gutotales, Life, parenthood, sketchbook

Life after

I went back to work when Orin was four months. Still breastfeeding, still feeding at night, and going to work during the day. So many working mothers go through the same thing, but it’s so exhausting! Every day of Orin’s first year I used to give myself a private award for staying human.

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Though the brown boy was an completely engaged parent, and we had a day time nanny for Orin, there were times when I needed a little break.

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“Hmmph,” says the anteater. “An afternoon of babysitting needs an afternoon of therapy.”

“There goes my potential babysitter,” I think.

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Life, sketchbook, travels

Holiday journal, 2

Like I said, poor Orin had to fall ill within two days of the holiday. Just the usual viral fever. When he was sleeping, I was drawing, reading and moping for the lost holiday.

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Here are some sketchnotes I made while listening to this On Being podcast with Maira Kalman and feeling thankful for small pleasures.

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“To be under a tree with Maira Kalman and her talk on angst and ritual: bliss.”

Brief moments of watching the sea. Nature is such a miracle.

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After Joan Didion, I re-read The Emigrants by WG Sebald. Ever since I discovered them on Rukminee’s bookshelf, I re-read one every year.

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“The seasons and the years came and went…and day by day, hour by hour, with every beat of the pulse one lost more and more of one’s qualities and became less comprehensible to oneself, increasingly abstract.”

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Extended solitude makes me write more: “Drawing is easy and lets me construct my own alternate version of reality. Because doesn’t everyone do that, only I do it in visuals. Sebald apparently started writing his beautiful immersive transporting prose where stories blur the lines between fact and fictions, events and the recounting of them, and the memories of events, because he wasn’t satisfied with academic historical writing or with current biographical prose. Drawing is easy; because like Maira Kalman says,

“Writing is too serious and angst-ridden.”

Like life.

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“Seeing, Hearing, Listening

When we see someone often we only see what we want to see, and what we think should be there. The eye joins the cognitive dots and sends the visual to the brain (??)

But drawing gives us a chance to really look at something, explore it with our eyes, see without bias.

It’s a bit like active listening, being open and then responding. Why do I enjoy drawing from memory? It is after all a reconstruction.”

And did I mention how much I love reading Sebald? His gothic prose saves me from my own melancholy every single time.

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“It seems to me then as if all the moments of our life occupy the same space, as if future events already existed, and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last.”

So ironic in the context of this holiday.

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Life, sketchbook, travels

Holiday journal, 1

A break from the distant past of 2015 to the last holiday we took a few months ago. We’d gone to Sri Lanka, but as you’ll see from my drawings, events conspired to make the holiday more about the hotel room than the place.

“Here we are, in a neighboring country that looks and feels familiar, but such a different vibe, such a different sense of people.”

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We’d planned to go to all these places that I’d drawn in the map, but I ended up in the hotel at Bentota the whole time, because Orin fell ill and only recovered the day we were leaving for Delhi. These are some drawings done on the road.

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On this trip I started using water-soluble color pencils for the first time, and really enjoyed moving away from lines to shadows. (Forgive the quality of these images, my scanner is broken so there’s a big glare in all the scans.)

These drawings done in Kandy Botanical Gardens were the first ones where I was trying to figure out how to use color pencils.

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Discovered the writing of Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking on this trip.

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“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.”

And the same is true of people, I think.

Part 2 coming next.

And by the way, I used a Kaagazi sketchbook and loved it. Will be definitely using more of their books now.

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Life, People, sketchbook

Our labor story

Really, there’s no drama. Millions of women give birth everyday, and like everything else in my life, I just happened to document it, that’s all.

Mostly because I wanted to preserve the memory of my experience, and also to check that my drawing skills hadn’t flown out (along with all the unexpected amount of blood I’d lost)!

About a couple of weeks into motherhood, I groggily managed to draw this out while the pipsqueak was sleeping.

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01 Feb 2015 04:00 AM | My water broke and jerked me awake. Thanks to the internet I could easily figure out what was happening. The brown boy was ready to panic, but I calmed him down saying it was probably a false alarm. We called Dr. Rai and though she said we should go to the hospital, I decided to go back to sleep until a decent time, and by 07:00 AM, we were at Fortis with our overnight bag.

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At the hospital, everything was peaceful and organized. The nurses were sweet. They hooked me up to monitors to check the foetal heart beat and put me on a drip. The resident doctors examined me, and we were on our way to having this baby! In the morning I went around the room doing yoga poses, all geared up for a normal delivery. The brown boy giggled through a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory. The rest of the day passed slowly and nothing much happened. I ate chocolate and listened to the Emperor Waltz on loop. Later on in the day, the contractions started and we began monitoring them. I have a pretty high threshold for pain so it was just about bearable.

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06:00 PM | By the evening, there was no progress! We were all geared to spend the night in the labor room. Then the foetal heart rate dropped, and dropped again. A worried Dr. Rai suggested that we should do a C-section since it’s a “precious pregnancy” (another term for an elderly mom, i.e. me).

07:45 PM | They strapped me on to a stretcher and all that, like an usual surgery. Dr. Rai’s crew introduced themselves to me. Then Dr.Rai said, we’re going in! Lots of activity went on behind that green curtain. I had local anasthesia so it wasn’t painful (then) but I tried not to look. The brown boy needed to hold my hand, he was so stressed. But it was really the shortest 15 minutes of my life – within minutes they brought out this little squealing mini-me. Then I passed out.

