January 15, 2021

Bakula Nayak on her love for small joys in life

She is one of the most noted artists one would find in the country. She is known for her craft, her ability to bring life on vintage paper among other mediums. She is a mum, an individual with multiple interests including her passion for reviving old fabrics, traditional Indian clothing like sarees and even trying to have generate interest among people in handlooms.

Meet Bakula Nayak , an artist who has a distinct style in painting, someone who has managed to have everyone get fascinated with every new identity that she chooses to embrace. In a heartwarming style she talks in detail of every aspect of her life including motherhood, challenges of being an artist and how she has evolved with the journey. Read on to find one of the most interesting stories of a mum on Mums and Stories.

“I grew up in Bangalore on a quiet little street near Navrang Circle. I loved it – quiet narrow street lined with trees – my favorite was the parijata tree at the gate of my house and the mango tree in our backyard from which we could pluck mangoes from the terrace. I loved watching the various colored flowers bloom in full glory changing what the street looked like. I was the apple of my father’s eye and had a mother who went to great lengths to nurture my creative side.

I had an annoying little brother too. We played lagori and marbles on the street. It was a lovely mixed neighborhood – we had a christian aunty from whom we learnt to bake, an anglo indian lady who taught us various crafts, a “miss” – who was muslim and her daugher mini my best friend – I loved celebrating Eid and wearing Shararas. I have had many memories like the police constable uncle whose house where I went every day to eat ‘mudde’ and ‘bas saaru’ ”.

On becoming an artist, she shares, “ At some point my mom must have recognized it. I went to the local drawing classes by Jawahar Bal Bhavan at the “Aane Park” (Elephant park – so called because of its famous elephant slide. The head teacher there Manjula Premkumar also recognized my enthusiasm and took me totally under her wing with special attention.

(Image courtesy-Bakula Nayak)

My mom made sure I had the best of paints and brushes even though they were crazy expensive then. I went to every art competition in town – State Bank of Mysore had an annual one that had huge trophies, the forest department would have one annual too – they would bring wild animals to their office complex that was huge and we all had to draw it – I would wait with anticipation to see what animal it was every year. Iskcon would have one where we had to paint any story about Krishna, the Rotary Clubs had several -it was exciting times for children.

I also did weekend classes at Chitrakala Parishat (which at the time had a large green park with rocks and huge trees, where we sat to paint) and Ken School of art under Mr.RM Hadpad.. I loved it!.”

Talking about being a mom including a teenager Bakula shares, “It is a juggle and a struggle…especially since I have some health issues as well. But my backbone is my husband. He is just there for me in every single way especially with my artistic pursuits. There are days when I will be so deep into reading some poetry and lost in the 13th century that I don’t want to deal with the mundane chores of life – like cooking, getting the children ready, etc  and on those days he completely takes over from getting the kids ready to go to school to doing their homework and instructing the cook!

He is a planner and schedule keeper – I am a dreamer. This artistic journey is new for me – about 4 years. I quit my full time job to do this work. I feel guilty sometimes of slacking. But I am learning now to adopt my husband’s planning ways. It helps.

My parents have both passed away but my in-laws who also live in Bangalore are always ready to help if I need.

My teenager is god sent – she steps in beautifully to take on my role when she sees me stressing or realizes I need help. Also, all 3 of my kids are very enthusiastic of my work – my biggest fans and the biggest critics! My 12 year old once said ” amma – I know you need time to do your work… your work is not easy-You really think outside the box- You are like Dali, amma” I didn’t know what made me so proud – that he thought I had so much talent or the fact that he knew of Dali and his work.

What helps the most though is my ability to not kill myself over deadlines or wanting something done EXACTLY this way or that. I am very flexible – too flexible actually. But being easy going about the house and the pace of my work helps tremendously.

It is amazing that so many people just connect with my thoughts of love and my birds and see themselves in my stories.  I paint spread love and joy and I see that happening – it excites me so much.”

Talking specifically of her health condition Bakula shares, “My whole attitude changed after my illness. I have fibromyalgia and hashimoto which causes muscle pain through my body 24/7 and chronic fatigue. I cut out all the extras – it’s amazing how much we take on unnecessarily.

