Friday, September 5, 2008

Chapter 50

During the month of March, I was destined to paint another image of Bala. This was an image of her in a standing posture, dressed in a green skirt, carrying rosary beads in one hand , and the other raised in a protective gesture.
I had been asked by Sri Ezhilmani to do this portrait .
He also gave me a small poster of Bala standing, based on a mural at the peetam, which had been the work of an artist friend, a long time ago.
I brought this picture home and started to copy this image the very next day. However, I received mental messages that asked me to use my own creativity while doing this portrait. And so I did.
The face of Bala in my painting came out totally differently from the one Sri Ezhilmani had given me. Although in both images the goddess is standing, the resemblance ends there. In my painting Bala is standing on a huge pink lotus, dressed in a sparkling green skirt and a matching blouse studded with dazzling crystals. Her dark and wavy hair comes tumbling past her shoulders and as I stepped back to take a final look, I was sure those eyes were smiling!

Drawing the eyes of this powerful goddess hadn’t been easy.

One night, when I was still working on this portrait, I retired to bed after I was convinced I had depicted those luminous eyes to my satisfaction. The next morning I found to my surprise that I could barely open my eyes. I seemed to have developed an infection . Both my eyes appeared puffy and red. I was puzzled since I’d had no indication or symptoms the previous night.

After carefully bathing my eyes with warm water, I went down to look at my painting. It was only then that I realized, it had something to do with my depiction of Bala’s eyes.
I sat down immediately and erased all the work I’d done the previous night.
I prayed to Bala for support and attempted once more, to draw in her eyes.

I remember very clearly the exact moment I finished this painting. Just as I lifted my paint brush off the canvas, after completing Bala’s eyes, I heard a crack of thunder and the heavens opened! The short and sharp downpour, once again confirmed Bala’s approval of my painting.

This painting was framed and delivered to the Peetam on the first Sunday in April, 2008.
The following week heralded the birth of the Tamil New Year. I had decided to depart Chennai for London, shortly after the New Year and told Sri Ezhilmani of my intentions. He instructed me to go ahead with my plans.

I booked my ticket to leave on the 15th of April. However, my trip was to be delayed by a whole month !

During the second week of April, I was making preparations to leave Chennai. The house had to be locked up, and several important matters had to be attended to.

On Saturday, April 12th, while I was meditating on Bala and listening to her songs, I received a message from Her. I was to paint another portrait of Her as a young child seated on a small, raised wooden platform. What was even more intriguing about this directive was that I had to complete the drawing that same day, get it framed and take it with me to Nemili the following day as a (Tamil) New Year present for Babaji.

Without pausing to question this little “inner voice”, I sat down at my dining table and started to draw. I remember sitting down at 10 a.m. and did not leave the spot unil the painting was finished at 5.30 p.m. I had instructed the framer to stop by in the evening with his tools.
Subramani, came by as promised, that evening. With a great sigh of satisfaction, I handed over the painting to him so he could carry out his task.
My thoughts had been focused entirely on Bala that day and while the painting was being framed, I sat down in my puja room reciting Bala’s Andhadi.

Just as I finished my prayers, the framed painting was brought in.
I stepped back to get a good look at it.

What I perceived was something undescribable!
The face of the child- Bala, I had so lovingly portrayed, seemed completely distorted and disproportionately large compared to the rest of her body.

I looked at my portrait with disbelief. How could I have made such a mistake?

I had managed to accomplish over a hundred paintings. This kind of basic mistake had never occurred before. More importantly, I asked myself “ Why had I not spotted this glaring error right away?

My thoughts had been revolving solely around Bala. Why did she not help me correct my mistake as she had done several times before?

All these thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there looking at that ghastly painting!

After a few moments of silence, Subramani remarked in an apologetic tone that this was not one of my best works.
I had to agree.
I paid him for his labor and told him I would contact him if I required his services.

That night, I sat in my Puja room, alone, looking at this painting of Bala.

I asked her silently why she had asked me to do a painting when she knew it wouldn’t turn out well.
After all, it was She who had given me the ability to draw. So, I could not understand why She had taken “away” this skill.

By this time it was 10 p.m. I had not partaken any food that entire day, as all mental and physical energies had been focused only on this child- Goddess.
So, I had some supper and retired for the night. My only regret was that I now had nothing to bring with me when I went to the Peetam the following day.

I traveled to Nemili, the following morning, Sunday, April 13th ( Tamil New Year’s Day), with neither the customary flowers, fruits, chocolates or sweets for Bala. I had not informed Babaji about the painting as it was meant to be a surprise gift to him. So, I decided not to mention anything about the unfortunate events of the previous day.

It was around mid morning when the car drew up at Bala’s house. I went inside and joined the throng of devotees, many of whom had come over to get Bala’s blessings on this auspicious day. Sri Ezhilmani saw me come in and made an announcement to the assembled crowd. What he said completely took my breath away.

He said “ Today, is a very special occasion. I request all of you to proceed out of this hall, and make your way across the street to the new hall that has been built on the first floor of the house directly opposite Bala Peetam. This hall now houses all of Smt. Uma Kumar’s paintings and we will carry out the ceremonies to inaugurate this hall today”!

I was totally stunned. I had absolutely no indication that this event had been planned .

Almost in a daze, I followed the crowd of friends, relatives and members of Bala Vidhya Mandir to the exhibition hall. A blue ribbon was cut by a devotee and we all filed past the three rooms, where my paintings had been arranged neatly against the walls.

The most recent painting of Bala I had given the previous week, had been placed in the far corner of the main hall. A lamp was lit, flowers were showered at Bala’s feet, and Sri Ezhilmani made another speech narrating the little story of how this hall was built through Bala’s directive and how these paintings had actually arrived here through Bala’s grace.

It was the most unforgettable day as far as I was concerned. As I took leave of Sri Ezhilmani, I did tell him about the unfortunate events of the previous day. I asked him why Bala had prevented me from doing another painting and indeed, why she had asked me to sit at the , later abandoned painting, the entire day!

Sri Ezhilmani’s response was characteristally swift and laced with humour.
“ Amma, we have no space to keep any more of your paintings. In fact, I was praying to her , only yesterday, that you should not bring us any more paintings. You see, Bala made you sit down and concentrate all your thoughts on her yesterday, because, She, in return was doing something for you. Our entire family worked very hard all throughout yesterday, shifting your stored paintings from our house into this hall, and arranging them in a neat display”.

As I left the Peetam that day, it was very clear to me that Bala had chosen that New Year’s day to make me feel once more, that She was always close to me, residing in my heart as “ Nivasathu Hridhi Bala”.

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