As you reach Ghitorni Metro Station on Mehrauli-Gurgaon road, start counting the Metro Pillar nos. After the 165th -166th Pillar take a U-turn. The Highway forks into a narrower road to the left. The signage on your right modestly announces the way towards Anandgram. The Security Guard directs us to Farm House No. 7 – the Caretaker’s Office. The road rushes in through a motley of green foliage on either side. Gated farm houses, line the boulevard, numbered for convenience. At the far end the road merges into the boundary walls of our destination, which upon literal translation means, the Village of Joy. One wonders how such an oasis of serenity and solitude is tucked right in the midst of a bustling cyber-city.
As we enter the premises, a stately, ancient tree welcomes us with solemn dignity to the Village which is the temporary residence of many artists and artisans from all over the world. We reach the Office of the Caretaker which overlooks the open-air amphitheater spread out on the lush lawns. A bamboo wind chime hangs on the window. Sparsely furnished with cane and wooden furniture, the office is a contrast of modern amenities (PC on both desks) and ethnic comfort. Right outside the Office, a pair of Indian terracotta horses look down on us regally from imposing height.
The ambience is one of relaxed creative solitude. Spread over three acres of verdant well-manicured land dotted by leafy trees, fashionably pruned bushes, flowering hedges and blossoming beds, Anandgram capsules with deliberate care the ethnicity of our rich cultural heritage. Strewn all over the pastoral landscape are priceless artifacts of indigenous origin – cluster of terracotta figurines here and rolling brass wares there and earthen pots artistically placed by the shallow steps of the garden. Hut-shaped pavilions with attractively decorated exteriors, framed pieces of hand woven embroidered textiles, colorful artworks, abstract paintings and intricately crafted hangings adorning the interiors, random architecture showcasing the Moghul influence, glass-painted windows swerving back to the present – at every turn and bend one stumbles over the diverse facets of Indian art and architecture sprawled with studied carelessness all around.
While talking of heritage, how can one overlook our deeply revered spiritual inheritance? So there is Mind Space an all sides open shaded nook for body-mind-soul confluence.
Anandgram is open to residential and non-residential workshops, training programs, seminars and conferences. Of course, noisy gatherings are absolute no-no in the Village – an unwritten rule to be adhered to scrupulously.
A conducted tour of the make believe village reveals much more. There are dormitories, twin sharing as well as single occupancy rooms. All the rooms are air-conditioned with attached bathrooms. However, the best are the studios which are allotted to the artists who come to stay and work on their chosen projects. It is a duplex arrangement where the ground floor is designed to be the work station for the artist. The stairs to the bedroom above rises straight up to a kind of loft supported by a very interesting banister of polished wood – a sturdy angular structure bordering the high cemented steps. The studio is minimalistic in its furnishing. A mosquito-net hangs from a makeshift four poster single bed. The slender balcony outside the bedroom is a Naturist’s delight – as the trees branch out towards it – a perfect spot to enjoy the umbrella of green outside.
Anandgram was completed in 1993 and is still growing under the aegis of the Sanskriti Foundation which was established in 1979. Those wishing to stay and work in Anandgram have to get their projects approved by the Foundation. September to March is the busiest season when the international artists prefer to put up in Anandgram. Notwithstanding, the Village is teeming with activities throughout the year. As summer sets in Anandgram vibrates with fresh energy as then the domestic entities (NGOs, Schools, Institutions etc.) take over the premise. The Village is also a bird watcher’s paradise.
The place is not available for holidaying. The stay and conference charges are very reasonable and inclusive of all meals (strictly vegetarian). The best part is, you are free to invite the visiting artists to your workshop for knowledge and craft sharing. Participation of the invitee is, however, on voluntary basis. While conventional seating arrangements (class room, round table etc.) are available in the halls, one can also opt for the traditional Indian seating style (i.e. squatting on durries with cushions for support). The other conference accessories like Project, Screen, White Board etc. are available on actual basis.
The tour ends with visit to the Museums – (1) Indian Terracotta, (2) Everyday Art and (3) Textile which house the workmanship of the artists and artisans of this ethnically diverse country.
The Village is taken care of by an army of around twenty five workmen. Except the Kitchen and Pantry staff, all are day workers. As evening sets in, silence solidifies. Excommunicated from the rest of the world, the inmates, absorbed in their solitary pursuits, get their meditative moments. As a core-urbanite it is hard for me to image a life without the routine noises of hectic living. But Munnilalji’s (the Caretaker) smiling reply, “Madam! They come here because they get what they want…” is I think an apt summation of what Anandgram holds for its ‘seasoned’ dwellers.