I took out the sketchbook from my cupboard, and began drawing. I don’t quite remember, why. I didn’t set out to draw anything in particular. Perhaps, I had just wanted to rediscover what it felt like, to put pencil on paper.
After about an hour, I felt happy with what I had drawn. I wrote down the date and time below the drawing, 27 November 2019, 9:30 PM – 10:30 PM. And then I went to sleep.
For several years, my sketchbook has been gathering dust in our cupboard. Why? Because I was afraid. Afraid that I would ruin a perfectly clean sheet of A3 drawing paper. That I’d draw something that was not worth showing to anyone.
That November night, I felt that I had achieved something. I had drawn something that looked half decent, and not ruined the sheet. And I slept soundly.
What I didn’t realise then, was that I slept happy, because I had let myself loose and enjoyed the process. I just wanted to draw. And the outcome, just happened to look nice to me.
This realisation hit me earlier this month, when I enrolled for an online sketching class.
For five days, I studied one-point perspective, drawing lines that vanished into the horizon. I spent several hours a day, trying to complete each of the assignments in time. Initially, I fretted over getting each of the lines neat and straight. By the time I had completed my twenty-fifth drawing assignment, I began worrying less about what the final outcome looked like. Completing the assignment, was far more important, than making it look perfect. And so, I just began enjoying the process by drawing freehand. I traced over the pencil lines with my pen, without using a scale.
I had removed the weight of expectation off my shoulder, and that left me feeling deeply relaxed.
With this newfound realisation, I reopened my sketchbook over the weekend, flipped over to that November sketch, and then did something I have never done in my life. I began erasing my drawing.
I erased the dark lines and the shading in between. But I left the faint outlines of the original in place.
I chose colour pencils from my kit — colours to represent nature: sun, fire, trees, wind and water. Then I slid open the blade of the cutter, and began shaving away the wood at the edges of my colour pencils. Each stroke peeling away years of dirt, negligence, and guilt.
And then, I let my hand run free. I ran a damp brush over the coloured areas of the drawing. A pastel shade drenched parts of the paper. A few blobs of water dried in place without blending in. I dipped the pencil tips in water, and let them run deep and dark, revealing each stroke. With each dip, the colour ran for a centimetre or two. In no time, the pencil tips shrunk. Another round under the cutter, and more of the colour lay exposed.
A few hours late into the night, and then a few more the next morning, and my drawing was complete.
I shared this picture on social media, and asked friends to provide a caption. Here’s a list of all the suggestions I received.
- Sukriti (beautiful creation)
- There is a rainbow of hope, life, vitality on our way…
- Vapusa (nature, beauty)
- Emerging path
- Jeevan chakra (circle of life)
- Ray of hope (suggested twice!)
- The happy sun
- Break the cycle
- Circuit breaker
- Liberation at any step
What surprised me, was that each of the suggestions revolved around nature, beauty, life, and hope.
These are the themes that we are collectively experiencing these days.
For perhaps the first time in our lives, we are living in uncertainty. All these years, we have been taking our lives for granted. We have tortured and exploited nature past its limits.
Now that large section of people are forced indoors, I am happy that nature has got a break from us. It had barely been a few days into the lockdown, that we all breathed clean air, saw blue skies, and even saw stars at night.
Earlier today, a weaver bird began building a nest in the balcony of my parents’ apartment! And what a day for this to happen.
Today is the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day.
Yes, our planet is a mess right now. Scientists have been ringing the alarm bells on climate change for years now, predicting that we are already too late to turn things around and make amends.
But, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past few weeks, is that we have hope. Given a chance, nature can recover (and perhaps forgive us).
Here’s hoping you are safe and healthy.
Here’s hoping our planet remains safe and healthy.
More stories from other publications
Here are some stories I’ve written for different publications over the past few weeks, all related to the current Covid-19 Pandemic, how it’s impacted our life, and what we can learn about how to live sustainably in the future.
I’ve been looking at this scenario as an opportunity for companies to go fully remote. Most freelancers, including me, have not had to change our lifestyles much, as we’re used to working remotely. We’re already using technology all around us. If we could reduce our commute to work, we’d significantly reduce the fuel emissions from transportation…
In our hyper connected world, and the ease with which we can now travel, it seems difficult to be confined to a small area. Yet, it is some of the technology behind this hyper connectedness, that makes it possible to remain connected, while being distant…
So here we are, in 2020. Quarantined due to a pandemic. Travel, as we knew it for the last few years, and to a large extent, took for granted, has come to a grinding halt.
I can’t help but think that this is some grand cosmic conspiracy, to put us in our place — literally. To slow us down.