My childhood was all about Cricket and Painting. As per Cricket, I must have lost more matches than I have won. It must have been slightly the opposite when it came to painting. However, I initially lost most of the painting competitions I participated in before starting to win slowly.
During my school days, the most acclaimed painting competition was The Hindu Young World On The Spot Painting Competition, as the rewards for winning the competition were very attractive. The top three winning paintings would be published in the national edition of the newspaper (The Hindu). There was a significant cash price along with a travel allowance to collect the prize from a very eminent person in the country. Each school could only send five students in the junior category (Primary school) and five in the senior category (High school). I aspired to win the Hindu Young Painting Contest from the year 1993 when I was ten years old. Here goes my quest each year to win it:
I wasn’t shortlisted in the top five by the school as I had yet to win any well-regarded painting competitions to get the opportunity to represent the school. I started participating in as many contests as possible to get shortlisted for the next year.
I won the painting competition within the school and a couple of inter-school painting competitions. I was shortlisted by the school for the competition; however, unfortunately, during the competition, I fractured my right hand while playing sports. So I couldn’t participate. I felt terrible. My sister, who was in tenth grade, participated in the senior category. After the competition, she shared her experience participating – she was quite thrilled. My sister is my first friend, first mentor and first guide – I was happy for her that she could represent the school and the family.
I was winning many inter-school painting competitions by that time. I was determined to win the Hindu Young World Painting Competition. This was my last chance in the junior category. I prepared well. I couldn’t get the top 3 places; however, I managed to get one among ten consolation prizes. A nominal cash price was sent over post – no invitation for the prize distribution ceremony. I was happy my name was printed on the Bangalore edition of the newspaper; it was for the first time to get featured in a newspaper. My headmistress was very happy that the school got some prize though I wasn’t too thrilled to win the consolation prize.
I joined a government-aided school to do my high school education. Unlike my earlier school, which was a private one with drawing and painting as co-curricular subjects, this school didn’t have art classes as part of the course. The school, however, did get the letter from The Hindu newspaper for nominations for the contest – I showed the consolation prize that I had won the previous year to the headmaster; he was kind. He did what was necessary to make sure I could participate. I wanted to make it to the top three this time; for that purpose, I had prepared hard by practising for the entire year but unfortunately just fell short once again. I was disheartened seeing my name again on the consolation prize list in the newspaper.
Since it was the 50th year of Indian Independence, the newspaper (The Hindu) had reached out to a maximum number of schools across the state and country. They wanted to make it grand. St Joseph’s High School was the host school. The competition attracted students from Bishop Cotton, National Public School, Baldwins, Frank Antony Public School etc some of the most sophisticated schools in Bangalore, the upper middle class and affluents in Bangalore could afford education for their kids in these schools. The kids in these school not only had drawing and painting as co-curricular subjects, but some parents could even get the best painting teachers to come home to train their kids to get an edge in the contest. Some of my painting peers at that time were disturbed by the competition that can come from kids going to such sophisticated schools. Not that I wasn’t aware of the competition, but I was less distracted.
I was in 9th Standard, and I had a feeling that I may not be able to participate the next year as I would have most likely become focused on the 10th standard board exam. I had prepared very well for the competition for the entire year. I won most of the competitions that I participated in that year. My parents and my sister boosted my confidence to do really well. I did the best I could, and fortunately, I won. My painting got featured in the national edition of The Hindu Young World supplement. The Cash Prize I won was more than the education expense my parents had to bare for the entire year, and more over The Hindu sponsored my and my father’s travel to Hyderabad to collect the award from acclimated children movie maker Sai Paranjpye (Padma Bhushan awardee). This was the most memorable event in my childhood and, perhaps, my life.
After winning the Hindu Young World Painting Competition, I started painting classes for younger kids so they could also paint well and compete in various painting competitions. Some of them had started winning the inter-school painting competition in the city. I was thrilled to see them win; I enjoyed their success as if it was mine. The money I made from the painting classes also helped me buy cricket accessories like batting pads, glows, etc.
I had yet to do much painting from the moment I entered 10th standard. The middle-class mindset in me would prioritise board exams over extracurricular activities. About three to four weeks before the competition, I started my preparation for the one last attempt at the Hindu Young World Painting Competition. Though my practice was limited, I was mentally firm, and perhaps luck was also on my side – I won again. One of my students also won the consolation prize in his first attempt in the junior category – I was overjoyed!
This time the prize distribution was in the temple City of Madurai and the award was disturbed by renowned Tamil writer and activist Smt Sivashankari. I still remember her thought-provoking speech on “Finding Your Roots” that she gave just before the prize distribution ceremony, where prize-winning kids and their respective parents from different states assembled. The powerful speech she delivered created an innocent aspiration in the 15-year-old me to speak like her and inspire the audience with a powerful, genuine story. As a matter of fact, I had listened to many speeches during such prize distribution ceremonies, and each speech had created some or the other influence on me and slowly built that ambition to be a good speaker.
24 years after the last time I attended the prize-receiving ceremony at the Hindu Young World Painting Competition, my current avatar is that of an entrepreneur. As part of my work, I have invariably been invited to speak at various events at educational institutions, corporates and other forums. I’m glad my aspiration to communicate ideas in a gathering has come true. Last week I was invited by the Adani group to give Green Talk 2022 in the main auditorium of the group comprising top management leaders from the Adani group, including the group chairman Mr Gautam Adani; thanks to technology, it was Livestreamed to the entire workforce of Adani group. I talked on “Finding my purpose – Building a water-positive world”. I started my presentation by showing the certificate of winning a painting competition as part of a lake protection ralley. I don’t know if I could match the quality of (my inspiration) Smt Sivashankari’s speech; however, I did my best to share an authentic story of my journey in Climate Action and Sustainability. It was well received and appreciated by the kind audience.
As I come towards the end of this post, I must admit that I wrote this post inspired by former Tata Group chairman JRD Tata’s memorable speech “Rekindling a spark of enthusiasm” after he accomplished a flight travel as a pilot from Karachi to Bombay at the age of 78, fifty years after his first flight as a pilot in the year 1932, which lead to the birth of commercial air travel in India, he ends the phenomenal speech with:
“Despite all the difficulties, all the frustration, there is a joy, not necessarily in actual achievement, for always you can’t achieve great things, but in trying to achieve, in doing something as well as you could and better than others thought you could.”
Thanks for going through the chronological events of my life in this post; I hope it serves the intended purpose, as put by JRD TATA. I wish you and your family a fabulous 2023 – As the Persian poet Rumi would say, let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.