River of Dreams

Madan has never been a dreamer, but he has his ambitions or notions of ambitions. Hmmm…now that sounds a little contradictory, doesn’t it? Let’s rethink. As soon as ‘an ambition’ becomes ‘ambitions’, it does lose some clarity, a necessary focus, that force of motivation and perseverance which is crucial to achieving ‘an ambition’. So it means that ‘an ambition’ during its transformation into ‘ambitions’ becomes weak and the resultant weaker ambitions are eventually reduced to mere dreams. Aaha! Now let’s rearticulate it from the first line:

Madan has never had a strong ambition, but he has his dreams. Not as a rule, but almost every year, instead of a New Year resolution, Madan finds himself chasing a new dream. And sometimes, even more than one in a year. It’s not that he doesn’t work towards his dreams; but somewhere in the middle when he partly achieves his goal, he experiences a lack of motivation to go through with it, and so he shelves the dream with its predecessors behind a clear glass cabinet. Clear glass because he doesn’t forget then(he always keeps them in vision)- he just stops chasing them.

His current dream is to be an artist- a painter. He will have to paint something now.

Madan is a young man in late twenties. He has the average build of a typical Indian male from Uttar Pradesh. Six inches shy of the six feet mark, he cannot be called tall. Still he prefers loose six pocketed cargo pants and a tee shirt as an all-occasion attire, not quite realising that it makes him seem even shorter. He has slender forearms and wrists, but slightly fuller shoulders and biceps, a result of his four- year old dream of possessing a fit and expressive physique. His chest muscles are not very toned, characteristic of a long discontinued exercise routine. His otherwise flattish stomach (when covered) suddenly shows up a small belly and he remembers his efforts to increase his beer drinking capacity from two glasses to four, and maintaining this every weekend. He smiles at his boyish tendencies and his eyes move on further down the mirror. Yes, his thighs are little thicker, but he thinks it is because of his childhood interest in soccer, which he played relentlessly for over a year. But while the soccer playing had toned and muscled his thighs, his lower legs and shins are still quite slender and even a little rickety. At three or four points on his body, there are scars of small wounds which have healed long ago; a couple of them are even difficult to identify distinctly. Although these scars are something he truly cherishes, they are not visible and hence do not alter his appearance.

Naah! There is nothing about this body that could be a subject for the painting which he so much wants to paint.

Still determined to make a self-portrait, he picks up a 4B pencil and starts stroking the sketching sheet. His strokes are sometimes small but strong; sometimes thick but light; sometimes amazingly straight and at other times, intentionally wavering. He draws his face in three lines. The longest and only vertical stroke creates his nose, for he has a prominent and a somewhat sharp nose. The second stroke, smaller and horizontal, is drawn at the top left side of the nose line with a dot below it. Together they make an eye wide open, just like the one he has observed in his photographs, as if they are startled, but still not managing to capture much. He has observed that his eyes in photographs are always wide open even if the photo is taken while he is sleepy. One eye would be enough, he thinks, because what he sees with two is no different. He is not one of those classical painters who paints things exactly as they are. He prefers abstract art, or so he thinks. Actually, he compensates in this way for that lack of skill which would become evident if he were to paint exactly what he sees.

The third stroke, also horizontal and below the nose line, is straight and expressionless to denote his lips. He feels it to be true to his mostly frozen expression, even if he has been, a number of times, complimented for his unique smile, independently drooping at one end. Then he makes a lot of strokes, random and controlled, to picture his neither too long nor short and rather unkempt looking hair, which have now become characteristic of his image. He goes on to dress himself in his all-occasion attire. All that he is drawing is to record his thoughts about desire and thirst. He keeps sketching for half an hour and finally completes the sketch, mostly with pencils but a little colour as well.

Madan has now been studying his first self-portrait for the last ten minutes. Finally, he is pleased. The self-portrait, he thinks, conveys his real self and his.He has just taken the first successful step towards fulfilling his dream of becoming an artist. He looks in the mirror. He sees that familiar mischievous smile drooping to one end. Yes, you guessed it right! He is already having a new dream…a dream to live the self-portrait he has just finished.

Yash Pathak