The artist in the cafe

Mounica Tata

Many realities rile her up and send her on an exploration.

In a cafe one day, her thoughts dwell on female contraceptives.

“I was pissed off because they come with many side effects. That got me thinking about male contraceptives. Because it’s not my field of expertise, I thought I should do my research. When I posted this on Instagram, many gynaecologists, in reply, said there has been research in the male contraceptive field, but there is not enough funding to take it forward. And, it’s easier to tamper with a woman’s reproductive system.

There is also a patriarchal angle to it. I learned there was a small study where, after men were subjected to a form of pill or injection, they got headaches and gave up. And also myths — like using them will take away masculinity,” says the artist in the cafe.

Mounica Tata, the 29-year-old’s final expression on the subject illustrates the female contraceptives available for Indian women, “to create awareness,” under the creative umbrella DoodleODrama.

Dip into themes

In this two-year-old growing space, the resident of Bengaluru and a native of Hyderabad, reflects in colours and comics on topics not limited to discrimination of skin colour and genders, body positivity and shapes, social conditioning, as also her love for French fries and the moment that holds three elderly women giggling over ‘who knows what’ on their phones. “So, my illustrations begin with a personal trigger, and grow out of personal experiences. I add sarcasm to make them humorous.” Then, she invites people and peers to share their stories so there are more perspectives and “a holistic picture of the subject.”

In this regard, she loves the social media platform Instagram, where people are forthcoming about their thoughts.

Her works echo: ‘This is what I think, this is what I have found out... in case there’s a gap, please feel free to fill it’. But “I think I fail every time, because I feel I’ve missed including many perspectives,” is her fear.

The self-taught artist in the cafe knows that with freelancing comes loneliness, because she, a people person, is confined to her room and computer. But there are Leo and Olie, her adopted dogs, “her companions for life, who never have weekend plans and no for an answer.”

If the furry company sustains her art, it’s husband Chandra who gets the mention for talking to her — then a runaway employee of two years — about freelancing. “Yeah, he is the reason DoodleODrama began,” she says and adds that her father-in-law vows his support to women’s independence and identity “and all that.”

They said what?

However, at her workplaces, her marriage did bring her comments and backhanded compliments of casual sexism. For instance: ‘Oh, but you don’t look married!’

“How is one supposed to look married?”

‘You are so lucky your husband does house-work.’

“Whereas a woman is dutiful when she goes about the chores.”

What’s a non-confrontational person like herself to do? “Back then, I laughed it off because of nervousness though I felt uncomfortable. But I began to see the disparity between how men and women are seen,” the avowed feminist stresses.

From her observations also arise her conscious effort towards catch-all representation. “I’m tired of the way women are represented (in art & media). Women are either Durga or Saraswati, or they are a dew drop and some fragile thing. There is no in-between... we are all flesh and bones, too,” she points out.

Till last year, Mounica accepted personalised commissions. No more. Her project tie-ups are now with companies and organisations. “One of them is a card game for underprivileged kids, to help them deal with everyday issues like money, right to education, safety...” She admits her art has to be meaningful. “I still do my little goofy stuff ... but it’s important to make a person feel emotions.”

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The artist in the cafe

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