Prisoners sketch Kali, reconnect with society

Kolkata, Oct 27 (IANS) Through deft strokes of the brush, 86-year-old lifer Srikanto Haldar is sketching his perception of goddess Kali in bright orange, yellow and blue, a skill symbolising his re-connect with society.

Like Haldar, 15 other inmates – including two women – of various correctional homes in Kolkata, took to the canvas on Thursday to create works of art to launch the Kali Puja of 85 Block Puja Committee in the southern part of the eastern metropolis.

The Kali Puja marquee transformed into a temporary studio for these 16 enthusiasts. Aged between 35 to 86 years, they swiftly etched out portraits of Kali, at ease with the easel and oil paints.

“I never used a painting brush in my youth. My grandchildren are into art. Now, in my old age I have taken up art. This helps me to spend time and also gives me a sense of purpose,” Haldar, who has been taking art classes for the last five years, told IANS.

Beside him, septuagenarian B. Gayen intently fills up his portrait of Kali or Shakti in blue and green hues.

“My favourite colours are green and blue. So my version of Kali is mostly in blue and green. It feels good to know that someone will purchase my painting,” Gayen told IANS with a smile crinkling his whiskered visage.

The paintings will be displayed in the puja pandal for auction and the money collected would go to the prisoners’ welfare fund of the correctional homes.

Compared to Gayen’s and Haldar’s expertise, Shilpa Lama’s Kali seems a bit amateurish.

“I have been learning to draw and paint only for the past five to six months. I hope I can be as good as the others,” Shilpa Lama, Alipore Women’s Correctional Home, said.

Sculptor-painter Chitto Dey, who trains the convicts in art, says through the medium they maintain their connection with the outside world.

“Through art, they get to feel they are part of society… the outside world which they are barred from accessing. Its effect is therapeutic,” Dey said.