DreamGirl on Canvas

 Update for week ending 10 June 2011

The bearded man had just completed his touch-up of rouge on the heroine’s cheek. She looked glowingly beautiful with almost an aura around her bouffant hairdo. Her dimpled cheek and that little beauty spot above her upper lip gave her the required sensuousness. Her eyelashes looked slightly exaggerated but she was angel-like and looked real. The painter had just completed his job, and damn well, I must say. He worked on the makeshift bamboo rafters and after a long hard day’s work, completed the poster for the newest blockbuster movie that would open that Friday. He had missed his Friday prayers, but work was worship for him. He walked back home, along the Ballygunge Circular Road. Hunger pangs gnawed his insides, and so he decided to stop at the dhaba, a wayside eatery by the roadside run by the elderly Sardarji. He ordered the cheapest, but tastiest rajma chawal, rice and beans dish popular in northern India. He sat at the shaking wooden bench and table, and polished off the aluminium plate with relish. This was one eatery he must revisit more often, he mentally noted. That was way back in the sixties. Cut to 2 decades later, when the painter had carved a niche for himself as a serious abstract painter while his maverick style, prolificity and carefree attitude had made him quite well known. His artworks were exhibited at leading art galleries around the country and he was on one such trip to the city of Joy. As the guest of a leading industrialist, he was housed in their mansion at Ballygunge. That evening, after his exhibition and small party, he decided to walk along the same route he took regularly to work and back, many moons ago. Being in a city that did not change much, he quite expected the little Dhaba to still be there, perhaps more decrepit than in the past. He was surprised, as he saw that a leading soft drink company had put up glow signs over the eatery and the Sardarji was still there, older and more prosperous though. The painter approached the Sardarji and wanted to congratulate him in maintaining the place and continuing in his duty of feeding hungry mouths with his delectable rajma chawal. The Sardarji was taken aback by the visitor, he recognized him immediately as the famous painter and felt honoured to host him in this little eatery that still retained its old name. The painter complimented the sardarji on the place and wondered if the rajma was still as tasty as on that Friday night when he had painted the Dreamgirl on a Canvas. He asked for it, tasted a spoonful and was pleased that the Sardar had not diluted his standards. The Sardarji did not immediately recall this gentleman as the same who would polish off the aluminium plates, like an Oliver Twist of this era; but accepted the compliments. In return, he asked the painter for an autograph or even some comments on a tissue paper that he may proudly frame and post on his walls. The painter looked around, as if for something else.

The D Boyz’ life was one of hard work, late hours and not much pay (of late at least). Their street resembled a makeshift bamboo pole rafter, shaky and temporary, as if it needed all the support to the SENSEX, their favourite toy, from falling. The Boyz had to get down quite often for ordinary chores like a catch up on meals, catching a wink or two on a busy D Street. All of this, despite a bearded young man in Northern India grabbing all eyeballs for much of the week, while another bearded man, caught everyone’s attention close to the week’s end. No horses or goddesses in dance poses were needed to pull the Boyz towards the elder gent’s attention, and this tugging and pulling and bamboo pole holding, left them tired and losing a little over his 95 years of age – 7 actually, such that the SENSEX dropped 108 points from the previous week to end at 18269.

The painter looked for some sketch pen or markers. Finding none at the little eatery, he walked into the kitchen; saw the huge piles of coal used for cooking, picked up a piece and walked back to the eating area. He asked a waiter to wipe a wall clean, and then using deft strokes, he sketched out his characteristic horse – front legs raised and mane flowing backwards as if in motion. On the white wall, the black coal marks looked definitive, and the horse lifelike, as it stood 6 feet tall. In about 3 minutes, the painter was done. He scribbled his name in capital letters at the bottom, wiped his hands on the kitchen towel and thanked the Sardarji for the good food he ate there and went back to his host’s mansion down the road. Walking barefoot.

Monsoons are here in Mumbai and wishing everyone a safe weekend.



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