Unlike thousands of tourists who come to the UAE every year for sightseeing and leisure activities, 57-year-old Shailendra Khairnar came to the country with a focus - to meet football legend, Diego Maradona.
Khairnar's goal was to gift Maradona an extraordinary book of 25 dot sketches he made of the sporting superstar. He has created each image using the method of only putting dots together on paper.
Specialising as a dot artist, Khairnar uses only a .5 pen to place a series of dots and by simply increasing its density, he transforms them into famous faces. In artistic lingo, the method is called "stipling" and is one of the rarely practised forms of art.
"I knew it is going to be tough to get to see Maradona, who is manager of the UAE First Division club Fujairah. But as this country is known as the land of opportunities, it did give me a chance and turned my dream into reality. Not only did Maradona visit my exhibition, but also autographed my sketches, accepted my book and posed for pictures with me," said a thrilled Khairnar.
Having travelled all the way from a small town in Maharashtra, India, here to meet Maradona, the artist said it was the only hope that he was banking, as he didn't have any means of showcasing the legend's portraits at the stadium. "I just had the dot sketches on paper and that too unframed," he said.
"I got some pieces of plywood from a shop and got a frame panel made, in which I put up my sketches. I then kept the panel at the VIP stand at the stadium so that it would get the footballer's attention. luckily it did."
After a practice match, Maradona passed by Khairnar's sketches and stopped by the stand. " The two or three minutes the legendary footballer spent with me are now the most memorable moments of my life, " said an elated Khairnar.
The artist also impressed the footballer so much that not only did he autograph the sketches but also gratefully took the dot-sketch book comprising his portraits.
"It took me about three months to complete these 25 dot sketches of Maradona. I have also given a brief text about each of his portraits. I had just two copies of this book, one of which was gifted to him. The second copy I intend to get translated in two more languages besides English - Spanish (Maradona's native tongue) and Italian (because he is hugely popular in Italy)," Khairnar told Khaleej Times.
From Olympic legends to Bollywood personalities and all the US presidents, Khairnar said he chooses his subjects based on their popularity and his interest in them. Among the famous names he has sketched are sportspersons Michael Jackson, Sachin Tendulkar, Pele and Usain Bolt; Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Manisha Koirala; and Mahatma Gandhi.
Khairnar is now shifting his attention to the UAE leaders, having already dot-sketched 25 beautiful portraits of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. "I carry them with me everyday around the city, hoping someone will give me a chance to display them, as I do not have the means to do it on my own. I have also extended my stay in the UAE just so that I get a chance to display my talent and dedicate it to the Ruler of this amazing emirate.
"I have read lot about how the visionary ruler has transformed Dubai into a global hub with extraordinary development.."