books · communication · design · designing for children · play and learn · storytelling

Fun Books

I cannot imagine my childhood without books. I was fortunate enough to have been surrounded by a wide variety, ranging from classics to comics, from illustrated children’s books to thick books with text in english and hindi.

But this post is not about my books, this one is about books for Amaila, my niece.

I want to ensure that my niece does not miss out on the experience of books, later its her own choice.

I often visit this bookshop at Nehru Place, Delhi, which sells some gems as second-hand books.

Some of these books are very interesting and engaging,hence I decided to share some pictures of those books.

Here goes the first one:

Poke-A-Dot book
Poke-A-Dot book

See those dots? You could poke them and count as you do that!

Count as you Poke: photograph: poornimasardana
Count as you Poke: photograph: poornimasardana

The touch and sound feedback is just brilliant and also addictive. Reminded me of bubble wraps but these are much sturdier and provide endless poking. Once you poke from one side, turn the page, and poke it back from the other side! It is an exciting incentive for children to begin to turn pages, which are thick enough to turn with ease.

Turn the Page to Poke: photograph: poornimasardana
Turn the Page to Poke: photograph: poornimasardana

My niece, who is an year old, got so excited when she used it for the first time that she decided to sit on those and check if that created the sound as well.

Poke-A-Poke: photograph:poornimasardana
Poke-A-Poke: photograph:poornimasardana

She does not get bored of it and the wear and tear shows how much it is used daily. It has been good fun for her. My mother has come up with an interesting story to narrate as she turns the pages.

In case you are looking for something to help your child engage with counting, this could be an interesting buy.

Also, more than one person can poke at a time, it becomes a sort of game, but warning, my nieces almost fought in the competition to poke more than the other.

Here is a link:

academia · communication · critical theory · critique · design · society

acknowledging bias

At times my indulgence in critique surprises me. So does my self assumed endeavour in understanding and being aware of things around me.

Why do I want to necessarily find a meaning in what I am seeing, why do I want to connect it with a way of thinking?
Why do I need to have this urge to theorize daily life? Why can’t I just be lazy or indifferent about different things?

As I sat in the auto-rickshaw and noticed “Columbia” embroidered on the driver’s jacket, I had the urge to talk to him, to find out his origin, his story, his aspirations. Had I done that, and shared it with some co-thinkers we might have had a discussion on trickle down of desires.

When I see a hoarding announcing luxury apartments in the lap of nature, I give that sly smile. I click a picture or make a note as if I have had a superior understanding as compared to my fellow beings. As if the paradox in the statement is a hidden form of knowledge that only I and a few others have attained by their study and observation.

At times my egoism annoys me.I give so much importance to my thought, to how I see things, that I fear I might forget that others have their opinion too, and there really is no one simplistic way of looking at things, At times in trying to acknowledge complexity and uncovering different layers of meaning, i fear I end up imposing a personal view more than discovering what is there, earlier I used to make it complicated.

At times, when I am a part of a forum or workshop which has more people like me, it irritates me when listening to faux accents . When I watch their hands move and hear in a sing-song voice words such as “interesting”, “fascinating” and “rich”, I silently wish they would actually elaborate.I feel suffocated when in the name of participation people voice the most redundant of concerns with facial expressions signifying grave seriousness. It makes me disconnect, it makes me yearn for a more …simple way of maybe speaking? A more grounded sense of being? As much as I love reading culture around me, at times I feel my habit of raising myself to a pedestal where I can make a remark on it, makes me disconnect from reality rather than being immersed in it. This is just to acknowledge it, and keep a check lest I get too lost in the sheer pleasure of it all.

communication · india · kahaniyan · people · screens · society

Internet and my History – a part fictional account of the reality of internet space in everyday life

Remember those chatroom days?

I very clearly do, it wasn’t very long ago, we were in school and would plan when to go to a neighbourhood cyber cafe. Yes, those were special occasions, and you went with special company. My friends would often self invite themselves to my place for a party, and after tiring ourselves, we would actually walk up to the plaza and spend half an hour or so in a chatroom, often sending silly messages to each other or mocking incredulous online avatars. We would refuse to chat with anyone from our own hometown, we did not want to chat to get to know people around us, we just wanted to chat to chat!

It was the idea of actually connecting to a live human being from somewhere apparently far off, somewhere else, that fascinated most of us, you type something, and you get a reply, and the person is not even here!

At times my mother also went along, just to keep a check on what I was up to. Fitted in a small cabin in a stinking underground space, she would be grumbling constantly on the wastage of time over virtual space; on some occasions she would be narrating a mail I would type using her id, to send to her distant relatives staying abroad. She could finally keep in touch and could apparently write an email from India too!

