Santosh Das, renowned artist who is known for creating magic with the Mithila painting style, looks every bit the quintessential artist, as he sits in a contemplative mode at ARTISANS, the culture hub tucked away in the beautiful by-lanes of Kala Ghoda.
A white long flowing beard and an air of peace around him strike any visitor. He is sitting amidst Mithila paintings hung up on the walls around him, and copies of his latest book, Black – An Artist’s Tribute. Published by Tara Books, this is an illustrated handmade book in a limited edition of 1000 copies only. In a short while, he will be conducting a workshop on Mithila painting for an urban audience.
We start talking about the book, but not before we touch upon the wondrous world of Mithila painting, which occupies a central place in the book- and in his life.
Das works in the traditional Mithila painting style from Madhubani, Bihar, where he was born. Mithila painting, also called Madhubani painting is a well-known form of folk art. The roots of this art are deep, and skills continue to be passed through generations. Since time immemorial, women in his community have used natural pigments to decorate the walls and floors of their homes for special occasions like birth, marriage, and religious festivals. Precise geometry and detail depict ancient epics, folktales, and religious scenes along with the stuff of daily life.
Das’s mother used the black colour from the night lamp and expressed her skills with this ‘handmade’ colour. “Black means a lot of things to me. Anything one draws is black. Even if I draw an image with a pencil, it is also a form of black. Black also has a spiritual significance. It shows a certain kind of steadiness and determination. This quality of the colour black inspired me to focus on it. I have been working with this colour for 40 years, a very long time!” he asserts.
“The rightful place for an artist, his real world, is a pot of black ink. I believe it contains all the magic, all the forms, everything that human beings can imagine and render. It hides inside itself the seeds of creation” he adds.
Today artists like Das are bringing traditional arts in the contemporary context. “This transition is very difficult, but it allows you to see things in a different perspective. There are challenges but it ensures that you make efforts to make a traditional language very relatable. Once you know the essence of a traditional language, you will realize that you can indeed use it to express something different”.
What Das does moan however, is the fact that very few artists today choose to evolve. They learn and apply traditional work, and thereby may churn out numerous pieces that sell well. But, he sees the role of an artist as something higher. After initial training, he feels that one needs to do different things as an apprentice with a master. This would prevent stagnation. Every art needs a catalyst.
What makes Das’ work so fascinating is that he follows strict aesthetic traditions while responding to current local, national, and global issues. His work on the Gujarat riots was very well received.
The idea of the book took birth in Chennai at a workshop. “Black” is an autobiographical story. It focuses on the journey of Santosh Das: his becoming an artist and his relationship with his many muses, particularly his mother.
Published by Tara Books, the limited edition copy is numbered and screen-printed on recycled paper, then hand-bound into a work of art itself.
Inside its pages lie the simple story of Das’s childhood and his myriad inspiration. The prose is simple but poignant. The illustrations, which are Mithila paintings are all in black. Together they make for a conceptually rich reflection on an artist’s relationship between the real world, imagination, and storytelling through art.
As mentioned before, the title “Black” references the colour his mother painted with, which was made of the soot that collected on a night lamp. His fascination for black makes him explore the different shades of black. This makes the black of morning different from the black of night and the black of dust different from that of the sky. “Black has a lot of shades, once you get to know its potentiality, you can explore further” explains Das.
Who is the ideal reader for the book? “Maybe those who are related to art, maybe writers, students…” he muses. However, moments later, he smiles and says, “Everyone”. It is true. It is a book for all those who love and admire the beauty of art and words.
Boundaries become blurred. Art and publishing combine. It is a mélange of two beautiful worlds. The publishers of this book, Tara Books are known for their hand-made visual books. The aspect of touch and feel, of tactility and graphic assume importance here. Of course, unusual paper and brilliant design are the perfect accompaniments here!
This book brings folk art to an urban audience, thereby creating awareness of the art and also providing an object of beauty. However, there is something more happening here. It is merging the world of art and book publishing.
“It is a good means of promoting rural art which is high potential in terms of artistic merit. Through a book, art can reach out to a larger audience. Such an endeavor is highly appreciable. It is a good way of promoting art from different districts. It is only then that you can know the diversity of India’s heritage. It is a good way to take it forward,” says Das.
Black – An Artist’s Tribute by Santosh Kumar Das
Published by Tara Books.
