“Snatch time to be yourself”- 14 November 2012

Sonali had never sought to be only a housewife when she got married. She was a talented artist and had developed a fine skill of painting oil-on-canvas. When she was in the art school, everybody looked at her as a future master painter. For, some of her paintings in exhibitions had fetched not just praise but also good price. But then, marriage interfered with her career and Sonali got stuck at home. Mini came in three years, followed by Mayur. That made the family complete, but Sonali got bogged down completely, taking care of the children and old mother-in-law. Painting got out of her agenda and Sonali almost forgot how it feels to move the brush across the stretched canvas. All her training at Baroda seemed to make no sense for her.

It was at this stage that Sonali bumped into one of her teachers at the art school. He had retired and settled in Sonali’s town. The teacher could read Sonali’s mind in a minute. He realised that his one-time pupil was feeling an acute sense of frustration for not being able to pursue her art.
“I have no time, Sir. Every waking moment is taken up by the kids and household duties. How can I find a calm time to do some credible painting?”, she asked her teacher, frustration writ large on her beautiful but tired face.
Teacher empathised. He said softly, “Look Sonali, nobody is going to grant you time. You will have to keep snatching it for yourself to be yourself. Start making serious attempt and some smart ways of doing things your way would emerge. I know, things would be tough, not easy. But then, you will have to do it. Come on. You are such a fine painter!”
For Sonali, those words came as a whiff of fresh air. Suddenly, she realised that finding creative and quality time was within the realm of possibility if she tried sincerely. Just the thought thrilled her.
From the next day began a young mother’s effort to carve out some time from her extremely busy schedule as a housewife with two kids in lap and an old woman to take care of, besides the very demanding husband. The moment she started organising her things, the daughter would ask for attention, or the son would make some demand. Both kids did not take an afternoon nap and therefore had enough time to trouble their mother. So, afternoons were out of question.
Yet, rising almost three hours before dawn, keeping late nights, Sonali started doing some work on a few paintings. Subjects eluded her as her mind was preoccupied in household matters. Then came another good booster. Anil, her husband, said one evening, “Sonali, why don’t you make the kids and the family possible subjects for your paintings?”
“But Anil, I do abstracts!”, she exclaimed.
“So what?”, Anil asked simply.
That made the difference. A few weeks later, Sonali’s painting of a little girl fast asleep won first prize at a local exhibition. And followed many paintings made around themes of childhood and Sonali was back in action.
Of course, Sonali was stretching herself too much. She slept less. She did everything fast. She stopped mingling with friends. As if she was possessed, Sonali worked feverishly and made many paintings in a row, all around kids.
And then, one Sunday morning, her old teacher appeared at her door. He came to pat his pupil’s back. “You are doing very well, Sonali. Keep it up. Do not ever give up. You are a natural artist. Keep going. Never let yourself down again,” he said.
Sonali only touched his feet, her eyes filled with tears of gratitude, her lips quivering with ‘Thanks’.
For, wasn’t it this teacher who had told her the eternal truth that nobody was going to grant her time and that she would have o snatch it herself to be herself?
Sonali is now an established painter. And her advice to women is simple: Never let go. Keep it up.

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