95 yr old artist defines passion creativity life and defies age

My encounter with Robert Amft, the 95 year old American artist : by Horst Vollman.

As I rang the doorbell to Robert Amft’s home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on a sunny January afternoon in 2012, I knew that I was about to meet an American icon, an artist whose versatility is unmatched in the art world. Amft, at the age of 95, still produces art to please  himself, first and foremost.

I was cautioned that Robert Amft was wheelchair-bound, with little energy to spare, not to ask too many questions and to keep my exuberance in check. Thus, I entered the room with the hesitation of one who expected to find an ailing man in whose presence words had to be spoken tentatively. His firm, even strong handshake quickly dispelled any such notion. His eyes seemed to belong to a man half his age, his voice had a firmness that belied his 95 years. When, after a while I worked up the courage to ask him personal questions I wanted to know whether his continued painting at this age was a yearning to express unfulfilled dreams. He looked at me the way an errant child is to be taken to task. “Painting is my life” he explained softly,

“sometimes in my dreams I paint and when I wake up I actually want to walk to my easel, forgetting that I need a wheel chair.” There was a pensive smile on his face when he said it. “Honestly, the fact that I still paint has nothing to do with regrets or unfulfilled dreams. Quite the contrary, most of my dreams have come true. Look at this easel. When I sit there I feel happy, no thoughts intrude. Something inside me happens that is hard to explain but let me try it anyway.” Haltingly first, then increasingly firm, he began to open up. “My life is about colors, light and compositions, about brush strokes, charcoal sketches, about a canvas I want to cover with something that only at that very moment develops. I never know in advance what it is going to be but I am always surprised again about the outcome. I don’t analyze, never did. When I paint, everything flows, I forget who I am, age and time lose all meaning. I become part of the process. I would almost push it further and say, I am the process.”

He paused and his look became nearly wistful as though my question had touched a special chord. “I once read that the painter uses the canvas as a battlefield for unresolved emotions where every brushstroke is a Freudian slip. My goodness, the art world reads too much into us. At the end of the day artists are just ordinary people with a talent to paint. When I look at a canvas I don’t see the outside world. At these moments I feel happy, yes, just simply happy. The outcome is not what matters. When I am in that state it is of no consequence to me if my work is liked or rejected.”

He loves Picasso and Matisse, those were the true masters, they inspired him throughout his life. Both had painted into their 90s and he felt that their ability had not been diminished by age. “You may find it hard to believe, but my best water colors I have made at 85. I would still do sculptures, collages and photography but I lack the physical strength. When I was 94 passed the annual mandatory Chicago driver’s test and lived by myself in a large 3 story walk up apartment. I did my own grocery shopping, drove to the library three times a week but after I broke my hip I had to slow down after the surgery. Now, that I need help, I am fortunate to live with my daughter, so I moved to Myrtle Beach”. With a twinkle in his eye he continued.

“When I cannot hold a brush anymore, my caretaker will hold it for me. I am not kidding when I tell you that I will open an art factory, subcontract my work and go about explaining the theory of enlisting others to implement my art. This would be based on my blue prints to conceptualize my Mona by combining colors, in fields, stripes, even use drippings. There could be variations of rectangular forms, triangles, ovals, and for the dots I would invite Damien Hirst, he is the expert.” He broke into an animated laugh but quickly became serious again. “Hirst did at the most 25 paintings by himself, out of 5,000.” With a wink he continued, “my best seller might be a Kinkade type Mona Lisa in a Paris gaslight setting. Seriously, the marketing guys may perk up their ears. “

“In the 40s I made a painting of a commercial box. The first time my wife saw a Warhol in the 60s she said ‘look, they are making art now the way you did 20 years ago!’ 25 years later they named that Box Pop Art.” We fell silent for a moment and I was thinking what could have been. I was moved by the singularity of this man and his devotion to his art. Painting for him is living in the moment, when all becomes reduced to a single function, detached from all outside influence, much like the dreamy state of a child that is lost in reverie. In fact, there was something endearingly childlike about him when he answered my questions, often accompanied by giggles and chuckles.

