Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Outdoor sketches besides being a lot of fun, have the power to rediscover the beauty of places that have lost their charm because of over-familiarity. When somebody in Pune mentions Mandai, people think vegetables, the maddening crowd, the cramped little lanes, the horrors of trying to find a parking place, the annoyance of having to go there on an errand...

In the midst of all this, the inherent majesty of its architecture is easily lost... Park your bike across the street, pull out your sketch pad and there's a good chance you'll find it again...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Eiffel Tower

Did this one some years ago.... It was a lot of fun but it was basically a Parisian drawing made in Pune... I hope some day there'll be one I've done actually sitting in front of the Eiffel :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Fiasco that wasn't

About six years ago, I met a nutcase one evening; he recognized me as one of his own kind and we collected others of our tribe. We quickly decided we wanted to come out with a satirical humour magazine. We were all a bunch of firebrand comic supporters and creators... but what we weren't were marketing people. Our baby 'Fiasco' died a one issue death from want of incisive R&D, marketing know-how, and promotional enterprise. Not-to-mention finance :)

Much later, whenever I spoke to people about it, I always joked that 'Fiasco' lived up to its reputation...

Today I realise not everything can be measured in terms of its epidermal success. Fiasco gave me things that have stayed with me long after the pinch of the magazine not taking off died away - A bunch of friends with whom I've done some kickass work since; the taste of things not working out first, so you really relish the times when they do; A pretty good education in what looks good, bad and quite ugly on paper and several other lessons...

When you look at it that way, Fiasco may have lived up to its rep in terms of not kicking off... but as far as its importance in my scheme of things goes, it was the Fiasco that wasn't :)

The above image is a Fiasco poster I'd done back then. Real freak show

Thursday, July 9, 2009

This is a sketch I did for a story sometime back. One of the first... It totally defined the style for me and the illustrations were underway...

Link to the Anon website

Here's the link to the official Private-eye Anonymous website...ahem...

The place for all the latest stuff on Anon... the animatic, news, downloads etc etc

The Clean House Effect

(Published: The Sunday Midday - 5 July 2009

under the title: The Uncaped Crusader)

Superman reminds me of my Mum sometimes. Of course, neither does he wear an apron nor she a cape, but a few likenesses are uncanny. “The vile Lex Luthor tries to escape me…Ha! But I have spotted him with my super vision!” cries Superman and flies forth to rid the earth of Lex Luthor’s evil schemes. Mum says no such thing but she often appears to zoom across the room – her Lex Luthor is a dust ball, a coffee stain or an uncouth and unwelcome speck disrupting the serenity of her keep, her paradise, her house. With as much fury as Superman if not more, she does battle and restores the sanctity of her world. Triumphant, she stands with her hands on her hips.
“What’s for lunch?” Dad wants to know.
Who said being a superhero is always rewarding.

Dad and I are lower life forms. Tummy rumble rumble – Duh Zok hungry. We are not gifted with the powers that enable somebody to be able to spot a smudge on the living room wall at lunchtime. It’s not that we are beings that won’t appreciate its removal; simply beings that don’t seem to mind its existence if it were up to us to do the cleaning.
Some years ago, Mum was away for the weekend and Dad and I had the house to ourselves. It was cricket season – isn’t it always? – and India was engaged in a long series. Ideal conditions for lower life forms to throw caution to the winds and forget all about the things-to-do-list Mum had left us on the tack-board. We didn’t mind a little mess. We weren’t people afflicted with obsessive compulsive order the way Mum was! When the local policemen are on vacation, it’s time for the local goondas to run amok!

Trrrrnnnngggg- Good Morning Cricket!- Who’s batting?- click- “…high up in the air, it’s a SIX!!” – TING TONG – “Modak?” “Yes…” “Courier. Sign here.” – “Did you see that shot!?” “No I didn’t Dad!”- “WATCH it!” “What??” “You almost sat on my spectacles!”- “.Ohh a very close one for Tendulkar... - trrinngg trrinngg – “Hello?...Hi Mum…um…what?..- How was that, Mc’grath wants to know…”- “No what was that you said…?”- …he’s living dangerously…- “Yes Mum, yes Mum…okay bye!” click – “Dad Mum says hi and reminds us to change the pillow covers.”- - “WHAT??? - ..the umpire raises the finger…- THAT WAS NOT OUT!!” – “Tejas, what was that you were saying, by the way?” “You’re right Dad…that was NOT OUT!!” – ssssssss – “What’s that sound?” “SHIT!! Forgot the milk!!”- …Ganguly walks in…- “Where’s the remote?” “I don’t know Dad! Look for it on the couch” “The only thing on the couch is yesterday’s bloody packet of chips! How many times have I told you to not leave this--” “It’s NOT my mess okay! Chips are common property!”- …any youngsters watching, THAT is the way to play the cover drive…- ssssssssss- “What the-?? Forgot the milk again?” “No, I’m frying some eggs” – that is clever cricket; he just pushes it into the gap and takes a single…- “Oh shucks…I just remembered I left the bread in the car yesterday…Will you quickly- -” “No you get it. I’m bringing out the plates” – …in the air, fielder under it...- CRASH!!! - …DROP CATCH…- “You…dropped the plates?....Tejas….when’s Mum coming back?”

