“It takes a very long time to become young.” ~ Picasso

Reposting with a new image. This post is from 2014

Aditi Raychoudhury. My father readied for cremation as I bid my last goodbye. 2019 . Watercolors and Goauche.
Aditi Raychoudhury. My father readied for cremation as I bid my last goodbye. 2019 . Watercolors and Goauche.

When my father died last summer, so did my childhood. Pouf! Just like that!  UNEXPECTEDLY, in that very moment as I stared at the slowly forming words, ” Your father passed away”. To this, and, with this one person in the world, I was, and, could always be, a child – not just middle-aged progeny, whose achievements (or lack there of) one could gloat or bemoan about. And his very last birthday wish to me said just as much.

Last message from Baba. March 20, 2013.
Last birthday wish from Baba via Skype. March 20, 2013. (A rasgulla is a spherical Bengali dessert)

It recalled an incident from nearly forty years ago. I was around 2 years old, hovering around my brother, who had just started kindergarten, struggling to write his lower case ‘a’ in cursive. Fluttering about him, I boasted that it was so easy that even I could do it. Surprised, my parents asked, “How so?” “An ‘a’ is nothing (Yes, kids can be insensitive!). During my last birthday, this incident was still fresh in his mind.

And, just like that 2-year-old, who hadn’t transcended the plasticity of time inside his mind, I continued to make demands long after I had left home. In the US, it was for the things that were almost impossible to find outside of Bengal – Gobindo Bhog Chaal (an incredibly fine-grained fragrant rice), Shona Moongeyr Daal (fine grained gold colored mung bean lentils), Moori (Bengali puffed rice), Mukhorochok (a sweet, salty, and sour snack mix) and Mokaibari tea. I knew that despite his failing health, and limited mobility, he would never fail me. And, sure as ever, he would arrive, with these common Bengali treats, packed in (and sometimes, disastrously strewn all over) his suitcase. Along with them, would also arrive a few banal trinkets that weren’t special to anybody, but me.

When he died last year, 16 years after my mother did, not only did I become a middle-aged orphan – but, I also lost that last refuge where I could always be a child.

That child who led a simple life, in a simple town, in a simpler time. That child who spent most of her afternoons reading, drawing, chasing butterflies, climbing trees, eating guavas, and, running around the neighborhood sucking nectar out of wild flowers. That child, who stared, with wondrous rapture at the birds flying across a bright fuschia sky, and, knew that it was time to wander her way back home from the hills behind her house, where she had just whiled away many happy hours. That child whose heart burnt just as brightly as that spotless evening sky.

As a parent to a pre-schooler, I know that it may be many years before I can shrug-off the self-generated urge to stress over school, organize my space to mimic an IKEA display, and make my meals look like they had just jumped out of the pages of Vegetarian Times, and release my heart instead, to long afternoons amidst the wild flowers of California, and, sink my feet into the wet ocean sand.

On the other hand, as a parent to a pre-schooler, it might just be more possible than ever to relive those childhood wonders of peering through grass, looking for snails, squeezing my eyes as the ocean surf hits my face, and dissolving into laughter at the first lick of ice-cream on a hot day.

While I no longer draw with the passion and freedom that I did as a child, my daughter’s free forms lead me to where I want to be.

Here are some of the things she drew when she was a little over two years old.

Inika Moni RayMukerji. Plane. 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Plane. 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Whale. January 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Whale. January 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Pig. 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Pig. 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Pig. 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Pig. 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Helicopter. 2013. Crayons on Paper
Inika Moni RayMukerji. Helicopter. 2013. Crayons on Paper

Picasso had said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” May be by the time she is my age,  I will learn to draw and laugh like her again. 

 

 

 

The United Faces of America in Layers

Aditi Raychoudhury. United Faces of America in Layers. 2018.
Aditi Raychoudhury. United Faces of America in Layers. 2018.

This GIF captures a bit of how each color is painstakingly layered one at a time to create the final image. That is more than 400 pulls for an edition of 100 prints. Anybody who screenprints takes it on for the love of it. Its truly backbreaking work.

You can pre-order this ltd edition #screenprint ed #poster of #theunitedfacesofamerica from https://lunaspace.org. Part of the proceeds will go to International Rescue Committee and Sister District Project . Big thank you to those who already pre-ordered.

Twenty years ago today

 

We observed my mother’s Shraddha. That day is blurry but I am sure that we blindly went through the rituals that had been codified more than two thousand years ago.

Aditi Raychoudhury. And he wept and he wept and he wept. 2018. Watercolors.
Aditi Raychoudhury. And he wept and he wept and he wept. 2018. Watercolors.
Aditi Raychoudhury. And he wept and he wept and he wept. 2018. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. And he wept and he wept and he wept. 2018. Pencil on Paper.

What is not blurry is the day leading up to her death.

Her sprightly chatter had fallen into near silence during the week leading up to her death.

My father had bathed and changed her, just like he had done every noon since the time she had gotten too weak to do it herself.

