Family

5 Mar

CHAPTER SIX

Patel stood at the middle of the exhibition hall at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. For him it was a thing of great gladness that his work could make it to such a prestigious art gallery where works of great men like Leonardo da Vinci also were displayed.

Leonardo da Vinci produced anatomical drawings that were amazingly accurate. His research for his art took him into the field of medicine. He had to work in hospitals and medical schools where he dissected human and animal material. His works also graced the walls of the Queen’s Gallery.

For Patel, attaining to this accomplishment took three years of hard work and endurance. His father had made his life impossible when he discovered that he was still doing something connected to enhancing his skill or developing his talent with regards to art. When he discovered his drawings that fateful night four years ago he had threatened to cut him off the family.

It was a cruel thing to say for he knew so well how much Patel valued family. For Patel, family was everything and under other circumstances he would have been ready to give up his love for art for the family. But no. with the threat attached to his giving it up, Patel was ready to defy his father. And defy him he did for he moved away from home and was taken in by his art teacher, Harold Collins.

To Collins, Patel was like malleable clay and he had groomed him to perfection. Patel had perfected his pencil work and proceeded to dabble into colours. It was just as well, for he became particularly good at it.

Patel had had to adjust his lifestyle. Right from when he was fourteen and his father had kicked out Radji’s family; Patel had started to put away his pocket money and live an austere life. His father, so preoccupied with keeping all of Ajay’s wealth, had not noticed. When Patel left the house at seventeen he had some money to take care of basic needs.

Even then Collins was willing to help. Collins saw in Patel a talented young man who would go places. To prove to Patel how talented he was Collins had presented the pencil work of the garden at an art exhibition. It was an instant hit. The response of the guests to what Patel had called an unserious work had been a great source of encouragement.

Another source of encouragement for him has been Mala. Just as he had stood by her, encouraging her to pursue her dream, she has been very forthcoming with kind words he needed to keep going. She has been the sister he never had.

Collins interrupted his reverie.

‘Off on one of those trips again?’ he teased.

Patel smiled, ‘You got me there.’

‘Come. We have a group interested in your water-colour production of the garden.’

‘Any idea who they are?’ he asked under his breath as they approached the group converged around his painting.

Collins shook his head, ‘No.’

From the way they conversed and their mannerisms, Patel could tell that they were his fellow Indians.

‘I present to you, our budding artist Patel Vigrage’ Collins introduced him.

Patel wore a broad smile as he braced himself for his first encounter with prospective buyers at this top notch level. He knew it was only those who really appreciated art that attended these functions here in Europe.

‘How are you Patel, quite an age, if I am permitted to employ hyperbole?’

Manoj Vigrage stood face to face with his son and tried to employ all the browbeating he had always used to subdue his son.

Patel felt a wave of emotions; an unexplainable joy that came from seeing his father again after so long; a hope that his father may have heard about his being a part of this exhibition and thereby seeking out; and finally a sinking feeling that came from the realization that his father had not changed one bit, he was still the stuck up arrogant man he had always been.

‘It’s nice meeting you too, Mr. Vigrage’ Patel replied.

Manoj turned to the painting, ‘I see you are still making money off me’ he said as he pointedly stared at the painting of the garden. ‘It is my garden after all.’

Manoj’s companions had conflicting responses to his attempt at humour. They all knew the estranged relationship between father and son, so while some smiled at his inference, others actually felt the joke was on him.

Patel, however, realized his father was baiting him and decided not to take the bait. That decision though, required a whole lot of effort. He maintained a smile, much like contestants at a beauty pageant, but inside, he fumed, so much so that his facial muscles ached from the strain.

What a man must do to for civility, he thought wryly.

Collins was at a loss as to what to say, and it was one of Manoj’s companions that saved the day when he said ‘We need to keep it all in the family, don’t you think?’ and he offered a handsome price for the painting.

The group had moved on to see other displays and Patel watched his father move along with them admiring the work of art done by others and not casting another glance in his son’s direction.

‘Your dad is indeed a fine piece of work.’

Patel turned to face Collins.

‘Believe me; I never knew he was part of the group.’

Patel nodded absently.

‘Are you all right?’

‘I am’ Patel replied. ‘It was just as well, we were bound to meet somewhere…somehow.’ He glanced in his father’s direction once more.

‘To think that I came from him…’

Collins tried to comfort him ‘Look at it this way; you are your grandfather’s son.’

Patel shook his head. ‘My grandfather left his grandchildren with nothing and to him family was everything. How does one explain that?’

‘Some things one just cannot explain’ and changing the subject, ‘Why not let’s concentrate on the exhibition? I am sure your dad must have been blown to find you here.’

Patel just had to agree.

It has been four years since that exhibition and Patel had established himself in the art world. For a man so young it was a great accomplishment. He had travelled around the world but all roads always led back to Mala. To him, she represented the family he no longer had for his parasitic brothers had stuck to their father like glue and had therefore cast him off.

He could never have said no when Mala’s invitation came. He could not miss her graduation for anything in the world.

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