Art Fest Workshop, Sahyadri

To me, Sahyadri is a place I grew up in, a place I dream about, a roosting-place for wandering souls… and no matter where I live, my home. Visiting after three years, I felt I could see the many Rahis of my past around me. I peered in classrooms, surveyed the whispering grass of Asthachal Hill and stopped by the pond to see who, if anyone, had inherited my spot by the fishes. Indeed, to visit Sahyadri was also to visit my former selves.

When I was invited to take a workshop and be a part of the Art Fest here, I thought of those selves, those times, and what I of the present may have been able to offer them. I didn’t intend to ‘teach’, but to act as a facilitator who could introduce the participants to new ways of thinking about things—thinking about connections, about longings and belongings, and what it takes to feel a part of a larger whole…the whole of yourself, a group of friends, the school, the ‘whole’ of things that grow, and the vast universe.

The workshop opened with an exercise in which the participants were invited to draw each other with charcoal. Following a session of guided observation, I encouraged them to simply draw as they saw, without worrying too much if the image resembled the person or looked like a portrait ‘should’. I believe that drawing as an act has the power to bring us face to face with the immediate physical presence of things in a way that can be most intimate, but still requires the distanced eye of the observer.

In the moments of intense silence, with each person peering intently at the other’s face, a space is created where we are free to look upon each other, not with attraction or repulsion, nor with the intent to emotionally or intellectually ‘tackle’ the person and what they represent to us, but simply as one person looking at another. It was heartening to hear a student a reflect, “When I drew my partner, I could not judge him, I just had to draw him as he is.”

Exercises over the next few days explored the relationship between the individual and their surroundings. We delved into the world of sound, texture and space, exploring how these elements interact with our bodies and thoughts. One of the exercises required the participants to draw a map of the space around them, marking the positions of windows, walls etc. as well as the various people sharing the space. Participants then labeled the map as parts of their own body. And so windows became eyes (and eyes, windows), door-hinges were elbows and ears, flaky wall-skin rose over the empty-stomached floor.

Conversely, in another exercise, the participant visualized a carefully observed location as situated within the body—calm waters in your mind, the hills and skies and corridors inside the boundaries of your skin. Skin is textured like the Earth, isn’t it? And so porous, blurring the notions of ‘inside’ and ‘out’.

In this way, I wanted to lead the participant to expand their sense of self. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that there is more to being than our daily anxieties, our likes and dislikes, and that our sense of exclusion and inclusion need not have anything at all to do with popularity or groupism, or what we casually refer to as ‘batch politics’. We wandered around blindfolded, feeling surfaces and documenting them, we drew and colored sounds as we heard them, and wondered about the ‘materials’, the bones and incidents and environments, that make us.

The last few days of the workshop were dedicated entirely to creating individual self-portraits, which became an opportunity to visually articulate many of the themes we had been discussing over the week. Who am I? What are the parts of me, and what am I a part of? We looked for ourselves in charcoal, in paint, in balancing glass jars and bits of twigs, exploring a variety of materials and techniques. It was good to get to the real stuff, our naked fears and hopes and senses, and especially to be able to do it together, to hold and respect that space of vulnerability for each other.

It was immensely moving and exciting for me to see the students take up various concerns and make it their own, staying up nights and waking up early, collaborating with each other to put together the display. The discoveries of the workshop helped me to reaffirm my belief in the effectual power of creative intervention as a means to empower the individual and bring together a community.












On Vasudha’s Display

“The shapes of things that are not here,

Appear, disperse and reappear”

(from The Shapes of Things, Vikram Seth)


I see blood and flowers, a healing scar, skin, and a moment of silence somewhere between contemplation and desperation. Yet the works seem to speak to you, or rather, as Narendran says, they “whisper”. It is the sound of a “meticulous movement”– paper crumples, skin wrinkles, wounds close and scars remain, or fade away.



“The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.

Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe   

Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.   

Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.”

(from Tulips, Sylvia Plath)



From the final display of Vasudha Kapadia, Fourth Year (2017), Department of Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University of Baroda.

