My mother’s friend lives in a small hamlet, some forty kilometres from the historical town of Kumbakonam. It is a quiet village tucked between acres of green fields, fertile because of the tributaries of Kaveri river that crisscross this region.
This is a painting of the agraharam, a place where a particular community of people live. The agraharam is lined with houses on both sides of the mud road. The houses have red tiles for roof. A thinnai or a closed porch at the entrance leads to a courtyard surrounded by rooms . The house opens into a large backyard with a well and a rambling garden where different types of vegetables are grown. My mother’s friend grows brinjals, cluster beans, pumpkins, bitter gourds, snake gourds, tomatoes and chillies.There are lemon, mango, coconut and drumstick trees that help to fill the larder with food supplies.
At one end of the agraharam is the temple for Lord Vishnu and at the other end is the temple for Lord Shiva. The Shiva temple has a temple tank. Even during the severest summer the tank does not run dry, it remains filled with moss covered, jade coloured water. The chidren in the village take delight in swimming in the tank, the water bursts into sparkles of green light when the boys dive in from the tall walls.
Around the agraharam in the village there are about 30 houses where people from different communities live. Beyond these houses spread the fields. Every household in the village is involved in farming activities, they either own farmland, or work for wage in farmlands that belong to others.
I visited the village soon after the harvest of rice, the fields were ochre coloured waiting to be dug and got ready for the next crop.
The journal ‘Storiacious: Feasting on Stories’ features my acrylic painting ‘The Blue Chair.’
Click here to view the painting, read the story behind the painting and the process of composition.
Two rivers flow to the sea, they drain the estuary
with deposits from different landscapes –
one carries a rubble of stones
weathered smooth by the journey downstream;
another bears a rich biomass, like clumps of hair,
from marshland upstream.
Just as the day was breaking, when the aroma of freshly brewed tea filled the morning I left for a three day retreat to a place a little away from Chennai .
During the retreat I remained preoccupied in examining relationships that I see as urgent and important, the energy that they generate, if they are destructive or nurturing.
We engaged in dialogues and meditated. I came to my room every night and looked at these in this manner.
This is the collection of plants that M holds dear to her, she draws energy from these plants. M has depression that she is taking help to manage. She came to stay with me for a few days, she brought these plants with her. She took it back home. She has arranged these plants in her balcony, on an old chest of drawer. The foliage of trees from beyond her balcony flows in , and during her very low moments M sits in the balcony near these plants.
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.
“The key is to be here, fully connected with the moment, paying attention to the details of ordinary life. By taking care of ordinary things – our pots and pans, our clothing, our teeth – we rejoice in them. When we scrub a vegetable or brush our hair, we are expressing appreciation: friendship toward ourselves and toward the living quality that is found in everything.” ~Pema Chodron
Fiona writes in her site Writing Our Way Home : “We want you to start paying attention to ordinary things, and to extraordinary things. We want you to notice the burnished colour and metallic texture of your pots and pans. We want you to appreciate the menthol smell of your toothpaste and the feel of the brush on your gums. We want you to look at the stars.We want you to become intimate with myriad things, and to be friendly towards them. We want you to slow down and fall in love with the world.”
True, writing and painting, for me, is a process of slowing down.
Last year I participated in this exercise of taking time to look at one thing at a time and writing about it or drawing it. When I began this I started paying attention to the corners in my home that had stayed in darkness, I was peering at the cracks in my tea mugs, the discolouration on my walls. I paid attention to people around me with greater sensitivity, was sympathetic to the agony of the woman, who lives in the apartment above mine, trying to grapple her anger. Paying attention works at more than one level for me.
It is January again and I am participating in the River of Stones. It is a way to connect myself to every small thing around me, remain mindful of every grain that makes my tall heap.
Today I painted this humble cotton bag given to me by a friend. This bag was made by the students of Rasa. Please go here to read about the wonderful people who made this beautiful bag.
I store knick knacks like hair clips, ear studs, bangles in the bag. I hang this bag close to my dressing mirror.
Green like emerald depth of the seas
I went to the Krishnamurti Foundation with my dear friend Vaani. We sat on the lawn warmed by the afternoon sun. We spoke a lot, shared so much sitting on the emerald carpet of prickly grass and I was happy to sketch in my friend’s company. Just as I completed these three drawings, the sprinklers hidden under the grass got activated and we just missed getting drenched.
We walked in the garden, stopped to look at the flowers and bugs wearing fancy coloured coats. We sat on a stone seat and I completed a quick water colour of the tree draped by creepers and flanked by pink croton plants.
I am Urban Sketcher