Art is a great healer and I believe it calms me down and helps me best during trying times. We recently lost my father-in-law (P’s paternal grandfather). While we were coming to terms with the loss, we had a greater task of making P understand the ultimate reality of nature – death.
This was P’s first brush with loss of a love one and hence it was an uphill task to collect our own thoughts and present it in a manner that a 7 year old can comprehend. While it is a moment of extreme grief, I wanted P to have a positive approach to the experience. So I explained the circle of life – of how to accommodate more babies, mother Earth and God calls back people who are old and ailing. And achacha (grandfather) was not in the best of health and hence was called back to join his parents who are now with bappa (his favourite God, Lord Ganesha). Of course P had a lot of questions which I tried to answer.
It has been few days now and P seems to be revisiting the experience and trying to make sense of it. That is when I thought I’ll teach my boy to use his strength – art, to express his emotion and feelings.
We spoke about his memories of achacha, the fun times he had with him drumming, pottering around the porch, sighting the squirrels and birds that came to eat the crumbs they had thrown etc. P spoke of the times when they competed about whose crumb the bird/squirrel would eat. I was glad he recounted all the happy times.
I then put out his art sheet and colours and told him to pain his best memory of achacha. P thought for a long while and then to my surprise painted this – him, achacha and our family dog Jocky. Jocky died couple of years ago and at that point we just told P Jocky’s parents came and took him back. Being smaller then, he was upset but soon got over it and busied himself with the other dogs, Droopy and Tiger.
When I asked him why he chose to include Jocky in the picture, he said ‘now I know Jocky and achacha are together and they will play together.’
I hope art has helped my little boy vent out his emotions and he will continue using it as a medium to inner peace, all his life.
I have been doing a lot of watercolour painting this vacation and P has been pestering me to do one on his own. His conditions were – ‘using your paints, your brushes and on handmade paper’. At the risk of my watercolour tray getting mixed and messed up, I gave in to his long standing demand.
So today he got up all excited, finished his morning routine at express speed and sat down determined to paint his masterpiece. When I asked he what he wanted to paint, he told me emphatically, ‘I have it all figured out. I want to paint an ulsavam aana (caparisoned elephant) – the one we clicked during the ulsavam (temple festival). You draw it for me and I will look at the photo and paint’. I was taken aback with the level of planning and so I just followed his ‘figured out’ plan.
With the photo in front of him, he started his work with a little prayer. I was surprised to see how much he has been observing me when I paint – I always start my paintings with a small prayer.
Since watercolour is a new medium for P, I had to guide him through it despite his protests. We worked on the art together, with me highlighting the edges and P painting as per my instruction. And just like that we came up with our first collaborative work.
The time spent, as always gave me a peek into my little boy’s head, a rare opportunity given the fact that his world is now infused with friends, sports, books, play and the likes. When we finished our painting, I told him how I loved our ‘art time’ to which P cheekily replied ‘I think we should do this more often amma. I can teach you so many things!’
It’s been a while since I have posted our activities – thanks to our various commitments. But P and I have been catching a few hours whenever we can to indulge in our favourite hobby – art. My boy has grown and how! He has a mind of his own and sees possibilities of life in every form around. This is seen in all his art and yes, school work too. Secretly I am loving every bit of it.
He took to drawing hands when he was over with his obsession of drawing elephants, planes and trains. He would constantly trace his hand on drawing sheets, imagining it to be all kinds of things from a rooster to a boy with spikey hair to a bird. It was tough to restrain myself from putting in my two bit – but knowing him he would hear none of it. The hand phase has currently passed but I am hoping the imagination is growing multi fold.
A large part of my life, which was in my hometown, was spent waiting for the annual temple festival at the local temple. It is usually in January/February every year for a week. The whole town practically packs itself tightly in the compound of our Shiva temple to see the lord atop caprisoned elephants majestically walking to the beats of the melam (typical Kerala percussion art). The atmosphere is heady and the air so spiritual and magical that no one left the temple grounds before the Lord called it a day.
