Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Long ago I watched an Antony Bourdain show where he was invited into the home of an Inuit family in a remote part of Greenland in Quebec, Canada. They killed a fresh seal, brought it home, gutted the seal on the floor and proceeded to eat the innards of the seal. Then the host reverentially handed over the seal’s  eyeball to Bourdain who partook of it. The raw seal eyeball was delicacy, the best part of the seal. It was given to the guest as a gesture of friendship. The point was not so much in whether Bourdain ‘liked’ the eyeball or not but that he accepted that gesture. The offer of the delicacy and its acceptance was a bridge across cultures, a symbol of respect and friendship.
Here in Montreal, a lovely couple invited me, a newcomer, to their beautiful home. The hostess had earlier been to Marche Jean Talon and procured fresh food for the meal. She had also thoughtfully bought for me a particular food that I had once mentioned I had never eaten before. There on the balcony, in the soft evening light, over wine and beer, she placed plates of this food in front of us and showed me the unusual way of eating it. When I thought I’d finished eating I was told that within the remnants lay the best part of all – the heart. Then my host took my plate, helpfully cut up the core, speared something on a fork and handed it over to me.
“Here it is” he said, “Here is the heart”.
At that moment I remembered Antony Bourdain being given the seal's bloody eyeball. Because I was in Montreal I was given to eat an unusual flower with a heart in the centre, in another country erm, part of Quebec, I would have been offered something quite different. But whatever it was that was offered to me that evening, it was a beautiful gesture of friendship, a bridge between cultures and an invitation into a different world.

An excellent blog by a Montrealer >

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Leap

Everything works the reverse  in this strange and friendly land. I feel like I am surfacing from underwater. On the 3rd day, I stood in front of Place des Arts and watched the inhabitants, unusual faces, different clothes, other colours, smoother sounds. From the glass reflection in the building, a giant inflated octopus waved at me in reverse. Large spheres from Bubble Tea that I was drinking descended down my throat. I am not a tourist, I am not an overseas student, I am a Montrealer now. A brand new one.

Friday, July 11, 2014


I ordered my horse to be brought from the stables. The servant did not even understand my orders. So I went to the stables myself, saddled my horse and mounted. In the distance I heard the sound of a trumpet and I asked the servant what it meant. He knew nothing and had heard nothing. At the gate he stopped me and asked: " Where is the master going?" "I don't know," I said, "just out of here, just out of here. Out of here nothing, else, it's the only way I can reach my goal." "So you know your goal?" he asked. "Yes", I replied, "I've just told you. Out of here- that's my goal".

~ Franz Kafka
The Departure

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Sometime ago, a friend tried to take some pictures of me for an interview.We went out into my garden where he aimed the camera at me and said "pose" shortly after which it occurred to both of us that I had no idea how to pose so we went to my studio instead, where I  just did my thing while he clicked pictures. Here they are -

Some of the black and white pictures are dramatic, so please allow me to indulge myself and post these on my blog, because where else can I post them if not here?

When I first started drawing with charcoal, I remember that I posted the drawings on my old blog where a former teacher chanced by them and emailed me; 'these are the best drawings I've seen of yours so far.' he exclaimed much to my bewilderment, 'this is what you are all about! You can forget about drawing fairies and cute little bunny rabbits forever...' 

Sometimes I have been asked how I do what I do with charcoal, how I get all those strong lines and textures. I feel a hundred years old when I am asked that and I have been chided for fumbling for an answer during such moments. How can I ever put process into words? 

When you have reached a place in your life where you have it all, everything that you worked so hard for, you have only one thing left to do – dismantle everything that you love, give up everything that you hold close to your heart and begin all over again. So that new adventures and mysterious emotions will reflect over and over in your art and there will be progress in this one life that you have been blessed with. 


I sang because I knew that singing is testimony to the gratitude we owe God - but not because I knew how to sing. I was so deeply committed to this task right from the first note that the peals of derisive laughter that broke out had no more effect on me than a distant breeze in the eastern mountains...I was standing there through the power of things which were so high above me that I no longer mattered.

