Painting, for poet-bureaucrat K. Jayakumar, is a medium to express the unexplored recesses of his creative mind

From dictating government orders to penning the most romantic lyrics, Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar’s world of words has a very wide sweep. And yet he says that words don’t take him to some recesses where he would like to go.

It is only colours, art and painting that give him the access.

Jayakumar’s tryst with art began in 2006 when he was in New Delhi as Joint Secretary, Culture. This stint gave him the opportunity to meet eminent artists and come in close contact with the world of art.

His show, Gitanjali - Tribute to Tagore, organised by art promoters, Palette People, is on at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery till October 7. This is Jayakumar’s seventh show where he showcases 25 works, 14 inspired by Gitanjali and the rest his earlier works. They are done with acrylic on board and with oil on canvas.

Gitanjali has been a perennial passion for the artist-bureaucrat. He translated the work into Malayalam 20 years ago and finds this translation “still doing very well.” “Gitanjali attracts you by its simplicity and entraps you. It then grows into the emotional truths of Vedanta. Ï find this deceptive simplicity endearing. One can approach Gitanjali through colour and form,” he explains.

His first show was titled Self Spy. He says it was a way of spying on him, because colours were leading him into frontiers not traversed hitherto.

Comparing his dual creative obsessions he says that that unlike poetry, art is time consuming and demanding. It has a physical, tangible dimension. But he has found a fine balance between his three occupations of poetry, painting and administration.

At 60, and due to retire later this month, he is excited and looking forward to a time when he could indulge in his two creative loves.

“I have been more of an officer than a writer. Now I should be more of a writer than a retired officer.”

Ask him about life as an officer and how he curbed his artistic instincts in the line of duty, Jayakumar says that he “resisted the invasion of bureaucratic boredom” in his life and that the “inside view of administration has enriched life greatly.”

He firmly believes that it is the artist that guided the bureaucrat in him to take morally right positions.

As Tourism Secretary (1988-95) he was a catalyst in giving Kerala the famous label of God’s Own Country.

“It has a nice cadence,” he said giving importance to the musicality of the words. Recalling the time when he took the tagline, God’s Own Country, for approval to P. S. Sreenivasan, the then Tourism Minister, he says, “The Communist minister said in the assembly that it was not whether he believed in God or whether he likes it. What matters is if the people like it.”

His long and distinguished service brought him in close contact with the people and politicians of Kerala. He proudly says that Kerala should take pride in her politicians and their civility. “In my 35 years of service I never had to do anything in the government that went against my conscience.”

In a fast changing world he would like to see bureaucracy “have more moral muscle to be effective.”

One of his idols, Rabindranath Tagore took to painting at a late age. He too has started painting late in life. “Age has not withered the romance in me,” he says excited at the prospect of a life where the officer morphs completely into a painter-poet.