Ever since P came into my life, I have fervently wished he could witness the magic, more so because P loves the melam and elephants. However the timing always clashed with our work and school commitments that going to our hometown during the temple festival or ulsavam took the back seat.
Guess someone up there was listening to my wish, as this year we happened to be in our hometown as a family, for the ulsavam. And sure enough we made the most of it. P was initially skeptical about the crowd and all the hustle bustle and wanted to beat a hasty retreat as soon as we made it to the temple. But the minute the majestic caprisioned elephants came out with the Lord, he was wonderstruck.
He insisted on walking and staying really close to the elephants and the melam and went to the extent of following the elephants back to their shelter where they were fed and rested for the following day’s festivities. This became routine for us for the days we were there. I was thrilled that P could experience what I did as a kid.
When he transalated his experience to art, I knew my little boy came back with a big piece of my hometown in his heart.
P’s aunt is a special ed teacher to kindergarten students in the U.S. She has an eclectic group of students and she often talks to them about India and about P.
While teaching about India, she planned a skype session of her students with P, so they can experience hown technology can bring people from different nationalities closer. Both parties were thrilled at the idea and were excited talking to each other. The class had so many questions for P and P, needless to say had endless ones too. Some of them were:
“What is your teacher’s name?, What do you like to do? , Do you know to write? Why are you not in bed. Isn’t it late night in India?”
P’s questions “Do you like my aunt? Is she your favourite teacher? Do you get lot of homework? When do you go to sleep?”
We had to end the happy banter of Q and As. Obviously, the kids wanted more. That’s when my sis-in-law came up with a lovely idea of pen pals. Weeks later we got a big letter from her class with more questions. P was super thrilled to receive a letter in his name – that too a big one.
He immediately sat down to reply and wrote out a longish letter, answering all the questions. He insisted on sending them his painting of his second favourite animal – elephant (first being dogs), which his American friends may not have seen (his logic).
We posted the letter and now he anxiously waits for their reply.
Happy new year from P and me.
As a child I remember making handmade cards for birthdays, festivals, and no occassion ones. Thinking up designs, planning the colours, writing the apt words and personalising it used to give me a great sense of achievement.
Today, in this age of whatsapp and fb wishing, such simple joys and gestures are far and few. I wanted P to get a glimpse of my childhood holiday activity and have the experience going to the post office, buying stamps and posting the art work.
We sat down and decided the basic designs. P has been following the activity of making various animals from thumb prinits, in the monthly Childrens Magazine we subscribe to. Hence he was keen to do similar reindeers.
We made a few Christmas trees from left over scraps of art paper. I got him to imagine what can be made out of the numbers 2016 and did a few myself.
Finally I made the envelopes for our cards and we trotted off to the post office to buy stamps and post them. P was super thrilled to stick the stamps and put them into the post box.
Such simple joys that made our end of the year memorable.
If there is one thing that has remained unchaged for P, it is his love for planes. Friends and family who know this, have gifted him all kinds of planes and yet if someone were to ask him, “what do you want as a gift?”, the answer will be “Plane”.
P has an enviable collection of planes including some that are scale models of the real ones. He usually plays with them, making them take off, land, refuel in mid air, emergency landings and what not.
Recently though, he has been fascinated with the behind the scenes like construction, hangars and airport. An airport set gifted by his uncle and a book on airport from his aunt was enough to trigger P’s imagination. He quickly collected his blocks and made an elaborate ‘ beesy internashional’ airport.
It was truly a proud moment for me to see how much my li’l fellow has observed during our visit to the airport.From food truck to aerobridge, ATC and luggage trucks, they were all there in our busy airport.
Now I am waiting to see the design get translated on paper.
Waiting to board throught the aerobridge, while the food gets loaded
Waiting for clearance from ATC