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Cancer survivor paints for patients

Posted on Nov 15, 10:32AM | IANS

Live every day as if there's no tomorrow, says cancer survivor Hiranmay Sarkar, an IIT engineer who paints for cancer patients.

"Make every day count. There might not be a tomorrow," says Sarkar who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005.

Sarkar, now 45, went through a year-and-a-half of treatment in Los Angeles, which provided him with the golden opportunity to hone his skills as a painter.

"During my treatment in Los Angeles, I had plenty of time and, most importantly, I had to fight against my own will. I started taking lessons in watercolour from an accomplished artist there," said Sarkar who also dabbled in animation during his cancer therapy.

A mechanical engineering graduate from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, Sarkar earned his masters degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur. He had been painting and sketching since his youth.

"I used to do sketches and watercolours. I started painting with acrylic colours five years ago," said Sarkar, whose frequent official tours abroad brought him in touch with works of masters at caves of Lascaux, Louvre museum, Musee d'Orsay and Picasso.

However, during his treatment Sarkar wielded the paint brush as a way to destress and soon realised that he could translate his passion for a cause.

"It provided me a way out, a relief in a stressful situation and I thought I could use this for raising money for cancer patients," Sarkar told IANS in an interview.

Counting Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso as influences, some of his works display hints of surrealism, with animals like horses and goats dominating the canvas while heavenly bodies have a prominent spot.

"The heavenly bodies signify the places I dream about but can't reach. And since I grew up in a village surrounded by animals, my paintings have animals in them, "said Sarkar.

As an engineer working full-time in an IT firm, Sarkar is hard-pressed for time.

"I usually paint during weekends and on holidays. Sometimes I paint landscapes with animals, while sometimes I paint people," said Sarkar at the inauguration of his first solo exhibition titled 'Dilemma between Evolution and Existence' at the Chemould Art Gallery here.

Aiming to hold such solo exhibitions at least twice a year, Sarkar recommends that anyone in duress and stress should pursue some kind of hobby that serves as an outlet.

"Whenever one is in stress, in any uncomfortable position, in order to get out of it, one should take up something beyond what that person is doing currently," advised Sarkar.

Hoping his paintings can strike a chord with the masses to lend a helping hand to cancer patients, he adds, "For me it was therapeutic. You have to find your own way to come out of that situation".

He is grateful to his family and friends for support, including his neighbours in Los Angeles.

"More than the cancer patient, it is their family that's more affected. If the patient is indisposed, it becomes the responsibility of the family to earn money," said Sarkar.

Considering every day as his last day, the part-time artist says, "This thought still drives me. If I can finish a painting today then why wait for tomorrow."

Living in the moment, counting his blessings and taking each day as it comes, the engineer, for whom cancer was a learning curve, appreciates the value of life.

"There is no end, there is always a beginning," he says.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at sahana15ghosh@gmail.com)