Mural, mural on the wall!
By Shradha Aswani
“Creativity takes courage” is splashed across the virtual walls of Jeevna Bajaj’s website, which sports her many paintings. This courage that she has as an artist is best showcased as you enter her spacey apartment in Asoke, which comes alive with all her artwork.
As her husband, Sandeep Singhnarula, and she welcome me in with warm smiles and not-so-hushed warnings about their excited dogs Patka and Samosa, I am not ashamed to admit that I’m unable to give them all the attention they’re due. My focus is inadvertently on the many murals that play out in full scope on the walls of their home, and all I can do for the first few minutes is soak in the colours.
I finally contain my excitement when she promises me an elaborate tour of the house later during my visit, and take a seat in the balcony-facing extension of her living room, where blue walls and flower-clad faces smile back at us. She tells me about her birth in Singapore and upbringing in Malaysia whilst smilingly talking about her mum, who is also an artist. However, it was only when she moved to Thailand after her marriage ten years ago did she get irreversibly pulled into the world of art.
This move is beautifully depicted by a painting in the balcony that also hosts life-sized flower pots sourced from Jeevna’s design inspiration, Bill Bensley. She laughs as she remembers that her husband could only lend her the balcony when she first decided to make the home her own, using her murals. “That is the most courage he could muster,” she jokes, while Sandeep butts in with, “I told her that the insides of all the cupboards were also hers.” Clearly, he has discovered that the world that Jeevna uncovered with her first painting was not the kind that could be confined to a single wall, and her paintings have now spread their charm all around the house.
“Whenever people think about murals, they look at them as street art,” Sandeep says as he and Jeevna lead me into the dining room that revolves around an elaborate wooden table lined with a wooden bar. Beside it is a round side table that the couple swears is at least 50 years in age, if not more. “It is only when Jeevna introduced me to the shades they can bring in, was I able to see how vibrantly they slide into any part of your house and liven it up.”
Jeevna tells me that the tastes of her husband and herself are almost opposite. Sandeep likes classic structures that have the value of time added to their possession, while she enjoys modern contemporary styles that stripe her bedroom and house mirrors, literally and figuratively. This leads to a strikingly beautiful contrast of old and new in their 14th-floor home, invigorated by light.
Juxtaposition, in fact, runs as a theme across the walls. Maps filled with flowers, animals gazing away from the foyer, and Indian motifs dancing with peacocks, all line up on walls side by side each other. For Jeevna, painting is a matter of instinct. Her bold choices reflect amply in the sitting room, framed well by an ancestral
sofa, that has been refurbished over five to six times. The room also features a handsome chequered carpet that perfectly complements all of the room’s distinct murals, and it’s a shame that it’ll have to be rolled up after I leave, since Patka and Samosa can’t get enough of it.
After I notice a piano lying in the corner of the living room, I fi nd out that Jeevna also plays music. Her bend towards the arts unsubtly unfurls across all parts of the space she lives in, but there is more that her work depicts. A painting of the Golden Temple hangs eloquently about the piano and testifies the peace that Jeevna mentions Sikhism brings her. She then takes me to a running mural in their prayer room that holds the Guru Granth Sahib, which she holds close as a Sikh. She further explains that very few artists worldwide wear their identity as a Sikh in their art, and bringing this side of her to the paintbrush helps her create unique and authentic material for so many Sikhs who may be looking for religious artworks to decorate their homes.
Our final stop is her effervescently yellow bedroom that has Thai elements beaming back at us. She mentions that she was sure she wanted to capture the land she lives in on the walls, considering this is where she belongs now. The colour inspiration came from the massive curtains that hung over the room’s colossal windows. “Generally, while decorating a space, I allow one piece to lead me, and then everything else follows. I just loved these curtains the minute I set eyes on them,” she reminisces.
They wouldn’t let me leave without a friendly cup of chai, so as I sip on warm heaven, I ask Jeevna if looking at an empty wall intimidates her. A gleam of exhilaration pierces through the hesitance to toot her own horn that had been masking her so far, which was response enough to my question. Putting words to her expression, she exclaims: “I feel excited. The bigger the walls, the better. I normally create a digital design illustration before I start working for my clients, but for myself, I dig right in.”
The happiness in her voice rings through my mind as I walk back to the boring white walls of my home, longing for glistening petals to greet me here as well.