Creativity unlocked: an inspiring story from India in the times of the pandemic

From Pulkit Datta's Instagram account @dattavinci

While the pandemic has been challenging for us in different ways, Pulkit
Datta shows us how he used the lockdown to unlock his dormant creativity

“When an admirer offered to pay for one of my sketches, my 10-year-old daughter,
standing beside me, literally jumped in joy. I clenched my fists instead. The moment
had arrived,” says Pulkit Datta, a mechanical engineer by trade, and an artist who has had no formal training whatsoever.

It’s difficult to believe when you see the sketches that Pulkit Datta, 42, with no prior
experience in drawing, started sketching only 6 months ago. Till date he has drawn
portraits of various famous personalities from all walks of life, be it Elon Musk,
Anthony Hopkins, Gulzar, Jagjit Singh, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Bono, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Anoushka Shankar et al. He says: “These personalities
somewhere left an indelible mark on my life. I’ve kind of reciprocated my feelings by
sketching their faces up close.”

“The lockdown made me finally take a pause from the grind of life. I picked up a
pencil one day and never looked back,” he adds. Perhaps much like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump (1994), which incidentally is another of Datta’s favourite sketches.

It’s true that the pandemic has made many of us reflect upon our lives, searching for
things that give us real happiness, and real meaning. We’ve also become used to
hearing stories of gloom and growing mental health issues because of the lockdown.
So to use the pandemic for reaching out to inner creativity is commendable, and
gives a wonderful message of optimism and enterprise. But did he take any training

“None at all”, Datta says, gesturing with a pencil in his hand as we talk during our
virtual meeting. “May be the artiste within was awaiting this pandemic,’’ he chuckles.

“Even I was surprised as I had never drawn a sketch before in my life. It’s fascinating
what magic a few strokes of graphite can conjure.”

Datta, who spent his growing up years in Chandigarh, started out sketching his
friends and family first. Just like that. For fun. He was nervous to begin with, he
admits. “I was going out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t sure how people would react to
their sketched versions,’’ he quips.

The international influence is evident in his choice of personalities that he has
sketched so far. Which probably is understandable given that he has lived abroad,
as well as widely travelled the globe, in his professional assignment. Pulkit is the segment head for a Japanese MNC, based in Gurgaon, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

His ‘made in India’ spirit is also on full display in the sketch which he says is his
favourite so far. He shows it to me on camera with a glint in his eyes, and says: “I
watched this movie a few years ago, and this scene has remained in my conscience
ever since. I am so glad that I was able to bring it to life using my own pencil today”.
The scene that Datta is talking about is from the movie Swades (2004), which shows
Shahrukh Khan sitting in his train seat, buying water from a young, impoverished boy on the platform, changing his outlook towards life altogether.

The scene is indeed poignant and so is the sketch. Within a few months Datta has started sketching complex visuals. Looking at the sketch from Swades makes me wonder if he is heading towards storyboarding. So what are his plans now?

“Not sure yet. At this point I am happy expressing myself through my sketches. I
have already met some fantastic artists in this space. And I have also spoken to
some theme cafés and pubs who have shown interest in my sketches. So let’s see. I
am a believer in one thing leading to another,” he says philosophically.

I ask Datta if he would like to give any advice to others who wish to get in touch with
their creative side. “Everyone is so busy these days, running around in our own little
world. The only thing I would say is if you are passionate about something, just do it.
Just make a start, and then things happen. Small things that make you happy.
When I sold my first sketch I too was jumping, inside!”, Datta says with a smile.
You can follow Pulkit Datta’s artistic journey at Instagram using his handle

Vikas Dhawan

Vikas is a leader in data and analytics living in the UK and has worked in various roles in the field, including in the UK Civil Service and the University of Cambridge. He enjoys creative expression and writes here in his personal capacity.