The untimely demise of T.K.
Padmini has been a loss, which cannot be mitigated, both for the world
of "Chitra Kala"1 and Kerala State. She2 was born on May 2, 1940 in
Thozhukkad Kadancheri Tharavad in Kaladi Amsam in Ponnani Taluk. She
left us forever in the same place on her Pirannal day (date of birth as
per Malayalam calendar) on May 11, 1969. In less than three decades, the
devotee of art, as she was, could make indelible mark of her personality
in the magical universe of lines and colours!
Shri K. Damodaran (from Thalasseri) had married her. It was in 1968 in
the month of May. After their marriage both of them visited our home as
guests. The groom was of calm disposition speaking very less. On his
face manifested maturity far beyond his age. Seeing our beloved with
him, we felt as if a long awaited wish has been fulfilled. Further a
sense of relief too set in that the child with singular pursuit of art
in her life had her life secured with the wedlock. When the partners are
capable of appreciating each other’s qualities, their married life is
bound to be enjoyable.
She completed her secondary education in
the year 1956. For the next two years or so, she stayed with us for the
purpose of practicing drawing under Shri K.L. Devassy, who was the art
teacher in A.V. High School. We accepted her into the household with
love for a daughter. The arrival of the adolescent girl with lush hair,
wide eyes and melting smile brightened the ambience of our home.
Our children promptly developed attachment to her. They called her
"Padminiedathy" (elder sister Padmini). More than love, her demeanor
inspired respect. She had dreaming eyes incapable of admonishing.
However, her approach to the art, which she worshipped, being serious
the children never tried to rush into her workshop or distract her with
their nagging. This was incredible indeed.
Their sense of
adulation for her would have increased on another count too. In no time
Padmini would draw their pencil sketch! Those sketches were true to and
full of life. Perhaps, there must have been an automatic refrain in
those tender minds that they should conduct themselves only with utmost
respect in front of such an abounding genius.
I learnt from this girl
the full meaning of sincerity and commitment to art. Later on I had
occasion to read a Hindi poem "Kavithayum Savithayum". The girl Savitha
in that poem reminded me of Padmini. In that poem Kavitha tells the poet
(Kavi): "You wish to become a citizen who is interested in earning fame
and wealth. Good! But Thou who art immersed in activities other than
Poetry are cheating on her. The practical mind is the hunter’s arrow
which separate permanently from one another the ‘Crouncha Mithuna’
(twin-birds3) of Kavitha (poetry) and Kavi (poet)."
view is true for ‘chitra kala1’ also. It would appear that such a view
spurt and embedded in her mind at such a tender age.
I feel that
Keralites are not as familiar with ‘Chitra Kala’ as they are with
literature or rather, they do not take kindly to it. With the spread of
literacy, literature has prospect in the market. Hence, the parents
today do not scold a child who embarks on literary pursuits, as those in
the past used to do. Drawing pictures is not viewed in the same manner.
In the eyes of the elders it is still a useless work and waste of time.
It is not on account of respect for "Art" that a person with Bachelor of
Art (B.A) degree came to be respected in our country in the past; but on
account of the scope the degree afforded for better prospects for
employment. But there are no known cases where somebody has earned a few
nickels for his family by way of remuneration from drawing pictures. The
reason why this situation is narrated here is to emphasise the fact that
the art talent which was irrepressibly growing in Padmini was not
appreciated in the environment in which she grew. But she has one
blessing in the form of her maternal uncle Mr T.K. Divakaran. A man who
has perceived the new light of the world appropriately encouraged and
supported his niece. It was he who sent her to the Arts and Crafts
College in Madras, which provided her the opportunity to practise art
under the Principal of the college Mr K.C.S. Panikker, the world
renowned painter and artist. In the occasional letters, which the
affectionate uncle wrote to me, he had not even once forgotten to
mention joyfully the advancement and success of his niece. The student
joined the College of Arts in 1961. In 1963-64 she had earned the
Academy certificates for the best painting. She bagged the Association
of Young Painters Award in 1965 and Madras State Lalitha Kala Academy
Award in 1967. Securing double promotion twice she completed the six
year course in just four years.
In the meanwhile, her paintings
were exhibited in the National Exhibition in Delhi and Arts Society’s
Exhibition in Bombay. Padmini’s paintings were also on show in many
important exhibitions in Madras.
I saw her in Madras in 1967. On
my return home, I faltered while answering to several of my wife’s
pointed queries about Padmini’s well being, posed with much eagerness.
Because, in front of Padmini I had been only a listener! She spoke to me
about paintings and great men who were painters; and much more remained
to be said. During this I could not even ask where she was residing. To
my wife’s question "How is she" I escaped answering "She is fine". "Has
she grown?" I could not answer that. In fact she would have, in tune
with her age, burgeoned and assumed rainbow hues. But the special
effects, which those dreaming eyes provided to her face remained
unchanged and that only did I carry back in my heart. The question "Has
she grown" may have deeper meanings. Nevertheless, anybody who talked to
her would have failed to recollect anything even remotely connecting her
artist’s life with garhasthya (the family).
Learning about her
bagging the prestigious Lalitha Kala Akademi Award, for some time I too
felt infected with the high levels of motivation which was resonating in
her in the beginning of the year. Whatever unreal pride love generates!
That light has gone. Suddenly. I had heard that she had come to her
mother for her first delivery. But, I could not meet her. Despite the
advances in modern medicine and medical facilities not being rare in our
villages, pregnancy and delivery remain a game of chance. In the same
handwriting, which scribbled the success tales of that little life, we
took in the never-ending sorrow too. We had only one prayer, let that
loving uncle has the strength to bear this too. Although incomplete, her
life devoted to art will live in her works. I hope the connoisseurs of
art would come forward to preserve her work appropriately.