Art Connects, Art Heals…
A conversation with Mrs. Sharmi Guha—an art teacher with extraordinary sensitivity to the trajectory of life, its wonder and mystery—has enriched our understanding of art and pedagogy. We realize how art is not about just drawing and painting, how it connects, heals and makes us see what we are
Life is indeed a unique mystery; the more we think that we can solve it the more intense become its secrets. Since the beginning of time philosophers, painters, thinkers, poets, saints and even ordinary mortals have tried to ask penetrating questions and find answers to the puzzles of existence. It is in this strange yet deeply fulfilling task of unfolding the multiple layers of creation that the greatest inspirations have been born. We understand that no matter how advanced and mighty mankind becomes it can never compete with the forces of nature, with the law of the cosmos; man is destined to remain only a fragment of the whole, a particle in the gigantic order. And it is this blissful feeling of
[Mrs. Sharmi Guha]
humility and a deep sense of wonder that has given birth to so many inspirational moments in man’s life that it has made him/her dive deep in the ocean within and discover the pearls of creativity. It has rightly been said that creative minds are not born on another planet; they are discovered here and now. Life brings with it deep moments of contemplation, it brings the ecstasy of celebration, and it also poses us with challenges and obstacles. There are some individuals who take these moments as a cherished opportunity to discover themselves and through the voice of their creativity articulate their ideas in the world. Sharmi Guha is one such individual who heard the calling within and chose to dedicate her life to her passion for art. In a world that values security more than satisfaction and finances more than freedom , at a young age she chose to rebel and study art professionally; it was this decision that brought her to Delhi from Kolkata. She tells us that it wasn’t that easy to convince elders at home as taking up a career in the field of arts was thought to be insecure or financially unviable. She recalls how gradually she was able to convince her family that this was indeed what she wanted to give her life to, and without it she would not feel herself complete. After her education, she took up jobs in Delhi as an art teacher for various schools. It is this experience in her life that made her understand that art was indeed such an important part of a child’s cognitive development. It is through art that a child can articulate even those thoughts and ideas which he finds difficult to express verbally. She says that each child is creative in her own way, and art allows each child to find herself; a child can write beautiful poetry, some child may paint beautifully while another may find her medium through dramatics and dance. Today, Mrs. Sharmi works in The Shri Ram School, Gurgaon as an art teacher, and with her several years of experience her faith has only become stronger in the potential of art as a medium of expression. She tells us that today children in schools face so many problems that the adults of the pre-liberalization age cannot even imagine; violence among children has increased as they have become more restless and impatient; she adds that due to the lack of parental touch children today have a lot of hidden anger inside them which they are not able to share with anybody. Moreover, the enormous pressure of studies and performance has over burdened the child. Amidst this situation it is extremely important to help the child come to peace with himself and his surroundings. She shares with us her brilliant pedagogic experiments, and as she talks about them we discover that art can really be a therapy to heal many difficulties; it can help the child bring out both her inner pain and her happiness. She shares with us an experience. She was informed about a very stubborn and aggressive child by her colleague in the school who would create problems and disturb other children too in the classroom. She arranged a blank canvas and a wide range of colors for the child, and asked him to paint whatever he liked and for as long as he liked. She left him on his own and when she returned after sometime she discovered that the child had painted the entire canvas in pitch black! She chose to do the same exercise with the child for several days and surprisingly despite the availability of various other colors , the child would only pick up ‘black’ and use it to fill up the entire canvas. As somebody trained in Pranic healing, she tells us that ‘black’ signified a lot of negative energy within the child which had so far not found a suitable outlet. Now that the child filled ‘black’ to his satisfaction, he was totally exhausted and said that he wanted another canvas on which he could use some vibrant colors! She recalls that what she did was that she gave him a blank canvas and a bottle of blue paint and asked him to draw circles from the outside towards the inside of the paper, and this made the child’s mind calmer and more focused; as he ended the activity by drawing a point at the centre his mind would drop all its restlessness. This continued for many days and it indeed helped the child a lot. Mrs. Sharmi has passed through a tough time personally but it was art that gave her an anchor in the oceans of emotional turmoil. It was at that juncture that she got herself trained into Pranic Healing, which has helped her connect to both herself and those around her in more meaningful ways. It has enabled her to cultivate herself as a healer, and find new meaning in her life. She says: ‘It’s a wrong belief that art means only drawing and painting, and only those who know it can become good artists. I see art as a medium of expression, like any other language which helps us to connect with the world within. I keep telling my students that all you need to bring with yourself is the sincere urge to learn something new. I am here to help you with the rest.”
We feel extremely inspired by her orientation to her work; she is extremely positive and full of love. This reaffirms our faith in the possibility of an alternative vision of education, it reminds us that art lies inside all of us and we can transform our lives through it. Pedagogic innovations are possible within our school structures; it’s not any utopian dream. Mrs. Sharmi lives that dream, and inspires all of us to do so.