Monday, September 28, 2009


When my 12-year old daughter pestered me to help her draw a portrait for the school drawing contest, I cursed the day I shot my mouth off about my artistic prowess. That made me ruminate on my quixotic fling with sketching during my formative years.

Frankly, I was born with a lacuna in my cortex where the drawing skill ought to have been located. Not that I couldn't draw anything at all. I could draw, say, water from the well with dexterity. I could even clandestinely draw a cigarette behind my mother's back. But when called on to draw a figure, I drew a blank. The best of the straight lines I drew reminded one of a snake wriggling with bellyache.

Nevertheless, around the time I drew my first breath, Mercury, the planet of artistic skills, took time off from its celestial obligations to holiday in the fourth house of my horoscope. And a vigilant astrologer meandering through my birth chart espied the vacationing planet and had a word in my mother's ear proclaiming that her precocious progeny(that's me) had the makings of a Ravi Varma or a Rembrandt. So, off I went to a drawing instructor under whose tutelage I honed my "artistic skills" after school hours.

For almost a year my only assignment was to draw "the coils of spaghetti", an apt exercise commensurate with my aptitude. In due course, however, I graduated to more 'intricate' patterns churning out such visual delights as 'The Doodle', 'Wisps of Clouds' and 'The Hotchpotch', most of them subtle variations of the good old spaghetti coils. And finally, I acquired enough pro(de)ficiency to draw, for instance, an elephant that could easily pass off as a hippopotamus with a long swollen (dangling) nose!

I drew my first colour portrait during school hours - that of our English teacher, who caught me red(green and yellow)-handed and beat me black and blue not for indiscipline but because in the picture he came perilously close to looking like a snarling bull-terrier. Yet, inspired by my new-found facility, I went on to draw the portraits of many of my friends, loosing each of them in the bargain for obvious reasons. Those of my school cronies who remained friendly to this day were the ones who made themselves scarce until such time my 'portraititis' ran its course.

Now, waking up from my reverie, I saw my daughter tugging at my sleeve daring me to prove my artistic claims. I picked up the gauntlet and helped her draw the portrait of a famous (but hairy) film actor.

That fetched her a second prize and a citation. For she was shrewed enough to submit her entry ander the caricatures category with a title 'The Lion with a grimace'!

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