Vijayalakshmi is tough as nails. She supports her family as a wall artiste. Vipasha Sinha meets this Velachery resident
When she is ‘immersed’ in paint, nobody can mess with Vijayalakshmi S. This wall painter yelled the daylights out of a group of men, who called her a trapeze artiste as she was clambering on to the top of top of a 40-feet ladder, while painting the ceiling of a hall at a star hotel.
She does not hesitate to take on anyone who questions her skills or underestimates her just because she is a woman.
“I worked up to the eight month of my pregnancy. During this period, I would work for hours on end daily, standing in a uncomfortable position. I had to do that, because nobody else could, ” says Vijayalakshmi, who is a resident of Velachery. She dropped out of school in the eighth standard to explore a career in art and moulded herself into an expert in wall designing and textures. Vijayalakshmi, 28 years old now, had to take care of her family at a young age.
Her father’s health deteriorated when she was in class eight.
She and her sister had to drop out of school and work to make ends meet.
“I was always interested in the arts and I joined a factory in Taramani, where we were required to paint wooden furniture and toys. After working there for five years, the factory closed down. The owner was however so impressed with my work that he recommended her to an interior designer,” she says. She worked with the interior designer for another five years and learnt the nuances about the textures and designs.
“I was lucky to have got this apprenticeship and wanted to make the most of it. Back home, my parents were worried because I would come home really late. My relatives and neighbours made things worse with their taunts. I loved my job and I did not want my morale to be affected, so I walked out of my house and started living with my cousin brother,” she says. She now works for various architects and interior designers. Fortunately, things took a turn for the better. She is thankful to her husband, a cab driver, for having supported her when the future looked bleak for her.
“We know each other form childhood but I still wanted to ensure that he will understand my professionalism. Only after he assured me that he would not interfere with my job or ask me to switch professions, did I agree to marry him. When I have any late-night assignments, he drops by to assist me. He also singlehandedly takes care of our child, when I am cosumed by work. My parents are now staying with me and I take care of them. The same people who criticised me when I had started my career, fifteen years down the line appreciate me,” says Vijayalakshmi, who never leaves home with the tablet that her husband gifted her.
In this tablet, she has stored photos of the projects she has undertaken. They range from complicated wall textures to images of cricket players painted on the wall and from Disney characters to sceneries. “I have not come across any other woman who does what I do. This job is physically and mentally exhausting. I have fallen down many a time. Whenever this happens, I pick myself up the next minute to finish what I started. I wish I continue to work till I am eighty years old,” says Vijayalakshmi.