Tell us a little about yourself... in alliterations.
I’m a curious & creative coconut who likes to carve combs & cutlery, capture culinary creations or fun failures, build bowls & blobs, and swim in sparkling seas!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up all around India—Calcutta for the first 5 years of my life, Delhi for junior school and then again after college (which totally counts as growing up). Bombay for most of it including high school, where I felt all the teenage feelings—first true love and all that. If you ask me where I’m from I’d say Bombay! I also lived in Bangalore for a few years, transitioning from middle to high school, where I had all my major color/music/fashion phases, and also where I lost my mum to cancer.
What was your childhood like?
Very heavy on themed birthday parties, bubble baths and ‘arts & crafts’. We read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, only studied before exams, ate whatever we wanted and asked A LOT of questions. We grew up watching my parents very much in love with each other, and as equals, which looking back was so special. At least some part of summer was spent at my dadi’s house in Lucknow, where I’d spend all day in my grandfather’s amazing garden, going through my dad’s eraser collection and drinking Roohafza. With my nani, it was the thrilling poshness of lunches at Delhi Gymkhana, then later eating cola bars and faalsaa in her room. My favourite part though, was all the road trips we’d take! So often, my parents would just put us in the car before sunrise and wake us up when we’re already cruising on a highway to some random hill station or forest lodge or beach. We’d eat our cling film wrapped ham-n-cheese sandwiches and drink our cold coffee like its no big deal, totally used to it. It was the best.
What did baby Mallika want to be?
Always an artist, although she had no idea what that actually meant.
Do you remember your first foray with 'art'?
Maybe stamping with potatoes and bhindi? Although a proper “foray” would be making a card for my grandparents when I was three or four years old. That’s when things got legit. My mum bought me a big chart paper, and we planned a whole scenery. She taught me how to draw a house, an apple tree, there was a pond with ducks and all kinds of flowers and bushes. It was quite the ambitious project. After that it was everything from dollhouses to egg-shell chalk to stained glass to puppets, you name it.
Have you gone to art school?
I went to SAIC, which was completely interdisciplinary i.e. I didn’t have to pick a major, and all my classes were pass/fail. That was amazing for me personally, because I never identified with one specific medium. Instead I used my time there to develop my point of view. I was a woodworker, ceramicist, object designer and a billion other things, but it was always the idea that came first.
Do you think it's important?
I think art school is important for those who think it is, and a waste for those who think it is.
If you don’t have access to creative practices or want to immerse yourself in an environment where your only job is to learn and explore, then it’s great. You have the best tools and materials at your disposal, exposure to other artists’ work, ideas and most importantly critique. I think those things can help no matter what. What’s important is what you make of it! Nobody can teach you what kind of art you should make.
French fries. Curd rice. Ramen. Bubble tea.
Pebble or an imperfect circle.
TikTok and Dalgona Coffee.
Do you feel like there is an overlap between your personal style and your art style?
Those are both things I’d have to try and define first! I’m going through a terrifying phase where I’m seeing multiple not-obviously-related styles in my art and it is both fun and confusing. Currently into flash photography with odd angles, vividly coloured drawings and very minimal grids all at once. But then again, I also oscillate from stripe-y OshKosh overalls to just a plain white t-shirt and ripped black jeans. I think it all stems from identifying as a kid and grown-up simultaneously. Does that even make sense?
Could you describe your artistic influences?
Dr. Seuss, kids’ storybooks, unique botanicals, still life paintings, crazy visual merchandising in Indian markets, vintage ads and photography, Japanese food culture, Memphis and Scandinavian design.
It’s complicated. We’ve drifted apart and don’t really talk anymore but she is beautiful inside and out. I wanted to answer this question simply to acknowledge that female friendships are difficult! Everyone talks about how uplifting they are but honestly, for me they’ve also been the most heartbreaking. Now I would say that I have a few best friends, who each play a very special role in my life.
One of them has given me all of my tattoos, hosted figure drawing sessions on zoom to raise funds for relief for sex workers, and I could tell her the worst thing and still feel safe.
Any predictions for the future?
I think, or rather hope, that we’ll realise the system isn’t working and be forced to reimagine a more sustainable future for everybody.
I also think people will want to learn how to grow their own food, I know I already do!
Styled by Veer Misra. Photographed by Tenzin Lhagyal.