The Tale of Two Teachers — Who is the real one?

A life experience that proves that one’s actions speak louder than their titles do!

wife paints beautifully. She experiments with colours, the kind of paintings, the subjects and the sizes. I asked her, where did you learn to paint so well?

She said, while I have been painting on and off since school, it was actually a ‘Shopkeeper Uncle’ who motivated me.

I was intrigued!

How can a shopkeeper be a motivation? I made her drop everything she was doing and asked her to tell me the story!

One of Alisha’s early paintings

The Shopkeeper

She had this to say:

I used to like pencil sketches and filling colours. I used to fill pages upon pages of my normal notebooks with these scribbles. Once, I saved up enough to buy myself a drawing book and some colours.

I used to copy pictures that I used to see in magazines and story books. They wouldn’t be great, but I was learning with each scribble.

Once when I ran out of the pages on this one, I went to a stationery shop near my home. My old book in hand, I went to the shopkeeper and asked.

“Uncle, please give me a drawing book.”

“Sure, which size do you want beti?” “ How many pages?”

[Beti — affectionate term used for a daughter-like person]

“Give me a book similar to this,” I said, showing him the book that I held.

“Ok, let me see that”, he said, reaching out for my book

Flipping through the pages, he remarked — “You draw well Beti!”

“I can see that you are very talented!”, he said while handing my book back.

Then he went into the back of the store and I could see him rummaging around in the shelves.

When he came back, he had a drawing book, but he also had a glass painting kit.

“Beti — I think you should try this as well.”

He said, and proceeded to tell me about Glass painting, the Dos & Don’ts!

I bought the kit and came back home. After that episode, it became a custom between us. I would complete a drawing and would rush excitedly to show him my creation. He would point out the positives as well as provide tips for improvement. And he would goad me to try out new methods of painting. I was soon drawn to Nib painting.

I created three Nib paintings — One of a girl and her doll, one of a Flower Vase with Blue and Pink flowers, and one of a thinking girl in shades of red and orange. The thinking girl was my favourite of the trio and it had taken the most time too!

The Art Teacher

I had an art teacher at school.

During the art class, she used to draw something on the board and ask us all to draw it or she used to keep an object and ask us all to draw it. She used to come around and just look at what we were doing. She used to comment on the drawing and ask us to change this or that, but i have never heard her appreciate a child and her drawing.

Once there was to be an art exhibition at school. She asked us all to submit our best pieces of art so that the school could select the best pieces across students and display in the exhibition.

I was thrilled and submitted my three Nib paintings. The teacher looked at them and said,

“Leave them with me until the selection process is over.You can collect them afterwards”

I came home and told my mother happily on how the teacher had kept all my paintings while she had rejected the painting of a lot of students on the spot! I shared this with my Shopkeeper-Turned-Art Inspiration as well!

After a couple of days, I was called to the staff room. My art teacher handed over two paintings — The girl with the Doll and the Flower Vase. I was pleased! My painting had been selected for the exhibition after all!

Still,I asked her, “when can I collect my third painting?”

To which, she replied

“What third painting? You submitted only two”.

I was taken aback. I didn’t care about the school exhibition, I cared more about my painting! I tried explaining, but she said -

“No, i got two from you and i have returned the same. You must have misplaced it somewhere”.

Doubting myself, I came back home.

The Painting Competition

After a couple of Months, there was a city level painting competition. I decided to participate and create a Nib painting specially for the occasion. I decided to do a nib painting of the Hindu Gods — Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) and Ganapathy (Remover of obstacles). It was a stretch project for me, but I still went ahead and worked really hard!

When my painting was ready, I went ahead and submitted it at the committee office.

Alisha’s nib painting of the Hindu Gods — Lakshmi (left) and Ganesha (Right)

The competition was in the form of an exhibition of all the selected paintings. On the day of the judgement, I saw my painting proudly displayed on the wall with my name and age (I was 12!) under it. My heart skipped a beat and I could feel the tears brimming in my eyes.

Once my initial euphoria settled, I went around the rooms, looking at the other paintings.

One painting made me stop right in my tracks.I couldn't believe my eyes!

It was my Red and Orange Thinking Girl!

The memory of making the painting came flooding to me. The rush to the store when I ran out of colour, the time spent under the blanket with a flashlight trying to complete it whenever i got time,the excitement with which i signed my name underneath……But wait — it wasn’t my name there. It was the name of my art teacher!

I was shocked! The painting had been neatly cut at the bottom to eliminate the portion with my signature and my teacher had signed her name above! That day I lost whatever little respect that I had for her.

My painting of the Gods however won the first prize in all of the city in my age group and I also had my painting and name mentioned in the papers! The ‘Teacher’s’ painting did not win any prizes.

You know what, she remarked — “I was still happy that two of my works were in that exhibition!”

“So, now who was my true teacher?”, she asked, bringing me back to the present.

“The Shopkeeper Uncle who was encouraging, who went through my work and suggested improvements and goaded me to try out new things

or

was it the Art teacher who lied to me and tried to pass off my painting as her own?”

No answer needed.

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Bharath Kumar Balasubramanian

I transform organisations. I collect life experiences. I share practical wisdom. Happy to Help — Just reach out!