A rewarding but hectic four-decade-long academic career left Mangal Gogte, 65, with a slew of medical issues — including silent killers like diabetes and hypertension — and a daily intake of a fistful of medicines.
Today, the retired professor of economics at K.J. Somaiya College of Arts & College here — a frequent flyer to international conferences during her years in the academic fast lane — has overcome her medical troubles and thrown away her tablets. All thanks to her passion for painting.
“I have been painting since childhood, but in the past few years, I have learnt that it is actually doing wonders for my physical and mental health, improving my life and relationships,” Gogte told reporters in a freewheeling chat ahead of her first major exhibition, “Brushful of Colours”, at the Nehru Centre Art Gallery in Worli.
Though it started as a childhood hobby virtually thrust upon her by her conservative Maharashtrian family, she gradually developed painting into a special passion, which has now repaid her abundantly in the form of improved health and physical well-being, surprising her disbelieving doctors.
“It’s a full-time occupation now and I enjoy it. Colours have made me very happy and tranquil. Everything around me looks changed, life is very peaceful,” she said.
Once she sits with her box of watercolours and brushes, she goes into a virtual trance and remains like that till she finishes.
“It means complete concentration. Watercolours are a very difficult medium and avoided by most artists, who prefer oils or acrylics as changes can be effected easily. Not so with watercolours. Once the colour is applied on paper, it’s final — you can’t change it,” Gogte explained.
So she has to “create” the entire painting, to the last detail, “in the mind” before putting brush to paper.
Devoting anything between two days to two weeks for each creation, she discovered that the sheer concentration on her creations worked like a “medicine” — without any side-effects.
“I have been completely cured of hypertension, my diabetes is normal and under control, other related health issues have completely disappeared. I feel younger, more energetic, and am enjoying life a lot more than most people who are 65 or above,” she smiled.
Her husband, Pradeep Gogte, a corporate consultant, is happy that she is practically off medicines and “the painting hobby has paid off” as her health had been a great concern for him and their children, Nikhil and Priya.
“Earlier, during our vacations, she would spend hours painting some scenery, beautiful landscapes… and we would sit around glumly,” Pradeep grinned mischievously. Now the family actually helps her by clicking pictures of nature and passing them on to her as potential subjects for her next creation.
A veteran of two invited exhibitions, including one in Finland, and at the Russian Cultural Centre in Mumbai, followed by a solo at the P.L. Deshpande Kala Academy in 2014, now Gogte has finally “mustered the courage” to launch a week-long solo exhibition.
Gogte has come a long way from her once-tiny fishing village of Alibaug, in adjoining Raigad district on the mainland, where she studied at the Konkan Education Society’s JRH Girls School.
“In the 1950s, there were a lot of restrictions on girls… I was barred from even school picnics and educational tours, cultural events, et al. But I was dumped with paper and watercolours and allowed to paint away undisturbed anywhere in our large village home,” she recalled.
Ironically, as a professor, she later travelled the world and served 10 years as a Visiting Faculty at the University of Vaasa, Finland, and was the Director for International Relations for the Somaiya Campus.
“I have started promoting watercolours as a medium for not just painting but for achieving long-term health benefits. I am taking short, four-day workshops with many students who have taken up the challenge and want to experience similar results,” she said.
“Colours and painting have changed me from within, everything around me looks very positive, optimistic and blissful. I feel art should not remain the passion of the affluent classes, but should reach the masses in a healthy and affordable manner,” Gogte concluded with a typically warm smile.