Thursday, September 27, 2012

Energy Sources

India Art Journal Aug 27 by Meera Rao
India Art Journal July 2, by Meera Rao
My most favorite part of staying in India for the past three months has been the variety of tropical fruits I get to savor :)  Sita Phala- Sugar Apple, Pomegranates, Mangoes, Jackfruits, mini bananas, guava, sugar cane, papaya, musambi, etc. etc -- the list is endless with each fruit unique in its taste, texture, aroma, size and color :)  Check out this link if you would llike to look at some photographs of exotic tropical fruits :) 
India Art Journal Aug 28, by Meera Rao
This interesting looking contraption is UPS or Universal Power Supply - that is an essential backup for power failures which unfortunately happens many times a day. It is a must for computers if  you can't afford to loose data and usage. It supplies temporary power for an essential light bulb or two or more may be even a TV! The UPS charges when the power supply is on for use when the electricity supply fails. Most shops, malls, apartment complexes in addition to UPS also have back up generators. More and more individual houses also depend on one.  Earlier in the year,  there was a major power grid breakdown in all of northern India that dominated the news media's attention. I guess its the price to pay for growth and demand when both outpaces planning and supply. I had to sketch the UPS at our place and immortalize it for all the work it does quietly ( well, it beeps once to let us know when it comes on or goes off!)
The following two sketches are once again from the very beginning of my journal getting their primetime spot all by themselves.  You may click on this and this to read about them. 
India Art Journal July 3 by Meera Rao
India Art Journal July 4 by Meera Rao

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Old and The New

India Art Journal Aug 26 By Meera Rao 2.5x4"
According to WikiHow, 'Herding cattle is an art and science that requires patience, knowledge of flight-zone, and a bit of bovine psychology'   But I bet  herding on a motorcycle is pretty unique to urban India :) I have seen this often since my stay in India the past three months - mostly around sundown.  I am not even sure how the cow and the herder find each other in the urban jungle!!! The cows are still seen on the streets in Maisuru and unfortunately they suffer through living in the urban area - dealing with traffic, and eating plastic bags and garbage that is strewn in the streets. Sadly, not much is being done about it and somehow the owners think its perfectly fine to let the cows out as if the cityscape is countryside pasture :(

India Art Journal Aug 25 2012, by Meera Rao. 2.5x4" 
Maisuru city has many ruins of old bungalows and houses waiting to be either renovated or swapped for shiny new multistory buildings that are sweeping the landscape.  Soon after the rains though, in and around the falling bricks and crumbling buildings are jewel like blooms and lush greenery! The combination of fresh foliage, flowers and tired old remnants of building has its own special charm.  
Once again, I am posting a sketch from the earliest lot giving it indiviual spot :)  You may read more about it here. 
India Art Journal July 1 2012 by Meera Rao
P.S :It is sheer coincidence, but is there an irony here that I have sketches relating to herding and airports in the  post! :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Have You Read the Paper Today?

India Art Journal Aug 24 2012 by Meera Rao
The Indian Express noted in an article in jan 2012 that 'Circulation of newspapers in the country grew by 8.23 percent in 2010-11 as per the 55th Annual report of Registrar of Newspapers for India(RNI)."  This is significant especially in light of the decline faced by the print media in the West.  The article points out that out of the 14,508 newspapers published in all the different Indian languages as many as 11,775 are owned by individuals. Circulation runs into crores of copies and number of readers even more!   Further in the article: "With a combined readership claim of its 12 editions reaching 37,46,929 copies, Times of India was the leader among multi edition dailies the RNI report said. "  What astonishing numbers!!!!
It is a common sight to see people engrossed in reading on the steps,  on the park benches, crowded into the tiny branch libraries, waiting in the bank.... Ricksha, taxi drivers waiting for the customers; Store keepers, vendors can be seen reading the paper whenever they get a few minutes. I was curious to know what the literacy rate is in India and discovered that as per the Population Census of India 2011, the literacy rate in India is 74.04% up from 65.38% in 2001. With it, the people's hunger for information has also gone up!
I love watching people reading and have sketched a couple of pieces so far - like the old man I saw early one morning on my walk, sitting on a bench by the road, his bicycle by his side completely engrossed in the paper.
And here is sketch from June 30, 2012 getting its due : ) 
India Art Journal June 30 (Sketch 2) by Meera Rao
Please check here for more information on it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jewel of the Tropics

