The mind of an artist is never still. It moves with the eye, and observes with the heart. There is a story in every story.
As the sun sets on the picturesque Panambur beach, I sit on a blanket, and observe the world in orange zips by like a movie reel.
There’s a little girl. All but four, she sits happily on the shore, building castles. She doesn’t know the wave might come wash her castle away, and she doesn’t really worry about it. She’s seen the water wash her name away when she wrote it, and she’s wagged her finger at the water and scolded it. She’s just focused on the task at hand: to build the castle of her dreams. She tirelessly goes at it, with her little spade and bucket, as a girl and some guys watch her excitedly and talk with her. She looks at her parents and they’re smiling too. She knows she can come back again to that same spot, and build a castle again. She shivers, but looks at the lady taking her photo, and gives a smile that says, “You’re pretty too, just like my dreams.” I pray her story sees all her dreams fulfilled.
My story goes through her eyes, to the eyes of the young lady with the camera. There is a story there too. Her mind travels the world around her, as she delights in every scene she finds worthy to etch in the film, not only of her camera, but of her memories. The innocence of that little girl is one such story. Her story drifts back to the present, where seeing the little girl’s persistence, she and her friends begin to make castles too. Seeing her friends so quickly at work, her story would possibly seek an orange memory from her childhood, where she was that little girl. Her camera finds a couple, sitting a little afar on the beach. They’re holding hands and talking like the world is going to end today. The world whizzes by them, and they could care less. The girl with the camera smiles, seeing the duo lost in love. Her heart wonders, if they would kiss. No, possibly not. Her heart wonders, if she would be back to the beach someday, with her boyfriend and be lost to the world. Perhaps… but then again, she is an artist too.
An elderly gentleman watches her as she snaps the world into her film. But he’s not really seeing her. He sees past her, to the edge of the sea, where his little grandson is playing in the water. The boy runs into the waves, and wills it to wash his feet. When the waves are reluctant to come, he bends down and writes his name. It’s a trick his grandfather told him before. He laughs as he sees a wave coming racing toward his feet, and jumps up in delight when it tickles his feet. He turns to his grandfather, and shouts to say that his trick is working. The gentleman smiles, because he knows it worked. There are many orange memories there in his heart, where the same scene from his own childhood lie calm like the sea is today.
The young boy looks around and sees a vendor. He has a big bag of puffed rice on a cart. The boy runs toward him, and his grandfather follows there. The vendor has placed a metal mug with a piece of warm coal inside, to keep the rice from going soft. The old vendor has seen every story happen on this beach. All are in his memories too. But it’s not history repeating. No. There is something new that adds on to each memory when he sees them again. Like today… this young boy that runs toward him. He remembers the first time a child came to buy crispy puffed rice from his cart. The smile on that child’s face was priceless, as he took a large paper cone full of rice for just a rupee, and ran to his parents. Today, he can’t sell for less than five rupees a cone. But he’s not heartless. He adds a lot of groundnut seeds into the paper cone and bends down to give the young boy his snack. The innocent youngster smiles, gives him a fleeting kiss and runs away. That’s an addition to his orange memory that’s more valuable than the handful of groundnut seeds he’s gifted.
The vendor looks around, and there’s his competitor, the ice-cream man. But he’s his friend too. The ice-cream vendor smiles on seeing his friend. In the cold breeze at sunset, he knows he won’t sell as much as the puffed rice vendor. But he’ll try. It’s his livelihood. Each note he gets, brings him another morsel of dinner, another handful of rice for his wife to cook that night, and another moment of satisfaction in his day. Yes, that satisfaction would matter more to him. Like his friend and competitor, the smiles he brings to those young faces matters to him. He looks at the children playing, and imagines the little girl throwing a tantrum when it’s time to go home, and the young boy getting a scolding for giving that stranger a kiss. Yes, he would get that scolding. They would have to be guided to not trust strangers that readily. Their heart is still pure, and unknowing of the sadness the world has. He prays that the boy becomes strong with the scolding, and still retain that joyful innocence.
He sees the artist standing far from water, and bringing the titian sunset to life through her watercolors. She’s there most of the days, painting away. He wonders what changes in her paintings each time, but he doesn’t go ask her. I remember once, when he had. The artist, her focus having been broken by his curiosity, had spoken rudely to him. But today, she smiles, seeing him there. It’s a warm smile, and he feels that warmth when he sees it. She leaves her paintbrush near her easel, and goes to the vendor. I can’t hear them talk, but I think she is apologizing. Yes, she is. There’s a tear of joy in his eye, when she leads him back with his hand to her easel, and he sees the painting. How often do we speak in the heat of the moment, and break bonds that have been built over years, and do nothing to rebuild it? Too often I think. To see the artist rebuilding one that may not have been built before… it’s very pleasing, very touching.
The artist sees her painting, and she looks to her right, to see a young man looking at her, and smiling. She smiles, and wonders what he’s thinking. She comes to the beach often, but it’s the first time she sees him. Her paintings have never had him in it. She wonders, “Is he a tourist?” but he doesn’t seem to be into the beauty of the orange world around him, and yet, he’s not oblivious either. Then I see her laugh. She’s realized where she’s seen me before. She’s seen me in herself. For she’s been in that half lost, half found state of thought so many times before. She approaches me and sits next to me with her easel in hand.
“I’m Niveditha, it’s so good to see an artist on the beach. No one finds a story here, just the comfort of nature”, she says.
“I’m Leo, and it’s a pleasure to meet you as well. I love the painting. It’s actually the first time I’ve been in one,” I reply.
She smiles, blushes a little.
“Everyone here is an artist, a storyteller just like us. Not all bring it out from their hearts, Niveditha. In this world around me, there’s a story, in a story, in a story…”
And our smiles and silence continues the tale in the sunset, with an ellipsis to say, it shall be continued… forever.
(August 5th, 2012)