Two new titles by Pratham Books introduces children to the city's delicious fish and fine docks, and one of its oldest art galleries
Bombay Ducks, Bombay Docks pays homage to the Koli community that has shaped the city
Last October, in an interview with mid-day, an octogenarian couldn't get the image of philanthropist Bapsy Sabavala sitting on a "majestic" chair by the entrance of her home out of his head. The Malabar Hill bungalow doesn't exist anymore. And although Sabavala made quite an impression, it is difficult to imagine how. Mumbai-based Illustrator Kripa B faced the same challenge when she began working on The Art Gallery on Princess Street, a book written by Jerry Pinto, that not-for-profit children's book publisher Pratham Books put out recently. There were no pictures on the Internet and so she thoroughly browsed through the books Pinto handed to her and found one black and white image of the house.
The house in the book, though, is not monochromatic; it's a burst of golden-brown, teal blue and olive green with hints of crimson — that "majestic" palette. What's also surprising is the fact that you do not expect a title that aptly signifies the beginnings of Gallery Chemould, the city's first commissioning art gallery, to begin with an eccentric Bapsy Sabavala. It's where Pinto's journalistic approach — of questioning how it all began — comes into play. Turns out, it was Bapsy who struck the match between gallerists Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy, and eventually a gallery was born.
Pinto says, "I think we should introduce children to art galleries because they should learn to respect the possibilities of art. Because one day, art will save their lives. It will enrich their souls. It will deepen their life experiences. It will make them more themselves..."
Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy
The book is an ode to the spirit of the city of dreams. And it is not the only one from the same illustrator and publishing house. Bombay Ducks, Bombay Docks is another new title illustrated by Kripa and authored by historian Dr Fleur D'souza, introducing kids to the beloved fish, the docks and the Koli community.
"History books generally focus on those in power and power struggles. Here, the story is woven around ordinary people and their memories, triumphs and past," she shares. The illustration process for both books with differing colour palettes is as fascinating as the content. "I would sip on tea at Chemould and sketch. And so, there's a layer of tea in my work. For D'souza's book, I visited Uttan and sketched by the beach. As the waves hit paper, I saw how the salty water left a beautiful effect."
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