India Art Journal Aug 23 by Meera Rao 2.5x4"

I drink the water from tender coconut, the natural energy drink,  almost every day.  I stop by a streetside vendor who now starts hacking at the tender coconut as soon as he sees me walking down the street. I like to drink it right out of the coconut and don't like to use a straw :) While I am relishing my drink the vendor fills a bottle for my Mother-in-Law. 

The water is absolutely refreshing - especially after I have been out marketing and running errands under the tropical sun! The coconuts on the sidewalk are a sight to see -- piled precariously high, with touches of yellow, green, red and oranges. The vendor skillfully removes one just right for the customer as per request - with lots of water or with some water as well as some white jelly like tender coconut flesh.  The list of health benefits of tender coconut is long and ancient but I don't need any convincing! In Sanskrit, coconut tree is named "kalpa Vriksha" -  the tree that gives all that is necessary for life ! Check here if you need proof :)

He who plants a coconut tree plants food and drink, vessels and clothing, a home for himself and a heritage for his children."
- South Seas saying

I have been told by those who have seen my journal that I am not doing justice by just posting the page with four sketches all together! So at the urging of my well wishers, I have decided to post individual sketches as well as a photo of the page after I post them singlely.   I am going back in time too. So here is my very first sketch from the journal all on its own :) You may check here to read more about it.  Please do let me know if you think this works!

India art Journal July 30 Sketch 1 by Meera Rao

Friday, September 14, 2012

Playing, Working, Dreaming, Praying!

India Art Journal Aug 19,20,21,22 by Meera Rao

"My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between I occupy myself as best as I can."
~Cary Grant.

Playing, working, dreaming and praying seems to occupy most of the people as they go about their daily lives here - not in any particular order though.  There is a school near by and  I see children in their crisp white and Khaki uniforms happily playing, talking and gigling as they walk or bike. On most evenings though the alley behind our building becomes the cricket field with a stone or two standing in for wickets. The boys only need a ball and a bat to play and I love watching them from my balcony.

A big gypsy family has taken over the sidewalk in a street close by. They have set up three or four tents where they live, sleep and make plaster casts of various masks and statues.  Every day I see them working, cooking, playing or sleeping as I walk by on my daily errands.  They display and sell their wares right on the sidewalk too so we have to walk down on the road in that section of the street! But the bright blue tents, the ladies in their colorful sarees and the statues in bright paints with gold accents have definetely changed the look of the street!

Around the corner from our building is a big compound with a grand old palatial house in ruins (word is that it belongs to the royal family that once ruled the state) that seems to be undergoing some renovations recently.  There is a colorful 'lorry' in a corner that definetely can't rule the roads anymore.  But that doesn't seem to matter to a young boy whom I often see sitting in the driver's seat and turning the steering wheel vigorously dreaming surely of roaring down a highway :)

Roadside shrines are everywhere.  Soon after nagapanchami festival of the serpents, the neighbourhood beautiful black stones shrine for the serpent god under a huge tree was drenched in red kumkum and yellow turmeric. Every day devotees leave flowers and lit lamps, incence.  Walking past it somehow always reminds me of the ancient wisdom of respecting  all life and infuses me  a with sense of spirituality

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stacks and Rows!

