When I was diagnosed with clinical depression two years back, I took to art as a therapy. As a kid, I failed my drawing examinations in school. So, taking up arts as an adult, felt intimidating and unfamiliar. I tried to make sense of my life.
Cut to 2020, I am alive and thriving. But till when? The invisible virus has forced the entire human species under quarantine. There’s death, fear, anxiety, panic, and horror stories all around. I pick up the brush again and try to make sense of this sudden random predicament that surrounds me.
There are calls for ‘social distancing.’ I yell. I shout. No! It’s not social but only physical distancing. I paint the dots. Dot art is now internationally recognized, but it finds its origins in the Australian aboriginal culture. It is not only beautifully aesthetic but has a far hidden and deeper purpose: to disguise the sacred meanings behind the stories in the paintings. The meaning here: It’s the circle of life; of courage; of hope.
It’s been two weeks. I haven’t stepped out at all. The police are on lock down curfew patrolling. I see the sunshine beam through my balcony windows. But I can’t feel it on my skin. I decide to dot the sunshine and send healing vibes to planet earth.
It is almost a month now. People are being mean and cursing each other. May be this virus is bringing the worst out of us. Maybe we are afraid of the future and we all want to escape our minds. But my mother softly nudges me over a phone call, “Draw a lotus. When its roots are dirtiest, the lotus produces the most beautiful flower. That’s what this virus is all about.”
At my home, I miss my friends. Some of them are stuck in foreign lands. The government has announced it will bring back them home, safe on a rescue plane. I await their safe arrival eagerly. I look at a plane flying up above the skies.
Two months into the lock down, the days are melting into nights. And the nights roll over into days of rage, despair, hurt, hopelessness, anxiety. I decided to let out a scream in Edvard Munch’s style.
Yesterday, I cried a lot. Reason, I was missing my parents and my brother. This is the longest ever, I have stayed away from them without meeting or seeing them. 6 months. So, I painted and cried.
Today is a better day. While painting this piece (I call her Rama), I was calm, relaxed, and smiling. I see my mother in her and felt her near me. My mother clad in a blue traditional nine-yard saree, with a studded nose ring, would just look like an elegant Rama.
This virus and the resultant lock down have made me realize, how much I love to hug people. I shed a tear or two and create an ode to all the hugs that won’t be given this year.
I feel a sense of loss, loss of normal life, loss of being able to travel, loss of sitting by the beach on pale brown soft sand, underneath an open sky. I try to make sense of my loss of freedom with resin, a chemical. After all chemicals are everywhere. Inside and outside us. Isn’t everything we hear, see, smell, taste, and touch involve chemistry and chemicals or matter in some way?
“Yes, it does. It is mass. And it occupies space. The better we know chemicals, the better we will understand our world. But beware, chemicals, just like life, change,” warns my father.
This morning, the phone rang continually. My best friend’s father left us for his heavenly abode. Another friend lost her daughter to the virus. My bachelor neighbor’s house is empty now. All to the unfathomable virus. Today, I can’t paint. I seek refuge in Buddha. “The only permanent thing in this world is impermanence,” his voice reverberates.
As if on a cue, the blue skies turn somber. “Expect the cyclone to reach Mumbai by tomorrow afternoon” goes the radio announcement. “Parts of countries are already, submerged in flood waters,” it adds.
The virus drains me. Numbs me. It has declared an apocalypse on my world.
The pandemic split opens the gross differences between the haves and the haves not. “Pandemic won’t stop period poverty,” declares a menstrual equity activist through a tweet. The virus, along with many scares has handed over period poverty to rural Indian women. The lack of safe and hygiene access to menstrual products increases the risk to their lives. I decide to ‘support the girls’ through my art.
Solving an ‘unprecedented crisis’ will require an unprecedented courage and art provides just the right quantity!
‘They’ have now started talking about the kids. “Let them go to school,” shouts a parent. “Better to keep them at home,” insists another. The kid next door told me from his closed walls, “I am scared. I don’t understand, why are we all cooped in our homes. When will you give me candy aunty?”
The bougainvillea in my home garden is now in full bloom. I think it’s a message. I trace my hands over its tender petals. “Spring will come once again,” it whispers.
And so, I smile, taking one day at a time. Nature brought the darkness. It will bring the light.