All my school life I felt like I was stranded on an island with similar faces playing a similar game of pretence over and over again. I, involuntary, became a part of the academic caste system. 99 to 90 percenters were the priests, coming out of the great sage Manu’s mouth and getting all the privileges as they belonged to the science sections. 90 to 70 percenters were the warriors coming out of Manu’s arms, gaining respect for sports and academics both. The 70 to 55 percenters were the Vaishyas or the ones in trade (commerce section). The students below 55 per cent were the Shudras, not being able to cope with the academics at all. According to this system, I was a tradesperson, but my passion turned me into an outcast.
I decided not to be a part of the game and I slowly retreated into a world of my own. Books and art were two things which filled the void between my world and the world outside of me. I spent a lot of my time with nature, looking at plants grow and feeling the rough bark with my fingertips. I started by copying flowers, freehand, from the Walter Foster series and birds from Salim Ali India.
I was falling in love with nature. I wished to put all the flowers on paper as delicately as I could. I sat for hours in the garden drawing them, trying to do some justice to what God had created with such perfection. Expressing myself verbally was getting difficult.
I was drawn towards the rose and I found it peculiar that people looked at the flower and forgot about the thorns unless they went too close to it. Very few looked at it in its completeness. I found it so close to life actually being a bed of roses but with the thorns intact. If one doesn’t water the bed properly, one will, naturally, have more thorns and fewer roses. The beauty was so overpowering that I started to fuse it in my imagination.
Reading, experiencing, and feeling empowers the fancy. They bring meaning to an artwork. Frida Kahlo’s paintings are not just painted canvases but a part of her being. Our work is a part of our existence. They hold experiences of our lives with feelings attached to those experiences. Skill and imagination are two wings of an artwork. I believe that the wish to express leads to an urge to polish the skills.
I was learning to fly when I was suddenly caged. Slowly, everything in my head was quiet. The silence was eerie. There were no words, no pictures, no sound. The unnecessary stress on skill brought me down. All I did was to drench the paper and see where would the water take the pigment. I looked at these stained papers carefully and saw the places I had been to in the past. Where else can we visit when we are locked up in a dark room with no light and no way to escape?
I don’t know from where do all the thoughts, accompanied by feelings, come from? But they are intimate and personal and any intrusion on them is considered to be offensive, embarrassing and even painful sometimes, especially when we don’t want them to be seen. A part of me wasn’t doing very well with verbal expression and a part of me didn’t want to talk anymore. Talking was tiresome. Words are too binding, they are too exact. Visual expression was freedom from words. I could vent out everything that was inside of me without expurgating the story behind it.