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Darjeeling COVID Heroes: Mahendra Thami

Karma gara phal ko asha narakha: Nepali quote

Photo by Vishal Tamang

Mahendra Thami is a renowned artist based in Darjeeling, who can quickly observe the moods of a situation and express it in various forms. With a firm belief in standing up for one’s community in one’s own capacity, he used street art as a medium to spread awareness about the coronavirus pandemic in Darjeeling town. Keeping in mind the difficulty that kids faced during the lockdown period, he was also involved in a community art competition for kids from their homes.

Here is his story:

Painting is a mode of expression that has incredible possibilities. An idea is easily explained through art because visualization reaches our minds and creates impact.

Through this street art, we wanted people to visualize and understand the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic. To create awareness on social distancing, we had also drawn a tortoise and the message was, “If a small tortoise is knowledgeable enough to hide in his shell for protection, why can’t we?” To a certain extent, I am hopeful that the paintings help spread awareness among people.

These were also trying times for the kids. So we got them to participate in a community art competition from their homes and encourage them with prizes.

As an artist, I tend to be vulnerable to criticism. However, I do not have regrets. I can quickly observe the moods of a situation and express it in various forms. I believe in standing up for my community in my own capacity.

It is quite foretelling that the virus hasn’t spared anyone, rich or poor. People have circumstances that they need to deal with, they need to look out for themselves. Fear mongering is creating a mood of hesitation and a stigma in our communities. I think we need to practically reach out for each other to ensure safety of the community.

My father was a painter and sculptor but because of his own obligations, we never really engaged through art. Somehow, I learnt to paint even before learning the alphabets. Back in the day, we did not have art colleges or mentors so I learnt art through imitation too. Imitation is an integral part of art. But when I saw the works of MF Hussain, I understood that artists develop their own identities. In Darjeeling, artists like Birendra Subba, Bhattu Pradhan and Prakash Kovid were geniuses that we fell short to recognize. We shouldn’t make such mistakes as a society.

I have this theory: Man’s curiosity has somehow taken a toll on Nature. As an artist, I do believe in imagination. However, would it be wrong to deny that rampant technological growth has accelerated exploitation? So maybe nature is rebooting to restore balance and amidst this we have our own lessons to learn. Presently I am trying to research this theory and other aspects of the corona virus pandemic for a book that I plan to write.

My grandfather was a shaman and even now I remember in vague memory his practices. I think our ancestors were synced with nature. We have somehow strayed from that spiritual intuition to nurture our environment. Maybe we need to rethink and change. Mindfulness, kindness, and unity are the way ahead for humanity.

Photo by Vishal Tamang

Darjinc and Mayukh Tea thank Mahendra Thami for bringing his creativity to raise awareness during this pandemic

DARJINC and MAYUKH TEA present Darjeeling COVID Heroes, a series to celebrate the unsung, often unnoticed heroes, who have truly served our community during this pandemic. Keep visiting this space for other such motivational and humane stories from the lockdown.
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