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Kalki Koechlin Busting Myths About Pregnancy and Parenthood

Parenthood is a challenging process, no matter who you are. Ask actress Kalki Koechlin! 
In her graphic narrative The Elephant in the Womb, Kalki records the physical, mental, and emotional reckonings that she and her partner had to face, before and after childbirth. While archiving these raw feelings, she manages to bust a lot of myths surrounding pregnancy. Below are some of the many myths that the author dismantles while experiencing childbirth for the first time. 
 

Elephant in the Womb front cover
The Elephant in the Womb||Kalki Koechlin

Myth 1: Miscarriages should not be talked about

Kalki starts her memoir right off the bat with a crucial point: miscarriage is not a matter of shame. It can feel tragic, can trigger grief and depression, but the guilt and shame are aggravated by treating miscarriage itself like a myth. 1 in 4 pregnancies experience a miscarriage, and most women experience this in the first trimester itself. Because most people hush it up and bring up other superstitions like the evil eye, the psychological effects of miscarriage are often felt by the mother, all by herself.    

 

Myth 2: Pregnant women should restrict their movements  

It doesn’t take long for people to change their behaviour around pregnant women, and The Elephant in the Womb describes this in fun, illustrative anecdotes. Once Kalki got pregnant, people around her began treating her like a porcelain doll, ready to break. When in fact, she wanted nothing more than to still hang out with friends and socialize! This myth is harmful especially because pregnant women need exercise in preparation for childbirth. 

 

Myth 3: ‘Standard Procedure’ should be followed  

The medical routines and processes which most expecting mothers are told are ‘standard procedure’, are sometimes myth. With the help of other mothers’ anecdotes, Kalki quickly realizes that she gets to decide how her body should be treated during her pregnancy. From discovering that anomaly scans are not mandatory to choosing both a doula as well as a gynaecologist for advice, Kalki establishes boundaries early on in her pregnancy. Most pregnant women let go of the authority of this process, often falling victim to unnecessary invasive procedures, not knowing that they are most likely to know what is best for their body.  

 

Myth 4: Maternal instinct 

Haven’t we all grown up hearing ‘mommy knows best’? Every mother has experienced being a mother for the first time, which means that making mistakes, looking out for support, having more people involved with the care of the baby is not an option but crucial for the mother’s physical and mental wellness. With postpartum depression being a real issue, it is unfair that women are expected to magically know and take care of all the affairs of the home after such a life-changing event.  

 

The Elephant in the Womb is a unique graphic memoir that creatively expresses the hopes and anxieties of a modern mother in an ever-changing world.  

Reflections of loss and grief

Pinky is a recluse who rarely leaves the suburbs. When her husband, Pasha, goes missing and everyone assumes the worst, she sets off to find him. In her search, she encounters a dream-like landscape: the ancient interior of the city she was born in, the bright farms and fields of Pasha’s childhood and the dark wilderness of the mountains, where she must finally confront her fears.

Here we highlight 7 quotes from the book where she experiences emotions such as loss and grief.

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‘I told him you had disappeared soon after he last saw you. He said, ‘I’m sorry for you,’ and looked sadder still. I said I was searching for you because everyone else except your mother thought you were dead.’

‘Alone again in the car I saw a vision of you with the blood pouring out, black as oil, I could see the stars in it. Your body sinking into the blacksand but for a finger or knee or shoulder. The blood was then blue then purple then red as the sun went up.’

‘When I opened my eyes the stars were gone.

Front cover of Still Life
Still Life || Anoushka Khan

We were no longer ghosts under an ancient sky but humans with a beginning and an end, clothed in our machine-spun fabrics and so pale in the white light from the city below.’

‘There is dignity in death’, my father said. ‘Even decay is beautiful.’

‘You weren’t sitting there smiling and smoking. There was no one inside.’

‘I stopped in the middle of the bridge and looked carefully at the sharp rocks far down, hoping not to see you but wanting not to miss you.’

‘Then I sucked my breath in and ran screaming into the shadowy thing and it exploded around us. Inside it were pieces of light and dark that flew out, so many of them that they were all I could see.’

