Published: 31st December 2018
Rituparna Sarkar's Insta project-turned-illustrated book 'Wonder Words' will definitely make you feel 'ambedo'
From Rituparna Sarkar's 100-day Insta project to an illustrated book called Wonder Words — it's been an interesting journey of wordplay. We find out more
Have you ever felt that you are a cabaraderie – when you feel a mutual sense of solidarity and bonding with your cab driver, however fleeting, during a cab ride, over shared experiences and traffic? Words (language no bar) are immensely helpful — it is always useful to add new ones to your arsenal such as the one above.
While you go through this Mumbai designer's Instagram profile you get to discover a new world full of untranslatable foreign words. What began as a 100 day Instagram project, has now turned into an illustrated book called Wonder Words.
Rituparna Sarkar, who is a Mumbai-based designer speaks to us about her book and how the Instagram project was so much more than just pictures and words. Excerpts...
What is it about untranslatable words that fascinate you? Why did you think that this would be a great idea for an Instagram project?
In April 2017, when I was about to start the #The100DayProject, I happened to be reading Meik Wiking’s book Hygge and I came across the word Tokka. That was the moment when it all started. I found it interesting how each word served a very unique purpose to a language and culture and thought that researching them would be fun. Most Indians are multilingual, and we often come across words in one of language that does not quite exist or sum up in another. People with their varied habits and emotions fascinate me, as do words, language and grammar — hence I went ahead with the theme #100daysofdiscoveringwords.
Has the project helped you enrich your vocabulary?
The project was a roller-coaster of adventures for me. It's such a vast topic — there was always more new words to discover. In terms of vocabulary, my family and friends are now using words like ’Tsundoku’ and ‘Fika’ every other day. For the original project, I’d even concocted a few words that I felt should exist, such as bloatilla (a small fleet of bloated floating bodies, mostly in summer). Words (language no bar) are immensely helpful — it is always useful to add new ones to your arsenal.
Wordplay: Going through Rituparna Sarkar's Instagram profile is an undeniably delightful experience because one gets to discover a new world full of untranslatable foreign words
Do the illustrations make the words even more interesting?
I grew up in Delhi and then went off to study Animation Film Design at NID, Ahmedabad in 2007. After working with a few television channels and animation production houses for a couple of years, I co-founded Bombay Design House, a boutique design led visual communication outfit in 2010 which my partner and I ran for seven years. We worked on illustrations for books, branding and animated videos. Earlier this year, I’ve started Visual Sarkarsm, with the aim of pursuing more fun projects of personal interest.
Being a visual communication designer by profession, I’d say illustrations make everything better. In this specific case, the illustrations help in telling a quirky story where the words come to life — I would hope they help you understand the word better.
How was the journey from the Instagram project to the book?
To be honest, I did the whole challenge just for the joy of it. It was a way to do something just for myself. But I was surprised to see the enthusiastic response from not only friends but also others who started following the project on Instagram. There were people from across the world who would share their comments and appreciation - that just made me realise that a lot of people relate to the theme. A few popular newspapers and magazines started showing interest in the project as well, and towards the end of it, a lot of the followers suggested that I turn it into a book - or at least a set of prints that they could buy for their homes. But to be honest I’d done the project purely as a passion project, so I did not take all the suggestions too seriously - until Penguin India approached me. Then there was no turning back.
The Instagram project was a springboard for the book, but we’d decided from the very beginning that the book will have only half the words from the project and a bunch of fresh words illustrated specifically for the book. I also conceptualised the book to have more detailed write-ups, which meant a lot more in-depth research went into it to cross-reference the words and find more interesting anecdotes or back stories to the words.
The project was a roller-coaster of adventures for me. It's such a vast topic — there was always more new words to discover
Rituparna Sarkar, Artist
Favourite book? Favourite artist?
Too tough. I read mostly fiction from a bunch of genres from classics, romance, psychological thrillers and immigrant literature.
The next part of the question is equally tough! In terms of art and design, being from an Animation Design background, I’ve always loved the works of the classical animator Michael Dudok de Wit, and Pixar designer Nate Wragg. (Opposite ends of the spectrum they are are, but both so brilliant.) Who can not love Mario Miranda — I especially love his people study and the number of details he packs in a frame! Amongst modern illustrators and designers, I love the mind and work of Christoph Niemann, the exquisite visual play of Pablo Amargo and the gorgeous watercolours of Ira Sluyterman (or Iraville as she is popularly known). Amongst current Indian book illustrators, I love the range and styles of Priya Kuriyan and how alive her work always feels!