The Amazing Art and Life of Master Kushal Kumar

The Amazing art and life of Master Kushal Kumar

P.S.Kumar and Premakumari were a deeply worrried couple. Their son, ten year old Kushal Kumar was getting weaker every day.

Kushal, who was a bundle of energy, now lay on his bed, too weak and tired even to speak. He was vomiting on and off and there was a general puffiness along with symptoms of a cold, which never seemed to go. For months they had been in and out of hospitals trying to find out what was wrong with their boy. But today their worst fears were confirmed. Dr. Balal, the nephrologist at Manipal Hospital informed them that both of Kushal's kidneys had failed and that he needed an immediate transplant if he was to survive.

What Dr.Balal told them next, shattered what little hope there was. He said the entire operation would cost 3.5 to 4 lakhs of Rupees. Where would they go for the money?

Kumar's income from his job as an illustrator with the Indian Express group of publications just about met the monthly expense of the household, which also included Kushal's two sisters. But there was no time to think. With what little he had managed to save, Kumar admitted Kusal into Manipal Hospital.

Kushal was immediately rushed into intensive care and put on dialysis. But his condition seemed to get worse as he slipped into a coma.

While Kushal struggled for his life, Kumar was busy trying to organise a willing donor and the money for the transplant operation. Friends and relatives chipped in with whatever they could spare, but it just didn't seem to suffice. In spite of all his efforts he could raise only Rs.1, 00,000.

The amazing art and life of Master Kushal KumarAnd just when he felt like giving up, Kumar's artist circle of friends came up with the idea of conducting an art exhibition where the total proceeds from the sale would go to funding Kushal's operation. With the support of the Artists, the exhibition was launched. Renowned artists including S.G.Vasudev, Yousuf Arrakkal and K.T.Shivaprasad among others contributed their canvasses for free. But after a week, the collections from the sale were a meagre Rs.10, 000. Kumar was crestfallen. Meanwhile Kushal had emerged from his coma and was on continuous dialysis Now, the only obstacle for the operation was the money.

And just when Kumar felt it was hopeless, another miracle happened. Commissioner Revanna Siddiah on hearing of the low response, swung into action. He personally called up his friends and other industrialists in the city and requested them to contribute to the cause by purchasing the paintings. Within 2 days, most of the paintings were sold and the proceeds now amounted to Rs.2,50,000! Along with earlier Rs1,00,000 Kumar now had the amount for the operation.

The amazing art and life of Master Kushal KumarAnd to their luck, Murugan, a vegetable vendor who lived nearby consented to donate his kidney. On the 14th of May 2000, Kushal underwent the transplant operation. His father recalls " He seemed to be so calm and confident about the operation. Just as they were pushing him into the theatre on the stretcher, his mother suddenly broke down. Kushal reached out and held her hand and comfortingly told her, 'its okay mother, its just an operation', I'll be back in the ICU in a few hours, and then in a week's time I'll be home."

The operation went well and Kushal was back at home as he had promised his mother. Just when Kumar was happy and relaxed at the thought that the worst was over, another nightmare was about to unfold. The drugs and weekly tests prescribed for Kushal were expensive and running up bills of Rs.10,000 every month. And the drugs and tests had to be taken all through Kushal's life. Kumar was in dire straits again. All hopes lost.

The amazing art and life of Master Kushal KumarAnd yet again, as if a higher power was always guiding Kushal's fate, another miracle happened. This time, literally, by the hand of Kushal himself. One morning, while his father was sitting in the living room on his off day, Kushal walked up to him and showed him a rectangular piece of paper on which he made a drawing using coloured felt pens. Kumar almost fell off his chair as he ran unbelieving eyes over his son's work.

"It was brilliant", he recalls today, "His choice of colours, the forms and the overall impact. But most importantly, the texture and form of the background impressed me. Almost professional. I was stumped. He had never done any drawing before ", says Kumar, excited even today as he fondly remembers.

The Amazing art and life of Master Kushal Kumar"And then he asked me, 'What do you think dad?' I told him it was excellent and told him to go ahead and do some more," says Kumar. And then there was no stopping him. Every second day he was churning out one 'painting' after the other, while Kumar refilled his fast emptying felt pen supplies. Though an artist himself, Kumar needed to take a second opinion of his son's newly discovered talent. So he took a couple of his works and showed it to Nirmala of Nirmal's Art Gallery. Nirmala showed the work to Mr.Ashok Dingra, Director of M/S. Perfetti India, a confectionery company, who happened to be there at the time. Dingra was impressed and agreed on the spot to sponsor an entire exhibition of Kushal's works. And the entire proceeds from the sale would help in meeting Kushal's medical expenses. At the weeklong exhibition in February this year, Kushal put up 35 of the 50 works he had done by now.

Each of them was priced between Rs.2500 and 3,000. People picked up almost every one of his works. Some on the strength of Kushal's art, while others buying them knowing that it will somehow ease the financial strain. The total collection from the exhibition was Rs.80,000.

Kushal had earned his own money for his medical expenses! At least for the next 6 months.

The Amazing art and life of Master Kushal Kumar" I was overwhelmed by the response of the people", says Kumar. Total strangers supported us. One lady, whose husband had a transplant, gifted us a month's supply of the drug Cyclosporin. Another, who runs the Maruthi School, personally organised collections from the students and also bought paintings. I then realised that there are such genuine people in the world, unknown and unawarded for their good deeds. Without the help and support of these people, my friends and relatives, I dread to think what would have happened. I'm forever obliged to them", says Kumar.

Kushal's work at the exhibition didn't go unnoticed. Artists as well as the art critics were equally impressed with the style of his work. They were floored by his use of bright, primary colours. And by the way he managed to deftly combine inanimate objects like cars, planes and buildings with life forms such as Dinosaurs, pelicans, leopards and kite-flying children. All so masterly interwoven to represent a realm we can only term as "Kushal's Universe".

His 'Forest' combines the skies, the flora, and the fauna, all existing amidst an undergrowth of greens, browns and blues. Another work,"Earthquake" depicts tilted multi-storied buildings, automobiles turned turtle against a bleak sky. The images are firm and strong reflecting a confident mind.

Today, as we meet up with Kushal, we are touched by his smiling eyes that peep over the surgical mask that he has on to prevent any infection. We can still feel the energy and the positive aura that surrounds this boy who like any 12-year-old loves playing with friends, airplanes, cars, A.R.Rehman and Cartoon Network. But unlike anyboy his age, Kushal can't go to school.

His parents are thinking of hiring a personal tutor for him. But, they have started to worry again. The money from the exhibition is slowly running out. Kushal, on the other hand is as confident as ever. He plans to start painting again in June. When all his friends go back to school.