Well, birthdays call for some narcissistic indulgences, what? Not quite Dorian Gray, but a picture nonetheless.
Little Peter always knew that he wasn’t alone in his room when he slept. When his mother tucked him in and kissed him goodnight, he used to plead with her not to turn off the lights.
Little Peter was afraid of darkness. And the sounds that came from under his bed. The soft taps on his shoulder, as he shut his eyes tight under his blanket. The raspy breathing that he could hear. The soft scurrying sounds, the even softer whispers.
His mother had told him never to peek out of his blanket and to just sleep tight. Or else the bogey monster would get him. Night after night, he would stay awake. Eyes shut. Trembling. Never peeking out of the sheets that he would curl into.
But then one night, he broke the rule…and this is what he saw. Or did he?
Childhood can be darn scary time.
Well, we have all faced despair. The gnawing sensation that creeps all through the body till it reaches a focal point and intensifies gradually into one throbbing sensation of pure, unadulterated terror. A calm sense of foreboding, giving way to a kind of physical distress that cannot be ignored.
I used to get recurring nightmares of drowning. Not the Titanic sort of romanticized drowning. It felt infinitely more horrifying. A cold, wet, tangible sort of dread that would plague my sleep and weigh me down. I feel scared of water. That something life-giving can be so palpably lethal. All consuming, like fire, only more deceiving.
So I made this sketch of Rapahel. A man who is going to drown. Raphael felt fear. Because he was aware of his certain fate. Of a water grave. But hope tends to fuel survival instincts.
Few things are as tragic as a drowning man.
The sky glowed iridescent. Streaks of brilliant purple and dull red.
As the thunder growled at an ominously low decibel, the lightning came through in bursts, melting the twilight shades into a puddle. Flecks of ash flew in the air with a bizarre finality. Almost with a sense of purpose.The shadows loomed large. Expectant. Anticipating.
The foot-falls quick and heavy, they made their way. Murmurs and soft chanting as the congregation approached the altar. The smell of sweat and iron in the air ablaze with torches. Silent human eyes reflecting desire. This was no time for patience or forgiveness. The flames glowed scarlet and gold. The lithe bodies swayed, as they formed a circle. Round and round they went. Hand in hand. The chants growing louder.
Neverville shall not sleep tonight. After a long and uninterrupted stretch of rest, it is awake. And tonight, it’s time to celebrate.
(part of my sketch series.)
We stay in a large compound housing a lot of trees, and quite a few houses, in 23 Moore Avenue, the southern part of Calcutta. It’s like a quasi-joint family where most part of the large family lives together, but in separate houses. And in most cases, people can’t stand one another. The houses were built a long, long time ago. Some time in the 1920’s, I think. And like most old places, there are many stories woven around it, passed on through generations. Urban legend type. The exciting part? They are mostly ghost stories.
Growing up, I used to sit in awe, as my grandfather, and later, my mother and uncle, narrated story after story about 23 Moore Avenue. Apparently, the entire compound was built on top of a graveyard. And we all know that spirits do not like their rest to be interrupted. I mean, who wouldn’t? I would get murderous if someone tried waking me up when I am asleep. So, as the story goes, when the construction work for the houses began, there were very bizarre instances that occurred. Some eerie, like trees falling down, without any rhyme or reason, without any strong gust of wind or anything. Some downright scary. Like construction workers dropping dead while the main large bungalow got built. Yep. It was jinxed. but people moved in anyhow. There were tragedies which followed. My grand dad’s sister passed away, at the age of 2. Followed by the death of his infant brother. What followed was a mental breakdown for his mother, who never quite recovered. She still wrote brilliantly though, and sang with a clear, strong voice.
Perhaps, due to this series of unfortunate incidents, the entire place gained a reputation for being haunted. The neem tree at the entrance of the large green gate, was considered especially notorious for housing a rather mischievous spirit. One who liked dropping things on passersby and cars. On moonlit nights, when my mother and uncle sat chatting on the terrace, they often saw someone on the opposite terrace. Someone a little too translucent to lay claims on being real. Someone who flickered a bit too much to be considered human. Someone who had a propensity to disappear with remarkable speed.
My grand parents had several pets. Around 5 German Shepherds, and 10 cats. One of the dogs, Tiger, went into a frenzy one day and attacked the entire family, except for my granddad. It resulted in my mother and uncle being hospitalized, wounds being stitched, etc. The vet wanted Tiger euthanized. That thought was unbearable to my granddad, and to my mother. He was family. Somehow, after that incident, he became mellow. But there used to be a frightening look of alarm in his eyes.
August 1975, my aunt’s boyfriend passed away in a terrible motorcycle accident on a highway, along with the pillion, his best friend. They got hit by a speeding truck. He was 23 years old, and my father’s elder brother. He was a beautiful person, as far as I have heard. One who wrote poetry and played the accordion and mandolin. He had long wavy hair, a sharp nose and very high cheekbones. He used a very distinct perfume, a bottle of which he always kept in my grandfather’s house, because he visited so frequently. The day he passed away, he was returning to Asansol from Calcutta, after visiting my aunt and the family.
Tiger was very close to him. He had a very calming effect on the dog. And for many months after his death, Tiger behaved very strangely. Barking affectionately, jumping up and greeting someone very familiar, someone he knew very well and loved. And often, that unmistakable perfume could be smelled, permeating through the entire house, as Tiger went into a joyful barking frenzy.
Strange things happen I suppose. And I believe in the strange, because I believe there are things that go way beyond our cynicism and calculated logic.
My house looks nothing like this, but at times (just at times), I cannot help but feel a slight chill run through me if I stand alone on the terrace. I feel a strange bond of empathy with a house that has seen witness to so much. And for so many years. I made this sketch as a sort of depiction of my house, though it looks nothing like it. But the moon? It sure can be sinister.
The woodland sounds grew louder as the skies got darker. It was late evening, and the fading daylight died among the trees.
Emily was scared. But she had to be brave for her little brother.
Suddenly, the forest seemed illuminated by a million little lights.
Pairs and pairs of glowing eyes, drawing closer to the two little children.
The trees were coming to life and there was nowhere to run.
(Another sketch I had made.)
Dee had seen the leaves falling outside her large, glass window. The leaves were a warm shade of autumn as they fell into piles in her backyard. As a quiet girl of 14, Dee did not have too many friends. What she did have was a lovely, silken umbrella of many, many colours. And it was magical. Each time Dee opened the umbrella, the world changed around her. It’s true. Through its shade, everything around seemed just a shade brighter, the smiles a bit wider, and flowers more fragrant. So whenever Dee went out, she always carried it with her and happiness rushed in, quickening all her senses, as her long legs took big strides and she disappeared around some corner.
(This is something I had sketched, some time back. I was playing around with patterns. My sketches tends to automatically veer towards childhood for some odd reason.)
I used to make a lot of sketches, in the before-times, in the-long-long ago. Okay, maybe not that long ago. A year back, I guess. This one I made after watching Black Swan, and obviously being very disturbed by it. I think it’s a fantastic movie. Fantastic in the way it plays with your head.
Anyhow, so I had made this sketch, as a sort of coming to terms with things.
Maybe I’ll post a few of my other sketches too. Maybe I’ll even get back to sketching again. Let’s see.