Painting, although the love of his life, does not occupy all his days. He enjoys playing the piano which he had taught himself and which he does amazingly well. While in Chicago he read 2 books a week, often about complex subjects. Yet, he never felt comfortable, or for that matter may have been too shy, to make profound statements about his art. For him, lofty and cerebral language is for the critics to use. If anything, it detracts from the power of his work. He strongly believes that art is not to be defined by language. It speaks for itself. “I feel sorry for the artists who need to explain their work, to talk about a depth that is not evident in the painting. They make them say words that sound scripted. Poor guys.

We both were silent for a moment when he finally spoke again. “I am not a lonely man, I still play the piano. I never go back to the past in my thoughts to evoke the so-called good old days. It takes away from the present. That is why old people live such miserable lives. They constantly think of the past, leaving little room for the now. I am very content with the way things are, I will soon paint again in earnest after my eye surgery. How much better can it get?”

For 70 years Amft’s styles defied categorization, his trademark remained humor and irony and the use of brilliant colors. Although he loves Picasso and Matisse he still is hesitant to put names to those who influenced him most. The primitivists, surrealists and German expressionists, they all left their indelible imprint on his artistic soul.

My introductory question still gnawed at him. “In a way I would want to go back to the days when it was less of a bother to set up the easel, mix the colors, prepare the canvas but it does not keep me from working. My dreams may not have been fulfilled if the size of my bank account is all that matters. But I have lived a wonderful life.” It was almost an afterthought when I asked him whether he felt forgotten or rejected by the art establishment. The answer came quick and to the point. “I don’t think that way. I was never rejected. I exhibited in many galleries, sold a great deal of my work. I actually made a living which tens of thousands of artists in New York were not capable of. I enjoyed many moments of fame, they never lasted. Maybe I was not an astute self-promoter, did not really market my art, even though I sold many paintings.” He conceded, that fame might have an irresistible lure for many of those who are swept into the glare of notoriety. For him, fame may have caused the motor that drives his creativity to slow down. Fame could feed the ego so well and create a false sense of artistic accomplishment. None of that he wanted to be part of. What he wanted most was to express with art what he could never say with words.

All had started for Amft in Chicago. He had decided to stay in the city of his birth, where he raised his family. The Chicago Art Institute had trained its sight on New York, Paris, at that time the art centers of the world, and had studiously neglected its own artists. With a hint of sarcasm he mused, “they simply forgot to look north to Evanston, where I lived, to see my work.” He had toyed with the idea to move to New York but abandoned it quickly when after visiting an artist friend he saw appalling living conditions. The fact became clear to him that thousands of artists would never be noticed, simply could not make a living.

More than 60 years have gone by after these fateful times, that could have catapulted him to fame and riches, years when Jackson Pollock became the poster child of the art elite in New York. I had to know what he thinks today about the 40s and 50s when art critic Clement Greenberg had decreed that abstract expressionism was to be the only valid form of creativity. Amft could not ever understand that art had to be categorized, to become a movement. For him it was anathema to cover a canvas with the same motif, over and over again, to be pressed into a mold without wanting to break out, because the art world had dictated it. He had done abstract paintings at a time when nobody in the U.S. had given it a name. He effortlessly weaved through styles the way a Picasso had done in his time and Amft did it all his life. There was a trace of wistfulness in his voice when he spoke about the realization of having missed the big one, the one that got away. Understanding who he was and how much happiness he had found when sitting in front of a canvas his answer came as no surprise:

“I have no regrets, I made my decisions the way I did, I simply chose to be the person I always wanted to be.” The trappings of fame, the black-tie events to bestow life-time awards on artists, never appealed to him. He did not want to explain art in the jargon of the critics and didn’t feel he had to. “I was famous a thousand times, when I received numerous awards, when the critics wrote many articles about me. Fame never made me paint better. It just does not mean much to me. Of course I would like the world to see my paintings. I live in exciting times, 2012, imagine I was born in 1916 during the Great War. And here I am, still painting. I never dreamt that my work, now digitized, can be seen by the world. How beautiful is that?”

