Passage to India

Author Alka Joshi and photographer Meredith Mullins are teaming up for an event that celebrates India and the Hindu god Ganesh. The photo exhibit runs through Aug. 25.

Ganesh is a powerful Hindu deity, the Remover of Obstacles. Humanity combatting daily obstacles is the main subject of Meredith Mullins’ new photography exhibit.

Mullins lives in Paris most of the year, but seeks cool summers on the Monterey Peninsula. She wasn’t initially drawn to India – “I was put off by stories about pollution, traffic and thousands of people,” Mullins says. But then she went in 2015 and “fell in love immediately,” she says. She returned in 2016 and again in 2019.

“Something was happening every moment on every corner,” Mullins says, explaining that Indian life takes place in the streets. “Everywhere I went, there were people dealing with obstacles. And those people were very generous toward the photographer. They didn’t lie to the camera.”

With time, her attention gravitated toward festivals and, paradoxically, this crowd-wary photographer found herself among thousands, exploring regional carnivals, camel-trading and mustache competitions. Ganesh, a potbellied elephant-headed god, the patron of intellectuals and authors, must have been on her side.

Here on the Monterey Peninsula, Mullins met New York Times best-selling Indian-American author Alka Joshi, author of The Henna ArtistThe Secret Keeper Of Jaipur, and, coming in March 2023, The Perfumist Of Paris.

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Belonging to both cultures, Joshi arrived in the U.S. at the age of 9. All her novels make certain statements, Joshi says, the main one being that India is much more than people think of, and Indian culture is a bottomless well of cultural heritage.

Joshi and Mullins are now teaming up for a special celebration of Ganesh. During the event, Joshi will explain the importance of Ganesh in the Hindu pantheon, classical dancer Madhumita Mehrotra will act out the god’s creation, and Ritika Kumar of Art Abilities will perform a spiritual ceremony to honor the deity. Artist Ellen Henrici will help attendees make mandalas and, of course, Mullins’ photographs will be on view.

When selecting the 22 photographs that make up the exhibit, Mullins looked for “the essence of people.”

“Each piece is a moment of life, a moment of rest, or a moment of faith,” she says.

Overcoming Obstacles: A Celebration of Ganesh is at 1pm Saturday, Aug. 13. Pacific Grove Art Center, 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. Free. 375-2208, pgartcenter.org

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