I distanced myself from people and situations that caused me stress. Now my ability to feel has increased exponentially – to enjoy the little things to the point of deliriousness – the sound of my anklets, a parrot in the tree, a firangipani in my hair.

I have an amazing urban family – friends who are there for me unconditionally – it really helps me cope. I find other moms from my kids schools so supportive too – extremely so – whether we car pool or they take on the onus of my younger kids because I have a show. The love that this universe shows is really tremendous.

But despite everything I have fatigue that lasts weeks sometimes. I don’t fight it now.  I listen to my body and if it means sleeping through the day and doing nothing then that is what it is. I have learnt to lower my expectations from myself. I try and make up for lost time on the days I do have energy – the blessings of being an artist – there is no rigidity to my day. I have learnt to eat better, make the most of the limited energy I have and surely my art helps me alleviate a lot of my pain. I tend to forget when I draw that it hurts.

But everything is not obviously hunky dory – there are days when the kids go without doing their homework, the house is messy or we eat an egg sandwich for dinner because I can’t move. It makes me feel guilty – but I try not to dwell on it too much.

Talking on multiple interests in life she shares, “I don’t know ..maybe I spread myself too thin but I have to answer my calling  – I just do it…I follow it – whether to write poetry or save a weave. Sometimes I wish I would focus on one thing but I think it’s not in my nature. There is too much to see and do in this world around us. I recently bought a ‘yerwada charakha’ and learnt to spin thread. Just that one little thing has made me appreciate textiles so much more – how much effort goes into making one shirt. Some days I write poetry (amateur) ..or I do embroidery (a skill I am learning), spin my charakha or paint. We are capable of doing multiple things but do we want to?  Is it worth the time you take away from your responsibilities? Are you willing to be labeled or judged? These are the things to consider.

But I have friends who are family – people who make me stop and reconsider the million things I want to do. I always over commit and try to do more than I am capable of – which means I leave my friends and family frustrated sometimes.

But as an artist it is very fulfilling to follow your dreams and ideas – how many ever you have 🙂

(Image courtesy-Bakula Nayak)

I painted as long as my mother was my anchor – I lost her to cancer and i stopped painting when I was about 16. But the joy and skills I developed in my childhood have now come back to me when I am 40! I had not painted in nearly 25 years when I started again.

Being a mum is a different ball game altogether. I really wish there was a one size fits all rule! The teenager complains I don’t give her enough freedom to keep it equal, the younger ones think she has too much freedom!  It is not just the age but also their personalities – they are all so different.

It takes different approaches. My teenage girl – all of 18 is independent now – very responsible and level headed but she does drop a bomb on me every 6 months or so by doing something totally irrational. Or sometimes I have to reel her back from the freedom I have given her because she is being irresponsible. Grounding at home and taking away her phone are my powers!

My middle one is 12 and very needy with love and I love it! He needs constant attention and disciplining. But at the same time he is very clued in and sensitive to my pain and suffering. He is very responsible with his homework and commitments to his sports. But he is very reluctant to any change or the idea of doing something that he doesn’t feel like at the moment. Love and logic work best with him – punishments mean nothing.. they don’t register.

The little one is 7 going on 12 – he adores his brother, absorbs everything I tell the older two and does his own thing – he doesn’t want to listen at all. But he really is a good kid so I don’t have much to do. The other day I was explaining internet safety to him and he says “I am not a teenager, I know you should not talk to strangers online” He rarely gets into trouble or maybe I let him get away with it because I think he’s a little baby – which the other two remind me he is not.”

Bakula has a few pointers for parents who want to encourage their kids in arts. “For kids interested in art, I think it’s best to allow them to explore various mediums – watercolors charcoal, sketch pens,.. To let them play with their things – to make an art corner/table which is easily accessible with plenty of brushes, paints and paper. I stay away from art classes that “train” – children need freedom – they do best with no supervision- technique is something you can learn later in life.

For adults or mums, Bakula shares, “ Make the time for your passions. No matter how little – even if it is half hour a day. Or if it is 2 days in a month. Go to a concert, hear your favorite singer if you love singing.. travel – see a museum if you love art…start slow but keep consistent… Try volunteering to develop your skills or teach – I did both. Go out and meet people – you will find your way soon enough – when you really want something the universe conspires but you must really want it!”

Mums and Stories thanks Bakula for sharing her story that can inspire many others.

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