Karishma, Kafka, Kalam-Kali and Kella

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Karishma, Kafka, Kalam-Kali and Kella

She has fought the demons of depression, fountain pen in hand, and destroyed every one of them, her inky creativity, debilitating them all. This intense, often painfully numbing battle was waged, at a time when we were all locked indoors, helpless, as an unknown adversary gnashed and growled outside, often sapping the very urge to live, leave alone to fight back.

Her commercial label, one built painstakingly as a sustainable and inclusive fashion line, had gone into a limbo; her husband a musician of rare talent and a bundle of creativity, employed high up in an advertising agency, was having his first tired brushes with work-from-home ennui and the personal loss that had devastated them both, seemed to take an all-encompassing form – a kind of darkness that feeds on everything, hope included.


It seemed like a nightmare – a bottomless black hole, that was intent on sucking her in, one against whose all-pervasive mechanisations, she was powerless. The period was unbelievably testing and she remembers in snatches. Her husband giving her his most treasured possessions – his fountain pens – to sketch, to while away the time. Her bland, lifeless, almost callous doodles filling the pages with silent screams.

Then miraculously, the screams had become muted. No, not because the scabs had formed on her wounds; not because time had healed her gashes, leaving her scars behind; but because the life that had left her had reincarnated, manifesting as a miracle in her sketches. Her portraits began to jump up from the confines of her notebooks. Her sketches began to hold the gazes of the beholders. Her work transcended, from the ordinary to conversation pieces. For someone with no formal training in art, for someone using the fountain pen and ink to express her urges, for someone who had not seriously sketched even six months earlier, how else can one describe the metamorphosis, Kafkaesque undertones notwithstanding, but as a miracle?


Karishma had posted her sketches in the social media. A mad fountainpen lover, who was then obsessed with rebranding the near defunct Sulekha brand of inks, contacted her, impressed by her work. Will she be kind enough to sketch the portrait of Sahid Khudiram Bose to help get Sulekha back into the reckoning? Karishma had agreed, refusing payment and doing the piece as her tribute to those who had given their all for us (her maternal grandfather the Late Satyaranjan Sen, was a Gandhian freedom fighter and an active participant the Swadeshi Movement, she too is a staunch proponent of “swadeshi” products). The “Swadhin” range of inks was launched and the rest, like they say, is history.

Karishma is now a well-known name in the circuit, a toast in fact, among the cognoscenti. Her portraits fly off the walls faster than they can be framed, mounted and hung. Commissions fly thick and fast and celebrities seem to have taken a special liking for Karishma’s stark, yet poignant pen and ink sketches.


Her series on characters immortalised by Satyajit Ray has been another raging hit. The actor who had played Ruku (Captain Spark) in the Ray film was so impressed by her work that he not only sought Karishma out to share his appreciation, but also presented her with a script, handwritten by the great Ray himself, which was given to the actors as part of the filming process.

Captain Spark meets Ruku

“I am truly awed by how Satyajit Ray and his masterful creations are so deeply embedded in our collective consciousness and still has the power to bring people together” says Karishma, explaining the reason behind her fascination with Ray’s work and her decision to interpret his different nuances, his seemingly endless facets, with her sketches. “The series is also a homage to my late father-in-law, Partha Roy, and to our endless addas over literature, films and of course, Ray”, whose sudden demise had created the void that had, paradoxically, led Karishma to pick up the pen.

The series has been featured and warmly received by The Telegraph in Kolkata and by the Mid-Day in Mumbai, amongst many others, which has only strengthened Karishma’s resolve to continue her inner journey, fountain pen firmly in hand. She is currently involved full time, giving the final touches to her maiden exhibition.

Like Ray, Karishma too has found her Parash Pathor!

Kariepotter and Dolinman

You can follow Karishma in Instagram: @Potteraits 


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