Available also at ARTISANS, https://www.facebook.com/artisans.centre.9/
Original works by Santosh Ji are available at ARTISANS’, Contact coordinator@artisanscentre.
A huge range of books are published each month globally, but choosing the right one can be a herculean task. Hence, to ease your efforts, our curation panel at Enchantico goes through an extensive curation method and picks the best 2 to 3 books for every age group.
The first book for our young readers aged 5 to 6 is about a princess named Cinnamon who stays along with her parents, Rajah and Rani, in the kingdom. She had eyes of pearls, meaning she is blind. She never spoke, either. The king and the queen were worried. A talking tiger then entered the kingdom to teach the human cub how to talk. Will he be able to do it? Or will Cinnamon never talk? Let’s find out with Neil Gaiman in ‘Cinnamon’, brilliantly illustrated by Divya Srinivasan.
The second book for our 5 to 6-year-olds will allow the kids to dive into the world of art and painting. Mona Lisa was just painted and she now rests in the Louvre Museum. But, one night she gets stolen. Mona Lisa is now missing! Everybody is panicking. Neither the cops nor the intelligence unit is able to find her. Will they be able to retrieve the world famous portrait of Mona Lisa? Or will she be gone forever? Presenting, Ruthie Knapp’s ‘Who Stole Mona Lisa?’ beautifully illustrated by Jill McElmurry!
The first book for our 7 to 8 year olds will take you back to the Aztec reign. Chantico is a young boy and wishes to be a soothsayer like his Uncle Ahcambal. But, one day a fiery comet appears in the sky and none of the priests are able to explain what it really means. King Moctezuma orders them to be killed. But young Chantico has the gift of second sight and has seen the future in his dream. He comes up with a plan to save his uncle from death. Will he be able to save his uncle? Or will the prophecy be considered false? Presenting Karen Wallace in ‘The Comet of Doom’!
The second book for our 7 to 8 year olds is a series of true stories about five animals who outsmart humans in a really amazing manner. From pick-pocketing parrots and farting fishes to baby-snatching monkeys and so much more, you’ll go bawling over the range of extraordinary antics pulled by these animals. Join in the fun with Nicola Davies in ‘Animals Behaving Badly’, exceptionally illustrated by Adam Stower.
For our readers aged 9 to 10, this month’s first pick is a story of the Bolds. They are just like you and me; they live in a nice house in Teddington and have a job too. But, there’s one slight difference, they’re not humans. They’re hyenas and this is their best-kept secret. They love to giggle and laugh and bawl over anything and everything. However, the next door nosy man smells a rat (a hyena in this case) and a trip to the nearest wildlife park, wacky heists and loads more might bring an end to the best-kept secret. Will the nosy man be able to reveal the secret? Or will the Teddington’s best-kept secret stay secret forever? Find out with Julian Clary in ‘The Bolds’.
The second book for our 9 to 10-year-olds is an amazing compilation of two crazy stories, Spaghetti Triangle and Teacher Trouble. John and Nicky love to eat everything from a piece of chocolate cake to a bowl of chips. But their strange aunt won’t let them eat anything raw. One day they slurp down a plate full of spaghetti and they want more. Jenny, on the other hand, has her first day at school, which is weird and it gets even weirder when she is mistaken for the teacher. Giggle, laugh and tickle your funny bone with these two amazing stories compiled in Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘Marvellous Mix-ups’, beautifully illustrated by Kate Hindley.
The first book for our grown up readers aged 11 to 12 is of Ned Waddlesworth who thinks that the world around him is exceptionally ordinary until he discovers it isn’t ordinary AT ALL! He is on a journey from leaving his home to joining a circus, when he realises that, without him, the world would be engulfed with monstrous beasts and beings. It’s up to Ned, now, to go on a magical mission to save the world. Will Ned along with his flying circus be able to save the day? Find out with Justin Fisher in ‘Ned’s Circus of Marvels’.
The second book for our 11 to 12 year olds is a fast-paced historical mystery adventure. Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, deceit, and trickery from all sides when a priceless picture is stolen from Mr Sinclair’s art exhibition. Be amazed as the duo put their wits to test to solve this perilous adventure filled with loads of questions and puzzles. Find out if they unmask the villain and prove themselves as worthy detectives with Katherine Woodfine in ‘The Sinclair’s Mysteries – The Painted Dragon’.
