New Delhi | Lord Krishna embracing the widows at Vrindavan, a bunch of children huddled under banana leaves enjoying the monsoon, the coy beauty of a newly married woman, longing eyes of a child waiting anxiously for his parents artist and former bureaucrat Nirmala Pillai likes to bring the mundane and the intuitive, on her canvas.
A retired civil servant, 60-year-old Nirmala Pillai who likes to call herself a dreamer first, then an artist has now brought out a short story collection titled ‘Singing Earth’, published by Lifi Publications. It is a work of fiction, talking about the complexities of human relations.
The sheer unpredictability of lives and the resounding spirit of humans to face adversity and overcome them are some of the themes I have explored in the book, the ex-bureaucrat says. Pillai, who has exhibited her work in Mumbai, Chennai, Kerala and Delhi and also published several collections of short stories, says her foray into the art world began from a small essay she wrote for a children’s book.
‘What do you expect from your municipal councilor’ was the essay. I wrote a short note on it while in school and my article was selected. That incident really pepped me up, and I have not stopped penning down. The interest in paintings also stayed with me since childhood, she says. The artist mentions that the online media is opening a plethora of opportunities for the new-age authors and artists.
I think Internet is the future of writing. Most of my writings have come in online journals and I am happy that the medium provides me with a varied readership, she says. But can social media itself popularize a piece of art? I do think that marketing on the social media can be ephemeral. People can be made aware about new books and artists through the channel, but the content itself decides whether the work stands the test of time, she says.
Commenting on the recent trend of writers, like Chetan Bhagat and Ravinder Sharma, becoming brands, Pillai says, The popularity of the writers is a by-product of their writing. Even if we they are endorsing products or coming on television shows, they have to still excel at their writing. Yes, creativity can be commercial.
Art can’t be fathomed; it is in the ordinary and the extraordinary. For me it’s a personal expression rather than a commercial pursuit. The myriad hues of nature and human relationships have always inspired me to take up a brush and paint away my imagination, she says.
Talking about the themes she explores in her work, Pillai says her native place Kerala has been a phenomenal inspiration. Whether it is in my paintings or the characters of my books, I have tried to keep Kerala alive. Though I grew up in suburb Mumbai, our school vacations were always spent in Kerala.
The intricate architecture of the old-day ‘taravadu’ (traditional joint family homes) or the various customs of the Nair matrilineal community have all found a resonance in my work, she says. The writer and artist says she plans to spend her retired life, by doing all those things that her strict civil service life didn’t permit.
I am working on a novel on the matrilineal society of Kerala and how during the course of time, the whole concept got a jolt with inter-caste marriages and the aspirations of the modern generation, she adds.
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