Very soon I got tired of answering fake “asl (age, sex, location)” to random people, it was indeed redundant, I narrowed down my conversations with people I genuinely knew, who existed in my life physically as well, or almost, and thus became a daily user of Yahoo Messenger. It Was thrilling. I would set up time with my elder brother, go to a cafe just to experience chat with him.

Yahoo Messenger opened new doors for me, for I suddenly found it very easy to express through the written word. I could say things I never even would imagine doing on face. This was great, a medium to express long-held resentment, a medium to share joy, and even a medium for courtship. Of course it could not replace that which is tangible, but this too certainly was real, very much real. It affected me emotionally, it altered my time-table, it became a part of my daily lifestyle. I would keep a slot for “internet” just like one for “food”, for “sketching”.

It was crazy. It was almost like having a parallel life running online. Every day, I thought of what status I would put up on messenger, something that years later I would do with facebook, it mattered to me. I loved the fact that these conversations were being stored, you could go back, reread, laugh, feel happy or fantasize about the next bit of conversation. It was perverse too, and at times romantic. I treated that history as sacred, for some people who mattered much, who I could not meet every day otherwise, who were living far away, who did not meet physically often. In fact there were some friends, with whom this was the only mode of communication left.

I would often wait for him online, when he would return home for holidays, i would know he was about to ping me online, he would, he would be there. It gave me butterflies in the stomach, that feeling which is yet to be replaced, I do not know what term to give to it, but I still cherish that anticipation, every bit of it.

By this time I had moved on from cafe, to a second-hand pc, and finally a laptop, and every year, on his return, we would chat. Those words would keep getting stored, and stored, like precious archives of my life. We rarely met, I did not even know what he felt, still do not know, neither did I tell him why i would chat with him for so long, but I just did. When he would be about to leave, I would want to hang on to that small window of chat and hope, for as long as I could, till the time it showed him offline; At times I would still wait for a while, to ensure, he doesn’t come back without me being aware of it, and if he does, then I am there to talk more.

When we would meet in a physical space which was rare, it was great, but there’s still something very naive and innocent about those conversations, how happy, positive and carefree were those.  i was much less conscious, and was completely enamored by his wit, I would try to imagine what his house was like, what his room looks like, what kind of sounds are there around him, how would he be looking while typing these sentences. I remember, once I was laughing so much while glued onto the screen that my grandmother got really worried, I even fell off the bed while typing. It is funny how I can recall very small details of many conversations online and I keep savouring those on days as these, when I miss him much. These days, when we rarely ever talk, these days when we are both engrossed in our lives, when we have both grown up to be adults that have lost that naivety, that excitement, and have probably moved on, from that which is not understood, but only could be fondly remembered, or perhaps humbly forgotten.

Yesterday I had this sudden urge to feel that anticipation once again, in those few seconds when the messenger is “signing in”. I no more use Yahoo and have lost the habit of rereading conversations, those are limited to an online storage, intangible old letters for me. I could not remember my yahoo password, after some effort and downloading the new messenger, I was being overwhelmed with nostalgia. I suddenly recalled a friend, in Dubai, with whom I have lost complete touch in the last few years, I was eager to find those conversations, a part of my life that I had left behind somewhere. I had that strong feeling in the stomach again, I was nervous and excited.

When it did open, I realized that there is no history saved anymore. It would start afresh. I cannot look at my life through chat in retrospect…

I felt numb.

Slowly I found myself engulfed in grief. I felt a sense of deep loss, that archive had almost seemed symbolic of things that form my past, experiences I might never have again, their only proof of existence, that history from my life, that history of my growing up years, my emotions, it is gone, wiped away.

I felt terrible and slept.

This morning I reflected on my reaction, and couldn’t help but be amused at how the internet is as much a part of my life as my own memory, as photographs, as text, as our old house is, and how a loss of data online has made me feel just as tragic a sense of loss as did shifting from our old house, as did the loss of my dog, as did the loss of childhood toys. My actions on the internet, my life here, is just as much real as anywhere else, its storage serves a significant purpose in my life. In a way, this erased text, for me acts as a catalyst to move on from yesterday. I wonder, if a virtual act of erasing, actually erases what was in real?I wonder if it is so for others, I wonder if he ever even read anything again, I wish he reads this blog someday, but even if he doesn’t, I might just continue to cherish that which was inside the old Yahoo Messenger, real messages of our exchange.

books · comics · communication · design · projects · society · Uncategorized · visual culture

Comics Love- experience with the World Comics Organization

I love Comics, I think everyone should. I love the medium and wish to experiment with its form and functionality.

