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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Growing up in the 1980s and 90s in India, we would make the much-anticipated annual trip to Dehra Dun to visit my paternal grandparents. Lazy afternoon lunches at the historic Doon Club, walks along bustling Astley Hall and quaint Jakhan, the sweet decadence of “Kwal-toffs,” frenzied shopping sprees at Paltan Bazaar, and the meandering bus ride to magical Mussoorie, remain etched in my mind.
I found respite at my grandparents’ home on idyllic Rajpur Road, amid my grandmother’s lush garden, the bountiful litchi trees, and the ever-present bajri (garden pebbles). It still conjures up delightful memories for me even today.
But of all the scattered memories, it was my grandmother’s resplendent paintings hanging atop cupboards and whitewashed walls that have left an indelible mark on me. My grandmother, Krishna Kirpal was an elegant beauty, who painted these in the early 1970s. With my father and uncle having moved to a different city for university and a job respectively, painting was a pursuit of relative solitude for her.
As an empty nester now, my grandmother poured her time and energy into painting graceful and beautiful women, just like her.
The women in her paintings had long, thick hair. Bejeweled, adorned, and dressed in bright colored lehngas (long skirts) and cholis (short blouses), they were poised and oozed femininity. They were usually alone, dancing or sitting under a tree against a bright dawn or a darkening dusky sky. Sometimes they smiled happily, and at other times wistfully.
Only a few were accompanied by a male figure. They appeared to be content and self-contained. I would stare at the women in my grandmother’s paintings, absorbing every detail, entertaining myself by making up stories about their lives.
Dehra Dun House
When my beloved dadi ji passed away a couple of decades ago, my dad and uncle decided to sell the house on what used to be 63-G Rajpur Road. Our Dehra Dun House that used to be opposite the telephone office, adjacent to a mysterious khali (empty) plot enclosed by a foreboding stone wall and a giant wrought iron gate. An ominous, rank, abandoned place my sister and I would surreptitiously set foot in with courageous trepidation looking for an adventure.
With the house being sold, our annual summer trips to the Doon Valley were lost and forgotten. As were my grandmother’s paintings. I don’t exactly know what happened to them, and sadly I don’t have them captured in any photos either.
Back then we didn’t take as many photos as we do today. Nonetheless, they remain engraved in my mind, even today. After all, they were a constant during my formative years, evolving in meaning for me as I grew from a little girl to a young woman.
I Am A Woman Who Is Enough
Today as a mother of two boys, just like dadi ji, her paintings continue to offer me thought-provoking life lessons and reminders. They strangely speak to me. They tell me that I am a woman who is enough. That I can and should always find happiness from within. Just like the women in my grandmother’s paintings. Just like my grandmother.
That I have the freedom to exercise my creativity and depict beauty as I see it. For this, and so much more, I am forever grateful to my grandmother’s paintings. For showing me the light. For reassuring me. Unbeknownst to me, my grandmother’s paintings have played a small yet significant role in shaping the woman I am. For that, I thank you, Dadi ji.