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. One of their amazing achievements in the past few years has been to arrange for football training for girls at the municipal schools in Mumbra. From struggling against the mindset of parents to finding a football field for the girls, the team has braved numerous hurdles to help girls from marginalised backgrounds claim their rightful share of public space. Watch this short film ‘Under the open Sky’ by Tata Institute of Social Sciences to know more:

However, the football training is just a part of Parcham’s mission to “work towards a just and equal society that is respectful of diversity…”. They are “geared towards empowering marginalised communities to access their fundamental rights, create spaces of dialogue…and work with civil society towards justice and equity.”

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 Year, Second Semester: Charcoal and Collage 2/2

For my the following work from the collage assignment, I used different materials like onion, aluminium foil, a safety pin and bits of thermocol. I set it up like a scene from a play, including small dialogues and narration such as ‘the surgeon has arrived and the operation is about to begin’, with various images from magazines acting as the ‘characters’. It had a very absurd, theatrical and comic feel to it.


(30), mixed media, collage, A2

(31) mixed media, collage, A3

(32) poster paint on cartridge sheet, A3

These works are attempts to express the theme ‘Unity and Variety’. (32) is an earlier work from the poster paint module. However, I was not happy with it as it lacked in skill and originality. Hence I returned to the theme through collage in (31). I maintained a similar color palette, but used a variety of materials. The result was still not satisfactory but I liked the texture of the frayed cloth and hope to use it more effectively in my future work.

I used a variety of materials in my collages. In (33), I have included stickers, magazine cuttings, rejected woodcut prints and postcards. In (34), I used the sticky side of a transparent tape as a background on which I stuck the coloured grains of pencil shavings. In both (33) and (34), I used a transparent OHP plastic sheet. This was interesting as it alters the shape of the paper, creating new edges. In the absence of an opaque background, elements appear to be ‘floating’ in air. It allows colours to rest on it, without being any color in itself. Using transparent materials also allowed me to juxtapose several layers, as shown in the detail.


(34), mixed media, collage, A3

In (34), the central black and white shapes are pieces of the map from Kochi biennale. I continued to use elements of the maps and brochures from Kochi for my next two works (35) and (36), combining printed pieces and drawing. I ‘coloured’ in the shapes with colour-pencils, returning to a child-like understanding of ‘colouring’ to mean filling in a single colour within defined ‘outlines’.

(35) collage, cartridge paper, A1

(36), collage on paper, A1

In (36), the black dot balances the longitudinal shape of the seed in terms of visual weight. The text on it, ‘forming in the pupil of the eye’ from the Kochi Biennale brochure , works with the image of the seed to suggest a theme of formation, growth and life. The idea of ‘map’ or ‘plan’ adds to this feeling as it may be seen as the first stage of construction and ‘development’.

For the last work of the semester (37), I combined several rejected woodcut prints from my printmaking elective into a single image. I also used photographs, paint, foil and natural elements like feathers to complete the work. On the right side, I have subtly hinted at the shape of a large human figure while smaller figures are depicted in the prints. My fascination for foliage seems to have inspired both the first and last works of the semester 🙂

(37) mixed media, collage, A1

First Year, Second Semester: Charcoal and Collage 1/2

We began our charcoal module by taking rubbings of the textures around us on newsprint paper. After collecting about 10 such sheets, we made collages by combining these textures in various ways. Here’s an example—the blue part is rubbings from bubble wrap (in oil pastel) while the black is a charcoal rubbing of cracks in the floor.

(11) Collage on newsprint paper, A1

Detail of cracks

Some quick charcoal sketches to get comfortable with the medium…

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

(17) Charcoal on newsprint, A3

Then there was this strange phallic sculpture that captured the imagination of many a student…

Still Life in Charcoal

(18) Charcoal on newsprint, A3
Here,  incorporated the texture implied by the rubbing into a new image. In this way, I developed the pattern suggested by the texture of the cracked floor into the roots of a tree. I was encouraged to go out and actually look at a tree and draw what I saw rather than draw something I’d made up in my head. The image in (20) is a tree and its shadow on the wall as I saw it. Using the eraser to bring out the lighter parts helped me to achieve the softness of the morning shadow.

