This is Ajay Sharma, a visual artist from Baroda. Hema Upadhyay was a dear friend and classmate and we shared the Fine Arts studio right from the beginning till the end of our study for 6 long years. It was the most shocking news for me and the whole artist community to get to know about her murder. Coincidentally two days before this happened to her I had some dreams about Hema and Chintan warning me that something wrong is going to happen to them. I have written an article on Hema in which this dream is also mentioned.
Tribute to a dear classmate HEMA UPADHYAY 18.12.2015
On 11th Dec. 2015(Friday) night, after a long gap, Hema and Chintan appeared in my dream once again. What I dreamt was a mix of Chintan and several others. In a hall like room a film screening is about to begin, Chinmoy Pramanik (who died in 2011) was also there with us. I am with Chintan, Hema is also around. In an Art gallery like setting (with a similar lighting), I am talking to Chintan, meanwhile Hema comes there as if to settle untold scores with him and tells me to leave Chintan alone so that they can have their personal talks. I tell her “I am so sorry Hema, I am going away right now from here”, and I leave. Almost simultaneously I dreamt that Chintan was throwing a party on a cruise and the deck of the boat is slowly getting submerged in water. I was climbing down to the deck through a ladder and realizing that there was water on the floor, I was telling people around me that I did’t want to climb down the ladder as I was afraid of drowning. Then all of a sudden I was taken on a roller coaster ride to a dream-like land, which was supposed to be an installation by Chintan. I was gliding through this magical landscape where there are artificial colourful trees like a forest and gigantic artificial butterflies, then there were these tiny colourful bricks arranged like buildings. I am gliding through this vast never ending landscape and then all of a sudden the escort took me back from this place. I told him that I wanted to go once again to the place where those colourful bricks are arranged like buildings but I was told that my trip to this place was over and I could see these things only once. In the final bit of the dream what I saw was that Hema had taken me to her studio where there were huge installations done by her. Actually it was not a studio, but something like a warehouse that had been sectioned into rooms and each room had a work of Hema’s. A very vivid work among those installations was a room inside which she has stuck layers of white paper, one after the other all over the room, covering it from ceiling to the bottom of the walls, and this room had a portion that looked like a little cave. In fact the whole room looked like a white cave in some mountain with the stuck layers of paper that looked like layers of calcium deposits. Then she introduced me to a man inside her studio telling me that this person is her curator. Within this stretch of the seemingly long dream I also saw Hema and Chintan dressing up and getting ready to go for a party. She was wearing a bottle green saree with a broad crochetted lace border with flowers.
When I woke in the morning I did not share this dream with my wife nor with any body else, and kept wondering in my mind why after such a long gap and with no apparent reason did I once again dream of both Hema and Chintan ?
On Sunday afternoon (13. 12. 2015), as I was getting ready for lunch, I got a call from Soumen (Das, our batch mate from College) that Hema and her lawyer had been murdered.
By the evening she was all over the internet, TV and newspapers. Only this time it was not because of her art but because of her murder.
Shocked and horrified as I was with this sudden news when Soumen broke it to me, I did not disclose any detail of the dreams that I had seen, I only told him that for the past two days I had been dreaming a lot about Hema and Chintan. Soumen’s prompt and blunt reply was that it might be just a coincidence. I kept mum.
In the biting cold of December 2013, my solo show titled “Home and the World” was about to end in Jaipur. For the last two nights in the guesthouse room I dreamt of my mother. As my show was being brought down after the last day, I packed my works and was waiting for the transport guy to come and load my works. By about 3 pm. he turned up and finished the loading. As I was about to climb into the driver’s cabin of the truck for the return trip to Baroda with the driver, I got a call from my wife informing me that my mother had had a fall on the floor of her house and severely fractured an arm and her hipbone. A mere coincidence?
Three years earlier my wife’s young cousin brother got married. The first anniversary of the marriage was nearing. One day in the morning I dreamt that a young father and his child were crying because the child’s mother was dead. As I brushed my teeth I was contemplating on this uncanny dream and wondering why weird dreams come to me! Few hours later my wife received a call from her cousin brother’s brother that his sister-in-law passed away during delivery but the child survived. A mere coincidence??
During 2001-2002 when I used to share a flat with my friends Soumen, Hitesh Jhala and Debashish, one night I dreamt that Soumen and Jhala were having a massive quarrel, yelling and shouting at each other. Next day in the morning as we were finishing our breakfast and cups of Darjeeling green tea, the carpenter arrived with stretchers. Soumen had ordered for them. Within few minutes a massive fight broke out between the carpenter and Soumen, both screaming and yelling at each other, all the stretchers that he made were faulty. A mere coincidence???
By the evening of 13th Dec. 2015 I was getting impatient to browse through the TV news channels and see what actually had happened. I don’t keep newspapers; I don’t have the habit of sipping my morning tea and browsing through the headlines. I usually keep myself updated by watching news on the television. This time our TV was out of order for the third time. We had spent a lot of money repairing it twice and now we didn’t have extra money to get it repaired once again. I simply had no clue what they were showing on TV and what all were written in the newspapers during the following days. Nor did I have the courage to knock on my neighbors’ door and ask them to give me their TV remote to sit in their house and browse channels for news on the Hema Upadhyay’s murder case. All I did was to call up a few friends who updated me till this case was all over television covered by every channel.
Grief stricken and disturbed, Hema, I kept mourning your death for all these days inside. Your death kept roiling me. Every morning as I woke up from my sleep I had to face these gloomy days full of your memories. By now a pail full of tears had already accumulated inside me. There had to be an outlet. On 17th morning I rushed to the Fine Arts auditorium for your condolence meeting. I saw the faces of Vasu sir, Indro da and Suresh sir full of grief. As Vasu sir began the meeting with a brief speech, his eyes were red and moist, his legs were shaking and he was stammering. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I cried for you Hema, for the first time in my life.
Hema, I hope our sorrow and grief of having lost you suddenly reaches where ever you are. One of your favourite song was Lata Mangeshker’s Tera mera pyar amar, fir kyun mujhko lagta hai dar….. (our love is eternal, still why do I fear…..). You had spoken about this fear and uncertainty right in the beginning; many years ago in that little catalogue form your first show at Prithvi gallery in Mumbai. Till your last breath you had been fighting for the love that you craved for and overcoming the fears that most of us, especially as artists, face in our lives.
After much hesitation I had deleted Chinmoy’s number from my mobile and I had to do the same with our Jishu da’s (Dibyendu Bhadra) number when he passed away earlier this year. Now I will have to delete your number. I can’t bring myself to do it just yet. Grant me the permission to keep it my dear till the right time.