The local policemen were clearly being missed. When Mum got home, we rolled out the red carpet. She shrieked because on the red carpet were wilted plants, layers of dust, yesterday’s packet of chips, pieces of broken china, unwashed pillow covers…An army of Lex Luthor clones!! Clark Kent ran into the telephone booth and a second later there was a flash of red and blue. Even at super-speed, it took her a while but when she was done, no one could’ve guessed what the place had looked like not long ago. Or the way its two inhabitants had looked at each other- disgruntled frowns and knotty eyebrows. But suddenly now, the seasons had changed. There was a tranquil smile on Dad’s face, even when he chanced upon the chap who’d recently broken some of his china. He didn’t ‘hmmff’, didn’t yell for the remote…ample camaraderie in his ‘Hello son!’ The glow on his face matched the sheen on the centre table, the shine on the walls, the gleam on the flooring. Mum was back! Dad and I could now lean back comfortably on the cushions after a hard day’s work, without encountering yesterday’s packet of chips under our gluteus maximuses. We could stretch our hands out absent mindedly and find the remote. We could forget all about the milk without having it sssss over. We could watch our cricket without a care in the world, a list on the tack-board, or a speck on the wall.

“One of you guys, quickly bring me the broom, will you? I missed that cobweb in the corner!” Mum calls out. Dad and I sink lower into the cushions. – …lazy elegance from the Prince of Calcutta… – the commentator cackles.

'Nandri' To All And Sundry

(Published: The New Indian Express, Chennai)

We’re in a ferryboat, floating somewhere in the middle of Pondicherry lake, enjoying lunch. Today, we’re part of the one-day tour organized by the PTDC that covers all the tourist attractions in and around Pondiherry. It’s a contrast to the wanderer mode we usually stick to. Lunch is traditional fare- rice, sabzi, delicious curries, mango pickle, garnished buttermilk and papad. Mmmm.
Most of the others in the group are foreigners. We get to hear a lot of French. A friend of mine tries his French with an elderly lady who seems to be traveling alone and gets a confused look in response. As it turns out, she’s German. I use my H.S.C. German skills and rattle off the one German sentence I’m comfortable with. “Ich kann nicht gut Deutsche sprachen” (‘I cannot speak German well.’) I say to her. She nods in agreement. We notice a younger woman looking at us intently. In slow, elaborate and histrionics assisted English- so she would understand us- we ask her what language she speaks. “English” she replies. Aah!
A group of girls from Chennai is part of the crowd. When we try and ask the waiter for some water and he only stares back at us with blank incomprehension, one of the girls becomes translator and helps us out. The water arrives and I ask her what the word for ‘Thank you’ is in Tamil. “Nandri” she answers. “Ok, nandri then!” I say to her.

“Nandri” becomes our catch phrase. We use it in every place and at every occasion that we can. We say “Nandri” to the waiter. We say “Nandri” to the tour organizer. Our guide thinks “Get out” is the most natural way of asking your passengers to alight the bus at the end of the tour. Nevertheless, we say “Nandri” to him too.
It ignites sudden warmth from the shopkeepers. It elicits a surprised smile from every person we stop to ask directions. The several bus conductors we encounter throughout our trip seem justly repaid for all the help they offer, by the simple utterance of a simple word in their own tongue. In Karaikal, our enthusiastic and self-appointed guide, writes down four foolscap sheets worth of Tamil words and their meanings for us to learn. ‘Azhagaana Pen’ means ‘beautiful woman’. “Azhagaana Pen.” “Azhagaana Pen.” We keep repeating to help us remember, as we head toward the bakery for some refreshments. We unwittingly pass a lady selling fruits, who swivels around angrily, with the impression that we’re acting funny. ‘Azhagaana Pen’ is a dangerous line. We stick to ‘Nandri’.
The Chennai Mail leaves at 10:50 p.m. We’re in Chennai by quarter to four in the afternoon. I call up my publisher and we decide to meet. The autos outside Chennai station look like they’re given a fresh coat of paint every morning, instead of the mundane wash that would suffice anywhere else in India. They shine as brightly yellow as the Chennai sun itself. “Gemini flyover”, we say. “150 rupees”, he says. Nandri but no nandri. We eventually get there after one chap settles for 120. We meet my publisher at the Landmark bookstore and then head for some cold coffee. “You know Madhu, nobody in all of Tamilnadu probably said ‘nandri’ more than the four of us did the last few days”, I tell him. “Probably right”, he says. “Everybody in Tamilnadu these days only says ‘Thank you’.


