The Artist

Portrait of an Artist Painting Her Self-Portrait, Jean-Alphonse Roehn. Public Domain.

I was at school. When I got home in the afternoon, things were different at home. I did not understand what happened. But I knew something was wrong. No one was telling me anything. There were many people at home. My aunt was with me. She took care of me. I liked her. My mother did not return home at the time she usually did from work. She never returned. That night she came covered in a white cloth in a big truck. I later learnt that she was crushed by a truck. People were crying, my father was upset too. I did not like all that. That was not how my home was. I was hungry, I wanted to sleep. I was not allowed to play with my friends that evening. Someone gave me a roti to eat. I did not want to eat it. I wanted to eat chicken. My mother would have given it to me. She cooked chicken so well. But she was not there. I never saw her after that morning. She had readied me for school and kissed me on the forehead as she said goodbye. Happily I left for school. I still remember that school day was as any other day. Miss taught us the sums and sentences; we sang and danced and played. Miss was nice, she smiled and spoke. She had short wavy hair, she smelt nice. I liked being in her class. Nitin and Kishore were my best friends. We played and we ate and we fought and we made up. We liked running about the playground. Kishore lived close by, too. I saw him as I went along with my mother to the market. My mother was gone that evening. Things changed after that.

I did not like to be at home. I did not like white flowers, I did not like the incense sticks. They made me feel bad. That was not how I remember my mother. I remember her smiles, I remember her laughter, I remember the glow in her eyes as she spoke to me. I remember sitting beside me telling stories at night, I remember sitting on the terrace at night, watching the stars and my mother telling me the names of some of the constellation of stars that could be seen on clear nights, I remember her talking to me – I remember her all so clearly. I do not like that photo put up on the wall, my mother was not like that. After that evening, my mother was just a photo. To me, she was not that. I could feel her in little things, small things that I missed doing with her, small little things I enjoyed doing with her.

Things changed, I did not like being at home. My aunt used to be with us. Her husband did not like it, he always had a glum face. My father wanted her to stay. She had to leave. After a few days, I saw another lady with my father. He was happy talking to her, she smiled at me. I did not like her. She was not bad, but I did not like her. When she came my father bought chicken and asked the maid to cook it. It tasted nice, but my mother made it so much tastier. She gave me chocolates, she spoke to me. I answered, I went back to my room, I opened my books, I did not want to read. I liked looking out of the window. The sky was becoming black, I did not like the black sky. I did not like to go to school, I did not like to talk, I did not want to eat. I don’t know what I wanted.

There was a small ceremony at home and my aunt told me that I had got a new mother. She was there at home always. She tried to talk to me a few times, I did not reply. I wanted my mother, the one who was different from that photograph on the wall. She did not bother me, she kept to herself. My father did not bother me much. He seemed to be happy and went about his work as usual. The new lady in the house looked after us all. She made chicken because she said she knew I liked it, but it didn’t taste good. I did not say anything, I kept quiet.

I now went to a new school. Different people, the children were new. The sirs were strict. I kept to myself. I just managed to clear examinations somehow. My art teacher was a nice person, he asked me to draw, I listened to him. My pictures were dark, he said. I liked the dark. I had to see doctors, I behaved differently, I was told. I did as I was told to. I liked being in my room, I liked to lie and look at the ceiling, I sometimes took my art book and drew and painted. Things went on like this. At college, I was left to myself. No one bothered me much, I liked being by myself till I met Vinny. She was in my class. There was something nice about her. She was a loner too, like me. We must have spoken only a few words. I liked her.

My art is my solace. I paint whenever I feel like it. It makes me feel nice. I passed school, struggled through college. Huge canvasses, paints, brushes are strewn all over my room. I paint when I feel like it; this is my world, my life. It makes me inhabit a world I like, a world that I am comfortable in. Nothing else matters. I met sir again after a couple of years. He asked me if I still painted. He told me that he was organizing an exhibition and wanted me to be part of it. He persuaded me; I agreed. In that huge hall, amid all those paintings arranged aesthetically, I found myself. I found a delight that I never experienced for years. As I stood there, watching people come and observe art, I think I found meaning in life. I knew I could go on. It felt nice. Finally, something felt nice. I didn’t know if I could express it, but I know this mattered. Did anyone else see it? I am not sure. I surely felt nice. I think, I felt a sense of peace, a calmness that delighted. This would be my world, a world I liked and, yes, a world I enjoyed being part of.