My fondest memory of a birthday gift remains to be a box of camel oil pastels. With a typical scenery of a beautiful sunset showcased in enigmatic shades and expert strokes, the box promised to be something I had never seen before. With eyes that shone as if I’d won a million dollars, I slid the case open. My heart skipped a beat as I saw a spread of 24 breathtaking colours. For an 8 year old who always wished to have more than those 12 basic colours for her drawing classes, this was like a double promotion. For minutes, I kept staring at those wax jewels. Then held them closer to my nose to inhale that characteristic whiff that felt oh-so-comforting. This was it, I said to myself. ‘I’ll become an artist someday,’ I proudly announced to my folks, thinking that with this gift the power was purposefully bestowed upon me.
The new box opened up a whole new world for me. 24 colours. TWENTY FOUR colours!! I meticulously rearranged the box and divided it in 2 sets, exclusively putting aside the 12 new shades I’d never used before. As much as I was fascinated by the colours, I was curious to read their names. So there was a sunset orange, a blue-grey, a mint green and some others. With every name I read, I actually imagined the colour in its rightful place. How could they’ve come up with such exact descriptors, I was amazed to see. Then, as a challenge, I went about observing everyday things and coming up with my own set of shades.
For beginners, there was the Sindhi Kadhi colour – a mix between yellow and burnt orange. Then there was the very fresh Chutney green, which was unlike any other green the new box offered. Winters brought with it the Jaipuri Razai blue, while summers were spent slurping the kala-khatta colour off ice golas. A trip to nani’s house meant revisiting a Lifebuoy red and a Bajaj Chetak blue. And school was all about the chalkboard grey (or was it a dirty green?) and ofcourse, the Sisters with their faded muddy brown sarees.
With years, my love for the name-game has only grown stronger. Not to say, now I have a new colour vocabulary altogether. From the Deep Kiss Pink to the Lonely Lavender, from the Old Book Yellow to the Dried Rose Red – there are colours that have chosen to stay with me, while there are some that have just thrown a hint and left never to return.
There are so many more colours to explore, so much more to ‘tag’. And someday, I’d love to capture it all and stack it neatly in a box to be able to pick one everyday and live the colour I wish. But for now, I continue to occasionally stop by stationery shops and take a closer look at the colour boxes to read the names on the wax sticks.
I’ve realized, you need to think out of the box for things that go into it.