Life, sketchbook

That practice of hugging

My sister and I were utterly confused about this practice of hugging for most of our life. We had many questions. We grew up in Kolkata where no one knew about hugs. And why would we…

Transcript: We the Basu sisters were so alient to the concept of hugging. And why would we? Who would want to hug hot sweaty Bengalis all the time? And then how close is close? I mean does “close” have to be reciprocated in distance? What if someone thinks they are closer than you think you are…
And then which body part do you hug? I have no choice but to hug tummies, being super short.
But when I met this boy, who really enjoys hugging, and this little thunderstorm who is a bony little hugger, I had to tolerate it sometimes. But apart from these two, I am hugely grateful to social isolation. No more random social hugs! As my friend Toinks says “Do namaste instead”!

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Life, sketchbook

Lockdown diaries

Like most people who draw/sketch I filled up a lot of my time drawing.

Here are my sketchbooks from 2020. The red one is from Jan-Feb, when I wasn’t drawing at all, and I started the green one when lockdown started in March.

Things were of course very worrying and unsettling…

But did you know that these stages are not linear? I was so grateful for being able to work from home, having my favorite people around me and countless other things, when so many around us were suffering…

Anyway the one thing we did to keep a semblance of normality was “always the same little things in the same order and then the day can start”…

like eating breakfast…and finding ways to keep our spirits up.

Ate noodles for dinner and found TS Eliot thinking about home:

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated… …a lifetime burning in every moment…We must be still and still moving

So in the pursuit of stillness…

and birds flying north.

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Books, Life, sketchbook

The transformational power of a book

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead was one such transformational force that changed my life when I read it in 2013.

Sometimes in your life you happen to read the right book at the right time. and when that happens, there is a transformation. Up until then in my career there was a lack of women role models…

…and therefore no awareness of possibilities for the working mother.

Through her stories I understood it’s possible to have a career and be a mother, that workplaces can provide support structures, and so can the people in your life.

And that’s how I stopped holding back and took on the opportunities coming my way. Hope, optimism and possibilities – that’s how Lean in inspired me at a crucial time at a moment in my life…and I leaned in towards discovery.

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sketchbook

In loving memory of the one and only Parsa

Some of you know our friend Parsa. Back in 2008 I had drawn a story for his birthday The one and only Parsa. On Tuesday 4th Feb, he passed away. He and I were flatmates in Ahmedabad back in 2001-2002 along with our other friends Reshmy and Rahul Das.

One night another friend Tuttu had come over. Suddenly –

Anyway, we found some water for him…

and that was that…

Another day…

Parsa: Nandisoo Look at me! I am the messiah!
Soo: Dude you slept with the window open again!

Another time –

Parsa: We’ll take you to the Oscar awards ceremony with us, Nandisoo…
Rahul Das: Yes, you’re sweet to us and help us and we will take you when we win…

Parsa was not like the rest of us. He had so much passion and so much drive. These last few months he gave us a lot of attention with his daily messages and sometime later I understood that was his way of showing love…

“You have immortalised me in time,” Parsa had commented when he read the other post. I wish that this could really do that ❤︎

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drawing, sketchbook

Letters to my future self

Looking back for the year-end post, this is what I discovered:

29 sketchbooks in 6 years! Not bad at all! And before 2014 I have about 98 more, shown here, over the years of 2002-2013.

I’m so proud of myself for persisting with keeping a drawing journal, despite challenges! When my son was born in 2015, I couldn’t draw for the first 2 years of being a parent…I also couldn’t draw when we got married and was jealous of the the brown boy‘s constant talent! And some other times I was just lazy….

It’s always such a struggle to make time for improving my drawing skills and the craft of storytelling through drawing.

(Drawing from 2015)

Like most hobbies there are few overlaps with my professional skills, but it’s the need for creation and expression that has persisted throughout. Some wise person once said it’s almost like you are the channel through which the expression manifests…and it sometimes does feel like that.

Drawing just after returning to work from maternity leave

As a creative individual this is the practice that has helped to hone my creative voice, and as a human being the journals have helped me make sense of daily life and the constant reinvention we go through over the years.

Here’s an excerpt from an older press story:

For Basu, journaling is a process of making life. She shared with us that through these “letters for her future self” she “often remember(s) forgotten wishes and goals or events” that shaped her. It’s delightful to stroll through the worries and victories of her daily life. One can trace the arc of the conversation the young designer has had with herself over the years and feel like a confidential encounter has taken place.

So here’s to more drawing, more feedback and commentary from friends and well-wishers who see me drawing in real life – and onwards to 2020!

