Seema Sood’s paintings will be exhibited for the first time at an art exhibition in Bengaluru on June 29 and 30.

Battling rheumatoid arthritis how one woman channelled her pain into art Seema Sood, with her BITS Pilani batchmates.
news Art Thursday, June 27, 2019 - 15:21

Seema Sood, 50, remembers the day she became bedridden. “3rd May, 1993,” she said. For five years, she was confined to her bed, but the pain had started when she was 18 years old, beginning in her toes and slowly creeping to her joints and limbs until her entire body ached. 

As a student at BITS Pilani, she took painkillers and steroids just to be able to attend classes. She spent decades being shunted from hospital to hospital seeking treatment, but nothing seemed to be working effectively. 

It would be years before Seema was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis — a painful autoimmune disorder that mostly affects a person’s joints — and even longer before she would be able to manage her pain and channel it into art.  

The pain was so bad that she considered ending her own life. “I was in such a miserable condition that I had appealed for mercy killing,” she said, describing a letter she had written to the President of India in 2007. She ultimately received Rs 10 lakh from Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s relief fund and underwent multiple surgeries in 2008. But not long after that, the pain crept back into her body.

Finally, in 2014, her fortunes turned. For one, she began treatment free of cost at Fortis Hospital in Mohali, where Seema was correctly diagnosed. She also reconnected with her old 1985 batchmates from BITS Pilani, where Seema graduated with two degrees — an MSc in Engineering Technology and a Masters in Engineering. Her friends wasted no time in coming to her assistance. 

Up until that point, she hadn’t told any of her classmates about her condition. But after receiving a phone call from an old friend, she had a change of heart.

With treatment that eased the severe pain in her joints, Seema has been able to turn to a long-time passion for art. From a young age, she had been interested in painting and drawing, even making greeting cards for New Years and Diwali. When she started painting as an adult, she began with small pictures of flowers and eventually progressed to depictions of Rajasthan, where she was born, and scenes of nature from Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, where she now lives. 

“Once I get engrossed in my paintings, my pain, my troubles, everything gets lost,” she said. 

Paintings by Seema Sood

For the first time, Seema’s work will be exhibited at Silver Oak Resorts in Bengaluru on June 29 and 30, with prices ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 35,000. And after struggling financially for years, Seema has finally been able to make her own money by selling her paintings.

“I want to live with dignity. I want to earn something on my own,” she said. 

The art show, organised by Seema’s old batchmates from BITS Pilani, is a way to help her financially. Though she is able to paint on her own, she still needs assistance in arranging supplies or handing her tools, and she is looking for someone to hire.

“There is tremendous physical pain she goes through every single minute of every single day,” Mridula Sankhyayan, one of Seema’s batchmates who helped organise the exhibition, said. “Painting really gives her self-fulfillment.”

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