Having graduated from my fellowship in Science and Liberal Arts, I had some time before I started with quantified and mass acknowledged productivity –  “job”.

So I decided to volunteer with the World Comics Organization in the month of June. If you are hunting for work to silence inquisitive aunts and (very) concerned friends, I am sorry, this probably isn’t the genre for you, however, if you are wanting to experience sincere efforts at giving voice to the subaltern , this probably is a space you would appreciate.

I do not think I would do much justice at introducing World Comics for there is much depth to the organization and work, perhaps you could go through their website and engage with what they mean by Grassroots Comics and Comics Journalism.

To me what matters the most, is that they have managed to take comics to people in their everyday lives, and have enabled them to tell their own stories, in their own words and images.

Sharad Sharma, the founder, has maintained an archive of all these narratives, which I truly feel are a brilliant account of narratives ignored in prevailing media and stereotypes. Moreover, I sincerely feel that this methodology reduces a researcher’s bias and could definitely be an innovative methodology to be used in ethnographic study. In fact, in my upcoming projects, which require ethnographic study and community engagement, I intend to conduct workshops with the communities I work with, to create comics wallpapers and to create a forum for sharing stories, perspectives and history.

Some of the important points that stuck to me through my interaction with the organization:

1. It is actually great fun to work in collaboration towards a common goal. The task of creating 28 panels out of two comic books for an upcoming exhibition, involved four people, two who had created the original work, and two who re-used and redesigned panels to be exhibited. beginning with a simple layout, we quickly developed an understanding of each other’s styles and managed to pull off a harmonious set. Devendra and I have a rough style which was given that subtle finality with Sharad Sharma’s eye for details, something I am still only attempting at achieving on my own. It was brilliant to see how after the panels were designed he went through those and introduced finesse with a blurb here or a patch of color there, it was very interesting to see hsi play with text as image.

I often wonder how did they manage to run an entire foundation through only volunteers, I think the most critical aspect is to respect every person and every task, be it making Chai or photo-copying or training people in making comics. Also, to acknowledge every person’s opinion and agency, is not just humbling but also encourages healthy dialogue and willingness to co-operate.

2. At times when lots is to be done, rather than thinking too much, dive deep into it, and just keep doing bit-by-bit. I know it sounds so obvious, but generally that is exactly what we don’t do. At World Comics there is too much positivity and constant work being done, no one stops, everyone is on to something and happily so. It inspires you to just get down to the task (at least as long as you are inside the studio). I think, the fact that Sharad Sir sat on my head, and sort of politely disciplined me into coming up immediately with a simple, neat layout was a great help later. I have faced this paralysis of ideation many-a-times, it is good to have a basic vision, but then explore as you are into it.

3. It is important to understand the purpose of the exhibit, what is to be conveyed, so that the content could be aligned. It is almost a curatorial procedure, ha! you mocking us? go see the number of illustrations and text, it can be tough to choose from such a huge pool of data.  It is very important to be strict when filtering it. Everything looks great, but the idea is to only put as much is enough and appropriate to summarise the larger message in the books. Of course the audience plays an important role and has to be kept in mind while doing so. We did not have much time left for editing though, and that is a learning for next time, particularly for text, it could have been much more simplified.

4. Umm, for all my faux dislike for MAC, I think I had fun using it :). Also, have overcome an inexplicable dislike for photoshop.

5. We played with colors and I think it worked well. So the idea was to start and end with violet and have continuity in panels through the color transition. A coincidence was that green came during the panels clarifying myths on Islam, so then we managed to place RSS based panels in oranges which though was stereotypical we still greedily delved in it in order to assist the audience in relating to the context better. It was interesting how these colors could break the monotony  and assist movement of eye, while the layout and transition kept a uniformity. The titles were kept in contrast with the background, while the bubbles of successive panels had colors belonging to the family of its preceding panel.

6. I think, the organization being quite democratic and liberal, I felt confident in the choices I made, and also learnt quite a lot from feedback, slight shifting of image, a little variation in the tint, adding some data in empty space, playing with layers, creating every panel as a composite whole, it was good fun to see the project complete and exhibited.

7. Great printing can be done at small press, some hidden gems in Delhi.

8. A great cartoon with black gel pen could be given various manifestations later, hence do not disregard a simple process of creation.

9. Last but not the least, to work with time limit, to keep it simple.

Some photographs of the exhibit displayed at India International Centre (IIC) Annexe, New Delhi (10-14 July, 2013):

photograph courtsey poornimasardana2

Exhibition by :World Comics India

Books by :Ram Puniyani, Sharad Sharma