Thursday, November 22, 2012

Illustration Friday: Zoom

art & concept by Chandana Banerjee

This week, Illustration Friday popped out the word 'Zoom' for our illustrations. 'Zoom'...hmm...where would I like to zoom to? What would I choose as my mode of 'zooming'? I'm not terribly fond of zooming. I prefer traveling at manageable speeds. Fast bikes, fast cars, rockets...well these are not for me. I'd rather bob on a river on a bamboo raft, or cycle around meandering roads or maybe, just maybe, fly along with a kite on its papery tail.

So that's when I thought that Tara could go on a journey, riding the tail of a kite. A slow, simple journey into the indigo skies, sailing along with sun-ripe clouds. Don't you wish you could do this sometime? Go far away from your routines, into a magical journey.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Norbu, the little monk

Norbu the little monk

Prayer flags at Norbulinka

Cheerful monks at McLeod Ganj
Art & concept by Chandana Banerjee

Norbu is a seven-year-old monk, who lives in a monastery in McLeod Ganj. He loves ice-cream and the colours of prayer flags. He often wiggles around during his prayer classes, finds the tourists visiting the monastery more interesting than his lessons, and loves to pose for photographs. He loves to play football with his other little monk friends, whenever he gets a chance to. And Norbu has a special secret. (We'll unfold the secret in the days to come, so stay tuned.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Queen's Kolhapuris

The Queen's Kolhapuris

Art & Story by Chandana Banerjee

Last year, I was visiting Ramgarh, a fort town in Rajasthan with crumbling forts and palaces. Right around the corner, near the Maharani's (queen) palace was a little shop, just as ancient as the palace itself. Dusty and dark with an odd mix of whimsical and quirky things, the store was any antique hunter's dream and a 'neatophile's nightmare. I spent a whole afternoon rummaging through tattered tomes, handwritten cookbooks with yellowed pages, heavy fabric that may have been resplendent at one time, utensils and what-not. Tucked into one corner was a pair of slippers. Kolhapuri-kind-of-slippers that were clearly hand-sewn. Green and dull gold with burnished brown soles, the slippers had something oddly magnetic about them. As I dusted them and slipped them on, only to find that they fit me snugly, the old, wobbly shopkeeper came out from a corner and said, "These belonged to one of the princesses' a 100 years ago."

I had to have them right away. I slipped them on, paid the shopkeeper and walked out of the shop, sauntering past the Queen's Palace. On a whim, I popped into the queen's quarters. The sun was dipping low on the horizon, bathing the carved monument in buttery yellow light. I saw a flash of red and green, the gold edge of a skirt around a pillar. I rubbed my eyes, only to hear a tinkling of anklets and wisps of laughter. Inching closer to the room, I peeped through the tinted window.

Women in rich ghagras (traditional skirts) and heavy jewellery danced, laughed and sang. Was this the palace harem, I wondered. The room was as good as new, with marble floors, velvet curtains and silk pillows. I looked on, fascinated with pages of history coming alive right before my eyes....

However, in a few minutes, the sun dipped lower, wrapping the palace in shadows. I turned to a tap on my shoulder. "Madam, what are you doing here? You can't be on the premises after sunset," informed the security person. As I got ready to leave, I took one last look inside the room. It was dark and crumbling, with no signs of the life and laughter I'd witnessed a few minutes earlier.

As I walked back to my hotel, I wondered whether it was imagination or the magic slippers that belonged to one of the royal women in that room...

Illustration Friday: Tree

The Jalebi Tree

- Art & Story by Chandana Banerjee

One day, when the sun sauntered out from the west, when the birds began talking and when leaves turned blue and red, there came a small orange cloud, stuffed with Jalebis. (Note: Jalebis are Indian sweets, shaped like circular squiggles, deep-fried and sugary sweet, and a hot favourite with many.) The cloud hovered over a field, where rabbits sunned themselves, meek little door-mice scampered around looking for treats to eat and blackbirds painted themselves with white polka dots.

