Sunday, November 26, 2006


The can of paint was put on the floor. A square black patch denoting the color of paint inside. Against the wall on the rich mahogany table there lay a wooden palette with six colors, in different shades of grey and black. The room had been shorn of its other furniture, and looked naked. He had been sitting in a dark corner, gazing at the white wall in front. Hands on his sides, he crouched in the fetal position, and shivered on the cold marble floor. His clothes lay in a heap on the table.

Rectangular slabs of sunlight filtered through the window blinds and the balcony door, and illuminated the wall. The room was silent, except for his occasional wheeze and cough.
He hadn’t eaten or slept in the last two days, his stomach churned inside, acid eating up the soft inner lining. His eyes were blood shot. With an effort he roused himself from the floor, and walked towards the table. His skin felt cold against the barren atmosphere of the room. His eyes riveted on a portion of the wall, he picked up the palette and balanced it on the fingers of his left hand. He started the portrait with the outlines, dim perception of the work to be completed, the face to be drawn. The movements were slow, steady and definitive. Never had he been able to sketch with such surety and accuracy of position. Did it depend on what is being sketched? Does the artists passion for the subject give it a certain responsibility, an endeavor where doubt is irrelevant and failure unfathomable?

It was after all, the face he had loved the most.

A point came where he halted, not in doubt, but in expression. What should the face portray? A smile of happiness or mischief, a frown of doubt or discomfort, or a sadness of the heart and mind? Maybe the answer lay in the face and the person behind the face. And so he continued, without pausing in thought and posture, sun burning his back, the sensation strangely exciting and excruciating. After he knew not how long, the portrait seemed complete. He took off the palette, and put it back. Oblivious to the pain in his arms and legs, he took a step back. He kept his feet apart, his hands on his hips and gazed at the face. The life that stared back at him made him smile. This was perfection, in way of the portrait, and the way he knew the person on the wall, in his memory.

He picked up the can of paint from the floor, and dipped the brush into the paint. In simple furious broad strokes, the paint spread on the wall. He kept on repeating the swift horizontal and vertical strokes covering every corner of the wall, every white square that was visible seemed to laugh at him and made him splatter more paint on it. In a few minutes the entire wall was black. No sign left of the effort of moments earlier. There was nothing but glistening black paint, on the wall, on his hands and body. There was an itch in his eyes and tears trickled down the sides of his face. He brushed over his cheeks, and felt spots of the thick fluid.

He came out of the room and stood on the balcony. He gripped the railing balancing his body on it and his feet let go of the floor. The air beat upon him, and the sun hurt his eyes. He closed them, and then he thought of the expression he had given to the face. It was a smile.