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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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.

 

Happy Birthday to a Bandicoot (plus 1)

Left to their own devices everyday would be cake day for these two bandicoots.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Happy Cake Day. Watercolors. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Happy Cake Day. Watercolors. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Happy Cake Day. 2017. Pencil Sketch on Tracing.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Happy Cake Day. 2017. Pencil Sketch on Tracing.

Third experiment in watercolors for my husband’s 45th birthday. And, no, her hair didn’t catch fire. Its all the way down to her back now.

 

Hope and Anxiety

Hope and anxiety. What will she be? Our state of mind around mid-September, 2010.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Hope and Anxiety (What Will She Be?). Watercolor on Paper. 2016.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Hope and Anxiety (What Will She Be?). Watercolor on Paper. 2016.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Hope and Anxiety (What Will She Be?). Pencil on Tracing. 2016.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Hope and Anxiety (What Will She Be?). Pencil on Tracing. 2016.

BART People

Aditi Raychoudhury. A Good Time for a Little Make-up. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.

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Most of these sketches are from when from when I worked as a Energy Efficiency Analyst and Designer and rode BART into the city. I stopped sketching after my first year or so of working, because I coudn’t find any purpose or meaning to them. Now, I wonder who they were? Where are they headed? What are they thinking? Most of all, they remind me of the diverse community I am proud to live in.

Aditi Raychoudhury. A Good Time to Read. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. A Good Time to Read. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. A Good Time for a Little Make-up. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. A Good Time for a Little Make-up. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.

Where is he from? Where is he going?

Aditi Raychoudhury. Standing Man. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Standing Man. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.

This man totally reminded me of my late father. What is he pondering?

Aditi Raychoudhury. Just Like my Dad. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Just Like my Dad. 2000???. Pencil on Xerox Paper.

Mimi, the Little Umbrella

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“In a very busy town…

A Very Busy Town. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.
A Very Busy Town. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.

On a very busy street…

2 City Street Store 29 BZ st lighter file_BZ st1
A Very Busy Street. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.

Was a very busy umbrella store.

A Very Busy Umbrella Store. 2016. Adobe Illustrator.
A Very Busy Umbrella Store. 2017. Adobe Illustrator.

At the very back of this umbrella store, lived a little umbrella named Mimi. But, Mimi wasn’t fancy at all… in fact, she was just a plain black umbrella. But Mimi had a secret, which, made her special… very special indeed.

Mimi. Adobe Illustrator.
Mimi. 2017. Adobe Illustrator.
Town, Street, Store, Mimi Panoramic. 2017. Adobe Illustrator.
Town, Street, Store, Mimi Panoramic. 2017. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. On a Very Bury. Busy Town, Busy Street, Busy Store, Mimi Panoramic. 2015. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. On a Very Bury. Busy Town, Busy Street, Busy Store, Mimi Panoramic. 2015. Adobe Illustrator.

On rainy days, lots of people came into the umbrella store to buy, well …umbrellas! And the shopkeeper would always show them his fanciest umbrellas”….

….”But, the shopkeeper never showed plain little Mimi to anyone… and no one even asked for her.
So, she just lived quietly at the back of the store, waiting for the right person to come along.”….

Does the right person come along? Does Mimi ever get to leave the store? What made Mimi special? What is her SECRET?

I am not telling till some one publishes this story… till then.. here are some illustrations/sketches of work in progress.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Very Busy Street. 2014. Pencil on Tracing.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Very Busy Street. 2014. Pencil on Tracing.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Busy Little Umbrella Store (With Baskets). 2014. Adobe Illustrator CS5.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Busy Little Umbrella Store (With Baskets). 2014. Adobe Illustrator CS5.
Busy Little Umbrella Store
Aditi Raychoudhury. Busy Little Umbrella Store. 2013. Pencil.

Character sketches –

Aditi Raychoudhury. Blue Boy with Mamma. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Blue Boy with Mamma. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Blue Boy with Mamma. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Blue Boy with Mamma. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Dad with Stroller and Runaway Girl. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Dad with Stroller and Runaway Girl. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Close-up of Runaway Girl. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Close-up of Runaway Girl. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Close-up of Dad. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Close-up of Dad. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Runaway Girl. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Runaway Girl. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Couple Behind Counter. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Couple Behind Counter. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Couple Behind Counter. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Couple Behind Counter. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Toddler Girl with Trench Coat Mamma. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Toddler Girl with Trench Coat Mamma. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Toddler Girl with Trench Coat Mamma (Refined). 2013. Blue Pencil on Tracing Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Toddler Girl with Trench Coat Mamma (Refined). 2013. Blue Pencil on Tracing Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Toddler Girl with Trench Coat Mamma. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Toddler Girl with Trench Coat Mamma. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Exiting Mamma with Runaway Son. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Exiting Mamma with Runaway Son. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Exiting Mamma with Runaway Son. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Exiting Mamma with Runaway Son. 2013. Pencil on Paper.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Tall Man With Umbrella. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Tall Man With Umbrella. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Tall man with Umbrella. 2013. Adobe Illustrator CS5.
Tall man with Umbrella. 2013. Adobe Illustrator CS5.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Trio. 2013. Adobe Illustrator CS5.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Trio. 2013. Adobe Illustrator CS5.
Trio. 2013. Pencil.
Trio. 2013. Pencil.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Smarty Panta Girl with Father. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Smarty Panta Girl with Father. 2013. Adobe Illustrator.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Smarty Pants Girl with Father. 2013. Pencil.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Smarty Pants Girl with Father. 2013. Pencil.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Smarty Pants Girl's Father. 2013. Pencil.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Smarty Pants Girl’s Father. 2013. Pencil.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Smarty Pants Girl. 2013. Pencil.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Smarty Pants Girl. 2013. Pencil.