As I said good bye to a newly found friend and gently closed the door behind me I realized with sudden clarity that the world is unquestionably a better place with people like Robert Amft still around, a man for whom life still holds many promises.

43 thoughts on “95 yr old artist defines passion creativity life and defies age

  1. So refreshing!

    How many in the world get to live their heart’s way?

    Most of us compromise! We want to do something from within, but, we are unable to bring it outside, perhaps due to circumstances, perhaps due to civilisation, perhaps due to culture….. Prarabhda Karma.

    The world is a happy place to be, when we live our heart, for there is no difference between the world and heart, in this amazing art!


  2. Quote
    He did not want to explain art in the jargon of the critics and didn’t feel he had to. “I was famous a thousand times, when I received numerous awards, when the critics wrote many articles about me. Fame never made me paint better. It just does not mean much to me.


    Thanks to you and Host Vollman for sharing..

  3. Artists and art never grow old they enrich us all the time. I’m feeling like future is going to be much exciting as is present. Nice interview and as usual nice commentary Shekhar. Thanks for writing it.

  4. “Fame could feed the ego so well and create a false sense of artistic accomplishment. None of that he wanted to be part of. What he wanted most was to express with art what he could never say with words.” Well said.

    “My dreams may not have been fulfilled if the size of my bank account is all that matters. But I have lived a wonderful life.” Well said. As for living a wonderful life, good for you, Sir.

    Reading this post inspires me to take risks to pursue my dreams. Size of the bank account should not matter much, as long as I do not leave debt for my survivors, or not return loans from friends and family.

  5. Its a tricky thing – this thing called the Ego. It dies hard and is very hard to transcend , let alone allow a transformation !

    How is identifying with the ‘process’ , or ‘ journey’ , going to help anyone spiritually ? These are dramatic sentiments and sound lofty but with no real use for soul advancement. It is a necessary step – but only a basic first step.

    When we lose oursleves in our Art ( it could be Soldiering , Doctoring , Engineering , Accounting , Film Directing or Painting or whatever ) , there is a degree of loss of mind.

    But The Desire , the Endless Desire to promote one’s Ego , Desire that is ‘defying Age’ – is more a Crisis of Purpose than a Show of it ! The real acid test is the Lack of Desire – and no one can tell this from Externals !

    Anyway – i’m wasting my time writing here.

  6. There are really really very good reders for this blog..although the comments are for the blog owner for blog posts, many times I again and again read some of the comments and try to learn or understand some new things..Rudra is one of such reader among.

    And this is why I take liberty to express further. You have rightly said about ‘Ego’..cause sanskar/karma always through you or keep busy yourself in the cycle of ‘death and birth’..and in this process the ‘jeeava’ forgets that he is ‘Shiva’ unless some divine soul intervenes..I think you are saying this as basic step..

    I am confused here, cause you had said

    The real acid test is the Lack of Desire – and no one can tell this from Externals !


    When we lose oursleves in our Art ( it could be Soldiering , Doctoring , Engineering , Accounting , Film Directing or Painting or whatever ) , there is a degree of loss of mind.

    How do you know that, that there is degree of loss of mind, externally !

    when you loose your mind..rather when your mind dies you also loose desire…Pragnya starts getting averted..Chitta starts getting purified..and the soul in the pure form starts appearing…

    the saint kabir like personality describes this experience as ‘one doll of golden rest all of mud’..’Aik gudiya sone ki baki sab mitti ki’, why kabir only can experience, cause such personality only can experience how Brahma and Maya are one and also two/separate at the same moment..The pure soul is brahma..the golden doll rest all are covered by Maya..hence are called of mud..The personality like Kabir when finds his own self in the pure form in others calls it as golden doll, in others he finds that it has been covered by sanskar/karma of past life and says they are mud dolls.

    kabir gives all the examples from external words and talks about internal facts..

    When I read many times to your comments, they are dry or like they pinch like a hunter or sharp words of father a figure..which may be a necessary..

    Anyway – i’m wasting my time writing here.

