The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Follower of lines and curves
Asit Mondal

He illustrates books, teaches toddlers art and draws in his spare time. Asit Mondal’s passion is painting, but his hobby encompasses sketching, etching, pen-and-ink and pencil drawing and even computer graphics. The 51-year-old has been pursuing his love of art for over 30 years, ever since he discovered, while doodling in class as a schoolboy, that he had a real aptitude for it.

“The teachers used to take my drawings away, but that never stopped me,” he smiles benignly. With his mother providing all the support and encouragement Mondal needed, his destiny was decided since college. Apart from the personal projects, each of which takes him about three or four months to complete, working from afternoon till sometimes 3 am, the art teacher also accepts assignments that appeal to him.

Like providing 60 images, in Indian, Greek and Egyptian style, for a Writers’ Workshop (a literary magazine) special edition on the Mahabharata, caricatures of characters like Albert Einstein for a book on limericks and a series of children’s drawing and colouring books based on computer art, on the request of the Sishu Sahitya Samsad. “In fact, I have written a manuscript of the English alphabet, with a set of 26 pictures, which author Leela Majumdar liked so much that she has written an introduction for the book. Hopefully, I will be able to publish it soon.”

The pride and joy of the graduate of Indian Art College is a collection of autographed drawings of famous personalities in the field of Indian classical dance and music, from Ustad Vilayat Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar to Pandit Birju Maharaj. “I love Rabindrasangeet and classical music, a legacy from my father. So, every time I go for a performance, I do a live sketch,” Mondal explains. In fact, his younger son is learning the sitar from Amina Khan, daughter of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

His latest exhibition was a series on Tagore’s Chandalika, which he took beyond the borders of Bengal, to Bangladesh. “Satyajit Ray, in 1979, had visited one of my exhibitions. He had written about it, describing my work as ‘unique and original’ and ‘very pleasing’. That was the one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.”

But it’s working with children that provides the real satisfaction for the man who has his works on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art. Twenty-five years of teaching art to kindergarten students at Julien Day School, and he still gets kicks out of their laughter and tricks in class. He also used to work with the Children’s Little Theatre, but is now trying to concentrate on his work.

“I don’t need any returns, and neither do I bother with what critics have to say about my work. My only judge is God,” Mondal sums up.

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