Today’s Topic – Family!! Define and Draw!
Piu Mahapatra pays a loving tribute to her Mastermoshai, on Teacher’s Day.
“Hmm! What do we draw today?”
His eyes were softly looking down on the white crisp newsprint paper laid on the low table right in front of both of us. The edges of the paper were a little brown, maybe with time and every time his hands relaxed, the edges curled and rolled from both the sides of the paper to meet each other.
“Let’s draw one picture of a family!! What do you say?”
He looked up and smiled at me. His eyes looked kind and soft behind those dark framed glasses.
He had a way of holding his brush, never too strong nor casual.
I sat on the floor, my chin softly resting on the top of the wooden table. It was one late summer afternoon in the early eighties, when the tea was usually served in most of the Bengali houses along with one or two Marie biscuits. ‘Kalbaisakhi’* was common and it felt as if the evening storm also waited the whole day to come along with the hot tea.
Mastermoshai’s apartment faced a tiny green courtyard. And the wide open veranda embraced everything that wanted to come in, the rain, the moths from the flower bed below, the tiny brown birds from the greenery around, the mosquitoes, the bees, even spiky caterpillars who could manage to crawl all the way up to the first floor and decide to eat the velvety tiny buds of Mastermoshai’s wife’s china-rose. That made her cross of course!!
And when she, very rightfully, wanted to toss them down from where they came below, Mastermoshai would smile the same kind smile and would say,
“থাক্, থাক্। পরিবার তো!” (Let them be there! Family after all!)
These lines startled me. My eyes went round like glass marbles and they settled on the pair of eyes behind the glasses.
There were questions I didn’t ask.
There were answers he never uttered.
He went back again on the white blank sheet and dipped his brush in the pot. ‘Burnt sienna’ the label read on the pot and also in bold, ‘Indian Chinese ink’. A drop or two would fall on the paper. But it never bothered him.
He was drawing a family when the rain arrived softly and started pouring on his flower bed below.
He was drawing the family and his tea became cold while waiting patiently for him to notice.
He was still drawing the family when one or two sparrows, wet and shivering, perched on the railing of his veranda and pecked, chirped and complained.
The maid came with her broom.
Mastermoshai’s wife took the tea back still untouched and to the brim.
The doorbell rang once or twice.
And I, the nine years old still waited, with my chin softly resting on the table top.
The brushes went swish and swash!!
They moved like a ballet dancer, to join a circle only to flow in another fluid line.
I saw kobita (poem) taking form.
I had seen a family being made!
To my Mastermoshai, Ramananda Bandyopadhyay ❤️ and the open green veranda of his residence in the premises of Ramakrishna Mission, Golpark, Kolkata.
*Nor’westers or the Kalbaishakhi, an isolated rain fall and thunder storm which occurs in India and Bangladesh, often with violent hurricane-speed winds.
(Artwork: Piu Mahapatra)
‘Today’s Topic- Family!! Define and Draw!’
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