Painting Tears

I reach out to pick her paint brush: I want to smudge a bit of  flake white hue on the peacock’s neck, just for fun!

A sheer cry of outrage emerges, ‘Not on my bird!’

‘ Hey! Once upon a time, I used to take classes with a renowned artist, my dear! Come on, let me dab a bit of paint too!’ I plead in vain.

The verdict is clear. Amma has to keep her hands off the oil painting. It is hers.


I remember the oil painting of the crying Mother Mary that I had made all those years ago.Dattan Sir had asked me to copy a masterpiece painting. The amount of white, brown and blue that I had used up- the specks, the smears, the dots and daubs!

I had taken the painting to my ship uncle. For some reason- definitely influenced by years of tension and trauma speckling those tangled skeins of family relationships- he was affected strongly by the art work and thought that I had intentionally ushered in tears in its wake. I heard that he  spoke about it and then refused to keep the painting with him. Did the painting return to me? I still do not remember.

It took decades before he could understand that I was simply  a teenager, who had offered her first oil painting, out of love and respect to the believer who prayed daily to the Holy Mother. To be a harbinger of pain – by painting the Pieta- was the last thing I had intended.


The proclivity for colours and doodling has passed on to the young one. Along with the obstinacy and the rest of the stubborn ilk.

‘ You can paint your own bird,’ she tells me, flicking her brush.

‘ Yes, it has been a long time,’ I murmur, still caught up in memories, ‘but  we should not usher in tears if we can…’

She looks askance at me. Then, shrugging it off as another irrelevant Amma-talk , dips her brush in burnt sienna.

I look at ship uncle’s photograph kept on the side table.

From somewhere, he gazes back at me. Now, he understands.

Tears have no colour, do they? For a moment, I could have sworn, I saw tears in those eyes.



Linking One By One…



When I was growing up, one of the writers I had read with trepidation was Mohanachandran- the one who wrote the terrifying Kalika and Kakkakulade Rathri. These, if I remember right, were serialised in Kumkumam magazine. That magazine arrived erratically, whenever Amma brought it home from her office library. With the uncontrollable temptation that urges a child  to stare into a deep, deadly well, I would guiltily read Mohanachandran’s words. A cold hand would catch hold of my throat and I would sit quietly and shiver. Yet, I would read.

Much later, when I read the books, I still ensured that they was bright sunlight outside. Such is the power of the writing: these can easily compete with the Cambridge don  M.R.James’ best horror stories.  Tantra, Devi Pooja, ancient death and life rites, brilliant characters, their mutual attractions, innocent children and great danger…It was an incredible cocktail which could throw the most sober among us into a tizzy.

Why did I remember Mohanachandran suddenly? A seemingly simple story with underlying threads of deep insight. ‘ Chitrasutram’ by V.J.James.

Beautifully, it links learning, painting, a mysterious death and a talented child.  The pictures the boy draws point to unassailable truths. The description of those pictures, brought the creeping dread of Mohanachandran’s books to my memory again.

Wrought with deep compassion, the story  seemed serendipitous because it had a discussion on why a picture comes to life when the eyes are drawn last of all! Maybe because the translation project , which I am currently engaged in,  is based on the same theme; and also has a precocious child who can ‘see’ deeply inspite of handicaps, I felt very awed.  Perhaps, I was meant to pick up this book and read this story. Another quiet miracle.

What do the books say? When you are blessed, speak about it.




Painting Once Again…


In a way poetry and painting are kindred souls. What some accomplish by a few words strung like beads together, others strive by mixing dots of paint. There is an inevitable catharsis- the hoarded up emotions furiously burst- and all is well again.  Some kind acquaintance might exclaim over your lines or appreciate your painting. Added bonus.

Why do we stop doing those things which we love, when we grow up?Because, we get into the business of living. And when life becomes regimented with multifarious responsibilities, happiness inducing hobbies take a backseat. It is only after a bad crash or two on life’s highway that the  Master Guardian-intuition- whispers again: ‘maybe time to trust the silent spectators sitting behind you offering help.’

So you pick up that dusty paper again. The paint is half dried up and the brush is so stiff that no amount of softening it with a water treatment works! You hesitate between a sketch pen and a black crayon. Then you start…And like a poem, beauty reveals itself, very sweetly.

And one remembers the sentence about the soul being on its knees….praying.