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Interview with Birwa Qureshi :: Crafft of Art, Water Festival

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Her Craft in Art : a heart to heart talk with Birwa Qureshi

Her Crraft of Art initiatives have been responsible in creating memories that are not only exclusive but also off the beaten track. The Sufi Festival at Sarkhej Roza, Water Festival at Patan Rani ki vav, Bhadra Festival at Teen Darwaza, Water Festival at Adalaj ni vav have regaled Amdavadis and even NRIs and other nationals who found themselves in India during the UNESCO designated World Heritage Week celebrated from November 19 to 25 every year. Birwa Qureshi is back in Ahmedabad with what she does best and November 19 of 2016 celebrates the Water Festival at Adalaj ni vav. This year the performing artistes include Ustad Shujaat Khan on sitar, George Brooks on saxophone, Sanjay Divecha on guitar, Sridar Parthasarathy on mridangam, Sheldon D’Silva on bass, Varun Sunil on percussion and Ustad Fazal Qureshi on tabla.


It is a concept to reintroduce monuments and present them in a way they haven’t been seen before…one of the ways is to create focal points, to bring communities there,” says 43-year-old Birwa, part of the first batch of School of Interior Design, CEPT, and a longstanding artist at heart. The love for fine arts isn’t recent considering Birwa began learning Bharatnatyam even before she turned five. Having learned from Mrinalini Sarabhai and completing her arangetram at 13, Birwa joined Janavak, the folk department at Darpana, when she was in class XI. Surrounded by music and dance and an  upbringing that was privileged, Birwa was used to an open way of thought from the time she was a little girl. Encouraged to make choices, someone who believed in freedom of thought and action, she also experienced an acute sense of aesthetics from the beginning of her dance journey. “Having studied at Darpana and CEPT meant a natural transition for all that followed in life too,” says Birwa, who balances her art of living well with tabla maestro husband Fazal Qureshi.

The Water Festival may be one night of magical recreation for those present to witness the spectacle but for Birwa and her family, it is something she works upon for an entire year. “Every year I look forward to a new monument. Every new monument takes a whole year of building it up. This is not an event but a process that is a life-changing experience. I had always wanted to do this until I began working on it to bring the first edition seven years ago. In fact, Bhadra Festival is one I had thought of even before Sarkhej. It is something I had always wanted to do and somewhere I keep thinking of what to do next…after all, folk tales and historical stories lie in there. For a few days after the festival, I feel lost. It is a lonely place to be in for a while,” shares Birwa who opens her heart to the how and why question for this festival. “I guess there’s a streak of madness; there is a passion for bringing to fore certain ideas to fruition. Besides, you’ve got to feel love to continue in a space and that, for me, is a natural progression.”

Despite hectic schedules and travels, there’s one thing remarkable about the Qureshis; the family of four doesn’t quite miss out on each other since Fazal and Birwa make it a point to have their children, Azann and Alia, along in their journey. “Yes, they are keen about all that we do. They like to know what their parents perform or work towards. They question and are aware of the background of the hows and whys of most creative things we undertake. They are part of our journeys and  conversations. I could easily say they grew up backstage!” smiles Birwa, an indulgent mother when it comes to creative exercises, reading to and with children, taking them to concerts and holidays that are food for the soul. “We also balance our schedules in a way that one of us is always with the children. There have been no discussions on this, it’s been an understood thing. Kids are very involved in my projects and are a part of every process I undertake. It is such a privilege…as parents, we need to give our children a wide range to choose from. As long as children are in touch with creative parts life offers, all is okay. We also bring them up knowing they have a mind of their own. They must think and be responsible. My family is a wall and behind me in all that I do. It is a fort I have along,” she says, crediting her journey with Fazal as one that began with rich conversations and being on the same page mentally.

Birwa loves to read books, “more so, coffee table books now”, watch theatre, see movies and have outings with children. She doesn’t follow routine and believes there is immense joy in doing simple things together with family. “I was a dancer, Fazal got music in my life and Crafft of Art got everything else,” she says, pleased with the path she is treading on. One that supplements music in her life and interestingly composes it for a lot many others too.

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Photographs : Ravi Panchal

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