As part of our requirements for the upcoming Art Box by Khushboo Bharti, our mentor artist from Jaipur, we had to get hold of some visual charts. We were thinking big sized charts from which tiny tots learn the alphabets and fruits, but we wanted to find something handier. We recalled smaller visual charts back from our school days. These were theme based (like Indian dresses, Indian religions, fruits, flowers, insects and so on) that we were asked to cut and paste in our notebooks as homework. It was a ridiculous exercise and it seemed to be pointless apart from promoting the sales of printers. Still, it was better to carefully cut these charts than solve a math problem.
For these visual charts, we were directed to select stationery stores in Dharavi that specialise in their sales. We went to a little shop off 60 Ft Road which has things specially dedicated to the whims of schoolchildren – from candied tamarind to these visual charts.
We, in our late 20s and early 30s, realised that things have changed. The new visual charts are more clipart inspired or composed of digital photos downloaded from the internet. The charts from our childhood had hand-drawn vibrant pictures on cheap paper that would tear if you didn’t pay attention. The new charts are thoughtfully made with stickers.
We found an old one with first aid measures printed on it and it featured incidents like cutting oneself with a blade while sharpening a pencil. I believe we didn’t have sharpeners then. And then we spotted a new version of digital drawings of the same chart. Digital perhaps but it still showed you the dangers of sharpening a pencil!
We were tripping on nostalgia and lamenting to each other with the cliché of a fast changing world. We were sure the participants, mostly college goers and young mothers of school going children, would empathise with us, but we were mistaken. They loved these new charts, with photographs and digital art, glossy and with stickers, with American children on them! Well, talk about the generation gap!