Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Children in India are conversation starters; sometimes they are like the barbecued meat that makes its way through wine chalices and awkward talks at family gatherings. “Show them how to dance”, “Sing the song you were singing yesterday”, “How does dada laugh?” and so on. Come on, they aren't clowns and certainly it’s not their responsibility to start a conversation.


I recollect so many such instances as a kid when I was asked to dance, sing and imitate someone, I enjoyed it all because I loved the reactions I would get. It would be even more special when someone would ask me to do it over and over again. But as I grew older I realized, I was made to do uncanny things just so that some conversations would start at an otherwise boring gathering.

We take conversations very seriously. Sometimes we have got nothing to speak or ask at all but we still do because we are obliged to. And mostly we forget that conversations are natural, they are stubborn feelings which take time to evolve. They aren't time gap fillers or deep fried munchies cackling in a quiet room.

In my country, conversations are usually a step ahead of rocket science. Some people like to keep it exceptionally intellectual and some try to keep it humorous with plain tongue-in-cheek comments. That’s not conversation.

Conversations are best undiscovered. They are best to be kept silent. To have a conversation, you need to look into the eyes and create it. If not, it’s noise; unwanted and chaotic.

Sometimes conversations are loud yet meaningful, they have something that bring people together. The best ones start with no intention or inhibitions; they are free like the sky and blotted like the clouds. The most beautiful ones are simple, warm and quiet. The most humorous are full of wit and smiles; irrespective of your geographical existence.

Some are rigid and curt, like an unstoppable rain on a summer afternoon. Some are like mossy grass creeping on weathered window panes and others like a cup of lukewarm tea on the coldest evenings.

~What starts this blend of words and breath; is a simple ‘hello’. It’s not really rocket science~

Sometimes it may bring back a memory you buried along the way and sometimes it might leave you with yourself;
that’s all that a conversation does.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

An illustrated dream: Gaurav Ogale for Kyoorius

It's beautiful how Kyoorius, India's most carefully curated Design Magazine and website has been chronicling my journey for the last six odd years. Here is my piece in their 'Opinion' column on my most recent escaped to Morocco. This piece is more about the design aspect. I am sharing some more pictures specially for all of you.


“I tell stories.”
“No but what do you do?”
“Yes, I tell stories for a living”
I was grinning as I glanced out of the aircraft window and saw a place that I had only seen on Discovery Channel. Its aromatic cuisine and bustling streets were all going to be right in front of me in a few minutes. Flying through those three continents, from one country to another, that academic degree from a design school seemed even more trivial now. There I was, standing with a box of colours in a strange country, to showcase my work and translate anecdotes into visual journals; no different from what I had made at 9 years of age with coy brush strokes hardly visible on canvas.
Art was introduced to me by my grandfather, and a very special teacher who came home and painted with me. My mother had introduced me to cooking when I was very young. You might wonder how these two things are even remotely connected. It was incredible how my parents nurtured my art and love for cooking.

In India, art and design residencies are still finding their feet and are often caught between commerce and infrastructure, however they are quite common in the West. All sorts of people participate, immerse themselves in the spaces and collaborate with each other, in turn making these ideal networking opportunities. For me, it was a way to identify my calling.
I was invited for a month long residency at The Ultra Laboratory in Casablanca, for artists and independent art spaces focused on research and experimentation. Rita Alaoui, a contemporary artist and bookmaker, founded this residency a few years ago. Rita had patiently gone through my project proposal when I wrote to them to take part in the residency and we instantly connected when I spoke of Indian cuisine. There was one more connection between us, which we figured out much later – a love for making books. Through the residency, I got to experience many other things which were far more interesting than illustration. Sharing some of my mom’s and grandmother’s secret recipes in the workshops which I conducted not only helped me earn a livelihood in Morocco during my stay there, but also became a conversation starter. It overcame language barriers and spices became my language.

While I was there, I was also constantly translating what I saw, heard and felt onto my little hand-bound books. I was intrigued by walls, textures, windows, architecture; Morocco opened up a world to me. Most of the illustrations I made here revolved around architecture, landscapes and the organised chaos in this surreal land. I worked on making three journals, filled with watercolors and words, two of which were minuscule and handcrafted. I was able to save up some funds from the meals I hosted and that helped me travel further to my next stops – Marrakech and Rabat.

In Marrakech, I took part in another residency and exchanged one of my works for a weeklong stay in a beautiful quaint Riad (a quintessential Moroccan home). On the evening of the show, I was thrilled to see people from all walks of life exploring my books and to find that they did not need my help to interpret them. They came from a very different culture, and it would seem as though we had nothing in common and yet we had so much. 

Ideally, after graduating from design school I would have probably headed straight to an agency and maybe created only as much but it would have left me feeling empty somehow. Working independently does have a down-side but on the whole, it opens you to an ocean of possibilities and collaborations to look forward to. I have been traveling alone since I was 16 years old and illustration has helped me find the balance between travel and work. Just goes to show that if you are in sync with all your senses and are open to all sorts of conversations, you can create your own opportunities and gain some mesmerising experiences in return. 

