A hundred years ago or maybe just yesterday, somewhere in a typical Indian village - an illiterate man desperate for funds will put his thumbprint on a piece of paper for a few hundred rupees. Sometimes less.
This Thumbprint, a small amount of blue ink and a small smudge on a paper that has strange squiggles will spell his ruin.
He won't know whether he has signed away his ancestral land or pledged lifelong servitude for himself and his family.
Eventually, this displaced farmer/artisan and his family will spend their last rupees for unreserved seats in a train that will pack them and hundreds of others like them into a train compartment. They will have just enough space to sit on their luggage or lean against something or someone and they will nod off and dream that soon they will get high paying jobs in the big city and within no time at all they will be back in the open fields and the haven of the home they have left behind.
On a freezing winter night or on a searingly hot summer afternoon, this family along with hundreds of others will find itself hungry and penniless at the exit gate of the New Delhi Railway station.
They will gaze at the thousands of honking cars zooming past. They will turn their faces away when busses belching smoke and dust rumble past. And if they are lucky, soon, they will find themselves in a Delhi slum.
5 or 6 square feet of space for the entire family, an asbestos roof over their heads, a tap shared with at least 40 other families and only the streets to serve as toilets.
The daily struggle to find work and food will banish all dreams of ever returning home. The children will become rag pickers or beggars on the streets. The father will drive a cycle rickshaw and haggle for every rupee, with women too lazy to walk. If the mother is lucky, and not pregnant, or feeding an infant, she will find work in a middle class household. She will wash dishes or sweep floors for a few hundred rupees every month.
This journey which started because of an innocent thumbprint can end with Thumbprints of a different sort.
Subbu (Subhashish Datta), a young Painter with a vision to end the oppression and poverty which is directly linked to illiteracy has pledged to make 35 paintings with using just his thumb as a brush.
Here they are
These paintings will be converted into high resolution images and posters and available online on ebay and other sites. The proceeds from the sale of these paintings and posters will go towards building a school for children from the slum communities of New Delhi and Gurgaon.
To know more about the school that will benefit from Subbu's effort log on to vidya-india.org