Of Beads and Red Robes
In the last 7 years, I have visited an exhaustive list of Buddist monasteries and I have a longer list of them to visit on future. For reasons unknown, I have been drawn to these monasteries and the small towns they are surrounded by, as if, these institutions radiate peace and tranquility through the landscapes and it’s inhabitants. The first time was at Bylakuppe and then Mundgod, Tibetan settlements in South India. I followed the trail of robes to Bhutan and it’s neighbour, Sikkim. The reverberating chanting within the prayer halls, the lingering beats of percussion instruments and the bright colours of the murals heightens all your senses yet instills a calm and content state. I miss that external assurance from those surroundings while treading through such uncertain times.
No matter how much I try, I have not been able to look past the dots. It’s always stippling that comes naturally than anything else with a pen in hand. As time stretches endlessly, I dive into the time gone by and dig up the ghosts of experts in the natural illustration. The first person that came to mind was Ernst Haeckel. This piece is more a tribute to his work but in only form of art that I could remotely do justice to his.
“When you find yourself cocooned in isolation and you cannot find your way out of darkness…
Remember this is similar to the place where caterpillars go to grow their wings”
One fine morning, we noticed the hordes of butterflies migrating. For some reason, I had never paid attention to this phenomenon but these slow months under enforced lockdown has made me more aware of the surroundings and this sort of migration was new to me. A friend, also a crazy butterfly enthusiast, told us stories behind it. His eyes lit up talking about these delicately beautiful creatures and his birthday happened to be around the corner. So what better gift than something to do with these winged wonders.
For a few months now, I have been thinking of working on a concertina, only thing missing was the subject for it. And here I had few butterflies to draw. Both put together became a butterfly concertina. My apprehensions of using any kind of colour has been dominant as ever but what fun would be butterflies without colours. In the process of research for what species to draw, a whole new section of the natural world opened up for me.
Needless to say, most of us are going through a tough phase in life dealing with the pandemic and the roadblocks that come along. All of us cocooned in our houses trying to stay safe yet that doesn’t mean the confines of the walls doesn’t affect us mentally. Nature comes to rescue again! Cocooned for a while until we emerge out of it with wings.
Learning a new skill
Two months into lockdown and wondering if life is going to be back to ‘normal’ ever. I started working out like a mad person to keep my mind off from the highs and lows of nothingness. One good thing– the workout has helped achieve goals that I have been procrastinating for the last 3 years. The 10kgs weight loss that I had been planning (more hoping) has finally made some headway. A little over 8 kilos lost. That is a significant loss considering my laziness and the obvious mastery of procrastination.
That wasn’t enough to keep myself occupied throughout the day and like everybody else I was doom scrolling in the initial days of lockdown. But social media has helped in certain ways. I bumped into people who do ‘sketch noting’. I had no clue such a word existed and that there is a whole bunch of people in the world who do this for a living. Discovering this way of recording was as amazing. I am still learning baby steps and I am yet to find an optimum balance of what to put-on the paper while sketch noting. But it works perfect for a person like me who is scarred by the pursuit of perfection and hence never gets anything done. At least this way, I managed to put my imperfections on the paper yet convey the required message. Added a couple of sketch notes from the learning sessions with Rob Dimeo who generously spent his lunchtime teaching people how to go about sketch noting from scratch.
Life during a pandemic
I was approached by one of the science communicators from the team of Indian scientists who have gotten together to spread awareness and bust myths around the CoViD-19 pandemic. They have been working hard to make the presentation of facts and precautions to be taken in creative ways to appeal to the public. They have also added in as many languages as possible to increase their outreach. I illustrated one such story. https://indscicov.in/for-public/popularization-resources/going-out-and-returning-home/
Abdul goes shopping for the family
Abdul woke up in a panic: Arre! I am going to be late for that strict Ajit Sir’s class again! He’s definitely not going to let me sit for the final exam now!
He then sleepily realized there was a lockdown; college was closed and he was at his parents’ home. He turned over to try to go back to sleep. The one room house was already bustling with activity—Ammi had started making tea for everyone, Dadi’s knitting needles were already click-clacking, and Abba was doing his namaz. He might as well wake up, he thought, as he couldn’t sleep through all this commotion!
As he brushed his teeth, Abdul thought about how much he missed the hostel room that he shared with Satish – a room which was probably bigger than his parents’ house. He thought of the endless conversation about politics he would have over chai with friends. And the general sense of independence he felt when he was at college. They closed the college and hostels almost three weeks ago and he had to take two jam-packed trains and a three hour shared jeep ride to get home! It was a tense few days for everyone, and for a moment, he tried to relive the happiness he felt when he finally got home.
“Abdul, it’s so late. I told you I need mutton and tomatoes from the market today. Go get them soon! The shops will start closing,” shouted Ammi. “But be careful. Wear a mask. Don’t touch anything. Stay away from people…” Ammi had already started with her long list of precautions and instructions.
“I am almost out of my BP medicines. Can you check if the medical shop has got stock yet?” Dadi added.
