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Wet nose

Continuing in the series of narratives – story telling through pictures – the effort would be incomplete without a questing, trusting nose in connection with Rakesh Shukla. Rakesh is the founder of The Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) and the inspiration behind The Poonchh Collection.

There is nothing more wonderful than waking up to a wet nose sniffing at your neck. OK, there are a few but you have to admit it’s pretty up there in the ‘feel good’ ranks. Anyone who has ever had a dog will tell you that. I have almost always seen Rakesh with dogs. Not one but many. They are exuberant with him and restful. Sometimes boisterous. Sometimes very possessive. But there is always uncomplicated and comforting love.

I wanted to paint that. That feeling of coming home to comfort no matter how much and how many times the world beats you down. You get up and start again. And in between those hard times is a deep, warm comforting breath. That one deep breath that allows you to center yourself.

So here is one of a wet nose and questing snout.


This portrait is done in Acrylics on hard board and is approximately 24×48 inches. The hardboard is reclaimed from a previously unfinished work. I layered it with torn paper and then started work on it with charcoal. The paper used is from my daughters old school note books. On a backdrop of torn/shredded/scattered, I wanted to paint a picture that is whole and complete in itself. No matter the jagged edges. I first thought of using papers from law books or even rules regarding animal welfare in India. But finally thought that the innocence of childhood was a better connection to work with. I had also painted the dogs in greater detail but then went back and obscured them a little.

The endeavour is not to be photo realistic but to capture more.
Dust. Dirt. Grime. Sweat. Hard work. …and Love.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWith2Dogs1 ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWith2Dogs2

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Back to my roots 2

That is what life is about. How we connect and embrace the people in our lives…

On 24th Sep 2012 I lost my paternal grandmother (Aaji) to a heart attack. It was sudden and unexpected. And heart breaking to say the least. I went home to Indore for her last rites and found my life changed. I wrote about that earlier.

This post is the next in the series about honoring my ancestors and re- discovering my roots. I wrote about my mothers side before. This time it’s my fathers side that I want to talk about.

But first a little anecdote: My Aaji always made waran/ arhar-toor dal (lentils) at home with rice. This was made at every major meal regardless of what else was on the menu. And she made it a little sweet with jaggery (cane sugar) and thin enough that you could drink it like soup. And that is what I always did. Extra was made when I was in town because I would drink it through the day instead of tea. On this trip when I went home for her last rites, it was made again by my Kaku (aunt), Sunanda Bhagwat Phadke. That cup of dal was a million childhood memories in every sip…

Please click the thumbnails to see a larger view.

The first image is of that last cup of dal I had on 25th September 2012.


This next image is of the chair that has always been there in my grandparents house and in just this place. First it was where my grandfather sat – through the day. And when he passed on, it became the place where my grandmother sat. It sits empty today. Many use it as a transit seat when someone comes to visit but I don’t think it will ever be filled again.

The-Chair-1   The-Chair

My fathers family hails from Ratnagiri in Konkan, though the family moved out of Konkan almost two hundred years ago. I now have extended family in Pune, Nagpur, Ujjain, Gwalior, Mumbai and Indore. My grandfather’s (Aazoba) family came first to Harda in Madhya Pradesh and then to Indore when the Peshwas moved up north.

My grandfather Vishvanath Vinayak Phadke, was one of two siblings and my grandmother Vimla Karmarkar Phadke, one of seven.

This next set of pictures is of my grandfather Vishvanath Vinayak Phadke as a young man and then of him a few years before he died.

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This next picture is priceless and is of my grandmother Vimla Karmarkar Phadke, with a her great grand-daughter and my daughter Meera. A great grandmother is called panji. And my aaji used to say “kismat say milta hai ki koi tumhe panji keh kar bulaye” (It is only divine good fortune that one be called panji in their lifetime).
And the next one is of my grandmother as a young girl. She is seated in the center.

Aaji+meera  scan011

The next image is of my grandmother and my grandfather’s sister Kashi Phadke Panse .


