Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Expectations for the Future: Introducing a Young Artist

THE ACCOMPANYING painting of a bright, cute little girl with her pony tails was done by a bright, cute little girl of five called Saranya on Christmas Day.

When I saw her busy with the mouse, I thought she was again at the comics or racing games which are popular with her generation. In fact one of my major preoccupations as an elder citizen in the household during the school vacation is to sort out the occasional incidents of flare-up between the brother and sister on who to take control of the mouse and the game.

But when Saranya called me secretly and unveiled before me her new work of art, I was thrilled. I really liked the painting, and of course I felt a little important in the family circles, being the first person to be invited to witness her work of art. She has also confidentially informed me that when she grew up, she would want to be an artist.

It was really surprising. As far as I know there is none known as an artist in the entire family and I am sure she has never had any major encounter with works of art or artists in her little life. She lives in a small house on the banks of Kallai river in the ancient part of this third world city and the river and the street that leads to the river are reminders of past glory as Kallai river, once upon a time, was a great centre of timber trade in the world. Now what remain of this past splendour are the ramshackle saw mills on the river banks that resemble ancient cranes from the Dinosaur age looking for a catch in the water. The people live a hopeless life; they have lost their old means of livelihood and nothing promising is unfolding before them.

The river looks more like a ditch, with its muddied pools and encroached banks leaving little space for the water to flow into the Arabian Sea and often it appears like a river lost in its tracks, a confused and dejected river not knowing what to do and chose to remain static. It is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

And if you had happened to walk on these parts, you would surely have come across dozens of people with elephantiasis, the swollen legs that look like that of an elephant, that was the mark of these regions only a few years ago. Things have changed now, thanks to the new drugs that have come to the market which are freely distributed among the public in the coastal regions.

The buildings in these parts of the city look very old, and indeed they trace their history to an age when the Arabs used to come and settle here for conducting their businesses as trade with the Zamorin's land was once monopolized by Arab traders. Hence the traditionally Muslim parts of Kozhikode city like Kuttichira overlooking the river and the sea had many ancient joint families settled in huge and sprawling buildings which are now being pulled down as families divide and new structures come up in place of the old ones.

It is in the midst of all these symbols of tradition and modernity that Saranya grew up but her world seems to be quite different, quite optimistic and romantic. When I look at the paintings she did, often on the computer and sometimes on paper, I realize that technology has done an immense contribution to this new generation of artists who are now growing up. Even a decade ago, her artistic efforts would have surely earned her a good slapping because instead of the virtual space on which she works now, she would have definitely defaced the walls. The defaced walls have nipped many a young talent in the bud.

But technology, especially the digital world, has changed all that:The children are now enjoying a new world and the opportunities the digital world opened up for them are immense. I know there is still a digital divide, there are many kids who are still denied access to this world, but the gap is narrowing and the world is definitely becoming a better place to live.

As the new year dawns, I do really hope and pray that our children shall inherit a better world.

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