carrying mugshots of ourselves in our cabin baggage. Jabeen said, "There's always so much stuff in my handbag that I don't need but leave inside 'just in case'. Well, now all the junk I've carried all these years has proven its worth".

Friday, September 23, 2011

Home Spun and The Skoda Prize

I'm in the middle (or, hopefully, near the end) of a longish period of blogger's block. I have nothing to say about current events that I feel is worth saying, but I don't want to leave this ground fallow any longer. Which is why I'm posting about two events in my professional life, a show I've curated and an art prize I've helped conceive.
The exhibition I've curated, called Home Spun, opened a couple of weeks ago at the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon, which displays work from the Lekha and Anupam Poddar collection. The press has been kind thus far. Here are previews / reviews from Anindita Ghose in Mint; Karanjeet Kaur in Time Out; Manjula Narayan in Friday Gurgaon; and Chitra Narayanan in the Hindu Business Line.
The show runs till 27 December and, if you're in Gurgaon before then, on a day which is not a Monday or public holiday, please consider dropping in to take a look.
I'm an advisor to the Skoda Prize for Contemporary Art, an annual award for Indian artists under forty-five which is now in its second year. We had the first jurors' meet for the current year in Delhi last week, and cut the 128 entries down to a longlist of twenty. These shows will feature in a catalogue, to be released at the opening of the Skoda Prize Show at the Lalit Kala Akademi on January 23, 2012. On October 24, 2011, the four member jury will be joined by Heike Munder, curator of Zurich's Migros Museum, to narrow the selection down to a three-person shortlist. The final selection will happen after viewing the Skoda Prize Show, and the award of Rs 10 lakh will be presented on January 28, 2012. The two runners' up receive a four-week residency in Switzerland courtesy Pro Helvetia.
Take a look at the list and let me know if you have any favourites, and if you think somebody was unfairly excluded or included. And here's a look back at the inaugural award ceremony, where Anish Kapoor presented the trophy to Mithu Sen.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Atul Dodiya

In advance of his new show opening at Chemould Art gallery, I've written this piece on Atul Dodiya in Time Out.