There is an almighty whirr, and a large motorcycle shudders into view. It’s been painted green, and the words “Royal Enfield” are barely visible on its bulky, throbbing engine. Jey takes off his helmet, revealing a shock of long dark hair, and sunglasses with dark red rims. Meenakshi hops off as well, undoing her scarf that’s protecting her from the fierce Bihar sun. It’s been a long ride. A really long one. They’ve been riding that motorcycle all over India.
Their common love for travel, Sushil’s passion for riding his Royal Enfield Bullet and Meenakshi’s talent with art has culminated in a collaborative, inspiring, one of a kind project called Artologue.
Sushil and Meenakshi travel to the length and breadth of the country, on a Bullet, to create art on walls.
“We travel on a Bullet to people’s homes (whoever invites us) and spend few days with them. During our stay, we paint one small wall of their house, involving them in the process of painting- right from idea of painting to the execution of painting”
While they began with homes, their project has expanded into schools, institutions and whoever else would like invite them. Their canvas so to say has included over 25 homes, 15 school walls, orphanages, a police station and even a jail!
And that’s not it. Unlike a lot of others, Sushil hasn’t quit his job for this project. An MA in International Relations from JNU and MPhil in Diplomacy from JNU, Sushil’s been a journalist from last 15 years out of which 11 years are with BBC Hindi, where he currently handles social media for BBC hindi. While Meenakshi is a professional Artist who has done her MA in Ancient History from JNU and M.phil in Art history/liberal studies from Ambedkar University.
During her Mphil on traditional arts in India, and despite an offer of PhD from SOAS London, Meenakshi decided to pursue art full time as a career and today is an independent artist, who along with Artologue, also hosts exhibitions for her works.
“Artologue is one of her projects in which she seeks to work with common people as she believes that art is for all. She also feels that art studios have created a wall between artists and common people and Artologue is a project to connect people with art.”, gushes the proud husband about Meenakshi.
The inspiration for Artologue came to the couple while on a bike ride from their university to their home! In 2013, the couple started asking their friends to come to their house and paint with them. Soon, they even extended the invite to people on Facebook, which was a success as people from different backgrounds came over to their house, and collaborated with them. Encouraged by the response, the couple planned their pilot trip to Bombay and Goa. They also documented their experience on a blog, which again was received well, prompting them to plan a 30 days trip in 2014.
They started started from Pune and travelled through Goa, Mangalore, Bangalore, Hosur and Chennai, ending a one month trip.
The same year, they went to Kashmir- On the Bullet-Stopping by at homes in Ludhiana, Udhampur, Sri Nagar and back to Udhampur.
“I have 35 days leave in a year. I utilize all of them for Artologue, but this one time when I had planned for 45 days, I had to take a 30 days leave-without-pay”, says Sushil on being asked how he manages to travel for so long with a full-time job.
The couple is just back from a 45 day trip across Bihar where their art repertoire included a school in Patna, one in the red light area for the children of sex workers in Muzzafarpur, an engineering college, an orphanage, a police station, and a tribal village.
“This tribal rickshaw puller called us to his home, cooked chicken for us in return for our art”, smiles Meenakshi.
While Meenakshi’s studio paintings are different- an amalgamation of a lot of contemporary work, sometimes issue-based, and mix various forms and media, the murals in Artologue are based on people’s feedback, their ideas and their themes. They even let the people first sketch the basic idea and Meenakshi then takes over and works her artist’s magic on it. The couple carries their own art supplies, which is a part of their travel gear on the bike!
The couple travels to homes, based on invites only, and all their art is done free of charge, though they are open to receiving payment if the host wishes to. They’re also open to being invited by companies.
Meenakshi and Sushil visit homes as strangers, but leave a friend, not only leaving behind a gift of their art, permanently preserved on the walls, but also a lot of cherishable memories.
“Sushil and Meenakshi zoomed into our home in reality, on a gunghroo-decked Bullet. Fondness and gratefulness towards them were building up in us and we truly believe that God assigns guardian angels for everyone and the duo were the ones for our precious one in Delhi. It was the homecoming of another son and daughter. Every second was filled with fun, joy and laughter. We just adored this ‘sizzling couple’ from the word go…
…there’s one aspect that I strongly believe that other’s too have voiced, is that in this present crazily materialistic world, it’s such an inspiration to all couples across ages to look at them and understand what a priceless relationship marriage is all about. Sushil works for five days a week for eleven months and spends a whole month exclusively for his wife and going places for her Art’s sake” (read more here)
With 50 invitations from across the country and also from the UK And US, the couple has a lot of options to plan their next trip.
In the meanwhile Meenakshi is also working on a solo exhibition and has a couple of books in the pipeline. The couple is also working together on an art book.
While this project has not only helped Sushil and Meenakshi- who have varied personal interests and personalities- bond as a couple, it has helped break the monotony of a normal life and has given them a lifetime experience.
“I love meeting new people from different walks of life, living with them, experiencing their lifestyle, their culture, writing about them and riding my bike, while Meenakshi fulfils her desire to create art”