The Mexicans celebrate Dia de Muertos sometime in November to remember their dead. Loved ones lost. A few years ago, the movie Coco, was based on this Day of remembrance. In our traditions, I am not aware of any such specific day assigned to remember the lost family members but we definitely delve into our memories deeper on the day we lost them, year after year.
It is understandable when you have lost somebody and you miss them. But I hadn’t ever heard wishing the presence of someone who they have never met. I somehow, fall into that category. After I had completed my earthly presence for three decades, I married into this family. Father-in-law was long gone. Almost a decade by then. Any and every member of the extended family and friends, that I was introduced to, told me the same thing – ‘that man would have pampered you to bits’, ‘The daughter he never had’, ‘you missed meeting a good man’ and many more that I chose to ignore beyond a point. Because each time I heard something on those lines, there was a sense of deep regret, as if I should have met this man way before he was gone. As if I delayed in getting here. Survived by his wife and sons, and millions of friends, there wasn’t a person who spoke any other way but fondly of him. Evenings were full of his stories and how he added life to the room full of people. Everybody’s eyes lit up when he was mentioned and there were always more stories to be shared.
As months passed by, I started seeing the void that his absence had left in the family. I wished more and more that I had gotten a chance to meet him. As I went through the old family pictures, I started forming an image of the kind of person he might have been. With all the stories that I have heard about him from specific corners of the house- what his favorite spot was in the living room, how he loved spending the evening in the bar, his early morning cooking endeavors, his routine through the day- for a long time those particular parts of the house made his holographic self show up to me. It was haunting but in a good way. As if he would start a conversation with me right away. And I would lament away the evening in more regret of not knowing my Father-in-law. I miss never having met him.
If his holographic image in my head had suddenly communicated with me, I am not sure how I would have reacted. If I should introduce myself or does he know that I exist in the family already. I don’t know and I will never know.
A fine gentleman I indeed, missed, meeting!! So I did what I do best. A sketch of him shall do unless I am allowed to be ferried to the Land of the Dead for a day. Until then, may he live long in the hearts and memories of his near and dear ones.
The toughest subjects for me have been human faces. After so many animals and birds in stippling, I have developed a comfort level with wildlife portraits but human portraits intimidate me to an extent that my hands freeze before moving onto the next line. There are certain images though that I find compelling enough to pick up the pencil/pen and draw. The following is one of them which I bumped into while scrolling down my Facebook wall one of the days. A friend of mine had put up this pic from his trip to Manali and that loving look on the face just made me pick up the pencil to draw the face. The series of rings in her ear and the gentle smile with the wrinkles of experience was irresistible.
There are many such reference portrait photos that I have collected over the last decade that I would like to draw but haven’t yet gotten to it. Sometime I will get over the fear of human faces and get to it.
On a bright sunny day, few hours later, we walked out grim. The silence was heavy. Neither of us had a clue about how to start a conversation. We were brimming with shame, empathy, compassion…. No words were going to suffice for what we felt. We covered the 45 mins drive back to the hotel without uttering a word. Thankfully the uber driver had the radio on in the background. I wondered later if the cab drivers are used to the sombre state of passengers boarding after a trip to the Apartheid museum.
After millions of safety warnings from anybody and everybody who has ever heard of Johannesburg, we decided to cut our time there to a single day. That was to be our last day in South Africa. The people, the places, the wildlife, the lifestyle.. name any aspect of the country and we would say we had fallen in love with it. Now what is it that remained to pick on from this country – its history. Hence the place to go was the Apartheid museum at Johannesburg to mark the concluding day of our time in SA.
It all began with the Gold rush. People of all races from all corners of the world landed at SA to make their fortunes. The natives struggled through all of this being displaced by fortune seekers. Before they knew, the social hierarchy had been created based on the colour of the skin. Fairest being at the top and darkest at the bottom which constituted most natives. Many people rose up to the struggle and perished.
A century ago, was born Rohlihlahla Mandela who would eventually lead the country in its final battle against apartheid. Years of perseverance and suffering couldn’t break the man’s will but strengthened it manifold only to realize his dream of earning the dignity and right to a decent life for his countrymen. Almost a century of fighting for a country sans racism, they succeeded in abolishing apartheid, a mere 25 years ago. It isn’t easy for the oppressed sections of the society to wake up one fine day to the abolition of apartheid and forget the sufferings, but the attempts to move on are evident. To bring back the confidence of the people who were badgered for a century, might take more than a lifetime to mend. But the hope and the optimism makes up for the starting point.
A fairly young country, South Africa, is still trying to live in harmony with all races as part of their social structure. The diversity eventually led South Africa to be called as the Rainbow Nation.
The Apartheid museum has been built with a lot of passion keeping in mind the struggle of the common man in South Africa to earn the fundamental right to a decent living. And as a constant reminder to the future generations to respect the treacherous path their forefathers walked to give them the life of dignity.
Started on a whim, my love for stippling work has grown much deeper. I loved the outcome of the first piece (Bob Marley) and gave the tiger a shot. I didn’t understand the most important thing about stippling – patience and concentration. Those days I couldn’t focus on a single thing until the end because I had to multitask. The job demanded it then. But as and when I started working on different pieces, my attention span increased and I was loving the end results. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had moments where I wanted to give up half way through a sketch. And I realised later that if I let a sketch be without completion, I found it difficult to go back to it. I hope someday I finish the half done sketches that are lying on the side.
A trip to the eastern coastal town, Pondicherry, added handmade paper to my stationery hoard. One of the evenings I pulled out my handmade paper stock wanting to do something with it, but wasn’t sure what. Like most evenings, the radio was playing in the background and there came the ‘Redemption song’. That led me to Bob Marley’s picture. I wasn’t sure how pencils or charcoal would behave on such a hard-ridged paper. So I picked up my fountain pen that I use for writing and experimented a stippled piece of art.
Its hard to believe but all of this happened by chance and I fell in love with stippling. By the early hours of the morning, I had Bob Marley looking at me out of a postcard sized handmade paper.