This was going to be her year. She had taken pains to choose the perfect picture. There was no way that Pankajam could choose anything this brilliant. There were shades here that required mixing of at least 4 primary colors. She had spent days getting the proportions just right and weeks rearranging the furniture so the composition was perfect. Her husband and boys started tip-toeing around the house, careful not to disturb anything, especially her.  To give them credit, they were trying to be understanding, asking about her progress every night at dinner. But that only irritated her more. Why the pretense? As if they knew what it meant! To them this was just a hobby, not the back breaking, labor of love that it was to her.

One month to go and tension started to mount. She started second-guessing herself, did she have enough powder for emergency touch-ups? Should she just switch to the traditional instead? Should she add more  yellow? Is the brown too much? Should she do an exact replica, or should she improvise? Should she go with her original idea of making them appear as an offering to the Gods? But then who ever heard of dried flowers for Gods? Should she do the series? But will the maamis who came in the morning come again in the evening to see the progression? Should she put it in the invite or let them figure it out? Last year they were all so enamored of Pankajam’s “world as seen by Yashoda in bhagavaan’s mouth”! They had no problem figuring that out. It was just a big globe with gigantic lips on the top and bottom! Nobody seemed to care about the lack of aesthetics.

That Pankajam! Just two weeks of classes and everyone was acting like she was the expert.  You have a great pupil, Kanakam! The pupil has surpassed the Guru! You must be proud, Kanakam! She wished everyone who said that had choked on the sundal they were stuffing themselves with. And Pankajam’s attitude, how she hated it. As if she wasn’t revelling in all that adulation. The hypocrite! She will show them. She can be modern too and better yet not sacrifice aesthetics. Her idea had to be the best, it just had to. There was no way that Pankajam could beat her this time.

“Oh! flowers a?” the matriarch said, stuffing her mouth with beetle leaves. “Very nice. Pankajam has done Guruvayoor Appan!” she said nodding her head and chewing. ” The God’s grace just shone through. I had to do a separate namaskaram to the rangoli, it was that good.”  Twenty minutes later the room was full of people  discussing Pankajam’s Guruvayoor Appan. She retreated into the kitchen under the pretext of getting more sundal and payasam. Her husband was there, trying to look understanding while simultaneously trying to hide the sundal he was sneaking. “What will these pattikaads understand of art, Kanakam? Cheer up!” he whispered, patting her awkwardly. Why did he always have to say the right things at the wrong time? Didn’t he know she was close to tears? Did he want her to go back in there with red eyes for everyone to see?

“Oh! Van Gogh’s Sunflowers! Super”. Her eyes lit up. Finally, someone who got it. The only one in the crowd who had some artistic sense.She grabbed the tray and quickly ran out to greet the new comer, with her rare smile beaming out of her face. “You are going to make the sunflowers droop in the evening, a progression like in the famous paintings, right a ‘ka?” , asked Pankajam, smiling back at her. “Kanakam akka always does the coolest Rangoli”, she said to the others.


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