India Art journal aug 15, 16,17,18 by Meera Rao
" Arrange whatever pieces comes your way" - Virginia Wolf
I noticed while waiting for today's photograph of my sketches to load that all the four sketches had things in them that were quite neatly arranged :) Aug 15 is India's Independence Day and of course this particular shop selling Indian flags in all sizes was doing brisk business :) Since then I have noticed the displays keeps changing in the shop but the orange, white and green of the Indian flags was the best display yet!
Government of India has helped the community of people who have traditionally been the shoe-makers(working with animal skins) set up little shops on sidewalks in various neighbourhoods and make a living selling simple shoes and mostly doing repair work. I stopped by this shop to get the strap of my handbag fixed. Later, I returned and gave her  copies of the photographs of her and her shop. It was heart warming to see her joy when she laid her eyes on them. I was touched when she told me that she had never had her picture taken until then.
Remeber the gas stove and cylinder in the kitchen? Well, just about every month or month and a half, the cylinder does get empty and has to be replaced.  The demand for it is high and the system somewhat inefficient that when the time came, I was left without the use of the gas stove to cook with for about two days!!! The very next day  I had guests visiting (fortunately I knew ahead of time) and  had to happily resort to the services of a caterer :)  The leftovers came in handy the day after! These little 'tempo' s can be seen around town with the neatly stacked full and empty gas cylinders making the deliveries.
By about mid august, the mango season was at the tail end and I bought the last of the mangoes from a vendor. They sat in my balcony between layers of newspaper slowly ripening. We had varieties of mangoes in various stages of readiness throughout the past few months on that table in the balcony. It was a sad  day indeed when we consumed the last of them. Now to savor the memory till the next season.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"The Whole life lies in the verb - seeing"

India Art Journal Aug 11,12, 13, 14 by Meera Rao.
The title of this post is a quote by De Chardin Teilhard.  And during my stay in India the past two months I am seeing the country with new sketching eyes, finding beauty and charm everywhere and in most all things. Some things are just beautiful anyway, like the flower garland door decorations (real or real looking plastic!) that I see on the doorways of most homes- different colors, different designs but they are all meant to welcome the family and visitors alike.
 I am growing fond of those fierce looking face masks on buildings and liking the sentiment of keeping evil away --somehow it makes sense as I read about nothing but conflicts all over the world.
The resourcefullness that I notice seems to extend to dogs as well - like the one I caught napping by the side of a turned over street-seller's cart.  I don't know if he was guarding the cart for the owner!
No bland oatmeal for breakfast either here - its curry and pepper or masala and coriander - that is if you are unlucky to be not feasting on the traditional  Idli or dosa or upma ;)  In a pinch though they do satisfy  the need for something fast and spicy!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vibrant and Compelling

India Art Journal Aug 7,8,9,10 By Meera Rao
I find that brilliant vibrant hues and patterns  come my way in unexpected places and times. I know I am in India and shouldn't be surprised !  I notice a lot of reddish orange these days - from bunches of 'flame of the forest' on trees and now only a few on the ground since they have just started blooming, to the orange on the guy riding with the cargo on the produce 'lorry' as well as the tribal woman weaving at the folk art festival of India that I was able to  attend. 
At the festival I was introduced to 'Gond'  paintings of a tribe from central India. The Gond people believe that looking at beautiful images brings good luck and decorate their huts and houses, all walls and floors with beautiful stylized paintings/ motiffs and designs. Now they paint on canvases or paper with acrylic or tempera paints for the collectors and museums. I was also intoduced to many other tribes and their art -Weaving from Manipura tribes (sketch for Aug 9, when I was at the Folk art Festival) Toda embroidery from Tamil nadu,  warli paintings from Maharastra , Saora paintings from Orissa and Andra Pradesh, paddy work form Orissa, Madna paintings from Rajasthan to name a few.
I was so inspired by the Gond paintings that I decided to paint the cow I came upon that was being groomed by two crows, in that style. It was difficult to do intricate designs in the small size I was sketching but I loved creating that way. I hope to paint a few more bigger versions with all the details soon :) I am thinking about a children's book in that style :)
Cow being groomed by two crows in gond style painting by Meera Rao

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