To have or not to have Boli?

Aditi Raychoudhury. Animal sacrifice. Kali Pujo. 2019. Gouache and Watercolor.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Animal sacrifice. Kali Pujo. 2019. Gouache and Watercolor.

When most Indians are celebrating Diwali and Rama’s return to Ayodhya after vanquishing the demon king Ravana, it is overshadowed by a lesser known festival, Kali Pujo when Kali, a more virulent form of Durga, is worshipped through the night with great fervor in Eastern India. As a Bengali, I was very much a part of this tradition, and we would go out late in the night, to pay our respect to beautifully decorated idols of Kali, resplendent in her garland of blood red hibiscus flowers and demonic heads. We would have bhog after midnight, the highlight of which was an oxymoron – the unusual vegetarian goat curry. If you think this curry is made out of trendy fake meat, you are very much mistaken. Kali Pujo, predates fake meat by centuries! What apparently makes this curry “vegetarian” is the lack of onions and garlic that are otherwise always used in a traditional Bengali goat curry. The goat for this curry is comes from a male goat that was sacrificed at midnight, a ritual I was witness to once as a little girl.

We were at my dida’s (maternal grandma’s) house in Purnia. My widowed grandmother, was a devotee of RamKrishna, a Bengali saint, who in turn was a devotee of Maa Kali. She would take us to the Purnia Kali Bari at least once during our stay with her. It was a trip that I enjoyed very much with its rhythmically bumping rickshaw ride as it snaked through tall palm trees that had little clay pots strung right around where their leaves ended. It looked as though the trees had necklaces around their neck. I enjoyed looking at the daring men who climbed way up high with minimal safety gear to collect the sweet sap from the pots. The sap has a nutty smoky flavor that tastes a bit like maple syrup. It is mildly processed to make yummy nolen gur that went into flavoring my favorite desserts. The sap of some other palms were used to make toddy. What that tastes like, I can’t tell, because I have never had any. Most of all I loved the serene setting of this little temple by the river amidst lush tropical greens.

Collecting sap from palm trees.

This time we were in Purnia for Kali Pujo and yes, as usual, we were going to venerate Maa Kali – this time at the Purnia Kali Bari. Like before we jumped on to our parents laps, and bumped along the road as our parents hugged us tightly. Little did I know that this trip was going to be quite different, one that would be seared in my memory.

As, we disembarked on this new moon night that lay suspended between the end of Sharad and the start of Shishir, I was taken aback by the sound of prayers being offered to a male black goat. Oh, how handsome he looked with his garland of bright red hibiscus flowers shining brightly against his silky black fur as he was gently being guided towards the sacrificial altar. As the goat realized its ultimate fate, its joyful pride dissolved into trembling bleats which despite their softness, split right through this dark night. Oh, the poignancy of his bleats! I ran as far away as I could and shut my ears, waiting for that blissful serendipity of the place to return. A few short moments later, all went numbingly quiet, as the giant sword, swiftly decapitated this goat in one fell swoop. It was over – but not for me. I just couldn’t get those plaintive bleats out of my head. With my heart in shards, it became impossible to settle into the quietness of a Hemant new moon. The sight of that goat curry made me gag, and I couldn’t eat it. Even though it didn’t make me a vegetarian, and I continued to enjoy our Sunday goat curries for many years, I couldn’t forget this little goat – so happy in its veneration, so terrified of its ultimate end.

In the process of painting this, I came to realize that I had been so shaken by that event that I had forgotten what time of day this deadly ritual had taken place.

Much has changed since then. Activists have managed to highlight the cruelty of this practice and most temples now sacrifice a gourd instead of a goat.

But despite all their activism, eating meat and the number of brutal slaughterhouses have increased manifold in India. During the process of capturing this memory, I started to wonder is it really worse to occasionally eat a few small bites of meat of an animal that was raised with love, venerated, and killed with compassion and the belief that because of this great sacrifice, he shall be reborn as a human being than to stock up our freezers with mounds of beautifully butchered shapes of meat that bear no resemblance to the being that they came from?

As we ramp up to Thanksgiving, I question our activism that results in hiding from sight what we can’t stand to bear. As we gather around any festive table, perhaps what we should be most thankful for is the being that gave its life to bind us together around the table to cherish our friends and families, and nourish our bodies and souls.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Animal sacrifice. Kali Pujo. 2019. Pencil on Tracing Paper.

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.

 

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.

#Flashback Friday #Creative

Aditi Raychoudhury, Aniruddh Mukerji. Indian Arch Magazine Cover. School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. 1994. Paper, Photocopy machine, Glue Stick, Ink.

Aditi Raychoudhury, Aniruddh Mukerji. Indian Arch Magazine Cover.  School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. 1994. Paper, Photocopy machine, Glue Stick, Ink.
Aditi Raychoudhury, Aniruddh Mukerji. Indian Arch Magazine Cover. School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. 1994. Paper, Photocopy machine, Glue Stick, Ink.

This is one of the many collaborations my husband and I did in the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi, India. I thought of this today – as I have a REALLY ANCIENT printer that can’t scan or print anything larger than A4- so I went old school today, while working on this long panoramic (9″x72″ or longer), scanning smaller components, resizing and compositing them in Adobe Illustrator CS5, then printing out the result in small parts,  cutting and pasting them, and redrawing them again. It reminded me of the pre-computer days in college – when used the photocopying machine and glue stick to cutting and paste images in layers and adding hand drawn floor plans and such to create covers and content for magazines.

 

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.