VAN GOGH

What can I say about Vincent Van Gogh? I’m not an artist. I don’t know much about art. I am not qualified enough to critique the paintings of a Post impressionist modern artist.

However, a series of accidental and intentional events have bought me here.

My story with this phenomenal artist starts in 2013 Paris.

I’m on a student exchange trip. We’re at the Louvre museum. I understand nothing. We’re roaming around. Tired. Trying to make sense of the immense culture and value that this place holds. A professor is with us. She grabs me by my hand and tells me to hurry. We’ve to go see Gogh’s work.

I don’t know who Gogh is but I do know who my professor is. A woman I must not mess with.

I follow her and look at the work. A large group of people have gathered around to see it.

Back in the present. It’s 2020. I’ve just finished reading a book. Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman. To write this piece, I try to do some digging. What paintings of Gogh’s are on display in the Louvre? After some searching, the results show me that the Louvre like other museums, rotates pieces. I’m not too sure at this point if years back what I saw was even Vincent Van Gogh’s painting.

Returning from the trip, I never thought much about the art I had seen in Paris or Vincent Van Gogh. I was fifteen then. But soon, Gogh’s name started to appear all over. It was on We Heart It, Pinterest and Instagram. His painting, ‘The Starry night’ appeared on people’s canvases in an attempt to copy it, on wallpapers, the back of people’s jackets, T shirts. His quotes, some of which I’m not sure if he ever even said them, occupy a chunk of the internet and are quite popular among woke kids.

What does this all mean? Why am I rambling here?

Reading about Vincent’s life introduced me to the world of art. There is so much that goes behind a ‘piece’ when an artist creates. What was he thinking? Where did he make this? What was his mood like that day? Did he skip dinner to make it? What was the concept behind it? Was it for someone?

Why is there so much contrast? Why are there huge asses in this particular painting? Why are the colours so dull?

Some of Vincent’s earlier paintings are considered dull. For a long time, Vincent simply couldn’t afford the paints that he wanted and used the paints he could make use of!

What I’ve come to realize is that art is so much more than what meets the eye. Vincent’s story and his life is what makes his work so inspiring.

Reading the book made me realize that a lot of painters were involved in each others lives. They would go to each others exhibitions and talk about the paintings. Discuss. Critique. They would draw inspiration from other works. Like Vincent Van Gogh took inspiration from Japanese prints.

I got introduced to some beautiful words like pentimento and impasto.

This brief tryst with Van Gogh makes me want to dive deeper into the world of art and what moves it. Why people paint what they paint and how they paint it. What is it that makes art transcend barriers and be remembered for so long. These are questions I’m just beginning to ask myself.

But how cliche is it to like Van Gogh? Well, some things are cliche for a reason!

All I know is that I want to see new paintings, learn more about the artists. My journey has just began and It excites me more than anything.

Here I attach one of my favourite paintings by Vincent Van Gogh.

Almond Blossom- painted as a gift for his brother Theo’s son, Van Gogh’s namesake. His nephew was the founder of the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

'Blossoming Almond Tree, famous post impressionism fine art oil painting by Vincent van Gogh_ ' iPhone Case by naturematters

Review: Still Alice

Alzheimer’s disease is a well known entity in the world of Medicine. A disease that targets a huge chunk of the Geriatric demographic. But what happens when a seemingly healthy fifty year old woman presents with the symptoms? A reality known to many around the world as Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel ‘Still Alice’ is a fictional book written from the point of view of Dr Alice Howland. 

Written in third person, it closely follows Alice, who is a professor of Cognitive Psychology at Harvard and a world renowned linguistics expert. Dr. Alice is at the peak of her career, publishing papers, giving talks around the world, teaching at Harvard and mentoring students. After a few incidents of forgetting things, and being at a loss for words she assumes that these discrepancies are somehow related to being perimenopausal. When things start to worsen, she goes to a psychiatrist and is diagnosed with Early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Once diagnosed, she does everything possible to outsmart her disease. Making notes in her blackberry, writing letters to her future self. However, the disease is fast catching up to her which has been authentically portrayed in the novel. The writer’s PhD in Neuroscience and personal experience with her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s gives the book an extra edge with it’s accuracy.

We are sucked into Alice’s reality where she is struggling with the things she was once defined by. Her command over language, her intellect and her articulation. Alice’s husband who also works at Harvard is a hard centred go-getter man working in Cancer research. She feels left behind as she watches her husband’s career accelerate. You can feel how lonely she starts to get which paints the terrifying reality that thousands of people with this disease are grappling with on a daily basis.

It is difficult to ignore some hard hitting questions and scenarios that we are faced with. For me, three things stand out. The first being, the problem of delayed diagnosis in diseases like these especially in people who might lack awareness or resources. As a medical student, I understand that there is a protocol that we all follow to get to a diagnosis, starting with something that is most likely to occur. But this protocol can sometimes take a long time by the end of which the disease has progressed considerably.

This reiterates the need for what we consider to be one of the most important things in Medicine, public awareness . It could help people to seek care earlier.

The second is the lack of support groups for patients of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The book shows us a painful reality that there are numerous support groups for caregivers but none for the patient’s themselves which is something that we need to look into. Especially for people who are still in the early stages of this disease. And not to forget the fact that this is the picture in developed countries, while developing countries are struggling with the most basic things when it comes to conditions like these.

The final challenge is the part of the family. The book does a brilliant job at showing the readers that a lot of considerations have to made when a member gets diagnosed with something like this.

Should we move to that new city? Is this the right time to have a baby? And many others. It also highlights how in a situation like this, every person in the family has their own opinion as to what is correct and what isn’t when dealing with the affected member. 

An important quote to consider from the book is when Alice says, “I am not someone dying. I am someone living with Alzheimer’s.” Reading this book and understanding how a person in Alice’s shoes must be feeling, is a raging need of the hour!


Originally published in The Grey Matter Newsletter. SUBSCRIBE

An evening with you

These goddamn crows

won’t stop crowing 

I don’t blame them

 

A weather like this

can make anyone’s heart grow restless 

 

As we settle down

into our cushioned bamboo chairs

This view with you

and a steaming hot

cup of chai

seems to make

the idea of existing

in this world

bearable 

 

The five different shades of this sky

and this hurtful orange hue

seeping into the

abyss of my heart 

 

A ball point pen

and me underlining

in a new book

You don’t approve 

 

You writing notes

and your random gazes in my direction 

 

This balcony

the sun

setting over the buildings

overlooking people’s noisy kids running

around the garden 

 

This easeful hour

tempts me

to rest my head

on your shoulder

 

but a phone’s screen

can’t do that yet