“OK OK I’m going. But I am not going tomorrow. Or even for two more days after that. So tell me everything you want now!” Abdul replied.
“Beta, buy me a newspaper, no? Buy me tomorrow’s also if you can find it!” Abba added with his usual humour. Everyone, including Dadi, groaned. But they all know that his silly jokes were what was making this whole situation feel slightly normal.
Abdul’s elder sister was out of the country, but would call every night and give them new instructions. She was the one who had designated Abdul as the person to go out of the house and get essentials. “Everyone else is old and is at a higher risk” she had said, adding “What else are you doing at home anyway?” Most recently, she had instructed him to wear a mask whenever he goes out.
Abdul picked up one of the washed masks that dadi had stitched out of an old dupatta. “Wear that shawl I’ve kept near the door for going out.” Ammi pleaded. “It’s too hot Ammi! I am not doing that anymore. I will just wash the clothes I am wearing out as soon as I get home.” said Abdul as he put his slippers and left.
Abdul waited in line in the round chalk markings, first outside the medical shop and then the vegetable shop. Good thing he still had an unlimited phone plan — at least he could catch up with his friends from college while he waited.
He finally got to the butcher’s shop where there didn’t seem to be anyone else around at the moment. As Karim Chacha was cutting up the mutton, he shouted questions at Abdul from the back of the shop: “Everyone OK at home?” “When do you think this lockdown is going to end? You must be reading all the news on your phone, no? What are they saying?” Abdul put his phone away. It was nice to talk to someone in person outside his family, even if they were shouting across the shop and the conversation was muffled by their masks. “Ya ya, everyone at home is well. Just a bit worried, that’s all. I don’t know about this lockdown Chacha: seems like this is going to go on for a while. Not sure what the plan is!” Abdul replied. He lingered a few minutes and chatted with Karim Chaha about the current economic scenario.
When Abdul got back home, Ammi had left a small mug of water, soap and a dry cloth outside the door. He removed his slippers, washed and wiped his hands. He then dipped the cloth in soapy water to wipe off the cardboard box of medication. She had also left a clean handkerchief and bottle of hand sanitizer which he used to wipe his phone. (He had got a good scolding from Ammi last time he came back and forgot to do this. She had proceeded to threaten to take away his phone altogether.)
He came in and handed the mutton and vegetables to Ammi. She started washing everything thoroughly before storing it away. He placed the medication box on a table, and then went to take a bath and wash his clothes and mask.
Abdul came back to the table, carefully opened the box of medication and transferred the pills into a small glass bottle. His Dadi was old and he was very worried about her getting COVID-19. He threw the cardboard box into the dustbin near the main door. He then washed his hands and the outside of the bottle with soap to be extra careful to get rid of any remaining viruses before handing her bottle: “Here’s your medicine Dadi. Stock came yesterday.”
As he was hanging out his clothes to dry on the common balcony, he realized that he had forgotten Abba’s newspaper. Never mind! “
After looking through a lot of pen drawing of reptiles, I was sure I wanted to work on one of them but coming across a picture that would fit the bill took a long time. I came across this image on Instagram and knew I have found the perfect reference image. Little did I know, the amazing outcomes of a pen drawing of scales is as tedious as one can imagine. It was a slow process but a thoroughly enjoyable one. I hope to make more reptile sketches in the future.
Chambers deep in the waters
A dot at a time with a Rotring 0.1mm Isograph.
Gift of INKTOBER
Here comes the last lot of drawing from this year’s Inktober series.
Prompts – Ride, Injured, Ripe, Catch
I am amazed at myself on completing this series or any challenge, for that matter. I venture into a lot of projects and challenges, only to walk away from them after a while. Reaching the end is always the toughest part. And here I am, successfully wrapped up 31 days of Inktober following the official prompts.
I will not lie about strong thoughts of quitting in between or just letting it be. Nobody cares whether I skipped one day or didn’t do any after a week or ten days of the month. I am not answerable to anyone for the supposed commitment I thought I made to Inktober. And that if I have so much difficulty in sticking to 30days of daily drawings, why do I think I can ever take up art as a profession. Of course, the stupidest reason being, it’s my birthday month. I can skip few days because I don’t want to bother myself with drawing for an hour.
All those days the demons of every human mind hovered in the forefront until I coaxed and cajoled myself to go back to the day’s prompt and deal with it. More than 25% of the drawing were complete failures in conveying the message and I hated them yet for the sake of a habit building process, I ended up posting everyone of them on Instagram. By the time, I reached the 20th day, I was comfortable with the idea of sharing yet the guilt that the piece is not good enough bothered me. Here I am. All 31 days of Inktober done. Not proud of all the sketches yet proud of having met the daily drawing habit and the commitment to Inktober.
Inktober 2019 – IV
Here come the drawings from the fourth week of Inktober. Three more days to wrap up Inktober 2019.
The official prompts- Ghost, Ancient, Dizzy, Tasty, Dark, Coat, Ride