(19, 20) Charcoal on newsprint, A3

My teacher told me to try and see how the shapes and tones relate to each other to make visual sense within the image, rather than depending on resemblance to something or the other in the external world to “explain” the work. Here, I tried to move beyond associations towards the abstract…but I do admit it still looks rather recognizably like some sort of a horse-dinosaur (21). (22) was the second attempt, though still somewhat abdomen-like…

(21, 22) Charcoal on cartridge paper, A3

Some quick 10-minute sketches in soft charcoal…

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

Meanwhile, more charcoal rubbings became collages…

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

Through the charcoal rubbing collages, I was trying to express experiences of tactility, like the experience of walking on a textured bathroom mat, or the how a crumpled paper feels to the skin. There was a play of actual and implied texture– The rubbings are impressions of an actual texture but completely smooth to the touch, while actions like crumpling, tearing and poking holes creates actual texture. Somewhere I was thinking about these things when I tried to create a purely implied texture by marking a newsprint paper with small dots. But then again, I spread drops of water on it, which distorted the dots and wrinkled the paper into actual texture. I left the work incomplete.

(28) Sketch pen and water on newsprint, A1


In another experiment, I worked on a sheet so much, attacking it with pen, paint, Fevicol, ‘treating’ it by various processes, stretching, poking and carefully tearing it as if to test its limits, that it was reduced to shreds. Finally I preserved the remains or ‘corpse’ of the paper by sticking it on a full sheet. The relatively empty sheet contrasted strongly with the overworked little piece in terms of size, intensity of colours and texture. I used charcoal to soften the contrast and unify the composition.


(29) Mixed media on newsprint, A1

First Year, Second Semester: Watercolour and Poster Paints

Here I have presented some works from the Second Semester of my First Year at Bachelor for Visual Arts (BVA) in Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University of Baroda. This semester, we were guided through loosely structured class assignments which gave us ample opportunity to explore various mediums independently. Pondering over the images in a reflective manner has been a fruitful exercise, as it has helped me to identify the areas that have consistently held my interest, and develop ideas as to how I can follow them up in the coming year. Further, it has helped me to find coherent links in my own work, giving me an insight into how to create and read into the ‘visual language.’ After all, this course has been not only about how to make and what to make, but also about how to look and what to look out for.

The first exercise of the semester was to develop a watercolour painting from any of our sketches. This work seems to have continuity with my ‘pond’ works of the previous semester in terms of the colour palette and choice of subject matter. In fact, throughout the year I seem to be returning to this interest with leaves and flower. I feel at this point I was beginning to feel more comfortable with the medium of watercolours. Instead of trying to completely blend in the brushstrokes, I tried to use them effectively to emphasize the texture and tonal variations on the depicted surface. The transparency of watercolours helped me to convey the lustrous quality of the leaves. The atmosphere seems to be peaceful, soothing and somewhat gloomy. This is supported by the almost symmetrical (and radial) balanced composition, subdued colours and rhythmic repetition of the gently curving ‘S’ line.

(1) Watercolours on handmade paper, A2

Shape Study in Poster Paints

A crumpled paper was kept under a strong light and we were to try and see the object in terms of shapes created by the various tones, applying a flat colour within the shape. It was a tonal study in monochrome as well as a shape study. This method creates a sense of depth, with darker shapes receding and the lighter ones coming forward. While painting, it seems like some automatic ‘magic’—you paint in flat shapes of paint, but when viewed as a whole, it appears to be a 3-dimensional structure.

(2, 3, 4) Poster paint on cartridge sheet, A2

While painting in this way, sometimes the crumpled ‘paper’ appeared to be something much heavier, like a chiselled hard rock or a jagged mountain.

In (5), I broke up a window into shapes but abandoned the monochrome, beginning to explore how various shapes interact with each other when they are filled with different colours. It was like a game. Further, I tried to represent natural objects around me in terms of shapes. (6) was inspired by blades of grass (no, it’s not a swan wearing a hat), while (7) was developed from the sketch of an Aloe Vera plant.
I used framing to my advantage (usually by zooming in), to make the image more ‘abstract’ and dissociate it from its recognizable form.

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

I became so interested in the way the colours interacted with each other that I traced out the same ‘Aloe Vera’ image 4-6 times as an experiment, with different colours in each version. I changed the colours many times, until I felt they ‘go’ with each other. Then, I chose four sheets that acted as mirror images, placing them together to try to create a unified composition which would have some sense of power and drama in terms of the scale and composition.

The mirroring, increasing the scale of the works, using ‘artificial’ looking colours (instead of the typical greens and browns)—all of this helped me to move away from the literal depiction of the Aloe Vera plant as a recognizable object. Instead, 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 (I got the idea from Surej’s version of Matisse’s ‘Red Studio’).

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

I painted the following image (9), and edited it on the phone to create its ‘negative’ (10). It’s fun to see how the mood and associations change when the colours change, even within the same composition.

It looks like bits of sky in a wound. Or a pile of mud.

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

The red bits remind me of openings, like cracks or wounds. It’s like a concrete or plastic surface with something raw coming out.. like meat. Or lava.