When I woke up, this is what we had: little squealing baby Orin.

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Part 1 | Part 2

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Life, sketchbook

38 weeks/2015

Those nine months were of course transformational, and not just in body. Slowly I got used to the idea of giving up some control over myself. Here are some pages from the sketchbook at 8 weeks and 12 weeks. But as personal growth, I called it my year of spirituality.

These are some pages at 38 weeks, when I took out some time to document what I was thinking:

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Things that I will miss: People being nice.

“Are people being nice because they are, or because I’m pregnant?”

And that was practically the only thing I could think of! Here we are sitting in a Starbucks, only because they have decaf.

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“Did not think these days would ever come! The last few empty days of our lives…so much has changed, not least my waddling walk!”

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“But how did I keep my sanity through change? Being the sort of person who always fights against it, making transitions much harder than they have to be.”

“Well, I’m not proud of it…”

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“Well, mainly it was the demanding project that kept me super occupied. The Vedanta podcasts were the most calming element of these turbulent times. And also Kindle in it’s many formats.”

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“Of course there were surprises.

This amazing miraculous human body. Really I could bow down to the phenomena of it; if only I could bend.”

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What really helped: Friends and family. Even the most misogynist of people, i.e. me, who would avoid human contact if she could, had to concede to this. Prashant, Indira, the brown boy, my sister and my nephew, and family friends 2π and Snehasis.

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[Aside: I was reading Enchanted Objects by David Rose and thinking, we need new shapes for tangible technology. I really cannot keep drawing these “flat rectangular slabs of glass”.  A fabulous and inspiring book if you’re interested in technology and design.]

In retrospect:

Soo: “Even my (drawing) style is the same…you would think this transformation…”

The brown boy: “Hahaha…you have to work harder than that!”

And by the way, I went into labour less than 48 hours after drawing these pages!

Letters Home Part 1 | Letters Home Part 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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art, Life, sketchbook

To Amrita

Back in 2014, the brown boy and I used to have this painting by Amrita Sher-Gill hanging in front of our bed and I had just finished reading Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life by Yashodhara Dalmia.

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“I wish I could be in this Amrita Sher-Gil painting. Everyone is so calm and restful – a calm that I have lost, and would dearly love to get back.

Oh Amrita, your paintings are so much calmer than your own life. Is that a sign that life is always more chaotic than art?

Yours truly, agitated Soo.”

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Life, sketchbook

Letters Home

This is a series that begins from 2014, drawings that I wasn’t able to share until now, until I was able to grow a necessary sense of detachment from then.

01: Frontispiece

Looking back, I must have been terribly grumpy when I started this book! Was I not drawing the happy memories from that time? Was I only using the sketchbook to work out my darknesses?
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02: Wednesday

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“The whole day. It really wasn’t bad. I was doing my own idea and it was going well. But there’s this utter sense of discontinuation that is no one’s doing.

I guess I am always meant to be a loner among peers.

I miss a lot of people who are away. And wish we could go on a holiday.”

03: Feels like someone else’s life

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“That body I must take care of. At least I’ve lost this need to be cool. You must be so happy, and I a different person. Feels like it’s someone else. Oh this bloody heat!”

A little clue that I had just become pregnant then. And scared of children, scared of giving birth and scared of being a mother!

04: Another Sunday

Why was I making such a big deal about being pregnant? You know half the country can get pregnant, since they have the necessary apparatus. In my case, though I didn’t smoke in college (because I wanted to have a healthy baby when I was 25) I never really wanted to have children. I did not like them, I was scared by their non-verbal communication, and intimidated by the general unpredictability. However sometime around my thirties I started being more open to the possibility, probably because we started acquiring nieces and nephews, and the brown boy is a complete and utter baby person. Around 8 weeks, I finally started getting more used to the idea that I was growing a new human being!

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Another Sunday that I spent mostly in my own head. Thinking a lot about my 30-year-old relationship with my body. And my imagination reducing slowly but surely.

I should be happier, I know. So many good things are happening.

05: Monday

Friends are such a great support. Here’s Anitha:

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Anitha: Do things that make you happy.

Me: But what? So hard to find something like that…

Anteater: Or you’re already doing happy things, like me?

06: 8 weeks baby hungry little tadpole

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Helpful books, advice and food from 2pie and Snehasis.

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Life, Reflection, sketchbook

Parenting, and your sense of self

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Transcript

Getting out of your comfort zone always brings with it a loss of identity and the last one for me was becoming a parent. Suddenly you’re thrown to the deep end, everything around you, losing the floor beneath your feet. Not only your body, your hormones, your sense of time and also your relationships, your mental makeup, your creativity and your sense of self. Everything you knew how to do, suddenly becomes harder. On non-existent, like creativity. Or sleep. It’s easy to hide behind the baby – but you really owe it to yourself to get it back or you might lose it forever. 18062017.

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Life, sketchbook

“There’s always resurrection after tragedy”

There’s a constant tussle between the anteater and me – he with his Stoic outlook in life and me with my existential angst. But then again, he has answers for every situation in life – which can be useful if you’re not given to much reflection.

So people like me, seek out the one with the answers – there’s time yet for the ones with questions.

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Title by Maira Kalman from a Creative Mornings talk.

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