Sailesh Sanghvi, Artist for a Cause

One day, Sailesh Sanghvi’s son returned from a trip to Belgium with some packs of crayons. The 63-year-old retiree recalls, “He left them unattended, and I was like an old man grumbling that ‘these people don’t look after their own things.’” But as he picked up the packs to put them away, he suddenly found himself doodling. “I started scribbling with those crayons, and the whole journey started.”

It was such an exciting feeling that he now paints five to eight hours a day in a basement studio in his house. He finds it an energizing and therapeutic way to explore and express his emotions: from blue skies that reflect his positive outlook to abstract works that tap into occasional darkness.

He generously donated one of those blue sky works, “The Learning Tree,” to Pratham Austin for the chapter’s 2016 gala, where it was auctioned for $12,000.

Depicting a teacher stands with an easel and blackboard in a typical Indian village, with children and adults gathered around for a lesson, the acrylic collage in mixed media took Sailesh about five months to create, as he first sketched an outline onto a canvas, then painted colors onto another canvas, and cut and pasted shapes from that onto the original. He also incorporated other elements: jute cords for tree branches and roots, and paper for birds’ eggs.

His inspiration for the work was a childhood friend, Neetha, who travels from village to village to teach adults and children, sharing with them her passion for education. And it is no coincidence that she is giving the lesson in front of a banyan tree — the national tree of India, the place where the Buddha found enlightenment, the heart of a village where local disputes are resolved, and a tree associated with good fortune for Hindus.

It certainly brought good fortune for Pratham, as the recipient of Sailesh’s generosity.

“Pratham is a wonderful organization which is working for such a wonderful cause, and especially for such a poor country like mine,” he said, explaining why he had decided to donate the painting. “In this last stage of my life, my focus is now on giving back to the society, and it is wonderful to be associated with Pratham.”

He had just one more thing to add. “As my last word I would say: Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but what we give.”

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