Learning a new skill

Two months into lockdown and wondering if life is going to be back to ‘normal’ ever. I started working out like a mad person to keep my mind off from the highs and lows of nothingness. One good thing– the workout has helped achieve goals that I have been procrastinating for the last 3 years. The 10kgs weight loss that I had been planning (more hoping) has finally made some headway. A little over 8 kilos lost. That is a significant loss considering my laziness and the obvious mastery of procrastination.

That wasn’t enough to keep myself occupied throughout the day and like everybody else I was doom scrolling in the initial days of lockdown. But social media has helped in certain ways. I bumped into people who do ‘sketch noting’. I had no clue such a word existed and that there is a whole bunch of people in the world who do this for a living. Discovering this way of recording was as amazing. I am still learning baby steps and I am yet to find an optimum balance of what to put-on the paper while sketch noting. But it works perfect for a person like me who is scarred by the pursuit of perfection and hence never gets anything done. At least this way, I managed to put my imperfections on the paper yet convey the required message. Added a couple of sketch notes from the learning sessions with Rob Dimeo who generously spent his lunchtime teaching people how to go about sketch noting from scratch.

Life during a pandemic

I was approached by one of the science communicators from the team of Indian scientists who have gotten together to spread awareness and bust myths around the CoViD-19 pandemic. They have been working hard to make the presentation of facts and precautions to be taken in creative ways to appeal to the public. They have also added in as many languages as possible to increase their outreach. I illustrated one such story. https://indscicov.in/for-public/popularization-resources/going-out-and-returning-home/

Abdul goes shopping for the family

Abdul woke up in a panic: Arre! I am going to be late for that strict Ajit Sir’s class again! He’s definitely not going to let me sit for the final exam now! 

He then sleepily realized there was a lockdown; college was closed and he was at his parents’ home. He turned over to try to go back to sleep. The one room house was already bustling with activity—Ammi had started making tea for everyone, Dadi’s knitting needles were already click-clacking, and Abba was doing his namaz. He might as well wake up, he thought, as he couldn’t sleep through all this commotion! 

As he brushed his teeth, Abdul thought about how much he missed the hostel room that he shared with Satish – a room which was probably bigger than his parents’ house. He thought of the endless conversation about politics he would have over chai with friends. And the general sense of independence he felt when he was at college. They closed the college and hostels almost three weeks ago and he had to take two jam-packed trains and a three hour shared jeep ride to get home! It was a tense few days for everyone, and for a moment, he tried to relive the happiness he felt when he finally got home.  

“Abdul, it’s so late. I told you I need mutton and tomatoes from the market today. Go get them soon! The shops will start closing,” shouted Ammi. “But be careful. Wear a mask. Don’t touch anything. Stay away from people…” Ammi had already started with her long list of precautions and instructions. 

“I am almost out of my BP medicines. Can you check if the medical shop has got stock yet?” Dadi added.

“OK OK I’m going. But I am not going tomorrow. Or even for two more days after that. So tell me everything you want now!” Abdul replied. 

“Beta, buy me a newspaper, no? Buy me tomorrow’s also if you can find it!” Abba added with his usual humour. Everyone, including Dadi, groaned. But they all know that his silly jokes were what was making this whole situation feel slightly normal.  

Abdul’s elder sister was out of the country, but would call every night and give them new instructions. She was the one who had designated Abdul as the person to go out of the house and get essentials. “Everyone else is old and is at a higher risk” she had said, adding “What else are you doing at home anyway?” Most recently, she had instructed him to wear a mask whenever he goes out. 

Abdul picked up one of the washed masks that dadi had stitched out of an old dupatta. “Wear that shawl I’ve kept near the door for going out.” Ammi pleaded. “It’s too hot Ammi! I am not doing that anymore. I will just wash the clothes I am wearing out as soon as I get home.” said Abdul as he put his slippers and left.

Abdul waited in line in the round chalk markings, first outside the medical shop and then the vegetable shop. Good thing he still had an unlimited phone plan — at least he could catch up with his friends from college while he waited. 

He finally got to the butcher’s shop where there didn’t seem to be anyone else around at the moment. As Karim Chacha was cutting up the mutton, he shouted questions at Abdul from the back of the shop: “Everyone OK at home?” “When do you think this lockdown is going to end? You must be reading all the news on your phone, no? What are they saying?” Abdul put his phone away. It was nice to talk to someone in person outside his family, even if they were shouting across the shop and the conversation was muffled by their masks. “Ya ya, everyone at home is well. Just a bit worried, that’s all. I don’t know about this lockdown Chacha: seems like this is going to go on for a while. Not sure what the plan is!” Abdul replied. He lingered a few minutes and chatted with Karim Chaha about the current economic scenario.

