CHAPTER 4: THE ARTIST
The dental Out-Patient Department (OPD) is on the first floor of the hospital along with the dermatology, ENT and Chest OPD. On entering the main gate , taking a right followed by an immediate left is a staircase leading to these departments.
Its been precisely a month since I have joined the hospital. Almost from the second day, I had come across a middle-aged man sitting mid-way on this staircase.
Resembling a roadside beggar, he wore a greasy yellow t-shirt, torn at the edges. His off white pants looked soiled and threads of the hemline dangled from the lower border. His footwear tattered to bits. Face grimy from the summer sweat, his hair and long beard had a salt and pepper appearance. From the way he looked, he must not have had a shower in months. His clothes alternated between two sets of trousers and t-shirts.
He was an artist, a sketcher. He had a few sheets with sketches of the hospital building, a bird making its nest and some doodles. They were beautifully done with bold and dark strokes, highlighting even the minute details. He wrapped them carefully in a newspaper. He sat there daily on the staircase, finishing 2-3 cups of chai (tea) which he brought from the canteen, making sketches. He spoke to nobody.
Curious to find out who the man was, I interrogated a few staff members of the hospital about him. Everybody seemed to have noticed him, but no one knew his story.
My room mate told me, she once thought he was a beggar. So one day she tried giving him some money to buy some food, as he looked pale and weak. He denied and walked away from there.
I asked the canteen owner if he had any clue about the artist.
He said, ” Madam, he is in the hospital for the past 2-3 years. He is not suffering from any disease. He wanders in the hospital premises during daytime and returns inside the building at night. He buys his own food from here, I tried giving him free food, but he did not take. He doesn’t talk to anybody and he has no family.
He sleeps somewhere in the hospital.” I thanked the canteen owner and left from there.
The artist disappeared from the hospital a few days later. I got restless on not seeing him. I loved watching him sit there and sketch daily. It had become a part of my routine. My mornings in the hospital began with this chore.
He returned to the staircase after a week. This time, he looked more scary and feeble. He had discontinued sketching, his drawing sheets were clean and empty. He drank tea from disposable cups and remained there, holding his head in his hands. I thought he was sick with some mental illness so I tried talking to him, but he ran away from there.
I had got accustomed to watching this man draw and sketch with his black pen and sketching pencils. But the artist remained a mystery.
He was like a jig-saw puzzle. Trying to bring all the pieces together, but a few of them went missing!