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— 2018 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize Citation

Behind the Art: “Women and Bicycles”

By Tejubehan

Our cover art this month, “Women and Bicycles,” comes from Tejubehan’s Drawing from the City (Tara Books PVT LTD). Born in Rajasthan, Teju and her husband Ganesh belonged to a community that wandered the streets, singing devotional songs in exchange for grain, clothes, and money, a dying occupation that forced Ganesh to look for other work. After encountering the artist Haku Shah, Ganesh began to draw, and he encouraged Teju to pursue art as well, in spite of the fact that it was not considered appropriate for women. In Drawing from the City, Teju draws the story of her journey as an artist as well as her relationship with Ganesh, who passed away before the book’s publication.

The following excerpts suggest the charm, and power, of this self-taught artist’s work and her singular story.

It is like magic. I sit in one place with paper and pen, and it is my hand that starts to move. Lines, dots, more lines, and more dots, and you have a picture. I can bring to life things that I have seen and know, but also things that I imagine. I can even bring the two together.

I have been moving all my life, looking for ways to survive, but this is a new direction. My heart is full.

I see a girl going somewhere on a bicycle, and I draw a whole group of girls, all of them on the way somewhere.

Image: “I Like Cars” by Tejubehan.

I like cars. I wonder what it’s like to move at such a high speed and to be in control of where you’re going. There are always two women in my cars. One drives and the other looks out of the window.

I want to be both of those women.

Image: “Floating Women” by Tejubehan.

But even in the plane, my women are not content to sit still. So I float them down, wondering where they should go next. Should they fly forever like birds? Or should I draw some lines taking them down to the sea?

I rest my pen here for a moment. I have time to decide.


Images and text from Drawing from the City by Tejubehan, Original Edition © Tara Books Pvt LTD, Chennai, India. By arrangement with the artist and publisher.

Published Oct 24, 2018   Copyright 2018 Tejubehan

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