Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Damini, and I’m a 25-year old illustrator and cat mama based in New Delhi.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.
What was your childhood like?
Looking back now, my childhood sometimes seems quite surreal, almost like I lived in a time capsule. Shimla is a small town, so everyone knew everyone. The days were long and my world was very small. I went to a Convent school until I was 16, for which I had to tie my hair in two tight plaits every day and wear cycling shorts under my skirt. Spring was spent catching ladybirds in the garden (and forgetting to put holes in the jar, much to my mother’s disgust), and winter was spent ice-skating twice a day. My house in Shimla was actually a church many years before we lived there.
What did baby Damini want to be?
A spy, probably because of Spy Kids and that Frankie Muniz boy. After that, briefly, a Marine Biologist, because my sister wanted to be a Marine Biologist. Neither of us knew how to swim.
Your favourite memory.
My dad owns an apple orchard about 3 hours from Shimla, where we’d go at least once a month when I was younger. The previous owners had left behind two big volumes of Asterix, a bunch of ancient Reader’s Digests, Archies and Amar Chitra Katha comics. My parents, my sister and I would spend hours there in the sun reading comic after comic until we couldn’t stay awake any longer. There are very few things that feel as good as napping in the mountain sun with a belly full of gobi paranthas.
Do you remember your first foray with 'art’?
Both my mum and my grandmum are artists, so even before I actually picked up a paintbrush, art was a huge part of my life. Whenever my mum painted, the whole house would fill up with the smell of turpentine.
Have you gone to art school? Do you think it's important?
I haven’t been to art school and only studied art back in high school a little bit. I don’t think it’s necessary, but it might have been helpful. I plan to do a Masters in Illustration when things settle down a bit, but it has a lot more to with the actual study of art than the degree itself. In my experience, no one really cares about whether you have an art degree or not if your portfolio is good.
Your favourite aesthetic.
Pahadi Goth--think Kullu shawls and combat boots.
Current trend you love?
Cat eye sunglasses—they’re the only ones that look nice on me.
Current trend you hate?
I’m not one for sneakers and fanny packs. Also, bike shorts because they remind me of being forced to wear them under my skirt in school.
Do you feel like there is an overlap between your personal style and your art style?
In the sense that both are a bit all over the place, yes.
What's your favourite medium to work with?
I’ve been working digitally a lot lately, which I enjoy because it’s forgiving and dynamic. But chunky gouache paint will always have my heart.
Could you describe your artistic influences?
My influences change constantly. It can be an artist I recently discovered on Instagram one day and a bizarre dream I had the next. It’s important for me to learn how to take inspiration from everything, but it can also be quite overwhelming.
Your self-care tips.
Self-care means sometimes exercising and eating right and doing a 12-step skincare routine and sometimes watching 'Too Hot to Handle' while eating Wai Wai for 6 hours. It’s about balance.
What's inspiring you these days?
Everything that’s happening right now is so bizarre, and that strangeness is making everyone act strange (myself included), which can be oddly inspiring. Being at home all day also pushes me to be alone with my thoughts for once and pay attention to the things around me, which is interesting. It can also be a source of a lot of anxiety and stress though—so it goes both ways.
What's feminism to you?
The definition of feminism to me is constantly evolving. I don’t think there’s one authority on feminism, and neither should they be. As long as we continue to learn from each other and be as inclusive as possible, we’re on the right track.
It’s also important to continuously reevaluate the practices within feminism itself which might not be relevant or helpful to the cause anymore. For example, I think 'cancel culture' is doing far more harm than good at this point. We have to start thinking of new, more rehabilitative solutions which focus on growth and communication.
How has 2020 been for you?
Not great, but putting it into perspective with what the world is going through right now—especially people with less privilege than me, I really can’t complain.
What's one thing you miss that you didn't think you would?
Long, windy car journeys.
And what's one thing you don't miss, that you thought you would?
Ready to go back to a regular pace of life?
I’m a bit worried that I’ll be too comfortable with this new routine by the time normalcy returns. Or that I’ve built it up in my head and will be deeply underwhelmed by how boring my life actually was before this.
If you could transport yourself to any decade, which one and why?
The 60’s seemed like a good time for art and music. Any pandemic-free decade would be great right now.
Styled by Veer Misra. Photographed by Tenzin Lhagyal.
Mug Shot by Damini for The Olio Stories.