As a child, when you are immersed in the energies of learning and playing, you are not concerned with your calling or purpose in life. Thus, I was bright in academics and had leadership qualities, but Art, although an engaging preoccupation during my school days, was always just a hobby. My art teacher had seen my potential, but I had taken it for granted. I remember now, my fingers moving involuntarily, to make sketches of people coming home, my drawings being shown to guests by my mom. But for me, it was just a matter of simple pleasure and secondary in the measure of praise I received from teachers for my academic performance.

Post school, without much thought, I was admitted to Sir J. J. School of Art to study Architecture and then to Sydenham College for a degree in B. Com and eventually enrolled in N. M. College simply because of its proximity to my home! Simply because my parents were concerned about my difficulty commuting during the monsoon months… And I was fine with that. I was with my friends and that was life. Most significant for me then, was that I had a happy childhood with excellent values.

When I met Pankaj, fell in love and got married soon after, he didn’t know about my artistic leanings. Once, when he came home from the office and saw one of the sketches I had made, he was astonished and urged me to pursue art. He also said I should enjoy the process of creating, with a condition never to sell my work.

Like any self-taught artist, I embarked on the journey, excited by the different styles and repertoires of various artists. I was influenced by Raza and by the Romantic Movement. But painting was never a regular exercise; I dabbled in it at whim, when Pankaj traveled or there were no guests at home.
Our children would then be given their own paper or canvas board to paint on to ensure that I was undisturbed. Surrounded by master artists as I was, and unsure about my work, I hoped that perhaps in my next life God would be more accommodating!

And then, just when I had relinquished all hopes of gaining recognition for my art during in this lifetime, something changed my course. Strangely, it was during the Navratri celebrations of 2008, when the financial Tsunami swept over us, that I discovered a new style of my own. Pankaj and my daughter Sanjana, on seeing the new work proclaimed that I had made it! That enthusiasm and encouragement from my family unleashed all my energies. I was intensely happy and painted crazily through the entire month of October until November 25. I was ready with a solo show for the first time. And only my family, our staff, the framer and the material supplier knew about it. Pankaj and I were delighted about the prospect of presenting a surprise solo show in February 2009.

During that period, I also painted while in Dubai and just before returning to Mumbai, Husainji came to meet us. He saw the works and with unconcealed amazement said, “Do you realise what has come out of you?” When Husainji offered to buy one of my works, I folded my hands and said, “I shall take just 11 dirham or eleven rupees from you. You are my first collector and it is such an honour.” My family witnessed the scene and my joy knew no boundaries. Next day I was in Mumbai and our guest room became my studio. Every day I would wake up with four or five images flashing in my mind, I couldn’t stop painting. God had given me what I had desired. I was so thankful to Him and my loved ones. I believe my path is created by God; I can feel the power of love. Life is a challenge and I am able to face it only because of the power of love.

Kalpana Shah
Mumbai; 13 November 2009.


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