The cloud wobbled around a bit, heavy with its load. "Ah! There are plenty of happy creatures to enjoy my treats," he said with satisfaction, as he surveyed the field full of mice and rabbits, and the sky abuzz with birds. So, with joy, he showered the field with crisp, squiggly, sugary sweet jalebis. It was a sight to see! Jalebis tumbled down from the sky, each a different shade of orange, each glistening with its golden syrup. Some of these jalebis got stuck on the branches of a lone tree in the field. They rocked gently on the ebony branches, as the polka-dotted blackbirds swooped down to grab their share of sweets.

Well, I was just passing by and happened to see this sugary sight. I took home a few jalebis, wrapped in my handkerchief and enjoyed the nectar-filled sweets. And if you ever chance by that field, let me know if the jalebis are still stuck on the tree or if the blackbirds have feasted on them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sunshine Girl

Art & Story by Chandana Banerjee

Tara stands under the sun, her curls reaching out towards the slivers of buttery light. She feels the warmth on her brown face, the fleeting morning sunlight on her shoulders. "It's such a happy morning," she thinks to herself, wrapping herself tightly in the gold and blue.

"Can I fill myself with this light?"
"Can I drink it like a cup of sun tea or sip some like honey?"
"What will it be like to have this soft winter light within? To have all this happiness filling your being?"

Questions like white butterflies, thoughts like sun-filled dew drops make each day so special for this little girl. 

Cupcake Magic

Art & Post by Chandana Banerjee

I love cupcakes. Yummy vanilla, chocolate and blueberry cupcakes with a tower of buttery, swirling frosting. I love tucking into them. And I'd like very much to learn how to make them. They look like little pieces of edible art. And the small bites make them not so 'calorie-fic' ;-).

In this piece of art, let me introduce you to Tanya...the local magic baker. Yes, she bakes like magic. And she puts some magic in those swirly, fluffy cupcakes of hers too. She pops them out of the oven, swirls on the icing and then sends them flying to friends, fairies and children. So hey, the next time you're craving a cupcake...don't forget to contact Tanya for a batch of her magic cupcakes.

Her contact details:

Tanya of Cupcake Magic Patisserie
Phone: ******

Quilted Dreams

Art and Story by Chandana Banerjee

Tara's tucked into her quilt, as snug as a bug in a rug.  This is a special quilt sewn with colored dreams. Dreams the color of tinted glass - green, blue and pink. Dreams with patterns of wild songs, seams of adventure, embroidered with stories.

Tara quilts her dreams together - a patchwork of stories and wide-awake nights, twilight dreams and  in-the-crack-of-time chases. 

Illustration Friday: Shy

Feeling shy...
Feeling quiet...
Feeling all smiley inside

- Water colour and pen-and-ink art by Chandana Banerjee

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Illustration Friday: Haunt

That was the summer we had the most fun. We played through the hot and sticky afternoons, the fiery Indian sun beating down at us. Our mothers did their best to keep us inside the house, so we could be safe from the heat and the tropical diseases that were doing their rounds in Rampore. (Rampore is a small cantonment town in India and my father was posted there.)

But we were a bunch of small children, who loved to play. And we would sneak out when our mothers were taking their siestas and our ayahs busy with other work. We’d play under the big mango tree at the edge of the mansion grounds. Made-up games that kept us cheerful in spite of the insufferable heat. We played till we were found and brought home for a good scolding.

But that summer was a short one for me. All of a sudden I couldn’t talk to my parents and two brothers. I could no longer live in the mansion or play with my friends. It was as if they couldn’t see me any more. All they did was cry and mope around. I waited under the mango tree, wishing that my little brothers would stop crying and come out to play with me. But they never did.

Soon, my family left the house and went England, where my granny lived.  And I was left behind.


I still visit the mango tree and our old house. The tree is larger now than it was…the house, old and crumbling, with bats living among the shambles. But now I spend a lot of time at the little cemetery in the cantonment. It’s a quaint place with old grave stones and long grass. Wild flowers cover the ground, making it look like a playing field for lost angels. I’ve got another friend to keep me company – another little girl, who died that summer. We play the same games we played that summer and wish we weren't left behind

- Angela. 

