The joy of discovery

The joy of discoveryViswaprasad Raju
Highlights

A sketchpad, a pen and watercolours. And of course, loads of creativity. This is Viswaprasad Raju's way of recording his unique experience of places he visits and the people he encounters.

A sketchpad, a pen and watercolours. And of course, loads of creativity. This is Viswaprasad Raju's way of recording his unique experience of places he visits and the people he encounters.

Well, not just people but birds and animals too. Raju loves visiting wildlife sanctuaries. He introduces himself to readers as "a fan of Wimbledon, Galle, Fine Stationery, and national parks of central India".

And now all this has resulted in a book, the self-published 'Via Pen & Ink---A Collection of Travel Sketches by Viswaprasad Raju'. Hyderabad-based Raju is an advertising professional and a travel sketch artist.

He is the co-founder and director of 'Doo Creative' and has previously worked with leading advertising agencies such as RK Swamy, BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, among others. His travel sketches have been widely published in magazines and newspapers.

Raju's debut book is about his two passions---travel and sketching, both of which combine and converge in a delightful record of places and people, a travel chronicle made with illustrations. In fact, sketches and portraits were the major means through which records of places and people were made, before photography took over.

In these days when travel has become a great deal about boast posts on social media and FOMO; of notching up bigger and bigger numbers of countries visited; of rushing through packed guided tours; and countless, breathless clicks with a camera; it is indeed refreshing to see someone like Raju who delights in slow travel and pauses to observe and savour a place and sit down to sketch his interpretations.

The book covers 10 countries---India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, UAE, Singapore, Thailand, Switzerland, South Africa, UK and Mauritius. The book is aesthetically designed and easy on the eye with mercifully, no clutter at all.

How did he develop his two interests---travel and sketching? Regarding travel, he says: "The fascination for travel was piqued by a cabinet of books that I got from my relatives who moved to Australia, one of the books - Martin Rattler by RM Ballantyne-made a huge impact, transporting me to the jungles of Brazil.

My love for travel literature started very young. Before the Internet era, information was hard to come by. In school, we had this close group who used to write to embassies stating that we would like to visit their respective countries and ask them to share brochures. To our surprise, we used to get brochures and collected them. I still have a few from Austria, Norway and Russia."

He believes that today's information overload, especially as fuelled by TV, the Internet, social media and travel writers/bloggers has "taken away the joy of discovery. My father, who was in the army, was posted in Jhansi and used to hear stories of tigers and charming rail journeys, which stayed with me. In fact, the National Parks of central India are my favourite getaways, which I frequent with my friend, Ravi Naidu, well-known wildlife photographer."

Raju says he didn't travel much as a youngster, barring the odd trip to his hometown but his profession, advertising, changed everything giving him many opportunities to explore locations for work. He adds: "I got to visit plenty of destinations, from Hampi to Pondicherry, Cape Town to London, Switzerland to Thailand, and many places in between. And most of my travels, outside of family, have been with TV Prasad, MD and Creative Head of Doo Creative."

As for sketching, he is entirely a self-taught artiste and driven by his love of the art. "I used to admire the works of Mario Miranda and Satyajit Ray as an illustrator. My notebooks at school were a work of lazy doodles and frantic scribbles, which continued all along. Only on a weekend trip to Tadoba, a tiger reserve in Maharashtra, in 2007, it all came together, my journey into proper travel sketching.

I started posting the sketches on the Internet and found a community of urban sketchers and like-minded people. All along, I used to write travel features too, but somewhere I thought, travel stories with sketches would make them interesting. Before the era of photography, sketches was how travel was documented and their journals were full of sketch notes.

I recently read a book called 'Slow Travel To Switzerland' which traces the journey taken by a Victorian lady, led by the first ever conducted tour by Thomas Cook, a good 150 years ago, who documented her travels through sketches. Interestingly, today, I see a surge in travel sketching, as people want a digital detox and find calm in capturing things through pen and ink."

His book Via Pen & Ink, as he points out, does not contain a single photograph, it is entirely about illustrations. Even his profile picture is an illustration, and deliberately so, he explains. "The idea is that this sets the tone, and words are far and few in between.

There's no plot, no twist in the end, no characters, just a record of things. It allows the reader to travel along with me and absorb the places in an unhurried manner. Though the Web is omnipresent and dynamic, the book is for real and for keeps. In advertising too, the classic print vs Web media is the most-discussed subject."

Now that he is done with this book, Raju has other dreams. He wants to work on a film screenplay and hold an exhibition of his sketches. He has made a promise to himself. "In all, I will never let the ink dry and never keep the sketchbooks empty." And oh, of course, he wants to travel more and more---sketchpad firmly tucked into his suitcase.

By Aruna Chandaraju

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