(Published: The Sunday Midday - 4 Jan 2009

under the heading: Tera number kab aayega?)

Triumph is a relative thing.

I had an old adversary in school. His name was Mathematics. He was the first one to put a blemish onto my otherwise untainted report card. He was the one who walked into the sight screen, while I played cricket in the evenings with my friends and distracted me from my game, when exams were on the horizon. He compelled me to think about him, to engage in a losing battle with him. I lost a unit test to him for the first time in std. VII. The next three years I just managed to keep him at bay…without letting him draw the blood-red line in my report card.
But junior college was a different ball game….It wasn’t even a ball game. It was a war.
A war my enemy looked set to trounce me in. Integration, double integration, mental disintegration…..I don’t even remember all the weapons he used. The battle field was the answer sheet; which mostly remained blank, one particular school exam in std. XII.

Mr. Shankarnarayan was our class teacher. Shanky we called him. Shanky taught us Maths. He was the referee in the boxing ring. The man who decided if you won the bout or not. That evening, most of us stood like battered boxers at the end of the match, waiting for the result with resignation. Shanky was a fair referee. It wasn’t like he took sadistic pleasure in watching Maths beat the hell out of us and then counting to ten to signal a K.O. Shanky looked like a guy who genuinely wanted the underdogs to win. He stood in front of us in the last period for the day with the checked answer sheets in his hands. He really was a fair referee. But what can even the referee do when Tyson bites Holyfield’s ear off!?
“Ahem” Shanky said. “You have all done very badly m’n….wonly ten boysa have passed.”
We looked around to see who that 1/6th part of us was. There were about seven or eight faces that looked sure of belonging to that category. For some reason these bunch of guys always seemed oblivious to the evil might of Maths and there was a rumour they studied even when there wasn’t an exam around the corner. The rest of us were left to face the inevitable. Ironically though, Shanky’s announcement that most of us had flunked almost had a soothing effect. If the hanging grounds are unavoidable, you might as well have company going there. Every kid who failed today would have a whopping 49 others for company. Whatever the burden of failure, divided by 50, it suddenly seemed to become bearable…laughable almost.
What really jolted us was Shanky’s next line- “And 7 or 8 boysa…have scored a zeeerro!”
This was bad. My heart froze. I’d been regularly beaten by Maths of late…but not this badly! I loved eggs, but I didn’t want one served on my answer sheet…I was too scared to even look around now. A zero would mean a permanent scar. A complete deflation of whatever fight I may have had left in me. The final surrender. It would signal the end of the war. The blank answer sheet of my next exam would be the whit flag I surrendered with. Shanky started calling out the names and handing out the answer sheets roll number wise. Amidst a deathly silence. Zero hour was approaching….”What do you like about Maths?” People used to ask me. “Nothing”, I used reply. There was a good chance I was going to score what I liked about Maths- absolutely nothing!

About twenty minutes later, I bumped into David at the small gate on the way out of school. David was the Goliath when it came to Maths. He’d been one of the few least bothered when Shanky had made those horrifying revelations before distributing the answer sheets. He had had as serene an expression then as the one he had on now. But I was different.
I was smiling from ear to ear; walking like I would break into a dance any second; wondering if St. Vincents street should officially be renamed ‘Cloud Nine’.
“You’re in a bright mood!” David said.
“Yes”, I answered noticing how lovely the birds looked though they were only crows.
“What did you score?” I asked David. He’d scored 33 out of 40 he told me plainly.
“And what about you?” he asked.
“Looking at the way you’re dancing and all…you must have got 37 or 38 or something.” David said.
“Ten.” I told him.
The smile on his face faded into a question. “Oh” he said without asking it and went away looking at me oddly. It wasn’t something David would understand. His proficiency in Maths had numbed him to the joys of seeing an evening become so lyrical when you’ve scored 10 marks out of 40. He could never realise that a smaller failure than the impending absolute one, was still a victory. His 33 could never give him the bliss my 10 could.
For David had merely passed in Maths. But I had triumphed despite having failed.

Who Art Thou?

(Published : The Sunday Midday - 21 Dec 2008)

Artists often develop a defence mechanism. It seems to help them counter the raised eyebrow, the rolling eyes or the sceptical curl of the lip that they find themselves at the receiving end of, every now and then. They become solitary animals who defend their territory from philistines. They frown upon the ‘general public’. Maybe it is to establish or remind people of their artistic status. Or maybe it is to convince themselves of their artistic capabilities. Whatever the case, the lines get drawn straight away.

