THOUGH THE PEACH-SKINNED VO-LUPTUOUS WOMEN of his paintings still leave us entranced a hundred years after he first immortalised them on canvas, Raja Ravi Varma's life, artistic sprit and the ethos of his times have never been examined in such minutiae as Rupika Chawla's extravagant book Raja Ravi Varma: Painter of Colonial India (Mapin; Rs 3,950; 360 pages) does. The book is replete with personal notes, newspaper clippings from the era, letters, period photographs, court records, and anecdotes supplied by his patrons and friends. Light in tone, yet scholarly in terms of the research that went behind it, the book cannot be dismissed as just another book on yet another great artist. Read it to discover the artistic spirit that drove Varma, and the politics and culture that shaped him into a legend.
According to African wisdom, it takes a village to raise a child. In a dusty hamlet 50 km from Jaipur, it has taken one woman to raise a village. A drive through Kotjewar reveals signs of prosperity—cement houses, the sounds of tele- visions blaring, a sturdy schoolhouse—juxtaposed against the crumbling mud houses and narrow alleyways of the past, preserved almost as a badge of pride to show how far this village has come. The key to Kotjewar's progress is the exquisite blue pottery it produces; it was unlocked by 60 year-old Leela Bordia. Over the years, Bordia has established eight pottery units in this village of about 1,000 people. She comes here regularly, sitting comfortably cross-legged amid the artisans, sharing their lives, and her ideas. The collaboration has re-sulted in an array of prod¬ucts: door knobs, beads, candles, incense stick stands, bathroom fittings, lanterns, coasters, napkin holders, perfume bottles and decanters along with a variety of tiles, lamps, coffee tables and tableware. And this fine merchandise has not just set cash registers ringing across India and overseas, it has kept the home fires of Kotjewar burning strong and proud. "This is all Baiji's doing," says Lala Ram, a 50-something artisan