Knight with a Sword – Akko, Israel
Watercolor, 9 x 12
The Ottoman-era streets of Old Akko with their teeming souks looked truly charming as sunlight dappled upon shop awnings.
A fantastic world lay underneath these cobblestones – an enormous underground city that had been built by the Crusaders. The Knights of St. John had originally been established here in the eleventh century C.E. to care for the sick of Jerusalem. I explored this seemingly endless subterranean world of dining rooms and pillared hallways, dungeons and an elaborate sewage system that crisscrossed under the entire city.
I could also imagine knights clad in mail and armor, exiting the city in a swift march through an escape tunnel that connected the seaport to the ancient fortress, even as invading forces were penetrating the main defenses.
At one point, my son’s movements caught my eye. With only his little plastic shark for protection, he looked awed, even overwhelmed by the enormity of the vaulted ceilings and the somberness of the place. Yet behind him, the morning sun had found expression through the arched entrance, lightening up the mood of the moment.
From Sukhothai, Thailand
Scratchboard with line tool, 12 x 16, Time taken: 2.5 hours
Living in Thailand for nearly five years, I had adopted the common mode of transport and took the motorcycle taxi or simply the “motorcy” as it is known in local parlance. Like everyone else I’d weave furiously through the dense Bangkok traffic, clinging to the handlebars for dear life. Several times on Bangkok’s main street – Sukhumvit Road – I had come close enough to tickle an elephant on its leg. But then at some point they stopped these animals from plodding the streets in Bangkok. Now I was back for a brief visit, having lived over fifteen years in Chicago, and I longed to come across an elephant again.
I had desperately called up a well-known elephant sanctuary in Sukhothai. However, they would accommodate only guests who stayed over in their lodgings so that these gentle giants could bond with the visitors. Even if I was able and willing to do that, their location was more than an hour away from the ruins and it wouldn’t serve my purpose given that my time here was short.
Maew, my Sukhothai guide, was eager to help me in my quest. We could, he said, wander the forests of Si Satchanalai in search of elephants that often emerged out of the thickets in search of sugarcane fields. He even suggested the far-fetched notion of lying in wait in one such clearing, from which, he assured me, a trumpeting herd would emerge during the sunset hours. Alas, those forests were more than six hours away, and in such sweltering heat, wasn’t the most appealing of options.
Out of the blue, we bumped into a mahout by the name of Tong, who was ambling towards a welcome patch of shade with his handsome charge. Tong was headed home, to his village which was located between Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai.
Happy at my good fortune, I took a few pictures of Tong and his pachyderm companion — simply known as Nok. As a token of my gratitude I gave Nok a bunch of bananas I had tucked away in the van.
A month later I recreated this scene on scratchboard, using a line tool to capture the soft yet wrinkly skin.
– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.