Parcham Notebook 2017

تیرے ماتھے پہ یہ آنچل بہت ہی خوب ہے لیکن
تو اس آنچل سے اک پرچم بنا لیتی تو اچھا تھا

तेरे माथे पे ये आंचल बहुत ही खूब है
तू इस आँचल से इक परचम बना लेती तो अच्छा 

“It is very well to veil yourself,

But had you made your veil into a flag

It would have served you better…”

. These lines from Urdu poet Majaaz Lakhnavi’s ‘Naujawaaan Khatoon Se’ (To the Modern Woman) are a perennial source of strength to those who seek it. Among the many his words have inspired are the founders of ‘Parcham’ (banner/flag), a Mumbai-based NGO named after the symbol of freedom that Majaaz so eloquently speaks of.  Watch this short film ‘Under the open Sky’ by Tata Institute of Social Sciences to know more:

You can get in touch with Parcham at

It was an honour to illustrate the annual Parcham Notebook for 2017. This year, the Notebook celebrates the courage of women who have challenged the unfairness of patriarchal laws and religious customs, often at great personal and social risk.


‘Hindu Orthodox Code’

Married at the age of 11, Rukmabai was taken to court by her husband in 1884 for refusing to live with him. Finally, she had to pay her husband to dissolve the marriage. The following year, the British Government raised the age of consent for marriage from 10 years to 12 years old. However, there was still no measure taken against marital rape. Rukmabai went on to become India’s first practicing woman doctor.

Shah Bano

‘Muslim Personal Law’

A 62-year old mother of five, Shah Bano was divorced by her husband in 1978. The Supremem Court granted her right to alimony, causing an uproar among conservative Muslim factions. However, the court upheld Muslim women’s right to maintenance.

Mary Roy

‘Travancore Successions Act of 1916’

In 1986, Mary Roy succeeded in changing the law that denied Syrian Christian women a share of their familial property. Now, the property can be inherited without gender-discrimination instead of all the property being inherited by the son with only a small portion ‘gifted’ to the daughter as ‘Streedhanam’.

Gulrookh Gupta

Right to Remain Parsi

In 2009, Gulrookh Gupta challenged the diktat of the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust which prevented Parsi women married to non-Parsis from attending Parsi releigious functions, including the funeral rites of their own parents and entering the Parsi Agiary, or house of worship. Since there is no such rule for men, Gupta challenged the decision as discriminatory. The case is still ongoing.

Proceeds from the notebook will go towards developing the football programme for girls. A football tournaments was held and sports gear was bought for the underprivileged girls with the help of funds from last years notebook.

First Semester Works II

We began our charcoal module by taking rubbings of the textures around us on newsprint paper.

(11) Collage on newsprint paper, A1

Some quick charcoal sketches…

(12, 13, 14, 15, 16) Charcoal on newsprint, A3 each

(17) Charcoal on newsprint, A3

(18) Charcoal on newsprint, A3
Meanwhile, experimentation with the charcoal texture rubbings continued. Here, I have developed the pattern suggested by the texture of the cracked floor into the roots and branches of a tree.

(19, 20) Charcoal on newsprint, A3


(21, 22) Charcoal on cartridge paper, A3

(23, 24, 25) Charcoal on cartridge paper, A3 each

(26)Charcoal and sketch pen on newsprint, collage, A3 (27) Charcoal on newsprint, collage, A3

(28) Sketch pen and water on newsprint, A1

In one of the experiments, I worked on a sheet until it was reduced to shreds, attacking it with pen, paint, Fevicol, ‘treating’ it by various processes, stretching, stabbing and carefully tearing it as if to test its limits. Finally I preserved the remains of the paper by sticking it on a full sheet.


(29) Mixed media on newsprint, A1





First Year Works I

(1) Watercolours on handmade paper, A2

Shape Study in Poster Paints

 Poster paint on cartridge sheet, A2

(5,67) Poster paint on cartridge paper, A2

 I traced out the same ‘Aloe Vera’ image 4-6 times as an experiment, changing the colours  until I felt they ‘go’ with each other.  I chose four sheets that acted as mirror images, placing them together to create a sense of  drama.

 I wanted to express the essence of something bursting forth with life and vitality. Again, I had to change some of the colours to make them now work as a single image rather than fragments. Here, the bright red was useful as it seems to ‘hold’ the shapes the place and unify the image (refer Red Studio by Henri Matisse).

(8) Poster paint on cartridge paper, A0 (A2 x 4, each section is an A2 sheet)

(9, 10) Poster paint on cartridge paper, A2

These images remind me of bits of sky in a wound. Or perhaps a concrete surface with something raw coming out… meat?