I had taken to brushing her thick long black hair. I liked how it felt wet, cool and heavy in my hands.

Like the past few weeks, her head rested heavy on her hand. Her eyes – sad, soft, downcast and faraway, even though we were sitting right in front of the mirror she had used to energetically adorn herself with a little gold and sindoor for about 32 years.

“কি ভাবছ, মা?” (What are you thinking about, Ma?)

“ধুত, কি আবার?” (Oof! What else?)

she replied distantly and irritably.

I loosely braided her hair even though her voice stung. Did she know that was going to die?

She ate a bit and lay down to rest.

I laid down beside her and stroked her still spotless, golden, beautiful back. I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t love stroking her back.

She was falling off to sleep.

Suddenly, she sprang up to sitting on the edge of her bed, her words tumbling rapidly into one another as she desperately tried to keep pace with her sudden burst of delirium.

“Can you hear them?”, she gasped.

“Hear what, Ma?”

“Those bells… the evening bells. Can’t you hear them? They have started to practice their dance. What are you doing here? Why aren’t you there, practising with them?”

“What bells? What dance, Ma?”

“There! There! Can’t you see them?” pointing to a corner of the room.

“Ma! There’s nobody there!” I was beginning to get very frightened as I looked into a pair of eyes that I could no longer recognize.

They looked manic, puzzled. Why couldn’t I see what she could see? She dropped her arm,  let out a deep sigh and fell into disappointed silence.

For twelve years of my life, I had practiced dancing every evening. It was evening alright. But those practice sessions were long gone.

As my husband and brother frantically tried to get a hold of her doctor for advice, my father and I sat next to her, not knowing what was to come.

Little did we know that we would be watching death unfold.

Perhaps it was an illusion created by the emotional center of my otherwise pretty logical brain, but it wasn’t like she was alive one moment and dead the next. It felt like her life had become into its own being and was wrestling to set itself free from its physical binds.

How long did that last? A few minutes? A few hours? We weren’t scientists trying to study death with a stop clock. We were watching my mother die, and it felt like a really long time.

Strangely enough, the closest thing I can compare it to is birthing. Just as time, space and cognition collapse into one incomprehensible dimension when a baby is on its way to be born, this was no different.

Just like a baby forcefully and determinedly squirms and twists its way through the birth canal in no predictable pattern till the head, shoulders and the rest of her body slithers out into one slimy, bloody mess and a loud wail, my dying mother’s life was corkscrewing its way out through her death canal, a bit at a time to no set rhythm.

Like a baby unregrettably leaves the womb that had kept her alive for nine months, my mother’s life finally broke free from the body that had nurtured it for 51 years, leaving behind slightly parted lips, a stony blank stare, and a loud wail – my father’s, ” আর নেই রে! তোর মা চলে গেছে!” (She is no more! Your mother has left us) as he continued to stroke her limp but still warm shell of a body.

They had been married for 32 years. It had been arranged. They hadn’t met till their wedding day, yet it is the best marriage that I know of.


 

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Limited Edition prints of THE UNITED FACES OF AMERICA is now available for PRE-ORDER

If you downloaded THE UNITED FACES OF AMERICA for the Women’s March, I hope that you carried it with pride. I am now taking pre-orders for a limited edition, signed and numbered 3-color screen printed version of the poster from my Etsy Store. The first 20 orders are also in for a special surprise!

Basic CMYK

We, the United Faces of America, are stronger than hate, and will uphold justice and human rights for all. Here we are carrying our message in front of the courthouse on Women’s March day.

Oakland Women's March 2018.
Oakland Women’s March 2018.

 

Size: 16 in. x 20 in. Signed and numbered edition of 100 prints.

Order yours today!

Peace,

Aditi

52 Years Ago

On Nov 19, 1965 two strangers got married, yet it is the best marriage I know of. Those strangers also gave birth to me, my brother and my sister. They, at the very least, showed us how to love. I miss my parents and their wisdom everyday. More on their marriage at “An Arranged Marriage, a Lifetime of Love”.

Aditi Raychoudhury. My newly married parents. 2017. Watercolors.
Aditi Raychoudhury. My newly married parents. 2017. Watercolors.

 

Shubho Bijoya

Aditi Raychoudhury. Snagging a Mango. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Snagging a Mango. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Crazy Rickshaw Ride. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Crazy Rickshaw Ride. Pencil on Tracing Paper. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Crazy Rickshaw Ride. Pencil on Tracing Paper. 2017.

Maa has returned to her heavenly abode, as did mine, almost 20 years ago.

When we were little, the joy of pujo lay in waking up at the crack of dawn to Birendro Kishore Bhodro’s rendition of Mohaloya broadcast over All India Radio. It lay in the anticipation of more than a week off from school, wearing new clothes, eating bhog, and most of all meeting friends and family.

