The beautiful pencil sketch of Murli Manohar Joshi placed on top of the refrigerator inside the nameless tiny bunk shop at Nemom Junction is worthy enough to catch the attention of customers.
The shop that sells light refreshments doubles up as a creative space of an artist in the afternoons. Its owner, 60-year-old T Sreekantan Nair, is a self-taught artist and has been creating portrait sketches for the past six years in order to overcome the painful experiences in his life.
“I have been in a mental trauma ever since my family life started striking discordant notes. Still, I was not ready to succumb to worries and started making these sketches whenever creative thoughts emerged in my mind,” he says.
So far, according to Sreekantan, he has made 100 sketches sitting inside his shop. Political and religious leaders, artists, actors and many others have become his subjects. From a pile of sketches neatly arranged inside the glass shelf, he pulls out those of Rabindranath Tagore, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, M F Hussain, Yesudas and Mohanlal carefully.
He mainly refers to the photographs of well-known people appearing in newspapers and copies them down on paper. While drawing, accompaniment of music in the background is a must for this artist and he hums his favourite tunes when his pencil sways across the drawing paper.
In his life as an artist, he recollects with pain an incident that happened recently. Deviating from his usual timings, Sreekantan started making a sketch of actor Jagathy Sreekumar during the morning hours. Sadly, it was after the night that the actor was seriously injured in a road accident. “As I do not subscribe to a newspaper, watch television, or own a mobile phone, I did not learn the news in time. When a person, who by chance saw me drawing, enquired about the accident did I come to know about it and I had to complete the work with a grief-stricken mind,” he sighs.
Though facing a financial crunch, Sreekantan is not ready to sell his works until his long-cherished dream of hosting an exhibition is fulfilled. “My pictures on political personalities are high in demand. The representatives of political parties have approached me several times and I have made my stand clear to them,” says the artist in the bunk shop.