Lord Shiva, his face shining with a divine effulgence, sits holding a ‘trishul’ in one hand and a ‘damaru’ in the other. The holy river Ganga gushes out of his bouffant. A quick glance at the image could make anyone fold their hands in reverence- atleast for a fraction of a second.
Near the beautiful picture drawn neatly on the floor of the PMG Junction bus stop, stands the creator, Raju, in a shabby attire and his finger tips smeared with a mix of chalk powder and charcoal. Onlookers and passersby drop either a coin or a currency note of lesser denominations near the drawing. The artist, benevolently returns a smile or a simple glance of gratitude.
It is hard to believe that Raju, 54, has never undergone any training in drawing. “The images flow out of my imagination,” he says.
When asked why he decided to draw on the floor, he explains, “When an image is seen on the wall, people may give a brief look at it and proceed. Whereas when it is seen on the floor, they would stop for a while and give me a penny or two”.
Raju does not have particular timings for visiting his usual spots in the city. Still, he arrives a day before special occasions at the O T C Hanuman temple at PMG Junction so that his drawings will be seen by more people. He draws the images of Lord Ganesha, Hanuman, Jesus and Mother Mary. He also portrays the image of mosques for households as per demand. “I consider all religions equal as everyone pours in bits and bytes before me”, he says.
It takes one hour for Raju to finish a picture. At the bus stop, he draws the pictures of Gods alone. He would light up candles around the picture at night and sleep near it so that seeing the light, people would come near and give some money. The picture would be erased the next day.
Beneath the image, he usually writes, ‘Please help me’ and ‘Sahayikkoo’ in English and Malayalam alphabets respectively. Raju, who has attended school only up to standard four, says that he does not know the letters he has written. “Some people helped me to write the message that seeks help. I keep them written on a piece of paper and simply draw it under the image,” he smiles.
In the city, Raju’s preferred spots other than the bus stop are near the oil tanker at Museum Junction and the huge tree at East Fort. For the past 44 years, drawing has earned him a livelihood. Raju claims that he has drawn pictures at various places from Kasargod to Kanyakumari and Tamil Nadu. The materials he uses are chalk piece, charcoal and green leaves. Other than the pantheon of gods, he also portrays nature.
Hailing from Kulappada near Nedumangad on the city outskirts, he has his old mother to take care of. “My mother is almost bed-ridden and cannot travel at all which is why I am camping here. I will move on to other states after she passes away. I do not know how life proceeds from then on,” he shares.
And he has no qualms over the itsy-bitsy amount that he garners from this vocation as he is contended with that.