As soon as the door opened, Anwesha headed straight to the balcony. That is where she would find her grandfather at this hour of the day, sipping tea on his favorite recliner and soaking the sounds and sights of a rainy Mumbai evening. Only grandfather, she knew, had the right answers for her burgeoning list of questions.
The chirpy ten-year old lodged herself in front of her grandfather with the blue Doraemon bag still on her back. With those big round pair of eyes, tightly plaited hair, kohl smudged across her cheeks, a trickle of sweat on her forehead and a sweet smile made her a sight so pleasant, happiness seemed personified.
‘Ajoba, our art class begun today. Our teacher asked us what we knew about art. Only Alekya replied about some paintings, museums in Paris which she had visited. Although the other students seemed to relate, I could not comprehend the meaning of this word.’
The look of seriousness on her little face made her grandfather smile. He carefully replaced the cup and rubbed his palms. The cool breeze through the balcony caught him unawares and made him shiver a little. It was drizzling outside, the roads wet and empty, the birds clamoring all around the trees, jostling for space like mendicants on the footpath below.
‘Are you tired? Shall we go for a walk, Pakhru?’
She rushed inside, to her room, exchanging her bag with the bright blue umbrella and returned to her grandfather, clasping his hand tightly.
They strolled across the by-lanes, without sharing a word. Their bond was a matured one; having understood each others quirks and habitual nuances, each one taught and learnt in a manner that only they would understand.
The main street was lined up with bright-colored lights, banners, adverts and temporary stalls. The air was thick with festivity and the scent of fresh flowers, sweets and incense sticks. The entrance of the Mandap was through a small lane between the stalls. Anwesha turned to her grandfather, as they were about to enter the hall, confused a little, the connection between art and Ganesh Utsav still not discernible to her unexplored mind.
Inside rows of young girls and beautiful ladies, dressed in silk sarees of red, green, blue and colors beyond, competed with each other to create rangoli patterns on the floor.
‘What do you see, Pakhru?’
‘Rangoli, which Aai draws everyday. But Ajoba why are we here?’
With a wide grin but without a reply, her grandfather led her further inside. In the far end, stood a mammoth replica of an oyster shell, gray in color, contoured and bearing inscriptions all over it, a bright white light emanating from the small opening in the front. Anwesha stood astonished, pulled her grandfather closer and rushed inside the small opening.
As they entered, the gracious, calm face of the Elephant God was reflected on hundreds of small mirrors stuck on every inch of the shell. The idol, depicting the God resting in an elegant position, one of the palms opened out and smiling magnanimously, was in the center. It seemed like they were in the center of the universe, under the radiating presence of the idol, the ebullience of the setting shattering all their thoughts.
Anwesha stood agape with incredulity. For few moments, it seemed everything around had paused. Her Grandfather bowed down and prayed.
‘See Pakhru, how wonderful everything looks. This is art. Something that surprises you, makes you happy, makes you sad, presses you to think,and brings out all your emotions, that is art. It is not the single idol, nor the whole hall that brings about the feeling.The experience of all these together,captured in this single moment is art. Did you understand now?’
Anwesha, flushed with joy, still trapped in wonderment, stared at her grandfather, not having heard him completely.
She had fallen in love with her art class.