Detail of Raja Balwant Singh of Jasrota Contemplating a Painting, attributed to Nainsukh of Guler, c. 1748
This is how things are placed next to each other now, without warning, geographies and times buttressing each other.
Sharmistha Mohanty’s book Five Movements in Praise reads like a series of miniatures not unlike the 18th century Indian miniature paintings that she frequently references and reproduces. Lacking traditional plot structure, the narrative simply flows, often seamlessly, between conversations, dreams, observations, landscapes, events, paintings, travels, stories, and myth, all within India. Everything is equal and connected. Like the many-armed Hindu gods that appear in the book, the text is narrated by an uncertain number of voices – or perhaps only one voice in different guises – including the “traveler” (who is represented at different times as male and female), the “visitor,” and, finally, a female narrator in her forties who is traveling with a European man named Stefan who is some twenty years older. Odd things happen. A sparrow and its severed head fall out of the sky. Near the town dump, a strong wind causes it to rain rice and matchsticks and a mirror. Read more