Monday, November 15, 2010
Long ago I had visited a home in a small town nestled in Himalayas. In the household there was an invalid man, his second wife(as first had died a painful death through burns and it was rumored that it was a dowry death, which in India means that a bride is abused and tortured and sometimes she accidentally burns in the kitchen while cooking! It is easy to prove that she died while cooking and was not burnt to death by an angry husband or a malicious in law), a teen aged girl( is daughter) and her younger brother living with their spinster aunt. Even when they extended a warm welcome with the wife and her sister-in-law slaving in the kitchen( wife being ordered around by the much married looking sister-in-law, why is it so with spinsters that they look more married than married women?), dark with soot, whipping up delicious food.
The projected happy family just didn't hold as there was a lingering shadow of frustrations, pain and anger. The son would sing melodious songs as we had tea in an over decorated living room with wife's embroidered table clothes and daughter's paintings made during the class tenth summer holiday at the local art teacher's coaching class. The man was all politeness and manners so much so that it failed to convince! Something about that sad little home was quiet bitter and quiet hidden. The wife had wrinkles on her weather beaten face, weathering that age and surviving suspended without security and love brings about. The smiles were stretched too far, brittle almost to the breaking point, it is easy to read the story that faces tell, just have to look a bit longer and deeper.
The wife, completely over run by her sister-in-law, most probably hailed from an economically weaker background. Children had the same pale aura of being repressed. When a mother is suppressed and smothered, children draw from this state and with the blossoming of their youth there is a wilting of spirit that is unmistakable. Was it this interference of a controlling spinster that lingered so heavily everywhere, in the kitchen, in tiny bedrooms and the kitchen garden with a parrot caged near guava tree, or was it the silent suffering of a woman who died by fire that hovered over this house that was painstakingly projected as a happy house but peace evaded it like water on lotus leaf. Now, the daughter is happily married and the house hold that I have not visited for a while might be a little lighter with children free of the silent agony.
Yesterday,I took Jayani to two drawing competitions. She is wonderful with colours and paints. The work she does is quiet matured for her age and I have appreciated her always. When she did not win any prize yesterday, she was disappointed. What she did was paint by imagination. At one place she painted the usual mountains, setting sun and trees, at the other she made a huge flower that she often makes at home with multi coloured petals. The flower she erased as she was impatient with colouring the whole thing and made stringy creepers at four corners. She was disheartened that she did not get any prize for this. I told him that she had not done the flower with care as she was impatient, she did not take criticism well as she was saying again and again that mamma did not like my painting.
I had a delicate balancing to do here, I know her potential is immense yet she does not like practicing and it is this I wanted to instill through this experience. I gave her an old letter of my brother where he had sketched a mouse with a bag that is spilling grains on path. He used to write these stories for my son in his engineering days and send them. Son had mastered drawing this mouse and would get prizes for this. She tells me why did you not tell that I had to practice a thing for a competition, I said it's not late, you have to learn to practice all things as human mind is made that way that if you do not practice, you forget! She seems to have understood this and the visit to the art competitions was not a waste. At these moments I often doubt myself. I thought about the praise I shower her with when she comes up with those beautifully executed works, she is a natural, sometimes such talent cant 'perform' on demand, but as a child it means a lot to hger to 'win' I do not want to take that joy away from her, so I gave her the clue to winning such competitions where children draw what they have practiced and perfected at home. Hope I am not wrong and her natural talent is not disturbed but enhanced with the practice and discipline...
Cold sunshine drips down the window
Inhale the white flower and the wild rose
Birds nest, bees roam
My heart too wanders, sun-dappled lanes of memory..
Dusty, damp, dark streets, sun filters in
Turning dust to gold, a solitary tear to ice...
Jayani rubbing nose with her fave kitty