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Books, sketchbook

My year in books: 2019

I read about 25 books this year, as compared to 33 books last year and 26 books in 2017. I try to have a healthy average around the number of books I read, since my reading habit also makes me who I am, but I’m not fixated into gamifying it by making it a challenge or beating my last years’ goals or anything like that! How about you? Do you keep a count of the books you read?

In 2019 I found that I read quite a bit of fiction, non-fiction and design books – and I’m still reading a couple of them. Also, if anything resonates with me, I often make quick drawings in my sketchbook while reading. It’s always interesting to go back and see which books sparked off drawings. On Kindle sometimes I leave tons of notes and highlights for myself, but drawing is usually much more alive!

Lots of great books this year:

Sapiens: I was late to the party but so good, nevertheless. Now looking forward to reading his other book.

Good Talk: I laughed and giggled through this one Sunday. If you’ve ever had to think about your race or felt uncomfortable about your identity you’ll relate to this graphic novel by Mira Jacob. (I also loved Americanah by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie, obviously the defining book in this genre). Though Mira Jacob’s visual language didn’t appeal to me at first, it grew on me as I read, and integrated with the storytelling and the humor to emerge as an excellent read.

A quick sketch while reading Good Talk

The Messy Middle: A really useful handbook in my day to day work – pragmatic, relevant and inspiring at the same time. A great source for guidance around the choices a design leader makes. Check out my drawings from Scott’s other book Making Ideas Happen.

Dare to Lead: Gifted by my manager, it was my first book by Brené Brown. Inspired a whole post around empathy. A must read.

A smile in the mind: Take a look sometime…

Land of the seven rivers: A book published in 2012, and still so relevant. Found it in my parents’ house and really enjoyed it. It sheds light on a lot of questions that our classroom history of the Indian subcontinent didn’t answer. There’s also a version for children called The Incredible History of India’s Geography for young readers. The times we are living in are an apt time to be reading books like Sapiens and Land of the seven rivers as I found.

The Female Persuasion: Read the book if you’re interested in feminist thinking across generations.

A few other notable mentions: Men Without Women, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Sweet Shop and Transit by Rachel Cusk. I also read Plastic Emotions (Le Corbusier and Minnette de Silva) and Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process. This one was interesting to get an insight into their secretive culture, the design review process and how Steve Jobs prepped for WWDC.

Here are a few drawings made while reading Kudos by Rachel Cusk in Kolkata. Rachel Cusk has an amazing sense of storytelling, unique in it’s own way in the way she develops her characters. I will probably re-read this trilogy again.

Books that are movies:

Call Me by Your Name: Watch the movie. Then read the book. Each is wonderful in its own right.

Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything — what a waste!”

The Little Drummer Girl: I enjoyed both the book by John le Carré, and the TV miniseries. John le Carré is a master of craft, so I read not only for the story but also the language and the storytelling. The TV series was fabulously crafted by Chan-wook Park – the first time I watched anything by him and it was spectacular.

At the end of the year, I gave up a few books not worth the time, and I’m still reading The Year of the Monkey and a couple of other design books.

Someone once said that the point of reading is not to to see how many you can get through, but how many can get through to you!

And that is the pleasure.

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Life, sketchbook, travels

Istanbul in 5 days

Last week we went on a holiday to Istanbul. It was only five days so we only stayed in Istanbul, exploring the city and so on. Unlike other holidays, the brown boy didn’t have to feed Orin this time!

Istanbul is such a beautiful, picturesque city with so much character.

Skyline with minarets, narrow lanes with cobbled streets…

We loved the food, starting with the street food, Simit, roasted chestnuts and Turkish coffee.

We learnt some Turkish words to get by:

In 1928, Ataturk changed the Turkish alphabet from the previous Ottoman (Arabic) script to Roman letters/Latin alphabet to improve the literacy of the new republic of Turkey. More here.

We were also really interested in seeing the Byzantium remains around the city, but we mainly saw the outstanding Hagia Sophia, the moody Basilica Cistern and the Stone of Million.

We couldn’t manage to fit in the Camlica tower and other newer architecture on this trip, but worth a visit later on!

We went shopping in the Grand Bazar or Mısır Çarşısı as it’s called in Turkish:

On one of the days we took a cruise down the Bosporus, starting from the Golden Horn and going all the way up to the Black Sea.

We also visited the neighbourhoods of Balat-Fatih, Beyoğlu and around.

Overall the trip was fabulous. We caught up on much needed rest, drawing and reading, and even managed a trip to the local Legoland!

