The everyday mundane, Bhajia Corner by Radha Binod Sharma – 1993
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Bhajia Corner – Water Colour on Paper
The painting by Radha Binod Sharma called ‘Bhajia Corner’ is a cryptic scene from our everyday lives. This watercolour painting is lit up in a psychedelic palette that uses reds and blues abundantly like a hand-painted movie poster from the ’60s and ’70s.
On the first impression, the painting exposes a slice of life of the masses, the bulk of humanity. Set in any one of our burgeoning mega cities, on a busy street corner, there is a ‘Bhajia’ Shop’ where a man is making ‘bhajias’ and his 2 customers, one on the floor facing the other way, are enjoying the street delights.The cold and stark expressions on the faces of the men in the painting reveal a robotic monotony of everyday life. Like mindless drones, they are emotionless and there is not a hint of happiness or sadness. All that is there is constant repetition, a humdrum of everyday struggles of survival. Their souls speak out vociferously…
“We are many,
We wake up early and are off to work,
We made the roads that you walk on, the buildings in which you work, the cars that you drive, the homes that you live in, everything.
We make the world around you run, keep your cities clean, water in your faucets flow and unclog your drains,
Silently, we labour day and night, heat or cold, rain or sunshine, we are relentless,
We have faces and names, but we will not be remembered, there will be no epitaphs for us,
We are many and we are the bulk of humanity,
And yet we are Nobody.“
But, I feel this painting is like a smoke screen. It hides from plain sight something deeper, something surreal. It has something which is unbeknownst to the upper classes of society as if these ‘bhajia guys’ have cracked the code to experience a certain sweetness to the everyday life of the masses. At the outset what seemed like robotic monotony is actually a life filled with joy.
The more we desire and accumulate in our lives the more the numbness spreads and the harder it gets to be happy. We become thrill seekers, chasing after highs. With each high we aim higher and harder for that next high pushing us into a never ending cycle making us overall unhappy, sad and numb. But the man eating the hot bhajia and blowing out puffs of blue smoke seems truly happy and in a state of absolute joy. Enjoying his cigarette and most probably eating the worlds most tasty ‘bhajia’, for hunger makes everything ambrosia, he seems ecstatic. His simple life is a doorway to contentment that most of us are no longer privy to.
The man making the ‘Bhajia’ could be equally blissful for he must be genuinely happy with what he is doing. He has no desire to be the richest man nor does he have the desire to be the most ‘liked’ person in his social circle. He does not get depressed when people don’t like his posts on Instagram. His happiness does not lie in the clothes that he owns or the cars that he buys. He does not desire to buy bigger and bigger houses. He is busy from dawn to dusk and does not have bouts of boredom. His tiny little shop is all that he has. He leads a frugal life and though it is a hand to mouth existence, it must be a joyful hand to mouth.
And thus I feel, this painting helps us peek into the unfathomable complexity of the everyday mundane. This painting, like a prism, splits our perspective into countless shades and helps us examine and appreciate the multifarious nature of our existence.