    I see an optimism, in this although it looks like discouraging..and effectiveness of such statements can be increased(father figures changes to mother figure) by a Yogi or a follower by Bhajans..this is what is said my any enlighten souls in their writings..

    What do you say


  7. Rudra,

    On this blog, I do look forward to Rudra’s point of view. On this post, Rudra said,
    “Anyway – i’m wasting my time writing here.”
    I hope you do not disappear from this blog, but your this line increased my resolve to re-read your comment and write this comment.

    “Its a tricky thing – this thing called the Ego. It dies hard and is very hard to transcend , let alone allow a transformation !”
    Are you alluding Mr. Amst’s is working at 95 to fill his ego? I believe he is working because he can, and he loves to paint. He said he is not working for awards or bank-balance, so I conclude he is not working to fill his ego. And before we denounce ego, let us not forget genuine pride. Many years ago, the slogan on American commercials and products was “crafted with pride, made in America!”

    “How is identifying with the ‘process’ , or ‘ journey’ , going to help anyone spiritually ? These are dramatic sentiments and sound lofty but with no real use for soul advancement. It is a necessary step – but only a basic first step.”
    What is your definition of soul advancement? Mr. Amst says that when he is in the process of painting, he forgets who he is. Just like the man who wrote Ramayana or Mahabharata said that he put his pen on paper and the story wrote itself. It is a spiritual thing to be involved in your work.

    “When we lose oursleves in our Art ( it could be Soldiering , Doctoring , Engineering , Accounting , Film Directing or Painting or whatever ) , there is a degree of loss of mind.”
    This is what Shekhar was suggesting in one of his recent blogs when he said I am going to be “vulnerable” (and compassionate). So, is there anything wrong with losing ourselves in our art?

    “But The Desire , the Endless Desire to promote one’s Ego , Desire that is ‘defying Age’ – is more a Crisis of Purpose than a Show of it !”
    Yes, the desire to promote one’s ego is a crisis. I have already stated that Mr. Amst does not desire to promote his ego. As for ‘defying Age’ to conform to conventionality, I am all for it. I am all for living a productive life for as long as you can. I would not defy age to take on additional responsibilities in my senior years. For example, I would not father a child in my senior years since I realistically know that I will not live to be a father to this child till be attains adulthood.

    “The real acid test is the Lack of Desire – and no one can tell this from Externals !”
    I am confused about desire or lack of it. As one popular Bollywood song goes, “Chahat ne hoti, tow tu bhi ne hota, main bhi ne hoti (if there was no desire, then you would not exist and I would not exist)”. On the other hand, Gandhiji became a naked fakir to identify with the majority of Indians of his time. Should we all live a vow of perpetual poverty?

  8. @Rudra, @Subodh Deshpande, @RajuK

    A Zen proverb goes – “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.”

    Who knows? what is what? what matters is ones own self, not anybody else’s.

    What we see of others, is actually our own making, and, not them really!


  9. Well, it appears that Mr. Amft is a happy, balanced and content soul.

    It’s a rare individual who can continue to approach his work with child like purity, enthusiasm and glee.

    And even more rare an individual, who continues to breathe, live and die in his creative pursuit with fearless determination.

    Such individuals are guided by a higher force and come around once in a life time.

    Do they pay a price for it? Sure, they do. We make them.

    Some response to Rudra’s comment:

    Identifying with a process or journey is as important as the the goal. If one cannot look back, weigh up and appreciate all that has happened during the course of the process, one has missed out on a great deal.

    There is not a single invention in this world that was a success in its first attempt.

    Patterns or Karmic lessons are the processes and journeys that we all make.

    One does not know where the journey will lead to or how it might end, till it actually ends. But to be able to revisit the journey by means of introspection, one gets an opportunity to acknowledge the lessons, appreciate them, and time and intent permitting, do something about them.

    There is never a degree of ‘loss of mind’ when one looses oneself in art. There is always gain. Each one defines and weighs the outcome of their gain differently. Its all relative and very personal. What might be ‘loss of mind’ to one, might be single minded devotion to another. It might be worship. It might be passion. It might be focus. We all define our inspiration differently. The channels and mediums are all a part of the journey.

