I regard this painting as one of my better executed ones.
G’bai first came too our house about 20 years ago. She came to do the sweeping and wash the dishes. She was then about 30 years old and married to a factory worker. She had the burning ambition to educate her 3 daughters and 2 sons, and ` make something ‘ of them. When her husband did not have the time to drop her, she walked a good 5 kms from her house to our neighbourhood to work. She worked in about half a dozen houses.
She also was an excellent masseur, and was greatly in demand whenever someone had a baby! She did not disclose all her earnings to her husband; I helped her open a secret bank account in which she would put her savings. She would then buy jewellery for her daughters’ weddings from these savings!
This diminutive yet gutsy lady, who had never been taught to read and write, dared to dream of a great future for her children.
Sadly, none of her children have grown up to her expectations. Today she is financially much stronger and still working – but only as a masseur.
G’bai likes to dress up, but because of the nature of her work, rarely has the opportunity. Here I have caught her preening in front of the mirror. She generally wears only the `maang tikka’ on her forehead; I have dressed her here in all the jewellery she’d probably love to wear!
Mangli (whose name means `the auspicious one’) is a beautiful lady, with a regal bearing … always cheerful, smiling… She would come to do my laundry and I always wanted to paint her. But she never had the time to sit for me. Finally, I could manage to convince her to give me her black and white passport size photograph, around which I built this painting.
I am very fond of this painting because I think have managed to capture the essence of her personality.
On festivals Mangli would come to work decked up in her heavy silver jewellery and her brightest red `bandhni chunari'(tie and dye veil) . Her hands were rough from washing clothes – I used my artistic licence here!
I placed Mangli in the royal surroundings she was meant to be in!
The painting is framed with a red tie and dye around it. The glass prevents a closer look – but some details can be seen here.
Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to paint and sketch all my life. I joined some summer painting classes and learnt to do oils.
But then, school and college happened. Again, while in college, I joined a correspondence course, where I learnt to sketch in ink. That was very exciting – I think I have the `assignments’ lying around somewhere. Shall dig them out and may be upload them.
Again life intervened; this time it was a husband, a job and children.
In 1997, I had this great urge to start painting again. I had given up my job to take care of my daughter – that was a full time job. But the itch to paint was so strong that I would paint with her in my lap or between chores.
Since I had not learnt how to use water colours, and oils/ canvas/brushes were exorbitantly priced – I painted with poster colours, using them like oils. Later, when I did buy proper water colours, I continued to paint with them like one would with oils! After having spent a year in Kishangarh, I was influenced by the miniature style, so I enjoyed using detailing in my work.
I gifted away many paintings, even sold some – making about 30-35 paintings in 2 years. And then, as suddenly, I stopped.
May be, one day, the painter’s soul shall come back to stay with me.