Friday, March 24

#LockdownCreativity: Author Amit Chaudhuri collaborates with Gariahat sign maker

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Author Amit Chaudhuri, who has been in Kolkata since the lockdown started, has collaborated with a Gariahat sign maker, Soumya Chakraborty, and his daughter, Piu, to make some innovative sign boards. He calls these road signs. What makes these special is that the sign boards have lines from poet Philip Larkin’s observations made in his interviews. Amit has replaced the usual road sign phrases such as, ‘Haste makes waste’, ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ etc with those from Larkin and others.

“I had originally made 17 such signs as part of an exhibition that took place in Harrington Street in 2018 and in London in 2019. There are three parts to the exhibition, called The Sweet Shop Owners of Calcutta and Other Ideas. In the first part, I collected photographs of Kolkata’s sweet shop owners of the 19th or early 20th century. I am always amused by the mystery that they all look similar to the great men of Bengal of that time. So, it was open to people at the exhibition to confront the mystery. The second was Unusable Gifts. I collected all my gifts that I never used. I once told my wife about a sensor lamp we were gifted, ‘This we will never use. I will send it to an exhibition’. The third element was the road signs, which I got specially made with a line in my head or ones from literature or philosophy,” the author shared.

There was supposed to be another exhibition at Oxford this April, which got deferred due to the pandemic. And it is during the lockdown in India that the author thought of adding two more to the list of his creative sign boards. “They are vinyl on steel, created to my specifications by Soumya Chakraborty, a sign maker from Gariahat Market. The graphics that precede the signs are done by his daughter Piu after we discussed spacing and the size of the letters. In the midst of the lockdown, I suddenly had this idea to add to the number of such signs. This pandemic made me remember Larkin’s lines: ‘Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth’ and ‘I see life more as an affair of solitude diversified by company than as an affair of company diversified by solitude’,” he said.

Soumya and his daughter, Piu, have been working with the author since long. It is a different experience for them to make these specially-ordered signs than what they are usually assigned to do. “I used to work according to his approvals. It’s a different kind of work, modern in nature than writing a sign board and good work. There was a lot of cutting and pasting involved. I quite enjoyed the change,” Soumya said.

Piu, who did the graphics, is of a similar opinion too. “He had lines in both English and Bengali done and crafted for the signs. We have known him for a long time now and working with him has been good so far,” she said.


Source: Times of India

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