What did I know about Sohel Degani?
Actually nothing much. Yes I knew him as a neigbour who had moved into Matharpacady in 1960, as a young lad with his sister and his parents. Later as the years passed by, he got involved in horticulture and landscaping. He soon had a family of his own but kept touch with his parents. So when he invited me one day to see his parental home ( both parents have since passed away) I was stunned.
The home was transformed into a studio and office for his creative work.
His late father was actively involved in the Deaf and Dumb Institute, where he was the Principal, and his mother an excellent teacher. Sohel is happily married with two daughters. His wife too loves teaching, and is a Professor with the ICT ( Institute of Chemical Technology – where she is the Head of Department of Pharmacy)
After schooling in St. Mary’s, Mazagon, Sohel specialized in Landscape Designing and Agrohorticulture with initial studies in Canada. He returned home , to complete his Masters Degree in the above field.
Being a fitness enthusiast he played various sports like , basketball, badminton, cycling and tabletennis,…. He later took to Jogging, Swimming, and Squash.
He had a great fondness for the rustic life… at Alibag, on the outskirts of Mumbai . He would go alone on a trip, take a dip into the river and enjoy nature in all its splendor at his Organic Farm, where he grows tropical fruits.
His wife Mariam can be quite the opposite , when she immerses herself in books for hours.
Both dream of giving time to the underprivileged in the villages.
Sohel specializes in Landscape Designing and is self taught in all aspects civil works, plumbing, designing, electrical, and soft landscape. He is a Landscaping Designer and Agrohorticulture Consultant.
A dozen staff help to implement the designs he creates.
He started designing numerous landscapes for residences, and eventually moved to bigger projects like Wockdhart Corporate Office and Impetus . You will know more about his work from the web site www.minigardens.net , his company name being Mini Gardens.
He is totally into organic gardening, with natural products, and avoids the use of pesticides
He selectively serves clients who will care for the finished work even years later, and ensures that all his work complies with existing norms.
His Design on Paper goes into details like measured ground, type of soil and its mixture at various levels actual plant types and numbers.. swimming pools, terrace gardens, beautiful facades, and lighting etc.
His motto in life “ I enjoy my work , so it becomes more of fun rather than work”.
The reason for this blog however is to focus on Sohel’s latest passion : ‘ Painting’
He thrives on this , as it gives him so much peace.
He starts his day at 4.50am and after freshening up, he spends time in quietness, and yoga… in Vipasana mode, followed by breakfast.
At 6am he starts painting and can spend at least 4 hours , with pencil, brush, cotton, cloth and water colors, which look quiet ordinary until its all put together. He uses a very superior quality of paper.
Thereafter he proceeds to visit his project sites , and is very involved as a person who is“ hands on”.
He has dinner between 7.30-8pm and retires to bed at 9.30pm
I enquired about his creativity….. and he replied “ I sleep and my thoughts churn through the night . I remember these dreams, and implement them in my work and paintings.”
My time of meditation also helps to kickstart ideas.
He also shared that “ I acknowledge God, but avoid structured religion. I believe in reaching out to the underprivileged with good deeds.” I was surprised when he shared how he has had some major accidents, when he fractured both legs; but his recovery is also amazing ….grace?
Sohel’s paintings were a revelation. I saw beautiful sea side paintings …boats on the shore, out at sea, stormy seas, horses with diamonds , shepherds and one with a deformed hand…innovated when he mistakenly drew a shortened hand., shades of blue and pastel colours. One painting stood out as it depicted the ‘Women’ who face challenges in city life unsure of their way ahead…even a little girl among them…
“Why the interest in boats and the seaside? “ I enquired.
“ It gives me a sense of the Infinite. I get excited to explore the vast seas and return on those boats after a long voyage.” He treasures two models of ancient boats ; one was gifted to him in Africa.
Sohel intends to exhibit these paintings and utilize the funds from their purchase, for the girl child in India.
I realized that Sohel had so many other interests…He has a roof garden with an Olive tree, various herbs, water plants, terraniums which is a glass globe and has plants which require a little water and more air. There are bonsai plants and some plants which supply more oxygen indoors. Vermiculture helps in good manure from waste leaves and twigs.
Another passion is his collection for pens….in particular , Parker, Shaeffers and some penholder with inkpot.
I was quite intrigued when Sohel shared, “My desk is the place that I can sit and enjoy every moment doing my creative work, be it designing for landscape or paintings.”
“So what is your message for us Sohel? “
“Live life fully; have pure thoughts, be yourself, and enjoy what you do.” came Sohel’s reply.
Lets all benefit from his open secret to make our ‘doing’ more fun.
Sohel’s completed paintings are packed and ready; so are they for sale? He softly replied “That will have to wait until my proposed exhibition, to raise funds for the Girl Child.”
I am reminded about the parable of the talents when the one who makes full use of his talents is greatly rewarded and will hear from the Master “ Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.” (Matthew 25:23)
Now I know my quiet neighbor even better ; specially his capacity for doing good, with joy!