“Death, the kingdom of solitude, where there are no attires, tags, labels or positions. Where everyone is equal and no distinction is made on any basis. There are no truths and no lies. A place where everything is ‘All’ and ‘All’ is nothing. Nothing is gained and nothing is lost. There are no dreams for reality and no reality is lived in dreams. Who knows whether it an end to something we know, or a beginning of something unknown. An ultimate destination or another passage of journey, the only reality or a perfect illusion” ….
***That man in Dark Shade***
His fingers were sailing smoothly like a giant whale who was navigating her way against the currents of the violent ocean without any fear or concern about the destination, on a path which was driven more by passion than motivation. There was confidence in his strokes, smile in his eyes; his hands were flowing freely on canvas with the sense of satisfaction. A satisfaction which an artist can only achieve when he is satisfied with his art, He knew he was finally getting closer to what he has been feverishly seeking for past 3 months. All the efforts, thoughts, creativity and imagination of Firad Khan- a well renowned artist, were about to be rewarded as he was getting closer to get his masterpiece. The proud artist had always perceived the world with his own eyes, arrogant in his approach, he had always painted world with his own imagination, which was dark and deep.
But for last 3 months, the most content and complete artist of India was unable to sleep properly, his eyes were deprived of any rest and mind was lost in its own absurdity. This wasn’t the first time he was seeking answers in his art, the artist had always pushed himself to go beyond perfection, but this test was different. He was attempting something he had never attempted before, something he thought he would never attempt had he not confronted that mysterious figure in an Art exhibition three months ago, that was the first and last time when Master of color met the Man in the Dark Shades.
(Three month ago in an Art Exhibition…)
Like the whirl of a dust devil, no more like the insane flying of maddened bees outside a disturbed nest, the crème de la crème of the regional art world clamored before the long awaited exhibition on Nature by the master Firad Khan. His work was on display, renowned for his arrogant and abstract art, Firad always made the headlines with his bold and daring work. He never backed away from expressing himself through his art and that was the reason why, people always looked at his work with admiration, envy and lots of anticipation.
Art enthusiastic were present from all over the country to admire the latest offering from the Artist, who had always captured the nature in its purest form, Silent and Strong. There was an excitement in the auditorium, fans were admiring and interpreting the unspoken words of artist’s heart which lighted up the soulless canvases beautifully, giving them the meaning which was larger than life. The huge gathering of people in the hall was lost in the world which was painted by a proud and bohemian artist, who was silently gazing at the reactions of people with sense of pride and smile of pity.
Firebirds, a picture of three anguished birds with wings alight, racing a fireball from the source of all natural power, the sun. In the lower left reveals a refuge below, verdant green pastures that they will never reach. Chariots, another craftsmanship of a genius, which depicted a pencil sketch of an old man, tied with ropes, dragging a heavy wheel cart with his tiring, wrinkled lifeless shoulders carrying three different messengers of sky; one an angel with her wings chopped, second a demon covered in black from head to toe and the third an angry little child. The background painted to depict the darkness in the picture was in black and grey, the painting silently spoke about the disgust, sadness, anger, frustration and hopelessness on all the three faces. In total there were 18 paintings on display, on the well decorated wall of an auditorium which has always hosted exhibitions for the elite minds to display the genius of their craftsmanship.
People came in numbers, they were from different age groups and were from different parts of the world, but this was not the response which Firad Khan was seeking. Excitement, comfort, amazement, delight, perception which people were getting from his work was unsettling the great man. His art was not supposed to give people any comfort, enjoyment or joy, rather it was meant to shock them. He wanted them to get nervous, uneasy and upset, this is what he had always pride himself with, putting up images that were not only controversial but also daring. The birds falling from the red sky with their wings on fire, was drawn to instill the uneasiness in the hearts of spectators, and not to be appreciated for its color patterns. The angel driven on the chart by an old man with Satan and a child was portrayed to arrest the mind in the depth of its own maze, but it was being perceived as an imagination of an artist who was trying to unlock the mystery of his heart in an abstract way.
He was listening to each and every word of awe which was being whispered but reacted in an undisturbed manner, hiding his disgust, signifying that he was above all the reactions and criticism which normal people had to offer. He knew he was not getting the reactions he wanted and was searching hard where the gap was left; the answer to his discomfort was teasing and evading him, he was carefully monitoring his own work in his own mind, searching the patterns which he thought he might have missed. Lost in his own absurd world his thoughts were disturbed when he realized that someone from the corner of the auditorium was looking at him, he slightly turned his head to glance back at the corner of the room and his suspicion was right. A tall, medium built, man in his mid-30’s dressed completely in black, wearing dark shades standing quietly at corner of the auditorium was looking at the artist with an unbroken concentration, he doesn’t seemed interested in the work which was being displayed on the walls, neither was he participating in the views that were being shared or discussed all he was doing was looking at artist with strange silence, silence which was communicating everything without saying anything.
