By Shriyam Gupta
This week we meet Himanshu Verma, founder of Red Earth. The multifaceted Delhiwaala is an art curator, celebrator of Indian culture, a die-hard lover of the city, and is redefining the rules of the world through his work and style.
Curator, Performer, Walk-Conductor, Festival Organizer - is there anything you don't do?
I have trained myself to think like an eclectic multi arts person, and Red Earth has also been set up like that. The idea was that whatever projects we chose to do, we would try and mix these creative expressions and then explore a theme. That’s also been my biggest experience, to be as mad and as eclectic as possible.
Red Earth promotes Indian culture. Why is it important to preserve tradition and not let free thought prevail?
Tradition does not stop free thought, it tells you to experiment with new ideas. To an artist, it gives him or her a body of knowledge to fall back on. It’s important for the artist to understand the rules and test them according to contemporary relevance, before going ahead and breaking them.
Why is it important for us to preserve the informal culture that Delhi has?
I think that the informal is so much more spontaneous and so much of who we are. That is what makes Delhi special. In India, we have so many handicraft traditions, and they are losing out to the popular culture of glittering malls. We are losing the sense of neighborhood and connection between neighborhoods. People are moving away from the things that make Delhi, Delhi.
A must visit place in Delhi according to you?
After the flower markets, which are my favourite and I lead a walk there, I like Agrasen ki Baoli.
When did you start wearing sarees? Why do you enjoy doing so?
One reason I was able to do so was because I didn’t care about being labeled feminine, or any other adjective that may come to your mind when you see a man wearing a saree. I wasn’t really interested, because the saree spoke to me as a formal idea, as an artistic idea of my culture, and that's why I continue to engage with it.
Why the saree? Why not something like the dhoti that also embraces our culture?
I wear the dhoti very often, but the saree is more exciting because it's one garment that pulls you together unlike the dhoti, which has to be paired with a kurta. The saree is more of a wholesome garment; it's one piece of fabric that engulfs you. I love the feeling of being wrapped in it; it feels really grand, and at the same time very rooted and humble.