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.

 

The Bomb and The General V2.2009

Aditi Raychoudhury. Bushes. 2009. 6" x 4". Adobe Illustrator CS.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Bushes. 2009. 6″ x 4″. Adobe Illustrator CS.

The original ‘The Bomb and the General’ is a delightfully optimistic, anti-war children’s book – written by Umberto Eco (The Name of The Rose), and brilliantly illustrated by Eugenio Carmi. It was published in 1989 –

In Italian: By Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri, Bompiani, Sonzogno, Etas S.p.A.;
and
In English: By Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Inspired by the original story, this version retains some of the original text (italicized), and maintains a similar naïveté to create an anti-war message for children. For adults, its a more complex tale about hegemony and insular faith.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty. Adobe Illustrator CS. 2009.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Green). 2009. 22″ x 11″. Adobe Illustrator CS.

The General of our story enjoys a life of ease and gluttony, till he is compelled to seek God, during a moment of personal crisis. This pivotal encounter awakens in him an unshakable passion for God’s word. But his myopic obsession with the minutiae of God’s message clouds its original intent, and provokes an ominous future. Will his country slumber on through the impending doom or will they arise to reclaim their right in a peaceful world?

Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Pink). 2008. 17" x 14". Colored Pencils on Tracing Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Pink). 2009. 17″ x 14″. Colored Pencils on Tracing Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Primary Colors). 2009. 17" x 14". Colored Pencils on Tracing Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Primary Colors). 2009. 17″ x 14″. Colored Pencils on Tracing Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Orange). 2009. 17" x 14". Colored Pencils on Tracing Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Orange). 2009. 17″ x 14″. Colored Pencils on Tracing Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Orange). 2009. 17" x 14". Gouache on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Land of Plenty (In Orange). 2009. 17″ x 14″. Gouache on Paper.

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

Pablo Picasso. Woman with a Book. 1932. Oil on Canvas.
Pablo Picasso. Woman with a Book. 1932. Oil on Canvas.

When my father died last summer, so did my childhood. Pouf! Just like that! And, very 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 (via Skype) 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 two years old, and had been watching my brother, who had just started kindergarten, struggling to write his lower case “a” . Fluttering about him, I boasted that writing “a” was so easy that even I could do it. (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 (Very fine grained- fragrant rice), Shona Moongeyr Daal (golden very fine grained 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. 

 

 

 

Study for “Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh (with Candles)”

Detail: Study For "Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh (with Candles)". 2008. Chalk Pastels and Charcoal on Newsprint. 18" x 24".
Detail: Study For “Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh (with Candles)”. 2008. Chalk Pastels and Charcoal on Newsprint. 18″ x 24″.
Detail: Study For "Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh (with Candles)". 2008. Chalk Pastels and Charcoal on Newsprint. 18" x 24".
Detail: Study For “Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh (with Candles)”. 2008. Chalk Pastels and Charcoal on Newsprint. 18″ x 24″.

Forbidden Portent: Studies

It was not the best day. She had been stripped of her womanhood. Shrivelled up inside this unfamiliar androgyny, she felt too debased to dare this world of wondrous, demeaning, and fragile promises. Debarred from tasting such tantalizing portents, she fumbled for a pencil, and touched color to paper for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Callas and Me (3), 2006. 14" x 17", Chalk Pastels on Vellum.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Forbidden Portent (Study 3), 2006. 14″ x 17″, Chalk Pastels on Vellum.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Callas and Me (2), 2006. 14" x 17", Chalk Pastels on Vellum.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Forbidden Portent (Study 2), 2006. 14″ x 17″, Chalk Pastels on Charcoal Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Callas and Me (2), 2006. 14" x 17", Charcoal on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Forbidden Portent (Study 1), 2006. 14″ x 17″, Charcoal on Charcoal Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Callas and Me (Working Sketch), 2006. 8 1/2" x 11", Colored Pencils on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Forbidden Portent (Working Sketch), 2006. 8 1/2″ x 11″, Colored Pencils on Xerox Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Callas and Me (Initial Sketch), 2006. 8 1/2" x 11", Colored Pencils on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Forbidden Portent (First Sketch), 2006. 8 1/2″ x 11″, Colored Pencils on Xerox Paper.