    “But The Desire , the Endless Desire to promote one’s Ego , Desire that is ‘defying Age’ – is more a Crisis of Purpose than a Show of it ! The real acid test is the Lack of Desire – and no one can tell this from Externals !”

    What is the crisis of purpose here? Here is an individual who even at the age of 95, continues to be happy doing what he loves. Why should his age become a barrier or be viewed as a crisis of purpose? The very fact that this man refuses to give up and continues with his pursuit, is testament to the fact that he has always challenged himself. By his own standards. Not by anyone else’s. What is wrong with that?

    Intent and Will and always more powerful than desire.
    Mr. Amft’s intent and will are both outstandingly powerful and resilient.
    And that can only come from a very personal journey.

  10. Subodh, Raju & other Friends,

    I am tired of Indians like Shekhar blowing up and trumpeting even the common experiences of a white skinned guy as some kind of a ‘defining’ thing.

    Arre Shekhar , in India there are so many people who show more ‘defining’ examples of ‘passion’ , ‘creativity’ and ‘life’. What is most striking is , One Single Question from Shekhar – went in like an Arrow into this 95 year old man’s heart and he could not stop speaking in Cliches. Yes , Sorry to disappoint you guys , but there is nothing Original in what this 95 year old has to say.

    If anything , his reaction to Shekhar’s pointed question , if his continued work at 95 is ‘a yearning to express unfulfilled dreams’ tells me – he is quite unresolved and is desperately trying to find a purpose in an otherwise meaningless life.

    By the way , Subodh : I am 29 years old and dont fit into the ‘ father figure’ you mentioned !! Dude , I just dont compromise on the facts and what I conclude from them , unless there is a better argument – in which case , I will always be the first to accept loss.

    Anyway – Indians have forgotten what is ‘Purvapaksh’ – that ability to return the Gaze, logically.

    Raju : Go for the sense of what i ‘m saying , instead of breaking up each sentence – of course one cannot tell from externals , what the internal state of someone is – there are so many ‘ Religious’ , ‘Pious’ people who act with humility , but have the most evil hearts – example , look at Pope Benedict , the condoner of Paedophile Bishops , who wants to convert India and who was an ex SS Nazi officer and then goes to Auswitz to ‘pray and begs god why the jew haulocaust was not avoided’ !

    No , dudes , lets not fall for that !

  11. Shekhar,

    Are you also desperately trying to find purpose , in an otherwise meaningless Life ?


  12. Thanks Shekhar, Rudra, Chunmun and Ganesh for your feedbacks.

    Googled, “Purpose of Life”. Mind boggling, one lifetime is not sufficient to read all the hits on Google. Couple of interesting posts, on purpose of life.

    1) by Fabienne

    Aug 11 11, 1:02 pm PST
    To know the reason of your existence, it is simple, ask to who create you = God

    If Bill Gate created a software, it is not for the software to ask himself, what on earth I am here for, it should ask that question to Bill Gates.

    Success is not to fulfill your dream, it is fulfiill what you were created for : if a mobile phone didn’t want to be used to phone, it’s not a success because it was created to be used to phone.

    2) by kate1

    Oct 20 11, 8:14 am PST
    How do you explain the Discrepancy between the number one value of financial stability on peoples value list and living your live happily while following your passions and desires?

    If I only would follow my passions and could not support my family. I would go diving and fishing the whole day. We live in a materialistic world. There is no unconditional love between humans. Only a dog can give you that. Even if you decide you only want to dedicate your time and life to helping others you need to find a way how to finance that. You need to find sponsors or do that through donations to make a living. It is just shifting your value of financial stability but at the end you take money from people to live your dreams. Financial stability is one of the most important values in our society because the society demands it. If you want to live in a world where money does not matter than you need to practice communism and live in a that country.

    Above comments were on http://thinksimplenow.com/happiness/life-on-purpose-15-questions-to-discover-your-personal-mission/

    As one chinese proverb says, “talk for one day, then read for 3 days.” I will be back when I have something to say, or ask.

