The first time I made an angel in the snow; that cold cold day when we bought our first car; the lazy evenings spent in hammock at our friends’ place in New Jersey; the freshness of a six-month-old wedding; and the exhaustion of moving into a new house… we have captured them all. These fleeting moments remain immortalized in 1.8 * 2.4 inch photos, lit now and then by soft yellow LED bulbs. They are souvenirs of moments drenched in love. Little reminders that life is good. Bursts of memories that keep us warm on cold sunless days.
Back in Chennai, India, we had money plants in 30 different jars, bottles, vases and pots. Some were let to climb all along the window grills, while some were trimmed to a few inches. My mom would pinch a small leaf and stem from the neighbor’s and say that the plant grows especially well when it’s stolen. Not right, not fair, amma, I would reply. But the next day, I would hear her talking to the neighbor about her little deed, and the neighbor enthusiastically agreeing with her. Yes, yes, that is true, she would say. The arrangement seemed to work well for the both. Here, in the States, I know no neighbors. So I brought back (with permission) three stems of fresh green money plant stems from my sister’s home which is a six-hour drive from where I live. She seems to be continuing the tradition. There is a money plant starring at you from every wall. I set up my first money plant vase in an empty bottle of Trader Ming’s General Tsao Stir Fry Sauce (always, always, reuse and recycle). I glued in some black sequins in the shape of a little heart. It made for a sweet home for the plant, which now rests on my study table.
Now, just have to wait for the dough to pour in 😛
This morning I woke up to a news (in Elle, People, etc) that the print of the painting that Prince Harry bought for Meghan Markle, is now available here. While the original cost a few thousand pounds, the prints are available between £599 and £799. It’s limited edition, and is numbered and signed by the artist. That brings us to who the artist is. It’s a British artist called Van Donna. The name is a pseudonym, a mix of Van Gogh and Madonna – her two idols. Apparently she has also had another celebrity client own her work – the Beatles star, Ringo Starr. What Prince Harry bought was a black stencil image of a boy and a girl holding hands. It is reminiscent of the ones done by the popular graffiti artist Banksy. A two-panel piece, while one has the couple on it, the other has a string of words. Written in red cursive, it reads – Everybody needs somebody to love. ❤
I tried replicating Donna’s work. And to give it a twist, I did it on two discarded boxes of tea bags. Here’s the result.
This is the first set of books that I borrowed after getting my library card. As a card holder I am allowed to keep each book for three weeks. Though the due date is July 12, I found a few from the lot un-put-down-able. So they were devoured with a sense of urgency, following which I got down to sketching index card-sized bookmarks for each.
#1 The Sandman by Lars Kepler
A gripping thriller. The starting of the book reminded me so much of The Silence of the Lambs. Especially the introductory scene of Anthony Hopkins who plays Hannibal in the cult movie. The description of the killer in the book matches much to that of Hannibal. With short chapters, and short sentences, it is a breezy read. Add to that the very engaging plot, it can easily get you hooked tight. The story is about a psycho serial killer, Jurek Walter, who suspected of the most heinous crimes in Sweden, is locked up in a solitary cell for over a decade. But his name crops up again when someone who was assumed to be dead in his hands ages ago, shows up along the railroad in Stockholm. And this leads to detective Joona (who was instrumental in locking him up) and his team, unearthing a case they had long thought was done and dusted.
#2 A prison diary by Jeffrey Archer
After being convicted for perjury, Jeffrey Archer was sentenced to four years in prison, in 2001. The book written under subheads of date and time, gives the readers a sense of how Archer spent his days in HMP Belmarsh, a high-security prison in South London. Though it’s almost the same routine everyday in the prison, the book is anything but boring. Archer gives a detailed narration of his conversation with the convicts who include murderers, thieves and drug addicts. He follows a strict discipline of writing two hours every morning, and whenever he gets time through the day. Written on an hourly basis, he manages to give an earnest glimpse into life in the person, and into his deepest emotions, which range from anxiety to fear, anger and depression.
#3 In other words by Jhumpa Lahiri
I started this book at 6.30 am on Friday morning, and finished it in one sitting. In a span of two hours. Written in Italian on one side and English on the other, it is just 150 pages long. Lahiri talks in depth about her love for Italian language, and how she managed the arduous task of learning it, and eventually publishing a book in it. The Pulitzer-prize winner is an American of Indian origin. While her mother tongue is Bengali, she considers English as her first language. As a child, she had to be fluent in Bengali to please her parents, and in English, well, to get decent grades and make friends. It was not until 25 that she was besotted by the Italian language. She says in the book that it was like falling in love…all she wanted to do was be surrounded by it, write in it, and read in it. She moved to Rome, and limited her reading list to Italian books, jotted down all her thoughts in Italian for almost three years, and was trained under multiple Italian teachers, before she confidently took up the challenge of writing an entire book about this journey… her affair with the Italian language.
