Twenty-three-year-old artist Rajesh Kumar Nath has never followed hockey but an Olympic gold medallist still went the extra mile to locate and meet him. English defender Samantha Quek, who is in Bhubaneswar as a commentator for the ongoing World Cup, spotted a mural of her by Rajesh while taking a taxi ride and was deeply moved. “Now I have tears rolling down my face,” she wrote on Twitter.
When Rajesh, pursuing a bachelors degree in visual arts, learnt about the tweet, it prompted him to google Samantha Quek. The soft-spoken youngster is not used to receiving such compliments for his work, let alone praise from a star.
“I was just given instructions and a blueprint of the paintings I needed to complete. In a day, with help from my friends, I would complete two paintings and even while I was doing the Quek painting, I did not make the effort to find out who it was. I am not even on Twitter and it’s through friends that I got to know about the whole incident,” Rajesh said with a smile.
But there was more in store. Quek wanted to meet the artist in person and express her appreciation. The moment Rajesh learnt that, he was filled with nervous excitement. It was not fuelled by the prospect of meeting a star but because he felt his English wasn’t “sharp enough”.
“I was a little nervous but the meeting went smoothly. She asked me if I was the painter and I said yes. And then she told me that she really liked my work and we clicked a few pictures. The meeting probably lasted less than 10 minutes but I will remember it for the rest of my life. This has boosted my confidence immensely and will surely help me in my career as well,” Rajesh said.
The meeting also got the local media excited making him a star among his college mates apart from doing his family proud.
The boundary walls of the Kalinga Stadium have been painted for the World Cup under seasoned artist Gopal Krushna Rath as part of a month-long project. The brief received from the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation was simple.
“They told me ‘you need to paint for the hockey world cup’. Then began the tedious process of researching, preparing rough sketches and layout. Everything needed to be approved before we dipped the brush into the paint bucket, and time was not on our side,” Rath explained.
Rath roped in around 30 painters, mostly college students like Rajesh, to complete the task. Under his supervision, artistes worked 8 hours a day for a month without a day off. “I had to skip classes for this project but painting for the world cup is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Rajesh said.
A different canvas
Time alone wasn’t the only challenge they faced. Painting on walls is a different ballgame altogether. “The walls are uneven, some portions have plaster and some don’t. Then there’s the weather. Thank God, there was no rain this time. But the most unpleasant thing to deal with was people urinating on the walls. We would just complete a section and see people shamelessly urinating over it. As an artist, it pains us,” Rath explained. Payment for the project is also awaited. “I am yet to pay my artists, including Rajesh.”
As for Rajesh, who aspires to become a realist painter, the opportunity provided by the World Cup has been an eye-opener. Although he is happy with the praise he has received but like a true artiste, he isn’t fully satisfied. “If I had more time, I could have done a better job.”