Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Candid career

"If you could try out a new career for a month (magically knowing what to do, without any special training), what career would you choose?"

- Source:  The One Minute Writer

*     *     *

Ganesh watched keenly as the artist made soft strokes onto the canvas with the paintbrush that was tightly gripped within his fingertips. He stared at the point where the paintbrush met the canvas and marvelled at how quickly a plain surface was transformed into a delightful work of art, simply with a few skillful movements from a master's hands. He sighed with a mixture of wonder and melancholy at the beauty of the completed drawing before him.

How he wished he was talented in art that way.

Those around the artist were applauding and verbally commending him. Everyone appeared pleased at the results. One man was patting him on the back and smiling approvingly. The artist himself seemed hugely satisfied. His large grin of contentment was unmistakable.

Ganesh was walking away now, even as he cast one last glance at the artist and his masterpiece. Yet his mind lingered on the artwork. How he loved art.

Walking out of the building where the artist had been, Ganesh crossed the busy street and waited by the roadside for his Mum to come pick him up after work.

All around him people bustled to and fro. The evening was slowly but surely coming to a close, and just about everybody was anxious to get home.

A gust of wind blew, and unsettled a pile of brown leaves, sending them flying in the direction of Ganesh. When they settled, he recognised the car that halted just in front of him.

He smiled to his Mum as he helped himself in opening the front passenger door and settled into the car seat.

"Had a good day today?" She asked, as was her habit every day.

"Yeah." He couldn't help sighing as he said this.

"Something the matter?"

"Naa. I was just... watching this guy paint just now. I wish I could do art like that."

"I'm sure you can," his Mother said cheerfully and optimistically, in the way all mothers do when encouraging their kids to do something beyond whatever was their norm.

He shook his head. But his Mum could not see it because she was looking straight ahead as they flew past intersections and traffic lights, junctions and flyovers.

*     *     *

Sitting cosily in his bed, with a pillow propped up and a block of paper positioned squarely on his lap, Ganesh's forehead crumpled into a frown. In his right hand, he held a brown crayon, poised mid-air.

Drawing a deep breath, he made swift movements across the piece of paper that was before him, willing an image to emerge from the drawing he was attempting to create.

Minutes later, he held the paper backwards and squinted as though something beautiful could only be observed if his masterpiece was viewed from a distance. However, no matter which angle he looked at, or how much he narrowed his eyes in an attempt to so-called focus his vision on some part of the artblock, no real value could be ascribed to what he had drawn.

It was ugly.

The bedroom door opened a crack, and his Mother peeked in.

"Still up?"

"Yes," Ganesh muttered in quiet defeat.

"What have you got there?"

"Nothing," he replied in monotone, dropping the art papers back onto his lap.

"Let me see," his Mum insisted and stepped into the room.

"It's horrible," Ganesh blurted out his final verdict of the endeavour even as she picked up the art paper from his lap.

She laughed in response to his remark, but then feigned awe and admiration at the beauty of his efforts.

He knew it was fake. It made him feel all the more a failure.

*     *     *

The canteen resounded with the echoes of excited, energetic students. The weather was - as it was on most days - scorchingly hot, and terribly unbearable. The line for cold drinks stretched more than halfway across the length of the canteen area. Ganesh scowled when he caught sight of it. He'd probably better eat his fried noodles first before even attempting to get in line to acquire a beverage to quench his thirst.

He sat down immediately at the nearest vacant spot on a nearby bench. Plate placed in front of him, he picked up his fork and bent forward to take in his first mouthful of noodles.

But even as he was about to do so, he caught sight of the blue magic marker before him. It was right there, in the middle of the table, all by itself. There were no other stationery to accompany it. It was just there on its own.

Ganesh's gaze was fixed on it in amusement. He figured someone had left it behind. He toyed with the idea of handing it over to one of the school prefects so they could pass it along to a teacher who could facilitate the process of locating its rightful owner.

But then again, he reconsidered the matter, and pocketed the marker for himself instead.

*     *     *

The teacher had been delayed, and the entire classroom of students was getting fidgety. Noise levels grew, and students began getting out of their seats, each turning to their own ideas on what was the best way to spend a free period.

Ganesh was bored. He thumbed restlessly on the pages of his exercise book. Then on a whim, he retrieved the marker pen from his pocket and absently began making a tiny sketch on the corners of the final page of his book.

In his mind, he figured he should start with something small, so he drew a Starbucks mug. He had always wanted one, although he knew it wasn’t likely he’d ever get his Mum to buy it for him.

So he put lines and circles together and created the mug on paper. The blue marker was a little hard to work with, as it occasionally smudged unnecessary amounts of ink at the wrong places. Ganesh concentrated hard.

Just as he added the finishing touches to the logo design on the mug, a peculiar thing happened. The corner of his book where he had made the mug drawing began to jerk inwards, as though magnetised by something in the middle of the page.

Then suddenly, out of the page popped a mug. A Starbucks mug. Right smack on top of his book.

Ganesh stared and stared. This was most definitely absurd. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief, shut them momentarily, then opened them again to check if the mug was still there.

It was.

He quickly whisked the mug away into his backpack and looked all around to check if anyone else had noticed the queer happenings at his desk.

Apparently not, as everyone else was absorbed in their own conversations, reading books or making paper aeroplanes to send flying across the classroom.

Ganesh stopped to think for a moment.

Then he lifted the marker, flipped a page and started drawing something new.

This time he drew a huge hall. And in the hall, he drew many frames hanging on the walls carrying in them exquisite paintings of seemingly priceless value. Then at a corner of the hall he drew a canvas, an easel, a palette full of watercolours and a thick, bushy paintbrush.

As he was completing the last few strokes on his drawing, he felt his marken pen swerve suddenly out of control and pull him forward. Before he knew what was going on, he found himself in a large hall, surrounded by paintings and with an easel set before him, accompanied by all the other equipment that he had included in his sketch.

He was astounded yet pleasantly surprised.

“Draw something!” An enthusiastic voice urged him.

He turned around and found a tall, elegant lady standing beside him, eagerly nudging him to begin painting.

“But I–“ Ganesh started to explain, but then he noticed there was a crowd standing around him, all eyes fixed expectantly on him.

So he began to paint.

After what felt like only a few seconds, he realised he had already completed his piece of  artwork, without even knowing what he had been painting. He stared at the filled canvas in a daze. It was a scenic landscape with trees and a lake flowing through it and meadows with cows grazing in a distance. It was not humanly possible that he had drawn that. Ganesh was pretty sure of that.

Applause erupted all around him, and gasps of delight were heard from the bunch of people surrounding him. A young man dressed smartly in a grey coat came forward and patted him gently on the shoulder.

“Well done, boy,” the man exclaimed, and went on to praise Ganesh on the excellent job he had done on his masterpiece.

Ganesh turned to face the man and to reciprocate with some words of gratitude. From the corner of his eye, he somehow noticed a small boy walking away from him and the crowd that was around him, heading towards the exit, apparently in a bit of a hurry.

‘Strange,’ Ganesh thought to himself, but merely returned his gaze to his art and to his adoring admirers. 

* Inspiration for this story was also derived from the tale of  the magic paintbrush.