Chapters from Childhood

When did you last visit your childhood?

Last Friday, I went to an exhibition. I had read about it in the papers. It promised fun and nostalgia but with a difference. Conceived and created by an aspiring artist, Aahel Iyer, it was called the 'Playschool'. What a memory-inducing name, I thought!

An illustration by Aahel Iyer

The moment I entered the hall, a splash of colours, bright colours dazzled my eyes. I’m sure you’ll agree that colours have their own way of affecting the mind. Mine was immediately swept away from the subtle shades of my present to the effervescent and energetic hues of my childhood.

There were quite a few interesting installations, coloured art pieces and impressionistic presentations, if I may call them, in the exhibition. I was very keen to know the story behind each one of them. A tag, which included more than just a name or a title, was attached to every exhibit. The purpose, I believe, was to offer a vignette of that particular memory of the artist.

Another thing that intrigued me was the noticeable use of blocks-multicoloured building blocks. The most common thing used by a child to build or create something. Here the artist’s ability to empower such a simple yet powerfully evocative object to reconstruct his early phase absolutely amazed me!

An illustration by Aahel Iyer

As I kept moving from one exhibit to the other, the very young and unassuming Mr Iyer often enlightened me on the thought process that went into the form.

In an installation, a bicycle was used. Its extension behind the seat was inconsiderately overloaded with plastic items. Small, big, medium, of all shapes, colours and textures. The good old bicycle peddler almost came alive in front of my eyes as I stood there absorbing the nitty-gritty!

Again, some of the canvases in which colours were poured, trickled and given the liberty to become themselves were brilliant. Fluidity, as well as the spontaneity of art and childhood, mingled to be cherished as art pieces.

A painting by Aahel Iyer

The one installation which instantly put a smile on my face was innocently named 'Colbol'. Remember the very light coloured plastic ping-pong balls that we used to play with? This was an amalgamation of those along with pipes and taps. How real it looked with water droplets, as if, dripping from every leaking point! The artist had recreated this memory so wonderfully that it assumed the shape of wish fulfilment, I felt. All those balls that Aahel as a boy had lost in the drains of alleys and pipes around, had suddenly come back to him. The recovery of those long-lost favourites must have overwhelmed him.

An illustration by Aahel Iyer

By the time, I walked out of the exhibition, my mind was crowded with my very own childhood’s sunny patches. The morning radio that jump-started the day, the friends and frenzy at school, the forbidden street food that titillated the taste-buds, the lazy afternoons to while away the time and the storybooks to be enjoyed tucked safely within the schoolbook pages. Also the daily want of adopting the lost kitten or the famished pup, only to give it a home.

So much can be unearthed and in so little a time. A mango, the smell of it, for instance, takes me back to my naughty self. I, slitting open a mango and sucking it up as the humble fruit kept oozing out of it. Such experiences can be relived but there are also those that have been lost forever. The cumbersome street vendors, often annoying for their noisy intrusions, no longer have wares to buy or sell. Thanks to technological advancements that have usurped them along with the memories built around them.

Memory has the power to arouse the same sensation that the original experience had caused. At times, it can be vague. Nonetheless, the same pleasure can be derived out of it, every time it is revisited. Looking at a bunch of digital prints that day, made me feel so. They were the impressions of fishing nets. Though the artist couldn’t trace it back to its exactness, it occupied a significant space in his growing-up stretch.

On occasions, a particular childhood memory does not even exist. It owes its existence to words or stories that one has heard - repeatedly, consistently and over a period of time. I have a memory of my brother coming to the hospital to meet me when I was born. He had a comb in his hand. Absurd, you might think. But it is a childhood flash that is very dear to me. I love to talk about it. Of course, it was my brother who had fondly framed it.

It was the thoughtful display of Aahel Iyer that took me off guard and rekindled some of those naive, natural moments that I had myself forgotten and lost. Tell me when was it last, you saw your little self? Who and what incited the retrieval?

Exhibition by Aahel Iyer

Title of the catalog of exhibition

By: Promita Banerjee Nag

This article and the opinions expressed in it are personal opinions. It is not meant for imposing specific views or endorsing a particular way of life. Also please do ignore any errors or omissions that you might come across. We pledge to learn from them. Happy viewing.


Amalish Guha said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
PB said…
'Adults are just obsolete children...' - reminiscent of the 'yellow desk with the chalkboard' and the precious child you cradle - then, now and always... keep expressing!

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