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The Common Air

Our English host was gracious

We were soon at ease;

Or almost:

The servants

Were watching.

—Gieve Patel, Evening

It took me a long time to see that de Kooning was not merely undisciplined.

—Bikash Bhattacharjee

THE IDEA OF INDIA IS like an immense dark space in our imagination: we feel it lying hiding in a part of our minds where we store things too big and “other” to absorb—in the unconscious, or in that shadowy area of consciousness in which we relate to concepts like infinity, outer space, the sublime, or the underworld. For thousands of years, Westerners seeking something unknown and unnamable have been drawn there. Long before Mia Farrow and the Beatles, the Greeks and Romans climbed the hills to gurus’ caves. In the ’60s many went there, often artists and writers; in the ’80s, many more are making the trip. Throughout our century, really, from E. M. Forster to Francesco Clemente, this

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