I imagine a canvas about A3 size, arranged landscape.

In the centre are three magnificent buildings: on the left is the pale marvel of Udaipur City Palace.  On the right is the golden fortress of Jaisalmer.  And in the centre, a gleaming pearl, is the Taj Mahal.  These are large and form the focal point of the painting.

To the left of these is Lisa’s face.  She is wearing brown sunglasses with large lenses, and she is smiling.  The brown lenses reflect the Taj Mahal and a flare of light.

Around her head, like petals on a flower, are several distinct items of clothing.  These will include but aren’t limited to: voluminous yellow trousers; a long purple top; a pink sari.  Woven around these items are splashes of liquid colour that run up and down the canvas.  The splashes have the vague suggestion of flowers or fireworks, which fills the top-left-hand corner of the canvas.

To the right of the three buildings is an auto-rickshaw with a green roof.  It could be leaping out of the page.  Its driver is a scrawny man of indeterminate age.  There may or may not be people in the passenger seats behind.  The vehicle bursts out of another splash of colour, this like an explosion of festival powder, which contains long streaks of Arabesque curls and stripes.  Beneath this are the words TUK TUK.

Above and to the right of the rickshaw, in the top-right corner, is a male Indian face looking outward.  He has a black sweep of hair, thick lips, wide eyes.  Shadows on his features make him appear menacing.  Above him is a street sign that reads: Tourist Information Centre.  These words appear to be enclosed in an elongated sun, but this is actually a speech bubble with twenty spikes, each denoting one of twenty voices.

In the centre of the canvas, at the bottom below the three buildings, is a cow.  She isn’t interested in looking at the viewer.  In her mouth is a bright gajra, the garland of marigolds that can be found in every shop and dwelling during festival time.  Flowers and petals are littered around her front hoofs.  The trail leads ahead, to the bottom-left corner of the canvas, by which point they have merged indistinctly with the currents of a long river: the mother Ganges.

Tiny floating candles glow amidst the currents.  Above the river float several tiny but distinct Hindu gods, in the Indian “miniature painting” style.  Amongst them are recognizably a praying Shiva, a seated Ganesh, Hanuman leaping with a mountain in one hand and his mace in the other, and the dancing Kali.

The cow is not alone.  Standing at her side, almost obscuring her, is a black water buffalo.  His head is picking up grass or garlands from the ground by his front right hoof, displaying his heavy horns.  His sharp hip bones protrude from his flanks.

Behind the cow and buffalo is a longer trail of flowers, which surround a circular fountain in the bottom-right corner of the canvas.  The base of the fountain is decorated with stone birds.  Water sprays upward, glistening.  It almost touches the front wheel of the auto-rickshaw above.

Rising from the flowers by the fountain is a green topiary elephant.  The leaves are painted in minute, exquisite detail.  It is rising up on its rear legs.  Behind this, almost like a shadow, is a realistic depiction of a real elephant.  We see the flaps of its ears; its domed head; the long curve of its trunk; and its tusks.  This is all.

Move across the canvas, past the cow and buffalo and the river, to the blank space that is to the left of Lisa’s face.  A woman is painted here in ochre hues.  She looks from under her orange hood to the left, away from the centrepiece.  Her bangled arm is stretched out; she is begging.  The woman is not too old or gaunt.  Beside her, clutching her skirts, is a young boy or girl.  The child is looking directly at the viewer.  Behind the child may be an emaciated street dog with patchy fur, at the very edge of the canvas.

The remaining blank space is above the centrepiece of forts.  Here in large letters of appropriate font and colour is the world INDIA.  Beneath this in small letters reads: a portrait.  More colour explodes from behind the words.  To the left of the giant “I” are the blue-green feathers of a peacock, the country’s national bird.  To the right of the giant “A” is a faithful reproduction of a kingfisher, exactly how it appears on the label of the eponymous beer.

Where there are small gaps between all these images, the space can be filled with chunky lettering saying one of three phrases: “Tuk-tuk?” – “Hello come inside” – “Namaste”.

—db

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