Monday, February 13, 2012

Encounter with an Artist

Waiting patiently with guitar at a Kharghar bus stop.
Yesterday I met an interesting man, an artist at that. Well, it happened thusly. My guitar class had shifted to Kharghar from Vashi and after lugging the guitar to the new place, what do I find. The carpenters are busy taking measurements, the supervisor stands around with a smug expression, the floor is full of sawdust, the glass lean against the wall. As with everything in Bombay, nothing gets done on time. So I go out into the bright wintry Kharghar afternoon and get upset with the rubble lying around, the building standing like long thin shards of glass, and nowhere, yes, nowhere is there a patch of shade to hide from the hot sun.

Not that it was hot. It wasn't. But I have a phobia for the afternoon sun having heard a lot about the Englishman and mad dogs. So when this bus stop appears in front of me in the mirage-like afternoon effulgence, I gravitate towards it and sit on a long piece of pipe lying parallel to the road. No bus appears. No autorickshaws, too.

Then there's this seedy looking individual who is zooming past on his autorickshaw who stops suddenly as if feeling pity on me and my condition. Yeah, what else would he think of a depressed man who missed his Sunday guitar lesson? He looks out and yells, "Where do you want to go?" He has a beard and is dressed in unremarkable clothes.

"Belapur CBD."

"Hop in."

Thanks be to almighty I say, leaving the bleak landscape that's all weirdly constructed buildings, broken tiles, steel, bricks and lots of rubble. 

"I stopped for you because you are an artist, a kalakar."

"How do you know?"

"Because of your guitar."

"Do I look like an artist?"

"You do. An artist recognises an artist."

"You mean you are an artist too?"

"Yes I was. I played the piano, the banjo and drums before I got married."

The autorickshaw is careening at an impossible speed on roads that seem to have been dug and surfaced a hundred times.

"Why did you give up after marriage?"

"After marriage, there's no time for anything. Only children, school, work."

"And the evening in the bar?" I ask.

"Sir, that's natural. I can't help it," he says smiling.

I gather that he did stage shows with a troupe, played the drums on Navratri dance nights, and had gained some recognition and fame before it all ended. Many an artist's life ends thus, in India especially. He/she is enthusiastic initially, then something happens and the love of art takes a back seat.

We talk till we reach our destination, Artist Village. He parts with the assurance that we will meet again. I look after the disappearing autorickshaw and think, there goes another unrecognised artist.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

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