It is hard to maintain a positive outlook towards life when you’re given very little to be appreciative of. But it is perseverance and turning can’ts into cans that displays one’s true mettle.
Anjana Malik is a 38-year-old roadside artist with an unflinching spirit. What she has been through will make most of us conscious of just how easy we have had it, and how ungrateful we truly are.
While she could be seen as just one among the innumerable artists struggling the world over, Anjana, who was born with no arms and a deformity in her left leg, stands apart. As the deformity grew more severe, her left leg was reduced to half the size of the right, thus compelling her to squat in order to walk.
For over a year now, Anjana has surmounted the physical and everyday restraints that have made survival that much more challenging. She began sketching and painting with the help of her right foot, clasping a paintbrush between her toes and creating art that speaks to the soul.
Anjana was born in Nainital, but her poverty-stricken family shifted to Rishikesh to begin a new life. However, things only worsened—with no one to support her education, Anjana had to drop out of school in the fifth grade and, years later, her oldest brother committing suicide plunged the family into further distress.
Immersed in feelings of a being a burden and to keep her mind off her brother’s tragic death, Anjana held a pen between her toes and tried writing for the first time in 2014. With a disability such as hers, Anjana never believed her attempts could amount to much. However, a year ago, she transformed this weakness into her greatest strength in the most unimaginable way.
Anjana began her journey by writing ‘Ram naam’ on pieces of paper and was later recognised by Stephanie Joyce, an American tourist visiting Rishikesh. Encouragement was all it took from thereon. Stephanie persuaded Anjana to start drawing instead of just writing simple words. She also purchased drawing materials to help Anjana grow as an artist.
With her unswerving fortitude, Anjana was soon able to make beautiful paintings. Basic at first glance, the intricate detailing on closer inspection amazes every passerby. But her troubles haven’t ended in the slightest. Every day, Anjana travels six kilometres to occupy an insignificant corner on the Lakshman Jhula across the Ganges, selling art that forms a significant part of her life.
She has to walk long distances on congested roads, cross a bridge, and board a ferry to secure her place. She sits there as many tourists come to enjoy the Lakshman Jhula, and this way she is able to showcase her drawings. Changing seasons are her biggest foes. Scorching summers make the commute difficult, and Anjana is drained of all energy when she reaches her destination. Similarly, heavy downpours during monsoons destroy her paintings on display. Despite it all, the only direction in sight is to move forward, she says.
Motivated to achieve a better life
Today, Anjana paints to support her family. However, the main reason behind her painting is her overwhelming passion and her talent that she truly appreciates. She says that although she gets tired while drawing, it has given her a sense of dignity and a reason to pursue it.
Anjana’s art is the only source of income that helps run her family of five. She has a paralysed brother whose wife has to stay home to take care of him and their schoolgoing children. Her meagre and unsteady income is spent on food, clothing, medicines, school fees, and room rent.
According to Anjana, her artwork sells for anywhere between Rs 2,500 and Rs 25,000 but with a consistent decline in the tourist population her paintings remain unsold for days, sometimes weeks, making it difficult to meet monthly expenses. In order to help support her dreams, Anjana is striving to raise funds through crowdfunding. She aspires of taking her passion forward, providing for her brother, his family, a decent dwelling place, as well as money to support her painting equipment and a wheelchair to ease travel.
Determination like hers is hard to find; she puts all her heart into her paintings with hopes of inspiring and encouraging. In spite of the hard life she has lived and continues to live, her demeanour remains happy and positive at all times.