Tuesdays With Rhiti

Saturdays With Shivani

Someone recently introduced me as a doctor and writer AND a Mandala artist. The first identity, I embrace with a lot of pride, the second with trepidation but the third I refuse to, for now atleast. If I have to, I shall call myself a passionate student of the art form.

Mandalas have always fascinated me and I had always wanted to learn how to draw them. The pandemic and lockdown intensified the urge and when I saw a writer friend’s posts and pics I reached out to the teacher and that’s how Tuesdays with Rhiti began (unabashedly lifted from my favorite book’s title).

Week after week, every Tuesday, I set up my laptop and diligently follow the instructions as she simplifies the intricate patterns. Another friend has since joined and the three of us have a sacred space where we feel safe enough to spill our hearts as we sketch and paint.

Why did I choose Mandalas, I am asked? To begin with, it was the art but now it is also the artist who inspires me to explore and push boundaries. Let me tell you a little about Mandalas first. The world, as we have known it, has fallen like a pack of cards. The chaos and uncertainty scare me and I am paralysed into inaction. When I put the compass and scale on paper and draw the motifs, they offer me a sense of stability. Every time I repeat the pattern, I feel reassured that some things are still within my control and predictable. Mandalas anchor me like nothing else could; not even writing and reading.

Talking about the artist, my teacher Rhiti, never have I ever come across someone so non-judgemental and patient as she is. Whatever we might draw, she has the knack of finding the strengths in our work (she doesn’t fib but she makes an effort to find and highlight the good points). When we are afraid to try a new thing for fear of messing it up, her favourite line is— paper hi to hai; it’s just a piece of paper. As a student, I realise how important that simple reassurance is for me.

She never criticises even if we ask her to. After five months, when I compare my work and realise how far I have come, she smiles and says, “Why do we need to criticism to improve someone when it’s possible to become better without it?” I don’t know how she does it but I am a living proof of it.

We are constantly judged and boxed and become used to that pressure. Its only when we enter a non- judgemental space that we realise how much lighter we feel when that weight lifts. I have experienced that relief on Tuesdays with Rhiti and my friend, who I had coerced into joining, does too. We are finding our jolie lade and  falling in love with ourselves.

She and I have very different styles of drawing and painting; be it our choice of motifs, the colours, the strokes or the interpretations but we never compare our works. Instead, we revel in the different perspectives. When Rhiti looks at them she remembers where we come from and that our starting lines are different so it’s foolish to compare. That is a very important lesson, we are often not taught. We often spend our entire lives trying to reach the goal posts that others set for us because no one told us that we had to be our own benchmarks.

I respect teachers and tend to put complete faith in them which is why I now choose them with care. I don’t want to sound immodest but unless I trust them completely, I know that I shall not be able to learn from them. I seem to have chosen well. May you all find what you are looking for, that is my sincere wish this weekend.

Love and light

Dr. Shivani Salil

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