Tag: Profile

Riotous Colours

Artist Payal Khandwala has a nice way of expressing her subjects with lines. By Deeya Nayar-Nambiar

“Lines are perhaps the most integral component of form and structure. It is this framework with which the artist visualises a drawing, sculpture or painting. In their purest form, lines come together to plot a narrative; in a non-figurative work they form the building blocks for the subsequent abstraction,” explains Payal Khandwala, a contemporary artist who has carved a niche for herself with her drawings and oil on canvas.

Payal moves her hands with ease whether it is a sketch or a painting and the lines and hues in her work make you think and decode the hidden symbolism. Payal does create an abstract visual language. In fact she constructs a physical reality for a unique intangible moment that is open to interpretation. According to her, “The mark an artist chooses to make ultimately set him apart from another; it is with this vocabulary that he will create a vision that is unique.”

Payal emphasises that when she is painting she tries to distance herself from symbolism altogether, but she does not try to make them narratives. Most of her work is abstract and she makes use of elements like colour, texture, organisation, and sometimes order and geometry.

When she works with the human figure, she tries to keep it uncomplicated. “If it is the face that inspires me, then that is all I include. I don’t like to put in a social, political or gender context into my work,” she explains. But what inspires Payal as an artist? Very thoughtfully she puts it to “many things” – urban landscape, cities like Mumbai and New York where she spent her formative years, textiles, old peeling walls, colours, textures, human forms that surround us.

But Payal is a loyalist when it comes to her colours. She says her palette is an integral part of her painting vocabulary and the slight shift of colours – glazing and making it vibrate to create a visual sensation – is central to her work. In fact she feels that controlling colours allows each painting to have its own mood.

Payal is an art and textile designer from SNDT in Mumbai and holds an honours degree in fine arts and illustration from Parsons School of Design in New York. She also got a diploma from Metafora, an international workshop for contemporary art in Barcelona. To some extent a background in textile design continues to influence Payal’s work. “I’m very receptive to vegetable dyes and Indian textiles that have such a rich and varied history. I tend to retain what inspires me and it forms part of my visual memory bank,” she says.

Payal also likes to experiment in order to break from the monotony of grayscale with dash of colour here and there in figures, adding elements of fun and humour to them. This gives a relief to her work as she tries to develop themes she is not comfortable with. This is evident from the way she has interpreted the Kamasutra in a playful sort of way, keeping the scale of the drawings small true to the miniatures but flooding it with colour.

Talking about her drawings she says, “The subject often determines this choice of line. Gestures, contours, movement have the power to change lines. The medium and scale allow spontaneity and chance and gives the map texture and weight.”

Similarly, her oil on canvas is intrinsic to cultural influences. “Without adhering to the strict formalism of tradition, the work strives to explore a new vocabulary to communicate the emotion behind an experience and to replace what recognisable symbols ordinarily represent.”

Of course, drawing and painting needs both patience and perseverance since no idea can be captured in a day’s time. And beyond that? “I’m just happy to continue doing what I’m…I try not to make many plans. This way I don’t have to break them,” she signs off.

Published in btw, Chitralekha Group

Swapna Dutta In Children’s World

Swapna Dutta loves writing more than anything else. An established Bangalore-based freelance writer who has travelled around the world, Swapna never ran short of resources or the medium for conveying it to the readers. She has written extensively on travel, nature, historical legends, folktales, biography, cookery, interviews and poems, and also indulged in translation. But writing for children, the field she has become synonymous with, came by chance.

“I was fresh out of the university (post grad in literature) and spending time writing literary criticism and academic articles; I got an opportunity to visit the International Dolls’ Museum in Delhi and to meet K Shankar Pillai, the famous cartoonist who started this museum in 1954 as a personal collection. He asked me about myself and, suddenly, asked me if I had ever thought of writing for children,” recalls Swapna. Shankar was observant about the deprived stage of children’s writing in India and was keen to have more Indian writers in English. “He asked me to give it a thought,” remembers Swapna.

Shankar made a great impression on Swapna and she went back to write her first children’s story in English based on an incident from her own school life. Soon she found herself writing for Children’s World, a magazine for children he started.

“I realised that it took very little time and was a really enjoyable experience. As I was quite close to my own student life, I had no problem finding themes and telling the stories in language children could relate to. The same year Shankar asked me to write the story of Raja Harishchandra for children; that was my first book ( 1968 ) for children. Having once started, I just continued to write for them,” says Swapna, recalling her literary journey that somewhere connects to her childhood spent with her grandparents in Hazaribagh.

Little wonder, she is quick to say it was her grandfather who introduced her to the Book of Knowledge that retold stories from the classics when she was only nine years old. “I still retain a special love for the classics,” she says with a smile. Probably, it is her love for history and the classics that saw her writing supplementary readers for Orient Longman, Ratnasagar and Hemkunt.

