Our business was started by my grandfather and it has flourished with time and expanded in product lines, thanks to the business acumen of his sons and grandsons. Every male at home is supposed to grow up breathing and dreaming diamonds. Joining the business is an achievement; an elaborate puja where the entire family comes together to pray for success and prosperity of the new entrant is an auspicious prelude to the joining. And thus starts an endless journey where every mistake is ripped apart and every success celebrated. Big families like ours have their own cultures of kitchen politics, envies and futile power equations; yet the business keeps us together. All women of the household prepare food together and the entire family still comes together for the morning puja, breakfast and dinner in deference to a non-negotiable rule. I happened to be a special favourite of my grandmother. They say that the goddess of prosperity showered special blessings during my birth and business multiplied immediately after. My birth lakshans were perfectly crafted by the goddess! As I grew up, a lot of my demands were treated with special favour, drawing prolonged arguments and comparisons in the kitchen. However, my grandmother believed that I am blessed by Lakshmi-Narayan and settled all debates with a ‘let him be!’ After school Dad expected me to study metallurgy; I said if at all I have to continue with academics then it will be Mathematics from Delhi University. All wars that continued for weeks behind closed doors initially and with the participation of a greater audience later, were settled with a ‘let him be. No one knew that the worst was yet to come.
My favourite occupation as a child happened to be breathing life into clay and mud, while others played around the pond at our haveli. With great patience I would remove the rocky particles, smoothen the clay with hand, dampen it so that it wouldn’t crack, grind some of the rocky particles with hammer or use sand and mix it all with the clay to give it elasticity, gather hay and grass to build the base and then apply my mixture over it to replicate faces of those I liked in the family. Mostly these were modelled on my Kaki-sa (wife of my father’s younger brother), not because I was especially fond of her but because she was exceptionally beautiful. Each of her expressions had a language, dipped in pride and rich in sophistication. She was my favourite subject and it was a self imposed challenge to capture her moods. I observed her attentively whenever possible and she quite pampered my infatuation with fruit cakes and laddoos. Our pool-side thus had many sculptures, most of them representing Parul Aditya Solanki. At nineteen, when boys usually elope with girlfriends, I eloped from Delhi to Baroda with a desire and decision to pursue a career in Fine Arts and not Mathematics. After five years my clan was expecting a MSc. mark sheet; I posted to my address the certificate of withdrawal issued by Delhi University and fled to Baroda to pursue BFA. My cousin reported to me, stealthily and with promises of his name not being disclosed as the source, that there was huge civil war at home and everyone blamed my mother for not bringing me up with the right set of values. Out of guilt, I promised myself that one day I’ll have massive achievements to my credit, which I’ll dedicate to my mother. I engrossed myself in learning the craft with utmost sincerity, as success had become a do or die situation for me! I had to justify my act to the rest of the family. The clan had already disowned me; other than my sister and one cousins, no one was in touch with the “traitor”. And then there was an unexpected mishap in the business. Three workers were injured fatally in one of the factories. The media was immediately active pointing out loopholes in our safety measures reporting it as a ‘cost cutting strategy at the expense of the lives of poor labourers.’ Labourers stopped work demanding compensation and better facilities at work. Two huge orders got cancelled, thanks to this furore! The family faced its first major setback and it was the question of sustaining goodwill in the market. Everyone seemed to question everything. When conditions were bizarre, my grandmother, after her morning puja, suddenly cried aloud that her Lakshmi-Narayan had been violated and hence this misfortune. ‘Bring him back immediately and LET HIM BE!!!!’ I entered the haveli once again in style, like a Hindi film hero, in slow motion, not for special effects but scared that others might shoot me down. But I trusted since then … I must be blessed by destiny. Nothing short of a miracle could have planted me back on my throne, that too with such a show of love and honour. Of course the unhappy members of the family visited me that night in private to pour out their choicest curses. But that was a small price to pay given that the family had accepted my choice of profession. Now I just had to prove myself.
Fifteen years hence, I have experienced massive heights in my career. I have studied in the best colleges, researched under the best guides, exhibited my work across the world, received unconditional acknowledgements that adorn my CV. I am adored as a professional and have to my credit some lavish projects in Europe. Yet my happiness is hampered by a realisation–my family doesn’t care! My craft doesn’t hold any meaning for them. During heated exchanges I am still referred to as the guy who ran away, my mother is still blamed for bearing a son who ditched the ancestral business. Ironically even my parents never try to defend or support me citing that I am living a successful, self-made life of honour. They suffer the insensitivity of their selfish son quietly. The only person who cared has been silenced years ago and no longer the voice orders, ‘Let Him Be.’ All my struggles and hard work that led to my success hence feel no less than a huge loss. I realise that before rebelling I should have detached myself completely from everyone who didn’t find meaning in my pursuit of creative passion. It hurts. But in the last few years I have more or less made peace with the situation and have distanced myself from Jaipur. I am mainly connected to them through Facebook and get to learn their updates from the social networking sites. Phone calls are short, curt and rare. Yet, what surprises me is that consciously or subconsciously, I still call it home!