  13. Ganesh ,

    You are absolutely right. No one can know the internal state of another , unless they themselves are in the same state.

    That is why , only a true Yogi can identify another Yogi.

    Whereas , in the times we live in , just by wearing a few coloured robes ( whatever religion it may be) , and saying a few buzz words , seem to convince people of their ‘spirituality’ !

    Anyway – the Zen sentence is inspired by Vedic ‘Karma Yoga’ philosophy. External renunciation does nothing – it is the internal renunciation that is meant by real attainment. So chop wood carry water before or after enlightenment is a colourful way of saying the same thing.

  14. It reminded me our own Dev Saab… fountainhead of energy and enthusiasm!

    And the Ego bit: its like the shell of an Egg… until the chicken cracks out, the shell is necessary for the chick to get protected and nurtured, but the day will soon come that Shell will have to give way, and make the transcendence happen for the chicken to come out to a new life. Ego is neither good nor bad, so long we are aware how we are exercising it…. its necessary for a certain evolution, but it has to transcend of its own accord as we leave the shores to a new dimension of existence. Thanks Shekhar for a wonderful write up!

  15. off topic.
    Shabnam Virmani’s short film on her hunt for folk purists who sing Kabir from the soul– “Had, Anhad” is not to be missed.

    Also, if you can get a recording of the Carter Rd concert of the kabir festival– out of this world, all standing room only

  16. There is a lot of truthfulness in Rudra is saying and..and at the same time Why I liked reading about Mr Amft is, if any one looked at western culture, then will say, it is totally different, more importance for materialistic gain, where as the eastern culture is different. The theory of Karma is very much known in India, detachment to life is told..life is meaningless is told in many ways.

    You do your Karma and leave the rest to God..this is the mantra…agreed..and this is why some people can definitely say..there is nothing great in what Mr Amft is doing.. In India there are lot of people they live such life..

    I think, unknowingly Mr Amft has travelled on the path of Karma…that is what is important..


  17. Rudra,
    you reared your head to speak nonsense again.
    shekhar doesnt ask you to read his blog, yet you come unabashedly and spew racist comments.
    Why not spend retrospecting on your meaningless existence?

  18. I cannot understand why Rudra would have a problem appreciating the life of a great iconic artist . Indians are some of the most racist people on the planet. And people like Rudra on this blog will never learn that the West has taught the rest of the world everything you take for granted and you can thank the West for the very tools you use to communicate today including that IBM compatible pc you type on. Shekhar Kapur should not let racist and dangerous people like Rudra to post their poisonous and jigoistic anti West messages. Rudra shows all signs of a Fascist and there is no editing on this site it seems. India is the way it is because of its superstitious primitive culture (sorry, but that is the Truth) and complicated philosophy that no one else in the world honestly cares.

  19. I met Robert Amft in 1985 as a student and he was remarkable even then. He seemed very aware of his art and his would-be impact on the world of art. I dont want to get into the discussion on ego , but let me say this , all artists have a highly developed sense of ego ! which is necessary for their art work. So I would say his purpose and his ego are the same , unlike many of us who want to do something and end up doing something else altogether ! I started off as an art student and got into finance and now work for a dusty ( gold dusty but still dusty) investment bank.

    I read your blog and people like Rudrz are the new breed cocky Indians who think everything comes from India. I would like to introduce him to one of my Greek friends , who believes everything can be traced to the Greeks. We have a good laugh at his expence for some of the things he says and if he was in the same room as Rudra , they would kill eachother . Good riddance too !

    India and Indians must be thankful for the Western institutions that have shaped India into a country that never was. To see an iconic artist as white skinned is a disgrace. Be ashamed Rudra and look around you, the world is full of Western symbols of advancement you cannot wish away. you live in a world dominated by the west and it will alway be that way.

  20. I want to add that I am hoping that the discussions do not get antagonistic and stay appreciative that some one else has a point of view that they are willing to state. I myself do not like it when the discussion gets completely sidelined by very fundamentalistic views just in order to take the attention away. There is too much of that happening in out world in any case. But I try to stay away from editorial unless the it is obvious that someone is usurping the blog for their private angst.

