Two sisters (one 11 year olds and the other 9), Anamika and Azadeh Changrani Rastogi (lovingly called Ana & Ozzie) speak about their very first taxi fabric comprising bright and colourful paintings of funny and lovable strays. Their intention through their design was nothing short of noble - to promote love and affection for stray, homeless animals.
“We have always loved stray animals and all we wanted was for other people to love them too. So we made cute and lovable stray animals in our usual funny style. We had made some paintings of stray animals earlier and thought they looked really cute. So we decided to use those designs with a few minor changes. We have now adjusted those paintings so that they can be arranged on the fabric to make the final design,” says Ana.
On asked about how they came up with the delightful title of the fabric, they said, “Our mother helped us think of the title for the Taxi Fabric - ‘Love Is A Four-Legged Word’. We liked it a lot, so we went with it!”
So far as challenges go, they think they were inordinately lucky in that aspect. “We didn’t have too many problems while creating the design. But every new venture has its own set of challenges. We first decided how many animals would be needed for that scale. Then we made a list of the animals we would paint. We then had some disagreements about who would get to paint which cat or dog, but we were able to resolve it without too much fighting. Haha,” says Ozzie.
There are many stray cats and dogs in Mumbai, and there are also many people who are cruel to those animals. So the city and its conditions had a deep influence on the girls while conceiving the design. “The stray animals are part of everyone’s lives, whether we like it or not. So we wanted to encourage people to love the animals that they share their city with, because in Mumbai, stray animals are everywhere. If we can learn to love them, we will leave the world a better place than we found it,” says Ana.
On asked about their interaction with the driver of their taxi, they said, “The driver did not have anything to do with the making of the design, but he likes it because he likes animals. We wanted to choose someone who would like the design that we made and also appreciate its intent. The driver would be the one who sits with our design the whole day, so we thought that it would be nice if he liked and understood the design too.
When we inquired about how their career started and what were some of the challenges they faced, their answer was deeply thought through and hugely delightful - “My sister and I had started to paint when we were 9 months old. We had a fascination for animals, and liked to paint things like blue cats and red dogs. We like to paint unrealistically coloured animals even now. When I was nine, and my sister seven, we had our first exhibition / sale. We thought that it might be a good idea to sell our paintings and give the money to animals. We decided that our name would be Kool K.A.T.S. The K.A.T.S stands for Kid’s Art to Strays. We were really successful. Our parents fed over a 100 stray cats and dogs on the street, and we used our money to buy food and medicines for them. We have already had two shows/sales this year, one in our school and one in an artist’s studio. and both were very successful. As always, we give all the money for food and medical care for stray cats and dogs.”
They have another show in New York this December and have just started to work towards it. They touch wood and report that they really haven’t faced any challenges at all.
On their perception of design in India they think that design is deeply appreciated in India. “Good designs are appreciated everywhere. But in India, people like colourful and striking designs a lot,” says Ana.
When we inquired about cultural/regional/historical aspects of India that inspire them as designers, they said, “One of the aspects of India is that people value animals, but most people think stray animals as dirty and prefer breed animals over stray animals. They like to have animals that are not from India. We want to change that belief in India that our Indian animals, the strays, are dirty. We want to instill the value that they are special - they love us and need people to love them.”
They think the Taxi Fabric project is innovative and original. Everyone sits in taxis and rickshaws yet no one thinks of designing them. It is a wonderful way to get messages across as it is new and will catch people’s attention. Also, everybody rides in rickshaws or taxis in India, but more people ride in rickshaws. So they feel lucky that they got a rickshaw instead of a taxi.
When asked how they felt on being approached by Taxi Fabric, they said, “We were excited at first. So many people will see our work! But we were also a little scared, seeing the other taxis and rickshaws that had been done. How would we manage to design on such a large scale? But we were assured that we would only have to make a few paintings each and that would suffice for the whole rickshaw. Our initial thoughts also included questions like - Will people like our paintings? Will they be good enough to put in a rickshaw? But we tossed those doubtful thoughts away and started working towards the goal.”
Finally, their advice to fellow designers was inspiring, “What’s important is that you like your own art. It is important to have fun while you do it - your art will come out at it’s best when you’re having fun doing it. Also, not everyone has to love what you do. When you like your art, people will also start liking it soon enough.”
We launched our first product store online early this year, as an endeavour to make our stories more accessible for our community.
Ozzie & Ana's paintings are now available as products here. For each product sold, we can help the two girls take care of these adorable animals better.
Photographs by Shweta Agrawal & Keenan Pereira.