art, Books, illustration, Life, List, sketchbook

My best books of 2021

Last year I didn’t read as much as I usually do, what with one thing and another, but I ended up with some good ones. Here are the highlights.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman: Recommended by pacificleo, it was one of my best books of the year.

Voices of Dissent by Romila Thapar: This essay puts today’s responses to resistance in perspective, by charting out the history and evolution of dissent from the vedic times. A worthwhile read, even though the language was quite academic. (If you buy from Seagull, you can choose your version of the cover, designed by the brilliant sunandinibee.)

Among graphic novels, I read some beauties: Japanese Notebooks: A Journey to the Empire of Signs by Igort, The Winter of the Cartoonists by Paco Roca, Hostage by Guy Delisle, Leonard Cohen: On a Wire by Pilippe Girard and some more that I shared in Graphic novels by women.

Last year I also updated my perspective on feminism with We should all be Feminists by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie and Against White Feminism by Rafia Zakaria.

Some other books that I enjoyed were Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing, Daybook by Anne Pruitt and The Pursuit of Art by Martin Gayford.

In fiction The Startup Wife by Tahmina Anam was enjoyable and different, as was Crudo by Olivia Laing and No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.

Our best pastime was drawing with Making Comics by Lynda Barry that Guto and I used throughout the year.

I thought I hadn’t read much, but now I’m getting tired just looking at this list. Oh well, life is short, and my eyes won’t last.

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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.

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Life, parenthood, People, sketchbook, travels

Holiday envy

On holidays, while traveling, as soon as we reach a place where we can sit still for a few minutes I take out my sketchbook and start drawing.

Here we are in Palolem last year. For the last few years every holiday has begun with a drawing of the brown boy feeding Orin.

Soo: Ah-ha! Our holiday will beat everyone else’s holiday! Hahaha!

The brown boy: Ulp. Why?

Soo: Because I’m drawing! Everyone just takes pictures {smug}

The brown boy: Umm. Ok. (So competitive!)

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sketchbook, Technology, travels

Rishikesh, lord of the senses

There is something special about a midweek holiday. Being the crazy workaholics that we are, we surprised ourselves with this rare treat last week, and drove up to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. The last time we went on holiday, there weren’t any people to sketch, so this time we made sure that we’d get some suitable moments. 001

002[At the ghats we look around for peace, shade and people to draw.]

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[The photographer sits and talks about another two months…and then. I couldn’t keep up with his Hindi.]

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This is not the brown boy, though it looks like him.

And here’s a restless little flower seller.

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[Drawing from life is tough, but it must be done. It’s the only way to get away from the pre-conceived imagery in my head.]

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[Here we are at Triveni Ghat waiting for the arati to start. It was very beautiful when it happened.

Prayer and worship always catch me unawares and I never know what to do.]

At one of the ghats we met Or, a graphic design student from Israel. He wanted to talk about moleskines and pens.

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“Everyone is a hippie here, or a yoga nerd! I don’t want to talk about yoga or music.”

He was rather funny. “But India has karma, I love that concept.”

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Our spiritual quest was punctuated by birthday calls from friends, all recommending their special things to do in Rishikesh, with love. And I kept thinking about all our beloved apps and digital services, which are just isolating us from each other more and more, and that just hearing the voice of a dear one on the phone is all it takes.

When we were not drawing people at the ghats, we spent time on the terrace of the hotel, watched birds, napped in the hammock, and listened to the Vedanta podcast about the price of success.

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At other times we talked about the most human human.

Finally while stirring coffee we identified our purpose of the holiday – do nothing.

It’s much easier to have fun after that.

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[At breakfast one day this girl was sitting so calmly, and waiting for breakfast. Maybe the point of a holiday like this is really to slow down, savour the moment.]

You can see how much I over-analyze. It’s hard to be in the moment sometimes.

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 [We stayed a few hours more for the zently relaxing yoga class. What a perfect holiday. Sigh.]

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sketchbook

Calm in the air ends with Periyar

Calm in the air | Calm in the air, Kochi and Silent Valley | Calm in the air, Silent Valley and Alapuzzha | Calm in the air, Lake Vembanad
Bengalis, as everyone knows, are notoriously bad at other Indian languages, specially if they’ve grown up in Bengal, and my uncle is no different. And faced with Malayalam, he devised his own version:
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Anyway, from Kottyam we went on to Periyar Forest Reserve. The road was beautiful – bordered with tea gardens and rubber plantations – and the aroma of spices greeted us the closer we got to the forest
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I was drawing more nature on this trip than humans and the brown boy objected. “What’s the point of drawing nature? You can’t even do justice to it! I hereby direct you to draw only people.” So I tried, somewhat, on the last day.
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And of course, the best part of every holiday is when you’re recounting the stories to your friends – just like I’m telling you now.

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