7 QUESTIONS WITH DESIGNER SNIGDHA RAO
WORDS BY JUHI PANDE
We caught up with Snigdha Rao, partner and designer at Bombay Design house, and asked her about her project #100DaysOfStrangerThings – a 100-day experiment where you choose your favourite hobby/pastime and repeat it for 100 days. In Snigdha’s case, it was sketches and limericks, which she kickstarted on Instagram a few weeks ago.
TCS: Tell me a little about this project and why you started it.
SR: I've always enjoyed observing and sketching people, and I've always enjoyed wry rhymes. This is a bit of a mash-up between the two. Let's admit it, everyone's a bit strange anyway, so I don't always need to try that hard.
I had heard of [#the100days] project on Instagram back in 2015, and as enthused as I was with it, never really got around to being diligent. Cut to 2017, coming in the wake of a monumentally horrid 2016, when the project re-appeared on my feed and I decided to take the plunge. The motivation was a lot higher this time around. Between adulting, running a design firm – which more or less involves constant fire-fighting and creative ways to politely decline ridiculous feedback – I was a tad sapped. This cried out to me like a Pina Colada on a secluded beach holiday when you've been jostling in the Virar local. I leapt at it! More than anything, this project was to give the rusty skills a bit of a shakedown and just get my hands dirty, literally.
TCS: What do you draw inspiration for these sketches from?
SR: I've been sketching people from around me – on the road, in the park, spotted at a traffic signal. Most days you'll find me walking extra slowly, eyes peeled greedily looking around. The days when it gets hot and I'm lazy I look to the wonderful world wide web, that mine house of oddities. It has not failed me yet. And then there are days when I cook up some nonsense. I have "help" editing my poems from my in-house critics. Some friends have also sent pictures!
Drawing has become time dedicated to pure, unadulterated selfish joy! In those few hours, everything else takes a backseat. There are days when I've woken up earlier than usual so I could sketch!
TCS: What happens after 100 days?
SR: Erm...did I mention I'm 14 days off? My genuine attempt is to finish this in 100 days! Right now, that's the only goal. Hopefully by then this practice will become more integrated into my life, and I can get off my lazy ass and start on the bunch of other projects which have been in the wings!
Oh and get better at the damn limericks. As has been pointed out by the linguist purists in my circles, my rhymes are not always in the anapaest form. Just you wait, I'll be ti ti tumming my ass off by 100!
There was a young lady who drew
But words she had just a few
So she called on her aunt
Who unfortunately said I can't
My spellings are sadly askew.
TCS: Can you pick a favourite?
SR: One is tough. I like The Lady From Next Door, 004/100. Almost every morning, for the last three years, I've seen her from my window, tending to her plants as I sip my coffee, thinking I'd love to draw her!
I also like the 029/100, which is something I just cooked up. No deep insights, I just really enjoyed drawing that.
TCS: Tell me a little more about what you are up to these days. What’s Bombay Design House all about?
SR: Bombay Design House is the now semi-grown baby I have been co-parenting with my forever partner-in-crime, Ritu. After years of finishing each other’s food, sentences and ideas we knew we wanted to work together. We call it house, but it’s home. We all claim to be storytellers; we are striving to live up to that descriptor.
Right now is a fairly exciting as well as challenging time at the House. There has been a lot of soul searching and gear shifting to narrow our area of focus (the 100-day project is a part manifestation of that; Ritu has been at it too!).
So currently there is a lot of idea-jamming, post-it scribbling, tabulation of schedules on numbers (we hate Excel!) and explorations on self-initiated new projects in between all the client-work.
Q: Name 3 artists (living or dead) who you would invite for dinner. What would you cook?
SR: Admission 1: These numerical questions always send my brain in a tizzy!
Admission 2: I hate cooking! (Unless it’s Sunday breakfast)
Admission 3: I don’t follow a lot of Art.
But, post that preamble, my three would be:
Sagmeister, even though he is technically a designer, because this video!
Van Gogh (minus the bleeding ear), just to give him company and to tell him he didn’t die for nothing! (Levity aside, to keep going in the face of abject rejection takes a different level of dedication, and I really admire that. He portrayed darkness so brilliantly.)
And the third is an illustrator/designer, Jean Jullien, just so that we can make some fun work.
As for cooking, does ordering in count?
Q: Tell me why you like Mumbai. Is there a secret about the city you’d be willing to share?
SR: Mumbai is my love affair from my youth, a relationship I’m hanging onto even though I seem to have outgrown it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great city and I love most things about it (except the bleeding real estate; that hurts), I just find my love for cities in general, waning.
Mumbai’s very open secret is the sea. From that smelly crowded patch we call Chowpatty to the concrete paved promenades, it is the sea which gives this city its lease of life. Take that away and I think the city will collapse on itself.