January 22, 2013

The painter of banners

Some friends were organising  an exhibition to promote genuine handloom, and asked me for help with their promotional material. Being a dedicated fan of handloom, this assignment interested me. I took on the job of finding the words for, and working on the execution of banners for the exhibition. Another aspect that interested me was that my friends agreed that the banners could be painted and not printed. And they gave me the most beautiful handloom cloth I had every felt for the banners to be painted on.

A small aside to make this interest clear. Ever since I saw an article on a New Delhi-based artist called Hanif Kureshi, who is trying to keep the profession of street painters alive (in this day of digital printing), I have been wanting to help painters, but never got a chance to do so. This was my chance, at least to give one of them a job.

This is what Hanif Kureshi wants to do:

"HandpaintedType is a project that is dedicated to preserving the typographic practice of street painters around India. These painters, with the advent of local DTP (Desktop Publishers) shops, are rapidly going out of business with many of them switching to the quicker, cheaper but uglier vinyls. Many painters have given up their practice altogether.
The project involves documenting the typefaces of road side painters across India and digitizing it so that it serves as a resource for present and future generations.
HandpaintedType is a collaborative project. If you’d like to contribute or collaborate, please get in touch."

I have been wanting to go around and meet painters and do this for Hanif, but caught in the whirlwind of everyday life, I haven't been able to get down to it. So here was my chance to get to know at least one painter and try to get him to document his font and send them to Hanif. And so I went to "Balu, Artist", who has a hole of a shop two streets from where I live. Long, curly hair gave Balu a 'hatke' artistic look. He agreed to paint the six banners for me in two days. I was very happy...it seemed do-able, and I told him I would come and proofread every one of them.

I discovered that Balu painted English banners, but he could not read! So he called the chalk/pencil lettering he did "sketching"! He recognised letters but words did not have much meaning for him. I also discovered he took on my work but did not have the time to do it because he was busy with various things, including bringing his children back from hostel from another place. I had imagined that he would be overjoyed that I gave him six banners, but he seemed like he was perfectly happy without my sudden appearance at his shop! I also discovered that I had to proofread very carefully after he 'sketched' the lettering, and invariably he got a few words wrong. However...being an editor, I must say I was very impressed at how few words he had got wrong...and he always knew how he could correct them, even after he had painted them.

Many rounds to his shop and back on my Vespa later, Balu painted only two banners out of six (they were perfect!), and as my deadline was approaching, he told me I should have gone to him with two weeks and not two days before me! I told him that when there was work, he should take it even if it means working through the night, but I got the feeling he did not live his life like that. He did not look regretful when I took back the four unpainted banners from him.

I need to get over my disappointment before I can get myself to go back to Balu to get him to paint his fonts so I can send them to Hanif Kureshi. But go back to him, I will...watch this space!

And do check out Hanif's amazing website: www.handpaintedtype.com, and think about contributing to his noble cause. 

January 03, 2013

My favourite music - 3

What a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong,
[written by Bob Thiele (as "George Douglas") and George David Weiss]

I really don't have any words to describe the beauty and simplicity of this song. All I know is that it touches me deeply, as it did, millions of others, and I also know that I feel the same way about nature and sometimes, life. We need this song of optimism today. 

Some background to this song, from Wiki: It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released as a single in 1967. Intended as an antidote for the increasingly racially and politically charged climate of everyday life in the United States, the song also has a hopeful, optimistic tone with regard to the future, with reference to babies being born into the world and having much to look forward to.

Also watch: David Attenborough's What a wonderful world 
Shared by my friend Kamakshi on Facebook, this is a charming ad for the BBC channel, with stunning visuals. And Attenborough - ah, what a wonderful man!

Here are the lyrics:

What a wonderful world

I see trees of green...red roses too
I see em bloom...for me and you
And I think to myself....what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue...clouds of white
Bright blessed days...dark sacred nights
And I think to myself...what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow...so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces...of people going by
I see friends shaking hands...sayin.. how do you do
They're really sayin...I love you.

I hear babies cry...I watch them grow
They'll learn much more...than I'll never know
And I think to myself ...what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself ...what a wonderful world.