A set of multi-coloured birds sit among fig shaped leaves on the branches of a green tree. But the birds are holding on to masks that read ‘social distancing’. This Gond art illustration by Manjulika Pramod features in chapter one of her new book Kaleidoscope of Cheer and Hope (Srijan Digital Collections), a piece of non-fiction that revolves around the pandemic. “I made this on March 16, day one of lock down,” says Manjulika, a telecom engineer-turned travel blogger. “I picked up my art book to distract myself. I chose the indigenous Gond art of Madhya Pradesh to showcase my emotion around the new word ‘social distancing’ that has entered our lives.”
The 96-page book released on Kindle presents 50 illustrations; a short note or a diary entry accompanies each. One of her drawings is inspired by Banksy’s work ‘Girl with Balloon’, where she introduces a globe inside the red balloon to show the curtail on travel.
“Last year alone, I had travelled to 16 countries. Then, all of a sudden, I was cooped up in a work-related temporary abode in Vijayawada along with my husband. I turned to art as a coping mechanism.As I had just colour pencils and pens with me, I made all my illustrations using those.”
Since March, she has made more than 100 drawings to keep a record of life during the unprecedented times. “I picked the best 50 for the book. When I posted on social media, it resonated with everyone, my family and friends, and it helped us stay positive.”
Some of her illustrations also trended on Twitter, like the one that shows a doctor sipping his coffee as his family watches him from a distance. Her pandemic roller coaster drawing that alerts people to ‘don’t let your guard off’ during unlock was picked up by UNICEF, and has been featured on its youth page.
She adds, “I wanted to cheer up people and that is why I chose yellows, greens, reds, and oranges to make bright and colourful illustrations. Everyone who has lived through the last six months will relate to the book.”
In one of the illustrations, Manjulika uses warli art to express ‘janata curfew’. She creates a vibrant tribal village with warli figurines singing, doing chores and dancing merrily outdoors on a normal day, and choosing to stay indoors during the curfew. A free style illustration of healthy thaali has a platter of sanitisers and masks but there is an empty spot that awaits the vaccine. Some of the drawings appreciate personal banter, like a conversation with her husband about Dalgona coffee. “The point is to make the most of the moment and enjoy it.”
There are also drawings on the rice ATMs of Vietnam, jews praying with social distancing norms, and the Bhurj Khalifa of Dubai that lit up during the pandemic with the words ‘stay home’ in 11 languages. Says Manjulika,“Art helped me give a different perspective to the pandemic. It gave me a ray of hope.”
The book is available on Kindle and Google Playstore.