Twenty-three-year-old former visual arts student Gayatri Viswanath got the opportunity to present the legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar with a painting she made on the occasion of his felicitation for scoring 100 international centuries by the Sports Journalists’Association of Mumbai (SJAM). Jaideep Vaidya caught up with Gayatri following the event.
It’s not often that you get to meet a legend like Sachin Tendulkar. Chances are even lesser that you get to share the same stage with him. It’s quite a rarity, as a common (wo)man, that you would ever get the opportunity to converse with him. And it’s an outright one-in-a-billion occurring that you would get to present a personal gift to him.
Gayatri Viswanath, all of 23, got to do all of the above at the recent Sports Journalists’ Association of Mumbai’s (SJAM) annual awards ceremony at the CK Nayudu Hall, Cricket Club of India (CCI), Mumbai. Tendulkar, who has retired from the one-day format of the game, was being felicitated for his achievement of scoring a hundred international centuries. Gayatri, a former student of visual arts and daughter of The Hindu journalist and SJAM secretary G Viswanath, thought it apt to present him with a painting depicting his 49 One-Day International (ODI) tons.
At first glance, the painting looks like the footprints of a little bird whose feet had been dipped in blue ink and was made to walk across the canvas. A bat and a ball are the only comprehensible figures from a distance, and what looks like a giraffe flipped at 90 degrees. However, after a closer look and perusal, you begin to see things which were earlier lost in the maze: figures, runs, years, venues, and the smallest of details that you could associate with each one of Tendulkar’s 49 ODI hundreds.
Gayatri explains: “I like to call it ‘Perceptions’. On the one hand, it is like a puzzle, where I have deliberately inserted some messages, some objects, and some ideas that could be searched for vis-à-vis the overall theme of the painting. For instance, in this painting, one could look for the details of all ODI centuries scored by Sachin Tendulkar — the date, venue, number of runs and the opponent team’s name. On the other hand, the little images, as an alternative form of language, could be read subjectively, in their own right. For instance, I could see a person playing cricket while another person could see a pomfret fry, very similar to the things we perceive using our imagination seeing the clouds or the stars.”
So, it is something similar to the Rorschach inkblot test, eh? Where did this whole concept arise? Are you a psychologist in training? “I’ve been making them for a long time. It started in 2007-08 when I was doing my IB (International Baccalaureate) as a student of Visual Arts,” says Gayatri, who recently completed an MA in English Literature from the University of Mumbai. “When I started, the theme was Bollywood. We had to produce 12 different types of artwork; this was one of them. It all started with making doodles.”
From tiny doodles in a notebook to a large 100x80cm canvas, that’s quite some progress. How many of these have you made? “Soon, I started gifting these paintings to people,” says Gayatri. “I made it for birthdays; a few days ago, I made one for one of my teachers…Then, I heard dad talking to Sachin regarding the SJAM event and that’s when the idea came to mind.” Considering the size of the painting, it must have taken a while completing this piece of art, considering the intricate details? Gayatri answers with a chuckle. “I finished the painting in about eight hours; I didn’t have lunch or take a shower throughout the day…it was a non-stop session.” Wow!
Before one can get zonked further, the more important question of what Tendulkar thought of the painting is put forward. Did the Little Master decipher the code? “Sachin said that, ‘I can already see some things.’ He recognised some dates and runs.” What else did he say? “I don’t exactly remember what he said since I was dazed. That moment was unbelievable.” That’s totally understandable. “I plan to make another one when he retires from Tests,” she says, hoping that Tendulkar adds more to his tally of 51 Test tons. So, any plans of taking this up professionally since you are so good at it? “No, for now it’s just a hobby; I have liked art since I was a kid. But it’s just a hobby.”
Well, if a hobby can get you to talk to and present something to the Sachin Tendulkar, it does sound like a choice well made!