The room was warm with the morning sun and the ripe Gulmohar spilled through the balcony windows. A sensual light lit up the space, tinged with the freshness of a new-born day.
She enters with a light knock, her “hello” is soft and deceptively school-girlish. His artists’ senses are instinctively alert, watching her every move, her every gesture. In the dim background of his thoughts, he offers her tea, some cake, some grapes, all of which she accepts.
So seemingly innocent, her arms reach up to bundle together the silk of her hair, now tied into a nape-kissing knot that wisps and tendrils will defy through the humid day, sneaking out to curl over warm flushed cheeks. Greedily she eats the cake, crumbs caressing her mouth and gulps her tea while cradling the cup with her naked hands. She always seems to have this great hunger – it’s there in her body, in her eyes, the way she listens and looks, always searching the room for some answers to little mysteries. It is time to work.
He watches as she undresses, carefully folding her clothes over the arm of the couch She turns and bends, stands, sits, half-lounges, comes closer, moves away – all at his will. He is lucky to have found her. She is beautiful, worthy of a master artist. His strokes are challenged to capture the contradictions of her : slender and voluptuous, innocently sensuous, withdrawn in abandon, solemnly vivacious. She is silent for hours, lost in her fantasies, he in his art; and then she will chatter for what seems like hours – of this and that – he is never sure what – her life and thoughts sound glamourous, tinged with silver stardust, stained by wine-red passion, present-day kitsch trying to clothe itself with grandiose emotions. A part of him listens and what he hears flows into his paint and colours the canvas.
The twilight shadows are creeping into the room. From far beyond the town, a whiff of the ocean air walks softly over the balcony railing bringing in an unknown chill. She slips into her clothes, brushes his cheek with her achingly baby-soft lips and slips out to her life. He sighs. He is content. He looks long at his canvas. He looks long at her, and pours himself a glass of wine. They have lunched earlier, in the glistening mid-afternoon, their humid bodies made hotter by the pungent and delicious spices. His wife cooks well.
On cue, he hears the key in the door, the familiar sound of her routine, the bag tossed on her favourite chair, her everyday voice beginning the conversation even before she can see him. He turns around for the familiar half-embrace, the affectionate brush-stroke kiss, as she heads for the kitchen. She’ll stop at the canvas, he knows. She does. And after long fluttering moments, turns to him. Her eyes are large, and wet, he suspects.
“You’re an artist, my love”, and then quickly, before they can both catch their breath, “What do you want for dinner?”
Through the conversation that follows he searches her eyes. They are loving and confident. She is simple, refreshing in her now-crumpled cotton saree, a small seemingly ordinary woman, with her round face defined by the defiant kohl-rimmed eyes and the changing bindis on a wise forehead.; a pleasant rather than gorgeous woman. He watches the bubbling eyes, the infectious laughter, the deft actions, the warm gestures as she lays the table and tosses the salad, all the while telling him little stories about her students. Many moons ago she has asked him how he resisted the lure of his beautiful models and turned to her, day in and night out. And he had quoted Atreyee:
“If you have once
drunk deep from the soul,
what need have you for
eyes, lips and breasts?”
(c) Anita Vasudeva, Nov. 2004