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Updated: April 29, 2014 17:00 IST

He left behind colourful memories

S. Anandan
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Ammu Nair's book on child artist Clint.
Ammu Nair's book on child artist Clint.

For 31 years now, Clint’s parents have been re-living the seven years with their son

Ageing couple M.T. Joseph and Chinnamma have successfully fought the last 31 calendar years off their solitary life.

Parents of Edmund Thomas Clint — the child prodigy artist Clint — they are content re-living the seven amazing years they spent with their precocious son, who left them a legacy of some 25,000 brilliant paintings and drawings before succumbing to renal failure aged six years and 11 months.

Not a day in their life passes without them leafing through the works of their son, each picture ushering in a rush of memories connected to him. “We still live with him,” says Mr. Joseph, a few months short of 70. “And we would only be known as his parents. The day we don’t lay our hands on his work, we would be dead.”

Mr. Joseph learnt wrestling, dabbled in business, and secured a job at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) while his wife taught in a parallel college before pitching in to support him in business.

Infant Clint was just about five months old when he was first spotted scrawling with stone on the floor of the family’s official quarter at Thevara, as he crawled on all fours. From gravel, he made a switch to chalk and to non-toxic crayons, turning the walls of the apartment and every single object in it into his canvas.

“Mohan, a photographer and a close friend, sensed his talent looking at the ‘bold strokes’ of his drawings and asked us to let him be. Another friend, himself a painter, also said the same. So, he received no formal training,” says Mr. Joseph.

A frolicking kid amidst peers, Clint exuded a rare seriousness beyond his age while in the company of adults and never once held back his opinion. He was visibly annoyed when persuaded to meet people not known to him, however powerful or known they were. He asked his mother to treasure whatever he drew, recalls Mr. Joseph.

Diagnosed with progressive kidney malfunctioning at two months short of three years of age, he suffered total kidney damage eventually, which was largely drug-induced, he says.

While he was keen to take part in painting contests, he would very often skip prize-distribution, despite winning. Clint studied up to upper KG and loved reading and being read to, Aesopian Fables , Moby Dick, Aithihyamala, Robinson Crusoe and mythological books. They left such a profound impression on his young mind that he imaginatively recreated the entire Kurukshetra battle in a series of paintings, full with a grand Viswaroopam. “It’s been featured in Shiv Kumar’s documentary [titled C lint ] , ” says Mr. Joseph.

Duels and heroic battles held the young mind’s fancy. So much so, that he drew everything from combats in Mahabharata to the skirmish between David and Goliath. “‘Does it pain when death comes calling’, he asked me once. ‘It does due to muscular spasm, but then the body decays,’ I told him. ‘If that’s the case, how come Jesus Christ resurrected,’ he asked, leaving me speechless,” says Mr. Joseph.

He never drew Christ, probably because Christ was never involved in a duel, wonders Mr. Joseph.

Four years after Clint died, his works were exhibited at Kanakakkunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram when some Theyyam artistes happened to see his painting of a Theyyam performance. “We were all unsure which Theyyam it was and asked the artistes. They, in turn, politely inquired if it was possible to meet the painter. On learning the truth about the artist, they said it was of Muchilottu Bhagvathy. ‘We generally leave the make-up and gears of Muchilottu Bhagvathy a tad incomplete, as its traditionally believed that portraying her with perfection would spell death for the artist,’ I heard them tell T.K. Rajeevkumar, who helped organised the show,” says Mr. Joseph.

Ammu Nair, who wrote ‘ A Brief Hour of Beauty’ on the ‘master who died young’, says her family and the Josephs shared a close bond when she and Clint were little kids. “I must have met him a few times, but I hardly have any recollection of those days. I grew up listening to his stories from my parents, though. This was what prompted me to take up translation of Sebastian Pallithode’s ‘ Nirangalude Rajakumaran’ (Prince of Colours) on the artist, but as I kept adding more stories about him, it turned out to be an independent work,” Ms. Nair, a Bangalore-based content writer, says. Absolutely enchanted by Clint’s oeuvre, she says what appealed to her most was the trait in the artist which led him to see the beauty in everything, even as he writhed in pain.

In all, seven books have so far come out on the artist while the State tourism department brought out a documentary and is now digitising his works so as to take it to a global audience.

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