Books

Prose Poem: Portrait Of A Model

A prose poem inspired by a painting by Jamil Ahmad Khan, an artist from Ahmedabad, bearing the same title.

Jamil Ahmad Khan is a qualified accountant, but his passion for art forced him to quit his successful career of a chief chartered accountant and live as a full time artist. He currently lives and works in Ahmedabad.
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In the city of Ahmedabad, sits a portrait of a model, his paper hat made from yellow scrap and string. And though we cannot see much more of his attire, we would like to imagine this person to be a spinning dervish of sorts, arrested as he is, mounted on white borders against a white wooden frame in the inner recesses of this walled city, an erstwhile Sufi corridor hosting lost saints.

The model awaits to be painted as he lounges in the artist’s atelier. Not coincidentally, the artist, too looks much like a Sufi saint; perhaps he is painting himself by inviting this model to his modest home.The model sips on his tea and dunks a biscuit that bears the noble name of Aflatoon, while he awaits the arrival of the artist who is returning from a textile mill where he works as an accountant. No wonder his work is ridden with varied textile patterns and textures, paintings done on balance sheets that don’t tally and chimneys emitting smoke.

The artist arrives late and dons his favourite black shirt, his hat and paints this model standing before him from his imagination. In this portrait of a model, he sees an accountant, who, begrudgingly, was forced to leave his home to study accounting in Bombay, where he was at least fortunate enough to meet some artists who would inspire him. He gives much credence to the model’s entire attire but chooses to not include it in the final portrait. Something must be left to the imagination, something, as in all good art, must also be destroyed and erased.

Whilst painting, he asks of his model to remain still, as his own thoughts wander astray: to landscapes filled with mountains and arctic tundra. He likes to paint upon small things, rescued cardboard, for instance, pages from an ancient encyclopaedia. And though this model is standing right before him, as present as he can be, the artist only wishes for him to disappear onto the ripped-off page from an art magazine mounted onto a white border, lost in a wooden white frame.

(This appeared in the print as 'Portrait Of A Model')

Gaurav Monga is a writer and teacher

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