Aajoba’s father Vinayak Phadke, was with the Excise and Customs Department of the Holkar State and worked in the opium growing area of Neemach in Madhya Pradesh . He later joined the State Printing Press. He was a health freak and was a wrestler. He jumped into a swirling river in spate from a bridge some 40 feet above on a bet!! They say he was a very fit man and even at 70, could do full kastrat (exercise) with body builders wooden mallets. Each of these weighed at least 15 kg and came up to  his thighs 🙂
Music has always been an important part of our family. And it certainly was a big part of his life- he could play the harmonium and took part in theater. He introduced his grandson-my father, to Indian classical music when dad was barely five. So no points for guessing why my name is Aarohi. Oh! on occasions he also allowed my father to taste bhaang thandai (cannabis). All this before dad was ten!!

And Aazoba my grandfather, was the exact opposite. He wanted to study History and English literature. So genes do play a big part in who one is. I did my Masters in History! Aazoba hated that he had to join the Post and Telegraph Department  during the 2nd World War. His heart was not in it. He wanted to travel and explore the world. He proudly told my father that he burnt his imported fur cap during the Swadeshi Movement when he was still in school. He was a small man in height but a giant in stature. A socialist at heart and hated ostentation. He believed in total equality.  So when Abbas Khan, the postmen came home, although he was given tea in a glass reserved for him, he sat in the same chair on the same level as the rest. After all Aazoba  was the head of a high class Brahmin family!! But one that had no time for orthodoxy and rituals. Quiet, unassuming but with these glorious blue eyes. His eyes twinkled every time he smiled. Even at 79 when he smiled he looked like a naughty kid who was up to mischief!! But he brought up his family without ever raising his hand on any of the kids and hardly ever lost his temper. He wanted us to be humble and hated arrogance of any kind. He retired as a senior postmaster. He was addressed as Bhau (brother) by everyone. Including his kids and grandkids!! He died on 16th June 1998 at the age of 79.  Having seen successful children and grandchildren, he left us before he could see his great- grandchildren. Today he has seven.

The first image taken in 1963, has my grandmother seated in the white sari and that is my father standing in the center. On the left is Dr. Deo. my grandmothers elder brother-in-law. And on the right is Asha Keskar Deo, his daughter-in-law.
The next image taken in 1966 is of one of the aircraft my father flew – Vampire Mk-52.

scan012  scan004

My grandmother, Aaji was of a different mould. According to some, she could have become a CEO or a barrister had she studied beyond school. That is how enterprising she was. She came from a very rich family of Malguzars (tax collectors) in the British Raj. She grew up riding horses! She was tall, both in height and stature. Infact her height helped her get to the ‘high jumpers‘ team in school. She had love ooze out of every pore and absolutely delighted in feeding people. If anyone called and told her that – ‘my son or daughter, niece, nephew, a friends child or even distant neighbors child is coming to Indore- could you please look after them?’ Aaji would not only feed them at every opportunity but often they actually ended up staying in her house!! I grew up calling all these people tai, dada, maushi or kaka (elder sister, elder brother, aunty or uncle) At her funeral there were so many people that I did not know who I was related to by blood and who, with just affection, love and good will. But I am blessed for having been born into this family.

The first image taken in 1954, is of my Aaji (in the center in a dark sari) as a young lady holding her second born – my aatya (Aunt), Bhanumati Phadke Hardas.  On the right is my Aazoba holding their third child, Prakash Phadke. And hanging on to his coat tails is my father, Air Cmde Ramesh Vishwanath Phadke, (retd). The picture is taken at Amer Palace in Jaipur, India
This next image has Aaji seated in the middle on the floor with my father. And standing behind her is my grand aunt Kashi. This image was taken in 1946, the year my dad was born.

scan013  scan006

Aajis father Dinkar Raghunath Karmarakar, was the Malguzar of some 15 villages north of Damoh in Sagar district of Bundelkhand, now Madhya Pradesh. His ancestors had also come there with the Peshwas. My great- grand father actually had judicial and administrative powers. He collected taxes and as part of his salary was allowed to keep a small part. He held court. Literally 🙂

This was a hereditary title, as a result it passed on to her eldest brother when my great- grandfather passed away prematurely at the age of 48. Once that happened, the brother wanted to finish his responsibilities as fast and as best he could. Aaji came to Ujjain to study in 1938-39. When she was about 12. And just about 5-6 years later was married to my grand father. She used to tell me stories about how great the leap was for her. She went from riding horses to a stage where once she stood in line with four children outside a community toilet, waiting her turn while her child had diarrhea.  But life improved and the four children flourished. My fondest memories are of my grand mother telling me stories-especially the one about the eight thugs. The amazing part was that the story changed every time she told it. I don’t think even Aaji knew the original anymore 🙂

This time when I went home, I met everyone I could and took pictures. And rummaged through old trunks to get my hands on family treasures and memories in the shape of some old photographs.

