Mission Delhi – Aditya Raj, CR Park
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Such a vivid series of cumulous clouds. There’s also a man with a moth perched on his mouth.
To a visitor at Aditya Raj’s studio in south Delhi’s CR Park, these acrylics on canvas might bear little resemblance to the real world. The 3 pm sky outside is dull blue and without clouds. The primary view from this fourth floor terrace is in fact of the neighbour’s pani ki tankis.
But right now, Mr Raj, 30, is sketching something straightforwardly relatable—the Majnu Ka Tila gateway in the north of the city. It is a part of his October project in which he is drawing one Delhi landmark per day, which he later shares on his instagram handle @adirajart. He first sighted the gateway many years back while driving along the Ring Road—“It stood out with its distinct design, and with the words ‘Tibetan Refugee Camp’… I’d no idea such a place existed in Delhi.” Mr Raj had then newly arrived from hometown Jaipur to join a law college in Delhi. He finished his graduation in 2016 and promptly became a full-time artist. These ongoing October compilations, he points out, mostly consists of places in the capital with which he finds a personal connect. Like the one on Delite Cinema he did last week. “My partner loves films, he’s a great fan of (late) Sridevi and some years back we went to Delite to see the pre-release screening of what turned out to be her last movie (Mom).”
It takes two-three hours for Mr Raj to rustle out each October drawing—which comprises sketching and colouring. Some of the other city places he plans to recreate include the Alka hotel in Connaught Place, the German Bakery in Paharganj (it’s now a 24/7 convenience store!), the graffiti lane in Sarojini Nagar, Little Saigon restsurant in Hauz Khas Market, and Sudama tea stall in Delhi University.
Meanwhile, a short walk away from his studio, an overgrown creeper on the roadside has clambered up to partially cover a signboard that details a local doctor’s consulting hours. The CR Park-based artist must consider this semi-wild spectacle, too, for his October chore.
[This is the 439th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
His October homework
Trying to sleep at night on a charpoy on the roof of my friend in Sundar Nagar, listening to the nocturnal sounds of the zoo, as if I were in the middle of all the animals. The humid grey low flying clouds of the hot summer were like lumbering elephants looking down on me.
I thought about the silent widow, my friend’s mother, drifting around her perfectly clean home in ghostly white, lost in her own world.
My friend, who I met when he was studying Engineering at USC in Southern California when I was in high school, had returned to India and, so tired of Bollywood’s frenzies in the 1960’s, decided to make a real Hollywood movie.
Thus, he produced Gandhi, with Ben Kingsley & Sir John Gielgud. I saw it long after I’d worked on a Gandhi ashram farm in Bihar with 120 children under the age of 12, teaching beekeeping, and introducing them to yeasted bread for the first time in their lives.
I feel like there should be a new movie made about Gandhi & his ashrams & life once a year. In perpetuity. The heartbeat of India.
I had weird dream in the 1990’s that I’d returned to Delhi, Connaught Circle and told a young traveling companion to go into the hotel and bargain while I waited in the cab. Way too long gone, those funky days….the hotel outside looked the same as in 1969, but inside looked like something from Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I woke up depressed.
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