Monthly Feature // December 2021
Rohini Kejriwal is a writer, poet, and curator based out of Bangalore. She is always up for a good story, travel, strong coffee, and the company of plants
Rohini Kejriwal is a writer, poet, and curator based out of Bangalore. She is always up for a good story, travel, strong coffee, and the company of plants. She runs The Alipore Post, a curated newsletter and journal to promote contemporary art, poetry, photography, music, and all things intriguing. She also enjoys visual arts to express herself. She founded The Alipore Post, which has evolved from an idea to a full-fledged community. Our conversation with Rohini was insightful, filled with enlightening thoughts and learnings from her greatest experiences!
We’d like to know, how did it all start?
“The Alipore Post started at a time when I wasn't really doing the best in my life. I had moved back to Calcutta for a year and I wasn't sure about where I was going, career wise. I had quit my job as a journalist and just started freelancing, writing essays and features. I had access to a newsletter called OddityAndLight, which was created by a senior from school named Raeesa Vakil. Unfortunately, it has stopped since. But it was a newsletter that exposed me to this other world of contemporary poetry that existed outside of textbooks. I have always enjoyed writing. So poetry was a side project, and journalism the focus. I was reading Raeesa’s newsletter a lot and one day, she asked me to curate it for a week. I had so much fun doing that that I decided to start a newsletter of my own, full of my own explorations.
"Back then in my life, I was also getting curious about visual arts. I started looking at bodies of work by certain artists and sharing them with the readers. I don't think at that time I cared too much about the copyright but have since rethought that approach. I approached the artists directly or picked up art from public domain websites. But all of this was a big shift for me. I just wanted to put out what I was reading, seeing, and listening to anyone who was interested. So that started off as a very small experiment on Gmail every day. And slowly but surely, people started wanting to be part of the mailer. Initially, it was just an email that had one attachment of an artwork, super simple. As it grew, I had to keep switching platforms. I went from Gmail to TinyLetter and this year, I switch to Substack. I think The Alipore Post has had its own journey - for the first few years, it was sent out daily and then it became weekly because I had other jobs going on.”
“Chitti Exchange is another labor of love that started last year during the pandemic. When I think about the lives we have online, the more I realize that people are just inherently in need of connection. And for me, letters have been the best way to slow down and really materialize what you're feeling. It’s a way of being vulnerable in a very safe space - on the page. At least that's been my experience anyway. I have a few penpals I'm still in touch with, maybe not through letters as much but we still send out occasional gifts and cards, and there is still the pleasure of tangible memories that you get to hold on to. I wanted other people to experience that. The pen pal project started when I hired an intern named Tanishka, who was very keen on some kind of community engagement. For the first few months, we did the pen pal pairing every month but it became very hectic. Because it takes at least two to three days for each round to sit down with all the information about strangers, pair them and write to them individually. So now, the pairing is happening every three months.”
How would you go about dealing with Procrastination and Creative blocks?
“With The Alipore Post, I don't have too many like creative blocks because it's an every Monday ritual for me, I think one of the only rituals that have stuck in my life. There is just a sense of pleasure when I sit down and start working on it because it's always about that sense of discovery. I have started postponing it by a day or two if I'm just not feeling it, which I take the liberty to do sometimes. I do struggle with procrastination and also struggled with overthinking. I have a lot of good ideas, but it takes a lot of energy and time to actually manifest them. And I struggle to find that balance. But I think when there is a kind of creative block or if I'm not feeling it, I go back to reading something that I really like or just looking at artists to feel inspired. I like reading a lot about productivity and improving one’s every day, even though I don't think we need to be intensely focused on that. It's just a matter of trying to cultivate better habits.”
How would you inspire yourself to come up with new creatives, especially when creativity isn't just restricted to one kind of content?
“I’m generally a very observant person as well as someone who gets really excited by the smallest of things. It could be a new challenge or project I pick for myself or finding prompts that help along the way. I like working with a sense of purpose. I keep getting fun ideas for myself and add them to a neverending list in my Notes. So I always have that to go back to when I feel uninspired. As an artist, with my @rodoodles content, I'm always looking for beauty in the mundane, which is something I keep going back to. There has to be a sense of playfulness for me to feel inspired. So there are a few things that I like to do regularly.
I love collecting leaves and flowers and doodling on them. I like doodling over photographs and changing the context of the image. Small, super easy things like that that create more headspace for imagination and ideas to flow. Also posting the work on Instagram somehow helps me take back that accountability and own my work, even if it isn’t a masterpiece.”
What are you currently working on?
“I have quite a few personal projects in the pipeline. I'm trying to work on a children's book, which is raw and I’m still trying to build the idea. I have a character in mind, it's basically these little purple blobs called the Purpeople, who are refugees and have been displaced. The book will explore their navigation in the world in the hope of finding a home. Another personal project is a poetry collection of my own work, which I’m working on and I’m taking my time with it. I’d also like to work on an anthology of the best poems that have been published over the years on The Alipore Post Journal (www.thealiporepost.com). I hope to make that happen in 2022. I have a couple of collaborations coming up through The Alipore Post too. The one I’m most excited about is a book about 10 young Justicemakers from India, for which I’m doing art direction for the first time.”
