Friday, April 21, 2006

The Painting

Palette knives, multitudes of them, tenderly smudge a viridian sky in my dreams. I wake up with a start. The stark white canvas stares at me. Ah! My masterpiece – my Self-Portrait, my Sunflowers, my Last Supper – still awaits me. I do not know when I became a painter. I don’t even pretend to recollect it. Failure is nostalgic, success amnesiac. So, we take it that I’ve always been a painter.

My house overlooks a T-junction. It is at the mouth of the T-junction, overlooking a street. The street is, as any other street would be in a mofussil town in India. Faceless, splattered with patches of brown – cow dung flattened by tires, human steps, and the oppressive heat – flanked by flowing sewer, littered, and cattle squatting randomly. And then all sorts of vehicles to transport humans – cycles, carts, rickshaws, autos, taxis, lorries, cars – stifling its slender shape. Finally, completing the picture are the ugly shops, with their soot-covered tarpaulin awnings, lining its both sides with greedy shopkeepers spilling out on the pavement with their cheap wares. The Bazaar.

I sit here wondering what should I paint. And then the epiphany strikes. Oh damn those viridian skies and swaying green grass! Why not paint the bazaar in front of me. So, I pick my sable, palette, mahlstick – all the paraphernalia at my disposal and start painting the scene across my window. It takes me days but I am seized by this vision that the street throws at me. Slowly and painstakingly I capture the street. It shifts, changes colors, throw varied images but I wait everyday for the afternoon – just that right hue – to start work on my painting again.

After many tireless afternoons, I do finish my painting one-day. It is a snapshot of the world outside my living room’s window. But something is amiss. The painting betrays me. I keep standing, staring at the painting, a sable caressing my cheek as I wonder what must I do to transcend this painting into an extraordinary one. Ah! How about an accident. Yes. Perfect. I show an accident in the middle of the street. I immediately get to work. I paint a head-on collision between two cars. Smashed with their bonnets crumpled. Next to the cars a body lies covered with a white shroud and an anxious crowd next to it. Morbid but I guess I’ve got what I wished. I leave the painting on the tripod to dry.

Days pass by. The painting adorns my living room. I marvel at my creation. But soon it becomes another fixture in that room. I am no more seized by the morbidity it paints. I become oblivious to its existence. I don’t even look at it as I go about my chores.

Then one afternoon a bang wakes me up. I immediately rush to the living room’s window to see what has happened. But what I see shake the wits out of me. The scene outside is an exact replica of my painting – the street with a head-on collision in its midst. They’ve laid down a body next to the cars, as it was in my painting, and covered it with a white shroud. The crowd surrounds the scene. There is chaos. I am transfixed. Did I paint the future?

It takes me a while to gather my wits. I am still shaken but I decide to go down and check this mess out. I rush out on to the street and run towards the accident site. Everyone is rushing towards the accident site. No one knows what happened exactly. I reach the spot. The crowd has swelled now. I jostle my way through and reach the helm of the crowd. I ask a person or two but they just shrug and keep staring at the body. Finally, I muster courage and bend down. I look around at the faces. They’re as eager to see the face. I lift the shroud: Dad.

© Dan Husain
April 22, 2006

PS: I saw this dream fifteen years back.


Saher said...

Hi Dan,

I have never come across such a bona fide translation of a dream. Though you say that you saw the dream 15 years back, the captivating stroke of your pen (keyboard or thoughts) makes me wonder if you saw it merely 15 minutes back…

Very nice transformation of trance to words! I have read lot of your write-ups; I find your usage of vocabulary to be very multifaceted. The same word might hold various meaning in one sentence itself.


Wild Reeds said...

O my God this is simply brilliant. You write amazingly well.

Max Babi said...

hi sonnyboy Dan, I used to dream, used to recall them I now have a niggling suspicion, I could recreate such a vivid world [tho frankly I have't attempted] : life has changed and medication has robbed me of my dreams... sad, indeed.
Very delightful, very poetically penned, dear.

Kim said...

Dan, you write as beautifully as you perform. Wonderful to see a person who has uses words so brilliantly in more than one language.
Really enjoyed the performance on the 23rd. Blogged about it on Whazzupmumbai Also included the info for performances on 1st & 2nd.

IRIS said...

Holy Shoot!!!
Very well written.

The Individualist said...

Hmm. Engrossing description.
And a dream? Woah. That's quite a complicated one there. And a worrisome one too, wasn't it?

lovemarks said...


Ziomal said...

Very nice! I like it. pixar movie making process