I was painting an abstract art in my so-called garage. Well..it’s was not an abstract painting nor was it a garage in the literal sense. It was a just one room with old battered walls. They might have been white once, but now the walls have turned a dirty grey with age, some blocks of brick chipping from here and there, and the stains of paan spit a zillion times adorned them. And in this little room with iron tiles as roof, I had half-heartedly decided to restart my passion for painting after my Intermediate. I was waiting for an admission into any degree college that wouldn’t happen until three months from now.
I feel comfortable in painting objects that have definite edges. I was painting one such picture on a bright sunny and hot day in March.
‘What are you doing’, I hear the voice of a little girl. I turn around to see a girl of about eight. She is in her school uniform that desperately required washing. ‘I am painting a picture,’ I say.
She comes into my garage and was about to sit on a stool that had my painting brushes on it. I brush her off. She is still standing there. ‘What color is that?’
‘But that doesn’t look like yellow to me’
‘That’s called yellow ochre’
‘Ohh, you know our arts sir at school asked me to draw a horse. But I drew like this’, she removed her notebook to show a horse whose muzzle had become rather too stretched. The legs were good. She had managed to draw hoofs and a saddle too. This kid certainly had imagination. The eyes were wide and teasing – something you see in cartoons’
‘Not bad’, I thought for an eight-year old.
‘Can you paint a beautiful horse for me? It should be better than Vihaan’s sketch’
‘But how will I know how Vihaan sketches’, I say
‘You don’t know Vihaan? He’s our class topper. He thinks he know everything. Teachers praise him all the time’, she says.
‘Do you think our arts teacher is going to like my horse’, she says.
Now, I cannot lie to this little girl. ‘Yes, you sketched something really good’, I say.
She smiles and I notice that her two lower teeth are missing.
We were silent for a while with the little girl keenly observing my painting as I keep doing it. Just to keep the conversation flowing, I ask, ‘Do you like my painting?’
‘Huhh..not much..it’s like the rectangles and triangles I learn in my maths class’, she says.
I don’t reply and continue my painting. After watching for some time, I hear a honking of a school bus. The little girl quickly bade me good bye and runs to the bus stop. From that day, she more or less has become a frequent visitor to my garage. On Thursdays the school bus comes a little late and she stays a little longer.
Some days I allow her to hold my brush and paint along with me. We became friends. She shows me drawing book. This girl surely has a lot of imagination. In one picture I see mountains with ice over them and a helicopter at one end with a little girl getting down the helicopter. We continue chatting for some time.
‘Today also you will paint yellow to those rectangles?’ she asks.
I didn’t expect this question. I wanted to tell her that they were not mere rectangles but didn’t see the point in explaining to an eight-year old.
To this I merely say ‘May be other colors too’
She looks at my painting for some more time and finally says ‘I don’t want to become a painter like you’.
‘These things that you are painting are so boring. It’s straight all throughout’.
I feel offended.
‘So what will you paint if you become a painter?’
She rolls her eyes up for some time as if thinking and says, ‘In Doraemon cartoon once Nobita is caught in a sea while he’s trying to swim. But luckily some people on a ship save him. I think I’ll draw that’.
I keep looking at this little girl for some time. After a while a boy comes. Looks like the girl but older. I immediately guessed it was her brother. He must be around 10-11 well-built for a boy of that age, playing sports maybe. He quickly scans my so-called little garage and observes that it is in very bad shape, but is too decent to say it.
‘Sorry that my sister comes here too often and disturbs you,’ he says politely.
‘What do you do with all these paintings?,’ he asks directly coming to the point.
‘Sometimes I sell to small hotels or offices for their interior decoration,’ I say.
‘So people buy your paintings’, he says as if in disbelief.
I could see that he wasn’t impressed by the fact that people buy my paintings. But again was quick enough to compose his face to not show his emotions. The schools nowadays train children well on behavior and decency I guess.
I continue my painting. After a while, he taps his sister as if he wants them to leave.
That night I have a strange dream. I was in a beautiful place surrounded by mountains and trees. The mountains are brown mostly with snow patches here and there. The trees are tall very tall touching the sky almost. There’s a very narrow path among the trees and I take the path. This time am not scared as to where the path is leading me. I am just happy walking along the path, listening to the sounds of the birds, and looking at the tall trees. After walking for a while, I can hear the sound of water, maybe there’s a lake nearby. As I keep walking the sound of the water becomes more distinct and alive. It’s the sound of flowing water. I approach the stream and as I bend to touch the water, I am pulled into the stream and being swept away. I shout desperately for help and see a boat at a distance that is approaching me very rapidly. On the boat I see the little girl smiling and throwing a life guard at me.
I immediately wake up.
I neither see the little girl nor her brother for three weeks. It is a hot Wednesday when I see the little girl again.
‘You know Sandy uncle who lives way down the street..they are going to America.’
I had sold one of my paintings to them. I wonder if they had packed it too along with their luggage. Or had they thrown it as trash?
She seems to gaze at my new paintings..not yet complete. ‘Aren’t you painting triangles and circles any more?’
‘No I guess’
‘Then what is it that you are painting?’. She moves closer keenly looking at my painting.
‘Wooww..mountains, water, trees..like we had seen in Khandala..very nice..very nice’
I couldn’t help smiling. ‘So, you won’t be painting like you used to anymore?’
‘Maybe sometimes, but I want to paint other things too..other beautiful things’
‘Do you think I’ll be able to?’, I ask her mockingly.
She smiles and says, ‘Maybe’!