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Still Life is an experiment with visual storytelling, using pictures and words to create a world that is both unsettling and extraordinary.

Inspiration for your next Illustrative and Writing Project

Still Life, by Anoushka Khan is an experiment with visual storytelling, using pictures and words to create a world that is both unsettling and extraordinary. Part road trip, part existential thriller ,it seeks new ways to look at love, isolation, memory and loss, asking what connects us to each other and to the natural world, and how we are governed by impulse we barely understand.

Today we have a chat with the Anoushka to understand how she worked on this masterpiece, and her inputs!

Front Cover Still Life
Still Life || Anoushka Khan

When did the idea for this book first come to you?

I was doing the washing up a few years ago and I suddenly thought, I’ll do a novel with paintings! I’d seen that paintings with words scrawled on had the power to move me, as did children’s picture books, and I wanted to recreate that simplicity and intensity.

What is your writer-(and illustrative) routine? 

I’m lucky enough to have a home office; I shut the door, look at the artwork I’ve already made as a run-up, and then dive in. I only really get snatched hours here and there.

Was there a different element or zone you had to bring yourself to whenever you’d get down to work on this book?

The only way I can work is with my headphones on playing music—it shines a mental spotlight on the work and makes everything else disappear. I feel like music made this book, it’s far and away the biggest influence on my work.

What was the most challenging, and was the most rewarding experience of this project?

The most challenging aspect was probably my relative ineptitude with technology; I don’t know how many hours I spent trying to figure out how to lasso images in Photoshop or compress PDFs or whatnot. The most rewarding? A couple of people I know nearly cried when they read the book. I was so happy that it made a mark.  

What is one thing you would, and one thing you wouldn’t recommend to anyone wanting to work on a book?

Enjoy getting lost in the process, rather than looking to the horizon. Try not to compare your work to others.

How difficult was it to illustrate such dark and complex emotions?

It’s really useful to be able to deploy words as well as images to convey mood or tone, and in some ways you can use one to balance out the other. And you can make it cinematic: focus on the character’s feet or a bowl of fruit while a particularly disturbing train of thought or difficult conversation is taking place. There is a darkness that permeates the book, but it’s from melancholy and mystery rather than bleakness—I think that would be much more difficult to sustain.

 

Romance, Revolution, and Reclamation: Chandni Chowk through Chhotu’s Eyes

The year is 1947. Alongside the impending departure of the British, Partition also looms large. It is here that we meet Chhotu, a student-cum-cook specializing in paranthas in the famed gullies of Chandni Chowk. The area is a crucial setting for our hero’s coming-of-age story.

A visually engaging graphic novel by Varud Gupta and Ayushi Rastogi, Chhotu invites you to explore the lanes of Chandni Chowk like never before.

We give you a glimpse of your favourite gully in Delhi through Chhotu’s eyes.

 

Welcome to ‘‘Bapu’s Paranthas’! 

Tucked within the famous ‘gali paranthe wali’ of 1947, Bapu’s Paranthas (since 1938) has the most famous aloo ka paranthas, thanks to Chhotu’s culinary talent.

As Bapu puts it: ‘There’s nothing like a parantha to soothe your soul.’

Step into the Back Lanes for Extra Aloo

In a strange turn of events one day, all of Chandni Chowk runs out of potatoes; neither the local vendors nor any of the wholesale sellers seem to have any. Chhotu then finds his way into the back lanes, where Chumpak and Chameli are the only people who have aloo and have set up a gol gappa stall running a special offer with extra helping of potatoes.

The reader realizes soon that the two have something shady going on with the aloos, which Chhotu gets a sniff of.

Chhotu’s Favourite Place 

Our hero is smitten by the new girl in his class, Heer. As he (finally) works up the nerve to strike a conversation with her – by impressing her with his aloo paranthas, of course – he begins showing her around Chandni Chowk.

Chhotu eventually takes her to his favourite spot in Chandni Chowk – the cinema!

