Passing by the Janpath Market in the inner corner of Connaught Place you may have come across an elderly Sikh man making colourful sketches with a pack of affordable pencil colours. He is Manmeet Singh(58), a resident of Central Delhi,who spends his days sketching portraits opposite Teddy Boy in Block N for the last two years.
The love for sketching is old and profound for Manmeet. It has helped him rise above the uncertainties of life.
While in school, once everyone was studying in the moral science period Manmeet was caught by his teacher, busy sketching something on the last page of his book. His teacher scolded him for not concentrating in class. As time went by, Manmeet realized his heart lies in his world of sketching. He later completed BFA in applied art from College of Art, Chandigarh and came to Delhi for work. In 1989 he got his first job at Dalmia Scindia House. Manmeet says that he got great opportunities in Delhi in 1998 and worked with several major advertising firms where he worked as a visualiser cum illustrator on storyboards.
"Somehow after experiencing a wonderful life in the advertising world, I left it as a personal choice," says he. As Ratan Tata says "Ups and downs in life are very important to keep us going because a straight line even in Ecg means we are not alive."
However, like Manmeet's sketches, his life is made up of many up and down strokes and fine lines.
As it turned out Manmeet had a tough time, emotionally and financially, initially after he left his job. Yet, Manmeet never let his spirit or smile faze out and continued to sketch, though not for money. Says he, "I was just left with just twenty rupees in my pocket when I got the idea of displaying my sketches. In my initial sketches, I combined rock music and art."
Thereafter, Manmeet took out 2 photostat copies of each sketch and pasted them each on a black pastel sheet. Then he took a bus to Connaught place and placed some 15 rock sketches around that white pillar of C-Block in C.P. "Slowly I noticed people gathering around my sketches. I sold around 12 Sketches in 2 hours. It was 4,600 rupees when I counted."
Besides his love for fine art, Manmeet is also heavily into rock music. Thus he often brings his love for rock music into his sketches. Says he, "I have attended many rock concerts during my college days. I even gave voice to a few rock songs on the college stage." On a personal level, he loved listening to Pink Floyd, Jim Morrison (Doors), Eagles and Deep Purple. His all-time favorite song was Time by Pink Flyod.
He terms this combination of rock music and sketches as 'rock sketch'.
Manmeet loves his work and considers sketching as his religion. While sharing an anecdote, he says, "Once a man got down from his Mercedes in front of me when I was sketching. He asked me to sketch his grandmother and some other lady together on one sheet and I had their photos on different sheets for reference. After a few days, the sketch was ready but the customer did not like it, so I remade it five times to satisfy the customer and finally, he was happy with it and rewarded me with extra cash."
Thus, choosing Palika Bazar as his spot has a reason for Manmeet. Manmeet expressed "I began my journey from Connaught Place and sitting here reminds me of my journey. Whenever I get tired of making sketches, I motivate myself by remembering my old days from storyboarding to selling artists, and thus get up from here only after completing my work."
Manmeet says that struggle is a lifelong and natural process. When you wish to achieve a higher purpose in life, the struggle is indispensable. Rising above uncertainties makes us stronger and struggle is a disguise of experience.
Manmeet is a fan of the works of Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra and in future, wants to direct an award-winning film with him.
In a digital world, Manmeet's hand-drawn art is a unique spectacle. If you want to gift your loved ones a portrait, you can contact Manmeet over Whatsapp or find him near Palika Bazaar engrossed in thoughts and colours.