Lawyer and self-taught artist Bahaar Dhawan Rohatgi is finding solace and serenity in the world of art.
Rohatgi, who left her lucrative career in law to pursue her passion for the arts, has exhibited both in India and abroad; in 2017, she was given the ‘Best Emerging Artist’ award by ASSOCHAM at the SAARC Women Economic Forum. In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, Rohatgi has dedicated her time to offering legal aid to cases of domestic violence, feeding migrant workers, and supporting children’s education. All while creating affordable art that adds value and sparks happiness.
From supporting local to adopting sustainable practices, Lifestyle Asia India spoke to Bahaar Dhawan Rohatgi about her version of ‘the good life’ in a post-pandemic world.
What would you call ‘the good life’ as of today?
Having peace of mind and being content. Your directions are more important than your speed. I am finally living my good life or at least working towards it. While so many people I know are waiting on the world to change, I added a lot of colour to my black and white life just in time. Today more than ever, I feel that the ability to know your heart and to be able to pave the way as your heart desires and run in that direction is ‘the good life’. Creating a visual vocabulary that transcends styles, balance, a family life, the ability to help others (and not just talk about it), to be able to take out time for what makes me happy is a good life.
How has this idea changed for you over the past three months?
I was always driven and active — forever multitasking. Shuttling between two careers or between family and work. In the last three months, I have kept myself fairly busy with art (creating and selling) but also started taking time off to enjoy the true luxuries of life.
We were made to think that luxury was rare and expensive. Now everybody realises that true luxury comprises little things that we took for granted, such as being healthy, taking a walk along the seashore, or simply meeting with friends and family without any restrictions or masks. Luckily, I realised early that money and success do not always ensure happiness. I also didn’t allow the noise of others’ opinions drown out my own inner voice. During the pandemic, my journey or path hasn’t changed — some beliefs have only been reaffirmed.
Are there any things/activities that you have pursued in the past three months, to create ‘the good life’ for yourself?
Much before the pandemic, I started to shift gears. Reducing legal work and turning to art. I realised that I have the power to create the life I desire and scale in the direction if my passion and happiness coincide. After 10 years of studying, training and then practising law, I wanted to pursue a path that makes me feel complete. Because even if the day comes that I don’t have an audience or technology, I’ll have something that keeps me alive. Something that’s my own, with my stamp on it – something that doesn’t have a shelf life.
The pandemic has proved to be the perfect testing ground as I have been clocking sales non-stop as I propagate the idea of affordable art which belongs to everybody. The pandemic has helped me capitalise on my strengths, work in a streamlined, more effective manner, and connect with people who share the same value system, purpose and beliefs.
What does a typical ‘good life’ day look like?
I live in a joint family, so apart from sharing responsibilities and spending a considerable amount of time with members, I like to spend time in the kitchen, exercise, work, play with my dogs, write, create art.
Your ‘good life’ recommendations for the following:
A wellness tip/routine you follow: Daily meditation and chanting, plus breathing exercises that calm me and make me more aware.
A fitness routine that has worked for you: Swimming and basic yoga stretches with focus on breathing.
Restaurants you love to order in from: The list is endless, but I have been limiting my outside consumption by cooking and enjoying delicacies sent by friends and family.
Beauty routine: I drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and have my greens. I moisturise and apply sunscreen, and vitamin C serum once a day on my face.
Places you are looking to travel once you can: Definitely a trip to the hills and seaside, where I can be close to nature. I love my country and want to stick to exploring India.
Gadgets and apps that make your life easier: Apps are Instagram, Whatsapp, Preview, and Amazon. Gadgets are my phone, laptop, and iPad – for work and fitness both.
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Making sustainable choices #ReOwn #ReLove #ReUse Exactly what the 🌎 needs right now: Proud of @shantanunikhil ‘s vision & this responsible consumer initiative, where you can sell your old S&N outfits and buy new ones ♻️💕 #bahaarart #shantanunikhil #sustainablefashion #sustainable
Have you consciously started doing anything about sustainability or the environment?
The new normal will make us slow down and reinvent how we view consumerism. ‘Buy only what you need’ is my new mantra. I ensure I ask important questions regarding production processes and labour practices from brands. To my surprise, I don’t often get very clear answers. Brands feel that using terms like ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’, ‘biodegradable’ is sufficient, but they are used to not being questioned and hence the terms are also subject to heavy misuse.
For a while now, I have chosen to support and promote products that employ environmental-friendly and fair trade practices and minimise waste. I prefer supporting Indian brands which boost employment in rural areas as opposed to well established international brands. With my artworks, I create my own pigments, minimise waste, reduce the usage of plastic, incorporate found objects in my work. I am switching from cotton (as it uses lots of water for production) to bamboo fabric and fibres that are more sustainable.
What’s your main goal this year to create ‘the good life’?
Apart from promoting creativity and doing international shows and representing the country like I have been the last five years, I want to be able to sensitise people locally towards art and women artisans. Personally and professionally, I want to consolidate and simplify my life and activities.
All images: Courtesy Bahaar Dhawan Rohatgi