Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Bookshelf

My bookshelf is the focal point in my new home and since I've moved in here it has become an evolving work of art. At first it was spartan and neatly arranged, but now over the couple of months I've stayed here, it has started to acquire more personality. 

Apart from my much collection of books which I must have as company, the things I love are also showcased here - the inevitable seedpods make their way to my bookshelf, as do objects picked up from my travels - driftwood from a beach in Roncesvalles somewhere in Toronto, the tiniest seashells from beaches in Australia, striped pebbles from Hampi, lucky pigs from Singapore...they are all placed here with love and care. 

Every time I pass by this bookshelf, which is many times during the day, my heart expands, my fur rises, I feel a sense of contentment. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Kashmiri Girl on a Cover

This is the cover for my picture book due in October 2019, published by Seagull Books. The cover illustration is done by me and the cover design by the awesome Sunandini Banerjee who designs all the Seagull Books covers

Here is Sunandini's response to me after sending me this cover design:
Thank you for the beautiful work you continue to do, and for having faith in me—for trusting me to add to your image on the cover. It has been a tremendous freedom and a responsibility and I am so very glad I could make you happy.
I am very touched to read this. While I am personally wary about emotion expressed over artwork, I have to admit that this time, when I saw my illustration placed within this understated and sophisticated cover design, I discreetly wiped away a tear. Who would've thought all those years and years of practice I put in would all lead to this?

This book was what I spent part of 2017 and most of 2018 frantically illustrating. To say that it was hard work would be an understatement. For an illustrator, making a picture book is akin to writing a novel. 

Here is a synopsis about the book ~

Priya Sebastian and Neha Singh, 'Is It the Same for You?'

‘The day they found my brother with a blood stain, I found one on my kurta too, but no one noticed my blood stain.’ Thus begins “Is it the same for you?” a story of a young girl in Kashmir as she goes through the turbulence of adolescence in her conflict-ridden world. While larger issues of terrorism, violence, and death engulf the hearts and minds of all those around her, she struggles to come to terms with her changing body and all that it entails. Left alone to deal with her constant questions, she experiences despair and loneliness but also shows resilience and hope in the faint knowledge that maybe it is not very different for all young girls around the world. : ‘Is it the same for you?’ she asks.
With powerful yet sensitive illustrations by Priya Sebastian, which infuse the story with universality, this beautiful volume is a tender attempt in imagining the different strands of a young life in Kashmir - a place where the inner conflicts of voiceless, adolescent girls are often overshadowed by the political, religious, and military conflicts that are now a constant in everyday life.

Forthcoming. October 2019.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The White House

So while driving around a circle in South Bangalore, I came face to face with this gorgeous old white house. I kept remembering its beauty. Then one day I returned here, sat in my car and drew it in my sketchbook. 

Then another day while buying some fruit in front of this place, I saw a young woman come out of the gate. Since she had a friendly approachable face, I called out to her and showed her my drawing in my phone. She took me inside and introduced me to her mother.

Once you enter the compound it is a different world. You leave behind urban Bangalore and enter into a time capsule which is a remnant of British Colonial times. There is a distinct change of energy and you feel you are moving back several centuries.

Unlike many old colonial bungalows which have been converted into hotels and boutiques, this home remains unchanged. It was almost reminiscent of entering into the Bronte House I visited somewhere in England a long time ago. The couple who owned the home, Ranoo and Umraz where gracious enough to show me the rooms. The floors were slate, there was a narrow spiral staircase, the dining room was like a setting from an old English story. I hardly wanted to remove my phone and brazenly photograph the surroundings of this gracious couple, so I waited until I was taken to the open space beyond the kitchen.

This house once housed Home School, which is pretty much where most girls in South Bangalore studied.

Ranoo and I chatted for sometime in her cool verandah. Connections were made of course. If you've lived in Bangalore since the 70s then everyone knows everybody else: Ranoo's teacher was my neighbour.
Ranoo told me that those who are familiar with Home School would remember the Cherry Tree in the courtyard. While the old one did not survive, a new one was planted in its place which you can see here in the picture below. 

I was told how Ranoo would hear people walking past this house wonder aloud why the owners had not "developed this space", i.e. built a towering apartment block.That might be an inevitability to old structures such as these. They are staggeringly difficult and expensive to maintain. 
What more can I say but conclude that I consider it a blessing to have been allowed to look inside this garden and this beautiful house and to have enjoyed this moment for what it was.