Kandaghat Thereabouts

I spent a week in summer, about six months ago, in Kandaghat. Based there, I visited Shimla, Mashobra, Tattapani and Narkanda. It was a relaxed holiday, I painted through the trip sitting at these sites for several hours while my family and my brother’s family trekked and explored around.

It is important in art journalling to write the impressions soon after a trip. This blog comes six months after I made the trip, experiences fresh and significant at that time, have receded from memory. All that I have to share are these paintings. 

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River Sutlej in Tattapani



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Nectarines and Cherries from Shimla


I went on a sketch trail to Bandipur forest. I stayed in the bungalow located within the reserve forest, for three days. Herds of deer grazed the backyard of the guest house, there were tales of tigers and leopards being spotted. An elephant camp was next door, from where a tusker, a mother elephant with her calf that was only five days old ambled to the watering hole located beyond the bungalow.  

I was out through the day, painting and sketching. I painted most of these at the sites, many of them done as wet on wet style. 

I have been dedicating most of my time to writing, and have not been painting much. Filled with guilt I filled my book with these paintings and sketches. I had a lot of time to be by myself and reflect. I have emerged out of the forest with a resolution that I will remain balanced in 2015, I will paint as much as I write.

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Paddy field

My husband and I drove along NH 45 to Maturantakam. There is a large lake alongside the highway. I wanted to halt there and paint. From the highway on the bund of the lake we could not pull up our car. There is heavy traffic on the highway through the day, a stationary vehicle is a distraction for the motorists. So we drove into a quieter road that led to a bridge. We pulled up on the bridge, we got a beautiful view of the paddy field and a hillock beyond. It was a sunny afternoon and windy too. I had a difficult time keeping my sketch book from flying away. So I finished two paintings very quickly. Here are the paintings, and my husband holding them against the paddy field. 

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The Retreat

I participated in a three day Retreat led by Samdhong Rinpoche. The Retreat was held in Valley School, a hundred acre spread of property allowed to remain wild. We followed a loose schedule, with large tracks of personal time to remain in quietness with ourselves. The only way I remain in close touch with myself is through writing and painting. The place was too beautiful to spend time indoors writing.  It rained intermittently, and when it stopped the Sun shone unabashedly, pulling dragonflies out of their haunts. Birds called feverishly from the tall trees. The earth bled red and runnels of water flowed across the pathways in the forest. 

On one of my walks I found this beautiful tree in the neighbouring property. I stood in a clearing away from trees and bushes as I painted, just a few minutes ago I saw a long snake slither into a bush beyond. I widened the gap in the barbed fence and explored the neighbour’s property which was overrun with tall grass and thick growth of cacti. Just beyond the fence that you see in the picture is a large banyan tree with its dense arch of aerial roots. I did not have the time to paint the banyan tree, I was already late and  ran just in time for the meditation session.

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I sat on a stone bench that oversaw the cross road between the thickly forested cover.  After a brisk and intense downpour, the cloud cleared and the light was magical.

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Mornings were mesmerising, I followed a path that led me here. Under the tall trees where I stood to paint it was still dark, but the pond and the bridge were suspended in the lucid morning light.

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There is a lake, my friend said, beyond the Art Village. She took me there and asked me to join her in time for the meditation. Again, I just about made it, I mean to the meditation session! The lake kept me pinned to the spot. I finished the painting very fast, but the luminosity of the water as it reflected light was captivating.

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On an afternoon that I could not go out to paint because of the rain, I drew this from my porch. This is the view of the forest from my room.

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The Theosophical Society

I wanted some quietness, I decided to spend the Saturday afternoon in the Theosophical Society. I went with my sketch book, water colors and color pencils. I wanted to spend most of the time watching the trees, the foliage of the trees, the leaves getting tossed by sea breeze.

There weren’t too many visitors that afternoon, and those who stay there, or come to work are not intrusive. They are familiar with me, and let me wander about. I go dangerously close to the Adyar river, that is guarded by thorny brambles; I sit around old buildings that breathe with ghosts of luminaries like Annie Besant and Rabindranath  Tagore. I went to Blavatsky bungalow and sat on the porch that overlooked the 450 year old banyan tree . The thick undergrowth of the tree gave an underwater ambiance. I sat for a very long time listening to the birds, to the rustle of leaves.

Later  I walked toward the Adyar River and stopped to complete quick water colours. I finished them in ten minutes, left them on the grass to dry as I explored closer to the river. There was no access to the river from where I went.

I started sketching the post office building in colour pencil.There were too many details to complete, and it was getting dark and the insects and mosquitoes were out. I quickly gave a water wash to the background, and completed the painting after I came home.


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.

Plant Menagerie

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.