Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Remembering Bindia Thapar

We are deeply saddened by the news of Bindia Thapar’s passing away on 18 April. She has a very special place in our hearts for she was with Tulika from the start of its publishing journey, Ka Se Kapde Kaise, the Hindi alphabet book brilliantly conceived and created by her, was one of the very first books we published, and reprinted several times on popular demand.

Bindia’s artwork stood out for the meticulous care she took to render each picture. Her sense of space and eye for design was natural, and reflected itself in every book she worked on. Ka Se Kapde Kaise? has an instinctive joyousness, with letters hiding playfully within the pictures. Fine dots, swirls, lines and patterns create striking black and white visuals in different moods for One World.
But the one where she goes straight to the heart is Malu Bhalu, written by her friend Kamla Bhasin, with whom she often collaborated. Her soft pencil and watercolour illustrations capture the warmth of the bond between a brave little polar bear and her mother, with a lightness of touch and an uncontrived sweetness – the two qualities that really characterise her art and approach, and Bindia herself.

She leaves with us a legacy that will endure and charm young readers for years to come.  

Rachna Dhir, an old friend of Bindia’s, and Tulika’s committed 'Bangalore ambassador' writes in...

The first Indian book that was gifted to my daughter soon after her birth, was Malu Bhalu, in early 1999. The giver, Ania, also gave her a baby quilt made with her purple silk sari, and both of those became prized possessions of my daughter's childhood. She was obviously too young to understand Kamala Bhasin's beautiful feminist prose but loved Ania's sister Bindia's simple illustrations. And that was how I first got to know about Bindia Thapar.

As my daughter grew, I firmly decided not to read traditional Western fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella to her. Thanks to Malu Bhalu, I learnt that Indian books were now available for young children and I literally asked the Tulika team to adopt me as their Bangalore ambassador.  

Over the coming years, I would communicate with Bindia over email and phone ever so often. She would always be excited about new projects. So many times, I would show my children (I had a son, a few years later) her illustrations – and they would continue to be mesmerised.

An all-time favourite in my household was, of course, Ka se kapde kaise?, Bindia’s unique Hindi alphabet book with witty, quirky, simple-yet-meaningful drawings. 

Many a time, I actually felt that not all authors could do justice to her illustrations as she took the art to such amazing heights! Bindia illustrated so many short stories for so many publishers that I can’t list all here. For those who have not seen it, I urge you to please see the doublespread of The Magic Rain Drop by Katha and notice that no two faces have the same expression!

Puffin's Curiosity Killed the Cat and Other Animal Idioms was a book that only Bindia could have thought of. A drawing and a saying per page – delightful concept, amazing execution. Most recently, Justice Leila Seth wrote about the Preamble to the Constitution for her grandchildren and the book all of us got as a result was We, the Children of India, illustrated by Bindia, published again by Puffin. Her wordless illustrated mats are used by schools all over the country as aids for vocabulary building as well as role play. She illustrated many booklets for JagorI and Sahmat too.

A single mother, diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment, finding and losing love in life – she went through so much, always with hope and a smile. Then, as therapy, about five years ago, she discovered embroidery. She encouraged Mala of Bangalore to register ‘A Hundred Hands’ as an NGO. Bindu, as she was known by friends and family, called to tell me about this idea, and I happily jumped on the bandwagon as a supporter. The last time I met Bindu was at the AHH bazaar, a little over two years ago. The posters designed by her, with much love, is a favourite of many Bangaloreans. 

We are saddened that Bindia is no more with us. It is not easy to write a farewell for someone who was so full of life, bursting with enthusiasm, even while in physical pain. She worked with a diverse set of authors and publishers, and touched many lives through her books. Bindia not only inspired and mentored illustrators but also boldly fought, with dignity, plagiarism in the field. A trained architect who taught the subject for many years before she turned illustrator, she brought professionalism to the still evolving genre of children's illustration in India.

The light of her life, her granddaughter, turned two recently. At this time, our thoughts are with her family who were blessed to have such a loving, caring, giving, talented daughter, sister, mother and grandmother. As for her friends, all I can say is, Bindia, we shall miss you. Our lives were made richer through our interactions and conversations with you. You will continue to spread joy in the lives of children for years to come through the books made immortal by your work.

See more of Bindia's work on Facebook and Pinterest

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