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That’s a washout!

Anyone who has grown up in Delhi will agree that the most important all-school painting competition was Shankar’s. It was mandatory for everyone from my school to participate.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2009 13:06 IST
Shantanu Moitra

Anyone who has grown up in Delhi will agree that the most important all-school painting competition was Shankar’s. It was mandatory for everyone from my school to participate.

I was in standard five. We weren’t very well off. My father bought me a 24-set watercolor box. Although I wasn’t much of an artist, I felt like one with these new colors.

The school bus took us to the venue.. the huge playground of a reputed school. It was a scene of utter chaos. Hundreds of parents and teachers were shouting out last-minute instructions. Participants with paintbrushes in every shape and size and exotic color palettes were milling around. Suddenly I felt unsure!

We were escorted to our enclosure. The competition started. It would last for an hour. The topic was, ‘A rainy day’. I reached into my bag for the colours. They weren’t there. I must have dropped it on the way. I couldn’t control my tears as my head buzzed with images of a thrashing. And I sat there, staring blankly at the white paper.

Share mine
After a while, a girl sitting next to me from another school, asked me why I wasn’t painting. I told her sheepishly that I’d lost my watercolor set. She told me she’d share her paints with me, only I shouldn’t use the red and the yellow much because she needed them.

I started painting. The girl soon began taking more interest in my work instead of concentrating on hers. She suggested what shade of green I should use for the tree, how many raindrops to draw and wondered why the car I had drawn did not have a driver.

I was getting quite irritated but since I was using her paints, I chose to keep my lips sealed. And she obviously thought she owned a part of my creation. I had managed a decent painting by the end of the hour.. the girl’s was however far better even though she had been so distracted. I thanked her and offered her a sandwich.

What a blow!
As she got up to hand over her painting, she accidentally knocked a glass of water on my painting. I couldn’t believe it! Two consecutive blows on one day! God definitely had objections to me becoming an artist. The girl apologised profusely. With tears in my eyes I told her not worry because it hadn’t been a good painting anyway. It was dusty, noisy and sunny. I wanted to return home and forget this ordeal.

What happened when I reached home, I’m not keen to write about. But to my amazement, after a month I got a letter informing me that I had come third in the competition. My painting was being displayed in a reputed government building along with those of the other winners.

My parents were very excited and I still remember their confused expressions when they saw my painting. They thought the washed out effect was a brilliant interpretation of a rainy day. If only they had known.

(The writer is a music composer) shantanumoitra.in