Poster colours that filled the Canvas of my life with colours in Simla of the Sixties

Poster colours that filled the Canvas of my life with colours in Simla of the SixtiesI am surrounded with colours in all shades and hues….not just in my present surroundings, my memories of the past, the pallet and on the canvas….both the painting Canvas and the canvas of life.
These days I am indulged in painting and am surrounded with various hues and shades of colours on one hand and beautiful memories of Simla engulfing my very being on the other hand… could the relation between the two would not resurface to the fore!!!
Today when I purchase whatsoever colour catches my fancy…the brushes of finest sable hair and the canvas or the board of any dimension or material….I go back to my first “canvas”…my first set of colours…..and all the love accompanying them.
And nothing….nothing whatsoever could replace or diminish the feeling of acquiring the first set of poster colours for my first attempt at painting in Simla of the Sixties!!!It happened long back yet it is so fresh in my mind as if it happened just yesterday.
The year must have been 1967 or so. I was in sixth or seventh class. The school had decided that in order to develop some new vistas to the personality of the girls, some hobby classes should be run in the school itself. Some of the teachers had volunteered to teach whatever they were good at. There were embroidery, cooking, knitting and painting classes that the teachers had opted to take on the afternoon of Saturdays. Everyone was so happy and eager….anythibg our of the routine was a much welcome attraction for us. I, too, was much ecstatic. I had opted for painting classes. The teacher had asked us to bring a pack of Poster colours, one or two brushes and a clay plate to begin with. I bought two brushes from a stationery shop in the Lower Bazaar and went to Ram Bazaar almost tramping with joy. There was a shop deep down, in the lane opposite to the Shahi Theater that had all clay items. And buying an earthen plate was easy. Our art teacher had asked to put a layer of white base on it otherwise the pores would soak in the colour. For that I used the very fine “Golpo mitti” that Amma used to smear the Angithee with. The earthen plate, my canvas, was ready and I was armed with two cheap brushes but the problem was to buy the colours.It was the Saturday, the last Saturday of the month, perhaps. I had heard Bauji and Amma to talk about coming first day of the month….the much awaited “Pehli Tareekh” when Bauji would bring his salary home. I knew it was not the right day to ask for money. Even as a small girl, I could understand that it was not wise to ask for money from my Amma at the end of the month and buying colours always came as non-essential item, at that time. So, I had not asked Amma to give me money to buy poster colours and had walked to the school thinking that on the next Saturday I would bring the colours and that day would learn only to draw. How wise a small girl becomes when she knows and understands the situation of her family, courtesy the small houses where no secrets can be kept if you have kids with sharp ears!I went to school without colours. Perhaps the teacher, too, was not very enthusiastic to teach us painting and instead asked us to get the colours and was liberal enough to allow girls to bring it during the recess period if they lived nearby and could walk to their home and come back. To get such an opportunity during the school days was manna from the heaven…a godsend gift! As many girls opted to walk home, I, too, decided to go home during recess and get money from my Amma to buy poster colours.That fifteen minutes walk is deeply etched in my memory. Some of my school friends accompanied me to my home. It was the first time in my life that I felt under pressure. I was worried, worried that if my amma would scold me before my friends, I would be feeling so humiliated and disgraced. I was wiser for may age, you become wiser when you know that how the money comes to your home and how is it spent. There was nothing that was hidden in our home. I knew that spending money on colours at the end of the month was not wise but there was peer pressure of going home and getting money to buy colours. I prayed and prayed to gods to help me. I silently made a prayer to Kali maa to help me, to help me save my prestige. If Amma would become angry with me, scold me before my class mates, I would be so humiliated before my friends!That day the distance from my school to my home was the longest distance that I remember to have covered. When all other girls were so happily chirping and walking as if floating in air, I was just dragging myself along with. We reached the stairs leading to our home. I wished and I prayed hard for it that the bevy of girls would wait at the foot of the stairs when I go to ask my amma about money. But I was shocked when all of them walked with me to our home. I was doubly worried, one for they would see our small house and second that Amma would not only refuse to give me money but would also give a piece of her mind for being callous and self centered about catering to my whims and fancies only knowing well it was the fag end of the month!Meekly I asked her to give me some money to buy Poster colours. “How much?” she simply asked me. “Five rupees”, I replied. I knew the dam of her patience would burst open. But very gracefully and graciously she got for me five rupees and handed those to me. My small hand was moist because of the sweat, the moisture in my eyes was because of the gratitude and love I felt for my Amma. This was a communication which only the mother and the daughter were privy to, all others present were unaware of what transpired in those few seconds between two of us. Grateful and elated, I, along with all the girls, rushed down the stairs, straight to Gian Bhandar Book Depot to buy colours. Amma had filled my small fluttering heart with colours, the colours that would never fade away from my life till my last breath!Even now when I play with colours, I am playing with and reliving all the love of my Amma that I felt that day and ever in my life….while growing up learning life lessons in the narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar of Simla in the Sixties!!!

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