And look what I found rummaging through those trunks… my grandfather Vishwanath Phadke’s janampatri (horoscope)!

azoba_janampatri1  azoba_janampatri2  azoba_janampatri3

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I have been to Mumbai before. But never really taken the time to see it. I thought Mumbai was dirty. It needed a giant hose to wash it down. And the two extremes of poverty and luxury mansions made for a contrast as stark as black and white.  This trip was different. I did not see black and white, I saw many greys… and beautiful greys at that.

I love this next image of Mumbai during the monsoons.


I went to Mumbai on the pretext of the Kala Ghoda Festival. But that was not the complete truth. I came here for so much more. I came for a break, to recharge and rejuvenate. Not for the nightlife, not the buzz, not the famous and exciting Mumbai vibe – I came here for creative inspiration. I connected with people that I had thus far only had sporadic conversations with over the net. Some whose work I admired, but had never met in person. Some friends from school and college…

I stayed with Chandan Dubey‘blogger’ friend who until the start of the week was someone I admired for her work. I planned to be with her two days. Due to a change in plans, those two days rolled into five!! And I came away with a friend. No prefix or suffix to that. We talked early in the mornings over chai and then late into the night over some more chai. I enjoyed the company of her children, and was completely bowled over by her home. You can see images here and here.

There was so much to see, touch and savour. She shared ‘her’ Mumbai with me, one layered and loaded with texture and inspiration. I spent hours walking the streets and by lanes in and around Kala Ghoda. We were not looking at stores but at streets and architecture. We wondered into the David Sassoon Library and enjoyed the tiles on the floor and the old wooden furniture that had layers of history etched in every grain. The Esplanade Mansion was beautiful, made entirely in cast iron and transported from Britain and assembled here. It is old, dilapidated and almost falling down in parts. But it is alive with people and activity. And cats!!

I went into the Sabyasachi store in Fort- not for the clothes, beautiful as they are- but to see the texture of the walls, the old memorabilia collected and displayed every where. Chandan and I met Vineeta for coffee at this wonderful coffee place on the sea side at Bandra. These two ladies are part of my ‘Effortless Friendship‘ series that I have blogged about before. You can read about that here and here.

I did the mundane and bought Kolapuri chappals from a street vendor in Colaba and then had the chance to photograph the reflection of the same in an old mirror in Chor Bazaar. Chor Bazaar was mind boggling in the variety it offered in pure color, form and texture. I was pleasantly surprised to see goats tied up in front of every shop. I found myself smiling till Chandan tells me – “… these ones are being fattened up!”

I saw wonderful and benign looking gentleman all dressed in white.  And contrasts of so much garbage offset with the richness of hundreds of years of culture, heritage and memory in the shape of knick knacks available.

We went to the Bhau Daji Lad Museum and the patterns on the floor just blew me away. It has been recently restored and the ceiling is breathtaking.

Chandan has been photographing the patterns left behind by humanity as the city constantly changes and reinvents itself. I wanted to share with you three of my favorite images from her repertoire of work.

This trip to Mumbai gave me fresh perspective. Waking up to a glorious view of the sea will do that I guess 🙂 Every morning was almost heaven – akin to nirvana!


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Kala Ghoda 2013

Kala Ghoda
as a festival was not as awesome as I expected. Maybe it was that I had heard so much about the place, that nothing could have actually lived up to the image I had in my head. Having said that, it still was wonderful. I got to meet Neil Dantas and see his work up close and personal – a man whose graphic sense is something I have always admired. Yuti Shah Edward and Atul Edward of Udd – with a riot of color and enthusiasm. I saw work of people that was so far only visible on their Face Book pages. I missed seeing Karthik Vaidyanathan  of Varnam as I had to leave Mumbai the day he set up shop.

Some thrilled and others disappointed.

I finally got to meet Ruchi Nadkarni and her team of volunteers from World For All. ‘The Poonchh Collection‘ was available and retailed through her stall at Kala Ghoda. We raised  approx 14,000/- INR for the dogs 🙂 which is always a good thing. As you all know, 50% of the profit from the Poonchh Collection is earmarked for the welfare of stray dogs. This time the money goes to both ‘The Voice of Stray Dogs‘ right here in Bangalore and to ‘The World for All‘ in Mumbai.