When Abdul got back home, Ammi had left a small mug of water, soap and a dry cloth outside the door. He removed his slippers, washed and wiped his hands. He then dipped the cloth in soapy water to wipe off the cardboard box of medication. She had also left a clean handkerchief and bottle of hand sanitizer which he used to wipe his phone. (He had got a good scolding from Ammi last time he came back and forgot to do this. She had proceeded to threaten to take away his phone altogether.) 

He came in and handed the mutton and vegetables to Ammi. She started washing everything thoroughly before storing it away. He placed the medication box on a table, and then went to take a bath and wash his clothes and mask. 

Abdul came back to the table, carefully opened the box of medication and transferred the pills into a small glass bottle. His Dadi was old and he was very worried about her getting COVID-19. He threw the cardboard box into the dustbin near the main door. He then washed his hands and the outside of the bottle with soap to be extra careful to get rid of any remaining viruses before handing her bottle: “Here’s your medicine Dadi. Stock came yesterday.” 

As he was hanging out his clothes to dry on the common balcony, he realized that he had forgotten Abba’s newspaper. Never mind! “

Gift of INKTOBER

Here comes the last lot of drawing from this year’s Inktober series.

Prompts – Ride, Injured, Ripe, Catch

I am amazed at myself on completing this series or any challenge, for that matter. I venture into a lot of projects and challenges, only to walk away from them after a while. Reaching the end is always the toughest part. And here I am, successfully wrapped up 31 days of Inktober following the official prompts.

I will not lie about strong thoughts of quitting in between or just letting it be. Nobody cares whether I skipped one day or didn’t do any after a week or ten days of the month. I am not answerable to anyone for the supposed commitment I thought I made to Inktober. And that if I have so much difficulty in sticking to 30days of daily drawings, why do I think I can ever take up art as a profession. Of course, the stupidest reason being, it’s my birthday month. I can skip few days because I don’t want to bother myself with drawing for an hour.

All those days the demons of every human mind hovered in the forefront until I coaxed and cajoled myself to go back to the day’s prompt and deal with it. More than 25% of the drawing were complete failures in conveying the message and I hated them yet for the sake of a habit building process, I ended up posting everyone of them on Instagram. By the time, I reached the 20th day, I was comfortable with the idea of sharing yet the guilt that the piece is not good enough bothered me. Here I am. All 31 days of Inktober done. Not proud of all the sketches yet proud of having met the daily drawing habit and the commitment to Inktober.

Inktober 2019 – III

With every sketch I finish for Inktober, it surprises me to look back and see how far I have managed to come. Showing up daily for something consistently for a whole month is an intimidating thought and I have made it two thirds of the way.

Prompts for this week- Legend, Wild, Ornament, Misfit, Sling, Tread, Treasure

Greatness in danger

In the hopes of seeing the greatness of the Great Indian Hornbill, I took to pen and paper to sketch it out. The elusive great bird is a sight I am yet to witness. I have had the pleasure of the company of the duller cousin, Malabar Grey Hornbill. Watching it from close quarters, I dive into the imaginary lands of how the Great Indian Hornbill would be to see with naked eyes.

Great Indian Hornbill

Also known as “kochilakhai” bird in the eastern state where I come from, it was hunted for its flesh which is said to have medicinal properties. In the northeastern states, it was hunted for its crown until the bird reached near extinction. To think that the GIH might go extinct if the conservation efforts are not seriously enforced, gives me the chill. Hope to see it sometime soon.

Vibrant colours for a vibrant couple

Weddings are the most confusing yet overwhelming times in any and every Indian family. And when you are not the bride/groom, the gifting business becomes more of a burden than a pleasure. We have moved away from the traditional gifts of clothes, jewellery and household items but cast away onto an island of uncertainty when it comes to modern day wedding gifts. As individuals, we have grown so apart that except immediate family, one doesn’t know what the bride or the groom would like. So I chose the straight forward approach to this kind of a situation which is ask the recipient. Knowing well that I was in that situation a little over a year ago, and somebody asking you point blank about a wedding gift is not an easy question to answer. To make my cousin’s life easier I gave her multiple choices followed by the question. She picked few and I narrowed down on the most convenient one.

Few months later, at the wedding, I met the groom. I was very proud of my little sister for being so right about the choice of gift. The groom seemed to be swooning over macaws more than his bride. Two days after the wedding, he was busy exhibiting his love for the colourful birds of the South American rainforests than his bird. So I thought if I gave a sketch of a macaw to them, may be he will continue his head-over-heels business with both the colourful birds.

The Macaw took 40 hours to come alive at 12 X 16 (inches). Rotring pens are not always the easiest or the kindest tools to handle but they have stood by me all along. The results have mostly been better than what I expected. I hope the macaw brightens up the newly wedded couple’s home 🙂