Decisions, decisions..

It is just one of those days when you want to draw something fun, but in retrospect it ends up being a bit deep.. ;D

Decision decisions

Decisions, decisions..

It is Monet’s birthday today

It is Claude Monet’s birthday today.

And that for me meant an early morning trip down memory lane to distant college days, where I studied art for a semester. It meant sitting in a dim classroom and thinking about Monet’s works, punctuated by rustling of leaves heard through the open windows. It meant going to the art section of Landmark, a local bookstore, and looking through books on Monet, never quite making up my mind to buy anything but just looking through and thinking. It meant spending countless more hours looking up Monet’s works on the internet. It meant dreaming of haystacks, thinking about parasols (What a beautiful word, no?). It meant looking at the world through impressionist eyes and seeing all the light and air come to life. And one day, it meant seeing the water lilies at Tate and just finding a moment of quiet in a crowd. And today, it meant waking up and writing a blog post off the top of my head to celebrate these many memories and looking forward for more to come.

So happy birthday Monet. Here is painting (oil on paper) that you inspired me to do all those years back – an impression of the Marina Waves, Kuwait. And here is to you getting me to pick up my paint brush again today.

Marina Waves

It is Monet’s birthday today

Silent conversations and ‘Crezy’ guys

The engines rumbled on against the constant sound of city life. And usually loud conversations punctuate it. But this time, it was silent; silent conversations between three students from a local school for the deaf. Silent but animated. It made me want to learn one more language.

I also wanted to help the ‘Crezy Guys’ spell basic English words correctly. They seem to be an interesting bunch – racers, ‘heart-stolers’ and innocent. I wonder how old they were… to come up with nicknames like that and to have the time to etch those names into the seats.


- as seen on 13 October 2014

Stories in Transit series is a documentation of life in public transport and is a result of observations made during many hours of commute in Chennai, India. It seeks to capture different stories that are brought out by a chance gathering of people in a transient, ever-changing environment, i.e. the bus. Read other posts in the ‘Stories in transit’ series here.

Silent conversations and ‘Crezy’ guys

Fairy lights and a bus ride

Yet another day, yet another commute.

Or so I thought. But it was not to be.

A twinkling blue light and a couple of what looked like fairy lights near the old driver got me curious. Twenty minutes and a sketch later, I went up to ask him about it. Apparently it is some sort of oil level indicator that blinks when the bus is on. He got so enthusiastic that he even stopped and restarted the bus just to show me how it worked, one last time to see the twinkling lights before I got off and went on my way. Amazing how people are willing to talk to you, if you just simply take an interest in their lives.

Stories in transit 141015

Fairy lights and a bus ride

Those little rooms

I’ve been over-thinking thinking over stuff lately (And boy, that is never really a good sign, is it?). And those thoughts led me to this dialogue from House M.D. (Thank you, television!):

“It’s what life is. It’s a series of rooms and who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives are.” (Oh, and thank you television channels for countless reruns of the same shows!) 

Only, sometimes, I find it worthwhile to revisit those rooms and dust them over a little bit to add some clarity to stuff in general. No?

cleaning up life, one room at a time

What do you think?

Those little rooms

Jasmine and a long ride home

Notes from a Friday evening commute:

1. When the fragrance of fresh jasmine refreshes you on the way home after a long day at work and entices you to sketch something on the bus.. (In case you are wondering, many women in India wear flowers in their hair.)

2. When a simple act of sketching in a bus attracts the attention of a fellow passenger and sparks an animated conversation between two otherwise complete strangers, who in all probability might never see each other again…


Jasmine and a long ride home


One warm evening, walking down the beaten path from work to the bus stop, I came across a vendor prepping for the evening – inflating balloons to sell somewhere. Really liked the pump he was using!

Balloon man


When will the bus come?

Want to know when the next bus is due? Just ask the one-man passenger information system, who simply looks at incoming buses and announces them on the mike!

PI system

Stories in Transit series is a documentation of life in public transport and is a result of observations made during many hours of commute in Chennai, India. It seeks to capture different stories that are brought out by a chance gathering of people in a transient, ever-changing environment. Most illustrations are digitally reworked from manual sketches that were created during commute. 

When will the bus come?

Take the bus

Stories in transit - 2

Stories in Transit series is a documentation of life in public transport and is a result of observations made during many hours of commute in Chennai, India. It seeks to capture different stories that are brought out by a chance gathering of people in a transient, ever-changing environment. Most illustrations are digitally reworked from manual sketches that were created during commute. Read other posts in the ‘Stories in transit’ series here: People, buses, stories

Take the bus

A day of summer.


I hate summers. Those bright sunny days with temperatures hovering around the 40 degree Celsius mark drive me nuts. I sincerely believe that temperatures are directly proportional to my crankiness (Boy! Won’t that explain a lot in my life right now!). Makes me dream of rain. Wind and some cool showers (No, we don’t get to see snow in the tropics. *sigh*).