After I had moved to Delhi, pujo was a time to be with my parents, who had moved to Kolkata by then. Kolkata was a big change from the small town I had grown up in. The pandals of Raurkela were neither as creative as Kolkata, nor were they as crowded. The madness that grips Kolkata during pujo is not something anyone outside of Kolkata can understand or imagine.

This night was pujo’s biggest night – Ashtami. After offering our morning Anjali in the paaraar pandal, we decided not to venture out in the evening.

“Knock, knock, knock!!!” It was Monoronjon, our local rickshaw puller.

Those who are familiar with Kolkata, know that rickshaw pullers are our solution to getting to various modes of an otherwise efficient public transit system. Within every few blocks is a “rickshaw stand” marked only by a huddle of rickshaws. If you live in that neighborhood, you start using the same rickshaw puller to take you places, or to run errands. In our case, that man was Monoronjon.

“Ki Boudi, pujo dekhbeyn naa?” (Brother’s wife, don’t you want to go and see pujo?)
“Naa, eyi bheedeyr moddhey aar beyrotey bhaal laagey naa.” (No, its too crowded to be enjoyable)
“Sheyki??? Oshtomir din, protimaa dekhtey jaabeyn naa. Ey ki kothaa? Cholun. Aajkey keyu baadi boshey neyi. Cholteyi hobey.” (How can that be? Its Ashtami, Pujo’s big night. How can you not want to see Mother Goddess. No one stays home on Ashtami. I will take you through the backlanes. You have to come.)

And, so we did. Through the narrow back lanes of Selimpur to all the pujos in Jodhpur Park, Jadavpur park and even as far as Santoshpur. My sister and I hung on to our mother for dear life as Monoronjon expertly swerved his way through the winding streets and impenetrable crowds. A good three hours later – we were home.

“Eyyi jey, Monoronjon. Eyto ghoraaley. Koto holo?”(you took us around quite a bit. How much?)
“Sheyki baudi? Pujor din. Aami aapnedeyr ghora tey niyey gaychhi. Aapni to amaakey daakeyn ni.” (How can you even ask me that? Its pujo. I asked you to come with me. You didn’t ask me to take you.)
And with that, Monoronjon, our illiterate, dirt-poor rickshaw puller reminded us that pujo is so much more than new clothes, food or commerce. It is about sharing joy.

Agitprop – Part Deux

The United Faces of America. 2017. Image for 3-color screenprint.
The United Faces of America. 2017. Image for 3-color screenprint.
The United Faces of America. 2017. Image for 3-color screenprint.

Reduced the original image

Aditi Raychoudhury. Resist. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Resist. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.

 

for a 3-color screenprint that I will be making 100 copies of as part of the Agitprop residency sponsored by the Compound Gallery.

The Compound Gallery is funding this Residency out of its own funding to help artist create art with traditional printmaking techniques (e.g., letterpress, silkscreen, etching, relief, photopolymer plates) and building a bridge between printmaking’s historic relationship to generating social/cultural/political awareness and contemporary social media/online forums. If you want to support what they do by either donating ink, paper, supplies, or monetary funds, you can do so by clicking HERE.  They are fiscally sponsored via Fractured Atlas, a 501(c)(3) public charity. Contributions for the purposes of The Compound Gallery are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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Grateful for the Agitprop Residency at the Compound Gallery

Aditi Raychoudhury. Resist. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.

I am grateful to the Compound Gallery for offering me a spot in their Agitprop Residency program 

What is Agitprop? Its Printing for a cause. Thinking. Making. Disseminating. 1 individual, 1 month, 100 Prints.

I will be printing the United Faces of America as a 3-color screenprint over the next month.

 

Aditi Raychoudhury. Resist. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Resist. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.

 

 

The Compound Gallery is funding this Residency out of its own funding to help artist create art with traditional printmaking techniques (e.g., letterpress, silkscreen, etching, relief, photopolymer plates) and building a bridge between printmaking’s historic relationship to generating social/cultural/political awareness and contemporary social media/online forums. If you want to support what they do by either donating ink, paper, supplies, or monetary funds, you can do so by clicking HERE.  They are fiscally sponsored via Fractured Atlas, a 501(c)(3) public charity. Contributions for the purposes of The Compound Gallery are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Mangoes, Mangoes Everywhere, Yet Not One For Me to Eat

Aditi Raychoudhury. Snagging a Mango. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Snagging a Mango. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Snagging a Mango. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.

Summer is almost over, as are the monsoons. The mangoes are most definitely gone, but here I am, still trying to snag one from the tree in the backyard of my childhood. There is nothing more delicious than a mango in the middle of the blistering heat of an Indian June. If this national fruit of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can’t bring us together, I don’t know what can. Happy 70th birthday to India.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Prep sketch for Snagging a Mango. Pencil on Paper. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Prep sketch for Snagging a Mango. Pencil on Paper. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Prep sketch with color for Snagging a Mango. Pencil, colored pencils on Tracing Paper. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Prep sketch with color for Snagging a Mango. Pencil, colored pencils on Tracing Paper. 2017.