Sunday, 24 July 2011

Steps to reach Gandhi

If you have ever fixed up to meet anyone at the Marina Beach, then the likely meeting point would have been the Gandhi statue. The Marina is actually a little over three kilometres long from the light-house at the southern end to the war-memorial at the north and the entire stretch has a wide major road of the city running down it as well as a promenade with many statues. This promenade at road level steps down to the beach which is also un-interrupted for the three kilometre stretch and is the second largest beach in the world after Rio - how about that?

So given its huge size and our immense population it is always good to plan a precise meeting point with friends so as not to miss them completely and wander around picking up long lost twins all evening. Over the decades statues of prominent figures from Indian History, our freedom movement, Tamil Literature and the Tamil movement have been placed as statues along the promenade but somehow Gandhiji is still number one.

Any marathon or walk, for a public cause, any banner holding, slogan raising get together on the beach, the morning laughing club, the VIP stand for the Republic day and Independence day parades - the starting point for all of the above is what you see above.

I actually find some of the other statues better (as statues themselves, in terms of the craft, the depiction, the idea) and hope to sketch a few more in the future here. Gandhiji is positioned at the junction of Cathedral Road and Beach Road so when I walk down from my house to the beach, then bang! - this is where I'm at.

The promenade was a simple side-walk for most of my years in Madras. Recently though, its been given a facelift. Some greenery, some meandering paths and mainly a lot of fuss around Gandhiji. These steps you see here are also pretty new, there's a huge curving oval set of steps cascading down from a wide landscaped plaza to the beach. At the point where the cascade meets the inner beach lane there's a set of funky huge granite balls (I'm sitting on one of them) serving to cordon off the pedestrian area from the parking lane.

Once again, it was quite an experience sitting in one of the most crowded points of the city and sketching and I was actually asked by a friendly north Indian if I was a foreigner!!!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bajji on the beach

Last Sunday evening, for the first time since I started this blog, I decided to go for a walk somewhere purely in order to sketch. I packed a little jolna pai with two sketchbooks, my Koi travel watercolours and my assorted pens and pencils and set off from home. It was around five and quite cool. I kept walking down R.K. Salai and didn't spot anything particularly sketch-worthy except the grotesque-ly ugly city centre building and so I kept walking till I hit Marina Beach.

The beach was teeming with people - merry-go-rounds of different sizes, hand operated and motor operated. Push-carts with street food, kids on a roller skating rink, hawkers, beggars, in short I didn't know where to start. I was also feeling a bit self-conscious because its been a while since I've sketched on location at such a crowded place.

I spotted a really colourful merry-go-round and was contemplating squatting on the sand to draw it when I realised there was a bajji stall nearby. The stall was a simple push cart with a really lovely display of hanging molagas - so typical. Lovely huge green chillies. I immediately felt like drawing the stall too. The stall was run by a young lady and another elderly lady and they had put out multi-coloured plastic stools. I guessed you had to buy something from them to get to sit on a stool. But sitting on the stool would give me a comfy vantage view of the merry-go-round as well as the hanging molagas so of course for this reason and no other (heh heh) I ordered a piping hot plate of bajjis.

I don't like the green chilly bajji and they had a lot of other veggies on offer so I chose a mixed platter of raw banana, potato and onion bajjis.  The merry-go-round sketch got done while I waited for my order. The bajji stall sketch was done while I nibbled slowly at my delicious hot snack. It was served with a small cup of green chutney which I didn't touch since we all know what happens the day after that chutney.

Very happy with my fried snack I handed the young lady a large note and she had to send it somewhere to get me my change. At this point the elderly lady plonked herself in front of me with a large tub of onions and started peeling and slicing them. Her speed was astonishing. This is a really quick sketch because she really went through a pile of a dozen onions in less than five minutes.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Meet Gypsy

I'd like to introduce you to Gypsy, our Dalmatian friend. He adopted Tarun, Tarun's family and anyone else who lived at 159 Santhome High Road, on independence day, 15th August 2004. Tarun was out, somewhere and his family called him in panic because they spotted this spotted guy sitting quite peacefully in their backyard.

Tarun's house is near the light-house and Marina beach. Every 15th Aug there are vast hoards of people who flock there to watch the independence day parade so at first they all thought that this dog had just gotten separated from its owner in the mileu. He had on a black collar and looked perfectly groomed. But over the next few days Tarun started walking him all around the locality asking various watchmen and security guards if anyone had come looking for him and no one had.

Gypsy settled down happily and the vet guessed his age at the time as two by looking at his teeth. Dog and master were (and still are) completely devoted to each other. Gypsy wasn't quite as hefty as you see here in the sketches. He was a normal young frisky dalmation, sleek and fast.

Then one day, Tarun had to go away to Delhi for a couple of weeks. He gave a lot of thought to where he could leave Gypsy for that time, and finally chose a lady living in Harringtom road, affiliated with the PFA, who had a large property in Red Hills where she looked after dogs. She agreed to take care of Gypsy.

As soon as Tarun left, she started calling him and saying Gypsy was un-manageable and she would have to neuter him. Tarun insisted that she should tie him up for the two weeks instead. Finally to Tarun's despair she actually waited till the day before he got back from Delhi and instead of holding out one more day she got Gypsy neutered.

The PFA might be conceptually against pedigrees and pure-breeds and the reason is sound but some of their methods of trying to curb the trend is cruel to the animal when it's actually the master's outlook that needs changing.

Anyway, the poor fellow was bandaged and despondent when he was brought back to Santhome. He bloated up soon after and has stayed this way since. Now he must be around nine and his legs are a bit arthritic. He still hobbles determinedly behind Tarun if he so much as leaves the room. Even at his prime he was the most gentle friendly dog when it came to people. I have never heard him bark to this day.

These three sketches are Gypsy's 3 most favoured sleeping positions. He acquiesced to stay in each position perfectly still and asleep for exactly five minutes apiece - just enough for me to get his outline right, but then I had to make up his spots.

Friday, 8 July 2011

New friends from an old school

In the year 2012, my college will be completing fifty years. To mark the occasion the alumni fraternity that is still actively involved with the school, mainly several professors, came up with the idea of celebrating all year long with various events and exhibitions. They soon realised that this is the ideal time to get 50 years worth of alumni re-connected and actively involved once again.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Wimbledon Finals at Santhome

Last night was the ladys' finals at Wimbledon and we went over as usual to Anu and Uk's at Santhome. Its become a regular routine. We all enjoy cricket and tennis enormously and they are just down the road. Tarun upstairs has a dalmatian named Gypsy and there are two cats (also black and white to go with the theme as it were) so we're a motley bunch.