అనువాదలహరి

A Surrealistic Painting… Aripirala Satya Prasad,Telugu, Indian

I sat up. I was still feeling drowsy.  I rubbed my eyes to clear my vision and looked at the floor.  There was a painting under my feet… On Cross… charcoal on tar road. It was just like the picture I drew some twenty years back. That it remained intact on the road was all the more surprising. The face of Christ was agonizingly portrayed but, there was a smile lurking there… as if beckoning me to his fold.  I tried to get on my feet as carefully as possible lest I should erase it. Fortunately, my feet did not touch the ground.

I was unable to see what was in front of me…. It was just a curtain of mist.  And through the translucent dimness I could make out some busy noises at a distance. The mist was steadily melting… and slowly washing down the faces in colours… much like a surrealistic painting. To be more precise, it was like a mass surrealistic painting as the mist melted down.

There was a tea-stall on wheels. I was watching it without stirring from my place. It was like an Art Gallery with all Paintings got mixed up. I looked at the wall.  With paint and mortar peeling out here and there, it was itself like a faded abstract expressionist painting. At the foot of the wall there were some stains of spittle. On the wall, shoe and chappal marks of people who sipped tea standing on one leg and leaned on to the wall with the other were visible. It reminded me of some minimalist painting of the seventies. And if somebody argued it was only Geometric Abstract, perhaps, I would not refute it… though no symmetry in the stains could be seen. What was his name who invented this Geometric Abstract…? Kasimir…Kasimir… something!

“One tea” I shouted at the person serving tea to others there.

I found a big boulder nearby. I sat on that. The stone was soft. On the wall behind me there was a cinema poster half peeled. And through the half-peeled poster, another poster stuck there a week ago was visible. “A Collage…can we call it “Revealism?”… Was there anything like that?”  I was not so sure.  I watched the person serving tea. He was so lost in his work that he took no notice of my existence. His was such a typical face.  As my teacher had once explained, his face was made up of just three shapes… a circle, a square and a triangle. He was looking fresh still, since the day was not even a half through. “When I return in the evening and find him steeped in sweat, I should attempt to do him live,” I decided

I turned my head and looked in front once more. The window I passed by looked so far away now. It was moving back and back and back as I watched. There gathered a crowd… indeed a very large crowd of people. Well, I can’t tell you what a wonderful feeling it was to see such gathering. For that matter, looking at people in itself was a wonderful experience…for, in those small, little faces, one could find thousands of emotions and expressions. Did you see that man… that bald-headed fellow? He came out to buy vegetables but forgot all about it and was trying to watch something jostling in the crowd. There was both anxiety and hurry in his face… as a three-year old child was pulling him by his hand from behind crying “let’s go”. There was impatience in that little child’s face. She was eager to leave. Did you see that girl there… No …no… no… not she… but the other one, beside that hefty figure in maroon-color sari. Yes, that very girl with the dog. As the frills of her red sari fluttering under breeze fell on the black pant of the man standing beside to her, it was a treat to watch. Black and red color combination was such!

I thought it would be nice if could draw this crowd like this.  Perhaps, it would look even better in cubism… fixing that girl at the center and drawing her face around…  Oh! It would really come out a master piece.

“How long will it take for a cup of tea, I say?”  I vent my anger at the man selling tea and turned my attention back to the crowd.

There was some movement at the center and something was trying to ease out of the crowd. Oh, it was only a color… the red color.  It was so exciting to see the red. For a while, forgetting about cubism, my mind turned to classical realism. Yes, I should it that way. Only then, people would acknowledge my talent.  An admixture of Realism and Neoclassicism… By the way, where were my brushes? I must get back home. But how?  A black drizzle had already started.

Strangely, however much it rained nothing happened to the color … that was no color… now I realized… it was blood! Somebody’s blood seeping through the crowd.  I got up in a hurry, scampered through and whisking the crowd I saw….

There was a corpse… a corpse.

But it was me!!!

It was me who was lying there. That dark tanned face was mine and there was blood on my face…so blatantly mismatching whatever you say. The rain turned green.

***

“You have to draw the portrait of Narayana…”

I jumped in delight. It was my fortune to draw the portrait of my guru, my master… what more would I ask for! There were no words to express my love for him!

But when I saw him for the first time, however, I had a deep urge to stab him with a knife… “But what would I gain by killing him?” I reasoned on second thoughts.  Jealousy sir jealousy! I was so damningly jealous of him.

He was sixty plus. But he would become a child when it comes to scrutinizing a drawing. He would look, watch and notice every single stroke of the drawing through his glasses.  Even if it were drawn by a child, he would watch it as hungrily. Then he would draw it independently… over and over. He would relentless draw it until he mastered it. That’s why he could do everything from portraits to abstracts; from illustrations to caricatures. He was doing them still.

“Hunger is the prime requisite… there was no art that did not surrender to hunger,” he said once.

“Yes. If Van Gogh could draw such great paintings, it was only because of the growing wolf in his belly.” I said, rather foolishly. He chuckled.

“It was not that hunger I was speaking about. I meant the hunger for learning everything new we come across. If that fire burns within you, you feel like learning many things like these….” he said. Then he opened out his collection of pictures for me.

