Walking into the living room area, I first noticed the walls behind the couch adorned with a Picasso Lithograph, along with a Lucien Freud etching and one etching by Paramjit Singh himself…..
He greets us with a warm and cheerful “Sat Sri Akal Ji” and eagerly enquiries, “Could I ask you a technical query? How do you consume Shilajit, which you had lent during your last visit?” My father explains in detail, to which he furthers, “I had researched a little bit about it and there are a lot of unwarranted sexual associations and stuff, which is actually baseless! (pauses) It has iron and is very useful to heal Alzheimer state.” My father smilingly agreed. This happened this year when I attended India Art Fair, and I joined my father, Vivek Abrol, for a soiree with Paramjit Singh and his wife, Arpita Singh, the noted contemporary painters. My Father has been in close-knit relation with Paramjitji, for many years. Not only our cultural roots reconcile this amiable bond but also a common interest in artistic pursuits— the former paints and the latter collects. While we joined them in an engrossing journey of interesting anecdotes shared by them, my thoughts wavered from ideating a book about him to the Punjabi syllables that donged my conscience. Visiting their studio was an experience where the canvases transported us to mystic landscapes providing an escape from the chaos and noise of urban life to the peace and tranquillity of nature.
The couple showered their affection in the form of the traditional Indian beverage, ‘Chai’. “Tere liye chai?” asks Paramjit to Arpita to which she refuses and offers both of us informing, “Main apni chai main gud leta hoon, aapko chalegi na?” We both amusingly agreed to this special treat. My father runs our ancestral business of Ayurvedic medicines, which were appreciated by the couple as it helped them to heal their ailments. My great grandfather had great knowledge about ayurvedic plants, herbs and mineral rocks. He expanded his repertory in the same and since then it has become one of our proliferating family ventures. The couple appreciated the efforts of my father to give them saffron, shilajit and Triphala, which my granny is expert in making it a 100 per cent pure.
While we sipped ‘gud wali chai’, Paramjit Ji hands me a few biographies and exhibition catalogues of himself and Arpita Ji, and a CD of ‘The Seventh Walk’ by Amit Dutta. Describing the documentary on his painting and another art documentary, Nainsukh by the same filmmaker, he asserts, “yeah amit dutta karke bada young, intelligent director hai, unne film banai eh Nainsukh….o film mein vekhi mennu badi acchi lagi, toh I requested him and usne fir yeh banayi based on my paintings….” Furthering his praise for the young filmmaker he shares, “Hindustan cho enni ni dikhai gai par baharo bhaut dikahi gai si” I was overwhelmed to receive this bounty of knowledge from an octogenarian who not only was warm but also made sure to keep us fresh by his banter throughout the evening.
I humbly show my gratitude, to which Arpita Ji responds, “Arey app hamare liye itna sab laye…..meri toh sari wo cold sab chali gayi shilajit se...lao mein book sign kar deti hoon” as she takes a pen and signs the books that Paramjit Ji had given me of her; “chalo mein bhi sign kar deta hoon”, Paramjit Ji also proceeds to sign the books and CD he gave me of earlier
We had a hearty laugh when Paramjitji shared some personal stories about a German art consultant, with whom he shared an intriguing bond. Being amused by the occasional jokes that the couples cracked on one another we then go up the stairs, monochrome works of Paramjit and into the world of an artistic abundance of their studio where there were a plethora of creations by the duo. They reminisce about their relationship and bonds with galleries and other artists; their association with different galleries and the instances when friends from the world of art joined to support them during tough emotional turmoil. Paramjit showed us Arpita’s work which was bought by a famous curator couple in 1984, INR 7500, and was resold to an influential Delhi based collector for 1Cr in 2019.
Their studio was as warm and inviting as their heart. Each painting provided a different perspective and a different view of the world. There were many charcoal sketchings that Paramjit had done during his travel to Pushkar that were compiled into a book, on flipping through it; it felt like a long panoramic capture of nature.
Many of his oil works were on display, starting from the colourful sky to the bountiful trees, the thick bushes providing a tactile presence to the vivid etchings. Be it the lines on the grass or the dapples on water bodies and sky in his paintings all the forms gave a real presence. The subtle watercolour of Arpita Singh and the colourful encompassing view of the rustic world created by Paramjit Singh is a memory to dwell upon.