    Private angst does lead to some of the best writing and art that we know, but it becomes obvious when the private angst gets usurped in an attention seeking need and cry that only says “I am right” and believes any other point of view silly or stupid.

    What it is doing is keeping other bloggers away, keeping real discussions away, keeping a desire to learn from each other away.

    So I am afraid I have decided to put some editorial in the comments section,


  21. The truth is India has never produced nor will ever produce the kind of intellectual output as the West has. If Indians do , it is because they are educated in the West , or are given Western style education in India. So I too find the misplaced arrogance of some Indians highly offensive. It is shocking for anyone who is not politically correct to give any respect to a culture that lacks basic human rights , canot feed itself nor has the decnecy to treat its own women equally ! India is fast becomming the rape capital of the world.

    Any answers , Rudra ?

  22. There is no doubt, India has lost its past glory and it cannot be denied that today, the wisdom of India cannot be claimed as our glory as we have discarded our traditions, culture, values, ethics, morality, everything! Today, India is waging war, and, the war is waged between the secular fundamentalists, religious fanatics and modern out-lookers. The ones with moderation have no choice but to keep quiet!

    But having said this, there is a transformation going on. The outcome is yet to come, it will take much time though!

    Lord Macaulay’s speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below:

    “I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

    I miss such a country today!


  23. There is a lot to learn from people like Mr. Amft (I do not see any ego in the text of that interview but if anyone sees some ego that is also justified). his life, his art, his experience is what the the subject of the blog..I liked reading.

    For many others I would like to inform, it is true that India has lost its past glory…the invention of aeroplane was by Indians..but they were forced to sell their invention to foreigners(Wright brothers) when India was ruled by British…The invention of ‘0’ was by an Indian..on which todays every branch of science is based on..

    Rudra, in general whatever said about ego is true..many of the things also can be true but not everything..

    I do not know what if Mr Amft was black then how others would have have reacted to it..

    Racists, Intolerant people can be found every where, today this is becoming a threat in many places. I watch television read news papers there are a lot of people from India who were killed recently by racists in other countries..does that mean those countries are racists..so just be cool..

    Thanks Shekarji and Host Vollman for sharing few things about Mr Amft…Subodh

  24. Guys – Let us stick to what Shekhar wants us to read and learn from the post. In any way, I don’t think its about “India v/s west”. I personally believe that we get to learn every time we do something. We could be meeting a person, be on our way to office, or even going about with our daily chores.

    The fact that Shekhar has chosen to put his learnings in this post doesn’t mean that we twist the meanings or read between the lines.

    I believe he has achieved what he has today only because he is willing to be a student ALWAYS. Today, there will be no producer at least in India who won’t give his right arm to work with such a great director like him. Yet, he firmly believes, he can get to learn from some one else. If that’s not true humility, I don’t know what else is.

  25. Mr. Crenshaw, Mr. Lee and Ms. Cindy:

    The reason Bharat Varsh is suffering so badly is because she is being manipulated, adulterated and forced to follow the regressive path by a vatican nominated agent called Antonia Maino since May,1991. Apparently she was in north america recently for a health procedure, nobody knows wht this procedure was, if it was paid for by the taxpayer funds or if it was even necessary at all!

    Thanks very very much for describing the most ancient civilization of this planet in the most appealing format to pseudo-celebs like SK. All three of you will be all-time personal favourites on Sk.com

  26. David–

    Could you kindly elaborate on why ‘the West is the way it is’ and in a position to ‘teach the rest of the world’ what others take for granted?

  27. It really is silly if this goes down as a heated debate of east/India v/s the West. How can any one view be representative of the whole?

