Jeet was the first artist we met in Kolkata. He has been invaluable, putting us in touch with other artists, making arrangements and suggestions, being a good friend. He is also really funny. His house is filled to the brim with books and artifacts, every corner and surface covered, much like our house in Evanston. Jeet seems obsessed with our 1945 photographs. His contribution to the project is a short film; he finished the script in a week. A few days ago, we reviewed it with a young Fulbrighter who had agreed to do the voice-over. Jeet’s father was Vasant Chowdhury, a well-known actor and a significant collector of ancient Ganesh figures who donated his sizable collection to the Indian Museum. They published a beautiful catalogue. Jeet showed us a portrait of his father—taken by Cartier-Bresson.
Naveen founded Seagull Publishing some 30 years ago. This is no ordinary publishing house! Naveen was recently honored by the Frankfort Book Fair, one of the most prestigious events of its kind. His words on words are inspirational: http://goo.gl/WiEkjv. Seagull publishes about 30 titles a year, on arts, literature, literary theory, film theory, politics, the environment and other topics. The books are works of art in and of themselves, beautifully designed and produced.
Their ‘catalogues’ as well as their books belong on everyone’s shelves. Naveen gave us four of their most recent catalogues, each one a treasure. Seagull also runs a publishing school, training writers and book designers in the art of fine book making; a first-rate gallery space that could rival anything in any major modern city; and a non-profit called “PeaceWorks” to educate young people on issues of tolerance. Last week, they hosted an exhibit and workshops on Anne Frank. I could live here.
Sunandini is the principal graphic artist and designer at Seagull. We first saw her work at Jael’s home, in the form of the remarkable Seagull catalogues, where she has done the covers and interior graphics for the majority of their publications. It’s a highly unusual arrangement for an artist to be able to work with such varied material on a daily basis. We got to met her at an opening of her book illustrations at the Seagull Gallery. Her work is multi-layered and gorgeous and often incorporates photographs with her drawings. She has agreed to be part of our Following the Box project. We can’t wait to see what she’ll come up with.
Geeta is a member of Priya’s family (Max’s girlfriend.) She has had a difficult life, filled with loss and has spent the past 40 years on a spiritual journey, evident within moments of meeting her. She exudes a wisdom and calmness, in her ease, her smile, her bearing. We had great conversations about life, kindness, coping with difficulties. She is simply a reassuring presence, without any sense of superiority or preachiness. Her command of English is excellent, which of course helps tremendously. Geeta is a memorable figure.
Baharat and Vinita Mansata
Owners of EarthCare Books, a fantastic oasis of literature and activism, with an ecological perspective. They have esoteric titles on feminism, politics and art that would be hard to find in New York, let alone Kolkata. They sponsor an organic market on Saturdays and occasional lectures and concerts. Baharat plays a mesmerizing bansuri.
EarthCare Books published Kiernan’s ‘Calcutta Full Frame,’ a marvelous collection of black and white images. We finally met up with Thomas at the bookstore. He does not do Facebook, email, or even telephone. Want to see him—you have to see him. Here he is.
When we walked in to EarthCare books, Mitul was performing an impromptu concert. He was singing a song by the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. But, then he merged it with Harrry Belafonte’s ‘Dayo,’ then it somehow became a Frank Sinatra tune. This is so Kolkata-ish. Of course, he encouraged us to sing along. And then to sing our own songs, actually, he insisted. I held off on Gilbert & Sullivan. From his email signature: A development tourist by profession, with accessories (a ‘farmhand’ as of now)- an erstwhile ‘stevedore’ … a compositor/editor, a sonnet & limerick engineer, a societal marketing person, trying to specialize in gender-based marketing (a worker as well as a consultant) the pseudo-domain ranging from micro finance to organic farming, a dabbler in folk music, ballroom and latino dancing, and now a yoga freak! Clearly, our kind of guy.
I love this.
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