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Rediff.com  » News » Remembering Lalita Lajmi

Remembering Lalita Lajmi

By GITANJALI GURBAXANI
February 14, 2023 09:24 IST
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Gitanjali Gurbaxani remembers her teacher Lalita Lajmi, the artist and painter who passed into the ages on Monday.

IMAGE: Lalita Lajmi, left, with Gitanjali Gurbaxani.
 

A veteran in the Indian art scene, Lalita Lajmi passed away on Monday morning, leaving behind a legacy that is little known about.

She was born in Kolkata, where she grew up with her older sibling Guru Dutt, who was an accomplished and well-known actor and film maker.

Despite her mother tongue being Konkani, she was well versed in Bengali, Hindi and English.

She was a self-taught artist and started painting when her uncle B B Benegal, a commercial artist from Kolkata, brought her a box of paints.

She entered the art world when few women were professionally involved in it.

In the later years, she began teaching art as a subject at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Fort in Mumbai, as selling art work in the initial years was difficult.

I had the good fortune to learn art from her at this prestigious school.

Elegantly attired in a pastel hued cotton saree with floral motifs, we saw qualities in her during the thirty minute classroom session as she gave us hope, new directions and new ideas.

In due course of time, she inspired our dreams, and shaped our lives as she took the time to care.

She inspired us with her dress sense as draping a saree just below the navel always added grace and style to her personality.

She always wore sarees that were weaved or printed in a variety of colours with beautiful designs to make them look striking and yet divert the attention from her height, given that she was tall and fairly slim.

Throughout her career from that of an art teacher to an artist of repute, she regularly re-envisioned her role as an artist.

Her work hangs in major museum and private collections globally.

The soft spoken artist created a name for herself in the domestic as well as international art scene.

Her works in oil and water colours are a part of significant museum, private and corporate collections across the globe.

Her early paintings have always shown tall and slim Indian women draped in sarees, with a youthful sense of fashion and a timeless sense of style, one that was a replica of her.

I remember her telling me about her late brother, the kind of films he had made, that have influenced her work and how nurturing her passion for art and cinema was a constant struggle.

She made subtle confessions in her art work that of her relationship with her daughter Kalpana, as some of her paintings tells a story of an older woman and a younger woman wearing sarees that bring out the women's brightest and colourful nature out to the world and this holds true especially to the two women who are adorning them.

It brings out the culture and tradition -- all in one go.

Her contribution, both inside and outside the classroom were beyond measure.

When I met her some months ago at an art exhibition, she said, 'Within each of us lives a story. Life is made of amazing moments, created by people to make a difference. Some who transform lives through heroic deeds or simple acts of kindness. Each one of us has the power to inspire, to teach, to care.'

A gentle, generous matriarch, she was a touchstone, not only for her family, but for anyone who needed a place to feel like home.

Rest in peace, Miss Lajmi. I will miss the outgoing, courteous teacher who inspired and brought out the creativity in me.

Gitanjali Gurbaxani is a well-known food consultant, columnist and author based in Mumbai.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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GITANJALI GURBAXANI