PAINTING MY TRAVELS & TRAVELLING THROUGH ART

The Covid-19 led lockdown took away the pleasure I experienced from travelling the world, exploring new places and connecting with beautiful people I met during my trips. Being a travel, food and culture writer, travelling isn’t just an indispensable part of my life but something that feeds my soul. I realised that the pandemic wouldn’t allow me to board a flight for a few months at least. I needed an outlet for my travel ache. Hence, I picked up my paintbrush in order to bring alive some wonderful memories from my journeys around the globe.

I started painting some of my favourite landscapes from different parts of the world. For those few hours I spend painting every week, I am mentally transported to a beautiful destination and that simply brightens my day and uplifts my mood. 

“As I play with my paintbrush, several moving moments from my travels come flashing in front of my eyes and they truly warm my heart. The process is unbelievably magical and therapeutic”

I have always been a creative person. Earlier, I worked with oil on canvas. Also, painted chairs at home, giving them a rustic feel and transformed old cutting boards into blackboards using paint. I’d hang these mini blackboards as decor pieces in my kitchen. However, the lockdown gave me an opportunity to pick up my paintbrush again, after nine long years. I paint as and when I get some time as I like to enjoy the process and not rush into creating one painting after another. I want to be deeply and mindfully involved in my art. The medium is Pen and wash, using watercolours. I like the transparency, elegance and subtlety that watercolours offer.

When I pick a destination, I take some time to sit and ponder about that one experience, memory or encounter that will always stay with me from my trip there. And when I find my answer, I pick up my paintbrush and start bringing that memory on paper

Let me show you some of my favourite paintings

Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh

Over the years, Ladakhis have proven that a satisfying life can be lived even with minimal natural resources, extreme heat and cold, little or no rain, a crumbling mud-brick homestead and a cooperative spirit. Those who have explored this heaven on earth can never really get enough of it. It’s a place one would want to visit again and again and again. Our trip to Ladakh was full of magical experiences and one of them was the visit to the tranquil THIKSEY MONASTERY, located on the outskirts of Leh. We got there around 5:45 am when it was prayer time for the red-robed monks. We could be a part of the elaborate spiritual experience that began from the terrace. After the chanting and prayer ceremony, we were all served steaming hot butter tea with tsampa (barley powder) by little monks, giggling and running around with kettles. After all, no one returns empty stomach from Buddha’s abode. The fort-like monastery (gompa) is located at a higher altitude which means trekking up gives you an opportunity to marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of Ladakh. Gompa interiors consist of Buddhas and colourful murals. I created the above watercolour painting in memory of a serene morning spent at Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh.

Zemun, Belgrade (View from the top)

One of the most striking memories from my trip to Belgrade, Serbia is a quiet sunset stroll along the riverside in Zemun. Sitting in the very heart of Belgrade, Zemun is an old, bohemian district that was once an independent border town between the Ottoman and Austrian Empires. This district was a favourite among painters and poets. Today, it is home to several art galleries. Built on the right bank of the mighty Danube, Zemun is where several colourful boats clog up the shore, old timers saunter with dogs and kids frolick while enjoying their ice-creams. Choose to sit in silence on one of the benches and watch the world go by, feast on fresh fish at a floating restaurant playing live music or walk past remnants of the old village to reach Gardoš Tower for a panoramic view of terracotta rooftops, the Baroque St Nicholas Church, the Danube and Belgrade’s Stari Grad in the distance. Here’s my watercolour painting of Zemun.

Lavaux, Switzerland

Here’s my recent painting of the Lavaux Vineyards and the surrounding charming villages in the Montreux Riviera region of Switzerland. I visited Lavaux in 2018 but I have a very vivid and clear memory of my time spent hiking amid gorgeous vineyards. The endless stretch of green with deep blue Lake Geneva in the backdrop was an image that was stuck with me ever since my trip to Lavaux. Also, the train journey from Vevey to Lavaux had treated me with an unusual experience of travelling across the terraced vineyards while taking in the spectacular views. I wanted to experience the region again through my paintbrush and decided to paint that very scene – a Swiss train traversing through the steep, terraced vineyards. 

It was a chilly December of 2015 when I was standing in the centre of the majestic Rynek Glowny (Krakow’s medieval market square), listening to the soothing sound of church bells. It felt like I was transported to an other-worldly, enchanting setting. Kraków (a city in southern Poland city, near the border of the Czech Republic) dates back to the 7th century and the buzz of the town is best captured in the main market square that plays neighbour to the ancient Cloth Hall and has a peculiar old-fashioned, romantic aura. If I had to pick that one memorable experience in Krakow, it would be the Polish town’s astonishing musical sight that requires a bit of neck-craning. Atop the splendid Gothic Saint Mary’s Basilica, one of the world’s most bizarre trumpet solos can be heard. After the bell sounds every hour, a brass instrument unexpectedly appears from a window of the 65-metre high cathedral tower and plays a five-note melody.

Bo Kaap, Cape Town, SA

Personally, I have always been a fan of warm, earthy colours but couldn’t resist painting this pop-coloured neighbourhood of CAPE TOWN, South Africa. Bo Kaap is a belt of rainbow-bright houses at the foot of Signal Hill. Bright green, baby pink, butter yellow, lavender, fuchsia, black – you can find a facade in every possible colour here, and it instantly uplifts your mood. You can never have a dull day in Bo Kaap, literally. While you may enjoy photographing its lively one and two storey homes, dainty coffee shops and steep, cobblestone streets, this colourful area is much more than just a photo opp. Wander around on your own or take a guided tour to delve deeper into the history, culture, traditions and architecture of Bo Kaap. Don’t be surprised to hear the adhan (the Islamic call to prayer) from the minaret of one of the seven mosques in this district. The stretch has long been home to Cape Town’s Muslim community, the Cape Malays. While most of its residents now speak English instead of their distinctive version of Afrikaans, you’re still likely to be greeted with “assalaamu alaykum”.
THE HISTORY BEHIND BO KAAP’S TECHNICOLOUR HOMES
After the end of forced racial segregation under apartheid (a system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race), Bo-Kaapers managed to buy their own homes from the city council. As per the locals, painting them in bright colours became an expression of long-subdued individualism and a celebration of new-found freedom and identity. Also, since the owners had to maintain their houses on a budget, they would often pick the cheapest paint. Muslims in Bo-Kaap painted their houses in preparation for Eid, and the neighbours would come together to decide on what colour each one would use so as to avoid to a clash of shades. How interesting is that!

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