Saheli Khastagir is young and dreamy, with a smile that can light up the darkest hour. This Delhite is a visual artist, a poet and a humanitarian. Her bold, psychedelic work is creating ripples across the globe, in USA, Chile, France, and India of course, among other countries.
Art was her savior
The surprising fact is that this young art livewire is not trained in fine arts. Saheli started dabbling in Art as a child, but her ‘phases’, as she terms her early encounters with art, never manifested into a product that she was satisfied with. She flirted with colors on and off, until one day, they subsumed her existence.
Saheli was an undergraduate, final-year, psychology student when Art found her. “It was a difficult time for me. I was unsettled and unable to fathom the reason behind my restless disposition.”
Art came to her rescue.
“During that time, Art became an addiction that aided calm. Self-preservation was the unadulterated motive, Art was only a functional tool to that effect”, said Saheli, reminiscing her early relationship with her gift. Over the years, Saheli has witnessed herself take a backseat as her Art slowly took center stage in her life.
The Road Less Traveled
What enabled Saheli to break the hashed life routine of education, job, and marriage to embrace the spontaneity and uncertainty of Art?
“My parents had always encouraged me to think for myself. They probably wish they had toned down on it a bit, seeing me now,” quipped Saheli, referring to her fiercely independent persona.
Saheli forced financial independence on herself early in life – a decision that gave her strength to follow her passions without being shackled down by the expectations of the society. “It’s easier to navigate your own path in life if you’re paying your own bills.”
But, Saheli doubts if she has escaped the well-trodden path completely.
“I am 26. I have plenty of time to fall on the familiar route again.”
In her journey towards Art, Saheli has received positive and negative sentiments in equal measures. But, she requests that fellow mavericks cut the society some slack. She understands the concern, albeit ignorant, demonstrated by people who do not understand her profession or her passion. And, there are enough ‘aye-sayers’ to keep her going.
“For every judgmental comment I have received, I have also received a fair amount of support. We tend to magnify the negative comments we receive and forget the positive ones.”
Self-taught artists do not have it easy in the traditional art-spheres, especially in a country like India, where connections are deemed a pre-requisite to be successful. But, according to Saheli, the online world has changed the game significantly.
“[Artists today] are catering to a new audience with shorter attention span and a smartphone in their hands. The media and technique are constantly evolving. It is all very exciting.”