In the first photograph, Dithi Mukherjee photographs the sweet shop man at Kalighat. Notice the calm confidence with which he poses for her, see how he looks directly at the camera.
Monday, January 9, 2017
When I said I was visiting Kolkata as the guest of DithiMukherjee, a friend of mine said: If you have Dithi to show you around Kolkata, what more could you ask for? And indeed I am not exaggerating when I say that for so many of us here in the South of India, Dithi epitomizes Kolkata. It is from her blog that I learnt everything about the great city, its Gods and Bengali culture.
When I drew this picture of Kali above in 2012, from one of Dithi's photographs, I wished I could see Kolkata in real through Dithi’s eyes and experience all that inspired her so. Then one day that dream came true when she quite simply read my mind and intuitively led me towards all that I wanted to experience with her characteristic warmth, enthusiasm, generosity and love. We had a lot of fun and we were in sync. I was shown contrasts and nuances, colonial past and colorful present, I was made to taste the best of foods in the most unusual of places and my sweet tooth was pampered and indulged like never before.
They say people who love to eat are the best people and whoever said that was most definitely talking about Bengalis! Get two Bengalis together and tell them I am a visitor, they will get into a heated debate on the best places to take me and what to feed me. I totally understand their passion now and I can only look back on my stay in Kolkata with the happiest of memories thanks to my lovely Bengali host.
These are some of Dithi’s beautiful paintings. You can see what I mean when I say that this is the essence of Kolkata.
Both images top and bottom courtesy of Dithi Mukherjee
It was from images like those above that I learned about a place called Kalighat; not a village outside the city as I once thought, but in the city itself. On my first evening, I was taken there for that unforgettable magical walk through the streets of Kalighat at night and I visited there again the next morning. While I was not gasping at everything around me, I actually managed some images. Here are the better ones, but they are only a shallow reflection of the actual experience -
Sweet shops everywhere selling offering to the Goddess Kali
I was taken inside the temple to see the Goddess
Devotees queue up outside the temple
Life in the surroundings
Everyone knows that beautiful red and green house in Kalighat
My very first kulhad chai. The kulhad smelled of the fresh earth with which it was made. The chai was excellent.
A ride back home in an old yellow Amby! It was a bit like sitting inside a World War II tank as it trundled through Kolkata roads, but it reminded me of childhood and the only car many of us knew then and who would have thought there were so many of those still around? This too is part of the Kolkata experience.
My favourite picture of Dithi and me :)
I feel this blog post does not do justice to my experiences in Kalighat, there was so much more, much much more which I am quite simply unable to express effectively.That is how saturated I am by the memories. I know something will eventually manifest themselves in paintings and illustrations, they always do, but until then and since I am totally and utterly shameless, I am adding below a few links to some posts in Artnlight where Vineeta documents her experiences of Kolkata and Kalighat so beautifully through her pictures and words. Do pause to take a look -
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Here is what I know about the realm of possibility – it is always expanding, it is never what you think it is. Everything around us was once deemed impossible, from the airplane overhead to the phones in our pockets to the choirgirl putting her arm around the metalhead. As hard as it is for us to see sometimes, we all exist within the realm of possibility. Most of the limits are of our own world’s devising. And yet everyday we each do so many things that were once impossible to us.
~ Excerpt from The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
Friday, January 6, 2017
Sunday, December 25, 2016
So of all the many experiences this year, this one was probably the most bizarre. Some 17 of us writers and illustrators and 4 mentors, were sent to Shantiniketan by Goethe Institute and made to stay in a beautiful home, where for 10 days we were stuffed and stuffed and stuffed with 7 course meals until we could barely walk and where we staggered around for the first three days asking questions like, What’s the jam today? Is there any more dessert left? Didn’t you looove the tea time snack and Gosh wasn't the fish delicious? Then somewhere on the third day, we were sternly reprimanded, told to get off our asses and get back to working on the theme of ‘Children Understand More than we Believe’. Somehow in the middle of the meals, we managed to do just that and lots of good things happened. Here are some pictures -
Just part of a seven course breakfast
and below, Urvashi Butalia from Zubaan
Just one of the sixteen erm,
very lively young people (below).
My delicate nerves usually sheltered by solitude,
have yet to regain their equilibrium.
This particular dessert below was Nolen Gur Rossogulla.
And somewhere along the way, the work -
And the presentation.
And one last picture which still
gives me nightmares.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
1) Rub honey into the night's back,
2) Make sure the moon is fed,
3)Bathe the ocean,
4) Warm sing the trees.
My mother resembled a character out of an Isabel Allende novel. she was one of those Piscean/Aquarians who would often declare that she could see visions of things that happened in a place, of incidents that might have happened if... She would periodically move heaven and earth so that the world around her could fit into her visions irrespective of the disruptions it caused.
One thing she did prove right was the fact that she would die and some five years before her death she went about clearing out the books in her large cellar with the energy characteristic of every mission she undertook. The result was that I was given some very beautiful old books.
I treasure these books for their beauty except one, a vintage PR exercise about Queen Victoria. Because of the subject matter, I've decided it can be sacrificed in the name of art. The paper is so old it practically disintegrates at times but the cherubic faces of the little royal princes is perfect for cutting up and playing with. The resulting compositions have become bizarre worlds within the pages of my new Moleskine sketchbook and I have been taken aback by what has emerged. Perhaps they are comparable to my mother's visions? In this case, I am thankful they are only on paper.
Deep down inside, I'm mad … we're all mad here, really.
If you've read this far, you're probably about to go nuts right now.