'The Spirits of the British Era - story 1' - story and art by Chandana Banerjee

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Story Postcard: The Moon's Secret

Maya stands at the edge of the clearing, in a place between evening and night, forest and ink blue skies. The handful of bright yellow stars aren't warm enough to take the chill out. They seem to move around the sky, tip-toeing around the big round, placid disk of a moon, whispering secrets and spinning reams of mist. Mist, as white and gossamer as the spirits in the forest. As Maya looks up at the moon, pale and silver like a large mother-of-pearl pendant, she catches him smiling down at her. The kind of smile that has a story behind it. "Maybe there's a secret in this forest. Maybe the story everyone whispers to each other about this forest is true," wonders Maya, suddenly feeling cold.

Art and Story by Chandana Banerjee

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happiness is like Gold

'Happiness' - artwork with water colour, pen and ink, and colour pencils on ruled paper by chandana banerjee

A balloon, as red as a shiny lollipop, climbs up a sky scattered with clouds and awash with yellow sunshine. Almost everything you need to be happy - sunshine, an orange sun, twittering birds, peace - the sky seems to have in plenty. At least that's what Maya thinks. She is happy for today. This day full of sunshine. This day in the park, amidst swaying green grass and crickets, with blue birds swooping down to say hello. Happy moments are like gold. Happy moments are like this, simple and fleeting yet sumptuous and wholesome .

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Illustration Friday: Sky

'Searching' - water colour, pencil colours and pen-and-ink illustration on ruled journal paper by Chandana Banerjee

Story Postcard - Maya's Search

The lights meld together - a mix of shooting stars and aurora borealis, dreams and questions, horizons and bits of coloured sky. Little Maya stands at the helm of the world, between wonder and journey. "What am I born for?" "What is my purpose in life?" "What is it that I want to do here?" "What do I want to be?" "How do I want to make a difference?" Questions swirl around her, whooshing in answers in the form of bolts of tinted light and twinkling stars.

There's light, there's shadow. There are blues and there are yellows. Violets meld with green. Questions fuse with answers. Love with life. Laughter with tears. The sky is a like a big jigsaw puzzle, like a show-and-tell of thoughts and stars. There are words scribbled in magician's ink, playing hide and seek with Maya. She mixes up the lights of the aurora borealis with her hands, sorting through the layers of coloured sky. She tries to hold the words, catch them with a light-catcher.But words are elusive. They are like butterflies, nimble and beautiful. They leave a trail of stories and a sprinkling of thoughts. Something for Maya to remember.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Friend, Philosopher and Dog!

Our friend, Muffin

Muffin as a puppy

Photo credit: Sandeep Banerjee

Almost three years ago we brought home a tiny, golden furry friend. We named her Muffin because we thought it was apt for the cute little goldie she was and the majestic golden retriever she would grow up to be. While I would like to say that I fell in love with her instantly, it would be a lie if I did. Well, I was no dog lover and having a furry creature toddling around the house, pooping, peeing, nipping, shedding – well, it was far from the rosy picture of owning a pet that I had in mind.

To cut a long story short, we took oodles of time to get used to each other. We tip-toed around each other, gave it time and space and went with the flow of things. As weeks turned into months, we began understanding each other. “Oh, she really doesn’t like me chewing her contact lens cases!” Muffin understood finally. “Oh, she doesn’t really mean to bite when she comes hopping towards me for a quick nip!” I understood. We understood lots of things about each other, and then some about life.

With Muffin by my side, I don’t really need to look at books or posters for inspiration and life’s teachings. She’s taught me so many things, much more than most people have. Here are five:

Don’t expend energy on things/people/situations that you don’t like. Just ignore them and find something better to focus on.

Live in the moment. Don’t mope about the past or worry about the future. Enjoy the gift of the present moment.

There’s nothing like a good jog or a long walk to clear your head.

Looking for inspiration? Just get out of the house and look around. There will always be something interesting to enjoy.

