Revised Rat Race

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There is a voice inside of you ,

That whispers all day long,

“I feel this is right for me,

I know that this is wrong.”

No teacher, preacher, parent, friend

Or wise man can decide

What’s right for you–just listen to

The voice that speaks inside.”

– Shel Silverstein

Pour red colour in the petal, one of my colleagues said while giving final touch to rangoli we were making on the occasion of Diwali at office. Completely lost in rangoli making, I missed her instruction, now little louder, she said put red colour in center. The voice I missed again, quite annoyed, she turn me aside to pour colour in the petal banging a question, where are you lost?…….Million $ question, where was I lost? I tried to figure out, came unconquered with any constructive answer. Finishing rangoli we started with usual work at workstations immersing our self into the world of bits and bytes. Deep inside a feeble voice keep popping which I was at my wits end to understand. For many months a war between popping voice and to ignore it kept going, when in one of technology knowledge sharing session looking at a (more than required) flashy presentation, vivid visuals of childhood memories associated with colours, sketches, drawings, paintings and rangoli flashed. Going back home with hurried steps in a state of finding something important, I looked for my drawing books in the store room which I’m sure have been recycled infinite times as for my Mom drawing books have best place at junk and later to hand over junk collector.

Going down memory lanes my first association (which I can recall) with drawing started when I was 6, studying in 2nd standard. Our drawing teacher often make us observe objects and teach drawing with enthusiasm which we absorb like sponges. He usually assigns us various objects to draw as our home assignment. Once he narrated Shivalik Hill Range commonly called as Vaishnu Devi Shrine, to draw for home assignment. While showing home assignment, he questioned me about the cube like objects I drew at the peak of mountains. Before I could ans he questioned, stones? Annoyed with his different perception, I said, No this is snow on mountain. As I have never seen snow I drew it like ice cubes the way I have seen in the freezer tray of fridge. This wrong perception, correlation with day to day activity was first step to develop creativity.

We now moved to newer location where the new big complex inhibited thousands of army personal and their families from nearly all states of India. The place can be referred as mini India with amalgamation of rich Indian culture. This I believe is major contributor in forming my perception. Must be conceptualization, judgment, reasoning, imagining and learning.Every morning while going to school I often get stuck to miniature geometrical colourful rangolis made by a south Indian lady in the main door of her house. Like a skilled homemaker a perfect example of multitasking, she balances her house hold routine and rangoli making with 100% precession by hardly taking more than five minutes to finish rangoli. Getting too motivated from her, I tried many time to imitate her style every time to fail miserably. Those unsuccessful tries, mistakes, failures landed me to world of geometrical abstract painting . And let me develop my own technique of Abstract Art by experimenting with different brush stroke styles, bright colours and geometrical figures as her rangolis.

After my father’s transfer we shifted to our native which is a small sleepy town and lived in a village near to it. Growing up as teenager, painting went back seat. Painting remain confined to bit of drawing, sketching, helping siblings in project work drawings. Vacant Drawing teacher post in school, no interest of people around me for abstract art. Often ridiculed on my art work were major reason, to drift away from painting. Moreover, People want me to paint Phari Art, legacy left by renowned Himachali painter Shoba Singh.

Now, on life’s major decision for what to pursue for studies, I was on the fence. Deep inside I wanted to paddle my own canoe (study arts and films) for which I was not clear, confident and courageous. Rebel with not to give a damn attitude, I didn’t have guts to face people laughing at me for pursuing Arts and Films. Becoming victim of Peer pressure, no art guidance, no Art/Film College in vicinity, lack of insight I blindly stumbled with a shotgun approach to pursue subjects which my friends opted. It has no deny, Science and Technology streams have more secure career options.

During transforming age of teenage to adulthood, painting was completely forgotten, totally tangled in daily chores, it was the phase during which it seemed as if, interest in art never existed. After finishing studies, to stand on my own feet I started career as Computer Science lecturer in a school then polytechnic. During those days Art for me used to get up by 6, get ready, find best short cut to cross thick pine jungle walking 2 Km to reach bus stop, catch bus (on missing it, wait for another half hour), spend around 1 hours in bus chatting to commuters, again find best short cut to cover walking 1.5-2 km way crossing hills to reach institute at Himachal’s remotest village. Able to face inquisitive students, meeting high expectations of strict Bengali boss and reaching back home with same routine. Sinking my teeth into teaching I had no idea, how time flew from 7 AM to 8.30 PM. Making living has taken full toll over things which sometime interest me, irrespective of not following my intuition there is no conflict I liked teaching.

During IT revolution, like most Indian youngsters without looking bigger picture I too followed RAT RACE to join corporate world. Ironical part, following rat race too, didn’t come easy, it was difficult, tiring, fiercely competitive, struggling and strenuous rush. After living snail pace sleepy town life in vicinity of Pine jungle, surviving in fast paced life of New York Minute in concrete jungle came as a tough challenge. For finding my feet in career what matter most was project deliveries, meeting project deadlines, learning ever changing technologies no matter which half of day. Life at corporate world never pause. Job in corporate world is certainly a school of hard knocks, where one learns many fundas of life which no one teaches at technology school. During deep recessions working double hard to save jobs like everyone I too put blood, sweat and tears into it. No salary raise, ever threatening volatile financial global market came as eye opener, even in Science and Technology career is not safe.

After startling experience, now I realize, I should have faced the ridicule for the interest I always wanted to pursue instead of blindly following rat race. How feeble my artistic instinct may have been, I should have given heed to it. Cognizant to my long time wish to paint when I started painting again, I come to experience the beauty of hard work; I realize hard work put into anything never goes in vain. My present paintings got depth, maturity, clarity and stories to share. Most important thing, long time suppressed feelings of not listening to instinct are come out in the form of beautiful, amazing, awesome art work. At this moment, I can say, the clarity, confidence, courage missing during teenage is in right amount to pursue my dream. In process to exploit my right and left grey matter all I need is quiet weekend to give colours and words to my dreams. In a shotgun approach, I may be part rat race, I may be mice in the rat race, but one who could see vicious circle.

Before magic of pied piper (Corporate Houses) lures me to drown in river; let me follow a REVISED RAT RACE, ……. where weekdays are to RUN THE RAT RACE and weekends to REVERSE THE RAT RACE!

Alka Arya is part of My Himachal Chandigarh Chapter. Alka's articles.

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