We were at crossroads as a family when we planned this holiday in Munnar. My husband had taken a new assignment in Uttarkand, I had to stay back in Chennai to take care of my ailing mother-in-law, and my son who had just then completed college was on the verge of a new phase of life. It was a difficult decision we made to function as a long distance family, and the more we thought about it the more desolate we felt. That was when we thought a holiday would help.
A year later and after many visits to the picturesque Uttarkand, I am posting these paintings from my visit to Munnar.
Home is where the heart is. I keep visiting Hosur whenever an opportunity arises, the town brings beautiful memories of the days that I lived there, of the times that I drove out with an artist friend to sketch and paint.
Hosur is a dusty and crowded town bursting at its seams with industries. What charms me is the fact that very quickly one can step out of Hosur and be on one of the many roads leading to the neighbouring towns. Each of these drives and treks offers a different landscape to explore. It is a rocky landscape along the road leading to Royakotai, lush green fields stretch till horizon along the road leading to Thenkanikotai, a typical Thomas Hardyesque landscape of green rolling hills on the drive to Thalli. There is a diverse platter to choose from.
I go to Hosur on work, or I accompany my husband when he goes there on work. I walk, paint, read, or just sit on one of the sun-warmed rocks and wonder how the sky scape is so unique to this town.
I painted a rock face that was close to the hotel where I stayed. The other painting is from along the Mathagiri road, I trekked from a village called Chempatti, on the rocks where grasses were singed by summer heat.
Marapachi is a wooden doll, usually acquired as a male-female pair. These dolls are made of a special kind of wood commonly found in the forested Tirumala hills. The carvings rendered on a block of wood is minimalistic, a few strokes capture the mood and temperament of the doll and give a character that makes the doll real for those who own it.
There is a strong family tradition attached to the possession of marapachi. These dolls are handed down generations, there is always a couple of marapachi dolls in each family coming down from a few generations.
Strangely these are not dolls that are given to children as play objects. Marapachi dolls are given to a couple during marriage and that is why the male-female pair holds significance. Playfulness that seals a meaningful relationship is signified through this gift.
My marapachi dolls are rounded, exhibiting flab and paunches and sporting a mischievous smile. In my sketch, I have rounded the dolls further, the female doll appears like the mother goddess of fertility from the Indus culture. I have sketched on a dark brown tinted paper, using wax crayons.
Whenever I drive past the place where my parents lived I look out for landmarks and buildings from their time: the blue building, the rain tree at the street corner, the little shop that sold almost everything from grocery to vegetables to stationery items for my school. Many of these landmarks are disappearing, the locality that is mapped in my memory does not match what I see around.
Today a friend with whom I went to college called me on the phone. We had lost touch soon after we completed college and when I heard her voice on the phone after twenty years I felt connected with a part of me that was gathereing dust if not disappearing. We lived in the same locality and we recalled all that we did together – we went to college by the public transport, walked on the Mount Road to visit libraries and she added that I ran for her quickly before the exams, the novels prescribed for study. She recalled that I narrated the story of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ during the brief walk from the bus stop to college, and that I went on to elaborate on the metaphors used in the novel.
My parents knew my friend very well. With their passing away I have no one to share my excitement of meeting this dear friend. After the conversation with my friend I remained in the mood to recollect events from the past and extended it to search for objects that I have with me from that time.
I was shocked that, after hours of scouring through the house, other than my wedding saree there were only books from those years. I have given away the rest of the things during the years of accumulating newer possessions. And I was lamenting how Chennai and the neighbourhood I grew up in was heartlessly burying the past. Have I not been doing the same?
These two books are from my school and college days and there are many more that I still have, lugged through the cities and towns that I lived. The pages of the books have gone crumbly and have faded brown through the years. One is Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ (The hard bound classic from the Modern Library Series was published by the Random House), and the other is the paperback edition of Irving Stone’s ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’.
I liked snacking on pink sugar candies. As a child I remember my visits to Fairs for the large pink floss candies that I ate there. I was amazed at the way they melted in my mouth, was more amazed at the way the large floss could be pinched to a small ball.
Another snack that was my favourite for its taste and the tactile pleasure it offered was sonpapdi. The sonpapdi karan visited in the night. My ears were trained to pick the bell of his cart. I rushed out to see the large monster shadows that the lantern on his cart threw on my wall. I loved the grainy feel of sonpapdi that he generously filled in a cone of paper. A night’s dessert those days cost only 20 paisa.
I am an urban sketcher
How many rides I have taken in a rickshaw as a child with my grandmother, mother and aunts in the Mylapore area! I went to the temple with my grandmother in a rickshaw. I joined my mother and aunts in their shopping because I knew I would get a ride back home. I was made to sit on the wooden seat where my bottom ached from being crammed. But I loved the view from there. The sun-cover on top of the rickshaw can be flapped shut, I loved riding that way with the wind on my face. I always pitied the poor man who rode us home with all our shopping bags.