Who would have thought that something as simple as love for cooking could bring to life a different kind of dream for an illustrator like me.

Gaurav Ogale is an independent visual chronicler and writer from India. His hand bound visual journals document anecdotes, nostalgic conversations, recipes and thoughts that he travels with. His works have been featured in several publications like The NatGeo Traveller magazine, The Dharamsala Film Festival’14, Posterama Singapore, Mint and Kyoorius to name a few.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

~ Cobwebbed conversations

I have an organic connection with books; its pages, its secrets and dreams. I can spend hours staring at books, not that I would read them; just stare. The way the threads hold them together and sometimes hold onto them; it makes me instantly have a conversation with its presence.

My grandfather has been gifting me books since I was little. Books on speeches, legends, drawings, birds, trees, science, architecture; just everything that makes this world what it is. As time passed by, I  flipped through them once in a while. Read a few words here and there and forgot about them. What I never forgot was his audacious signature at the beginning and end of the books. Those dog eared edges grew older over the years. The inks would leave an introvert smell and the corners of the page would fall apart.

I still held onto those books. They were more than books for me; they were my grandfather’s thoughts, his smell.


I crept into its silent fold;
What lay beneath
Was a cobweb.
I unfolded the intricate lines,
And stitched in my own.
I stared at it for hours,
And made stories of my own.
My stitched stories,
With no meanings and 


The roots of my love for making books grew from those years of my childhood, it keeps me connected with myself.

What I love about these books is the age old print techniques; it makes you get lost in the visuals. It holds on to you until you want it to and leaves you with startling imagery. 

This one is titled South-est Asia and is written by Stanley Karnow published by TIME Inc.

I like this newly developed relationship with old books at home, stitching a new meaning into them and letting the words flow in whenever they want. I like how they let me make meaning out of them.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mural from the silent valley~

I am coming back to this space after the longest gap of time. It feels like returning home after a long whimsical travel; and the last few months have been something of that sort.

Before I get started on everything I wish to share, let me tell you a story that I have been wanting to share since winter last year.


I was once again back to the cozy hills in the north of India. The wind was familiar; precarious. I was there after almost a year but nothing had really changed. That’s the thing about mountains in any part of the world. The look audacious from a distance but as you come get closer, they have their wrinkles, their tales.

Winter was at it’s all time high and I was not quite prepared for the adamant weather. I had my little journals with me and I would draw all the conversations and cuisines but this time there was something larger, vaster waiting for me. It was a beautiful wall standing right in front of the snow-clad peaks waiting for me to translate my thoughts onto it’s textured self.

The story was simple; it was about people from different pockets of the globe coming back to Mcleodganj from time to time, making their temporary home there. Pink House, which is probably the most popular amongst travelers and explorers wanted me to make their wall speak with their guests.


For the last few years I have mostly worked on small journals, minuscule papers and coy canvases. But this time it was something large; the weather was not favorable too and I was quite skeptical if the strokes would be the same.

© Rahul Mansur

It took me back to the time I had spent with my teacher. He would often ask me to not get conscious of the surface I was drawing on. He would get me buckets of water and thick extrovert brushes to let my mind flow on the papers. He would make me draw a lot; and he would draw along. I was happy I had followed what he had told me once, “No matter what, draw every day. Make the strokes and lines a part of your system and then no size or surface will ever matter.”

I began drawing on the first day of work and my mind was initially distracted by the height I was standing on. I have terrible vertigo but it seemed to have lost somewhere in the drawings. As I made the first few strokes, I felt the connect with the wall. It had started opening up to me. It was nervous and cold too.

Sometimes the involvement in the medium and surface is the most difficult to achieve. It’s not really about drawing. It is just a part of it. But the real challenge is to let yourself loose and surrender yourself to your piece. If you hesitate, it will too.

© Rahul Mansur

© Rahul Mansur

I would once in a while stare at the snow-clad peaks peeping out and be mesmerized looking at the shades of the sky. Nature has it’s own acrobats, they are surreal and they sort of illustrate what you are going through emotionally. Right behind me was a construction site. They would shout all day and sometimes keep staring at my drawing until their manager would come and shout at them. The women especially would ask me what I was drawing and once the faces started emerging on the wall they would ask me if I was illustrating them.

Acrylics & Oil, 8 X 12 FEET
Photo: © Rahul Mansur

Acrylics & Oil, 8 X 12 FEET
Photo: © Rahul Mansur

© Rahul Mansur

The people around had slowly started interacting with the wall; after all that is what we strive for. If it doesn't connect with you, it’s just another simple wall.

Acrylics & Oil, 8 X 12 FEET

Here is a beautiful time lapse video created by Rahul Mansur: