Last week, my friend Vani sent out a characteristically strange and flourishy email announcing her decision to hold 'Mural making' art classes. She felt it was time to let loose her more creative side, as a weekend release from the corporate grind, and unleash it upon us lesser mortals. After threatening that she was very expensive and that there would be no discounts for so-called 'friends', she managed to get three confirmations for her first class. She had invited around 200 people but seemed happy at the 'positive response'.
I was one of the three and felt, rather enthusiastically, that this was my chance to rediscover my own creative side. I have always borne a grudge against my art teacher in school, with whom I had to part ways after I apparently 'indisciplined' with him. You wouldn't blame me, if you knew how irritating it was to have a bearded old crony pop up at your shoulder every time you were trying to paint a tree (the only form you could manage), to ask you in a quavering emotional voice 'So what do you want to be when you grow up?'. After changing my answer every class, three times, I lost it and finally told him 'A Woodcutter', which was the only thing that occured to me while painting a tree. After lecture that ensued from behind that quavering beard, I walked out in a huff, never to return or to paint again.
Until Vani, of course. Of course, I had very serious doubts about the whole affair when she sent a subsequent email announcing that the name of the classes would be 'Vani's Arty Tarties' ( I had loudly appealed to get her to change it, but without success), and these would begin at the unearthly hour of 9 a.m. on a Saturday. But my adventurous side prevailed and I went along to her place this morning.
I discovered that the only other student Vani had was Harman, as the third student had got cold feet and needed one more week to 'mentally prepare'. Little Harman had landed up on time, an hour before me, and was sitting on a cushion in the balcony, finishing a colorful painting consisting mostly of large blue stars. She was very proud of it and Vani was quite encouraging. She said 'Oh, I love the fact that there is absolutely no logic to your painting... It doesn't matter that it is daytime and that there are stars in the sky, on the ground....Very nice'. I personally felt that this was a disguised barb but Harman beamed and refused to do any more after that. Vani tried hard to get her to paint something else, but by this time, she had lost interest and preferred to talk on her phone and generally flip through a few art books. 'I am absorbing this', she explained, while listlessly turning the pages and throwing the books aside, one by one. She finally came across one she liked and said to me 'Look, Yash-this 'Nude in Sunlight'. See the way the sunlight is playing over her? Fantastic. She looks like...like...a ...nude ...in sunlight'. I agreed, because it was indeed a penetratingly accurate observation.
In the meantime, my own 'painting' was getting done. I had announced at the beginning that it would be a gift for my husband and there was a sigh of 'so sweet!' from both of them. When I told her that it would have a window as a main theme, Vani thought it was a great idea. But after talking about it for half an hour, I found I was still staring blankly at a blank sheet of paper. Some encouragement led me to make the first stroke and I began to draw a window. Vani panicked when she saw me draw two straight lines and said quickly opened one of her books to show me 'Look at this, Yash, look - some artists actually use abstraction to represent forms - see this bed here? No straight lines..and here, this one looks like an impression of the outside and inside, without there being a physical window'. I glanced at it and realised that this was her kind but vaguely pathetic attempt at hinting that I clearly sucked. I hesistantly began to start on a fresh sheet of paper, but she must have sensed my disappointment because she then asked me to continue with what I had started. So I happily painted away for the next hour.
Vani's husband, Pranay, who had been despatched to buy vegetables to stay out of her way, returned presently. He said hi from afar and then came up to observe what Harman and I were doing. He recoiled a bit when he saw our creations and then said the only sensible thing 'Wow! It's a real riot of colours out here!' and then retreated hastily, and stayed far away for the rest of the time.
Mostly, Vani pretty much let us do our own thing, saying we were both very creative, and she didn't really have to do anything, and these classes were easier than she thought. Then came the matter of remuneration. When she named her asking price, Harman and I scoffed loudly, reminded her of how creative we were and how she was not doing anything really, and unkindly added that we might as well buy fabulous professional paintings for that much. A bit crestfallen, she reduced her price and without much more bargaining, we agreed. I personally feel it is important to encourage these young folks when they are starting out on new ventures.
Towards the end, Harman announced 'I have decided I can only do abstract' and Vani assured her that it was more difficult to be abstract than to have forms to play with. She then gave us a long list of materials to buy for the 'Actual Murals' - I was a bit disappointed to learn that today's attempt was only a rough version and the actual would be much larger and using a variety of different materials (outside of crayon and poster colours that were so comfortable to use). But I hid my feelings well, and agreed that a 3*3 feet board would probably be more impactful than a crumpled, stained chart paper as a 'mural'. I was further reassured I was a creative genius by Vani exclaiming 'How did you get that wonderful shade of Pink over there, Yash?'. My doubtful response of 'I mixed the red and white together?' met with a serious, silent nod and then a round of uncontrollable giggles.
So the two of us left with promises of returning next week, and happy with the illusion that we can now paint. And Vani, simply by virtue of having created that illusion successfully, earned every bit of the ridiculous price she is charging us.
It's kind of nice when everybody's a winner.
And it really was a pretty shade of pink.