    Those who think India is not intellectually developed, will be easily humbled and astounded when faced with the incredible depth and breadth of intellectual advancement achieved aeons ago in this land at a time when Europe was grappling with primitive levels of human organisation and needs . It will take one a few lifetimes if not more to comprehend the richness of human thought achieved in the Indian sub-continent. The Greek philosophy was a much recent development in comparison. A few verses from a work like Adi Shankara’s Atmabodha will consume volumes of positions developed in Greek philosophy. Most of this however is not of interest to the world today, and lot of it lost. While the English language has unified much of the world, it has also taken the human interest away from ancient languages like Sanskrit which even today when pursued open the windows into the rich repository of human thought and advances of the Indian mind. The western mind’s uni-dimensional rationality led ethos has got itself riddled with excessiveness and overconsumption materially. The western mind has excelled at solving the problems of the world outside, but simply forgotten its place in the whole design. A highly underdeveloped and spiritually-deficient mind caught in a terrible morass of isolation, depression, chaos, dissatisfaction, strife and division. One that has empowered an individual ego through limited facets of logic and rationality. Forgetting to realise its true human potential.

    And then there are those like Rudra who take immense pride at being close to their Indian legacy. Using every ounce of it to rally support for their unsettled egos. It takes immense maturity to absorb the spiritual wisdom of this land. In the hands of the otherwise intellectually brilliant and unripe egos like his, unfortunately such a wisdom tradition only serves to boost ego defences. The very essence of this legacy is lost when it serves to strengthen individual ego, when it breeds a highly divided self -serving dry intellect. This spiritual super-ego is of the worst kind, one that a spiritual aspirant only realises himself to be in the grip off when the mind settles. Until then it simply is incapable of seeing beyond the construct of its convictions. However the same Indian spiritual tradition points a seeker to this ego-disease and helps transcend it.

    If I am not mistaken, Shekhar you must be holding a tight grip on the editorial when it comes to Rudra, he seems to go through cycles of being snubbed and let loose here. Looking back, however much he intends to state his distaste for a lot of that goes on here, your website refuses to be uninteresting for him. He will gnaw at that editorial leash and break free again :-).

    It is human nature to perceive division and differentiation as much as it instinctively yearns for unification in all its pursuits. To see the world as a western or eastern eventually is simply down to personal conditioning, and to the maturity of the individual. When believed in deeply, such divisions hold one rooted in their ‘apparent’ sense of reality. The human mind is capable of taking strong positions and also seeing through their falseness too. This vast cycle of creation and destruction employs all facets of the mind, including its conditioning. To see its limited nature and explore the unlimited potential is something the Indian tradition still has to offer to the world. It will have to do so while dealing with apparent human illnesses like the ones Cindy talks about.

    Right in middle of this divided debate, for me lies the seemingly forgotten article written by Horst. Horst, thank you for the lovely note. The world when seen through your window is a joy to look at. It does not need any special sensibility to appreciate the joys and tribulations of Robert Amft’s human experience. Where is the question of American or Indian in such an experience? It simply needs one to be open, child like.

  28. Dear Shekhar sir , you are a great director and I am an admirer of your blog . It has many topics and very interesting and sometimes very hilarious comments. I dont know why but I feel everyone is misunderstanding this writer called as rudra. I was reading his other comments and I learn a lot from his very wise thoughts. You should be welcomming such great people on your blog instead of ignoring or letting other people say nasty things to a great mind like him. i dont know why but i feel let down by many famous people. i hope you wont, sir.

  29. My first post here in 2013 want to be with wishes of good health and happiness for you and for all who read this blog. I wish you all the best for the new year 2013.

  30. I wanted to create you a tiny note so as to say thanks a lot yet again with the magnificent suggestions you have provided above. It has been really particularly generous of people like you to give publicly what exactly most people would’ve advertised for an electronic book to end up making some bucks for themselves, specifically given that you could possibly have done it in case you decided. The inspiring ideas in addition worked to be the fantastic way to be sure that most people have the same passion just like my own to understand a good deal more on the subject of this issue. I believe there are numerous more pleasant moments up front for many who read your website.

  31. Most creative artists repeating same theme in old age.That one is greatest obstacle for the to create some thing unique.How to pass over this obstacle is big question for many old artists?I am also dispersedly struggling to this problem,can any one have solution?

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