The well-appointed sitting room in Delhi’s Chanakyapuri sports artefacts from across the world – an expected roomscape in the home of an Indian Foreign Service official. But the curios on the glazed coffee table are not the usual – there’s a miniature pumpkin-shaped Cinderella carriage, a doll in a layered skirt holding a parasol, and in the glass case beyond, an array of jewellery boxes, clock faces and stencilled oval pieces, each of the pieces sporting a pristine calligraphic surface? and all of them shaped out of eggs! My hostess Farha Sayeed clears the cobwebs and hands me a black oval, much like smoothened elephant skin to touch, saying, ‘That’s an emu egg. The yellow, larger one in the Cinderella coach is an ostrich egg and the smaller one for the ring bearer’s box is a goose egg?’ Farha’s unusual art uses hatchery eggs, specially processed, disinfected and made into a variety of artefacts as per the Faberge jewellery technique. It began in 1885, when jeweller Faberge was asked by Czar Alexander III to create an Easter-egg gift item for the Empress. He crafted a gold egg decorated with white enamel, that opened up to reveal a miniature replica of the crown. In this technique, the eggs are disinfected, dried, and then strengthened with gesso medium (an artist’s medium used for making surfaces smooth). Then it’s painted over with six coats of acrylic paint to create a glossy surface. If creating carriages or jewellery boxes, Farha cuts the eggs into two using a high-speed rotary drill. The inside of the egg is lined with velvet or silk, while the exterior may be embellished with rhinestones, pearls, lace trimmings, gold cord or paint. Finally, the egg is placed on a delicate metal stand. Farha is acknowledged as India’s only egg-art specialist. Learning the art has enriched her life in unlikely ways. It has been a journey in self-realisation. This year, Farha hosted her first solo egg exhibition in Delhi, the art fraternity, the media, and the diplomatic glitterati toasted her exotic art, and her ability to orient the European tradition into the Indian context.As wife of a senior diplomat from India, Farha has, through the years, set up home in Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia among others. It was in Qatar that she learnt her art. ‘The evenings were taken up with diplomatic dos, with plenty of cooking and entertaining thrown in. The mornings, however, stretched long and useless – till I came upon a list of courses and classes for amateurs, run by ladies from the expat community in Qatar. I was fascinated by the idea of learning to make works of art with eggs,’ says Farha. ‘As we shifted from place to place, I found that sharing an interest removed from the general run of coffee mornings and cocktail evenings gave me the perfect opportunity to break the ice and mix with people other than diplomats and officials.’ For instance, it was her art that opened doors when they moved to Saudi Arabia. ‘The atmosphere was constricting as I could not step out alone. I spent time trying my hand at charcoal painting, aluminium painting, soft-toy making, but all of them paled after a while.’ She was soon introduced to a prominent collector there as an egg-art enthusiast. ‘The lady invited me to her home to view her own collection, and I met up with many interesting local women there. Even today, we keep in touch with each other.’ This opened up doors for her. Her interest in this unique art also made her polish her time-management skills since she had to balance her duties as a hostess such that she also had time to focus on her hobby. ‘Since there were many official commitments and a lot of entertaining to be done at home, I had to struggle to squeeze out time slots for my “egg indulgence”. I discovered that if I didn’t panic and set aside a focussed time for work each day, the rest of my routine fell into place. Ever since, I’ve learnt to allocate a specific time to indulge in my art during the morning hours. At times, it gets difficult to stick to routine, but the calming effect of my art has egged me on – literally!’ Farha soon found a floodgate of opportunity opening up. And when a posting came for Copenhagen, she had her plans well chalked out.’My work became subtly influenced as I came in contact with more artists who were working on eggs.advertisementadvertisementI was introduced to the Art Lovers Group, a club of artists in Copenhagen. When these artists saw my work, they persuaded me to hold a public show and since Easter was close at hand, I agreed. The chief guest was the Mayor of Copenhagen. The prime exhibit at the show was a Rajasthani bride seated inside a Cinderella coach shaped out of an egg – that seems to have become a kind of leitmotif for my art at Copenhagen.’ Since her art is a solitary art, it led Farha, for the first time in her life, to revel in her “me” time. She learnt to introspect, to take a more calmer and wiser view of life. ‘I developed a happier attitude. I reacted more positively to my family and learnt to settle down into each new home with a better frame of mind. Some of that positivity has also brushed off on my children. I realised how much we can do if only we look out for opportunities and do not let it go by? For instance, whenever we visited India, we would head straight for Hyderabad, our hometown. Now we make it a point to travel to other parts of India; the children have seen Sikkim, Kolkata, Bangalore, Darjeeling? They get a feeling of what India is.’ Farah feels that her hobby will help fill her life with interest even when the children are away and they’re retired. ‘I find several women grumbling at the “nothingness” in their autumn years. I’m looking forward to the time when I’ll be able to indulge in my hobby with no obligation to do anything else!’.