Her children’s books are diverse- Stories For A Winte’s Night (1996), Teddy Comes To Stay (1992) and her popular Juneli series – stories about a girl called Juneli set in an Indian boarding school. Along with writing for newspapers and magazines in India and abroad, Swapna, who was has been a part of the Limca Book Of Records editorial team, has translated stories from Bengali to English for Indian Literature, The Little Magazine for the National Book Trust, to name a few.

“It is this variety in my writing which keeps me going as a writer. I would hate to do just one kind of writing! I write what I feel like and send them across for consideration. Sometimes, they are accepted and sometimes they are not; it’s all part of the game,” says Swapna who is currently working on a youth-centric novel.

However, she strongly resent being called a ‘woman writer’. “All writers are creative beings and portray the world from his/her point of view, whether it is a man or a woman. The question of being a man or woman does not arise when one is discussing a doctor, engineer, lawyer or an IT person; why should it be any different for a writer?” questions Swapna, a recipient of several awards including the National Fellowship for Literature and a National Award for Creative Writing in Hindi.

Defining herself as a simple person with simple tastes, someone who is perfectly happy as long as she has a book of her choice and something to scribble, friendship holds an important place in her life. And when not writing and catching up with friends, she loves to read, listen to music, especially Rabindra Sangeet, or travel and explore places.

As a former civil servant’s wife, Swapna has always been on the move, packing and unpacking bags. But post retirement life in Bangalore has given her the pleasure of enjoying books, reading and writing. Letters from her young fans (she specifies small towns) keeps her enthusiasm alive. Indeed, Swapna is happy in her world, writing to bring a smile on her reader’s face and does not want to be part of the rat race.

“I feel that I’ve reached a stage where I write just because it is what I love to do the most; I feel and understand the language of children and want to continue writing for them. I hope to go on writing as long as I live, whether everything I write is published or not,” she confesses.

The original link to the article published in BTW – Women’s Day Special
BTW – Swapna Dutta

Snehalatha Rajan – A mother Who Made A difference To Roshan And Ritvik Rajan

Deeya Nayar speaks to Snehalatha Rajan, mother of two special children, on the highs and lows of her life.

When I told Snehalatha, my family friend that I wanted to interview her, she laughed, “Why me, are you running short of stories. I am like any other mother.”

True. She is an ordinary person. She is also a devoted wife who kept pace with her husband M P Rajan, an officer in the Indian Postal Service with a transfer liability.

Yet, she has stood out in the crowd because she is a fountain of inspiration, treating her differently abled (visually impaired) children as normal. Roshan and Ritvik, have seen the world only through their parents’ eyes. With their parents’ support and own efforts, today Roshan is a Post-graduate, who is independent with a job in hand and Ritvik the younger of the two establishing himself in the world of music. The brothers have made a niche for themselves in the music industry as singers and composers.

Ask Snehalatha about the turn of events and she says in a philosophical tone, “I live in the present and don’t brood over the loss. I neither worry about the consequences nor have expectations from tomorrow. It is only when you have too much of desire that it drags in problems. Accept people and situations as they are and be practical.”

Indeed she was practical. Snehalatha, who spent 20 years plus of her life being a “working woman”, let go her career dreams with Canara Bank as she felt that the job was interfering with her role as a mother (in her case, the demand being even more). “Now I am doing full justice to my job,” she declares.

Chidren are any mother’s precious gift. Snehalatha is no different. A moment I pause to pop up the next question, and reading my eyes, she begins, “Initially it was distressing, but slowly we learnt to cope with the situation. Roshan’s brilliant track record gave us immense pleasure. But we did not want to rest on our laurels. Our second child Ritvik’s condition was more complex. There was learning disability and autism along with blindness.” “I was determined to fight back, however,” she adds. And she believes that “love” is the winning word.

Snehalatha recalled the various means the couple had adopted to guide their children nurture their hidden talents. In the process, she learnt Braille to extend a helping hand to her first child, Roshan. When she found that he was picking up music comfortably, a master was arranged to train him. Schooling was another mission. Since they did not want to segregate him from normal children, Snehalatha and Rajan put him in normal school. But for Ritvik, “music became the medium of communication,” a language that brought out the best of emotions in him.

“I pray to God and see Him in my children. In that way, I get the energy to serve them better,” Shehalatha smiles.

How time passed I did not know. Roshan showed me one of his write ups on ‘life’ that he had saved in the computer. I read the words carefully and was moved by lines in particular. He wrote: “What is blind? Everyone sees with their two eyes, but I have ten fingers to see. I have help and support too. So who is luckier? I am.”


Deccan Herald, Bangalore, Dec 2004