Lockdown helps young Bengal girl earn national, international recognition as a micro artist
The 21-year old Subhra has created incredible and unique portraits Photos by Subhra Mandal

Lockdown helps young Bengal girl earn national, international recognition as a micro artist

A third-year English honours student at PD Women’s College, Jalpaiguri in Kolkata, Subhra was always passionate about drawing and creating something unique through creativity

Art is a kind of intellectual ability to acquire gratification. It’s enjoying an activity which results in remarkable originality of ideas, insights and solutions. When you think of art, Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali are some the names that strike your mind but what about the common individuals who attempt to bring their creative talents to work by utilising everyday household items or objects that we never even thought of.

Stanford University Professor Tina Seelig believes that environment plays a major role in promoting creative behaviour. She says that there are numerous questions on whether children need lessons on creativity and learn it, but Seelig considers creative talents cannot be altered, they are fixed.

In India, several rural areas are still underdeveloped. They lack the adequate facilities available in the urban areas, but still, some people are engaged in different creative pursuits and have talents so that they can achieve something in their lives. You have probably heard of or witnessed different kinds of cherished artworks, paintings and sketches of Rabindranath Tagore created by various artists, sketchers or painters but are you aware of the smallest portrait of Tagore inscribed on a gram pulse? Subhra Mandal, 21, from a small village in Jalpaiguri’s Sadar block in Ghugudanga made it possible. She made use of her unique talent and had carved the portrait of Rabindranath Tagore which measured 0.7mm on a gram pulse within a minute by using a simple ball pen.

The smallest portrait of Rabindranath Tagore on a fram pulse
The smallest portrait of Rabindranath Tagore on a fram pulsePhoto by Subhra Mandal

The 21-year old has created the portrait of the Noble Prize laureate with naked eyes, not using a microscope for the same. This set a New Record in the India Book of Records where she has been appreciated for being a talented micro-artist from West Bengal. But she never thought that her talent would be listed under the International Book of Records and earn her recognition and accolades. Locals around the area expressed their happiness and praised her as soon as they came to know about Subhra’s national as well as international win for her art.

A third-year English honours student at P.D Women’s College, Jalpaiguri, Subhra was always passionate about drawing and creating something unique through creativity, but due to tight class schedules and study pressure, she was unable to concentrate on her creative side.

Subhra’s father, Bhajan Mandal, owns a stationery shop in Jalpaiguri’s Ghugudanga market while her mother Shikha Mandal is a housewife. She also has a younger sister named Payel Mandal, who is in the twelfth standard. But Subhra’s middle-class background and her upbringing in a rural area in West Bengal could not stop her unique talent from reaching heights.

During this coronavirus induced lockdown, Subhra decided to unleash her creative side and got an ample amount of time to concentrate on her art. From April, she started developing ideas and used leaves to draw and carve images of distinguished personalities like Lionel Messi, Ranveer Singh, Sonu Sood, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni and others. She also began using different kinds of regular household ingredients like pulses, and moringa leaves to inscribe maps, sceneries, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jagannath, Subhadra, Balaram along with fifty other excellent creations.

“I always had a passion for art and creative works since childhood, and when my college was shut down during this lockdown, I decided to start using my time productively to create something unique and do what I love the most. But the problem was travelling, I stay in a small village called Ghugudanga which is in the interiors, and the main city of Jalpaiguri was quite far from our place. I wanted to use certain tools and materials for drawing, but it was unavailable in our village, and we couldn’t travel to the city during the lockdown. But then I heard about leaf-cutting; in foreign countries, many people do paper and leaf-cutting and create amazing art through it. So I started trying my hands at leaf-cutting and slowly started using pulses to draw images as well. I wanted to nurture this art of micro artistry which many people are not aware of,” Subhra said. The young Jalpaiguri girl also stated to have learnt the art on her own during the lockdown period without any specialised training or help.

But little did she imagine that her hard work would earn her both national and international recognition along with acknowledgement. “I mailed India Book of Records in April and submitted the one minute video of drawing the image of Rabindranath Tagore on a gram pulse. In June, they informed me that my name had been recorded in the National Book of Records. Soon after that, I gained some confidence and decided to apply for the International Book of Records. I came in touch with the staff of the International Book of Records on July 12 and mailed them the same video as suggested. On July 15, I received a confirmation mail for getting listed on the International Book of Records. It was totally unexpected; it came as a surprise to me,” she added.

Meanwhile, both the organisations have sent their respective certificates and prizes by post which is yet to be delivered to Subhra’s village.

Subhra’s creative talent has surprised her parents, who have never even heard of micro-art in their life. “Subhra was always fascinated with art and craft; she loves drawing. But the way she uses our daily household ingredients to create art is something worth recognising. She could make anything out of everything that was available at home, be it tea, coffee, flowers, vegetables, masalas or leaves,” Subhra’s mother, Shikha Mandal, said.

Subhra had earlier created various interesting images by using household ingredients which included a picture of Goddess Durga by using a mixture of tea and coffee as paint and using green chillies to create a Ganesha model.

Subhra’s unique talent and her records are getting slowly recognised by the netizens, who are sharing her artwork on various social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. “My creations are getting innumerable likes and comments, I am happy that people recognise my work which gives me the motivation to work harder and achieve something even bigger than this in future,” said the 21-year-old.

Trinamool (TMC) party members from the Jalpaiguri district visited Subhra’s village where they acknowledged and praised her for the unique artwork and making their district proud with national and international recognition.

Jalpaiguri’s Vidhan Sabha Coordinator Prasanta Kumar Verma felicitated her with flower bouquet, sweets and gifts on behalf of the party. Other TMC party members including District Committee’s executive president Noorjahan Begum, TMC youth Sabhapati of Jalpaiguri district Mehabbur Rahman along with Kharija Berubari village’s Gram Panchayat Rekha Mitra were also present during the felicitation.

However, Subhra’s next aim is much bigger than this; she wants to work harder and create something more interesting, distinctive and idiosyncratic so that she can get her name enrolled in the Guinness Book of World Records. “My pictures, along with my artwork, have been uploaded on the websites of the national and International Book of records. I would love to nurture my artwork simultaneously, along with my studies and want to create something even better in the future. My next aim is to present my work on the Guinness Book of World Records and win the title and make my district proud,” Subhra said.

(Sneha Das is a freelance journalist based out of Kolkata)

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