The painter on his way to work by Van Gogh
I may have nothing left with me in sometime. Three months, six months, a year. Beyond that, the unknown and the imagined merge and stretch into a path I am scared to take alone. When you make the journey alone, the road seems longer, but that’s not what I am worried about. It’s the people I have left behind. Their shadows are cast, long and dark, all along the stretch. Now they are solo, now they are joined at the hip with another. What becomes of us, them? It may not be a bad idea if your worst nightmares come true, this way you’ll know that they weren’t lying when they said they can’t be with you.
From the third row in the auditorium at Alliance, I watched my first, live award function. I have shamelessly written for Toto only in my head. To watch actual people walk up to the stage and receive awards is better than me receiving mine in my bathroom. When I made my way to the third row, stamping wires and size 9 shoes, I realized it wasn’t just the writing awards they were giving away today.
I sat and watched them call out the short list. One by one, all the pieces that had made it. The writing, the photos, the music, the short films. I was excited. It was a train of showpieces. Like in an orchestra, I felt my senses go up and down, when the gorgeous man read out the winning piece, when I listened and watched in frenzied rapture, Parvaaz play their music, when I warmed goosebumps into submission as I listened to the Chief Guest’s confession of never having made it to any list – long or short.
For so long now, I have played the late bloomer card to escape writing and my inexperience with it. So it wasn’t very reassuring when she took away my card. I have no cards now.
There were funny moments but I wish they hadn’t come so often. Yes, they wore nice clothes and I saw Arundhati Nag and whooped twice. But the highlight of the evening was watching Parvaaz perform. I hope I have left marks on Surya and Ila’s thighs to prove this. I wanted to sit in a car, windows rolled up and speed into the night with their music playing in the background. I am not one to notice or understand good music when I listen to it, but if I was a music expert, I would tell them they were brilliant and marry them. All four of them.
I was so high on all the skills I had watched and listened to all evening, I didn’t go to the toilet even once. I wanted to run home and do productive things. And then I went to K and started a writing group.
Girl and her Duenna (1670) by Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Like the insides of an eye, there is black before there is white. The window is a square that a child finds easier to draw than the circle which is her face. It sits quietly on her neck. Something calmly disturbing about the way they are both looking at you, her right hand cushioning the chin and hers holding up a veil in agreement to the lack of shyness between the passer by and her friend. The play between the colors is harsh, unlike the softness of their clothes and faces. Their eyes are shadows to the secrets they lure you inside with. Now she smiles, now she giggles and between them, there is the ease of a secret growing old. That’s the only yellow in a window of black, brown and white.
It was my first art event. I was drawn into it very easily, by the clothes that people wore at first and then by the paintings. I noticed that people brought kids to art events. I was more surprised that photography was allowed in some stalls and prohibited in one, maybe two. I gasped at the first painting I saw there. It was a painting of a galli.
The boxes on the cement floor were uneven but looked compact, like a completed jigsaw puzzle. Two men were on their cycles, riding. They have very little face so I cannot say what they look like. There is water on the ground, it looks washed because there are blotchy reflections of white all over. There is no sun but the light is fading into the corners of the canvas. Above their heads, there are bits of cloth and paper strung together with ropes.They are yellow and white. The sidewalls in the shop are lined with packets of chips. There are men who are walking down the galli. Some are standing in a group at the far end of the painting. One half of a black tawa is visible in the corner of the painting. It looks very much at peace, like a man whose one ear goes missing in a photograph. Tin roofs jut out their tongues all along the street. Beyond this, there is a white building and this is where the painting ends.
I found this to be rather interesting. I realized that I was more drawn into paintings like these where there is nothing on the canvas beyond a point, unlike most other landscape paintings which stretch into the unknown. A road, the sky, a curve. It leads you further into its depths. I found myself dismissing these. I turned to look at other paintings that have no beyond, that are still, like the canvas.
Like this one. I liked how the light yawns into the courtyard and then cuts off.
When I wasn’t salivating on my clothes, I was listening to people. A couple was fighting because he wanted the painting with the cupboard full of books to go into the kitchen and she wanted it to go on the drawing room wall. I was ashamed of how many times I caught myself debating the same issues in my head. I didn’t care about where the money to buy either a flat or these paintings would come from. I was busy deciding where I would put each. The painting of the woman smoking and showing her back would go above my writing desk, you know for inspiration. The painting of the galli had to be shown off as though I painted it so that would go above the sofa.
Also, who wears white chiffon sarees to art events? I wouldn’t know. But some people do. And I love-hated them.