In 2015, Chennai, a city in South India, experienced one of the worst floods in its history. I was a victim. Stranded in an apartment alone for five days, I just had a couple of candles and Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last for company. Everyday, as darkness fell, I opened its pages, reading only a few at a time, for I was scared to finish it before the water cleared outside. I had gotten attached to Stan and Charmaine and their life in the Positron Prison. I shared their emotions, for I was in a prison of sorts. It’s probably the time that I picked to read that book, but ever since, I have been a Margaret Atwood fan. Later, I picked The Handmaid’s Tale, and binge-watched the series on Hulu soon after. A few months hence, I decided to start another of hers. Alias Grace. The book is unconventional in its format. With multiple news reports, and excerpts from literary masterpieces. While the first half was a drag, the second, leaped forward like a horse on steroids. Grace, a teenager with a somber demeanor and an alluring beauty, is accused of murdering her master and housekeeper, with the aid of another helper in the house. But was she actually a part of it? I assumed, rather strongly, ‘not’. My curiosity was tepid to start with. I found myself racing through the parts where she narrates her childhood and slowing down as the plot gets closer to the murder. There are parts concerning hypnotism and somnambulism which seem a little abstruse. But it’s padded with a good amount of drama, which kept me hooked. However, it felt wrong to sip a glass a lemonade and devour on it languidly under the bright sun… solely for the fact that there was in the late 1800s a real person named Grace. A ravishing beauty. Murderess. Talk of the media in Canada and the US. Most of what’s in the book was inspired by the unfortunate events as they had happened then.
June is a month of birthdays as much as it is a month of travel, for us. All our near and dear ones are getting older and wiser, even as WE are gathering experiences and miles. It is that time of the year, when besides shopping for ourselves, we are laboriously looking for the perfect gift for our loved ones. Amazon pages are scrolled endlessly, carts are filled, and payments are made. Then comes the final touch. We look for ways to make the packaging for interesting. Witty lines, red ribbons, shiny covers. More recently, I have taken an interest in sketching on gift boxes. Unlike the conventional paper wrap, this, I believe, is more personal. More intimate.
Like this gift box. We had a friend visiting us from India. So we packed some Philly souvenirs in it, and…
Customized it for her. She loves coffee and shopping, and LN are the starting letters of her first and second names.
For another friend, we decided to gift a cigarette case. I sketched a kitty peeping from above the label.
Hope they have as much fun un-boxing their presents as I had sketching on them.
Happy June everyone!
Finding art in trash Challenge: #18
I remember, it was mid-week. I was sleep deprived, the last of my tea packets was over. I gathered all the empty boxes of Wagh Bakri Instant Tea (try it, if you haven’t yet), and walked to my desk. Quite mindlessly, I took a paint brush, and colored all of them jet black. I paid attention to every stroke, and lost myself to that process. LP’s Lost on You ran in the background. Once done, I sat looking at the three black boxes, and as if in a reflex, picked up three white index cards from the corner of my desk. I sketched. Then sketched some more. Random sketches, with no common thread whatsoever. Now they rest above the headboard in my bedroom. Three black and white sketches to brighten up the grey days, when any.
The before image (below):
In the long hours inside the flight, I read the intense but insanely tragic love story of Anthony and Gloria. Between looking outside at the foam-like clouds, and munching on packets of pretzels, I devoured on the pages of one of F Scott Fitzgerald’s best works, The Beautiful and Damned. While waiting at the gates before boarding, I feverishly turned the pages; the faster I read, the faster they fell in love. As my flight took off, they entered their first year of marriage with parties, booze, and frolic. At 33,000 feet above ground, refreshments were served. A person at the neighboring seat accidentally poured a cup of coke on my leggings. Incidentally, there seemed to grow a large dent in Anthony and Gloria’s relationship. Fights, lack of money, a one-year separation, alcoholism. And then came the biggest wrecking ball of all, an illicit affair. At this point, my husband and I realized that we had missed our connecting flight. Back home, after multiple gasps, sighs, and a few tears, I turned the last page of the book, in the twilight of Thursday. I recalled a certain line by Maury (Anthony’s friend) that befitted the moon that now rose like a shiny pendant in the dark blue sky. He had said, “I shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a meaningless world.”
Finding Art in Trash Challenge: #17
After the four-day buzz of travel, we get a two-day rest at home (before hopping on to a plane again). It’s exciting to see new vistas unfold, to meet with people who speak different languages, and to observe the topography of a city change in a few hundred miles. The constant adrenaline rush and the thirst to know more, to see more, follows us like a shadow, as we taste a new dish, step into a new gallery or watch the sun set in a different State. We come back home with a handful of experiences in our diaries, and some ‘miles’ in our cards. And we are greeted by the familiar softness of the throw on the couch, that painting of red tree on the wall, and the scent that sticks to everything in every room. We are home. And in here, we find a deep-seated peace, more like a pat on a head and a soft whisper that says, ‘All is well’.
Finding art in trash Challenge: #16
I mistook a water strider for a bee. It was almost midnight. With eyes half closed, I went in to use the restroom. And there, just as I was washing hands, something brown flew directly to my face. I screamed, jumped, and threw myself out the door. To a third person, it might have given some comic relief. But I was convinced that I was stung at the back, and now a mountain of a swell was growing around it. It was only later that I cringed at the stupidity, there was no pain. There was no sting to start with. It was all the works of my fear-drenched mind. Later, my husband and I examined the restroom, and we found a very elegant, almost still, water strider, resting on the tile. We slowly went towards it with a polythene cover. It can’t hear anyway, it catches its prey by sensing the vibrations on the water surface. We walked stealthily, and placed the mouth of the cover around it. Once safely inside, we freed it into the cool rainy Thursday night.
It was done on a cigarette packet.