At first, there was nothing. A blank, blank stare. Lines – curved, benign, meaningless. They embraced like they meant it, and yet there was nothing there that Arun could connect with. They had told him, when inviting him over to this exclusive exhibition, that “The Maze” was the latest masterpiece of Archibald Crane, the current fad in the world of abstract painting. They had told him this was special, that “The Maze” held stories and colors and all kinds of hidden meanings.
As Arun angled his balding head to one side, his eyes wrinkled in his usual pose of concentration, he could find no hidden stories. “The Maze” was perfectly clear to him. There were lines, yes, and there were triangles, and all kinds of oblongish shapes arranged in a peculiar contortion. Yes, there were the usual hues, he ascertained, though he could not decipher them. Yes, there were, perhaps, even hidden contours – stories within stories, but he could not read them.
Distracted by a shadow, Arun turned back, and was instantly blinded. The light emanating from the doorway was acidic – it took away his sight for the briefest instant of time. And, then, just as he felt the first surge of panic, Arun saw him. A little boy, awkward and gangly in his oversized shorts and T-shirt, looking at him. Arun held his arms open, inviting the child to him in a rare moment of affection.
As the boy approached, the light faded, the shadows withdrew, and Arun saw himself before him, some forty years back, holding in his hand that first sketched drawing. It hadn’t gone well, Arun remembered. The paintbrush had refused to obey him and had gone where its heart had taken it, and his father, the eminent painter Varun Srivastava, the venerated Varun Srivastava, had been furious. That insolent paintbrush had cost tiny Arun a few hard lashes and a permanent dislike for paintings.
And then, as Arun’s face hardened like it did every time he remembered his childhood, it hit him. “The Maze” was not that different in its refusal to cling to norm. It held the promise of that first attempt at art. It deserved a home.
Arun’s decision was made. “The Maze” was his to buy – a gift for his father on his upcoming 70th birthday.