I leave you with some images of the installations at Kala Ghoda 2013.



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Poonchh goes to Mumbai

The Poonchh Collection‘ 2013 will be in Mumbai for five days. From 2nd to the 6th you can find us at the ‘World for All‘ stall at the Kala Ghoda festival. There will be a whole lot of products to choose from-

Tote bags– in cotton canvas and colour bloc ones in canvas and flex.

iPad and MacBook cases, Phone cases and the much in demand key/phone pouches.

And as always 50% of the profit will be going to the dogs!! Come on over and make the doggies and me happy.



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Champagne and Canapes

Absolutely hectic day!
I almost missed my ride to the airport in Bangalore. Then the flight was late, the pick up cab at Mumbai airport was late. Every red light decided to take personal interest and greet me. For extended periods of time, I might add!
I almost did not make it to the event on time. I slid in sideways. Leaving skid marks on the red carpet.

But oh! it was so worth it. A red carpet sprinkled with keys…

On 18th of Jan, Sussanne Roshan hosted a lovely afternoon of champagne and canapes in Mumbai. The soiree was an opportunity for a few select taste makers to touch and feel the products sold on her virtual lifestyle store called The Home Label as well as to officially launch their blog.  It is rare to find products that look exquisite in photographs also feel so in reality. But that is just what every piece felt like. I met some interesting people. The party was in full swing with editors of some very famous A- List magazines, life style bloggers and moi ( humble artist :-)) attending.

First image is of Sussanne and me. The second certainly fits me well!!


The Home label does things with a stylish twist, a certain flair that one does not normally find in an India based E- commerce venture. I love that the site is not flooded with a gazillion things in a ‘me too’ approach. As an Information Architect in my previous working life, I can understand and appreciate the added advantage a deep understanding of your own content and business brings to the table. And Suzanne and her team have it in droves.  They certainly have the quality and the product in place. But they have more. They know their target audience very well and cater to that exclusive niche.

These two images are taken from the collections showcased at The Home Label website.


Each piece is displayed in a setting which allows the user to see options on how it can be incorporated into their own environment. The fact that we can see the same classiness, stylish and understated elegance of ‘The Charcoal Project’ come through-without the cost, means accessibility to those who could only dream of it thus far.

These are the Take away treats from the soiree- Delicate little cups of joy that show elegance, simplicity and fecundity.

Between a warm conversation with Sussanne , champagne, chocolate cake pops and a wonderful tea cake… I had a great time. Till of course I had to get back to reality and start the journey back home to Bangalore.
* Update* – You can see a video diary from that evening here.

I loved the keys hanging as a center piece. I got four back with me. One is on my key ring and the other three for special friends.  The key is part of The Home Label logo.
My cup of joy had red flowers. AND I carried back two slices of the cake and two cake pops for my little babies at home.


It was like Mumbai did not want me to leave. The traffic was relentless. The red lights embracing me at every turn and the flight … you guessed it- was late. I stopped en route to the airport  and picked up vada pav for a dear friend who would have lynched me had I forgotten them!  And I lost my favorite ring at the airport. This while texting my man back home while waiting in line surrounded by a mass of humanity, all equally anxious to get to where ever they were going.  Having got out of home at 8:30 am, I got back only at 2:00 am. Barring the two and a half hours at the champagne soiree, the rest was spent traveling!!

By the time I got back home I was exhausted. But I was smiling. Thank you Sussanne Roshan and Preeta Sukhtankar. I look forward to my association with you. Did I mention I was also carrying two huge cartons of Poonchh merchandize to Mumbai. Coordinating pickup and collection of the same in the midst of everything else!!

Why the Poonchh stuff in Mumbai?… wait for it and I will tell you soon 😉

Update – Here is a video of that day. What you don’t see in this clip is my gigantic glass of sinful margarita  just off camera!!

P.s- There is one other site I can think of that does the stylish E-commerce bit really well- also India based. Since this post is about The Home Label, I will not mention them here 🙂 Though I have already written about them!

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The Hindu – Dec 2012

First up- Happy New Year everyone!! I hope this year brings you joy and happiness.

