ऐसी अक्षरे

:- कथा
:- कविता
:- लेख
:- अनुवाद
:- हिंदी
:- English
:- संग्रह
:- इतर

मंदार शिंदे
Mandar Shinde

Saturday, July 3, 2021

“I Want to be an Artist” - A Short Story

This story happens in the pre-Covid era. Yes, it has become necessary to specify this, as the Covid crisis has changed the way we lived our lives before.

It was the same boring time in the night when Pooja, a 13-year-old girl, was neither excited to study nor tired to sleep. Additionally, she was again upset with her parents after a heated argument over her career.

Yes, Pooja's parents - both of them successful and well-known Architects, were worried about Pooja's career despite her being too young to understand their concerns. She had recently developed a liking towards drawing and painting, thanks to the new art teacher, who encouraged and appreciated her genuine efforts in learning and creating something different. Pooja wanted to spend hours colouring up white sheets of paper with the shapes and colours that represented her imagination in true sense. Under the influence of her new found love towards arts, she had unintentionally expressed before her parents at the dining table, her desire to become an artist when she grows up. That was the incidental reason for the outbreak of World War III in the territory of her very own house.

"Are you out of your senses? Do you even know what an artist does?" Pooja's mother inquired.

'I don't even know what an architect does!' Pooja wanted to respond, but she ate her own words with the next bite of the tasteless food on her plate. The food wasn’t actually tasteless; however, Pooja had lost her interest in it after the reaction from her mother.

"Don't be so harsh on her," Pooja's father intervened. "You should be happy to know her liking towards drawing. It's just a matter of setting the goals right, isn't it? She can continue her practice of drawing, which will eventually help her in the course of architecture."

Pooja was shocked. Her parents had already decided upon which profession she would take up. 'When did they discuss and finalize? When she was 10, maybe 5 years old? Or even before she was born? Even before they knew whether it would be a girl or a boy? Ridiculous!' Pooja kept eating all these words, while listening silently to the rising voices of her parents.

"Don't justify her kiddish ambitions," her mother snapped at her father. "She just mentioned that she wants to become an artist! And I want to make it very clear that she cannot waste her precious years on things which she will regret for the rest of her life."

"I agree with you on this," the father said in a soft yet firm voice, but I don't even consider it a topic of discussion. We know what is best for her and we will do it whatever may come. Why can't you just ignore her and enjoy the food?"

'That is so mean, Mr. Architect!' Pooja took her next bite and chewed upon the anger building inside her.

"No, I can't ignore, rather I would like to make it very clear that she is not allowed to ruin our plans for her bright future!" The mother made the final statement of the evening.

Pooja was disappointed and retired to her room for a long lonely night. She wanted to speak with someone. Someone who could understand what she feels. Someone who would listen to her without judging or preaching.

Could it be her best friend Sneha? No! Pooja had tried sharing her thoughts with Sneha once, but she was already convinced to become a software engineer and fly to the US when she grows up. She had also advised Pooja that she can pursue her hobby even as an architect. No no, she didn't want to speak with Sneha on this topic again.

Could it be her art teacher then? Pooja was not sure. She knew nothing about the teacher beyond their interaction in the class. She liked the teacher for all the encouragement and appreciation, but didn't feel like sharing family matters with some outsider.

The thoughts in her head and the tasteless words she had eaten, now tired her so much that she fell asleep without even removing her glasses.

Pooja could not tell how much time she slept or whether she was still sleeping and dreaming. She could hear the shouting news anchors on the news channels that her parents watched with immense interest. There was some breaking news about a virus and a pandemic and a lockdown declared by the government with immediate effect. Pooja had heard about viruses, but she couldn't understand what a pandemic was or what the lockdown meant.

Pooja's thoughts were disturbed by the flipping of the calendar hanging on the wall. She was surprised to see the pages flipping and months changing with the blink of her eyes. Now she was sure, it was a dream. But then, suddenly her mother entered her room and she appeared to be very real in person. Pooja was confused.

