26/11 in watercolour and crayons

When her art teacher gave her the assignment of drawing a portrait of the lone surviving terrorist from the Mumbai attacks last year...

Written by Shweta Desai | Mumbai | Published: February 23, 2009 4:19:49 am

Three months later,an exhibition of 135 paintings by school kids brings alive the attack

When her art teacher gave her the assignment of drawing a portrait of the lone surviving terrorist from the Mumbai attacks last year,Ajmal Amir Kasab,10-year-old Siddhi Ghadi loathed the idea. “I have actually drawn him in a lot of anger. It was because of him that so many people lost their lives and so many police officials were martyred,” she says.

It was,after all,the first time that Siddhi and her friends saw a terror attack live on television,watching news about police officials getting killed,body bags collecting in hospitals and the endless wait for relatives of hostages. Still,when it was time to pay a tribute to the city and to the victims of the 26/11 terror attack,Ghadi and her 35 friends from her drawing class left behind their wide-eyed responses to the attack and took to painting the various facets of the attacks like true professionals.

Drawing from news coverage of the siege,‘Jara Yaad Karo Kurbani’ is an exhibition with 135 paintings,all by children and a stark reminder of the attack three months later.

From a portrait of Tukaram Omble who was killed to that of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s mother crying over his body,from portraits of Ashok Kamte,Hemant Karkare to the relatives of faceless victims,the exhibition has paintings by children aged between five years and 14 years.

“It was the government’s failure that led to such an attack killing hundreds. Had there been enough security this massacre could have been avoided,” says 14-year-old Prathamesh Chendwankar about the attack.

Teacher and JJ School of Art graduate Rajan Kambli who has been teaching drawing to children at Lalbaug for more than 15 years says that after the terror attack he wanted to do something for the city. “I wanted to pay homage to the martyrs and those who lost their lives in the attack. The only way I could do so was through my art. Since the subject for the painting was sensitive I first spoke to the parents who made the children understand and work accordingly,” he says.

Each child who attends Kambli’s art classes were given separate topics to paint,alongside an explanation of the events surrounding that theme. The photograph of an emotional salute amongst the countless faces at Karkare’s funeral comes alive in Raj Pradeep Kausalkar’s painting. Shraddha Berde has drawn firemen dousing the fire outside the Taj Mahal Hotel and the firing that killed Omble.

Ten-year-old Divya Gawde has depicted Bharat Mata with the martyrs as her adornments. She explains that the police officials and guards are the pride of the country. “It is because of them that we are safe. They died so we could live and their loss has even made Bharat Mata sad,” she says.

Controversies surrounding 26/11 have also found a way into the exhibition. “Karkare aamhala maaf kara” (Forgive us,Karkare) by Shreya Naik is one such. “It was very humiliating when ministers started raising doubts on how Karkare died. The picture therefore apologises to the martyr as we failed to understand the price of his sacrifice,” she says.

However,while a number of photographic exhibitions on the 26/11 attack have been held to great response in the city and across the country,these children are still waiting for a sponsor. So far,there have been two low key exhibitions,one in Lalbaug and the other near the popular ledge opposite Ruia College in Matunga.

“We are facing a lot of problems with sponsors. We wanted to hold the exhibition at Gateway of India but were denied permission. At other places the rent is too high for us,” Kambli says. But he is not losing hope. Even without any support,he will try to showcase the children’s work at several locations in the coming months,he promises.

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