By Oliver Lees
Before she met the former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, Bupa Aged Care Woodend resident Norma Carlisle said it was a road trip around Australia that changed her life.
“We met so many different people, but what I remember most is that a lot of them were painting,” Ms Carlisle said, guessing she was about 55-years-old at the time.
“I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to do that’, and that was how it started.”
Upon returning to their home in Mount Macedon in 1980, Ms Carlisle filled her spare time as a retiree tending to her garden and painting.
She soon joined the Glenroy Art Club, where she said she did countless paintings of all kinds.
“Mostly I liked to make things that enhanced my lounge room,” she said.
“It was generally landscapes, because people seemed to like what I did.”
Among those people was a prominent member of the Indian community in Victoria, who upon visiting the Glenroy Art Club, ask Ms Carlisle if he could purchase one of her paintings for it to be gifted to the prime minister of India, Ms Indira Gandhi.
“I said it was very nice to meet you Ms Gandhi and I do hope you enjoy this painting of our Australian landscape, because I guess you’re not here long enough to enjoy it.”
Ms Carlisle received a message from Ms Gandhi the following day, saying she loved the painting so much, she would be hanging it in her study in india.
Three years later, Indira Gandhi was assassinated following civil unrest.
The contents of Ms Gandhi’s study were moved to the newly built Indira Gandhi Museum to be put on permanent display.
Ms Carlisle said her oil painting of a Bairnsdale landscape is still hanging in that room today.
“I always liked to draw as a young person, but I never thought I could be a painter,” she said.
“Now if you go to India and you go to the museum, you’ll see my painting.”