Tombu – Paintings & their story
Six years ago if I could tell how my life would unfold by the way I lived it, I couldn’t be more wrong.
The Universe mostly tells you things in subtle ways. But more often than not it gives you warnings strongly about an impending danger in a clearer manner than telling you about good fortune.
It was after my first exhibition of paintings at the Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi, a blank canvas summoned me. The image was of a delicate girl lying peacefully on a bed of wild flowers. It was unusual considering I had almost decided upon using a little dog as the narrator of stories for my paintings. The exhibited paintings were of a little dog called Juhi.
The exhibition was held in May 2005 and the image which I am talking about appeared in the beginning of July 2005. But I struggled to make it. The more I tried rendering the delicate face of that girl the more it looked like a man’s. I called up my girlfriend Sudipta ( now my wife) and told her I was not a good artist. I can’t even make a face of a girl correctly and so I should give up painting altogether. She told me to let it come as it wants . I have heeded to that advice since. So the outcome was a painting of a delicate man lying peacefully on a bed of white wild flowers. It is just a face, eyes shut as if dreaming, and enjoying a state of bliss. The painting took about a week to finish and agitated me. There was no reason for it’s existence, but there it was in my house.
It wasn’t till the morning of 15th of August 2005 that I realized what that picture was trying to tell. I found Sudipta’s brother lying at the bottom of a deep gorge, eyes closed, peacefully in a different lifetime amidst those white wild flowers. His car had gone over a cliff between Mussourie and Dhanaulti. It was a day of death and bright little wild flowers lit by shafts of most beautiful sunlight I have ever seen in my life.
Tombu is a character from a story that my dear friend Gaurav has written. Tombu is a little boy who gets his way in school by lying, but has to face the truth of his abilities while facing that last ball which if he had hit for a four could have won his team the cricket match.Tombu was clean bowled.
It took me a lot of time to recover from the violence of that loss. Every experience of the world appeared as an illusion. Relationships, laughter, love, lights, circus, cars, desire, submarines…anything and almost everything seemed like that last ball which Tombu had to face.
Then one evening in a state of kef, after three whiskeys Tombu visited me. His sudden appearance and the fact that he had no viscera but just a face which looked like a large ink stain did not surprisingly surprise. The sudden change of life that day had turned me numb . Yet he was there and silently watched me see the sky turn from orange to black sipping whiskey. I ignored him for a while and then tried to have a conversation . Like a conversation one has with a real person, a friend, just a natural conversation. My attempts were met with a cold cynical look. Little did I realize, Tombu was not there to listen. He cannot listen for he has no ears. One can only look at him to see and understand how he feels about things. Believe me, he does not approve of any joy.
These paintings are depictions of my one sided conversations with Tombu. There are arguments and counter arguments about why things happen and why or how you need to deal with them. Its about the numbness of the everyday and the importance of the dramatic.Many have the dancer in them. Dancer is my hope and belief. He saves the day with an opposite emotion.
There is no philosophy or logic behind these images. Though a certain amount of dialectic is a part of the narrative, which was and still is to a certain extent a part of my existence but there is nothing more to the image than what is visible. I think they are a result of a lot of drinking, watching Lords Of The Rings trilogy and the summon of that urge which called me to paint.
The last of these pictures is the ‘Midnight Surprise’. It has no Tombu. It was painted after I got married to Sudipta . I guess Tombu realized that there was no space left for him after Sudipta’s arrival.
I don’t consider these images to be either epiphany or some other mantic visitation though that image of a man in a bed of flowers surely was.
I hope the elegiac is way behind me now, for I am sniffing a misty, feminine , aromatic breath of color and movement which is whispering words urging me to paint again.