Friday, March 31, 2006

Back to the drawing board!

No post from the illustrator half in a long time. Been busy busy with some filming assignments (the rozi-roti) and lots of illustration work. A Ladybird title for Puffin and a book of Animal stories for Scholastic, two covers for Puffin/ Penguin, and not to mention a mega-24 illustration assignment for Time Out, Mumbai.

The Ladybird book was the most eventful, with the art director scrapping ALL the illustrations submitted in the first round (12 spreads)! Kaboom!! A month’s work down the drain! But the art director said that she knew I was capable of delivering better stuff. The worst thing was that I knew she was right. The illustrations were just not happening – no apparent style, not great watercolor work and no character. An illustrator’s nightmare, in short. Just gritted my teeth and started off on the fresh lot. Don’t play safe – that was the mantra I gave myself – go OverTheTop!

After investing in a new set of water-colours, getting some good paper and waking up at 4am every day, I had a pretty good set to send off for approval. After a couple of days the reply came. “We all love it! Go ahead with the rest!” the art director said. Hurrah! Hallelujah!

Note to myself (and fellow illustrators!): Don’t be complacent, don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t be disheartened if somebody says your work is shit…and most importantly – don’t skimp on art-materials! Here are two illustrations from the new lot. The old ones now line the loo-window to stop the pigeons from invading… They too are scared of the baaaad illustrations!


Friday, March 24, 2006

A mulligatawny of emotions...

Don’t let anyone kid you. Being a parent is a weird, complex, lovely job. I’ve been one for a little over a year now. How do I feel? Sleepy. Yes, incredible sleep deprivation is the overriding emotion even at the end of 18 months. When I went to my GP with a succession of colds and coughs four months after Nayana was born, he said something that seemed profound to me then, “Most new mothers fall sick, feel tired and depressed because of lack of sleep. That’s a bigger drain on your resources than breast feeding.” My eyes welled up. Here was the truth at last: not hormones, resentment, hunger, or selfishness. It was lack of sleep that was making me so miserable and angry. You see, I’m a seven-hours-a-night sort of gal, and with Nayana around, I was averaging a mere three!
We’ve moved on since then. Nayana’s older and sleeps better, but I’m still on auto-mom-mode. It’s like there’s a watchdog inside me, listening, listening for the slightest sniffle, the tiniest of moans, and the watchdog never rests. Did baby wake up because of a bad dream? Or did an ant bite her? Is it colic? Something worse? That’s when I think of children in institutions and wonder about their care. Even if they are clothed, sheltered, fed and well-tended-to, who hugs them and comforts their nameless fears? That’s the second word I’d use to describe my feelings about motherhood: guilt. Sheer, heart-wrenching guilt about so many children without moms, grandmas, dads to hold and comfort them. With no one to stimulate their growing minds, and no one to coax them to learn that seemingly-simple task of eating well… I always wanted to adopt, believing that it’s immoral to create more kids when there are enough on earth already who need love. But life – and family – has a way of getting around your best intentions.
And there’s another feeling, of course, one that’s the mainspring of our urge to become parents: pride. And a sense of wonder. At Nayana’s many perfections, and at her lovely little imperfections. There must be some atavistic joy we get out of seeing ourselves replicated. How selfish, I tell myself, but oh how nice. She reads books briskly, turning pages with all the concentration and confidence of a Mrs More going thru files in a government office. She sings songs and laughs at our ‘jokes’; loves being hugged and tickled; tells us stories, shortened telegraphically; plays with her doll and becomes their ‘Nayanu chechi’ (or didi), and ‘feeds’ them; has set fears, likes, dislikes. Like me, she loves books, food and talking. Like Amit, she loves music.
But for all that, she is her own person. She has traits of generosity, concern and cleanliness that she hasn’t got from either of us. It is fun to watch a child grow – and to attribute claims of genetics to her… to spot a mirrored feature, a similar reaction. I know that she is a combination of her innate nature and of the things we expose her to. And I firmly believe that if we were different parents, she’d be a different kid. So much for genetics! As someone who’s always enjoyed being with kids, I’d say that watching a child – any child – grow is fun. Even if they aren’t from the same gene pool as you!

PS: Speaking of reading, I found an interesting article by a developmental psychiatrist who is also a dad. It’s not online, so till Amit figures out how to link it, please do mail me if you’d like to read it. Nayana is a passionate book lover! Current chart-toppers are: Dr Seuss, Winnie the Pooh, Goodnight Moon, various Nursery Rhymes books (with singalongs by any present adult), If you give a mouse a cookie…, and many more!

Sunday, March 19, 2006


What is it about us and book exhibitions? I look down my nose at friends and relatives who turn into panting fiends when let loose in a clothes store. But bung us into a book exhibition, and both Amit and I change. We transmogrify miraculously into drooling, slavering shopaholics; crazed, breathless, and obsessive, buying books we don’t need, wanting some we’ll never be able to afford.

My cheeks get flushed; determined and competitive, I dart around looking for bargains; and pick up piles of books. Amit is the more measured of the two. He is a slow searcher, combing thru racks in a painfully slow fashion till he finds the real gems. Then, flushed and happy, we meet at the counter and have a weeding-out session. This appears like a quiet, adult discussion, but actually, it can set the tone of our relationship for a few days. Usually we chuck out the same stuff, but sometimes one of us has to give away a favourite which has been rejected by the other’s cold, businesslike eye. And the sense of being sacrificial, of having been wounded or wounding the other, stays for days.

We love the Fort Book Depot’s exhibition that’s on at Chembur just now. They have all kinds of yummy books – practically no new novels, but well, frankly, strange, obscure, delightful stuff that you’ll never find anywhere else. They also have some lovely kiddie books… We’ve been thrice, and spent obscene sums, but every day I find myself wandering in and chancing upon some books that I simply must have.

Yesterday, we went back. Amit and this friend – let’s call him Hemant for now – were rooting through the cartoon books section, and Hemant picked up a ratty-looking book called Toons for our Times. I wasn’t with them, but just happened to turn around at that very moment (do you get the fatedness of all this??). And just as Hemant was opening it to look at the contents, I darted forward like a giant locust and grabbed it out of his hands, shrieking, “Ohmygod, Bloom County!!” Left the poor guy with no choice but to let me buy it.

Bloom County is an amazing strip – a sort of precursor to Calvin in some ways, but a lot more obscure, a lot more cruel about the world we live in, a lot less self-conscious. I feel that its creator, Berke Breathed, is startlingly talented. I got hooked when a friend – Nandita – leant me another BC book called Billy and the Boingers Bootleg years back. I suspect that one of my ‘friends’ borrowed it and lost it (the person shall remain unnamed). I also found an early Doonesbury, drawn when G B Trudeau accompanied the US president to China in the ’70s. You can always walk into a store and buy a book, or even – in the case of these rare cartoon books – order one online. But to stumble upon a rare book unexpectedly, at an obscure exhibition, gives you a giddy, joyous tingle all over! Sighhh… This must be what the poets call sheer, serendipitous bliss…