Is that a baby sibling I carry
Or a childhood that's on hold?
My fond years of frolic, O tarry!
For my joyful, impish handhold!
I'll come, I'll come, O time abide!
Just pause awhile in your stride
My playmates I see,
Who wait still for me!
My school lies just yonder,
Across the hills of my countryside
I'll walk your threshold yet
Oh time abide!
by Sudha Madhavan
Oil on Canvas
30” x 30”
Conceptualised in the Mon District, Nagaland
What inspired me
While we are in the district of Mon in Nagaland, we meander through the villages of Lungwa, Mon, Chi (spoken ‘Choi’) and Hongphoi, where we meet Bowang, the Konyak Naga King. In the village marketplace where we stop by shops-cum-workshops, with a group of ladies bent over beadwork, shops selling daily needs, we find these children of around 6-10 years of age who are carrying their younger siblings on their backs in traditional carriers made of shawls. Their parents are away either in the field working on farms or in the forest hunting for food, which is a common practice here.
My attention is arrested by this young eight year old who is entrusted with the care of her baby sibling. There is an unspoken story on her countenance that is easy enough to read. There’s a certain pride and reserve which doesn't welcome uninvited queries.
I can see the confusion and a sense of deprivation of something that is vital for her age. The freedom to romp around, play with friends, go to school and spend a carefree time. Not be tied down with responsibility younger sibling, for she is a child herself. These conflicting feelings so evident, made her stand apart.
I have painted her exactly as she looked, bringing out the interplay of conflicting emotions and taken the utmost care to bring out her ethnicity. It tested my artistic skills amply!