Sreeraj S. has ridden over 50 kilometres to reach the capital city. He has come only for a 10-minute meeting to talk about his latest work — standing really, really tall, at Onamkulam, near his home in Manjalumoodu, Kanyakumari. A 30-feet-tall Santa Claus made of more than one lakh pieces of broken glass. He has won an award for the largest Santa Claus painting in the world, with glass pieces, from the Universal Records Forum.
“I didn’t have enough funds to apply for the Guinness World Records,” says the young man who neither had enough to go to a fine arts school. He had wanted to get a degree there. No one told him about art or colours. He had found them when he began accompanying his mom to work, at the brick factory. He’d make tiny art pieces with bricks as a child, before he discovered colours. Pencil sketches and craft and paintings popped up all over his little house that just didn’t have the space to hold them all. Growing up, he started participating in the Vavubali Exhibition in Kanyakumari, winning the Best Artist Award for four consecutive years. Every time, Sreeraj would find new ways to make his works untypical. A Mahatma Gandhi would rise on dried palm leaves, another nine-feet long Gandhi got made from glass pieces. Another time, it was an Anaconda around a tree, all made in paper.
“But this is the first time I got help,” Sreeraj says about his Santa, still standing proudly on the road. “There is a small group of youngsters called Onamkulam Brothers in my neighbourhood and we put together programmes for Christmas. It is this group that came up with a fund of Rs 30,000 to build the Santa,” he says. The glass pieces are stuck on cardboard pieces. “I got the glass from a scrap shop in Marthandam. I had told them seven months in advance,” Sreeraj says. The Santa stands on a crib that is about 12-feet tall.
Till some time ago, Sreeraj used to work in the housekeeping department of a hotel. Once when he painted the portrait of the owner and presented it to him, he was called to his home. The owner’s wife advised him to learn fine arts and work in that direction. And he lost the job, he says, smiling. He is now a full-time artist. But he couldn’t take part in art exhibitions because many of them ask for a fine arts degree.
Sreeraj’s dream is to get recognition from the Indian government, and go with his mother to collect it.