The glances which were coming from behind the chambers which were perfectly covered in dark were making him nervous. He tried to avoid those stares but all his possible attempts were falling in vain, the man with the dark shades was neither moving nor doing anything else, there were around 200 people present in the auditorium but none of them was looking at him with strange absurdity as this man was doing. The Artist quietly moved to the left corner of the auditorium, evading all the razzmatazz of the surroundings, all alone in aloof comfort, desperately escaping the shadow of mysterious reflection. He stood there silently, without making any movement, he knew, he was being watched still he wanted to fool himself with an illusion of aloofness. People who loved or hated him for his work had always stalked him and followed him for hours, but there was awkwardness, uneasiness about this man.
He nervously glanced from the core of his eye, and found his nemesis walking towards him. He wasn’t a convict but still felt guilty. He knew and was aware that he cannot avoid him any further, so he decided to go and confront his fear. The greatest artist in the town, who was always admired and chased, was helplessly drawn towards a man he had never seen before.
Artist: May I help you? (A question which sounded more of a plea)
Man in Dark Shades: (Without looking at the artist or acknowledging him) The picture in which where birds are falling from sky with their wings on fire, you have used to much of red, the audience present thinks, that an artist is trying to depict the hazards of technological advancement on nature but in real sense it depicts the anger and fury of that hope which has burned itself into the conformity of secure walls, and the Chariot painting, you haven’t used the pencil sketches properly, the audience are looking for the meaning in the portraits you have drawn but the real message of the art is hidden in the spoke of that broken wheel.
He was stunned, shocked and surprised at the interpretation of that man, as this was exactly what he was trying to depict in his paintings, each and every word which was spoken by the Man in dark shade was an imaginative inspiration, which the artist was trying to convey to the people present at the auditorium, but out of all the people present the person with the most distinctive and weird looks was able to gauge that message.
Man in Dark Shades: You try to depict nature, but none of your painting is complete, and they can never be…
Artist: (Little Baffled): What are you referring to?
There were no pleasantries or names that were exchanged in that conversation. The most renowned and celebrated artist who always took pride in his art was quietly and helplessly listening to a stranger like powerless disciple, who had lost all the ability in his own skills. The words which were spoken by the stranger were like a dart that was mercilessly hitting the target. Who was he? What was he trying to convey? Whether he was real or just an imagination of an upset mind? - Nothing was answered; the artist was just listening and listening carefully.
Man in Dark Shades: Have you ever painted death?
Artist: (Shocked and Surprised): Death??
Man in Dark Shades: Yes Death, the kingdom of solitude, where there are no attires, tags, labels or positions. Where everyone is equal and no distinction is made on any basis. There are no truths and no lies. A place where everything is ‘All’ and ‘All’ is nothing. Nothing is gained and nothing is lost. There are no dreams for reality and no reality is lived in dreams. Who knows whether it an end to something we know, or a beginning of something unknown. An ultimate destination or another passage of journey, the only reality or a perfect illusion….Death, yes Death, have you ever painted Death.
He said all that in a poetic uninterrupted motion without any expressions and stood there silently, looking at the clueless face of an artist, who was lost for words.
Farid knew that something silently had hit his proud world, things were getting surreal, and his sense of reality was in doubt. All that he had achieved till now seemed useless and his art which was being talked and appreciated in that packed hall was appearing meaningless. Something had silently hit his world, the wounds were unseen but the pain was real. All of a sudden, he found that the colors were missing, the paintings were lacking aesthetic sense and all the meaning of his art looked absurd. The pride of a performer was lying on the ground of low spirit, brutally demolished by the hands of a desperate ego. He wanted to respond, but didn’t know how to. So he stood there silently, without any motion. That man with dark shades left the place with a smile, he purpose was over, and message was conveyed… Who was he? What was he trying to convey? Whether he was real or just an imagination of an upset mind? - Nothing was answered.
For months, the artist locked himself in a small room; he didn’t meet, talked or corresponded with anyone. He didn’t went anywhere and in the dark, small room in the absurdity of his own mind, he hustled hard with his memory, he slept, drank, wept, shouted, laughed and at times even dance just to shape out the vision of death, he had colors, he had skills but for the first time in his life he lacked vision. For how could someone paint something which holds answer to everything but cannot be framed in any question. What should death look like, if it had to paint it on the canvas? This was the only question which was echoing in the senses of an agile artist mind. All those words that were said by That Man in Dark Shade echoed loud in his mind, word by word…. A kingdom of solitude… everything is ‘All’ and ‘All’ is nothing… end to something we know, or a beginning of something unknown. He tried and tried hard, after many failures he saw a spark and was finally getting closer to his dreamed masterpiece; he carefully stroked the design and artistically filled it with bright beaming red color. On the pride canvas of an artist was shown a pernicious, dangerous, furious giant snake coming out of a beautiful, blossomed, flawless, petals of lotus, guarded by the vultures and angels. The satisfied smile on the face conveyed, that the art was accomplished and death was captured.