More often than not, it just remained in my head and when I decided to bring it out, I worked on it for hours without eating or sleeping. My paints and brush always said what I wanted to. Painting is quite different from any other talents like writing or singing, in which you can edit and reconnect. It is more like making music, where you have to trust your instincts and believe that you will be able to reproduce what you outlined in your mind.
There are many artists who will tell you that they only work for their satisfaction and not for others. While sitting in this poorly lit room of one of the cheapest accommodations of the city, it’s easy for me to paint a picture of my dedication towards art and how I never compromised quality of my work for commercial success, how I never believed in interacting outside my comfort (which is typically limited to talking to myself) and how I dismiss shallow beliefs and customs of this baseless social order. I can also tell you how I despise entertaining spoilt trophy wives and repulsive socialites for making their portraits to lift their self-esteem. None of this is true though. I have spent fair share of my life running after success but maybe I see the world and world see me through very different eyes.
When I was a kid, I used to watch painters with awe, working wonders on canvass like Mozart playing a symphony. Brush strokes up and down, various colours like musical instruments; blue and white made clouds; pink and orange made faces with black shadows and brown wrinkles. Today I so wish that I painted badly that day and was not encouraged to learn it any further. But here I am, after all these years living without any name or fame.
Bringing you back to the poorly lit room of the cheapest accommodation of the city; I started travelling sometime back both in search of work and inspiration. It was not my idea, but I read somewhere that some artists gained repute by changing their places of residence and went on to live where their work was much appreciated. Over last few months I travelled to mountains, beaches and crowded cities but my luck did not seem to have changed. For the first time I decided to be away from city and lived in a secluded bungalow in a forest; partly because it was very cheap and partly because it helped me concentrate on my work, not that I had any.
The night watchman told me that the bungalow belonged to a government officer. He used to stay with his daughter. She disappeared one day. Rumours are that he got drunk one day and accidentally shot her. We all heard the shot but when we reached there, he said he fired at a hyena. I am sure he buried the body somewhere in the forest. During his last days, he had confined himself to the room on left corner of the property. He had given leave to all servants and his body was found days after he was dead. He indicated at the big lock and said the room was closed and nobody goes in that room anymore.
I was in deep slumber that night when I heard the shot. It took me some time to figure out whether I was dreaming or I actually heard a shot. I ran towards sound of the shot, but there seemed to be no activity. I woke up the watchman. He had not heard any such sound. Convinced that I was dreaming, I came back to bed and slept. “I am alone. I am so alone” somebody was crying. This time I was not dreaming. I sat in the bed and listened carefully. It was voice of a girl sobbing. I again walked towards the voice, careful that the watchman does not see me and declare me insane. The sound increased when I walked towards the left side of the building.
It was coming from the same room which watchman had indicated but there was a change. There was no lock anymore. I hesitated for a moment before pushing the door open. The door opened without any sound and I stepped in. The sound had stopped. I asked “Who is it?” but no one answered. The sobbing started again. The room was full of half made paintings. The painter was desperately trying to make a perfect painting and was discarding them even on a single mistake. In centre of the room was a painting which was covered with a sheet. The sobbing sound was coming from behind it. I walked towards it. I removed the sheet expecting someone to be sitting under the table on which painting was kept. But what I saw was the single most horrifying things I ever saw. The painting was alive. It was also the single most beautiful painting I had ever seen.
Those eyes; they kept looking at me with tears flowing. There was a look of desperation, a wish to get out of the painting and come alive; a desire to talk to someone, after all this painting was locked in this room for years. I was not in a position to say anything. “I am alone. Be with me” she kept saying. I must have passed out. I was on my bed when I woke up. I asked the watchman whether he brought me here. He said I was sleeping on the bed itself. I walked towards that room. It was duly locked from outside.
Whole day I waited for the night to come. The sobbing started and I was in the room again. I looked around me. The room was full of paintings which had her and an older gentleman. I recognised him. He was the owner of the bungalow and she was her daughter. But why was he trying to paint them together. “I am alone. Be with me” she kept saying. Perhaps the old man believed that they can be together if he could make one perfect painting of himself with his daughter. He had seen the mysterious manner in which his daughter was still alive in her painting. I had never seen such a beautiful girl and such a beautiful painting.
I must not be thinking clearly when I decided to be with her. I was obsessed with a single thought to make that perfect painting. I spent endless nights in that room telling the girl that I will be with her by painting her and me together. Unlike the old man, I already had the talent of bringing things to life on canvass. Slowly it took shape. I could not afford any mistakes. I had to be with her. And then one night, it was complete. It was perfect. I showed it to her and asked her how can we be together?
“Burn me” she said. I burned her painting. Her eyes were moving in the painting I had made.
“How will I be with you?” I asked.
“You have to die” she said.
Next moment I was writhing in pain, but not for long. Then I saw my body lying lifeless on the floor.
I looked to my right. I was sitting with her.