Saturday, 6 October 2007


We had a visitor one day. “Say hello to aunty,” my mum said. A lady with a huge Bindi obscuring her forehead sat comfortably on our new couch. The poor couch seemed to be screaming unheard, as if it were gasping for breath under the generous area she occupied. Almost as if she had read my mind, her eyes caught mine. Those blood shot eyes, evidently carelessly kohl lined, pored into mine. Her hair was tied into a huge bun excessively adorned with jasmine flowers.

She smiled, “Hello…” It was nightmarish! Her teeth were extremely sharp, a feature I could notice beyond the stubborn stains of the leaves she chewed from an ornate box in her hand. Her fat stubby hands and fingers were covered with gold bangles and innumerable rings that matched the chains on her hardly visible neck, resplendent in the sunlight that streamed through the window. Despite looking unkempt, she was opulence personified – in every way.

I hid my face in my mother’s pallu. “She is shy. She has much to learn…”, she said almost menacingly. “Don’t worry. I will take care of that.”

I did not want to go with her. I looked pleadingly at my mother. I wanted to stay in her arms. She said comfortingly, “Everything will be alright. Just remember – Never be scared.”

With a heavy heart, and an apparently heavy leg, I trudged noisily to the door. The lady gripped my tiny hand in hers and started towards the gate. I looked back at the window; my mum waved. The only comforting factor was that the lady did not smell as shabby as she looked. Maybe it was just the jasmine flowers…

We soon walked to a rather shady street in more ways than one. Dinghy houses skirted the narrow road and shabby men glanced knowingly at the lady. We stopped at a dark house. A dim light came on, almost as soon as we rang the doorbell, as if we were expected. A young girl directed us up a flight of stairs. I felt claustrophobic. I wondered how the lady would fit into the narrow way up. She just about managed.

Everything around me seemed surreal, like I feel now. Pictures of nude women and men in strange colours and shapes adorned the walls of the spiraling stairs. I finally entered a room. I was introduced to an old man. I was to call him “Sir”. The lady took leave. For some reason, my senses hit the panic button. A known devil is better than an unknown they say.

He grinned at me. “Sinister”, I thought. I sat timidly on a chair. He came menacingly towards me and stroked my cheek. As he did, suddenly he thrust it into my hand. “Feel it…”, he growled. Trembling, I took it. It was long and hard. “Feel the soft tip…”, he said, closing his eyes in blissful satisfaction. Involuntarily, tears rolled down my flushed face. “Now, now… don’t cry. I will teach you all that you need to know. To develop it beyond that - depends on your interest. This is an art, and you need practice; loads of it. And who better that me could do that?”, he asked, flashing the same old grin. “But there is one thing you must be clear about. You will take this further only out of your own volition. You are a free bird. This profession loses its beauty if one is forced into it. Take your first step today. Don’t be scared, no one is here to judge you. It is just you and me. You can show me all that you can do with this”, he said, his eyes glistening at the sight of what I held in my hand.

I still reminisce that day, that momentous occasion that changed the course of my life forever. I had made my choice of career; although no self respecting family back home would approve of it. It was not what “intelligent” girls would pursue. Nevertheless, as I know it now, my strongest career anchors are autonomy and lifestyle. What better career than this would satisfy my needs?

I still remember the first time I held you, ever so gingerly… I was scared. Making sure no one was watching, I gently stroked your the soft face dripping with water. I held you tight and decided to take the plunge... My world suddenly transformed; the white parchment was suddenly a riot of colours. I learnt to I tantalizingly mixed up the strokes – thin and gentle, broad and bold, flat…

I still cherish every scenic spot you took me to – the misty mountains, the serene lakeside, the inviting seaside, the resplendence of the otherwise decrepit lighthouse under the starry night sky… All the people we met – the young boy with the puppy, the woman with unfathomable sorrow in her yes, Mother Teresa, Che Guevera!!! Oh how I love those times…

We have had our shades of grey as well, I remember, as we walked down the snowy pathway, as we drank in the overwhelming beauty of the temple studded with intricate architecture…

But now I am trapped in the humdrum of everyday life, the life on an MBA… how I wish I could return to the free life of paints and brushes – the life of a painter, the life of an artist!