Books, sketchbook

Not islands, but a life

Finally this year, the travel bug bit me hard. As we have all discovered, one can only do so much within the confines of one’s own home, and so I started reading travel books.

One part of Monisha Rajesh’s journey

After finishing Around the World in 80 Trains, I read From the Alleghenies to the Hebrides by Margaret Fay Shaw. She was a folklorist, a collector of Gaelic music, and an early photographer, and in this book she shares how it was, living in the remote Scottish island of Uist between 1925 – 1935.

The book was so detailed it was as if we were right there, looking over her shoulder. I think she must have kept diaries to be able to remember in such great detail.

Here’s a sketch that I made while reading about what they usually ate there.

“Don’t watch it being made, or you’ll never want to eat it again!”

Every once in a while you end up reading something that you don’t usually read, and this was one such book. Ms Shaw’s voice comes through joyously through the pages after all these years, and I ended the book thinking that she must have been quite a nice person to know.

Standard
Life, sketchbook

From The Garden of Life

Whoever buys a book and opens it fifteen years later…and finds it an absolute gem? The Garden of Life is one such discovery I made a few weeks ago.

It’s beautifully illustrated with original miniature paintings made specially for the book.

The page on hibiscus reminded me of the hair oil, Jabakusum, my mother would apply on our hair as children. Though effective, it was pungent, and we hated going to school with such smelly hair…

Looking back now, I don’t know if Jabakusum is still sold, but the packaging was very memorable, with quite an aspirational illustration, you might agree…

Standard
Books, sketchbook

Books of 2020

Like everyone else, I probably broke my all time record for reading in 2020, so this is going to be the first of a series of book posts over the months.

Spring 2020 – Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, Michael Rosen’s Book of Play and Keep Going by Austin Kleon.

Grapefruit was an experience – I found that it was an “early example of conceptual art“. I go back to The Book of Play and Keep Going again and again, both are inspirational and great for sparking ideas.

I don’t remember much about Daily Rituals, though, except that it gathered the routines of a large and diverse set of people, and it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, or whether you get up at 5 am like Medium articles recommend! Here are some of the sketches I had made while reading it – about Patricia Highsmith and Frederico Fellini.

Some other book posts from 2020: Sputnik Sweetheart (So many vaccine puns :P), a bit from Ruined by Design in The Difference between Friday and a Fried Egg (mustread for designers today) and Letters from Tove in Fjords & Islands

Standard
Books

As long as you have a book to read…

Do you know that feeling when you’re between books to read? When you’ve just finished a great book and you’re looking around for the next book?

That was what I felt that day – I was torn asunder by not being able to find a suitable book –

But then The Folded Clock felt like coming home. A rare book about a woman in her forties keeping a diary about her life, being a mother, wife, writer, friend, artist, writer….

This summer I read Letters from Tove a collection of letters Tove Jansson wrote to her family and friends. So lovely and fresh it made me homesick for Sweden and Finland.

Unlike Infinity Net, the autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, I grew quite fond of Tove Jansson while reading this book. She was such a loving, funny and good-natured person and so much of her voice comes across in the early Moomin books.

She wrote in a letter about choosing the right life partner: It’s important for one’s partner to love the art equally if not more for it to work.

“When one is lost to the art the partner need have no expectations.”

and so true that.

Standard
Life, People

People watching in Kolkata, 2: Own your presence Bengali!

Continuing from yesterday’s post on people watching, here’s another trip from last year.

“We spent seven beautiful days in Kolkata – beautiful days of Lakshmi Puja and Bhai Phonta. Though we both had to work a lot we got to spend some time with near and dear ones. And lots of near and dear food. Like chandrapuli, darbesh, narkel naru, malpua, chamcham, barfi, kochuri, jilipi and much more.”

I was reading Land of Seven Rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal on the journey and thinking about the pluralism and the melting pot that is India.

On this trip we “went to Seagull and bought lots of books, and finally sat down to draw at the airport.”

“Airport people are the best to draw. This restless Japanese tourist was not calm. Maybe his legs were aching. Maybe it was his heart.”

I was looking at the body language of the people around and thinking that “Bengalis always look so apologetic to be present. Like they don’t own the right to exist. They look too humble and sit as if they are trying to disappear into the background.

Be here, own your presence Bengali!”

Standard
Life, People, sketchbook

The one with the magic

My friend k_space gifted Just Kids to me a decade ago and since then Patti Smith, with her music and her writing, have been my spiritual savior. I squeezed M Train out for months, not wanting to let go of her company.

[I got some coffee and stood looking at the sky. Patti Smith saves me every time. That’s why I’m tough like Monday morning.]

“Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.”

Patti Smith

Standard
Books, Life, sketchbook

Although I cannot see your face

Honestly who would have thought that we would spend a quarter of a year in physical isolation from each other. A story to recount in my old age.

And speaking of old age. Umberto Eco once wrote that books are the most robust format of content transmission that we have seen over centuries, and so that if nothing else, my sketchbooks would probably survive till my old age at least, and I will look back on these days and laugh…

"Although I cannot see your face 
As you flip these poems awhile
Somewhere from some far off place
I hear you laughing - 
and I smile..."

Shel Silverstein
Standard
Life, sketchbook

Let’s be enemies!

Over the past few years, we’ve moved cities, homes, neighborhoods quite frequently. Every new house needs a new social life, but before we’ve been able to settle down to do that, we’ve moved again. Here are some drawings from a couple of years ago when we had just moved to yet another new house.

[It’s been so long since I made any friends that I’ve forgotten what one does with them…until I read this book with Orin yesterday: Let’s be enemies by Maurice Sendak. Friends do things together – like playing and birthday cakes and making sand castles.]

[I wonder what activities a solitary person like me will do with a friend? Work? Draw? Eat. Talk. Cook. Watch a movie? I need to do more things. I need to make new friends.]

“She always believes the solution lies outside herself. Tsk.”

Anteater
Standard