Thursday, April 05, 2007

The painter of Church Street - a story in verse


He painted with his hands; he danced with his eyes,
His was a brightly lit cocoon of infinite joy,
The painter of Church Street never ceased to surprise,
Passers by who watched him prance around like a boy.
Painter-walah-babu, is what they called him, people
Who would stand by in mute silence and subtle glee
As the silhouette of the artist would shiver until
There was just magic and brilliance left to see.
‘Wah! Wah!’ they would always guffaw
As they sat sipping their lemon laced teas
While painter babu dabbed around and saw
An image of perfection that brought him peace.
Hyper children would stop and pout
While chasing each other in euphoric bliss
To see what genius babu would dish out
On that dark corner of his crumbling edifice.
Retired old folk would limp to his wall
Every evening to see him perform relentless
And applaud when a shade of blue would fall
Into the right spot of the chaotic mess.
The world was his muse. The paint was his instrument.
He played on without a break each passing pace
Passers by stood and admired the fragment
Of luck that brought him to this forgotten place.
Painter-walah-babu was indeed a treat.
A rare form of some divine intervention. A prize.
Hidden in the cold shadows of Nandapur’s street,
Performing miracles that healed those with eyes.


They fed him. They clothed him. They paid him in kind.
They took care of the humble artist every which way
To help him with his unending quest to find
And redefine his being each and every passing day.
He had no family or any kids to call his own
Yet everyone in the town was part of his land,
He commanded respect and wanted no crown
But one smile of pleasure was his only demand.
His work and name spread like wild fire soon
As people from near and far appeared,
Watching him paint an endless dream and croon
A silent song of love that none of them had heard.
His work was a colorful fantasy, filled with
Creatures and lands that no one had seen
The sky was perfect and its people a myth
Who stood on grass that was greener than green.
He painted young lovers, he painted their passion
He brought to life their smiles and tears,
The shades of blue and red and crimson,
Would break a real heart and evoke true fears.
He reflected peace and he drew to teach,
His work was hung in every house in sight,
He never spent more than a day on each,
Starting afresh after a nightmare filled night.
Oh! The painter was a messenger from God they said,
They called him their hero and an incarnation
Who had tagged along one day and bred
Creative aspirations and day dreams under the sun.


Young men and women inspired by this legend of a man
Had grown up and gone to places beyond the stars
To get a real feel for the paints in his can,
That had shown them a world that was farther than Mars.
‘He breathes to create. That’s how he is alive,’
Was how some of them thought of his art and living,
Without once lending a passing thought to derive,
A conclusion for his inane art of eternal giving.
‘He can make millions if he spreads his wings,’ they said
They would advise him constantly on his hidden wealth,
He would nod in disagreement going a little red,
Saying, ‘This is all I want. And of course my health.’
He would be up some nights, looking at the stars above,
From the open terrace of his old bachelor pad,
Trying to pluck out a new definition of his love,
As if solving a puzzle the constellations might have had.
The mystery of his ideas and his need to showcase,
The best in the world he had created for himself
Was always a question hanging without a trace
On everyone’s mind with his art on one’s shelf.
He was a king. In his own right mind you,
Who created his kingdom and its people with hue
And made them starlets and heroes who grew
Famous with time – and with each generation anew.
Painter-walah-babu was landmark for the town,
Who seemed to have it figured out after all,
A man who had never been known to frown
Did so one fine day when a stranger came to call.


Her amber coated discs set in white ablaze
With the smile that aroused a grin in return,
Her walk was distinct, with confidence in her gaze,
That had the painter turn cold in the burning sun.
‘Who is she? What brings her here?’
Murmured eager folks who watched his tremble,
As he dropped his brush and came near
The strange visitor with a poise so graceful.
‘Am I dreaming?’ he screamed, his eyes aghast,
‘Or has the fatigue of work seized me today?
What else can I call this? Tell me fast…’
As she stood in the wind with her hair astray.
Watchful eyes of the bystanders grew
As wide as the length of that narrow street
Hoping that this lady, strange and new,
Would not bring an end to the painter’s feat.
‘Hello,’ she said with the wink of a teen
Trapped in the mortality of an aging woman
‘How did you find me? Where have you been?’
Opening up an emotional stream that lay hidden.
He clasped her hands and a tear appeared
Briefly in his tired eyes and stood
Awaiting her words as the public peered
Trying to digest it as much as it could.
‘It had to be this way,’ she said in a sniffing whisper
‘No life awaited us had we been together’
She wiped his tear and held him near
‘What I did was right. Even if it wasn’t fair.’


The crowd dispersed, as the elders realized
That the two had a lot of catching up to do
The day was over and his work had capsized
Into the words of the woman who made him move.
He held her hand, as if he was guiding a child,
Back to his cracked and flaky walled abode
She followed suit, turned around and smiled
Back at the eager eyes with faces furrowed.
They knew they had seen it before,
Even if this was their first meet,
They walked away wanting to know more,
About the damsel who had shifted babu’s feet.
Nandapur waited till the sun disappeared
Looking at the lights in the painter’s windows
Wondering about what was heard and said
In those cold shadows and mossy hollows.
She admitted having left his side,
When he had needed her hand the most,
He refused to blame her. He denied.
He continued to play the good host.
She told him her parents had lied
When they spat at his love that day
And had declared her dead as he cried
Blaming him for making their only child pay.
They had the town folk stone him out
Cursing his existence and calling him a dog
Who had been sent from hell. His shout
And his screams dissolved in a teary fog.

He had abandoned his roots. He had fled that night.
He had found a lonely cliff pleasing his sight.
Stripping his clothes, having lost his fight,
He had taken a leap into the roaring white.
A thousand needles, shaper than thorn,
Had pierced his body and had left him faint
While slicing through his heart, now forlorn,
Gushing through his veins with no complaint.
She wept her eyes red, as she heard his tale,
Of suffering that she was unfamiliar with
And imagined the struggle in the moonlight pale
Of true love she was convinced was a myth.
‘I was saved somehow,’ he continued sighing
‘By a miracle or some act of divine intervention
As I sailed through rocks with my soul crying
For liberation to the gates of hell or heaven.’
He told her how he, had found a savior,
Who had helped him recover from his cuts
An old man who had always been a giver,
Had gifted babu new strength in his guts.
A dab of paint, one day, started a new episode
For babu, the painter, was born to live,
He mastered the art, the old man had bestowed
With a lesson to the lover – forget and forgive.
She smiled back, appreciating his work unique,
As she gazed at his paintings born from pain,
And that’s when it dawned on her wisdom bleak,
He had painted everything he could never gain.


4 reflections:

I Write for Fun said...

Beautifully written you have SERIOUS talent!!!

shakri said...


Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it. This was sort of an experimentation to try and narrate a story in verse. Looks like it paid off. :)


mouna said...

interesting! we try to achieve things that appear ethereal to us, paintings or writings, different ways of expression, isn't it?

shakri said...


Indeed. Expressing oneself liberates...even if it means from a painful past.

Thanks for the comments.