Why Kerala is mourning Joseph, child prodigy artist Clint's father

Chinnamma talks about Joseph’s last days and shares her concerns about protecting the paintings of Clint, Joseph’s and her son who became a child prodigy and died before he turned seven.
Why Kerala is mourning Joseph, child prodigy artist Clint's father
Why Kerala is mourning Joseph, child prodigy artist Clint's father
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At the Intensive Care Unit, Joseph looked at Chinnamma and said, ‘You should wear good clothes’. He didn’t know he would die soon after, she didn’t either. They thought it was only a breathing problem, and had gone to the Manjumala hospital in Idukki to get nebulisation. But his condition worsened, and soon he had to be put on ventilation. Later, at the ICU in Kochi’s Lissie Hospital where he was shifted to, Joseph suffered a massive attack and passed away last Thursday.

His obit would have been a short column on newspapers if it hadn’t been for Edmund Thomas Clint, Joseph’s and Chinnamma’s son who became a child prodigy back in the 1980s. A boy who lived only till he was seven years old and died due to a prolonged illness in his kidney. Kerala loves the little boy who painted more than 30,000 pictures in his short life and celebrates him even today, 35 years after his passing. He drew landscapes, sunsets, Hanuman, Ganapathy and anything that fancied him so imaginatively that it seemed unreal. The parents kept them all framed with great love and reverence. Chinnamma and Joseph lived with his many paintings and memories, sharing them with the curious visitors and many admirers of Clint. Documentaries got made on Clint. A film, directed by Harikumar, too came out a year ago.

Now, Chinnamma has to take care of everything, and she is just not in a state to do so. She is at her brother’s place in Manjumala. “But I can’t just leave our house in Kaloor, that’s where all of Clint’s works are,” she says. That’s not the house Clint grew up in or painted at. It was at the quarters in Thevara allotted to his dad, who had then worked at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology. When Joseph retired, they moved away from the quarters and to a house in Kaloor. Joseph would painfully say in interviews how he had wanted to keep the paintings on walls that Clint had made in their Thevara quarters. But it was painted over by those who feared the house might be turned into a museum.

An old family photo: Joseph, Chinnamma and Clint

He could not stop once he got started on Clint. Stories would come from different stages of the little boy’s life – when he didn’t win the first ever painting competition he took part in, because the judges thought someone else must have helped him. How could a little boy draw so beautifully, they wondered. But in the second competition one of the judges came to witness Clint draw three elephants. A photo of Clint drawing it still hangs at the Kaloor apartment. There is also the photo of Clint Eastwood, the actor that Joseph was so fond of and named his kid after.

He would excitedly go up and down the stairs of their two floor apartment to bring an interested visitor more and more of Clint’s old paintings – elephants and Ganapathis and just about anything that had fancied the boy. “He would become so happy just meeting kids of Clint’s age. And treat them like his own kids,” Chinnamma says. She hopes that the Tourism Department will take over all of Clint’s paintings. They are already having a global painting competition in his name, she says. First one was two years ago, and second is to be conducted this year.

“I can’t do a lot now. I am not in a mental or physical state for it. I had a cardiac arrest one and a half years ago. He (Joseph) was so worried and he used to say that he should live till I died so he could take care of me,” she says. Joseph and Chinnamma had pledged their organs to the Kolancherry Medical College and that’s where he was taken to after the last respects were paid by the many that came to see him from Kozhikode to Thiruvananthapuram.

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