Click below to visit the Enchantico website:
On 26 June 1997, the muggle world was spellbound by a young wizard, just thirteen at that time. The Harry Potter series took the world by storm and the craze continues. As we celebrate 20 magical years of an exceptional literary work, Bookedforlife takes a look at some memorable lines from Harry Potter. As Dumbledore, from the famed series said, “Words are, in my not–so–humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic,”.
Let the magic continue through some wordy-charm. Here are our picks of quotes we love. These are interspersed with some readily available posters. Click and buy your pick. Or, better still, design your own poster with the lines that cast a spell on you!
It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live!
It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.
If you want to know what a man is like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.
Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.
To the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.
Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.
We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
It’s quite easy and cost-effective to hand posters and frames to gently remind you of your favourite lines. However, with wall decals, you can actually entrench the quote on the wall. Here are our picks, all available on Amazon.
So, these are some memorable lines from Harry Potter. Do add in your favourtie quote in the feedback section, and spread the magic!
Classics are forever. Today, with quick books that kids can skim through and the limitless releases of easy-to-read stories, it seems that kids may be moving away from classics. Classics for children are significant.
Yes, classics do have endless accounts of long descriptions, words that have fallen out of fashion today, depiction of rural scenery, and so on. For children, the settings may feel dated. Some children today may not be able to relate to the world and the society described.
Despite all the superficial reasons, classics play a strong in shaping your child as a reader, a learner and a human being.
There are many reasons why you should read classics to children.
Some classic tips that will help you in getting your child read classics….
What are the titles one could pick up? It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Yet, to start I would recommend the following stories. As children get familiar with these you can move to others.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The war of the worlds by HG Wells
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
This is by no means exhaustive. It is not even the tip of the iceberg, but these are good starts for embarking on an exciting and never-ending adventure.
Do share your suggestions and experiences of classics for children in the comments section below!
This is a unique concept. We all know about the famed Japanese design aesthetic but this one stretches it to new limits.
The pod hotel concept does have roots in Japan, and this one injects a new vibrancy to it. As of now, there are three locations where Book and Bed is situated: Tokyo, Kyoto and Fukuoka.
The décor is one that any booklover would die for! The public areas are decorated (understandably) with books. So, there is a huge long bookshelf that almost spreads to the end. There are books suspended from the ceiling as well! Behind the bookshelf, lie the beds.
The hotel is based on the pod concept, and is hence quite reasonably priced. There are 52 beds with shared toilet and bathroom. Of course, there is free Wi-Fi.
With about 3200 books that cover a wide range of genres, there is more than enough to whet the appetite of guests here. The books have been selected by the popular book store SPBS. The collection has English books as well as Japanese ones.
For one, books are not sold here. Now imagine spending a night in a bookshop without getting to buy any of the books? That’s a pity! But, maybe access to a well-curated collection compensates for that. Still, if you’re itching to buy something, they do have a store where you can get book-themed products such as notebooks, bookmarks, totes, pyjamas and so on.
We associate books with comfort. However, they say, “There are no comfortable mattresses, fluffy pillows nor lightweight and warm down duvets,”. Even with the best books for company, we would love a little luxury!
It is probably best suited for backpackers who also happen to be bibliophiles. After all, there is nothing quite like a backpacking trip with a bookish indulgence, that enables you to connect with other book lovers from all over the world.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri comes up with yet another personal reflection, the previous one being “In Other Words”, a book that was written in Italian.
The Clothing of Books is a very quick and easy read, more like an essay. In fact, you can trace the genesis of the book to a talk that the author gave, rather, a keynote speech, for the ninth edition of the Festival degli Scrittori in Florence. She wrote it originally as an essay in Italian, and this was translated into English by her husband.
The book explores the author’s relationship with her own book covers, and her thoughts about the concept of book jackets.
“If the process of writing is a dream, the book cover represents the awakening. The news that a new cover is about to arrive elicits ambivalent emotions in me. On the one hand, I am moved because I have successfully brought a book to conclusion. On the other hand, I fret. I know that when the cover makes its appearance the book will be read. It will be criticized, analyzed, forgotten. Even though it exists to protect my words, the arrival of the cover, linking me to the public, makes me feel vulnerable”.
It highlights her own thoughts and views on the book jacket. But somehow, as I read the book, I feel a lot of points have been repeated, and some of them, which could have been discussed in detail, are just touched upon. She mentions the role of collaboration with the book jacket designer or the expectations people have of book covers.
