His father had lined up a plum Government job – the cynosure of many Indian eyes – for him. The job would have given him a steady income, earned him respect and helped find a dowry bearing bride to keep the family embers burning. He ran away from home.
The next year was spent with the Bauls – the wondering minstrels of Bengal, ascetics who seek the ultimate bliss through their music – often through the heavy smoke of pot that surrounds them. They preach the dictum of love, shattering the taboos that society seeks to bind the so-called way-ward with; following a philosophy that transcends the boundaries within whose comfortable confines religions seek to hem in the faithful. He loved the trance, the customary trips and the psychedelic stuff that was discussed. Well, not everything was understood (not that he cared) and creature comfort (the lack of it) was a constant cause of aches, but the comfortably numb Bohemia that his dazed and confused mind soaked in, did seem like a nice place to be in.
Then his father tracked him down and him back home. The “detox” sessions that followed were pretty regimental and to keep his idle mind occupied, his father enrolled him into an art school. That was many summers ago.
Today, he carries a fancy title of a Graphic Designer in his visiting card, works in a reputed advertising agency and as is the custom, earns a pretty decent packet every month. The Bauls appear in his dreams as a flashback – blurred images they show to establish the though process of rock stars taking about their childhood on the saner side of their acid years. Oh, he is also in Love.
Not that manic-depressive love that could be interpreted in different levels, but the simple, boy meets girl type of love. She is in college and they regularly run away to dip their feet in the crystal-clear waters of a river far away. They run away to have fights over things that are irrelevant. They run away or the sake of running away, to be with each other, to merge into each other’s breaths.
And this is what causes the problems. She has no issues with attendance in College, but the agency in which he works has the system of cutting salaries. Not that it bothers him much – its money after all, and money can’t buy you love, but then …
Does he wish he had taken the Government job that his father had lined up? Well, is being so close and still not be one forever a throbbing, unbearable pain? And breaking rules that lead to a pocket-pinch, just to defy what is conventional, do seem a little stupid, once the lady love (and her expensive tastes) are factored in? Why can’t the boss be as detached and bohemian as the Bauls were? Why is that the fringe, and this, mainstream?
Questions, questions … a thousand queries flood the mind as our young protagonist seeks his solace (call it an escape, a catharsis, whatever) in his art. Art that is as stark and on your face as the guy is. Paintings that are manifestations of the simple, rustic words of a Baul’s songs – words that test the space-time continuum with the finesse of a master.
What is even more striking is the fact that most of the work of this young artist comprises of digital art – mouse-drawn carriages that have been brought to life by the deft expertise of someone who has obviously reached the prime early. And early it is, the artist we talk about is all of twenty-five.
Critics are unanimous. Sudeb Bhattacharjee has fire in his work: and, if the fire doesn’t consume him, he will go places, shattering many a myth of the mundane on the way.