So it was, one long summer day, sitting on the porch at my grandma’s house in a remote village, incessantly brushing away the innumerable flies that found my face so attractive (*sigh again*), eating sweet mangoes, with nothing else to do but while away time (Quite a challenge in the absence of Facebook since my phone and laptop were both dead due to an interminable power cut), I swear time stood still.

And suddenly there was a gust of wind and a drizzle of rain. False hopes, as I soon realized.

And once more it was back to looking at the still trees and willing them to sway. What a sweet world that would be.





Intelligent life. Really?

This is what the question was: “The friendly, English-speaking extraterrestrial you run into outside your house is asking you to recommend the one book, movie, or song that explains what humans are all about. What do you pick?”

And there was me almost falling off my chair, with my hand in the air, mouthing “I know! I know the answer! Pick ME!!!”. Well, not quite literally of course, but you get the gist of what was passing through my head.

So the answer is this: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!!! Douglas Adams had got it so right.

So what are we humans?

  • We think digital watches (or pretty much anything that is supposed to reduce some of our physical and mental work) are great. I’m pretty sure that soon we will be fossilized where we are sitting, since no effort of any kind will be needed to do anything!
  • We build bypasses and more bypasses that sometimes I fear that we are going to by-pass everything of relevance. (That would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it? A never-ending roller coaster ride of sorts. Hmm.)
  • We sincerely believe that we are the most intelligent species in this universe. And we proceed to self-destruct.

We also experiment on mice (and monkeys and sheep and others), making them run around in those wheels et all. But for all we know, those mice in our science labs might be running this planet for a larger, more sinister purpose. What a fun world that would be!

Lost in the details

Untitled_Panorama1-2 copy

Featured above are mixed media works inspired by Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, visualizing what it would be like if the mice were the overloads, controlling us as we go about building and rebuilding our lives on this planet. Post created for Daily prompt: Worldly Encounters.

Intelligent life. Really?

On the move: Wanderings and a city

Wandering takes you places.

Places of change.
Places in transition,
That are not so abandoned after all.
places soon to be abandoned,
Of old and new.
places old and new,
The mixed and used.
the mixed and the used.
some careworn.
Some careworn,
and some that lead to one's home.
and some that lead to someone’s home.
Places that are 'small' businesses
Places of ‘small’ businesses,
places from 1914,
places from 1914.
Tangled in time.
Tangled in time,
Some forgotten but still standing
some forgotten but still standing,
Yet others buried under layers of paper.
yet others buried under layers of use and re-use,
standing side by side with the geometric old.
standing side by side with the geometric old.

Wandering takes you to streets

abutting streets that lead you to the divine,
that lead you to the divine,
streets with long shadows,
streets with long shadows
where golden light and water falls,
where golden light and water falls,
where some things are cast in stone.
where some things are cast in stone.

Wanderings reminds you of childhood.

of long gone care-free days spent playing on streets,
of long gone care-free days spent playing,
of the days spent settling the dust and earning a living,
of the days now spent settling the dust and earning a living.

Wandering make you think of priorities in this world

Wandering make you think of priorities whether you want space for  parking a car or provide livelihood for three,
of the silent fight between the rich and the poor.
Wandering brings you the smell of mangoes long forgotten,
Wandering brings you the smell of mangoes long forgotten,
and flowers
and flowers bright.
And that life goes on...
and reminds you that life goes on, even if it is bananas at times.
Wanderings teach you to rest,
Wandering reminds you of creature comforts,
to be patient,
and makes you think of home, much like what may lie behind those shuttered windows.

Wandering lets you meet people; some inviting, some guarded, others too engrossed in their lives to notice you pass by,

..and let the world go by.
letting you find some peace and quiet amid all the noise and let the world go by.

It also makes you aware of time,

and instills a fear of second childhood, maybe?
a reminder of the second childhood yet-to-come, maybe?
Last light
a little more aware of the last light.

Wanderings makes for stories. Of being. Of curiosity. Of self-reflection. And sometimes, stories of sorry neglect and defeat – of failures to preserve the old and to shape the new.

This post was inspired by two factors: First, a magazine feature on the BBC on the slow death of aimless wanderings – about walking being essential in understand the world around you, clearing the mind and inspiring thought. And the slow death of such pursuits, one factor being the lack of walk-able neighborhoods in cities these days. Second, a walk in memory of Jane Jacobs and her seminal work on cities organised by the Urban Design Collective and Jane’s Walk that led me to Mylapore, a historic religious center in Chennai, India and trying to seek out a little of what makes it a place.

Created for: “On the move” theme of the weekly photo challenge.

On the move: Wanderings and a city

Drums, dancing feet & paint!

Dancing feet and a canvas

I had the opportunity of witnessing a live-painting session a couple of weeks back at the Lalit Kala Academy, Chennai, held as part of the South Indian Art Show.  Meant to explore the link between inspiration, painting, dance & music, it featured established artists from the city painting during a Thapattam performance (a folk dance form native to the  state of Tamil Nadu). I especially loved the informal setting of the whole event – a wonderful mix of sunlight, falling leaves, people and art. And working simultaneously with different media (photography & sketches) left me with different perspectives of the same event. Here are some photographs from the event and some sketchy sketches I managed to do in between!

p.s. I did have my misgivings when I bought a bright orange sketchbook, but it does add some (alarming) cheer to the whole sketch, doesn’t it?
Thapattai Lalit Kala (1) E Thapattai Lalit Kala (2) E

IMG_3947 IMG_3932 IMG_3931



Drums, dancing feet & paint!