Be nice most of the time and be fierce only in situations that really demand it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Illustration Friday - Water

'Aqua' - art by Chandana Banerjee, on ruled journal paper

This is Maya and her moment at the ‘fish zoo’. She has never been to one before and is amazed by the different kinds of fish that swim by. She wishes for a small aquarium, where she can keep her own goldfish at home. Maybe, she can name each of them. Zara. Gold. Orange.  Or, maybe someday she can meet a mermaid. With a little magic and the mermaid by her side, she can dive into the depths of the sea, riding on sea horses, swimming with hoards of colourful fish. Or, maybe, she can befriend the water fairy that she’s sure lives in the brook near her home. How she’d love to live on the river bank in a little cottage made of river-smoothened pebbles, sand and ferns. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Beauty in Brown

photo credit:

I took sabbatical from my blog. To find my voice…my blogging voice. I didn’t want to write until I had something to share. Well, I don’t mean that I didn’t have anything to say all this while, but here at Cookie Jar, I wanted things to be different. The posts I write must strike a deep chord within me. The opinions, thoughts and things that I type out for Cookie Jar must inspire me. 

There are enough times when we talk for the sake of social chit-chat and I find that that drains me out. So, at Cookie Jar we’ll talk because an idea is interesting, inspiring, simple, happy, energizing. Amen J

Having said that let me share what I’ve been thinking. I’m in the midst of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I like her prose, the way she weaves out her descriptions and unfurls her story. The other thing I like about her prose is the way she chooses luscious words to celebrate the colour of the skin. ‘The lush colour of rain-drenched earth’, ‘mahogany’, ‘ebony’ – how beautifully she revels in the elegance of dark skin. In a world, where light is favoured over dark, white over shades of brown, it’s a delight to find prose, people and photographs that celebrate dusky skin tones.

Photo credit: via Pinterest

Photo credit: via Pinterest

I’m an Indian and live in a country where every citizen is some shade of brown. But unfortunately, it’s the ones with the lightest of skin tones, who are considered good looking. As if, being fair is a virtue. When we can celebrate burnished browns, we’re too busy paying homage to fairness creams and the imaginary power of light-coloured skin.

From chocolate to cappuccino, warm cocoa to caramel, rain-drenched earth to mocha, there are so many shades of delicious brown around us (what we know as 'Black' is actually a shade of rich brown). In no way are these any inferior to light brown, pink or white. There is richness in the whole set of browns, each shade burnished and beautiful. The question is when will we as people of this country, as citizens of the world accept that skin colour is as individualistic as our DNA and finger print? That skin tones are a result of how much melanin we’re born with? That God created a whole gamut of skin tones like we created a whole set of different colours to paint with? That each person is different and special in their own way? That beauty is as much about dark brown as about light brown and white?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Puppy Love

I’m in love….in love with a 5-week-old St. Bernard puppy. I went over to a friend’s house to see their latest addition and fell head over heels in love with the bundle of fur and innocence. Chubby and quiet, he was everything that a puppy is about…warmth, comfort, snuggles, naps.

Now to see me talk like this – I’ve never really been an out and out dog lover, the kind that get so comfortable with any dog. Because my hubby loves dogs and because I loved the book – ‘shadow the sheep dog’, we got a golden retriever puppy 2 years back. In the beginning, I was terrified of her sharp puppy teeth and piercing yelps, and she was scared of this adult, who was scared of her. It was a funny relationship – we tiptoed around each other, literally.

But slowly and steadily, we began to bond. It was a lot like an arranged marriage, where you learn to love the person slowly, one puppy step at a time. Today of course, Muffin (my golden girl) and I are buddies. Muffin initiated me to the world of puppies, and probably that’s why I was so comfortable with the bundle of joy I saw yesterday.

Do you plan to get a puppy? Or have you already got one? Do write in with your stories.

Photo credit: Dvijatman Kennel

Monday, April 16, 2012

Is entrepreneurship for you?