What are some of the challenges you face as a creative?
“I think time management is the biggest struggle for me. Because I am someone who lives alone and takes on way too much work, I'm often on the borderline of being overwhelmed, which has been pointed out too many times. Juggling too many things at one time has always been an issue for me. The pandemic has made this even harder, just the freelancing aspect of it all, constantly having to work on my own and staying motivated. Thanks to my therapist, I try to schedule my day, hour-wise, otherwise, it’s really hard to keep track of my days and function. I think my main agenda for 2022 is to create a healthier work-life balance. When you start enjoying your work so much, it becomes hard to stop yourself from doing more and taking on more projects. I constantly want to be challenged. I want to have amazing conversations and create amazing products/ideas for the world. But I’ve started learning to prioritize, and have been better about boundaries and saying no! I’m able to gauge and assess where my creative energy levels are at and try to come up with a game plan to actually sustain that energy on a day-to-day basis. I try to create some kind of coherence, some compartmentalization in my brain, and constantly strive to be kinder to myself these days.”
How have you developed your own style? Was it intentional or is it something that came very organically?
“I never saw myself as an artist, but these days, I actually prefer doodles over words to express myself. My style has definitely developed organically because I don't know better and haven’t studied art. I’m still kind of resistant to learning how to draw because I feel it’ll take away something crucial in my current untaught style, even though there is always a sense of curiosity. The place of unlearning is where I thrive personally. I like to visualize the world in my own visual language. I do have a general sense of art and design from writing and curating over the years. A lot of my family members are designers themselves.
My mom designs the most beautiful clothes, and my aunt is a textile designer and visual artist. Design thinking has been inherently embedded somewhere deep in my psyche. Plus I am a visual person myself, and it's only recently that I'm glad I could recognize this fact and do more with it. I realized one of my strengths is to keep things playful and child-friendly. I'm very happy with a messy appearance versus a fine-tuned aesthetic. And I've learned to embrace it, instead of shying away from it. Because I also feel like there are way too many illustrators out there now, so it's very hard for one’s work to stand out. I recently did my first mural for a Tamil government high school in Bengaluru, and have worked on two other murals since then. So that’s been another learning curve altogether. Working on walls is super addictive, and I love the power of working in a public space and engaging with a site, with the people who work and live around, and leaving your mark.”
So how do you go about overlapping your different disciplines to create something new or if a project is given to you then, with what perspective do you look at it? Would you look at it only from an art perspective? Or is there a point where all the different mediums merge?
“I haven't taken on too much commissioned work apart from the murals. But last year, I worked on a brand’s logo design and branding in my doodle style and had to upskill myself as a designer as well. From research on type and color wheels to expanding my knowledge of Procreate, it was a great learning opportunity. But in general, for any commissioned work, I have in-depth conversations with the client about the whys and hows of what they’re looking for, work with the brief, make several iterations and then incorporate the client’s feedback to make a cohesive piece. With the second part in your question about merging disciplines, I would love it if a project allows me to write as well as draw, to make comics or tiny GIFs in my style. But it’s not happened yet. What I am really enjoying doing these days is getting into the curation space. Where even if it's a digital engagement with a museum or a zine on the legal system in India, I have a chance to shape the identity and add a visual layer to the story. I try and do that as much as I can of late. It's a very instinctive process, where I get to layer all my different interests and skillsets. And it always stems from a place of curiosity, which is definitely my guiding factor in my life and work.”
What's next for you?
“I just want to wrap up 2021 at this point and give myself a fresh start for 2022. Apart from the poetry book and children’s book, I’m keen to set up a merch shop for The Alipore Post online for my calendars, tees, postcards, stickers, and things. It might also include the works of fellow artists and creators whose work I love. The other idea I'm very keen to explore is to expand The Alipore Post into a publishing house. The journal is already a great space, but I want to work with talented friends and artists to make picture books, zines and comics, anthologies, detachable postcard books and so much more! Something tangible to hold on to and keep on the bookshelf for eternity. And in the meantime, I will continue sending out the weekly newsletters and pairing strangers for Chitti Exchange for as long as possible.”
Takeaways for creatives
“Be curious. Shed your ego. Don't fixate on one style. Be vulnerable. Find your voice. I think that that constant evolution and exploration is something that can take us to really unexpected places, and there’s something so beautiful in that journey. When you have your own story to tell and it comes from a place of authenticity, that’s when people will take notice, so own your truth. Be real with yourself and with the people you're creating for. Also, time may be fleeting. But slow down, take it easy and remember to smell the flowers you encounter on your path!”
Happy New Year everyone! We are so greatful for your support. Hope you have enjoyed the webazine this year, we hope to bring you so much more next year as well. We're always open to other perspectives, opinions, and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!
With 🧡 Team WID.