For more than one reason, Vishu is my most favourite festive occasion. It unearths my dormant spiritual instincts, combines them with the ordinariness of daily life, transforms and materializes as the glorious Vishu Kani.
The sentiments that this day evoke in me surpasses that of the best mountain and ocean views I have seen. Love, peace, forgiveness, faith and every other sublimity that one is capable of surges and runs over.
Incidentally, it was on this day in 2017 that I completed the accompanying painting too.
Desire is known to manifest itself in different forms. What made me aspire to make a full-fledged mural of the ‘Ananathashayanam’ with no guidance or trained skill is still a mystery to me. I was probably obsessed with the immensity of the image and its many connotations.
It was initially a post-retirement project that I had thought I would undertake whenever we’d return to India. But I guess the impatience got the better of me and I got down to doing it one fine day. It was a huge venture for the novice, untrained artist in me, and by the time I had finished the outline, I knew I was committing myself to a life-long relationship with cervical pain.
What followed was a prolonged period of sun, shade and shadows. Determination would suddenly turn to frustration, hours of animated action would wind down to aching fatigue, my love for colours would gray now and then, and I began to wonder if I had bitten more than I could chew. Then came a long hiatus, of more than a year, after dad went away. Months of inertia followed. There was no activity on the canvas. It was as if I had lost touch with life itself.
All the while, the partially painted canvas with swathes of empty space stood in silence, gathering dust. The divinity that I had envisaged in it waited to be realized. It was as if the universe knew that I would return one day and complete it. Not for my sake, but for its own sake.
It was late March of 2017. Guilt that had begun to build up and gnaw at my heart made me gravitate towards the unfinished task once again. Guilt then gave way to fixation. Spurred by a sudden, irrepressible urge to see the cosmic form emerge from the canvas, I set myself a date. 15th April, which was only two weeks away.
I worked like a maniac, wrecking every muscle in my neck and arm. There was only one objective. The Lord must reveal from the canvas in all His splendour on Vishu day. I remember even getting cheeky with Him and saying, ‘If You want this to be done, if you want to be realized, chip in. I can’t accomplish it by myself.’
Of course, He wanted it to be done, didn’t He? He wanted to be realized.
On the eve of Vishu, very late in the night, with not an iota of strength left in my limbs, I signed it off. My eyes were too tired to even appraise or appreciate the grandeur of it all, but the heart knew. The mission had been accomplished.
In the morning, when I opened my eyes there He was, revealed! My greatest ever Vishu Kani at home. I sank to my knees and wept. And I laughed. Then I wept a little more. ‘What goodness did I do to merit this joy, God?’ It was surreal.
A few days later, someone asked me if the painting was up for sale. I replied politely, ‘No, it isn’t. How can I sell my soul?’
This Vishu morning, as I stood gazing at it, absorbing the abundance it represented, I teared up again. There was no painting nor me in that moment. Only a vastness into which everything devolved and became Nothing.