I remember it was around my second year in junior college. Stressed out with school work (the purpose of Further Math was and remains incomprehensible to me till this day), and on a chance encounter with a DIY kit at the bookstore, I tried my hand at water-colouring. One day, as I was laying out my paints and paper on the floor of our study room, Dad walked by, stooped down, asked for permission, then took a brush and started to casually paint beside me. I was taken aback with what I was to see.
In all my growing years, I knew Dad could sketch pretty well. When I was probably 5-6 years old, he used fabric paint to sketch a tiger on a tee. I think it was for Mum. Once I drew a boat and showed it to him. He turned it around and added some lines and details and transformed the drawing into a mountain with a waterfall. But I never saw Dad water-colour. And boy could he do it. And so that began our water-colouring days together.
We would pack drinks and snacks and our kit in our bicycle baskets, and with him leading the way, we would cycle to the beach. If there is a place other than home where Dad and I have spent the most time together, it has got to be the beach. From the time I could remember, he brought me to the beach often. At the breakwaters, he taught me to catch mudskippers and dig for tiny translucent crabs.
Sitting side by side on a bench and sharing a palette of watercolours, we would start sketching and colouring. Sometimes curious passers-by would ask for a peek and I always quickly shied away as I was so bad at water-colours. But Dad’s coconut trees and clouds and sea were really quite something. He would yak, and I would listen and nod wordlessly. I didn’t have much to say, which was fine because he had more than enough for the 2 of us, but I enjoyed our water-colouring outings tremendously and was very proud of his artistic abilities.
Once, Dad surprised me by thanking me. He said he had long forgotten his love for watercolour. In his youth, his art teacher had commended him on his flair, but it was too expensive a hobby for him to cultivate and later on in life, raising a family from a young age, watercolour was out of sight and mind. He said I helped him to discover his love for water-colouring again and it brought colours and joy to his heart.
I went on to university and lodged at school for years. In that way, our water-colouring outings dropped off the radar. We haven’t cycled to the beach together since. Our old bicycles are gone and forgotten.
I want to thank you, Dad, for sharing with me your passion to sketch and water-colour, and always encouraging me. About my water-colour work then, and crochet projects now, no matter how silly they look. In fact you’ve given me encouragement in about almost everything I did. Swimming. Posting to London. Baking.
I want you to know that I loved those beach outings, be it catching mudskippers at 8 or water-colouring at 18. I want you to know, that however my childhood went, those afternoons spent roaming outdoors by the lapping waves with the breeze and sunshine in my face, brought wild colours and bright shades of joy to my childish heart. The bicycles are long gone but I remember those days like they were just yesterday. How cool is my Dad.