Our links:

Street food: https://www.timeout.com/istanbul/restaurants/the-best-turkish-street-foods and https://www.nomadepicureans.com/europe/turkey/street-food-istanbul/
Sulemani Cheesecake from Viyana Kahvesi
Cook Life Balat http://cooklife.com/ in Balat https://www.goturkey.com/en/blog/hidden-istanbul-a-day-in-balat

Art: Istanbul Modern https://www.istanbulmodern.org/en and Salt Galata https://saltonline.org/en/42/salt-galata

Here are some pages from my journal.

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Design, Event, sketchbook

At DesignUp19

I just came back from DesignUp 2019 which isn’t just a design conference, it’s made by designers for designers. This year it was bigger and better than ever. In the conference lineup there was a mix of data+design, the pluralities that exist in India with design for the social sector, design leadership and a number of varied workshops. Here are the sketchnotes of the talks I attended:

Jon Kolko: Creativity

Jon talked about four ways in which design leaders can help to enhance creativity of their teams – to acknowledge feelings, tame ambiguity, drive a vision and let teams run wild. For example, designers feel vulnerable when putting up their work for a critique, so respect and acknowledge that. In a critique, he said, there should be no hierarchy. The highest paid person in the room is equal to everyone else, it should be a democratic process so foster trust. Another aspect of a design leadership is to set a vision – frame the problem and humanize it.

“Show the team why there’s a reason to believe. Bring the design criteria to life.”

Dave Malouf: Design Ops – The power to amplify design value

Dave’s talk finally gave me a name to some of the activities I’ve been engaged in over 2019 – hiring and setting up the design team and the comms for Microsoft Edge Design in India. For a long time, until I heard from Dave, I didn’t really think I was doing real “design” – but I realized after this talk, that I was setting the foundation for the team now to start performing at their best.

Design Ops basically creates time for design teams by streamlining effort and communication, to focus and put their best energy on the most creative aspects of the work. For scaling a design team and ensuring a quality practice that creates quality experiences, design ops is a must. Dave’s talk focused on principles and values to guide with.

“So that we mutually understand and value what is quality design output, AND quality practice is. Design Ops carries the burden.”

  • Socialise design quality
  • Quantify it
  • Critical design language
  • Monitor to learn and adjust

The design process (and proud to say we use the shiny double diamond in our team) that helps to explore multiple approaches:

Dave also explained how should design teams use quantitative and qualitative data:

  • Methods for collecting the right data as part of the design process
  • Instrumentation to be built in to capture the right data
  • Dashboards to turn data into insights

BTW, Dave founded the ixda – and that’s where I learnt how to be an interaction designer way back in 2004…

Andy Budd: An accidental design leader

I had been reading Andy’s blog since 2004, and he was one of the early designers, and his talk was about the roles and responsibilities of design leaders.

An absolutely fantastic talk that made we wish I had a design mentor back when I was struggling to understand how to lead design teams. Now after 5 years or so, I may have learnt all these, only with a few battle scars and heart burn.

Andy talked about 5 things: Hiring the right designers for your team, retaining them and helping them stay creative, giving them the space to thrive and managing up and down.

The ideal talent pyramid

“Give your team the air cover to support learning and growth.”

Accountability Ladder for designers

For more guidelines visit his site Clearleft.

Panel: Roti, Kapda or Mobile

This panel, moderated by Ripul Kumar was about how Indians are changing as a result of their high mobile usage.

People will find a digital consumption equilibrium.”

Navneet Nair of Phonepe

“People expect pleasure out of productivity.”

Payal Arora, author of The Next Billion Users

Payal Arora: Design for the next billion users

Payal spoke about the 5 needs of the next billion users: Fun, Flexibility, Family, Fusion and Friction, and the need to understand the nuances of contexts.

“We need friction to protect people from themselves – to provide a pause before action.”

Design for Social Good: Devika KrishnanAkshay Roongta

We are “maker-centric not market-centric” no matter what the project brief or design process is!

Devangana Khokhar: Data for Social Good

Arindam Mukherjee: Insights for Product Development

Another awesome talk which I couldn’t draw – because my pen had run out of ink – was “Design Leadership without losing your hair” by Param Venkataraman.

“The higher you go, the deeper you need to look.”

What was nice was that lots of speakers recommended books like Orbiting the giant hairball, Design the life you love, etc. There were so many more talks that were happening in parallel that I missed, including Alyssa Naples’s talk. It was really difficult to be at each of them. Plus there were all the wonderful conversations that happened at the edges of the conference.

The Microsoft Edge designers getting their books signed by Jon Kolko

All in all, a great conference – lots of validation, new learning, new ideas and new people to connect with! Looking forward to the next!

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