Thursday, May 16, 2013

मनेर शरीफ़ की सुबह

एक सफ़र की परिभाषा सिर्फ उसके मुकाम से नहीं होती, रास्ते में टूटती मूंगफली भी यह जानती है जब तक सड़कों को छोड़ पाँव पुराने ठिकानों को नहीं याद करेंगे तो वह सफ़र बेराग हो जायेगा। कभी पीपल के पेड़ पर धागों की उलझन देखी हैं? अगर पीपल का पेड़ एक राह है तो धाँगे की हर एक गाँठ कुछ परिचित अपरिचित ठिकानों का मुंडेरा। बचपन की बात है, सपरिवार हम जब भी आरा से बरौनी का सफ़र अपने मारुती 800 में बैठे तय करते थे तो पापा अक्सर ही मनेर के बाजारों से परे बने एक दरगाह पर गाड़ी रोक देते थे। गाड़ी से पाँव बाहर रखते ही एक छोटे से तालाब में सूफी संतों के दरगाह की लाल प्रतिबिम्ब तैरती दिखाई देती थी। तालाब के एक परे सैलानियों के लिए छोटी सी कैन्टीन थी और उस परे दो सूफी संत - मखदूम याह्या मनेरी और मखदूम शाह दौलत की छोटी बड़ी दरगाह। वहाँ आंधे घंटे बैठ कर चाय-कॉफ़ी पीना और तस्वीरें खींचना, बस इतना सा ही था उस ठौर का आकर्षण, पर सफ़र दर सफ़र वहाँ पल गुजारना एक आदत सी बन गयी थी। कई सालों के बाद मैंने एक बार उस दरगाह के पत्थरों से सजी ज़मीन पर पाँव रख अंदर मौन उन सूफी संतों की मजार देखने की ठानी। शायद उस से पहले ज़रुरत महसूस नहीं हुई थी। वक़्त का दोष था, हालात बिगड़े थे, ऐसे में इंसान मूक सेजों से भी फूल माँगने लगता है। आज भी उस धुप में अपनी परछाई उन लाल पत्थरों पर रेंगती हुई याद है। कई दबे शब्दों से गुजारिश भी की थी पर सब बिखरता ही रहा। मैंने फिर भी उम्मीद बाँध एक बार फिर वहाँ कुछ सालों बाद कदम रखा। वह दिन भी याद है, उस दिन आसमान कोयले से पोती हुई भींगी रुई थी। उस बारिश की मार भूलना मुमकिन नहीं। पर धीरे-धीरे उम्र और परिस्थितियों ने समझा दिया था कि दोष और उपकार मूक दीवारों में दफना कर तसल्लियों पे जीना एक धोखा हैं। पिछले नवम्बर मैं और मम्मी मनेर शरीफ गए थे। हवा में धुंधली सी ठंड थी पर कई सालों बाद दरगाह को देख रहा था। कुछ दीवारें काली पड़ गयी थी। वापस उन लाल दीवारों को सराहा पर इस बार कुछ माँगने के लिए नहीं आया था। शायद बस अपने डर को बतला रहा था की आज मैं हार के भी जीत गया हूँ। आज माँगने के लिए कुछ नहीं है। वहीँ बैठ कर मम्मी के साथ उस दरगाह को स्याही की लकीरों में बाँधी, चाय पी और वापस सफ़र पर निकल पड़ा।

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Table Tennis

Some days I think fondly of some creation and others I grimly accept that it's not very good. It's hard, you want so much to produce good and meaningful work but it can never possibly live up to your own expectations. Every work is ultimately a failure. How could it be anything but? The only work that ever succeeds is someone else's.

