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The Face

 

       THE FACE

 

     There was a huge canvas of a baby being pulled in to a vortex of grief of a crazed woman. The media, intelligentsia and the hoi polloi were all struck alike by an appalling sense of gloom and destruction, it negated all life. Further down the hall, this basic theme kept repeating itself. The audience which had expected a great deal more was subdued. This exhibition of Samira Singh's was after a lull of five years. Sam was the famous painter who had earned much name and fame in the international fora. Samira was especially well known for her depiction of a woman, old and tired with a face creased with worries, yet possessing powerfully brilliant eyes as if she had still not finished with the business of living.

 

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     "Sam" called Ritika " I am getting a little tired of these women you make....... they seem all alike, hungry and crazy for life, yet weary and spent physically. Are they from your imagination or is she some one real?" 

 

     “Well.. they are from my imagination but to tell you the truth, I never really set out to paint her, often I have visualised plump earthy women, happy, and care free, yet as soon as my brush touches the canvas - she is all I get", admitted Samira.

 " How is Tejbir?" asked Ritika changing the topic. Still on his apes and men series?"

"Yes he has gone to New York for a one man show, they seem to lap up the men and apes." Laughed Samira.

"When are you finally tying the knot.?"

" You will get to know, don't worry. I have still to work on my Dad, he feels Tejbir is not fit for me" said Sam.

 

     A year later as Ritika was looking through her mail, she spotted a card inviting her to the naming ceremony of the son of Samira and Tejbir Singh. Ritika had been to Europe for leisurely tour studying the various masters.

"Hi good to see you as a mother" said Ritika.

"You look radiant the perfect Madonna".

"Ah I may appear to be a good advertisement for increasing the population but I just don't like this business of mothering- particularly small babies. I have not had a full night's sleep for the past three months. Do something, get me a Bai who will help" ,pleaded Samira.

 "What about Tejbir?", asked Ritika.

“You know he is as helpless as Bubbles" ,replied Sam wryly. He can hold my hands, when I weep in desperation, but that's not too much of a help. Bubbles just goes on bawling at the middle of night, it has to be me who has to rock him sleep. He has gotten in to this habit, and the moment I put him down, the yelling begins" ended Sam." I will ask Didi she normally has a lot of staff" ,replied Ritika. " Well I have also several lined up ....." said Sam.

 

     Some sort of easy routine descended in Samira's life with the entry of Shalubai. She had appeared one evening, and just stepped in and taken over. Initially Sam had reservations,she did not come from anyone Samira knew. Shalubai was heaven sent, so Sam just signed with relief and allowed things to carry on. Occasionally, however, Samira felt uncomfortable there was a feeling of familiarity as if she was somebody known......

Then it struck, her almost like a blow..... Shalubai was the very woman she had created on canvas! The same pathos, weariness, yet those brilliant eyes greedy for life left her strangely breathless. Shalubai was a woman of few words she did her work quietly and efficiently. There was some vague reference of a husband who had abandoned her also of a son who had died in his infancy; Bubbles appeared to calm down in her arms...

All this had a soothing effect on Samira, as she started pottering about her paints and canvases. One morning Samira just happened to glance out of the window to look at Bubbles who had been crying loudly for quite sometime....She had a distinct feeling that there were two-three other women along with Shalubai, similiarly clad yet they were hazy, blurred. Samira walked closer to the window to have a better view, when those figures melted in to the trees.

" Who were they?" called out Samira.

"koi nahin memsaheb"(nobody) came the reply. There was no sound from Bubbles Samira assumed that he was asleep and went back to her work.

 

     "What's wrong with Bubbles?", Tejbir asked. "He is lying around listlessly, doesn't appear to be interested in anything."

"Yes I am also very worried. Earlier he was cranky, now a days he just lies around, lethargically" , said Samira. I had called up his pediatrician, he examined him but could not find anything wrong, just prescribed some vitamins and left.

 

     Samira had an uneasy feeling that she was being watched. She looked up and glanced at the canvas on the wall, the women looked some how, more real, as if the shine in their eyes was not due to her paints alone.....

 

     Tejbir had to leave for Bombay for a fortnight, Samira called her younger sister Amrita to stay with her they were all extremely worried about Bubbles, he was not making any progress. Sheer anxiety, prevented Samira from sleep, yet she must have dozed off...

 

     She awoke with a start there were several of "those women" surrounding Bubbles! Looking up she found her canvases were all empty blanks. With a shriek and a leap; she picked up a little painted dagger, and began hacking at her canvases like a woman possessed. She didn't pause till the last one of them hadn't been torn to shreds, she turned around to find Amrita clasping Bubbles tightly around-her yet the way the baby's head fell on her shoulders told her that her efforts had been in vain......