Canvas, colours and moods

Posted by Indeera Chand, Dehradun, Uttarakhand

“I have a bad feeling about Lockdown ———— it puts me in a bad mood”, mentioned a hand written note slipped under my bedroom door at about 5 am one morning. I was relieved she had been able to express even this much. She had gradually become quieter, more withdrawn over the lockdown time. But this expression seemed to release her from the grimness that had overwhelmed Antara residents and Radhika herself.

Nothing had changed. The staff still at half strength, living and working within Antara were meant to safe guard us seniors from the virus spreading outside. They were still too busy and unavailable for the old cheerful chatter with her. Residents, too, staying in their own apartments also felt down hearted, with cinema and restaurant shut for nearly three months and the Club House no longer a hub of social gatherings! It is no wonder that Radhika’s upbeat cheerfulness has been severely curtailed.

Radhika has said she paints when she is happy, and normally her pictures bounce with cheerful energy. No longer was she happy and no longer was she happy with the work she was producing. This was most unfortunate. I wonder if she will be able to revive her spirits and the quality of her art?  If not, this will be a very sad consequence of the lockdown – for the nation and for Antara.

Antara management has imposed further restrictions on us oldies in order to protect us as far as possible from this dreaded virus. There are too many instructions about all the rules, all of us must follow. We explained as much and as best as we could to Radhika – the need to observe them for all our safety against this terrible Corona affliction. It seemed she did not understand  the need, or perhaps she did not want to be confined by rules or was she too old and feeble at forty eight years to take it all in and remember it every time? I wish I knew!

How often have I wished for some insight, some clue to the workings of her mind! She has a thinking mind, but finds it difficult to express her thoughts. And often I think, we do not give her enough time to sort her thoughts and express them. Oh dear! Will we ever learn to mend our ways? Give her enough time? How much we still need to learn!

Radhika has Down Syndrome, but with professional help we helped her reach her potential. Her speech and social interactions are acceptable. She has learnt to play several games, swim, play simple tunes on the piano, drive her Reva electric car in sheltered Delhi compounds. Radhika has worked for nearly thirty years in Delhi’s Vasant Valley School. She has more than a dozen solo art shows to her credit, has been in the Limca Book of Records one year, and was awarded the NCPEDP Shell Helen Keller Award another year. Radhika is quite accomplished, and then to watch her wandering around looking lost, bewildered and cast down is truly heart breaking.

During a fourteen day special quarantine all of us had to undergo, for having gone to an eye hospital, we had to work out a routine for Radhika. She didn’t want to cook or do the laundry, so we had to think of something else to occupy her! It was decided she should spend some time with each of us on a regular basis. So she and I were to have coffee together while we chatted, and then play one game of Blokus. Her father was to oversee her physio-exercises for the 35 minutes it took, plus cream her very dry legs. One morning he even soaked her feet, cut her toe nails and creamed her feet! She tries to dodge this exercise routine, but generally enjoys being made to do it.

Then after evening tea, Sunil – our driver  cum house help, would take her for a half hour walk along the walking track, keeping social distance from other walkers. At 7.30 pm, we would gather in the sitting room for our daily game of UNO , or Farkle – an Irish game of dice, and sometimes Gulaam Chor, a card game she played with her Nani long years ago.

During these two weeks, she seemed to be fairly easy. She spent some time painting in her bedroom, splashing paint on the wall in front of her and across the wooden floor and on every shirt, old or new. We are still not sure why she has been flicking her brush full of paint, not only in her bedroom, but also alas in the Gallery. Many admonitions have had no effect and so she has been barred from using it until she can refrain from messing the Gallery. We have to wait and see if this stern action achieves the intended result, or will it put a final and most unfortunate lid on her painting years? 

I am trying to enthuse her, reminding her of Dina Guha’s “CAN DO” philosophy, complimenting her on her determination to learn new things, do things differently. All the while keeping my fingers crossed, hoping she will find the ‘will’ to control the mess making flicks of her paint brush. If she avoids splashing paint around in her bedroom and if she manages this for a month or so, we can hope the Gallery will be open to her once again.

In the Gallery she is within the Club House, in the midst of whatever little coming and going is happening, giving her a sense of belonging to the community. Together with an easing of the lockdown and fewer restrictions, perhaps her art will once again be inspired by a return of her cheerful, spontaneous free spirit!  

Indeera Chand,
Purukul Road, Dehradun

Cover image: Author
Story images : Author

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3 thoughts on “Canvas, colours and moods

Add yours

  1. It made my day to read this. To read about Radhika.
    We worked together in VVS from 1995-2000 although I was with the high school age students. So not sure she remembers.
    I have fond memories of her spirited nature and immense talent. Today, her work reminds me a lot of Yayoi Kusama. I hope she thinks that’s a compliment. I mean that in terms of its originality and free abstraction. Beautiful!
    Give her my best and tell her my old friend Kaveri shared your blog. Small world!
    Lots of love

    Amrita Guleria Love

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Radhika Will find herself – she has a vibrance and inner knowing, silent and deep – that will help her strengthen her emotions during this strange and unique time of isolation of sorts.
    It takes her longer to comprehend change but comprehend she will, in her own time. Perhaps a new style or a pallet of colours will emerge through the flicking of her paints on the wall’s – an expression of her frustrated emotions wanting to burst forth? It’s her individuality and expressiveness that is oozing as it has been restricted due to the lockdown I’m sure.
    God bless her strong Spirit and keep her amazing talent in focus.
    Love her very much,

    Liked by 1 person

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