2012 flew by. Too fast. Too much happened… A lot of love and growth and a lot of learning. Between Poonchh and doing really large canvases, I realized my kitsch work had taken a back seat. It was a discussion on unusual coffee tables for an interview that got me thinking on some quirky lines again. But more on that later.

For now-  Thank you Oishee Talwar for a wonderfully written article In The Hindu 21 Dec 2012. It was great chatting with you 🙂

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I made the cover!!

Literally. I actually did make/paint this cover 🙂

The Good Homes December 2012 issue celebrates everything that is art!

To commemorate this special issue they asked three artists –  Nilofer Suleman, Viveek Sharma  and me 🙂 to paint what a ‘Good Home’ meant to each one of us. I am really thrilled to be in the company of such accomplished artists.  And it’s a coup of sorts- this  is the  first magazine in the décor category to have 3 different covers for a single issue.

The story-

I got a call a few weeks ago from Meenakshi Shankar of Good Homes Magazine asking me if I would be interested in painting their Dec issue cover. The answer was yes. Obviously. The problem was in figuring out what would go on the cover.

So over an absolutely delicious cup of South Indian Filter Coffee in Meenakshi’s home, we discussed options. Yes! the coffee was a bribe because the deadline was ridiculously  tight. I could go into metaphors of how tight, but that would be digressing!!

Next we started brain storming and she asked me questions. On what I liked/loved in a home. What I would do in mine if I had carte blanche. But somehow everything I described was a feeling- warmth, friendliness, intensity, renewal, love… And everything else I liked was too disparate to fit into one flat 2D image- clean lines, colour, quirky corners, text/type… or so I thought.

To say I was running clueless and on the verge of panicky would be a very mild version of what was actually happening. Would be more appropriate to say I had gigantic aeroplanes with multiple propellers in the tummy AND stampeding rhinos in the head!!

Then Meenakshi brought calm and perspective. She asked- what would your favourite corner in the studio look like?
She gave me a pen and paper and said draw. I did.  I doodled actually. I had my cover. This was it.

I went home that night, researched on interiors, then worked details and faired it out. Showed it to her first thing the next morning and got approval.  I was still in my pyjamas and she was dressed to the nines on her way to a shoot.  I then sent it to the higher ups ( read as Ronita – The  Editor) for approval.

*Insert Drum roll here*
I got it.  After that was panic of a different kind- deadlines! It was head down and painting furiously. This piece went through a few iterations but I love the end result. It’s all me in there.

Tell me, you like?

I will do another post with pictures and the story from the actual magazine when the issue hits the stand on Dec 1st. These cover pictures were sent to me by the Good Homes Team.

And here are the covers painted by Nilofer and Viveek 🙂



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Pai and Pi

This commission is a birthday gift for my dear friend Roopa Pai‘s father-in- law. She asked me to paint his old school lunch box  with images that define him.  I wish I had thought to take a before picture. Completely slipped my mind 🙁
He is a man of many talents and this box tries to capture a few. The box is quite small. Just about 10″x 12″ and about 2.5″ in depth.

Roopa was very clear on the colour palette she wanted me to stick to. The imagery had to be simple, almost illustrative and not loud or kitschy.


The top depicts his love of flying– hence the paper plane and his microlight complete with red wing. He is also a hobbyist carpenter who has executed quite a few major home furniture projects all by himself – including an octagonal dining table with a Lazy Susan in the middle. That is shown on one side of the box.


He is also an amature wine-maker. He essentially makes wine from Bangalore Blue grapes, but has also experimented with mango and a couple of other fruits. The wine bottle depicted reads ‘Painot Noir‘. His name is B R Pai, that’s why the many takes on the word Pai.
It was always his dream to own a farm. Now he owns one (minus the cow he has always wanted), but grows toor dal and mangoes and peanuts on it. The peanut butter jar label reads ‘Painutty‘.  The cow is shown in a thought bubble since he is still dreaming about owning one.


And recently he is completely involved in the rebuild of his old home, even obsessed by it. He calls the project Kalashree NG – Kalashree is the name of the old house (after Raag Kalashree). Since there is no actual house to paint, I painted a sign pointing forwards towards the new house. The sign reads Kalashree NG, where NG stands for Next Generation. And in there is also the mathematical value of Pi.
OH! and he owns a wonderful labrador called Leo. That is why the man and a Labrador in silhouette…
(Roopa and her husband Arun are the force behind Bangalore Walks)
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