Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chromatophobic? You Wish.

I walked down the whole length of Gariahat last evening to the one shop that ensures I spend whatever I have in my wallet at the moment. It’s a dingy, musty little shop that looks woefully out of place in technicolour Gariahat. You might miss it if you don’t know you’re looking for it – the signboard is, ironically, a sorry piece of peeling paint and metal. I always wonder if this is what Ollivander’s in Diagon Alley looks like, because the whole shop gives out an air of neglected colourlessness. But oh, the things it stocks. They’re all packed away in cardboard boxes, but you only have to say the word and out come little bottles of paint and fine-haired brushes, iridescent sticks of colour and fine-smelling sheets of paper. This shop is called Kumar’s Concern, and it’s the one place I go if I have money to spend. Apart from a bookstore, that is.

It seems strange that a shop stocking art supplies should be so devoid of colour. But that is the singlemost reason that adds to its air of lazy enchantment. I feel random little sparks hanging in the air as art students, schoolchildren and random experimenters ask for canvas and palettes – sparks that in muted excitement affix themselves to the people who walk in and out, exuding an air of you-never-know. Expressions waiting to be painted. Foliage waiting to be captured. Masterpieces waiting to happen.

I find myself buying something or the other. A stick of charcoal, a tube of paint, a notebook. Everything looks so luxuriously new and alluring - till I read the price label. Art as a hobby is shockingly expensive. But then, I suppose most hobbies are. The one hobby that isn’t expensive, however, is Colours. Its probably the reason I took up art in the first place. I don’t know when I realized that my love of colour bordered on obsession, but there it is. The only part of me that’s even remotely sensitive is sensitive to colour.

Colours are one of the Important Things in my life. When we moved into the new flat, I nearly reduced my mother to tears about the colour of the walls in my room, and how they corresponded to the bedsheets and the table lamp. If I see something wrong with a print or a signboard or a dress in terms of colour, I tend to worry myself silly that I can't correct it. I go watch Karan Johar movies to see Rani Mukherjee’s sari flashing through a beautifully coordinated set. The same can be said about Sanjay Leela Bhansali, although I did fall asleep halfway through Devdas and then woke up just in time to see the last scene (Which was good, because Shah Rukh Khan finally died, and we got to see the burnished leaves and the trees and everything else that was so much more beautiful than his drunken face). I go crazy about the art direction in musicals, and I feel so much better about going to school now that they've repainted it and got the tone of the colours right.

It’s no wonder, then, that I feel like a horse that has lost its side-patches (or whatever they’re called) when I walk down a place like Gariahat. Everything is in motion, and out of the corners of my eyes I catch a dizzying whirl of fuchsia and glitter and gleaming brown leather and clinking golden earrings and plastic flowers and orange jungle-printed skirts and cheerful blue cups and glinting, poisonous-looking bottles of perfume, and it all converges with the sounds and the heckling, and I feel like I’m in one of those psychedelic movies, only it isn’t drugs or alcohol. It’s just the experience of being bombarded with too many colours at the same time, and not being able to do anything about it, and strangely, exulting at how they all seem to fit together. It's the feeling of catching shades I haven't seen before out of the corner of my eye, and finding them vanished when I look properly.

If I do go abroad for higher studies, I don’t know what I'll do without the colour. It’s not like India’s the most colourful place on earth, but it’s a different kind of colourful. A kind of hectic, maddening vividness that bowls me over every single second of looking around. I don’t think I’ll find people wearing such garish clothes with such élan anywhere else. And strangely, the mismatched colours don’t seem to matter when I see a whole stall of rainbow sunglasses, the hawker wearing a pair of oversize purple goggles. Here is Colour. I smile. Bring on the eccentricity; this is a place where I fit right in.

10 kindred spirits have swallowed my rambling:

Full stop. said...

I imagine that's the sort of colour that brings foreigners with knotted hair and worn flip flops to this place. It's alluring and repulsive all at once, I think, and you want to escape sometimes but then you treasure the thought of what you left there.

new age scheherazade said...

they're called blinkers :)
and raghu will LOVE this post. he's into psychedelic photography, and he's good.
Why don't you scan and post some stuff? Utsha was talking about your wowness in art, and she said something about tooth-designing.


heh? ok said...

you know, travelling in the ladies compartment of the local trains in bombay is something you will love, i swear. colours, flowers, clothes, trinkets, the works. the entire palette that middle class india lives by. love-ly, both the experience and the post.

Priyanka Kumar said...

@ full stop: said it the megha way, once again :) and not to sound prejudiced or anything, but why must the foreigners always wear variants of beige? or maybe it's the colour that makes them look drab :)

@ new age: i've seen raghu's stuff, yeah. nice. and utsha's drunk. tooth designing, indeed. after all the trauma i've had with teeth (post on that later) - and you're right. maybe i will inflict my art on the world.

@heh? ok: i have. my uncle lives there, and i love the local trains, even during rush hour:) and thanks.

speedpost said...

Colour only brings to my mind this black disco sari that i had once seen in a sari shop in Vizag. it was black and had psychedelic disco balls all over it.
it reminds me also of this woman I keep running into at Lake Road CCD,the typical---obscene, fat and very very pink.
and then there is jayati muskara who wanted to be a "modal"
Achha and I postively don't want to leave this country now. the only colour you ever see in the States are the autumn leaves and they are beautiful but become mundane after a point.
The post, btw is genuinely good.

Full stop. said...

Do they? I once saw a foreigner on Chowringhee wearing a blouse and petticoat. Just. They were colourful, too.

Fishy! said...

Great post! I love colour too... Not as fussy as you, though... I'm not the artistic type, but yeah- I like nice colours...

Priyanka Kumar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Priyanka Kumar said...

@full stop: haha, but then there are so many breeds of travellers. the most wonderful species on the planet.

@ brinda: not as fussy as me?!? *gasps* when it comes to colour, perhaps. otherwise you're as obsessive-compulsive as they get

Sroyon said...

Been there recently? Have you seen what they've done to it?