The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A surgeon of many shades

for a decorated surgeon who has set aside his scalpel for the paintbrush, Atish Sengupta is most unassuming. The 65-year-old will hold his maiden exhibition in India at Chitrakoot Gallery from Saturday.

“I was always interested in painting. Wherever I would go to attend seminars, I would take a session off to visit art galleries,” says Sengupta. His favoured area is landscape painting. So, when the hour of superannuation came, it was natural that he would turn to a lifelong interest. “A receptionist at West Mead Private Hospital, Sydney, recommended a local art school teacher from whom I picked up the five basic colours — white, ultra marine, viridian, burnt sienna and ochre.”

But Sengupta remains a self-taught painter. “It was fun mixing colours. That was all I did to begin with,” he recounts. His painting technique is dependent on another medium — photography. “Wherever I go, I take my Pentax along. I click what catches my fancy as a subject and then I sit with the snaps and sketch them.” An added advantage is the location of his house, nestled amid the Blue Mountains at Katoomba, New South Wales. “All I need to do is sit in the verandah,” he smiles.

While dadu’s paintings have been a favourite with his US-based grandchildren, they caught the public eye only after he organised an exhibition at Kilkenny in Ireland, where he spends half the year. “I was invited by the organisers of Art Week, a big local annual event, to contribute to the 2002 edition,” he recalls. Since then, his work has been on view at shows in Australia and Ireland.

Sengupta owes his artistic debut in his birthplace to the inspiration from artist Wasim Kapoor and his relative Sheila Kapoor. “They gave me names of some galleries. Chitrakoot was the first one I called,” he says.

Sengupta started his second innings only after he had his fill of the first. A graduate of National Medical College and Hospital, he sailed to Scotland for his fellowship from Royal College, Edinburgh. Training stints followed in Cambridge, London, Essex (where he met the Irish nurse Shiobhan, who would be his wife), Manchester, Derby… Soon after, he was back to fulfil his dream — joining the army. One of his first assignments was starting the orthopaedic wing at Armed Forces Medical College, Pune.

During the 1971 Bangladesh War, Sengupta was doing 16-hour days at Army Hospital, Delhi. “There would be so many victims of landmine blasts. In between an endless number of surgeries, we would rush home, shave, grab an hour’s sleep and be back in the OT,” he recalls. Sengupta got a special certificate for his efforts from General Manekshaw, but “never bothered” to collect the medal. “We medicos hardly get a chance to display them,” he shrugs.

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