One of the topics I found interesting is contained in the short chapter, The Naked Book. She discusses the role of hardcovers in the library. These books did not have pictures on the cover, or a blurb.
“They had anonymous quality, secretive. They gave nothing away in advance. To understand them, you had to read them”.
I do feel that there is scope for developing the thought. I hoped to read more of a treatise on the topic, because I believe that the theme of book covers does have a lot of potential. In that sense, I was slightly disappointed. However, the scope of the book is restricted to the authors views rather than an intensive examination of the theme.
Penguin Random House India, 2017
Those who are vaguely acquainted with the field of literature, or those who have only read canonical writers like Shakespeare and Charles Dickens may wonder in what way has Chinua Achebe contributed to the corpus of literature? In a grief-stricken world where war and violence in their myriad forms overpower human beings, the author’s reservoir of wisdom transports one to the realm of peace. His simple yet profound statements take readers to a different realm of thinking and bring about a paradigmatic shift in responding to a story.
Impact of oral traditions…
Chinua Achebe had a very humble upbringing. Born in the Igbo town of Ogidi in South-Eastern Nigeria, Achebe was fascinated with stories at a very young age and grew up with stories told by his mother and sister. These left an indelible mark on his personality. The strong influence of oral tradition on Achebe’s Igbo community accentuated his belief in the power of storytelling. It is thus no wonder that proverbs, sayings and myths formed a part and parcel of his story telling. Achebe sustained this interest in stories and his friends jocularly called him ‘Dictionary’ after sensing his interest for books.
Whose story is it anyway?
Achebe strongly validated the notion that “People create stories create people” or rather, “stories create people create stories”, and this idea which spells out the interdependence of man and stories made him transform the literary world. He therefore, decided to write stories which would change the perception of human beings in general and his African community in particular. As he was nurturing this interest in reading, he also recognized that unconsciously he was enamoured by white characters and despised black characters. This made him realize that a part of his personality is shaped by the stories inscribed by European writers. These stories by European writers painted a bleak picture and were instrumental in motivating Achebe to change the perception of Africa in the world. He felt it was his moral responsibility to generate awareness among his people.
In his essay “The Novelist as a Teacher”, Achebe pronounces, “There is an adequate revolution for me to espouse – to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement. And it is essentially a question of education in the best sense of the word,” His works, therefore offer an insight not only into the nuances of the African cultural, social, economic and political life but also help the readers to discern the way stories have the power to shape culture. These stories are an indication of evolution of culture. They also indicate how change and transition influence people and shape their stories.
In Anthills of the Savannah he states, “It is only the story that can continue beyond the war and the warrior. It is the story that outlives the sound of war-drums and the exploits of brave fighters. It is the story…that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we the story; rather it is the story that owns us and directs us,”
Perhaps, the universal appeal of stories and the direction offered by them enabled Achebe to reflect their worth and place change at the centre of his fiction. His characters are also seen to be influenced by this transition from tradition to modernity. Achebe deeply values traditions but at the same time, he is open to positive transformations in the African communities. He is credited with the invention of modern African literature and called ‘The Father of African Literature’ as his works present an objective interpretation of traditions and represent the vicissitudes of modern life. The interpretation and representation of Africa proffered through Achebe’s texts is an extension of his thoughtfulness as a writer.
He has written five significant novels, namely, Things fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People and Anthills of the Savannah. These novels critically delineate the falsified history of Africa conceived by the colonizers and neo-imperialistic agencies. Besides this, they also provide a beautiful rendition of the African culture and traditions and the interaction between human beings.
Oral tradition, which is the hallmark of African tradition, is weaved into his writings through folk tales, myths and proverbs. This is not merely to embellish the work of art, but also to serve a definite purpose of dealing with different aspects in the lives of the people of Africa. He has bestowed on literature a nuanced voice by deliberating on notions of art, peace and humanity.
Art, according to him, is man’s constant effort to create for himself a different order of reality from that which is given to him. He condemned art which merely gave pleasure and endorsed that art must be instructive and move beyond the pleasure principle. He deployed art through stories, proverbs and narrative techniques to demystify literature in all its contours and thus, transformed the field of literature with his creative endeavours.
