The air was still. The floor polishers, hammers, saws and drills that groaned throughout the day rested silently like tired young children who have played longer than what they could endure. The wooden support structure that served the purpose of enabling movement up and down the partially constructed building creaked as he bent forward. About three storeys high, he inclined at an impossible angle. Achieving it by resting his hands alternatively on the wall each time he scraped out the extra cement on the wall. His eye squinted in the flickering light to observe the protruding portions of the wall. His hand followed his vision and he gave a confirmative nod as his fingers felt the asymmetry of the surface. With a tiny metal piece that was strapped with sand paper on either side he started his chore. He blew away the chipped off excess cement in a practiced manner after every screeching stoke he made on the wall. His black hair was grey with dust.
Here was a man, a perfectionist, an artist of his own kind- a Dewaar Kariger. Slight buzz of desi daaru, gentle breeze that made his skin feel soft like that of a child, the day mellowed down by the night and only a dash of yellow street lamp to add to the moonlight- that was when he worked his magic. He would be summoned only for the luxurious buildings that demanded stark perfection. With the credit of smoothing the walls of great museums to MLA houses to perfection he was the man who needed no introduction. He was often referred as Deewana Dewaar Karigar, Museum Wala. With the exception of long lost family and childhood friends nobody knew his real name. He too preferred to be called- Deewana. His name Amit flooded him with memories of his mother calling out to him on the crowded street. He preferred not to be reminded of the past. Deewana was what he had become. And, the identity of Deewana Dewaar Karigar was his source of livelihood.
It was only in the moments of solitude like this, when his hand monotonously preformed the act while his mind eased under the influence of little alcohol that he strayed into the streets of the past. Of a beautiful childhood, a social discord, a journey of discovering an art and, the evolving of an orphaned Amit into Deewana.
“Arreh, spread it nicely. It should be smooth!” Kattu Kaka and his clicking of the tongue, “ Tch tch tch… Smooth Smooth..” he used to lift Amit’s hand and rub it against the wall. “Feel the flatness of the surface! Smooth… Smooth. Get it?” He never liked Kattu Kaka as a kid but now he smiled whenever he thought about him. He had met him on one of the construction sites. He was struggling to pick up the bricks with his barely ten year old tender hands when Kattu Kaka had called out to him, “Oye Bacche! Come here.. leave those bricks and help me with this.” He had instructed him squat on the floor next to cement mix poured into a pail and handed him a flat piece of metal with a handle. It was that 2 feet patch from the floor that Kattu Kaka found difficult to work on. Amit’s small frame could mange it with ease. Kaka squatted next to him and showed him the basic movements to flatten the surface of a newly built wall. It was on one such occasion that Amit had discovered the beauty of the chore.
The repeated reprimands and an occasional slap at the back of his head made Kattu Kaka a monster in his premature mind. When he was about twelve he fled to Kolkatta with a group of construction men he had befriended. Over the years he met many Dewaar Karigars in different places with different styles and approaches to the task but the artistry behind that job was Kattu Kaka’s gift to him. However he appreciated the man he never thought of going back to him. He was by himself now.
On the majestic smooth wall of a glorious building that gleamed under the golden rays of the sun nobody noticed the faint print of a kiss - an artist’s token of admiration of his own art. When the morning dew settled on the wooden structure and traces of day appeared on the still dark sky, Deewan Dewaar Karigar slipped his tools into the back of his trouser and silently disappeared with a couple of hundred that would nourish him with the required food and make him dizzy with some alcohol. His price wasn’t the money it was that momentary escape into the life that was numbed by reality and that pride of having delivered a perfect art.