As it often does, the cinema becomes a spot for budding romance and conversation between Chhotu and Heer. As Lionel and Hathi plays on the screen, the two talk about their feelings, anxieties, and deepest fears – becoming closer in the process.

No Longer Home: ‘Chandni Chowk isn’t the place it used to be’ 

As India finally wakes up to its freedom (and Partition), Chhotu and his friends reflect on how things are and will be changing in their country.

Chandni Chowk is home for Chhotu, his best friend Pandey, and Heer. Their anxieties reflect a larger de-stability of the country during the time of the Partition.

Site of Revolution: The Teetar Gang of Chandni Chowk 

When Chhotu is thrown into jail on false charges of theft of potatoes, he befriends his cellmate Bandhu. Bandhu. Bandhu is part of a revolutionary gang called the Teetar Gang, who express dissent over the cost of freedom and fight against the communal divides taking over newly-independent India in the wake of Partition.

Hidden behind door number 1992, Kinari Bazaar in Chandni Chowk, the Chhotu joins the gang in an effort to make his home safe again.


‘No matter how hard it seems, you have to stand back up, we have to keep trying, not for yourself, but for others, for chandni chowk, and for India’, his best friend Pandey tells him.

In Chhotu, Chandni Chowk becomes a site of all the sentiments that defined the Partition period; loss of home, revolution, dissent, and reclamation.

5 Heartwarming Instances from Artist Namboodiri’s Life

Black, white, lines, colours: Namboodiri has mastery over all of them. He can create sculptures in stone, wood and cement. He is the proprietor of multifaceted accomplishments. This work proves to us that he has the power to transform words that —devoid of pomp or adornment—into beautiful writing.

This piece lists 5 heartwarming instances from the artist’s life.

Attu was an extremely intelligent man…..However, he was always interested in helping people. It was he who took me to Veembur to study Sanskrit.”

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In the days when I used to visit Varikkasserry, I used to make figures out of clay—but not to show them to anyone, I never did. One day, Poonthottam Namboodiri, the artist, found out about them and congratulated me: ‘Your efforts aren’t bad at all!’”

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Whenever he visited Varikkasserry, he would speak to me about what he was doing and I would listen attentively. A year went by in this way. One day, Kavu Namboodiri said to me: ‘Come with me to Madras, you can stay with me.’….. The next I knew, I had a letter from him. ‘You have to come here, Karuvadu.’ It was a turning point in my life.”

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I used to call K.C.S. ‘Master’. I began to meet him quite often….One day, Master said to me: ‘Vassevan, attend the painting class as well.’ And so a rare opportunity came my way: to be able to paint with the fi nal-year students in the advanced course in painting.”

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Time went by and one day, I heard a piece of news that saddened me deeply. That Master had a cancer of the stomach. …When we arrived at the hospital, Master, his wife and his son were just coming out after he had been examined.‘So, Vassevan?’ he asked….I had nothing to say. My face fell, I knew I was going to break down. I had to accept the situation. Master patted my shoulder and said, ‘It doesn’t matter. It had to happen sometime, Vassevan.’ I cannot think of anyone who faced death so fearlessly.”


In Sketches, Namboodiri has sketched certain people and events that linger in his memory. They are not in chronological order. Nor is this an autobiography that follows a given arrangement. These are glimpses that touched an artist’s heart and because of this, its composition is unique.

Behind the Scenes of ‘Vyasa’: From the Sketchbook of Illustrator Sankha Banerjee

Vyasa by Sibaji Bandopadhyay, is a stunning rendition of the beginning of the Mahabharata, the first of a trilogy that sets the stage for the grand battle of Kurukshetra.
Breathing life into the story is illustrator Sankha Banerjee, whose stunning artwork almost gives a cinematic edge to a story that has been retold through generations.
Here’s taking a peek into the sketchbook of Sankha Banejee, the magician at work.
The Epilogue
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The servant girl who loved Vyasa
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‘City of elephants’ — Hastinapura
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Bhishma
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Sauti is a dancer story-teller
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Another one from the sketchbook
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Stunning, don’t you think? Don’t wait to grab your copy now!
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