“My paintings are a means of conveying hope, that reflects the community and comfort around the neighborhood,” says Shrey Purohit, who has won two PleinAir Salon Art Competition awards and then “donated and auctioned his prestigious 2021 PleinAir Salon Art Competition’s best artist under 30 Award-winning ‘Downtown Near the Van Gogh Exhibit’ oil painting to raise funds for the homeless and needy in San Francisco.” https://www.mid-day.com/brand-media/article/indian-dyslexic-youth-shrey-purohit-auctions-his-award-winning-artwork-to-fund-charity-in-san-francisco–23208319 In the bidding war at the online auction, the price was raised from $800 to $2500!!!
I was literally jumping with joy all over the place but since it’s still lockdown in India and cannot go out, I thought I’ll share this with the whole world.
First, WOW! Incredible! Please accept my heartfelt congratulations Shrey 🙂
When I asked him about this painting he replied, “…(it is) showing the beauty of SF and the ugly careless attitude towards its homeless citizens. A jarring dystopian juxtaposition of extreme wealth inequality, my goal was to trojan horse to the people in expensive homes the dire situation of the homeless and needy in downtown SF.”
I am so excited because I had taught Shrey at a design school in 2017 in Mumbai. He was sharp, witty, intelligent, always laughing, irregular with attendance but prompt with assignments. There were several teachers who were disgruntled with his conduct and felt he was too callous and should be taught a lesson. He was intelligent and understood my difficult theory classes of Foucault, Derrida, feminist and psychoanalytic theories and would submit written research paper. I could be the least bothered with attendance of students and don’t understand the current obsession in all colleges with attendance and grades! Out of the blue, one day Shrey requested me for a recommendation to California College of Art (CCA), San Francisco (SFO). I was surprised, it was my first but wrote him a positive one as I wanted him to escape this toxic atmosphere (I’ve edited out the pressures on failing him and other similar discussions just to focus here on the positive!). He got accepted and flew away. I last remember him getting into a cab with a fractured foot, smiling his mischievous smile and saying, “Don’t worry, I’m fine, I’m getting better…” After nearly 4 years, in December 2021, I suddenly got a follow request from Shrey on my Insta account and he said he had become an artist and started his own gallery – Ingelside Gallery – at SFO!!!! I could finally not worry, he had found a positive and constructive support structure that respected and honoured him.
What is important is not that Shrey won awards and money but that he is a kind and lovely human being who donated his award money for the needy. He did not let the poison and toxicity enter and destroy him – love you Shrey for proving you are an exceptional person. Please do not let money and fame get into your head and turn you into a nasty creature like those who wanted to fail you. You are a success and let it always remain so.
Here’s what Shrey said when I asked him if I could write a post on his artistic and personal journey, and the role of dyslexia in his life:
“I was diagnosed at the age of 7, at St Mary’s (Mumbai school), where after they told my mother that I will fail first grade because I’m stupid and to take me to a special school, she took it upon herself to make me graduate from that school itself. I would go to remedial classes like 3-5 times a week working on my spelling, reading, math. It helped when I understand conceptual what was happening in a subject, even now, my storytelling skills differ from writing and speaking. I failed multiple subjects over the years, got extra time to write papers, have concessions in spelling and math. Initially I use dyslexic as a crutch and excuse to hide my mediocrity behind. When I was 15 I did the landmark forum, an ontology course; that changed the way I look at the world and it gave me the creative confidence I have now. I took my dyslexia and made it my super power. World sees me differently and I love it ❤️”
All this while, I hadn’t known Shrey was dyslexic, should have guessed it!
I guess what connects me to my students who are ‘different’ in their conduct, behaviour and attitude is my teachers who recognised a similar pattern in me and still loved me. Except for a few teachers during my school, college, university and at the places I have studied after that, most were disappointed that though I was responsive to questions that most of my classmates could not answer, I did not fare well in the exams. I speak in the stream of consciousness technique, not in the usual logical and chronological manner, take a lot of time to process information and am completely visual in my understanding and descriptions. Which is why, as a student of literature, poetry ranks high for me. I live through images and visuals, too much textual information frazzles me. People like me find it difficult to appear for written competitive exams due to the analytical parts of these exams. It is difficult to sit through lengthy discussions, meetings, lectures and conferences. We find it difficult to process too much information, reflex is slow and we love routine. I’ve survived till now simply because of kindness and love of teachers, some bosses and amazing friends and students. They know my flaws and continue to love and respect. Isn’t that what life is about? Recognising that we are all unique and different and accepting, loving and recognising that. How can we guarantee that 80% and above attendance, similar exams and high grades are the benchmarks for success? What is success, who defines it and why?
I was about to get myself tested for dyslexia but couldn’t because of the lockdown but will as soon as it is over. Will keep you informed. Meanwhile read this link, shared by Pragati Singhal, textile designer, it helps us understand, accept and respect difference in ourselves and others. We don’t all need to confirm or be like the others https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/mental-health/what-is-neurodivergent There is a lot of valid information on the internet based on scientific research, let’s understand them before judging the whole world.
Am also reading up on Autism as I want to extend Indian history and heritage to autistic people. We have such an incredible heritage, everyone should be part of it, don’t you think? Why should we leave out anyone just because they are different? Disha, the school for Autistic children in Vadodara, referred Temple Grandin who is herself Autistic and teaches, lectures and writes extensively about her life: https://www.templegrandin.com/ best to learn from her first hand experiences if you are keen to learn about Autism.
As a teacher for more than two decades I would like to say: fall in love with teaching and your courses/subjects, be a guide, give your students wings to fly, teach survival techniques, value hard work, honesty and make it reflect through your own work, respect and encourage them, always use kind and positive words. Believe in them. My teachers have done all this and more for me, and it hasn’t brought any harm to anyone. Let’s spread the joys of education: learning and teaching.
As Shrey says, “I believe giving people hope and confidence can change the way they see the world. And if we can believe it we can do it.”
Way to go Shrey! Keep doing good work Shrey and inspiring us ❤
Follow @shreypurohit on Instagram, he’s busy sharing a lot of artworks by artists who exhibit in his gallery, and all over SFO.
All artworks and photographs sent by Shrey Purohit. Thank you 🙂