I spent my early childhood years looking at things and learning their names on my imagier du Père Castor, a classic picture book that is still published though I gather it has been updated in its more recent versions. Looking at the pictures in my imagier, you’d be forgiven to assume I was born in the 1930s… And that may be the reason why I love it so much — because it evokes a France I have not known personally but feel somehow very attached to.
My imagier was the starting point for a collective project I am particularly fond of: Minette‘s very own picture book in French and Tamil, to which all of her parents and grandparents have contributed. I commissioned the work but it is fair to say it would not have existed without my father’s drawing skills. Grand-Père has drawn all his life and has a solid body of work to show for it. His medium of choice is plain black Bic pen on paper in a spectrum of pebble shades. His drawings – I am showing a few below – feature lonesome people, burly monsters, curious buildings, and bare landscapes. It seems to me that they are all connected, like multiple windows into the same strange, to me strangely familiar, world.
We made Minette’s picture book when she was two. Grand-Père did most of the drawing. Appa came to his rescue with models for typically Indian subjects, such as a Hindu temple or an ox cart, impressing Grand-Père with his own drawing skills. Grand-Mère participated in the editing and covered the book. I wrote the names of pictured things in French. Thatha and Aachi wrote the names in Tamil and Thatha added some more drawings. Even Minette contributed her toddler’s doodles, as I had done in my imagier. It makes me happy to think that she will have this precious little book to make her smile and remember that her family crafted it together for her.