Photo credit: Work From Home Jobs

I was talking to a few friends yesterday. They are young mums armed with lofty degrees and substantial work experience. They’re smart, sincere and yearning to carve a niche out for themselves. A niche and career that they can balance while bringing up their kids and moving from one place to another (like me, they’re military wives). Since we often spend our lifetime in the boondocks and back-of-beyond places across the country, keeping ourselves on the career track can become challenging. Frequent postings, places that offer meagre work opportunities and the famous military social life, leaves us with fewer choices when it comes to work.

Having discovered the beauty of entrepreneurship (I run two businesses – Pink Elephant Writing Studio & Luscious Health), I mentioned the possibility of starting their own companies to my friends. Working from Home and starting small businesses is becoming the thing to do now. With several qualified mums out there, wanting to balance family and work, Mompreneurship is the way to go.

If, like my friends and me, you’re craving to chart your own career path, then here’s some inspiration to begin with:

Here’s  Bizzieliving, a fantastic blog to garner inspiration. It has some great interviews of women with small businesses.

Meet Rachel Anne Miller, a young designer, illustrator and mum, who runs her own creative studio.

Kate Rosenthal started the Stubby PencilStudio, where she creates and retails eco-friendly art material and stationary.

Dancing Elephant Studio was started by artist Jenny Kostecki Shaw. She works and lives with her young family in the mountains of Mexico.

Work At Home Woman - a treasury of info to get started!

p.s. While working from home is great, it isn't as easy as depicted in the photograph above ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Homemade Life

There’s one particular blog that I often bumble over to, when I’m in the mood for a slower, more hands-on life. ‘Hands-on life’? Now, isn’t life hands on, you may ask. Well, in today’s day and age, where grocery is ordered online and veggies come from cans and packets, clothes from a catalogue or store and a meal often from a takeaway or a cook, life is more about delegation than DIY.

When life is whizzing us by, jet-set on deadlines, stress and general busyness, don’t you ever wish for a calmer spot, a more warm, home-grown life and an inner contentment that no corporate career can offer? Well, I certainly do. It was this decision to slow down and soak in everything that life has to offer that’s got me going DIY and hands-on in various aspects of my life.

My meals come from my soup pot and wok, where I cook them with chutzpah and love. My clothes from the village weavers; veggies from the local haat (Indian village market) and our vegetable garden; healing from holistic ways; employment from entrepreneurship; and, entertainment from simple sources.

The endeavour is to live a green, homemade life, wherever and whenever possible. So, coming back to the blog I love bumbling over to – it’s called SouleMama and is all about her family’s life, as they go about spinning and living a warm, happy homemade life.

I find a lot of inspiration in how Amanda and her family live, and I hope you will too.

Photo credit: SouleMama - Amanda Blake Soule

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cookie Jar in the news!

The POOL interview with me :)

Woohoo....It's such a lot of fun to be on the other side of the interviewing table :) ! POOL - a national design magazine, interviewed me about this blog - Cookie Jar, my thoughts on writing, dreams and plans. It was such a pleasant change to be giving the interview, rather than taking one.

Thanks Maitreyi & POOL Team for the opportunity! And Thanks to all of my readers, for the support and for being there :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Photo credit: Jean Georges

Hey! I've been away for a long...even after all those promises. Time's been flying. Between the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Luscious Health and all the excitement of setting up a new business, there's hardly been much left to do anything else.

Ah! and then there's the thing about Very Very effective time management. I get by pretty well with my current time management skills, but am so interested in becoming a Guru at this :). Who wouldn't?

By the way, before we go over to another stream of conversation, let's catch up with Luscious Health. What's that, you may ask?

Luscious Health is my brand new Health & Nutrition Coaching company!!!!! Yayyyy....a baby business steadily making its way out of the bassinet.

Please check out the this jewel of a wellness studio, right here:

AND here's my joyful Giveaway....a FREE WELLNESS SESSION. It's an hour-long session with the focus on YOU, your health goals and your wellness mission.

So, if getting healthy, happy and fit has been on your mind this year, get in touch with me to turn your goals into a reality. 

My email:

See you there soon!

p.s. Oh...and this Free Session Offer is valid till Feb 16, 2012!!!