(From Musings by Manjari Narayan)
The walking tracks, situated in the midst of a sprawling campus, boasting of trees in hundreds of varieties and numerous species of birds, had been a paradise for joggers since the bygone days. Frequented by the affluent and opulent classes of the South Delhi area, the sighting of pretty-looking, dapper things at the park was not an uncommon sight. It was an unusually foggy winter morning. The deciduous trees had shed their leaves and due to thick canopy of fog, the visibility in the park was relatively low. Sighting, cooing and gurgling of birds was a rare occurrence during this time of the year. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm of the fitness-conscious generation was evident from the sighting of an umpteen number of young people at the park striding along, clad from head-to-toe to ward off the chill. Among the visitors to the jogger’s park was a forty-something artist who was occupying one of the benches keenly observing the comings and goings. The people, especially women striding along the walkway were the objects of his interest as they had been the main subjects of his paintings. By now he had painted over four-hundred canvases with women as the central theme. The painter was observing each passerby minutely paying attention to details such as facial expressions, moods, their anatomy and clothing-styles. However, he was particularly smitten by one lady, who may have been in her early twenties. She was fair, athletic with chiselled-features and looked to be of Punjabi origin. The distinguishable mole on her right cheek set her apart from the rest of the group that she hung-out with. It was evident from the group’s conversations that they were, perhaps, fresh MBAs graduates. The hawk-eyed painter wanted to study the contours of the young lady’s face thoroughly before capturing it on canvas. For this he would have to wait for the weather to turn clear. In about twenty days time the weather had cleared-up and the painter returned with a piece of paper and pencil to prepare a rough sketch of the lady’s face which would serve as a reference for his painting. However, all in her group except herself had turned-up. This went on for many days. Every day the artist searched for that face amidst the crowd of passersby but it was nowhere in sight. In the meanwhile he painted her locks, her clothing and the background with utmost care. The painter decided to wait for a few more days for the lady to show-up failing which he would complete the painting from the sheer memories he had of her. Eventually, the artist painted the contours of the lady’s face paying attention to every detail and finishing-off with the mole on the right cheek. He returned to the park the next morning feeling hopeful that he would catch a glimpse of the lady in question. However, she had not turned-up even that day. Eventually his patience gave away and he approached the crowd of youngsters to which the lady had belonged. ‘Hello, I am Rajat Khanna, a professional artist. To date I have created thousands of artworks on varied subjects. I caught sight of one of your friends and decided to paint her life-size portrait. I didn’t seek her permission though before starting off; sorry for that. Here is my workmanship…But…but…the lady in question is untraceable for quite a few days…’ the painter said. The onlookers were full of awe and admiration at the artistic genius of the man who had created their friend’s portrait. ‘Our friend, Komal, who has been your musing, has recently been engaged to a Bangalore-based software engineer. Her wedding bells are ringing tomorrow and she has been very busy with the wedding preparations for the last few days,’ informed one guy from the group. ‘In all likelihood she is expected to be here tomorrow. We will convey to her your message anyway,’ said another. ‘I hope she comes tomorrow. This painting is a small wedding-gift to her from my side,’ informed the artist. The next day the painter was in his seat at the scheduled hour and waited with bated breath for Komal to turn-up. After a few minutes of wait, Komal’s shadow appeared to emerge in the backdrop, her gang of friends following close at her heels. Within a matter of seconds she was standing beside the artist holding the painting in her henna-stained hands. ‘This is one of the finest artworks I have ever seen,’ she remarked. The artist’s attention had by then drifted to her right cheek. ‘Where did that perceptible mole that you once had, disappear?’ he questioned inquisitively. ‘I had it removed with the help of a plastic surgeon. It was upon the insistence of my wanna-be in-laws,’ Komal laughed. ‘Oh, then I’ll make the necessary corrections in my painting and hand it over to you by evening if you can spare some time,’ suggested the artist. ‘As I embark on my journey as a daughter-in-law and wife, I shall have to make a lot of adjustments. It will be expected of me to be more responsible and dutiful. The stakes are going to be high. My new family may not shower upon me the unconditional love that I got from my parents. The mole in my portrait is a reminder of my carefree days as a spinster that I spent rolling in the lap of luxury with no “strings attached”. My request is you let it remain the way it is,’ with these words Komal thanked the painter and ambled homewards leaving others teary-eyed.