Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Elephants and memories

I am not sure where this story begins.

Maybe it begins when my sister was in primary school, and was instructed to write an essay on the Circus. 'Elephants are my favourite', she wrote.  'No', said her teacher. 'You must write that clowns are your favourite.' I am not sure what happened next. Maybe, as is likely, she decided that professing a love for clowns was one of those school rules that a student is expected to follow.

What  I do know is that she never stopped loving elephants. 'They have kind eyes' she always says.
But maybe this story does not begin so long ago.

Maybe it begins when she had a baby, and those two would call themselves Mamma and Baby elephants.

Maybe it begins in another place altogether. Maybe it begins at our house in Chatola when Mian and I decided that we were all growned up now and should have Real Art on our walls. We kept our eyes open but quickly became unhappy with the art that we came across. But what does this have to do with elephants?

Maybe this is a very short story, and begins just last summer, when the baby elephant suddenly became a young woman and went off to the USA to do her PhD.

It was around this time that I became addicted to Arati Kumar-Rao's website and her lovely photos. And there was one in particular that struck me hard, at that time when my niece was leaving her nest. It was a image of two elephants, a Mamma and a Baby, walking off together. I knew that if anything would help my sis through this time of saying bye to her baby, it would be this image.

I wrote to  Arati then, but somehow it never happened. I got busy, the logistics of it all was too much, and the photo never made it to my sister.

And so I got very excited when several months later Arati announced that she has opened an online store. I went there and scrolled through the images, but the mamma and baby were not there. I reasoned that as artists do, she might have reserved some pictures for a book or an exhibition. Rather than make her feel forced to share it with me, I did not mention it.

Instead, Mian and I found one that we decided was of the two of us. It's being titled 'Together' could only be an good omen. And even more months later when a payment I was waiting for finally came in, we bought it.

'I've sent you a little gift', she wrote. I expected a postcard and got all excited about it.

Instead, along with our print was the mamma and baby one that I had coveted so much for my sister. It is then that I began to cry. See, it is not just that a full-size, autographed, fine art print is a truly magnificent gift. It is that nearly a year later, she remembered the one I had asked about in one email and took the trouble to get a special print made. The extent of this generosity is overwhelming.

Fast forward a few more months and I visited my sister. 'I  have a friend', I said. 'She is a spectacular environmental photographer and she has sent you a present." And then I told her the story. After I finished, I unrolled the print and showed it to Acca. 'It is us!' she exclaimed, and then she wept.

I might have said this before, but I am truly blessed with friends.
It is also difficult to know where this story ends. The main story is about my sister and her magnificent gift, of course. But when I returned from that visit, I took my print down to the framers. It is 8X11, I said confidently. No madam, said he. And proved it. Arati had sent us a larger print.

Spoiled rotten, I am

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