Jul 5, 2009

I just can't understand people!

Warning: Long Post.


“I just can’t understand people!” he wailed. He was a strange sight, unkempt hair, a lingering smell of whiskey, ill-fitting clothes with splotches of paint on them, and two paint brushes stuck behind his ear.

“What happenned?” I asked. I was meeting him after a long time, and could hardly recognize him.

“My art show just got over...”

“No! What happenned to you?” I asked. The last time I met him, or was it his earlier avatar, he was well dressed, clean shaven and had a permanent grin on his face.

“Oh that! Well, I changed...”

“I can see that! What I am asking is, how, what, when, why?” I clearly couldn’t control myself.

“Remember the last time we met?” he asked, with a sly smile.

And remember it I did.


We were still struggling students, and had gone to our favourite bar to bitch about how life was unfair. About how the system hardly recognized talent. Not even when it was staring at them with protruding belly, enlarged eyes and a crooked eagle-beak like nose.

A small digression is on order. Our friend was very good at sketches. And caricature. And anything that involved pencils and paints. So, once while he was busy, er, practising his skill in the math class, the professor came over. What followed was a barrage of words that made the girls of the class blush, and a very skilful demonstration of the professor’s notebook throwing skills.

The professor soon found out what our friend thought of him. On the college notice board the following morning.

So, end of digression.

The bar incident ended with us not having enough money to pay for our bitching session, and what followed was a barrage of words that did not make any of the customers blush, and a demonstration of the head waiter’s people throwing skills.


“What does getting drunk at Gokul bar have to do with your, er, current appearance?” I asked.

“Oh, not that, you idiot. The last time we met after we passed out of college, at the Land’s End. During the time I was trying my hand at becoming a painter”.

This seemed vaguely familiar to me. But then, I had been sober, and I had walked out of the hotel. Not so memorable.

“Don’t tell me you already forgot the reunion meeting?” he asked.


And then it all came back to me. The reunion meeting. With friends all around, exchanging stories about their promotions, and bitching about the bosses instead of the professors.

And in the middle of all the cribbing, our friend had announced “No one misunderstands me!” We thought we had misheard him, so someone quipped, “You mean no one understands you? But we do. After all, we are your friends.”

“That’s the f***ing problem, you idiot. No one misunderstands me. I am doomed to be understood all my life. I can only hope people misunderstand me after I am dead”

Now, we really couldn’t understand him. Which ought to have made him happy. But he was too busy wallowing in self-pity to note that we didn’t get him.

“Care to explain that?” I asked finally.

“Well, unlike your MNC offices, this industry thrives on confusion and chaos. If people understand my paintings, they are not willing to pay for it.”

“I still don’t get it!” I said.

“Arrghh, people misunderstand me where it is not required! You see, I drew a horse, and I took all the care to make it as life-like as possible, even sat in the stinking stables for three days to get a good impression in my mind of the image I was painting. And when I finally display it, people came and said “Oh, such a beautiful horse”, but that was it. No one paid me anything.”

Well, I still didn’t get it, but I was too afraid to say so. After all, you can’t come across as an idiot in the reunion meeting where your ex-crush is around. Soon, we got chatting about sundry other things and I had all but forgotten about this conversation, and his speech.

So, end of flashback.


“But what does the reunion meeting have anything to do with your, er, current appearance?” I was clearly confused now. And concerned.

“Well, you see, I had to make sure people misunderstood me. So, I ditched the nice clothes and the clean shaven look and the happy grin. I grew a beard, let my hair grow long, wore old clothes and walked around barefeet.”


“And I started experimenting with my paintings. I would draw the horse, but I would put its hind legs in front, its neck in reverse, the tail upside down, you know...”

I didn’t know. I stood there blinking like an idiot. The ex-crush was not around, so I didn’t mind.

“Well, people could no longer come and say “it’s a beautiful horse” and be done with it. They had to come up with theories as to why I put the hind legs in front.”


“All I had to do was sit back with a mournful expression. Soon, one learned art critic comes up with an explanation that the artist wants to say that if you don’t put your past behind you where it belongs, then you can no longer run efficiently. And people ooh-ed and aah-ed. Another opined that the tail rising up was an metaphor for the horse’s perverse sex drive”

“Stop! Gross!” I wasn’t too interested to listen to equine sex drives. S.377 doesn't allow that yet.

“You don’t get it. The painting sold for eighty lakhs. And my interview is on the paper's cover page.”

And I just stood there. Mouth agape.

All I could muster was, “I just can’t understand people”.


PS: Inspired by a chance visit to an art gallery recently where the author saw a painting titled "Man, Woman and Parrot" which had, you guessed it, a man, a woman and a parrot. Except that the author was slightly confused about which bird was which.


  1. This has been a theory of mine ever since I wrote A-grade-getting critiques of art/ literature in college for my gen ed subjects. Ideally, all a "creative professional" (artist/ poet/ sculptor even photographer) needs to do is come up with something completely puzzling to where some high-on-whatever critic would find a "deeply" BS interpretation of his work. Of course, with a little limelight, my "Upside down stick figures in red" could one day be an exhibit at the Louvre.

  2. @ Idling:
    Art is like an MBA degree. It has a value because people say it does. And the value is greatly enhanced by an 'art'ificially created scarcity. Of course, the pre-condition is that no one understands you!

    Now, I am not complaining about the MBA part :)

  3. nee ethukku da art exhibition ellam pore ? namakkellam ethukku antha vambu...

    quarter adichoma beach-la paduthoma-nu illama art-a thedi pona ippadi thaan...

  4. Depends on the person really. Most ppl are not all tht complicated though they like to think they are.
    Ive noticed that many of my lady friends consider being called complicated a compliment.

  5. 80 lakhs did you say ?! Can you ask him to lend me 2 of those...I want to play in options :D

  6. @ Anand:
    boss kootitu poitaru... illati naan enge art gallery poi painting paaka poren...

    @ Anjana:
    Women ARE complicated... don't even get me started on that!
    and no, being complicated is not a compliment... not even if the two share the first six letters!

    @ Hirok:
    er, it was a fictional story... except the visit to the art gallery which was very real...
    but I'd still suggest you invest in art... if you do insist on putting money in things you don't understand...
    after all, even abstract circles of different colours would look better in a frame on your wall than Reliance Power share certificates...

  7. he he... waitees... did u really mean to say s377 is the thing thats keeping you from being too interested in the equine sex drive?

    don't think u did... but still... ;)

    Moral : Don't look a painted horse in its misplaced mouth.

  8. Anonymous9:22 PM

    I liked this post..since I am the kind who dont understand or interpret these 'art'-y paintings!..n wonder what ppl see in them!

    nice fiction!


  9. @ Mani:
    My writing is also like art... you can choose to interpret it any which way u want ;)

    @ Anon SS:
    "n wonder what ppl see in them!"

    i guess we'll never know... unless we make the eighty lakhs first...