Heritage: In use

World Heritage Day passed by on April 18 and I realized it only today (Thanks to UDC for the heads up)!  Brings back into focus some hotly debated questions: What is heritage? What is history? History versus development? Questions that are too big to answer maybe, but need to be asked now nonetheless. What makes a house a home? Use and age. Faded paint and some stain on the wall, tastefully (and not-so-tastefully) arranged clutter maybe? And people too! (Home is where the heart is, no?) I guess that is why I love old cities. They have a sense of ‘place’ about them. Srirangam 3 A sense of having been lived in and been witness to events big and small. People, yes! Clutter? Yes! And a lot of it too! All of it adding to a heightened sense of being. Srirangam 1 Sometimes, history is considered to be only for looking at – a manicured masterpiece in a landscape. Looking is over-rated. It is also about touching, feeling, learning. It is about living. Srirangam 4 The old and the new changing and improving each other.

What do you think? Pictured here is the Hindu temple town of Srirangam, located in Tamil Nadu, India. Conceived as a city with 7 concentric enclosures and 21 gopurams (temple towers), Srirangam today is a major pilgrimage destination.

Heritage: In use



I happened to be flipping through Jason Lutes work on Berlin at the book store yesterday, and was inspired to indulge in some monochrome sketches on the way back home and thereafter! Enjoy!Monochrome madness


Let there be light

Let there be lightThere stood a bakery once,

Greasy chips and sweets for the taking.

But they cleared it to make way for a underpass and an overpass

Or a combination of the two, I cannot say, for what does it matter?

On its ruins, there sits a man now;

Making conversation with the flower seller a few feet away,

Under the harsh glare of passing headlights,

Amid the dust kicked up by a thousand feet,

Selling hope in the forms of little balls of light,

Eliciting a smile and a pause in those who stop by to notice.


People, buses, stories.


Stories in transitAbout: The blogger is an architect-urbanist and a story-teller, who works with a variety of media to reflect on cities today. This compilation is a result of observations made during many hours of commute in Chennai, India.

People, buses, stories.

The uprising.

What would happen if, one day, all the trees got tired of the never-ending sprawl of our cities and decided to revolt against us? Here is one vision, The March of the Trees. I guess it would be a better world where Tolkien’s ents lived.

March of the trees

(Photo taken at Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu on a misty morning.)

The uprising.

And so I am.

‘I’m white but my neighbor is yellow.

And sometimes, when the sun is right, it rubs off on me.

And so I am.’

Yellow me.

And so I am.

The people’s perspective (Weekly photo challenge: Perspective)

When the “STOP” line at traffic lights means anything from ‘Stop wherever you want’ to ‘Don’t stop’ …

(don't) STOP

For the Weekly photo challenge: Perspective

The people’s perspective (Weekly photo challenge: Perspective)

Cities that almost grew and cows that stayed.

‘In denial of those traditions (of urbanism), most construction and infrastructure investments are being used to expand a semi-urban landscape that offers neither the benefits of rural life nor those of urban form.”

Books are delightful aren’t they..!? And here is a sketch I had done a couple of weeks earlier that fits those lines perfectly!

Urbanization in India

Excerpt from Welcome to The Urban Revolution: How Cities Are Changing The World by Jeb Brugmann.

Cities that almost grew and cows that stayed.

Talking architecture & living a city

We looked at people, we looked at places. We looked at happy families going about their lives at all hours of the day and night. We tried to buy stuff to add some colour to our own lives. We looked at people in some more run down houses. We looked at a little girl sleeping on a little mat that would fit her only if she sleeps hugging her knees. A mat she’ll soon grow out of (but will she ever grow out of her life onto something better?). We saw handicapped men singing in a circle and begging their keep.

We walked past all this and felt sad. But more than that, we felt conscious of our own privilege in life. Privilege at being able to afford our lives and having the freedom to pick out our way ahead. We also felt a little conscious of the change we can bring to the rest, should we choose to.

We spoke of architecture. Heard of it being spoken as an art – a beautiful response to the natural beauty of a site located in a fairy land, paid for by clients. We looked at some achievements, some discussions on the way forward, some different approaches. We forgot the reality we had seen. Maybe we chose to forget it.  Maybe it is easier to run around in circles in a little box than to confront the world out there.

We did all this and then we walked out, hailed a cab and headed out to enjoy a sumptuous lunch at a tastefully decorated, beautiful little cafe forgetting everything. We moved on.

Or did we?

This post is based on the author’s impressions following a visit to the city of Mumbai for the Indian Architect & Builder’s 361 degree conference on ‘Architecture & Identity’. 

Talking architecture & living a city