Was feeling a bit jaded with the ‘impersonal-ness’ and almost ‘plastic’ feel to Photoshopped illustrations. After unearthing my colour penciled pics of poor Ollie — Ruskin Bond’s ‘tragic hero’, I felt better. There’s something about the graininess of hastily used colour pencils. Ollie’s a youngish resident teacher at an all-boys’ boarding school. His tragedy is that he’s entirely bald. So is always the butt of the boys’ jokes. And like all hostels, the action begins after moonrise…flying wigs, sleepwalking students, ‘ghosts’, midnight violin concerts, etc.
I haven’t read ‘The Room of Many Colours’ in its entirety. The School Edition sends me a few chapters at a time, to be illustrated, at regular intervals and that’s how we’ve progressed so far. And since the book is really a huge collection of short stories and novellas, I’m never sure which part we’re at — the middle, or end.
The last story this week gave me a sense that the book is winding down. It has the feeling of an epilogue. An old Mr Bond, basking in the winter sun and looking back on a life time spent deeply involved in what appears to others as ‘doing nothing’! Considering he’s one of India’s most prolific writers, all those who swore he’d amount to ‘nothing’ must be turning in their graves!
Here are a pair of ‘before and after’ pics of a younger and older Bond…both on the same wall, doing nothing! I loved illustrating this story, particularly.
‘The Room of Many Colours’ is another Ruskin Bond collection of short stories. The Deccan Herald School Edition is serialising it this term. Thankfully, most of the stories are set up in the hills. So for a few hours every other day as I illustrate a story, I get to pretend I’m not in traffic-congested, buried-under-garbage Bengaluru, but breathing in the clean mountain air on some lower Himalayan slopes, in a time capsule frozen in the 1950s maybe.
Gentle, haunting stories, with the author’s crazy family members popping in for a guest appearance now and then.
Deccan Herald’s School Edition shuts down now for about two months till schools reopen in June. The last issue was on the 29th of March, and it carried the concluding chapter of Ruskin Bond’s ‘Crazy Times with Uncle Ken.’
I’ve spent a hectic few months in the company of this batty uncle of a young Bond. I’ve loved illustrating his antics. Don’t we all have one such character in our lives…someone who refuses to grow up, is generally indulged by elderly parents and who is the butt of most of the family jokes? This balding, often unemployed, perpetually hungry ‘uncle’ is some sort of Calamity Joe…managing to attract mice, monkeys, crows, bats and ‘spirits’ with regularity. I’m going to miss him terribly.
Years and years ago, long before Deccan Herald’s kids’ supplement Open Sesame stopped, and when it was still a broadsheet, I was given a Ruskin Bond story to illustrate. It was called ‘The Fight’ and was set in the hills. It was about local boys in a turf battle over a secret pond in the forest. I loved the story — it reminded me of the Niligiri Hills I grew up in. I painstakingly did a few watercolours for it, never expecting to be transported back to those hills again. But I turned lucky. The Deccan Herald School Edition decided to serialise another Bond classic called ‘The Hidden Pool’. So not only was I back in those quiet mountains, but I suspect this hidden pool was the same one those boys had fought over, all those years back! Only in this case, Ruskin Bond’s earliest novel, the pool is where the most unlikely of friendships blossoms. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been feverishly churning out illustrations (2 a day!). And this time, I cheated. I used Photoshop!
‘The Hidden Pool’ is an evocative story set up in the hills. The friendship between a Brit boy in India for a short time, his Indian classmate and a poor vendor, plays out against the foothills of the Himalayas…lots of swimming in the pool, a trek up the hills to visit a glacier, nights spent in lonely dak bungalows…this week the serial concludes, and I’m suffering from withdrawal systems! Here’re are some expresso Photoshopped ‘hidden pools’.