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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Against all odds

A chalk sketch of a boy kicking a football drawn on a blackboard changed my life forever. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the sixth standard, when the art teacher in my school asked us to copy this image on paper. Mine turned out to be pretty good. After that, I was like a boy possessed. I would sit in a corner at home and draw throughout the day. Within a year I knew that I wanted to be an artist.

Life took a strange turn soon after this. While playing gilli-danda with my friends, one of the sticks that’s used to play the game hit my right eye very hard. Though I didn’t lose the eye completely, my vision was impaired quite badly.

While my parents were very supportive of my passion for art even after this accident, others felt that if I took up art as a profession, I would starve. But I was eventually allowed to join the Bachelor of Fine Arts course in Mumbai’s Sir J.J. School of Art in 1977 from where I graduated with a gold medal. This was also where I met Anju, the woman I fell in love with and married.

Winning a scholarship from the French government in 1991 to study fine arts in Paris was a huge milestone for me. It exposed me to the giants of the art world — from the pre-Renaissance to the post-Modern period. A year before leaving for Paris, I underwent an eye surgery to improve the vision in my right eye. But post- surgery, my blurred vision gave way to blackness.

It turned out that I had a retinal detachment in my right eye and the retina in my left was perforated like a sieve. This shattered me. But the surgery for retinal detachment restored a blurred, smoky vision in my right eye.

This jolt of almost losing my eyesight twice was a major turning point. I treasure my ability to see, which hasn’t let me give up despite almost losing faith in myself on occasion.

(As told to Shreya Shukla)