The 3 words my teacher from school told me. And I understood them Decades later!

It was the summer of 1986. In crisp dark blue shorts and light blue shirts, we entered the Senior section of The Air Force School. With the beginning of class 6, We were finally “seniors”!

Apart from academics, our school offered us a number of skill courses. There was electronics, for the intellectually inclined. Woodwork, for the tough. Singing and music for those who wanted to meet all the pretty girls. Sculpture, for those who loved getting their hands dirty.

I took painting. No it wasn’t my choice. My elder sister, told me it was the one to take. And I did. Because the elder sister knows best!

I entered the art room on a sunny – maybe July – to meet a balding, short man with dreamy eyes. The smell of turpentine and linseed oil wafted around the room. Along with stacks of paper, pencils, colors, wooden art tables and the rows of paintings on the walls.

They told us his name was Mr. Didi (Pronounced Dee-Dee). And legend had it that he had eyes in the back of his head. At least that’s what the older students told us, whose exams he had invigilated.

So here we were, a sprightly bunch of young kids – waiting to be taught art. And we were handed out white sheets of art paper.

“What do we draw?” we asked Mr Didi, the art teacher. And it is then that he simply said :

“Play with Colors”

“Play with Colors”

Said Mr. Didi

“Play with Colors?” Yes. He said. “Speak to your heart, and play with colors,” he said.

And so over the next 6 years, we played with colors – over watercolor, oil, linoleum. Some paintings we did not understand. Some we poured color over a paper in the sink, to watch the romance between the paper and little droplets of red, yellow and green.

Each time Mr. Didi would come, turn his head just a little, look at the canvas at an angle – and touch a little corner of our mess.

In the art room with Mr. Didi, our art teacher! (Thats the best picture I could have the guts to take!)

And Voila! The mess suddenly looked artistic! And each time he would tell us gently, lovingly smilingly:

“Play with colors!”

Being part of the organizing committee at the school art exhibition. On the left is my buddy, Kartikeya Zutshi!

And I did. Even after school ended – those paintings hung on my walls, at home. And whenever, I would face a challenge in my life. And the tough moments of despair. The dreams that dint work out. The exams that were tough. The job interviews that seemed unsurmountable. The days of entrepreneurship – those painting on my walls gently whispered to me: “Just play with colors!”

It even somehow seemed to speak exactly what Amir Khan said when he crroned, “All is Well”.

And I did. When I played with technology as a tech evangelist. When I played with finance as a banker. When I played with sounds as a radio jockey. When I played with lifesciences as a biotech entrepreneur. When I played with words as a public relations professional.

So as I wake up each day, sometimes it still feels like life is just an art room. The sun with it’s wake up call. The wind gently caressing my face. A blank white sheet awaits my paintbrush strokes.

 And Mr. Didi telling me: “Karnvir, just play with colors.”

Thank you to Mr. Didi and all my teachers who taught me to play with colors, never copy, be unique, innovate, listen to my heart and paint beyond the lines.

And with that, every person creates his own incomparable masterpiece called life!

Happy Teachers Day to all my teachers! Thank you for helping me understand the colors of life!


Karnvir Mundrey, an alumni of The Air Force School, is now the Founder and Chief Ideation Officer at Atharva Marcom. Click here to add him on LinkedIn

Atharva Marcom, India’s best Public Relations firm – always strives for better and clearer communication – that makes an impact!

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