Soumya Aravind Sitaraman's penchant for art manifests itself in various forms
“She taught me to see”, says Soumya, looking at her mother with pride and admiration. Born into a family of luminaries, Soumya Aravind Sitaraman is orbiting success like her ancestors who defied the norm during their times. Her paternal grandmother, Alamelu Viswanathan, acted in the first black and white Tamil talkie and her maternal grandmother, Kumuda, was one of the first woman pilots in India. Her mother, Usha Kris is a renowned freelance photographer and a guest lecturer at St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. Trailing on a rich lineage, Soumya's artistic adroitness comes as no surprise.
Tryst with art
Soumya's tryst with tradition began at a tender age. She grew up in Chennai and wedlock took her to the Silicon Valley where she established herself as an eminent artist.
“I wanted to use art to bridge the gap of cultural differences and open the eyes of Americans to the beauty of India”, she says. While in California, she founded Shakti, a coalition of contemporary artists of Indian origin. Under the aegis of Shakti, budding artists exhibited their work at the Euphrat Museum of Art in Cupertino. Soumya's penchant for art manifested in various forms. She was the first Indian to be conferred the artist-in-residence award at the Works Gallery in San Jose where she created “Lifelines”, a series of 12 paintings that depict powerful stories of individuals living in an environment of diffused, diverse cultures. Soumya painted a 1972 model Volkswagen Bug that was featured in documentary filmmaker Harrod Blank's movie “Wild Wheels” and book titled “Art Cars”.
“Chachaji's Cup”, a children's book that has illustrations by Soumya is another work to her credit. Relocating to Bangalore with her family gave her an opportunity to immerse herself in the lore of India. “We don't always appreciate age-old traditions that are based on scientific reasoning”, she says, talking about the events that kindled her quest for a deeper understanding of Hinduism. She sought explanations for religious practices and rituals. “The more I asked, the more I learnt; the more I learnt, the more I asked”, says Soumya.
Her research took her to remote pockets of the country. “One gets to see a different dimension of India that you can't experience being out of the country”, says Soumya, while talking about her dive into the depths of our rich culture and heritage. “You come face-to-face with life”, she adds. The wealth of information that she had accrued over the years shaped up as a book titled “Follow The Hindu Moon”, a comprehensive guide to the festivals of South India. The richly illustrated coffee table book contains over a thousand photographs by Soumya's mother.
In India, celebration is a way of life. In keeping up with the spirit of celebration, Soumya is hosting a television show called “Let's Celebrate”.
“We need to bring a sense of pride in youngsters, so that our culture and heritage can be preserved,” she says, expressing her joy on being able to reach out to a larger section of the society through her show. This festival special will be aired on Sri Sankara TV. Soumya co-ordinates the entire spectrum of activities from shooting to editing of episodes of her show. “Creativity is a channel of expression”, she asserts while talking passionately about topics ranging from the Vedas to colours on the canvas.