There were abstracts from China, cartoon strips from magazines published in Germany, poster designs drawn from Middle-East… and many more. As he went on describing the significance of each Painting, explaining the expertise of the strokes, his enthusiasm was only waxing, while I was down with deep despair! When I returned to my humble abode late in the night leaving the world behind to itself, I began hating myself. After seeing such work and introduced to such artistes, I thought I had no right to call myself an artiste. The four paintings in front of me… which I drew in my own hand… seemed scoffing at me. I was so infuriated that I threw colours on them with vengeance. I emptied one full red Indian-Ink bottle on them.

***

Blood… so ruddy… was spreading across the road. It was mine… rather from my corpse. When I realized that I was dead, I could not contain my tears. It was not my wife or my children that flashed in my memory… nor my father and mother or my relations; It was not even my master!

What flashed before my eyes hazily was the portrait I was drawing of Narayana, my master! It was not complete. I finished the sketch. Applied base colours. But, there was still a lot of work to do.  “But who would complete it now?” was my question. “Will anybody complete it?” was my doubt. The overall scheme of the painting was shaped in my thoughts, but it was not destined to take birth on the earth.  With my death, that painting died a premature death in the womb itself.

There was no chance for anybody to know that I had started working on that. Maybe, the fellow who advanced me for that would come, but he would not be ready to take that half-cooked work. Like the “Crying Child” It must, unfortunately, dust there or in some corner of the room.

Someday my wife might think this painting was in her way. That day it might find its way onto the cart of some waste collector. What else could I expect of her, after all? Not that she was averse to art; if somebody showed her a completed painting, she would be able to judge whether it was good-looking or not, if not, she was able to explain what was exactly good about it. In such a case, it would be too much to expect of her to recognize a master piece in the making.

“Don’t be so absent-minded?” she used to bring me to senses occasionally.

“No. Nothing like that,” I used to answer her.  But what should I say?  Should I tell her the pencil art of a Russian lady artiste was still boring through my mind? Or, should I say Da Vinci’s brush was dashing colors sinking deep into my heart? Or should I explain the labor pains of a yet-to-take-shape painting in my brain?

“Look! You swapped your chappal…” she pointed out my error when I started off.

Then I looked at my feet. She was right. I was somehow felt that there was lack of symmetry as I slipped my feet into the chappal, but did not probe further.

Wearing the chappal properly, I said, “I am out to visit my teacher and be home before long.”

“Don’t drive the vehicle lost in thoughts,” she warned, poor girl!

I heard her warning. But can we control our thoughts, dreams and imaginings? As they seized me, I forgot to take the right turn where I should and overshot. I had to go further and take a U-turn. I had almost finished the overall scheme of the painting in my mind. I was calling on my master just to take some references. I was eager to draw his painting in his favorite style of magic realism. I had almost reached his house. I was almost there. Then again missed the mark to take the U-turn, and instead of taking a right turn I took a sudden left and came under a lorry speeding from behind. It all happened in a flash and I was on the road. My painting had become a destitute.

***

I was a crazy fellow. Watching the scene before my eyes I thought it was a surrealistic painting or some such thing. I don’t know if things really appear like that for the Soul. I was venting my anger at the poor fellow for not supplying me my cup of tea. How long should I sit still, like the model sitting for a painting? If I were a Soul, should I not fly high into the air and into the skies? What was restraining me?

People were congregating around my body.

“You see how fatal it was not to wear a helmet…” someone was parroting about road safety…

“I was watching him… he had no control over his vehicle. I thought he was inebriated. He suddenly took a turn,” said another eyewitness.

I could not stand them anymore. There was something preventing me from leaving this world against my will.

It was some strong force here on this earth.

Meanwhile, the police had arrived.  They pulled out my mobile and started dialing the numbers found there. I understood. Perhaps my Soul was eager to see my wife and children, and that was the reason for delay.

The ambulance had arrived. So did my wife and children. My wife was wailing her heart out.  But, I did not get tears… knew not why.

Everything was over. They would be removing the body from there soon.  At least now my Soul should stir. But, no.  There was some shackle still.

“What happened?” an old man asked a young boy standing at the end of the line.

“Accident… spot death.” Somebody answered.

“Poor fellow. Was he identified?”

“Some poor Tom… they say he was an artiste.” He answered. The old man made his way through the crowd to have a close look.  Standing near my corpse in folded hands and looking into it he said,

“What picture was playing before your eyes, my son, you could not see your own death,” and came out. That was perhaps what my soul wanted to hear. With my death I left behind my image, but the painting of my dreams remained incomplete. At least one person could make out the cause of my death. Just that! And soon my soul started lifting off high into the air.

The old man was collecting the change thrown on the drawing of the Christ.

***

Aripirala Satyaprasad

Aripirala Satya Prasad

Telugu, Indian

Read the Telugu Original here: ఊహా చిత్రం

Born in Guntur, Aripirala Satyaprasad is educated in Nellore, Hyderabad and Anand (Gujarat). He is a noted short story writer having over 50 short stories to his credit. Yet, he says, he is yet to write his best story. His collection of short stories with the same title as the present story is on the anvil.  Presently he is associated with ICICI Lombard.

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