A WOOD sculptor who suffered a stroke and was declared dead for 21 minutes has told of his delight at having his work exhibited.

Balavendra Elias, from Bangalore in Southern India, has lived in Brighton for the last 35 years since he was 18.

A couple from Brighton met him in India in 1987 and were so struck by his sculpting talents, they offered him the opportunity to go to art school and live with them.

The 53-year-old has carved countless wooden sculptures since then, but in 2016 suffered a massive stroke while visiting India.

The Argus: Balavendra as a young man in BrightonBalavendra as a young man in Brighton

The former nurse, from Albion Street in Southwick, was declared dead for 21 minutes by doctors and stayed in hospital for almost a month.

The father-of-two told The Argus: “I am the happiest man in the world after the stroke that I’m back able to do what I used to do. My biggest worry was not being able to wood carve anymore around five years ago.

The Argus: Balavendra and some of his many paintings and sculpturesBalavendra and some of his many paintings and sculptures

“I have heard and seen people who have had a stroke and not recovered well. Mine was the biggest one, I died and came back.

“I am a very lucky person to be able to do what I love the most in my life, my woodcarving artwork."

The process of recovery has been arduous, with Mr Elias not able to partake in his favourite hobby for years after losing control of the whole right side of his body. His movement and speech is still slower than before his stroke, but he is “getting better”.

He added: “I don’t carve to sell the pieces, I do it for my pleasure and express my feelings. I have only been able to carve the last year or so.

The Argus: Balavendra carving in his woodshopBalavendra carving in his woodshop

“Everything is working now, I couldn’t think properly. Some days it is hard but I am getting better. My strength and coordination is returning slowly, if I go back two or three years I found carving difficult. I couldn’t even pick up my mallet.”

Mr Elias was able to display his work for the first time since the stroke at the Brighton and Hove Arts Council festival in Ship Street, Brighton last week. The event was showing the work of over 100 artists.

He added: “I couldn’t believe myself, it’s my work at the exhibition! I am very proud to show people my work after the stroke.

The Argus: He is all smiles being able to do his hobbyHe is all smiles being able to do his hobby

“I just want to show people that I am back doing what I love most.”

Mr Elias credits a lot of his mental and physical recovery to Southdown Men in Sheds group in West Road, Portslade.

The community group is for older men who face social isolation and allows them the opportunity to repair items, do woodwork and socialise with other people in similar situations.

The Argus: Outside his workshopOutside his workshop

He added: “Men in Sheds were doing wood carving. A lot of the carvings after my stroke I did there but now I am very confident again.

"Any piece of wood I find, I can make something. It has taken me five years to get back to this stage.”

Mr Elias is encouraging people to visit two of his sculptures which picture the long history between India and England. They can be found at the Brighton Museum in Royal Pavilion Gardens.