Cooli 425, 1994

airbrush on paper, sold

There are many men wearing red shirts at theNew Delhitrain station who work ascoolies (porters). They carry luggage for the newly arrived railway passengers. This painting is of one of these coolies. What was surprising about him was that he belonged to the Sikh community. Thisis very unusual.

This coolie was totally devoted to his work and had no time to look left or right.He knew where he was going andwas not bothered about anything else.

I really enjoyed making this portrait because it was very challenging to catch the real feeling of the moment and my emotion when I saw his number 425 before me. That also touched my heart for some reason. I laterlearned that numbers also have a meaning in Indian spirituality and this number is related to the achievement of slow positive change. In this painting I have used many layers of colours. For instanceI used a thin layer of red on the shirt first.  Then I addedmore redin certain areas than others. On top of these layers I used grey layers to express  the flow ofthe coolie’s garment. Likewise,for the turban I used different layers of white, cream, andbrown. For the coolie’s face,I used a real paintbrush instead of airbrushto paint his eyes and skin so as to give life to this portrait.