Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Sudha had told her about the painting thing. Sheila sat at the steps of the Ganpati temple with flowers in her hand, ready to be offered. She got up and entered the temple, feeling the divinity immensely around her. But today, her prayers were interspersed due to what Sudha had told her in the morning. She had told her to meet the so-called Joshi Sir in The Arts School, the painting man, at least once.

She left her prayers halfway. It was best to pray only when your mind was clear of every clutter of the soul. Sheila decided she would meet the man. Married to an alcoholic husband, who sat in a corner of the house, drinking and then puking, this was the best way out. She needed money desperately, to eke out a living.

The peon ushered her into the room. ‘The painting man’ smiled at her.
“Sudha has sent you, if I believe.”
“Yes, she told me about this thing in the morning.”
“So can we get started?”
“Sir, can I know what kind of work exactly is this? What do I have to do, though I have a faint notion from Sudha’s words.”
“Seven days alternatively you will have to come here, strip and I will paint you. I will tell you what postures I want. You sit/stand accordingly. For every painting you get 300 bucks. And the timings will depend on when I finish painting you.”
“That’s something called as nude paintings. So Sheila, give me your word so that I can start my work.”
“Yes sir, I’ll come from tomorrow.”

As she walked out, her mind wasn’t clear of exactly what she had done. What would she tell her husband? That she was supposed to pose naked in front of a man, who would then paint her? Would he believe that any man who saw a woman, bare in front of him, would only restrict himself ‘to paint’ her? Would he believe, that the painting man was harmless? She then understood that these were the questions, not only her husband would ask her, but she was asking this to herself. Was it safe?

That night she felt claustrophobic. She needed some air to vent out her fears, her reservations. She went outside and sat on the stairs of her chawl. Sleep was as distant as the moon. Apprehension had filled her to the core…

“Why aren’t you ready yet?”, the painting man asked, with a slight presence of irritation in his tone.
“Am I supposed to strip all of my garments?”, she asked in a disapproving sort of way, even thought she knew, that she was supposed to. She did.
“Ok now, lie down on the support of you elbow, facing me. And be still.”

She did what she was asked to, becoming aware of her unclothed body, in the presence of a man.

She was loving each and every moment of what she was doing. The painting man was amazing. The first time she had seen herself on the canvass, she couldn’t believe that it was her body, that was replicated with human hands on a mere piece of paper. How had she NOT known, in all of her 27 years that she was so beautiful?

Mr.Joshi had made her look like a princess. The second day he had asked her to cover her breasts with her hands, and sit in crossed leg position for a particular posture. Why had he asked to do that when the same can be done by wearing clothes. But when he saw the portrait she knew. He had added a sensuality to the portrait. There was a certain nudity that wasn’t vulgar, but was simply aesthetic. What it revealed about her was a woman enjoying her body, the beautiful structure of it and experiencing the pleasures of touching and sensing herself…she understood looks didn’t matter…

Initially it was cumbersome for her to bear the gaze of the man on her body, but slowly she began enjoying it. She loved the way the man put the end of the brush in his mouth and viewed her body with an intense interest. Her husband had never did that. Never made her felt that she was beautiful. But here he was, the man, totally unknown to her making her feel special.

Sometimes he would say, “beautiful posture”, “excellent”, “you were beautiful today, look”….and she would feel a surge of hormones..bliss..happiness.

“No, Sheila I can’t. Here’s your money.”
“Sir, please. I need money. I will pose for you for many hours without complaining. Please take me in once again.” She prodded the door trying to come inside the room.

She knew her ‘posing period’ had ended. But she wanted money. What was she hiding from herself? Did she need the money, or did she need him?

“I need a different muse every time Sudha. Now go” he slammed the door.

She felt lifeless. New muse? Did he mean he painted many women like he had painted her? Wasn’t she special? Hadn’t he said she was beautiful? Hadn’t he ‘seen’ her?

Her existence came back to nil once again. The fifteen days she had spent…. Now who would make her happy? Who would make her jump with bliss again? Who would paint her again? Was there any other painting man?


Monday, June 2, 2008

Lifeless Love

Liz walked out of her room into the garden, welcoming the usual beautiful and chirpy morning. She spent her mornings usually in the company of her self-grown flowers and herbs. She eyed Luke watering her plants. She felt a sudden gush of affection for him.

Liz remembered the time she had wanted a servant so that she could pass on her household work, and thus spend that time doing her translation work. A linguist she was.

Luke was amazing. He could do every work with miraculous perfection. Sometimes she wondered whether it was appropriate to call him a servant. More than that, he was a companion to her. Listening to her problems, woes, just about anything without ever interrupting her, but he never provided her with any suggestions, he just listened aptly.

She had always fallen for men who had looks. Luke was just that. Chiseled looks, perfect jaw line, very kissable lips. All clichés….and she was floored. It should be a sin to look that hunky, she thought. All thanks to Marie who had given her the idea of only one time investment on a house servant and what more, on spending a few more pennies, you could buy one on the basis of looks!! And it was 2030, you had to have one of such types. So here he was, Luke.

As he finished his garden work, Liz eyed him with rapt attention. As he entered the room, Liz took him by hand to her bedroom. She touched his face, praising this uncanny perfection of beauty. She kissed him, softly. It was for a few seconds. Although what Liz did was momentary and spontaneous, Luke was calm.

To Liz, it was saddening to note that there was no exchange of saliva, no rolling of tongues for that added sensuality, no sucking of each others breath and the amorous want of going deep inside one another’s soul and sensing every movement of each others body…

She glanced him from the corner of her eyes and started laughing at her own imbecility, her own daftness. Overcome by such schmaltz and maudlin attitude, she asked herself how could she fall for a robot?