By-Tanvie Vinayak, Hansraj College, DU.
He gazed down at the inchoate blur of colours on his canvas that mirrored the commotion of his own life. It was a cold, wet London evening and the dyspeptic mass of people hurried to get to the warmth of their homes. He was positioned, as always, on a small grimy spot on the South Bank, trying to sell his paintings for one-tenth their worth. He had immortalized the Tower Bridge, the Clock Tower, the Jamaican street performers, the flush of tourists- all with his brush. Occasionally passers-by would glance his way, their perfunctory smiles failing to disguise their insouciance. No one cared for his art. It was not lit by a thousand shining bulbs or placed under the high ceiling of the National Art Gallery or viewed in the company of the elite, offering their haute opinion, a by-product of their cultured upbringing that taught even the feckless to discuss skilled art forms with effrontery.
Often the quorum of God’s favourite people, zooming around his being too busy to acknowledge his presence, would take the form of a protean observer who had the time to stand and stare. From the churlish old man who declared him a pariah fit to be incarcerated in the shelter for the homeless to the quixotic tourist who saw poetic beauty in the painter’s love for his art, he had all types of ‘visitors’. There were the ubiquitous adolescents on a day out who found his meek existence risible, tallying the similarities between him and a distant drunk uncle. Once in a blue moon, he was paid heed to by a dilettante who bought one of his paintings with a smile. It was on these appearances that he relied for his two square meals and his ever-diminishing stock of paints.
Now as he stared at his half done painting, soon-to-be a marvelous water colour of the St. Paul’s Cathedral, he wondered who would come next. He wondered if this had been worth that fight with his parents, his inveigh against leading life like a robot, his refusal to pursue the drab but comfortable life of an accountant. He thought about the day he had trampled on the convenience of a planned predictable future, his steps out of the house followed by the screaming of an unsupportive father. He thought about his struggle at art houses, his failures brought about by the lack of influential contacts, the success of those who duplicitous work adorned the walls of grand manor houses. He wondered if he should quit, go back, apologise, restart. And just as he was about to get up, he looked once more at his painting, at the crisp stack of sheets by his foot that he had come to need more than food. He saw the tiny drops of colour of his arm, and the things that he had created. He thought of the joy he felt as he picked a shade, the smile in his heart when his work was appreciated. And in that moment, he knew he was bound.
He sat back down to finish what he had started.