Up, above the world so high
Karadi Tale's latest release has a Mumbaikar and a Ladakhi go on a one-of-kind adventure around the city's many mountains
Adventure is often associated with distance; of travelling some place far from home or scaling heights like you're in a commercial for a carbonated soft drink. But your daily life can be adventurous, too — acts of courage can germinate in your own room, building or city. That's what author Labanya Ghosh and illustrator Pallavi Jain seem to convey in their new book The Mountains of Mumbai (Karadi Tales) that released earlier this week.
It stars two little girls Veda, a Mumbaikar and Doma, who comes from Ladakh to explore the metro. Doma clearly misses the mountains, but Veda has a surprise of her own; she suggests changing the very definition of the landmass constituting rocks and earth and popularly resembling a triangle. To know the mountains in the city that Veda is talking about, you'll have to read the book. What can be said, though, is that this is an odd 40-page story that makes you look at Mumbai in a different light — beyond the honks, the sea and the trees, or whatever is left of them.
The picture book has been in the works for two years. "I took a trip to Leh in 2016 and brought a Ladakhi doll with me, to gift it to a friend's daughter. I also thought of accompanying the souvenir with a note, where I'd write a short story — something on the lines of the doll coming to Mumbai," Ghosh says. But the Bandra girl dwelled on that story a little longer and in the following year, at a Karadi Tales workshop in Chennai, she conceived the story that made it to the book, along with a rough sketch. Ghosh, 39, asked herself a lot of questions. "When people visit Ladakh, they say, 'It's gorgeous and amazing, and Mumbai is so dirty'. I thought a lot about what has Mumbai to offer? What is that one thing that everybody wants in this city?"
This is the first time Jain, a Dahisar-based chartered accountant-turned-graphic designer, has worked on a book as an illustrator. The vibrancy of Mumbai comes alive through the 27-year-old's watercolour artwork. You spot the dabbawalas, kaali-peelis, vegetable vendors and the skyline dotted with buildings.
"There is no black in my palette. I've dedicated this book to my art teacher [Indu Parulekar] who told me that there's no use of black or white in watercolours. There are darker shades, though — for instance, to create a shadow I have used contrasting colours. I wanted this book to be bright," she says. Ghosh hopes that the book helps people reflect on the feeling of community. "If you're going to have a negative narrative, you're going to see everything negatively. But you can also change your narrative. A city is as good as the way you look at it."
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