#27 - Putting Things in Boxes
In the previous issue, I shared some new writing and the finale of my comic “Mogambo and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Read all three parts here -    - for the story of India’s greatest supervillain. (Apologies to non-Hindi speakers!)
In this issue, I am talking about our preparations for a big move, and my art around some other things that happened this week.
The home is in disarray. There are small, medium, and large boxes everywhere. Packing tape, scissors, plastic, and cloth bags, are strewn about the floor. Suitcases full of clothes stand against a wall in the second bedroom. Years of notebooks, sketchbooks and diaries await the final decision - should they go into boxes for the movers, or do we take them in our personal baggage? We decide that some things are irreplaceable, and that we do not trust moving companies.
We are moving from Chicago to Vancouver. It’s my 6th move since coming to the US 5 years ago. All the things that have constituted our life for 5 years are being divided into groups. There are replaceable things and irreplaceable things. There are cheap things and expensive things. There are light and heavy things. There are necessary and unnecessary things. But these separations are not neat. They overlap with each other in uncomfortable ways - the expensive with the unnecessary, the irreplaceable with the heavy.
This Marie Kondo-esque ritual is a cruel exercise. In the world I inhabit, things don’t lose value over time. Infact by the laws of wabi-sabi (first discussed here), they appreciate in value. After all, I ask, what is value? Is it the $ number printed on the label? Or is it that abstract, unquantifiable worth that I bestow upon my loyal pen-stand of many years, the contentment I derive from the comforter we have had for 3 years, or the solace offered in difficult times by the line of reference books that I sometimes don’t open for weeks at a time? Like a government job posting, they may not be useful or even necessary, but every day they dig themselves deeper into my world, and it is tougher to throw them out.
That pen-stand has been with me since before I knew how to draw. Read it again. That pen-stand has been with me since before I knew how to draw. How can I just throw it away?
Moving can be a good thing. It is like a reset button. New surroundings, new interiors, new windows. It can be cathartic. But I think I’ve done my share of leaping about. I want some space to sprawl. I want to have my street, my bar, my cafe, my neighborhood. I want to accumulate things and never let them go. I want them to gather dust in a corner for years before I remember them again. It’s a privilege not easily afforded to immigrants, but I want home.
Next week, we will fly to Vancouver, with hopes and dreams and all our irreplaceable things.
A Zoom Book Club
Despite being a voracious reader all my life, I have never been part of a book club. But through a writing circle I joined last year, I just found myself attending a virtual book club meeting over Zoom. We discussed James Clear’s Atomic Habits (in non-fiction) and Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar (in fiction). Diverse views were aired. Reticent speakers were coaxed into sharing their thoughts. Minds were broadened. Outlooks changed. I made some quick drawings without anyone finding out.
Are you reading anything interesting at the moment? I am reading Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. Share your top book recommendation with me and help me crowd-source a 2021 reading list!
How To Have A Political Discussion
Part of me thinks everyone is fighting everyone else because no one wants to sit down, shut up, and confront how awful things are, how bleak the future looks, and what a terrible shame it is to be human. We distract ourselves in endless culture wars, flinging outrage and disbelief back and forth across ever-widening chasms. There is no bridge in sight.
Follow my second Instagram channel @rajmachawalink to see my other comics work.
In 2017, I made a roughly 90 page comic for Newslaundry. #AchheDin was my first long-form comic and took me hundreds of hours to complete, over many months. It is the story of the origins and rise of the Indian right-wing, set in a fictional world borrowing from Game of Thrones:
“In the land of Bharatos, an aging patriarch sits on the Iron Kursi, but true power rests in the hands of Lady Sonya Congressi. But even as she deals with the madman Arvind Snow, who insists that “Corruption is Coming” to destroy this ancient land, an enemy rises in the West. Naren Modi, the Khal of Gujrat, marches with an unstoppable bhakt-army to overthrow the Congressis and usher in a new/old age of Achhe Din.”
The comic was put behind a paywall soon after release. But now it seems that has changed and you can read over half of the comic for free. Check it out!
Art of Solid Defense
India played the 3rd Test against Australia this week at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Battered with multiple injuries and missing our mighty captain, we faced an intimidating Aussie bowling attack to snatch a valiant draw from the jaws of defeat. For a match that ended without a ‘winner’, it was one of the most thrilling I’ve seen. If great sport is a metaphor for life, this match was a lesson in refusing to capitulate, and the power of single-minded determination in the face of incredible odds.
I made some art while watching proceedings on Day 2. Unbeknownst to me, both Pujara and Vihari would play a significant role soon on Days 4 and 5.
I also put together a short time-lapse of the drawing process. Watch it below:
More next week from a new part of the world. Thanks for reading!