~ The Fish Can Sing
Halldor Laxness

Erm, many thanks to S for the photography.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Midnight Sketching

Someone had an idea about doing night sketching under lamplights to study light and shade at night, but then someone else arrived late, then we had to gas for an hour, then we went out to eat Chinese, then we went off to draw after ten at night and finished drawing at two in the morning, watched by mysterious cats and serenaded continuously by yowling dogs...

Black cat!

 Can't believe people actually draw with points like these.

A Morning Walk in Summer

Lalbagh is at its best in summer so I am glad that someone managed to coax me one morning into a walk there. He wanted to 'tag' trees, whatever that means and had his nose buried earnestly in his phone most of the time presumably doing his tagging while I tried out my camera. Pardon this picture heavy post, but can you blame me?

I returned with this booty. Alladin's cave could not have offered me more pleasure.

I photographed the shape and texture of the seedpods

and started the beginnings of a sketch that I never completed. There is something else that I want to happen in my drawing. It is like looking for a path and not finding a way. Sometimes the best solution for that is keeping the sketchbook closed. Better drawings are known to happen after a pause.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


This is my favourite illustration; two lovers escaping into the unknown. The story I had to illustrate for IQ Magazine was set in the tribal jungles of Arunachal Pradesh in the North East. In the descriptions in this story by Mamang Dai, the lovers who escaped under cover of darkness seemed very small and almost insignificant in the midst of the overwhelming  natural forces around them.
When I look back at this illustration, I like the fact that there is a sense of mystery, beauty and excitement in the atmosphere that has been created. The mountains and the stars seem to envelop the lovers in a protective way as the river supports and carries them forward into the unknown.

“Love is always a voyage. All travelers whether they want to or not are changed.
No one can travel into love and remain the same.”
 ~  Shams Tabrizi


In my body you search the mountain
for the sun buried in its forest.
In your body I search for the boat
adrift in the middle of the night.

~ Octavio Paz
Many thanks to Sajana J. for sending me this poem to accompany the illustration.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
~ T.S.Eliot

What I listened to while illustrating this picture >
The Unknown

The Unknown

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together.
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether man or woman
- But who is that on the other side of you?
~ From The Waste Land.
T.S. Eliot

It is important to have a secret,
a premonition of things unknown.
It fills life with something impersonal,
a numinosum. A man who has never experienced 
that has missed something important. He must sense 
that he lives in a world which in some respects is mysterious;
that things happen and can be experienced which remain
inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated. 
The unexpected and the incredible belong in this world. 
Only then is life whole. For me the world has from the beginning been infinite 
and ungraspable.
~ Carl Jung

It never ceases to amaze me how great literature and divine music gives expression to those strange, unfathomable choices and complexities of human existence.


April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.


J.S. Bach (1685-1750): Double Concerto in C minor, BWV 1062 

Bach's music sets in order what life cannot
~ Otto Bettmann

Friday, April 11, 2014

Amrita Sher-Gill

During those rare moments while standing before exceptional art, apart from engaging in it, one also becomes acutely aware of the puerile virtual eye-candy that we are constantly fed with in the name of art and illustration on the internet…How insidiously bad art creeps into our psyches and takes root into something malignant that eats away at our souls. Do we even know why we click the ‘like’ button anymore? Are we even aware when we comment with trite platitudes?

What first struck me about Amrita Sher-Gill’s paintings was the integrity in her work. When I stood among her paintings I felt as the same sense of reverence one gets while standing under an old and ancient tree. None of the photographs of her paintings will equal standing before her actual work, the strength and subtlety she created with her brush.
This excellent exhibition was ‘curated’ in the true sense of the term by Yashodhara Dalmia. One could appreciate and follow the progress and development of Sher-Gill’s work, the elevation of her painting over the years into simplicity and abstraction. One marvels at the sheer speed of prodigious achievements in the succession of her canvases in the span of her 28 years.

If Milton Glaser said that the function of art is to make us aware of what is real, Sher-Gill’s work did that for me but also much more. Her work has that quality of truly great creation, it has depth. It is a strong and beautiful reminder that life and art are connected and are reflections of each other. It is also a reminder that how we live daily and what we see constantly influences who we are and what we create.

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