The Manor

The Manor

The manor was built at the late 18th century, located on a mountain. It was built by General Medow, who was in charge of that area. He was a great enthusiast of arts of various culture. He brought many paintings from his homeland. His collections were all the landscape except for one, A lady with the blue bowl. This painting was unlike others and was hung at the atrium of the manor. The general died and his family moved back to England. They took most of his art collections along except for the lady painting. 

Years passed, the manor had many owners after that, but none removed the picture. It was resold along with it. In spite of it losing its gloss, it was reframed and rehung. No one thought of dispose it off or to sell it. It was a painting with no meaning or significance.

 In 2019, Ashish Singh, a writer, wanted to buy the manor. He lost his children’s custody recently. Due to which, he was feeling down and felt life was very unfair to him. Top to that , past few years, his new books were not getting published. And his old books were not selling as expected. But what hurt him most was his children’s choice to stay with his mother. He was not able to understand or accept it. He felt victimized by life , therefore he isolated himself from others. He felt no one understood him or cared for him. This was the decisive point for him to relocate to this place, where no one knew him. 

By Dec 2019 he moved in to the manor. He had no interest towards life or to redecorate it. He was content the modernization it had. The basic power and water supply is all he cared for. He applied for an Internet connection, he felt he had all he needed. 

Even when he did not understand Tamil, he managed with Hindi and English. He had no wish to engage permanent staff except for a gatekeeper. He was in his own world, and all he did was sleep, eat and binge-watch Netflix series. He cared so little about him even though personal hygiene looked least important to him. He skipped baths many days in a row.  He never stepped out or went for a stole, he was confined to his room. He felt so numb that he did not see a difference in day, week or month. He did not even have a routine. He felt his writing days were over and his thoughts and words ran dry. Even blamed life for it.

Everything was fine or not fine in his case for sometime. By Mrach 2020, COVID Lockdown started. Every news article was about it, and life throughout the world was anything but normal. For the initial days of the lockdown, Ashish did not find any difference or notice any difference but slowly effect of the lockdown started to have an impact even on his life. He did not get his food supply as arranged due to the lockdown. He started to follow the news about this deadly virus, and he felt this is the right time to go out and catch it, as he had no interest in living this life. He thought if he died then maybe people who never cared for him will feel guilty. It would be poetic justice to them. 

He started a routine where every day he will go out and walk to the gate and wait there for anyone to come so there could be a slight chance of catching the virus. But there were none due to two reasons, primarily the manor was up in a secluded place and secondly due to the lockdown, no one stepped out of their house. Even his own gatekeeper did not turn up for the work. In the process of everyday walking to the gate and back, he started to notice the painting which was hung in the atrium. Gradually, he was drawn towards painting and started  observing it. He had many questions, who was this lady? Why she was painted? Why is the lady in the picture looking up? What was she holding in the blue bowl? What was the expression on her face? What made the artist capture this pose of this lady? 

One day, his curious mind wanted to find the answers, and he did a Google image search of the painting but could not get any significant information. However, the lack of information did not make him lose his interest. As he was more online, he started to read more news about the deadly virus and how people were suffering. He read the story of how people felt depressed as they were stuck in small rooms, how many went without food for many days and how people were losing loved ones, job and even their own life. He looked at the lady in the picture and wondered if was she lonely too. He started to reflect on his own life. He felt most of the people were suffering but still they were trying to be happy. Just like this lady who was not lonely even when she was alone. He started to make a new routine.  As the virus was very contagious and was spreading superfast, he started to worry about his children. He had a compelling feeling to call his ex-wife and check about their children. But his old habit of feeling victim popped up again, if they did not care then why should he? With this thought and feeling he looked at the painting. Now it looked like the lady was rolling her eyes at him as he did not know what his priority was. Suddenly without any thought, he called his wife to check on them. She told him that the kids were trying to reach him for the past month as they were worried about him, and he was not reachable on his old number. It struck him that he never shared his new number with anyone. It was he who bought this misery on himself by thinking things which were not true. This revelation made him see his behaviour, his reaction and his action and its impact on others. From that day he chatted with his children every day and once in a while he even checked on his ex-wife, without any hurt or ego. 

Now staring at the picture has become a ritual for him. He even started to write a story keeping the painting as context. Every day he found a new meaning to the painting. He imagined many stories about the lady. But he couldn’t put a reason for holding that blue bowl. One day when he was staring at the blue bowl, a thought struck him. For him, The blue bowl is the container, a container like us, which had life struggles, worries and anxiety. Even though the lady is carrying the bowl, but she doesn’t want to look at it every moment and make her life miserable. Rather she wants to look up with hopeful eyes in search of new things. Ashish finally understood we cannot keep our blue bowl down, it’s part of life. But we need not keep looking at it and feel victimized. Let the blue bowl distinguish us but need not define us.

Ashish did not know who or when the painting was painted, but he felt it was painted for him, to help him, to make him understand the meaning of life. The painting with no significance became a significant part of his life. Became a medium of self-help for him. When, where and why it was painted no one knew, but it was painted for him and only for him.
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Vasu Pillailogam
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