As men take to loud combat on the war front, their women fight silent battles at home. Despite embracing peace, India has the highest number of war widows in the world, and their pain never gets due deliverance. Remembering what television talk show host and media executive Oprah Winfrey once famously said, ‘All pain feels the same’, artist Radhika Gupta has transformed her own personal agony of being a domestic violence survivor with that of the torment faced by war widows in India, into a colourful riot of visual depictions that attempts to break free from the claws of sufferance and extricate itself from societal perplexities. After all, pain, hers or their’s, carries the same emotional burden.
It took just one article on war widows for Gupta, to begin her rigorous investigation on the subject. “It was devastating to learn about their plight. The majority are widowed at age 30, left to take care of homes and children with meagre resources. They are forgotten people who live miserable lives despite their husbands being martyrs,” says Gupta.
According to the Department of Sainik Welfare’s data, close to 90 per cent army widows belong to rural areas. “Pensions don’t reach them, neither does compensation. What’s more, there is confusion over their identification. Things like who qualifies as a war widow, how much money is to be sanctioned within what time, is a big source of concern. The laws are all in place, it’s their execution that is a problem,” says the artist, who holds a double Bachelor in Law and Economics, and a Masters in Law (BC.L.) from the University of Oxford, UK.
After working in the Hague with the UN, she returned to India and began practising in the Supreme Court after which she specialised in International Arbitration. But the world of colours demanded her company. Through her abstractions and figures, she elucidates the many emotions a woman goes through, especially those under duress. “What it is like to live a life full of struggle, sapped of dignity what my work stands for,” she says.
This is not her first attempt to highlight such issues, and it won’t be her last. And, she doesn’t intend to keep any part of the collection from the sales. These are not just paintings that she’s exhibiting. These are actual lives that these women are bravely living. (Radha: March 30, from 11 am to 8 pm, at PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, August Kranti Marg)