Interview MIKHA M.
Date MARCH 2021
Human, designer and illustrator Amrita Marino grew up in Calcutta, India and currently resides in New York City. “I have also lived in Chicago, Illinois and Rochester, New York before moving here 13 years ago.”
“To be honest, over the last few years I am not sure I have belonged here as much as I did before. I hope this changes soon. I always loved how there was this convergence of various cultures in America. I have learnt about cultures that I otherwise might not have, and feel despite our differences, we have a shared goal in this country. It is a unique place like no other country.”
“Home is a refuge. Home sometimes means food - because what I eat now is very different from what I ate as a kid in India, which I still love more than anything. I will occasionally remember a food for no obvious reason and then usually call my Mother in India for a recipe. However, home is also something that my husband and I have built for ourselves to offer refuge and comfort; a place where we can experiment with ideas safely as creatives, and do projects to take care of the house and the environment. This could be as simple as planting easy to grow greens like spring onions and basil to avoid dependence on the supermarket chains to planning complex upgrades to an old bathroom. For the longest time, I have been very interested in interior design. A home offers a palette so to speak to try some of my design ideas.”
A: I came to America as an electrical engineer working in Information Technology. For the next decade I worked for various multinational organizations in technology till I changed my career into graphic design and now, illustration. My work now is entirely influenced by my new country. My husband, Greg, is an American who saw my various creative interests and convinced me that it was worth trying to take concrete steps to change my career. He said this was done in America frequently and I did not need to stay at a job I hated like my father did. I think the American work ethic has been a huge influence on me. Though I was always a good student in India, this work ethic has almost guided me as a second education of sorts; seeing young designers work harder than I ever had to do in my previous profession.
“America is a unique social experiment – it’s success depends on the celebration of our differences while sharing a common goal.”
On the other hand, what has been somewhat eye-opening is the discussion of race. I grew up in a fairly racially homogeneous country. India has a checkered history of being conquered by foreigners who took advantage of regional and cultural differences. America is a unique social experiment – it’s success depends on the celebration of our differences while sharing a common goal. This is easier said than done especially in today’s environment. Another thing I notice is an expectation that I am a product of my background in a predictable way. As in has my art been shaped by my culture. I know it has. But I was never able to afford myself the opportunity to be an artist in India. It was practically impossible. My introduction to art happened largely in America, so my experience as an artist is shaped through the west.
Kolkata, West Bengal, India © Piero Regnante
Rabindranath Tagore © Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
What helps you recall home?
A: The songs of the Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore come to mind first and foremost. I also have this intense memory of being in Santiniketan - a university founded in Bengal by Tagore. I remember the students of the university singing and dancing under the moonlight to celebrate “Dol” - the Bengali version of Holi, a spring festival in India. Also, the Sergeant Pepper album by the Beatles, and the soundtrack of Doctor Zhivago.
A BIG SPLASH © Amrita Marino
What advice would you give to someone moving abroad?
A: Be open to new people and new experiences. When I first came here, I befriended Indian immigrants and tried to replicate the Indian life (and food) within America. In retrospect, I was closing myself. I understand that it takes time to settle into a new country and whatever path we take as immigrants is a valid and unique one.
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