A few days back, this girl, out of nowhere, reached out to me on social media, said she was a young artist, only just beginning her journey of discovering the artist within her. I was intrigued, and as is usually the case, immediately set-up a meeting at a mutually convenient time; anything I can do to help, guide, mentor someone is always a priority. She was to bring me an original Madhubani Painting of hers, along with some hand-painted Post Cards. I was excited.
However, nothing could quite have prepared me for the amazing woman I eventually met. Sapna Mahto, unassuming yet confident, humble yet immensely gifted and creative; our half hour meeting has left such an indelible impact on me, I just had to share her story with all of you.
Sapna is a Visuals Arts Graduate from Rajasthan University. She is venturing into the world of Art through her limited yet beautifully conceived repertoire of Madhubani Paintings. In order to preserve the heritage of her origins, she also paints these lovely Madhubani motifs on Journal & Diary Covers and Postcards. She is also working as a Graphic Designer in a reputed Digital Communications Agency. And she happens to be, the daughter of someone who works as domestic help! A significant piece of information that she delivered to me, most nonchalantly!
Based on that last, tiny truth about Sapna; one could undeniably say that she has shattered many glass ceilings. What strikes you more though, is the ease with which she wears her society-imposed ‘tag’. That she has, as if with a single brush-stroke, erased the stigma that you and I often unconsciously harbour, a specific, prejudiced way in which we ‘perceive’ certain communities. It is this enviable, admirable, effortless, effervescence, an inner light in this young woman that shines forth, and makes the darkness of societal bigotry, just pale into oblivion. And it is precisely this quality of Sapna’s that had a profound effect on me.
We spend a large part of our lives just worrying about how we are perceived by the world. We go to immeasurable lengths to come across a ‘certain’ way. Especially in India, peoples’ concerns largely centre on ‘where one is from’, ‘what family one belongs to’; particularly in a small city like Jaipur, NOT belonging to the ‘right’ kind of family can spell immediate social doom. It is terribly ironic that we, the ones who hardly ‘accept’, are then so concerned with being accepted into a city’s elite. While the hoi polloi toils away at the everyday grind, our burdens seem to be much more banal – did I go the right school? Did I wear the right outfit? Was I noticed at that party?
Our shallow worries, of which I am as guilty as the next person, make me feel ashamed of myself, when I meet someone like Sapna Mahto. What this young woman has endured, battled, conquered, and triumphed, are circumstances we cannot even begin to fathom.
Whether we admit it or not, most of us do not see the less-fortunate, coming up. We go about our lives so wrapped up in our own heads and messes that we rarely pause to think of the lives of the people who serve us, who cook and bring us our daily bread. By consequence, there is little or no mind space for their children. They play with our kids but even that is disallowed beyond a certain point because we fear that it will either ‘spoil’ or dilute our own, or will be seen by someone and secretly ,or openly, be derided.
Meeting with Sapna has literally been an awakening for me. It has put so much prejudice I have seen within my own family, into perspective. It has made me immensely proud as an Indian, as a citizen of this city, and as an Educator who seeks to espouse an ethos of equality among his students. I have learned so many lessons, and I can only say, that more power to Sapna. She has shattered ceilings, provoked thought, inspired me, and filled me with her eternal glow.