Monday, March 22, 2010

Sketchbook - Tawang and Pelling


This was done on the last day at Tawang,  Arunachal Pradesh, in the early morning outside our hotel. We were waiting for the taxi to show up and it came before I could finish the sketch.

The main street were just starting to stir as we drove out. Leaving  was a wrench. We had had such a lovely time there. It had been such an adventure getting there in the first place -

  • Wading through a flood in Guwahati in Assam to get the entry permit
  • A tree falling in front of the bus on the way to Tezpur
  • Staying overnight in Tezpur due to bad weather
  • Two days of travel to Tawang
  • Several landslides en route
  • One car breakdown
  • Getting close and personal with leeches
  • Passing misty forests and towering snow mountains
  • Driving through a snowfall
  • Sharing one bed with the five taxi occupants (a married couple, a college guy and the two of us) at the night stop in Bomdila; it was election time and all the rooms were taken by the political workers, it was either share a room or stay out in the freezing cold.  So we all huddled under the shared blankets and laughed so much we took a long time falling asleep. When we got to Tawang, we found that the Congress Party had won the elections and people were standing around throwing gulal. Extraordinary how hopeful people get at election time, then it's back to business as usual.


This was a valley view from the behind the hotel.  We were the only people at the hotel that stayed on and on, so the staff treated us as 'one of the family'. They were a pleasant, cheerful lot, and it was really nice knowing them.

We met many Indian soldiers on our walks around Tawang, particularly at Tawang Monastery;  some of them were there to get acclimatized before moving on to the border, and others were stationed there. Most of them were friendly, but one took me to task for drawing a hillside view of their camp. It was a top-secret area, he said, and I was endangering everyone. I was really flattered. I mean, in these days of satellite spying and cellphone photography, it's something to be told that your little sketch could make such a difference; particularly a sketch that, due to your half-frozen fingers, isn't even coming out all that well.


This was done in Pelling, Sikkim, at the Rabdentse Palace Complex.

We went to Pelling from Gangtok (and we went to Gangtok from Darjeeling, where we went after Tawang) on rather a spur of the moment decision and stayed in a small family owned hotel that we had discovered on a travel blog. Really lovely people again.

We were a bit weary of traveling - we had been traveling for two months at a stretch by now - so we stayed put for ten days and did nothing except take long walks with Tashi, our Lhasa Apso - yes, we were traveling with a dog, we got her in Tawang.  The locals thought we were a bit cracke d - nobody stays here this long, they said -  and the tourists asked us for directions.


What I like about sketching when traveling, aside from the pleasure of the work, is how drawing seems to act as a people-magnet. Park yourself somewhere and soon there will be a crowd gathering to see what you're doing.  It's a good way to meet both the local and the visiting characters.

The nice ones don't bother you, are positive and encouraging, and sometimes overwhelm you with their kindness. I've had people bring tea and snacks for me so I wouldn't 'starve' while  I worked. There was the tea-stall owner in Dalhousie who made all the porters and customers sit for me for  a portrait marathon and kept plying the tea all the while - he refused to be paid for it later. There was  the chanawallah sardarji, again in Dalhousie, who gave a great big laugh when he saw his portrait and handed me an even larger parcel of free chana. There was the Tibetan lady in McCleodganj who brought a glass of tea and sat down nearby and told me about an English artist who had been in town a few weeks earlier. He was just like you, she said, you artists can't do anything unless you imbibe, can you?

Then there are the twerps and the smartasses. They stand over you and tell everyone else what they think you're doing. Or they plonk right down and try to get you to talk about every brush stroke or pen line, if not your very private personal life.

And then there are the idiots. I'm sorry for not being PC here, but idiots are idiots, they ask very dumb questions. Someone probably told them it was a good thing to ask questions, for there lies the path to enlightenment, and since then there's been no stopping them. There was the chap who asked, "Did you draw this with your hand?" and, no offence to the Foot and Mouth artists, but that's kind of a strange question when you're sitting there with the pencil so obviously in your hand.


Does travel broaden your mind? To an extent, I suppose. If you give it a chance. Otherwise it's just carrying around the same baggage in different localities.

Some people seem to travel just so the natives can live up to their expectations. I remember a Spanish man in Nepal, a very intense fellow with a gimlet stare.  He told me he had been a hippie in the Nineteen-Seventies and come to India seeking spirituality.

"Ah, those were the wonderful days!" he said. "Since then you lot have gone downhill. Every time I come to India now, all people want to talk about is getting a job, a flat, a car or a washing machine. You're getting as materialistic as us, and what's the point in visiting you if you're exactly like us?"

"To strengthen the kindred bond?" I suggested.

He wasn't amused.  "I need you to stay spiritual, goddamn it!" he said. "After all I can get my fix of materialism back in Europe!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Photo of the Week - Awla



Photographs by Kadambini Panse

New leaves and blossoms on the Awla tree (Indian Gooseberry). It is a wonderful, stately tree.  Very useful from the dietary and medicinal point of view too.  Here are some of the things we do with the Awla fruit -

  • Make sarbat (juice).
  • Make loncha (pickle).
  • Make morawla (jam).
  • Make chutney.
  • Make supari.
  • Add to shikakai (for hair shampooing).
  • Make triphala churna (ayurvedic medicine).

