“PAVARTHI DOESN’T CONSIDER herself an artist. But would it take artistry to draw a phallus ?
He was asleep beside her, the sleep of the blissfully dead, that wondrous sleep that starts on a late afternoon, waking to a violet sky and a hungry stomach. If he opened his eyes, he’s see her drawing pad, propped up on her thighs, the outline of a penis distinctly emerging on the blank page.
It had come in a dream. All the sacred phalluses – the linagrams – of Maharashtra, Andhra, Pradesh and Karnataka seemed to have merged, taking on a timeless, pulsating, three-dimensional quality that was awe-inspiring. This one lingam turned slowly on its axis, as though intending to hypnotize or reveal its meaning and its power.
She had woken up suddenly, her body warm, in a sweat.
How would she render it ? How could she possibly convey the three-dimensional, multi-angled, close-up, long-view perspective she had received ?
It did feel like she had been gifted with a vision and now, like Ganapathi, the remarkable elephant god and scribe who wrote the epic Mahabharata as it was narrated by the sage Vyasa, she too felt she had a duty to record what she had seen. Ganapathi had it easy. He had to listen and write; ceaselessly and for months, to capture every word. He was recording a story of love, betrayal, filial piety,politics, diplomacy and war. Pavarthi had dreamt about the lingam – there was nothing else to distract from this singular fact. She had to capture texture, curvature, fullness and swollen abundance. She knew what he’d think.
It’s not that she was embarrassed. The last two weeks of travel had been replete with sexual imagery. Everywhere they went, they found lingams. Big, small, glinting black marble, limestone. Apsaras, gods and goddesses, made of granite or petrified wood, permanently frozen in a suggestive state – a protruding hip, an erect nipple, the passionate gaze – they seemed to come alive under greater scrutiny.
Pavarthi would stand close to them, trying to get an angle for a photograph that would include a profile and the landscape, as though the goddess were looking ponderously to the horizon, awaiting someone or something. Sometimes, she thought she saw an upturned gaze, the corners of a pleasantly smiling mouth turning up ever so slightly, the crowned head cocking to one side inquisitively.
She’d step back quickly and silently apologize for hemming them in; for looking too intently.
No, embarrassment wasn’t the issue. The chiaroscuro-like quality of the phallus in that subterranean realm of her dream began to fade into a grey, tepid picture in her mind’s eye. She struggled to hold onto it, her eyes closed, the pencil poised over the drawing paper.
As it spun further away, the dream took with it the distinct rush of ecstasy that had flooded her veins. She slowly touched her upper lip. The rapid, involuntary quivering had ceased.”