Back in D Town



I am back home, in Delaware. Outside, the snow is forming a thin blanket. On any other day, I would have jumped out the window and waddled on to the ice cold grass. But today, I am drenched in thoughts. 

…of the time I lay on a wicker recliner with the cool breeze ruffling my feathers. 


…of that bright evening, when I stood so close to a lamp, that I could see the wick slowly drinking up the oil. 


…the sound of the ocean, the green of the coconut tree, and the smell of ginger tea and filter coffee that made mornings official. 

These days, the dreams I have are of steaming hot idlis, rolled-up sweet paans, and pots of payasam (sweet porridge). In the deep quiet here, I imagine walking along the street-side stalls of Chennai, soaking in the smell of camphor and incense sticks, the sound of temple bells, and the feel of salty air from the sea.

Is there a cure for a holiday hangover? Maybe a plate of paneer tikka would help.




Interview: Indian artist Prashant Prabhu

‘I paint every single day’

The self taught artist talks about his first and only love, art. He paints every single day, and travels around seven times a year, solely for art.

In 1988, Prashanth Prabhu, fresh out of school, held his first exhibition outside Jahangir Gallery in Mumbai. Prabhu did not have any big dreams of becoming a professional artist then, in fact he knew his next move. A commerce degree, and then a post graduation in Commerce, which is what he went on to do. But little did the young boy, standing in front of one of the biggest galleries in India, then, know that the future held different plans for him. But on that particular sunny day, the universe did give him a sign. An artwork of his, a painting of Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain, got sold for Rs. 65 ($1).


The person who bought that painting from him passed away a couple of years ago, but through out his life, he had continued buying Prabhu’s artwork. The latest one was sold at close to Rs. 40,000 (around $600).

As an artist, he has come a long way, he admits. His works are known internationally, a couple of them have been selected by the Royal Watercolors Society, London; and in London Art Fair.

Balancing the depth of history _ 30x22_01

“The journey however, was not easy. Just learning the techniques took a lot of time, as I did not go to an art school,” he says over a call from his studio in Matunga, Mumbai. Throughout his college, though he was earning a degree in Commerce, he dedicated his days to doing artworks, participated in art festivals, inter-college competitions, and by the time of graduation, he was absolutely certain that he didn’t want to have anything to do with Commerce. So unlike his peers, instead of looking for jobs, he bought more colors, paintbrushes, and papers.

Unknowable devotion _ 30x22_01

With the enthusiasm of a kid, he dabbled with all mediums and styles, and slowly let go of what he felt he was not good at, and that which he did not enjoy thoroughly. He had the support of his mentor Vasudeo Kamath, a popular Indian artist. “But my works were not influenced by my mentor’s (or artists such as William Turner and Andrew Wyeth who he adores),” he says. Kamath was well-known for his portraits; he has done one of the former President of India Pratibha Patil. “But I realized that I was not good at portraits…” says Prabhu candidly. He soon found his calling in landscapes.

Travel _ each one his own_15x22_01

He traveled to the Himalayas; the stretch from Ladakh to Bhutan; to Tawang in North East India, to Gingee Fort in Tamil Nadu, and Hampi in Karnataka among other places. All for art. While in some places, he painted live on the spot, in some others, he captured the beauty of the place in photos, and poured it out on paper in the comfort of his studio. His paintings are minimalist. That, he says, might have a lot to do with the kind of person he is. What kind is that? we ask. 

Many pathways to Him_22 x 30 in

He gives a flashback of the days when he had just started out. Full of youth and vigor, he was slowly being swallowed by the competition that existed in the art world. It was his mentor who had asked him to halt for a second, and think about what kind of artist he wanted to become. Was he in it just for the competition, or did he want more?

Memeories of Thiru_22 x 30 in

In pursuit of answers, the young Prabhu took up Osho meditation, which brought about a change in his lifestyle. “I stopped being part of the several art groups and became more thoughtful as an artist,” he says. “Osho says that god and creation are not different. It’s the same with art and artist, isn’t it?” he explains.



Get on track: sketch #10

See where the railroad leads you.

My husband and I have been into ‘Ticket to Ride’ for a few days now. For those who do not know, it is a board game, which allows you to claim train routes. And while we were at it, I recalled the many train journeys that were part of my childhood. Back in the 90s, my parents, my sister and I were living in North India (Haridwar, Uttarakhand). We had to travel on train for three days to reach South India (Palghat, Kerala), where my grandparents lived. A trip that we sincerely made every summer.

Haridwar to Palghat

While the trains lacked the luxury of clean toilets, a room to change clothes, or even any amount of privacy to have a conversation, they gave us a bounty of something invaluable: human connection. I would get down from the topmost berth in the morning, to see a group of adults dealing playing cards, or a bunch of kids running in the narrow aisle, their parents pulling at their collars for them to come back and sit. A highlight is the train food: hot samosas, bhajis, tea and coffee. We would balance the cups elegantly in our hands even as the train hiccuped to a start after stopping at a station. And as the sun grew menacing through the day, we would chug large cups of buttermilk, and give in to an exhaustion that the mere rocking of the train induces. Sometimes resting our heads on the shoulders of anyone who is next to us. Most times on the railings of an open window, letting the cool breeze wash over our faces and send us into a reverie…give us a ticket to the ride of our life.