It's official: S's show is on. The opening last night went off with nary a hitch, but that's not to say that getting to the point of having pictures on the wall was an easy task.
When we showed up on Friday, the previous artist was nowhere to be found, but his paintings and photos were still sprinkled throughout the gallery. There were a few crumpled price lists, some cellophane, and a few gallery hands, but no sign of the genius who was offering a blown-up print of a packet of Maggi Dal Sambhar noodles for nearly 2 lakh rupees (about $5,000). S, I, and a gang of well-wishers were ready to start hanging, but the portly, balding artist didn't see fit to wrap things up until around 3 or 4 a.m., at which point some handymen began puttying imperfections in the walls.
We unwrapped all the images and made a mockup of their sequence; however, as we were doing so, we discovered several problems with the framing -- wrong-colored mounting, scratched images, and so on. After tiring myself by fashioning a ball of duct tape and other packing material (applied art!) then batting it around the hall, I crashed in the gallery's lobby on two chairs pushed together; S buzzed throughout the night, returning home only for a quick two-hour nap, before spending all of Saturday chasing down the framer, fixing captions at the printer, and calling friends to remind them to attend. The last picture hit the wall at 6:30 p.m.; guests began arriving at 7 on the dot, uncharacteristically subverting the law of Indian Standard Time that dictates "punctual" means "three hours late."
There was a fair crowd, including some of our nearest and dearest friends -- as well as some typical Page 3 people, trailing the scent of success, glamour, and ... what was that? Burnt cocaine?
The most entertaining guests of the night, though, were undoubtedly the journalists, a great swarm of men who make a habit of attending every opening -- not because they are aesthetes, but because there is invariably free (albeit second-rate) whisky in the offing. They enter, make a quick chakkar, and then mill around for the remainder of the show, proffering limp handshakes to every bonny young lass as they explain the importance of a free press.
One such gem was a freelancer, a crooked, nearly bald man with a garland of hennaed hair ringing his dome. He haunts the Habitat Centre's openings, and I've met him before no fewer than three times; nevertheless, he doesn't remember me. "Hello, miss. You are with the gallery?"
"No, sir; my husband is the artist." I scan the room for S, hoping he'll intervene, but he's posing, fist against his chin, as he leans against one of his photographs for someone with video equipment.
"Ah, the artist, yes!"
A waiter approaches with a tray of drinks, and the man exchanges the glass in his hand for a fresh tumbler. He takes three big swallows, and then turns to me.
"Yes, yes. I am always talking to your husband. I have just given him my card. He is a great man, a very great man."
I nod, my eyes glassy, and excuse myself to oversee the sale of catalogs and ensure no one vandalizes the guestbook. He carresses my hand, then follows me to the table, requesting a press release about the show. I reluctantly hand him a catalog, and he sets to inscribing the register with his immortal words. After he puts the pen down, he approaches another waiter, downs another drink, and heads out into the stormy night. Curious, I scrutinize the guestbook, and find his scribbled hand.
"Perfection in all ways."
Indeed, indeed. There were many missteps, but for all the drama, it was a lovely event, refreshingly quirky and magical in its flaws.