Friday, September 11, 2020

A Gift like No Other

 A Painting and a Story # 15

Meenu (short for Meenakshi) peers hopefully into her "Gift Collection Cupboard" to see if she can find something for her friend. She is going to a baby shower later this weekend. And she needs a gift. She wants to see Sindhu's face light up when she opens her gift. Her eyes become big, her dark pupils shine and her cheeks burst with joy. Meenu wants to see that. Meenu rummages through multiple options. Sequinned bags, a bunch of plastic flowers, a hand-carved wooden box, beads on a string, terracotta Ganesha.... "so many oh so beautiful things" that Meenu has picked up at various exhibitions on a whim. You know, how you go to these places with a 'Spending Will' and you end up buying things. Pretty things... But!!!

She hurries into the gift shop down the street. The helpful salesman hovers around offering suggestions and thrusting colourful knickknacks under her nose. Meenu is sympathetic. The guy is doing his job... enthusiastically... be calm. she tells herself. Naa... Nothing here will bring that spark. Meenu is desperate. Should she buy a dress? a stole? An earing? Calm down Meenu! She does some self talk. Imagine Sindhu's eyes lighting up. Imagine her face radiant with joy.... she tells herself.

Meenu does that. She closes her eyes and imagines a face lit up with joy. She is startled. She is now little Meenu! She sees her mother's face. It is radiant with satisfaction. It's like she has won the heaven itself! ..... Little Meenu is curious. What has Amma brought from her neighbour's house that is making her so ecstatic? Meenu peers into the plastic basket that Amma has left on the dining table. It has a few beetal leaves, 2 areca nuts, a fruit and a bag of boiled gram. Meenu digs into the boiled gram (irresistible snack) but she can't understand. What is so special about this? Why is her Amma so happy! 

Adult Meenu recalls the answer her mother had given her. 'The fresh beetal leaves, delicate jasmine flowers, jingle of glass bangles, ... to her all this signify a confirmation of a rich and fruitful life. "What more can one ask for... than a blessing of hope and life?" She had asked and walked away humming a happy tune. Meenu knows what she should do. She picks up a stole... just like that. 

And then it's the day of the baby shower!

Meenu arrives early. Sindhu has a nice baby bump. Dressed in a green saree she receives her at the door. Meenu watches Sindhu's face light up as she hands over to her a big bunch of richly fragrant rajnigandha - (tuberoses) - her best-loved flowers. And yes, Sindhu's eyes become big, her dark pupils shine and her cheeks burst with joy! ....The stole?... ya that too! 

A baby's smile, your puppy's eyes, swaying green grass, a mother's lap, a lover's hug, a hot cup of tea, a spouse watching a film with you because you want to watch it, a job well done ... these bring joy that stay with us in our mind. Yes, the big car, the exquisite silk dress, the award, bring moments of happiness. But what we essentially remember is the emotion attached to sharing the experience with others. We want to feel valued. A cup of tea can say 'I VALUE YOU' as efficiently as a diamond necklace? If you can't make that cup of tea... then you need to buy that diamond!

My painting for this week is an offer of life and hope. 

Tamboolam - Water colour.

Friday, September 4, 2020

The Wedding

 A Painting and a Story # 14

Shama lowers herself into a chair, fills it, and digs into her bag of potato chips. Meenu (short for Meenakshi) is winding up for the day and logging off her system. "I am not joining the team for lunch on Sunday, 'have a wedding to attend" she says. Shama exclaims, 'I'm skipping it too. My cousin Namita is getting married.'

'Namita? I am also going to Namita's wedding!'

'What? No way!'

'Ya. We grew up in the same apartment complex in Pune'

'Don't tell me!!.... I visited them in Pune. Don't recall chatting with you! Anyway there was this bakery down the road. And we used to love eating there'.

'Bakery? I don't recall a bakery. But there was a juice centre. That I know'.

'Just like you Meenu! To not know a bakery! You were dieting then too???'

'I'm not dieting. Just high metabolism. I can not imagine Namita marrying a photographer. She seemed the academic type!'

'Photographer? No yar. Prashant is a software engineer. Photography is just his hobby.'

'Not Prashant. Pradeep. Namita is marrying Pradeep. You got your cousin's husband name wrong!'

