Calcutta sketches – my grandaunt

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What’s this art about? Here’s one of my quick under-an-hour sketch that I made of my grandaunt. Well, the time taken for sketching was shorter because she was watching TV and unable to stay still for long. The flouncy pillow behind her adds to her cute feminity. Psst…little added info on her : she loves wearing lipstick everyday!

What did she say when she saw herself?..

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Nothing. She just gave a genuine pleased smile, which made me happy. Here she is holding a big plate of sun dried cauliflowers which she is preparing to make pickles of, a big favorite in the family.

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Steaming hot cauliflowers, anyone?!

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Calcutta sketches : Morning prayers

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What’s this art about? It’s a classroom somewhere in India and morning prayers are being held in the class. This is a little unusual, because morning prayers are usually done in the wide courtyard or in a big room that fits all of the school together. My art was inspired by a photo from the local newspaper where the students of each class prayed for the children who died in the Peshawar shooting (by the Taliban). There was a big gap in the second aisle so I decided to fill in the gap with the figure of a teacher standing. The figure is me actually in my Indian attire of salwar kameez, and my big glasses do make me look strict like a teacher 🙂 .

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A snapshot of happy smiling faces of schoolchildren in India.

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Calcutta sketches : Stories within storeys

It’s been such a while that I paid serious attention to improving my sketching skills.. The last two months I spent in Calcutta, I tried to get some time off from looking after baby T to spending some time with my pen and artbook.  Here’s just a very few that I (miraculously) managed to get done. My aim during the sketches was to complete them in a time gap of under an hour. This was to help get me started with my sketches instead of getting bogged down under too many details of the work. Here’s one work for today.

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What’s this art about? I live in a residential community block in Calcutta, where big blocks of building are squeezed next to each other, with a garden and a playing ground in the center. When I look out of my window, I only see these tall buildings all around. So many people with so many stories taking place in these apartments. The day I drew this, something horrific had taken place in one such building. A woman died. She committed suicide by lighting herself on fire. I felt quite sad to hear the story. I have no idea what made her take such an extreme step, but she must have been in deep pain. I added her in my artwork as a way to let myself remember her. The title of this sketch is ‘Stories within storeys’.

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‘You look like you got fingered’

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Warning : This post contains some raunchy ‘inuendos’, so all faint hearts can proceed with caution! 🙂

Here are some sketches I made about 4 years ago while I was working as a flight attendant for one of the middle-eastern airlines called Etihad Airways. I had plenty of fun moments and got familiar with all the flight attendant, and passenger jokes. The crew may seem unflattering in these sketches, but in real life, the girls and the boys are very pretty. At 4.30 am when one has seen the interior of the aircraft for the past 10 hours, and the only oxygen is the recycled air in the closed cabin, one’s mind can start playing tricks, and even the beautiful crew around can start looking like mutating monsters. Unfortunately, amongst the many rules that the crew had to remember, I remember this particular rule that really seemed to take the cake : ‘Crew are forbidden to sleep in the galleys, or even give the impression that they might be sleeping’.. So you cannot shut your eyes more than 3 seconds..

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Once I boarded the crew bus looking sad because I hadn’t managed to sleep the night before and I had a long and busy flight in front of me. A concerned crew member asked me if I was OK, and I told her my problem, to which she replied ‘Oh, you know what, even if I’ve slept well, I always feel fatigue and tired the moment I put on this uniform’. Even after 10 years, her remark stuck in my head and I always found it very funny and true. And the rare moments when a flight would be declared cancelled, strangely all that fatigue and tiredness would go out of the window and I’d be ready to hit the beach!

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Here’s a true story that occured in a flight to Tanzania ..

He : Scuze me, I want a Jewess

Me : Excuse me, umm… what kind of ..Jewess .. exactly?

He : Yes, I want a Jewess, an Orange Jewess

Me : Ahh…! Yes, I will get you your Jewess ( I go to the galley to bring him his orange juice)

Another joke that happened in front of me to a male crew. The flight was to Amman (Jordan), and it’s a night flight. A woman tries to get the attention of the male crew (and he’s just started flying) and whispers into his ear ‘I want a cock’.

He : (looking shocked) Excuse me??!

She : I want cock with ice

He : You mean coca cola?

She : Yes yes that cock!

I had a memorable Bombay flight. It was a full flight, with many uncontrollable children and demanding adults. We, the crew, were in the middle of the meal service and each crew member had to handle their own carts. I inched my way forward until my cart reached a livid passenger.

He: I’ve been fingering you for so long, where were you??’

Me: Excuse me?! I don’t understand..

He: Look look, like this I fingered you for so long!! ( and he demonstrates by pushing his finger against the crew call button several times and the whole cabin resonates with the ding-dong noise))

Me : Ah, you used the call bell service. I’m sorry, it’s a very busy flight. How may I help you?’

He : I can’t find my wife’s hole.

Me : (confused and starting to get mad) Excuse me?!

He : Look, I found my hole and I can hear my movie, but my wife can’t hear her’s!

Me : Ah, You’re trying to locate the slot to plug in your headset… Ok, let me help you.

I go back to the galley after the service, and another crew member, someone more familiar with the Bombay flights, looks at my stunned expression and says knowingly ‘You look like you got fingered’.

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Shaad, a pre-birth celebration for the Bengali woman

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Currently facing my 6th month of pregnancy, my Mother wanted to celebrate it by having a Shaad, meaning ‘desire’ in Bengali. Traditionally, the Shaad is celebrated along with the pregnant woman’s close friends and relatives, the idea being to surround the woman with as many positive vibes possible. The actual meal of the shaad is supposed to consist of all of the pregnant woman’s favourite food.

That wasn’t too tough for me to decide on what I wanted to eat, since I like almost everything of what Bengali food has to offer! Being a very unfussy person, I didn’t want to have any get together. My cook in Kolkata, Shumi prepared this lovely lavish feast for me. I have never seen or heard of a shaad before, so I had no idea that so much hard work was involved into making one. (If I’d have known earlier, I would have told my gentle cook not to bother). But Shumi insisted and when she finally laid it out on the table, I felt tears dangerously close, so touched was I to see how much she cared for my pregnancy, and my well being.

She didn’t have to ask me what I liked, she knew already I loved her cooking, so she went ahead with her imagination to what my shaad should look like. And by the way, the steel plate and the steel glass used are the very same ones that I used to use as a child when I was 4 years old onwards. The steel plate has indentations to where the vegetables or meat dishes go into. On my plate, on the top center, is the Bengali dessert called ‘payesh’, or rice pudding. To the left is the dal (lentils) and to the right is a spicy potato preparation. Below on the main section of the plate, is staple diet of Bengal, rice and alongside the rice, on either side is a collection of fried vegetables (potato, aubergine, bitter gourd, okra, cabbage) and fish. Shumi gave the final touch of garnish on the rice and water by adding a sprig of basil. Doesn’t it look sooo appetising and yummy??

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