Monday, September 3, 2007

A Portrait of an Artist ( one )

Name : Kusum Sharma
Relationship with blogger : Grandmother

Yes, she was an artist. In fact, she was a true blue artist.

Which means that she suffered for her art, perhaps a little more than she made others suffer.

"I sometimes cry loudly, in the middle of the night," she once told me.

I didn't ask her why.

I thought I understood.

In fact, I did not. I was too young, too full of myself to understand why a sixty year old woman would cry loudly, in the middle of the night.

Countless tears after she passed away, I still don't understand the relationship between art and suffering.

Except that suffering is worth it if there is art.

My grandmother, whom I called Kushuaaji (Kusum + Aji ), was by no means a sad person. She was, what they call Passionate. She was stupid enough to be passionate. She was energetic enough to be passionate. And the passion spilled over, in her poetry, her letters, her pickles, her singing, her sketches, and the thousand little tidbits that she collected over the years that comprised her artwork.

Her first poem:
Her daughter was six months old. In those days, they had to cook on an open fire with three bricks around a log. Kushuaaji was making chapatis when the baby suddenly woke up and started crying. If it were a matter of turning the gas off, she would have taken the child for a feed. But a log of wood takes a lot of effort to burn again. So Kushuaaji continued to make chapatis as the baby cried herself back to sleep, unfed, untouched.

This is when she wrote her first full length poem, 'Kalpana, chimukalya bala, jivacha hoto kala' ( Kalpana, my little child, you wring my heart).

Anything can be beautiful.

"I didn't know for a long time that I was an artist." she said once, as she cut up the newspaper and hung it upside down to unfold into a lampshade. "Nobody in the family ever appreciated my work."

Another sign of a genuine artist. Everyone in the family considered her art work as trash. But she had a vision. She could see beauty in the strangest of corners.

Once, when I must have been under ten years old, I was watching her bake chapatis.

"What will happen if this roti burns?" I asked her.

"Lets see." she said.

And we burned to charcoal the poor roti, as it turned completely black. Before it could catch fire, she gingerly removed it from the fire and kept it aside.

'What shall we do with it?' I asked her.

'Let it cool down, then we will see.' she said. 

The next morning, what do I see but a black round roti, hung on the wall in Kushuaaji's bedroom!

"If you touch it, it may crumble," she warned me, "Just look at its texture. Isn't it beautiful? I couldn't bear to throw it away."


WiseKrack said...

A very touching story, beautifully written. It inspired me to look at your other writings on your blog.

chris said...

I don't have a nickname, so i'll be Backwards Dog.
Loved the grandmother story, especially cause i paint.
"modern Art" IS NOW OVER 100 YEARS OLD. The one thing about abstract art, which includes burned roti, is that it does not cause the viewer to get stuck into the worn mental grooves that realistic art does.More creative, therefore, it s art, not just craft.