"Don't worry Pooja, we will be out of this very soon," her mother's voice was surprisingly soft and assuring.

"Out of what, Mom?" Pooja asked innocently, sitting up in her bed.

"Out of this pandemic and the lockdown, my dear." She rested her hand on Pooja's shoulder.

'But why are we under lockdown?' Pooja wanted to ask, but she felt so nice by the warmth of her mother's touch that she remained silent. She couldn't tell how much she longed for this touch.

"The schools will not open for the next few weeks... or maybe a few months," her mother continued. "I know you're going to miss your studies…"

'And the fun with the friends!' Pooja wanted to add but didn't.

"This pandemic has changed our lives," her mother said sadly. "It's been six months since the first lockdown was declared and we don't see the situation improving a bit."

'Six months? Did I really sleep that long? Or am I in a dream? What did I eat last night that I'm having such a strange dream?' Pooja kept thinking until her mother spoke again.

"Your father is very upset. We had just shifted to the new office and all this happened. All the projects stopped; finances dried up; interest on loans continued to accrue… We never imagined something like this would happen. We weren’t prepared for this…"

Pooja felt her mother was on the verge of tears. She was not prepared for this. Till now, it was always Pooja who cried and her mother consoled her or left her alone for some time. Pooja was not sure whether to console her mother or leave her alone for some time. She just put her hand on her mother's hand resting on her shoulder.

"Anyways, I didn't intend to scare you or make you feel sad. In fact, I came here to give you the phone."

"Phone? For what?" Pooja spoke, breaking her silence.

"Your friend Sneha called. She wanted to speak with you. Here, have this," She spoke, handing over her phone to Pooja. "Speak with her. And come to the kitchen once you're done. I'll be making your favourite dosa today."

Pooja held the phone in her hand, looking at her mother in disbelief. She waited for her to leave the room before dialing Sneha's number.

"Hi Pooja! I was waiting for your call," Sneha said merrily.

"Why? Anything special?" Pooja asked dryly.

"Yes, wanted to share something with you," Sneha replied. "Although I'd have loved to meet and have a hearty chat with you... You can't imagine how much I'm missing our school. Aren't you?"

"Yeah, me too." Pooja said matter-of-factly.

"Anyways, I wanted to tell you how happy my Mom is these days. All thanks to your Mom!" Sneha continued while Pooja listened carefully, looking at the flipping pages of the calendar on the wall. "My Mom's handmade jewellery is a hit after she attended the online workshop conducted by your Mom. Your Mom is a true superstar! She's helping so many housewives like my Mom, in setting up their own online businesses."

"Oh, is it?" exclaimed Pooja. She had never experienced this side of her Architect mother. It was getting more and more difficult for her to make sense of what she was hearing today.

"And one more thing…" Sneha sounded very excited. "I'm joining the watercolour painting workshop by your father from the next week. You're so lucky, Pooja, to have such artist parents."

"Oh, thank you, Sneha!"

"Do you know what my engineer Dad said when I mentioned this to him?" Sneha asked mischievously.


"He said, 'Don't worry dear, I'd also join the batch with you and we'll practice together at home' So cool, isn't it?"

"Wow! That's a great thing to hear…" Pooja was amused.

"There's something more…" Pooja could imagine Sneha jumping up and down on the other side of the phone. "My parents have changed the plan of making me an engineer."

"Oh, congratulations!" Pooja reacted in the most natural way. "But does that also mean you wouldn't be flying to the US when you grow up?"

"No no, that is fixed," replied Sneha. "Only change is that I will pursue my education in Arts from the US. Thanks to this pandemic and the lockdown, my parents now want me to become an artist and not an engineer. Even you can talk to your parents; perhaps, they also have had a change of mind by now..."

"Pooja… Pooja…" her mother's voice came from a distance, before Pooja responded to Sneha on the line.

Pooja got confused again. Is this a dream or the reality?

What do you think?


(Published in ALG-O-Rhythm, The Art Magazine Jul-Aug-Sep 2021)

- Mandar Shinde


No comments:

Post a Comment