When the tree was a lot smaller, a chum of mine caught his ear on one of its branches and he bled a lot. I don't know why I'm mentioning it, except I just remembered how fascinated we were with the bright red blood and how hard he tried, fueled by our fascination, to not burst into tears.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Movie Review - Revolutionary Road

When I first heard of Revolutionary Road, I assumed it was a movie about revolution in Cuba or some South American country. I'm always making these sort of wrong assumptions. I once misheard 'A Ballad of a Solider' as 'A Ballet of a Soldier' and I kept waiting hopefully, and in vain as the movie progressed, for poor Alyosha to get up on his toes and dance.... But to get back to the topic at hand, there's no such thing as an actual revolution here, the movie is based on the novel by Richard Yates and gives us an up close look at 'suburban angst'. A very curious term. I mean I've never heard a movie about slums or inner cities described as 'slum angst' and 'inner city angst'. Has anyone used those terms in those contexts? Anyway, the title is a deliberate misnomer. It is the story of a couple who live on Revolutionary Road, dream of leading a revolutionary existence, and, in the end, don't.

Read More....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

WIFI - Richard Dawkins Lecture at UC Berkeley

Excellent and entertaining lecture by Professor Richard Dawkins on his book 'The God Delusion' during his US Tour, delivered on 8 March 2008, Saturday, at Wheeler Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus.

Estoy enferma - but I'm full of illustration ideas

20 Feb 2010 - RoughIllustrationIdeas

I had to go see the doctor the other day, and I did these thumbnails in the waiting room. I'm revamping my illustration portfolio on Maysun In C, and these are going to be the additions in the Animals and Birds section.

Visiting the doctor, never the most joyous of occasions, has turned into a conveyor belt experience. First, you wait in the waiting room and when the receptionist has the time she will summon you to get your weight taken on a very ancient weighing machine that I've never quite got the hang of -  you stand on it and the receptionist pushes the weighs around and announces her finding in a loud voice so everyone in the reception area knows how much you weigh. Once she made a mistake when weighing me and announced a figure that was twice the correct one and everyone in the room exclaimed, "It can't be! She looks far too skinny!"

After you've been weighed,  you go back to waiting until the receptionist says it's your turn to go down to the basement. You go down and wait until the assistant doctor is ready to check your blood-pressure, pulse and temperature. Then you wait some more, exchanging sympathetic looks with the other patients and trying not to get sucked into an exchange of ailment details, and then finally the doctor will see you.

He is a very nice man though. Worth all the waiting. Have known him for ages.


Speaking of doctors, I remember the one I visited when I was an art student in Bombay. I had an ear-ache and my land-lady in Dadar suggested a neighborhood doctor. He's brilliant, she said, I always take my kid there. So I followed directions to his clinic and found the front door bedecked with mango leaves and marigolds.  There was a quite a crowd inside in the waiting room.  Quite a festive atmosphere. 

I sat down and wondered if it was some sort of celebration. You never know in India. There's something to celebrate practically every day. I asked the fellow next to me and he shrugged and said he didn't know. Then a man looked out from the doorway to the inner room and beckoned and said, "Alright, everyone, come inside."

And everyone rose and went into the inner room. Soon I was the only one left outside. So I got up and went in too. They were all standing in a semi-circle around the doctor's desk, and he was asking each person in turn, "What's wrong with you? And you? And you?"

As I happened to be the nearest to him in the semi-circle, my turn came almost immediately. I told him about my ear. He had a look and said, "Hmmm!" and sent me out to the compounder.

The compounder was in a small cubicle, with two large glass beakers in front of him, one containing a red liquid and the other containing a yellow liquid. He was page deep in a film magazine and not pleased to be disturbed.

"Alright," he said in a bored, irritable voice. "So where's the bottle?"

I said, "What bottle?"

He  made an annoyed sound and said,  as if talking to a half-wit, "Don't you know anything? You need to bring a bottle along when you visit the doctor. I'll give you one now, but don't forget the next time."

With an eloquent sigh - oh, the fools I have to put up with! - he rose and extracted an amber-colored bottle from a bottom shelf. Then he scooped out a measure each of the red and yellow liquids from the beakers before him and poured them, one after the other, into the bottle. He screwed on the cap and thrust the bottle at me.

"Here!" he snapped. "Put it inside thrice a day!"

"Put it inside? I put this in my ear?"

"For crying out loud! In your mouth!"

As I went away I saw he was ladling the same liquid in the same proportion to the next patient as well.

When I got back to my lodging, the land-lady said, "Yes, he always gives my kid that liquid too. Sorry I forgot to tell you to take a bottle with you."

I said, "How can he give everyone the same medicine?"

"It must work," she said. "Everyone keeps going back to him."

After she went away, I poured the liquid down the drain. I recovered the next day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Drawing - Musicians

4 March - Music
Making beautiful music.  And that reminds me I need to tune my violin.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Illustration - A Nice Rosie Lea

Tea Cupcanvas

It's a Cockney rhyming slang. Fun :-)

I'm starting a new series of illustrations on each of the following  topics -

  • Tea
  • Jazz
  • Violinists
  • Gardens
  • Our Dogs
  • Our Town
  • Vegetable Markets

First I research the topics well and then I create around 10-20 illustrations for each. Work will be done in pen and ink,  water-color, collage and digital media. Partly realistic, partly abstract.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Illustration Friday - Perspective

17 Feb - Girl in Woodd
Where I currently am is totally a matter of perspective.  On the good days I'm way front. On the bad ones I'm way behind.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Photo of the Week - Summer is Here




Photographs - Kadambini Panse

We have four types of lotus plants in our pond - pink, yellow, violet and white. There are a great many guppies, tadpoles and three Koi. I'm going to add more Koi - I love those fish, they are very friendly. A great aspect about having a pond - and fruit trees - is that we are attracting a good bit of bird life. I've noticed  22 different bird species here so far.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Paper Girls

PaperGirl2 PaperGirl PaperGirl3 PaperGirl4    This is an idea I'm trying out. I've so many scraps of paper and until they can be turned into beautiful papier mache sculptures, we'll make paper girls out of them with the help of the scanner and the select tool in GIMP.

I guess I could have used the fill tool too.

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