The lines above sum it all up for me. Making comics is an arduous task, many find the short format of it difficult, but for me it's the idea of making a fat book which frightens me. Ten months back, a good share of enthusiasm and belief made me compile 25 pages of my comic, but it took me only a few months to be dissatisfied with it. I had taken feedback from people, while most of it was encouraging, I, myself could see the lack of narrative discourse on the pages. The use of language in the comic was slightly off, it felt like sitting in an office wheel chair while working on a mahogany vintage desk. Language is a big cultural parameter, finding its substitute in another language is not an easy pie for novices like me. We need to leave the task of a professional to a professional. Another question which rang in my head was "How do we remember our past? Is it with characters, objects, songs or events?" To me it's events that connect the dots. Objects and characters are fragments of the event, they add decor and flavour to the anecdotes. The past is always dissected as thread of events in our memory, we just see it as a stitched fabric. Having done 25 pages already, I decided to move ahead with the comic and then rework the finished pages later. Some of the key decisions taken with the comic are - 

1. To make smaller comic strips for each event, this will come together to form the larger picture. It will provide freedom in making the closure for the story, and altering the drawing style. It will also take the pressure off from doing a brick shaped thick book. 
2. Use Hindi as the language for the comic. It will help in serving the story less unadulterated, although it can be translated to English later on by a good copy writer to make it available for a larger audience. 
3. Draw the way you like to draw. 

I am sharing the very first page I created with all these thoughts in my head. This is for the comic strip titled 'Table Tennis'. The type is hand drawn, working with Devanagiri script is surprisingly easy for me than the Roman one. I have used India ink for the inking, and then coloured it digitally. 

High res file here

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


It all started two weeks back when I went to Avenue Road and Commercial Street for some stationery shopping. It was a long pending task which I had ignored for sometime because of work overload. As illustrators, one of the basic ingredient of our work should be to use the right medium fit for the task, using the right paper, ink, brushes etc. is the salt of a good artwork. I roamed around the busy market streets, managed to get a good stock of paper, india inks, thin tipped brushes and other miscellaneous tools. I bought all these specifically for working on the pages of my comic, but when you own good equipments, your responsibilities increase towards its usage. Every gsm of the paper weighs you down to be good, it demands justice. When I was done pencilling a page, I realised that I better to do something else before inking the page. I had to be sure if the ink and water consistency will work well on the page. I needed a warm up exercise, so I picked a song to dedicate this artwork to, it's called 'flume', performed by Bon Iver in their very first album 'For Emma Forever Ago'. I had heard a few tracks of Bon Iver before, but it was only two months back when I got hold of their first entire album. Thank you, Mr. Kunal Sen for this. I was busy with a big project then, and most of my days would just go sitting in my room and working. This was when I started listening to their album from beginning to end, one song to another. 

Flume was the first song on the list and with each repeated play it kept growing on me. It had an eerie wailing calm to it that complimented my lone days with work. I then read about the history of this album, Justin Vernon wrote and composed the entire album sitting in his father's cabin which was nestled into the woods. He was recuperating from an illness, a broken relationship and band that got dissolved months back. All these things must have created a void for him to fill up. I have often believed that the finest work of a musician comes out from nurturing a wound. Flume as a song is the sapling of that wound that is being healed and protected. 

Now, getting back to the warm up exercise (which I knew would not be a short one), I had a visual image in my head for the song. I believe it picked the references from the interview and articles I read about the album, but the image was not built as a forced chain of thought, it was a spontaneous result that got framed with no particular intent. At one point of time I had three different live versions of Flume running on Grooveshark while working on this artwork. I started sketching it on paper, fleshing out the idea visually. Since it started as a doodle, I sort of strayed away from the clarity of information being conveyed. I was eager to use the inks, so I rushed towards the second step of process, which compromised the appeal of the artwork. Anyway, here are some photographs of the process and the final artwork - 

Click here for larger size.
Click here for larger size
There's some text hidden in the trees, please let me know if you figured what it is. I think I failed in doing a good job with it. Anyway, enough talk on warm up exercise, I should start work on my comic now. Although, I hope I have paid my debts to this song for keeping me company in my room.

If you feel like sharing this artwork around on the web, feel free to do it, but please put the credits on my name with a link to the blog. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Fuschia Tree

My friend Sanjana Kapur recently did an interview on me for an online magazine called The Fuschia Tree. She asked me some very interesting questions about my childhood and the sketchcrawls that I go for. You can read the interview over here - Drawing through life, it's archived under their new issue - Inertia, Being both Twice. Thank you, Sana.