14 February in New Delhi was, well, romantic. Notwithstanding the obvious gimmickry that accompanies the occasion, the day itself was made beautiful by the winter showers, falling skies, and the biting, breezy chill. It was a day to put your feet up and let the thoughts hit you, and indeed, unequivocally, much thought was penned and hummed and pored over on this designated day of love. It was not a day to hold a gun. Anjum Moudgil, in her hotel room, peeped out to the divine morning and thought to paint. Except, she found herself at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range shortly thereafter.
That one of the country's premier rifle shooter has interests in canvas and colours is known already, but the continuous conflicts that the artist in her endures are worth brooding over. How does she deal with the disquiet, how seamless is slipping in and out of the canvas of her thoughts and colours, just how does she turn a deaf ear to the voices within?
"That's what the sport teaches you, isn't it?" she says. "The thoughts and conflicts are there for sure. I observe a lot, and consequently, tend to think a lot too. But as a professional, I know when to give in to them and when to avoid. When I take aim, I see nothing but the target."
Her target, at the upcoming World Cup in the capital, will be to shoot freely and shoot well. One of the two members in the Indian contingent to have booked an Olympic quota already — fellow rifle shooter Apurvi Chandela is the other — Anjum will be eying to work on "certain key areas of improvement" besides getting acquainted with her new rifle.
The 25-year-old changed her equipment just last month, and while she claims to have adjusted already, she could do well with spending some quality time with her weapon.
"One of my biggest strengths is that I adapt to change pretty quickly. In just over a month, I am quite comfortable with the new rifle, but I am still looking forward to shooting with it. That apart, the aim will be to retain the quota. There will be less pressure for sure, but I have personal benchmarks to meet," Anjum adds.
Shooting is a lonely sport. The stoicism and submission it demands from its practitioners implore them to become the rifle-totting equivalents of monks in their meditative stupor. Anjum's stillness stems from a raging glut of emotions that she pours on the canvas almost every night; it's an expression, outburst, release, and catharsis, all at once.
"It's meditative," she says of her creative pursuit. "It certainly calms me and helps me slip into the zone when I shoot. Conversely, I need to enter a certain mental space to paint. So that way, the mental make-up is quite the same in shooting and painting. At times I end up painting till wee hours of the day. It gives me peace.
"The feeling of making a good painting is the same as hitting a perfect 10.9." That must be something.
Two winters back, she did the wall art of The Shooters Cafe in Chandigarh, in addition to some smaller paintings for the same eatery. Soon, word spread about the abstract excellence splayed on the walls of the Sector 70 joint, and prospective buyers began to troop in.
"It was then that I realised that I am good at it," she says, before flipping out her phone to show some of her work. There's a reproduction of a monument from Germany, a Buddha portrait, an image of Apurvi Chandela playing with a peacock, sceneries, woods, nature. The fusion and effusion of colours coming to life are hard to miss, as is her testament to vibrancy: "I don't sketch. Sketches don't have colours."
As a painter who also has a Masters degree in sports psychology, Anjum's cerebral, immersive persona is par for the course. It comes as little surprise then that she sniffs out art in the process of shooting.
"It's difficult to explain what a good shot is. It is not necessarily a great score, but just the way we shoot is an art in itself. For example, when I hold my composure even as shooters alongside me begin to bang their rifles or throw their hands in frustration, I think that is something special and a good way to shoot. Certainly, painting does play a part in helping me achieve and maintain that calm."
It also helps her deal with failures. During the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast last year, Anjum finished a lowly 16th out of 20 participants at the 50-metre rifle prone event. Dejected, she placed herself in the balcony of her room and painted a galaxy of stars.
"I slept peacefully after that," she says. A failure that day, she was a shooting star in the galaxy hours later as she woke up to bag a silver medal in the 50-metre three positions event. The quiet had been quietly achieved.
Artists think differently, perhaps because they feel differently. They are not what others may call aggressive, but driven they certainly are. They simmer in the slow burn of creative juices, disturbed by the gnawing anxiety within. That she loves Andre Agassi's seminal Open - An Autobiography is more than an incident of a reader liking a well-written book. The connection that an athlete makes with themselves in an individual sport is their journey to discover the self, and Anjum has been on that road before.
When she was younger, Anjum would often approach her seniors with a persistent query. She wanted a trick to shut herself to the noise. The external sources were taken care of by the equipment, but "you can't silence your mind, right?"
The seniors didn't have a definite solution, and with time, she learned that the answer to her bubbling thoughts lay in accepting them. "Eventually, that's the only way out. You learn to live with it," she muses.
Updated Date: Feb 16, 2019 09:16:52 IST