'Don't be silly. I've spoken to Prashant. He's in Chicago and I've even shared my trip experiences with him.'

'Wait. Chicago? Pradeep lives here in Bangalore'. 

This crazy conversation sends them into peels of laughter. They are speaking of 2 entirely different Namitas. It is a good thing they got that sorted before they got into a cab on Sunday to go to their event together! 

Instantly Meenu is transported to a conversation with Hoo-Ffu kaka a long time ago! .... He is describing with great vigour his days in Srinagar. Meenu imagines him walking into snow clad mountains, feeling the chill in the air, and having hot kawa..... Only to realise that he is describing his bachelor days in a locality called Srinagar in Bangalore!

How often we make assumptions. We imagine a slight where there is none. We interpret a comment in the wrong way. We agonise over what we have said, wondering if the other person was hurt. Sometimes we think we are being totally clear, because we understand it well, but it may not be so for the listener! It happens quite often for us teachers. We think our explanation is crystal clear. We have been doing this for the ... say 4th year... now. And suddenly a student comes up with an interpretation or doubt we never thought could occur!

Communications are mostly incomplete. What YOU SAY may be entirely different from what I HEAR. It all depends on perspective. We have to be aware of the fact that perspectives vary. And this awareness makes relationships easier. So long as we are aware of the intention, words should not matter. ....... 

Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to the other, not words - RUMI

My painting for this week... a pencil sketch, Ant and Leaf. Now look at this! Is it a very small leaf or a very large ant!!? What's your perception?

Pencil sketch- Ant and Leaf

Saturday, August 29, 2020


 A Painting and a Story # 13

The pen-drive feels heavy in her wallet. Meenu (short for Meenakshi) strides towards the boardroom with the appearance of a confidence she does not have. She has to make the presentation today. The client is known for being sarcastic and dismissive. Her colleague Sharat smiles encouragement and whispers, 'Go for it!' 

Her mind! In a jiffy it transports her to another place, another day! Twenty years ago...

The river Kaveri curves around a small mass of land near Kushalnagar making it almost an island. This gorgeous place is called Nisargadhama... Heaven on earth! Meenu (short for Meenakshi) steps on to the bridge connecting the mainland to Nisargadhama. The bridge sways a little when they walk on it. She holds the railings of the bridge and enjoys the sway! She quickly catches up with her family. 

She can't believe it... she is actually stepping on to an island. She recalls a picture in her School Text Book. An island is a mass of land surrounded on all sides by water! How is this land standing here? If too many people come here will the island sink? If everyone jumps up and down at the same time... will it tilt? She is secretly worried. But she keeps quiet.

Meenu watches her Thatha near the spotted deer, offering them some grass and nibbles. 'Go for it' says her Thatha. She holds the nibbles in the palm of her out stretched hand. A spotted deer walks to her daintily. He leans into the nibbles and licks them up . His tongue feels wet and rough on her fingers. She withdraws with a squeal. She tries again. and again. What fun that was! Her Thatha takes her for a quiet walk into the bamboo grove. Sshh! He says. 'Be quiet and listen'. And she listens to the rustling, the creaking and the whispering of the bamboo groves. Much later the entire family wades into the river. At places River Kaveri gurgles over boulders and rocks. Uncles, aunts cousins wade in and sit on the boulders, splashing each other and having a whale of a time.

Meenu gingerly steps into the water. It is cold! The rock is smooth. Her father holds out a helping hand. Come he says encouragingly. Meenu looks at Thatha... 'Go for it' he says. And Meenu does! 

Adult Meenu steps into the boardroom and recalls with a smile, the fuss she had made hours later to get out of the water!! The presentation is over. The client requests for a follow up meeting for further clarifications. Her colleagues clap in appreciation. 'Awesome Meenakshi... treat treat' They demand playfully.

We are overcome by fear at many instances in life and break in protesting sweat. Stepping into a rocking boat, signing up for a trek, facing a room full of audience, leaving a comment, asking for a raise, owning up a mistake... we put off the dreaded act for moments, days, weeks! Suddenly one day we do it. And what a feeling of power and relief that brings. ONE of the greatest discoveries man makes, one of his greatest surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do. - Henry Ford.

My painting for this week is a door. A door that is waiting to be pushed open. What is beyond?

Acrylic - The door

Acrylic - Door