There is no such thing as the right time to be in New York. There is no season for gaiety or to soothe your mind. The New York Times just carried an amazing insiders track to 70 must-see art galleries. There is so much going on. Tina Brown just finished hosting a superb conference on women and their role in an expanding world. Not a conference where you have the usual suspects mouthing platitudes at one another.
The theatre scene is as vibrant as ever. I saw two outstanding plays and would urge you to see them if you are in New York soon. Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B Johnson was brilliant in the play 'All the Way' and Denzel Washington never ceases to impress: I saw him in the opening week of his play ' A Raisin in the Sun': theatre continues to evolve in New York like never before.
Sadly for most Indians travel is all about food, drink and shopping. We have suspended any form of cerebral interests and mark my words, successive generations will suffer. They will be intellectual zombies if not cerebral pygmies. We don't visit museums any longer: there are people like Tasneem Mehta who continue to do marvellous work: look at the Bhauji Lad museum in Bombay but then again, these are far and between. I do not see a movement favouring the arts as one should have. Bollywood has crippled our creative senses. We just can't see beyond Bollywood and this will be the downfall of us a collective nation.
Other than seeing plays and some opera (La Boheme), I also went off on a day trip to the Storm King Art Center which is the world's greatest collection of outdoor sculpture. A one-hour car journey from New York, up the Hudson, this is a fascinating collection of sculptures that will blow your senses away. The fact that an art center like this exists just outside New York is a tribute to the spirit of America. Take this fact for instance: New York City alone has 72 museums. And how many do we have in all of India? And we are an ancient civilization but one which takes its historical legacy for granted.
I can take a wager that not one goddamn political party has said anything to do with the arts in their crippling manifestos. Stupidly they believe art is elitist. The dolts should realise that art is an integrator: far better than temples and mosques which are divisive more often than not. But then which person will ever listen? The people who run our country lack sensitivity towards the arts which is why they are as loutish as they are. But more of that in another column.
I guess Corporate India also needs to pull its weight in this department. The Mahindras do excellent work in the area of the arts be it theatre or jazz. But then one swallow does not a summer make. We need to embellish and disseminate our legacy in much the same way the Americans do. We can't be a back office to the world and suspend all creativity. We just can't.