Achebe exemplified art to explore the nuances of culture and to give a voice to his people. This has given an impetus to debunking the myths which perpetrate stereotypical depiction of the Africans. It has also assisted in dismantling the subversive colonial ideals. Apart from this, Achebe has written innumerable essays which exemplify his role as a teacher and bear testimony to the fact that he has a social vision.
In one of his essays titled “What has Literature got to do with it” from the book Hopes and Impediments, Achebe outlines the way literature is concerned with change. Change is possible after reflection and contemplation. A society which is conditioned with misplaced beliefs may expect a revival after understanding the role of literature in revealing the truth.
Achebe deserves these accolades because he is one of the writers who has communicated the angst of marginalized beings through his thematic exploration, creative narrative strategies and profound sensitivity. Colonization had indeed created a negative impact on the traditional values of people. Third world nations are still succumbing to the ideology of those in power. As ideology and power dynamics are deeply entrenched into the gamut of knowledge, the truth about the third world nations does not receive an effective understanding.
The neo-imperialistic agents distort the essence of the nation and further the suppression of the natives. The ideology seeps into the workings of the nation, challenging the role of leaders. Achebe seeks to redress the most crucial issues of leadership as it is affecting the African nation and the world. The clamour in Nigeria due to ineffective political leadership receives a perceptive interpretation in his postcolonial novels like A Man of the People and Anthills of the Savannah. These two novels initiated a positive step by engaging the readers with modern world leaders and their failed relationship with people. Leaders can mould the world through sensitivity and empathy and a deep connect with human beings. Achebe’s philosophy was genuinely embedded in humanitarian values and he endeavoured to depict the harsh realities of modern life where power corrupts people and drives them towards selfish pursuits.
An authentic voice…
Achebe continues to remain one of the most authentic voices on the African literary landscape and his contribution to the world of literature will always bring a sense of hope to the dispossessed and solidify their belief in self-worth. He remains a beacon of hope and his voice will continue to guide all those who seek expression and articulation of feelings and emotions for the larger benefit of the world. His commitment and sensitivity has established the ground for other writers to explore the misrepresentations of culture and, at the same time, the social role has recreated a vital essence of truth, dignity and wisdom for all the beings.
J. C. Echeruo’s assessment succinctly expresses the mammoth role played by Achebe in the literary and social field when he says, “Achebe’s is both an absolute achievement and an achievement in context. It is absolute in the sense that his novels demonstrate that it is possible for a writer with his roots firmly planted in the local African soil and writing in a foreign language to produce work that is authentic as regards local colour and universal in terms of the humanity and the empathy that informs it”.
Thanks to the proliferation of social media, we are able to access varied points of view and make up our own narratives. When my friend Rupa, recommended that I hear the TED talk on “The danger of a single story” by acclaimed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I did not realize that it would open my eyes to a hidden lurking danger that I might not even have been aware of. The talk was given in the year 2009, but remains relevant to the current global scenario.
Adichie begins the talk by citing her own example- how as an early reader, the British and American children’s’ books that she read, really impacted her and how she started writing fiction, inspired by the novels she read as a child. Several elements crept into these early stories- elements that may not have been a part of her experiences as a child growing up in Nigeria. Her stories and characters had a seeming resemblance to what she read- they talked of the weather, drank ginger beer and ate apples…just like the foreign characters in the books she read. Luckily, as she matured she discovered African writers, and this broadened her horizons. In her words: “It saved me from having a single story of what books are”.
In the talk, she recognises that while these ‘foreign’ books opened up new worlds for her, they also had unintended consequences. Using personal anecdotes to draw out the nature of these consequences, she says, “What this demonstrates I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children”.
As the talk progresses she illustrates how we often have single stories about people, and cultures. Through the prism of her experiences in Nigeria and her consequent education at University in the USA, she illuminates the danger of these stories…these narratives that creep into our collective consciousness and destroy the possibility of alternative realities.
She explores the notion that literature often (and sadly) is the cause of these single stories…and more dangerously, different versions of the same story! She also throws up the idea that power plays a role here….the power of who chooses to tell the story and how.
The lucid but powerful talk is laden with strong one-liners. “Show a people as one thing, only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become” she says, appealing to the audience that “stories matter….many stories matter”…which is why we must not “make one story the only story…”
As a mother, my takeaway from this insightful talk would be to expose my child to multiple stories….diverse narratives…not only in literature and the books that we read, but also in life!