Recently, a friend told me that on the Bali islands, the native language has no word for ‘art’ or ‘artist’. Art being such an intrinsic part of their lives, the natives have no need of a different word to confer artistic status to a person. Art is as basic a part of each of their lives as any other occupation. Or maybe every occupation is an art for them. Meaning every human being is an artist and every artist a human being. Quite right too, come to think of it…for art is expression. And expression cannot be limited only to painting. On a trip down South recently, I came across a man at a coffee joint who’d made an art out of perfectly flicking spoonfuls of sugar into the coffee cups from quite a distance. It was an art that gave him tremendous pleasure for no apparent reason. But he doesn’t get to be called eccentric. That’s the prerogative of the brush-wielder.

Sometime back I met an old friend after a span of 10 odd years. We recalled entire vacations we’d spent playing cricket or playing with GI-Joes on the terrace. Presently, the conversation came to what each of us was doing then. As it turned out, he was an engineering student and I had just finished doing my Applied Art. When I told him that, he blinked a couple of times and suddenly wanted to know what I had scored in my SSC and HSC. When I told him, he looked at me a little funny and said “Why the hell did you get into art then? People must have expected a lot more from you.” The conversation more or less dwindled after that and five minutes later I was out of the place, muttering under my breath.
Ever since, every time I felt the conversation swerving towards my profession I became defensive. Now I had a further felony to my discredit. I was working on a graphic novel. “He’s also taken to writing now…sigh…” I could almost hear them say. So I stridently caught the subject by the scruff of its neck. I answered before being questioned. I testified before being pulled to court. I went on the front foot even before the bowler was into his run-up. I championed my cause flagrantly. I ruthlessly stared down the ‘general public’. “I write and draw. It’s fun.” I started saying smugly in answer to questions about the weather. Art became the greatest and worthiest of pursuits and to me what I did became sacrosanct.

One day I sat in front of the mirror and the barber whipped out the white sheet. The snippety-snip of his scissors and the yakkety-yak of his tongue competed fiercely with each other. He spoke about a lot of things and I pitched in now and then, to be polite. India was playing someone in a one-day series and Mr. Barber had his favourite topic to speak about. He emphatically ranted about the team-selection and flailed his arms around over the poor batting, while I prayed for the preservation of my side locks. Then it happened. Sehwag was out cheaply in the previous game and Mr. Barber said something that has always stayed with me and tickled me and made me think. “Sehwag bhi na…hajaam hain saala!” he boomed. Hajaam he said. A word for barber, often used derogatorily. He said it in the most nonchalant way too while he went about cutting my hair.
It was a sentence he didn’t think twice about. But one hat I kept with me ever since. It dripped with honest expression. With the quality of not taking yourself too seriously for what you are and still having your self respect intact. A simple acceptance of what you do with no attempt or need for concealment or glorification. Both of us were sitting in the same lazy saloon in Pune but at that instant he was a lot closer to Bali than I was.

A fuller and more contended existence comes from doing what you like doing best without contempt for anyone who may not see things your way. From knowing it doesn’t matter. It comes from not taking yourself too seriously. From calling a spade a spade. An artist a human being. And a cricketer a hajaam.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

night sketches

Putting up some sketches I'd done some years ago.....
A couple of friends and I had gone to a coastal village called Sasawane. Laid-back, tranquil, unchanged for ages... We spent the mornings sketching. We spent the afternoons sketching....and at nightfall we gave the bats company with our sketchpads in tow. Monotonous? was fun!
The first sketch here was a place down the road from where we were staying. The bright red lantern was a remnant from last Diwali and someone had forgotten to take it off. Bless his soul. It complimented the blues perfectly!
The next one was done at roughly 3.00 am from the sit-out of a lovely bungalow on the beach, we had the good fortune of staying at for a couple of days. Mumbai sleeps on the horizon, with its necklace of lights. It was a beautiful sight. This sketch was done in pitch blackness since we had absolutely no source of light in the garden outside, except the moonlight. Moonlight is very poetic but has its shortcomings if you're depending on it to help you distinguish between Carmine and Crimson or virtually anything actually, at 3 in the morning. We had a great time though.
The next morning, we discovered there was a cremation square in the adjoining yard. Thankfully, that was next morning, or this sketch might've never happened...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


It's been coming down in typical Puneri fashion all day... A light drizzle here, a nonchalant shower there...nothing to draw allusions to cats and dogs....I figure I need something to suit the mood and I find this illustration I'd done sometime back. What better way to kickstart the blog than with 'Anonymous in the rain'...