He sits in front of the famous Vaishali restaurant on Fergusson Road…
He is a man with a beard and grey hair. Passersby watch him curiously, but he is lost in his own world. The footpath is his home and sketching is his world. He is Rajendra Khale, a man with a sad tale, yet he has relentlessly overcome many adversities to survive.
“I lost my father at the age of five. Then my mother and I moved in with my aunt,” Khale says. “Then my mother passed away and my relatives told me to leave the house.”
To earn a living, Khale had started doing odd jobs like picking up scrap, working as a waiter, and delivering tea to offices. And then yet another tragedy hit him.“I lost my leg in an accident a few years ago. After that, I was rendered jobless”
“I was educated till class seven. This made it difficult for me to get a decent job. “Life was very tough. I was forced to borrow money from people to survive.”
Then Khale took fate into his own hands. He opted for his childhood love for sketching as a last resort.“Borrowing money was something which I did believe in, so I started making sketches for people,” says Khale. Drawing and sketching is an art he mastered while at school.What started as a hobby is now a means of survival for
Drawing and sketching are an art he mastered while at school and what started as a hobby is now a means of survival for Khale. “I chose to work and earn my bread with dignity.”
“Since the last 30 years, I do not have a permanent shelter. I sketch on the footpath and sleep on the footpath,” says Khale.
In the beginning Khale made a few drawings, giving it away to those around him like rickshaw drivers and newspaper vendors. “They liked them and then they paid me for them.“I charge anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 500 for a sketch and make two or three such sketches in a day.“Sometimes there are people flock around me to see my work and appreciate it.‘That feels much better than begging for money,” adds Khale.
Khale has stationed himself in front of Vaishali for the past two years and has gradually been catching the attention of people, many of who have turned into his well-wishers.
He now regularly gets requests for as many as four sketches every day. “Depending on my mood, I make one or two sketches, sometimes four. The time taken to complete them depends on the size. Some take as long as a week,” he says.
He terms his skill as “God’s gift,” he adds that his stint with sketching during the Ganapati festival last year brought him attention.
“People started giving me money when they saw I was sketching Ganapati. Some praised me. “There were artists who taught me some nuances of sketching and helped sharpen my skills, while some people presented me with colour pencils,” he said.
“I am willing to teach people how to sketch if they are interested.” His skill evoked the interest of many, most notably of the psychology department of the Nowrosjee Wadia College that invited him to judge an art contest in January 2016
He cherishes that and still carries the invitation card.