The principles that govern my aesthetic are balance and restraint.
My early years in India were flooded with noise, color, and fragrance. My grandparents’ home in Bombay was somewhat buffered from the outside chaos of people and cars by lush gardens. This paradise of quietly growing coconut trees, exotic lilies, and always newly turned wet red earth was invaded hourly by squalling parrots and barbarous crows. Their cries filtered through the foliage as though they were the softened echoes of the havoc on the streets.
Going anywhere in Bombay requires infinite patience and time. A simple errand to get a plastic bucket devolves into an all-day affair involving epic traffic jams and monsoon-huge waves crashing over the seawall. But, even as a very small child—I was easily distracted by the lurid Bollywood billboards rushing past the car window and promises of notebooks with endpapers of fuchsia block-printed flowers and new erasers in the shape of rabbits or fried eggs.
Bombay is steeped in perfume—from yards of jasmine and roses garlanding doors, to sandalwood burning at the fire temple, to a hundred different lunches cooking at the same time—there is always fragrance in the air. It might be ordinary, like freshly watered concrete walls or the starched muslin saris of nursery school teachers; or extraordinary, like the scent of raw silk stored in the recesses of a teak wardrobe. Its presence everywhere instilled the conviction in me that just as fragrance occupies a stratum deeper than sight or sound, majesty is also hidden beneath the surface of things, and majesty is an anchor that restrains and balances the chaos of experience. It is the primordial root that underlies even the most discordant things.
The general pandemonium of Bombay in the early 1970s serves as a visual alphabet. Through my travels and migrations, this alphabet continues to recombine, developing into a painterly language. In any form of communication, I have found the principles of restraint and balance to be the most formidable and eloquent.