Artistically speaking

“I like to make at home, anything that can be made at home,” says Indira Gopalaswamy pointing to the neat rows of ground spice-powders and crunchy snacks in the shelves of her immaculate open-kitchen. Not surprising, you would say, considering so many women do that. But when a lady who is 79, going on 80 says that, it sounds unusual. And when she turns around and includes the rest of the home in one sweep of her hand, one is truly amazed. For, her hand has ranged over the elaborate tapestries, dolls, paintings of all kinds, and even the carpets that her home sports!

Yes, Indira Gopalaswamy makes dolls, embroidered wall-hangings, tapestries in wool and silk, paintings of all kinds, and carpets in wool and silk. These elegant homemade décor objects––which are anything between 20 to 50 years old––not only embellish her home but also those of her friends and family.
“When I give gifts too, I like to give something I have made personally, as it has a unique personal touch which no product from the market, however costly, can have,” she says.  And she also makes melodious music. On her exquisite, century-old, ivory-embellished Saraswati veena. I try my hand at it and find the naadam pure and beautiful. It plays as well as it looks. That is another characteristic of this home. Everything is so well-maintained. 

Indira is a house-proud woman and takes elaborate care of every item in each corner, whether décor, utility objects or houseplants, ensuring they are always in good condition. How does she find the energy for all this, I ask. “I believe passivity is death, and being ever-active and positive is the mahamantra for a good and happy life. My physically active lifestyle, careful diet and very regular yoga routine keep me fit. I do have a maid who comes in everyday, but most times I am my own housemaid,” she laughs.

A great mix of old and new
The antique and the contemporary co-exist comfortably in this elegant South Bangalore apartment of homemaker Indira and her late husband M N Gopalaswamy.
The focal point in the drawing room is a large oil painting by Indira called Deepak Raga which shows a woman performing this Hindustani raga, the lights in the background and the vibrant yellow and orange colours which stand for light and flame all connote the theme, she explains.
Beside it is a large wall-hanging in wool depicting the world-map made partly by herself and completed by her husband.  Indira’s husband was an aviation engineer whose hobbies were embroidery and knitting. In the corridor is another specimen of the same kind in wool.

Indira explains: “These are used by us as wall hangings but they can also serve as carpets if spread on the floor.”
Complementing this wall art and on the table below are elegant porcelain and mother-of-pearl artifacts which she purchased on one of her travels.  
Her music room, where she keeps her veena and music books––has a wall-piece containing an elephant made of ice-cream spoons and sticks, and another one made of wood shavings above it.
On the facing wall are embroidered pieces of cloth, neatly framed.  The other bedrooms have  oil-paintings. There are other eye-catchers in the corridors––a pen-nib painting, a direct-tube painting, a Mysore painting and yet another  piece of art which is a 55-year-old hand-embroidered piece depicting a scene from the story of Aniruddha (Lord Krishna’s son) and Usha. All these have been made by Indira. 

Mosaic murals
Among the most striking pieces of homemade art are her mosaic murals. “Mosaic work involves the use of one-by-one inch ceramic (or vitrum) tiles which have to be cut or chiselled out and painstakingly assembled according to the design. The hands often bleed in the process of chiselling as these chips are made of glass. And wearing gloves doesn’t help, as with gloves one doesn’t get a good grip on the tiles. Black silk chords form the outlines as you create shapes on the canvas,” Indira reveals.

Not a believer in Vaastu
While doing up her home, she did not follow any principles of Vaastu, as she doesn’t  believe in it. Neither did she go by interior-décor theories.
She merely went by her general aesthetic sense, placing things where they looked best or simply where she found adequate display space available.
Indira remembers being interested in arts and crafts since she was eight.
However, she learnt painting at age 45. But only oil-paintings––in the remaining varieties she was self-taught using a process of trial and error.  
At 50 plus she took to carpet-weaving. At 60, she learnt how to make Mysore paintings! And at 79, she is doing more embroidery, and teaching carpet-weaving to youngsters. Indira’s young grand-daughter calls her  “ an awesome grandmom”. We understand why.

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