CNT Editor Divia Thani’s note in our special 10th Anniversary issue is a collection of ten moments from her travels that have stayed with her over the years. From childhood trips to Africa to visit her dad, to her arrival in the US as a 17-year-old student, and a meditative trip to Ladakh during a time of personal grief, the journeys from home to everywhere and back taught her to see the world anew.
This journey through different times and places has been brought to life with poetic visuals by New York-based designer and art director Rymn Massand and artist Radha Rathi. The duo collaborated on this very special project across continents and time zones, working through nights. The result: a wonderful work of art that channelled a dream world of travel as well as the personal journey of the writer. This is an apt rendition in an extraordinary year where most of our journeys have been through books, memories and photographs. Excerpts from an interview:
Tell us about your individual backgrounds and what led you to this creative moment?
Radha: I am a creative director, graphic designer and an image-maker. I run an intimate design studio. Rymn and I have been following each other’s work and one night she reached out saying, “I have a perfect project for us to collaborate on.” We chatted the next day and the journey began and here we are with these visuals. I was very thrilled about illustrating Divia’s moments, they are intimate, real and very visual!
Rymn: I am a creative consultant, graphic designer, art director, writer and occasional illustrator of trees. Having written for CNT India a few times, the moment was ripe for a creative collaboration. What better than a celebration of a decade of top-notch editing? When Divia asked if I could turn her 10 definitive moments into a visual delight, I was all too happy to get on board.
How would you define your creative aesthetic and what is your process?
Rymn: In my work, as in the rest of my life, I am a storyteller first and foremost. I believe the job of a creative person is to tell a story, get to the heart of the matter, and convey it in a way that best suits the client. It’s not enough to make something pretty, or striking…but to figure if it actually speaks to you. I do not have an identifiable style; if you look at 25 years of my creative work, the only common thread through my work is a sort of witty warmth. For years, when I worked on book-cover design I always read the whole book and noted moments that struck a chord. That was my hook that I would convey on the cover; the essential part of storytelling that lingers on. That practice has stayed with me in every aspect of my work, whether its design, writing or art directing.
Radha: A lot of my work has layering, graphics or sometimes a collage to present an alternate perspective. I enjoy the process of creating an image, an atmosphere which can take me on a plane which is intimate and raw, an expression to engage with the viewer where they are able to find something of theirs, an emotion, an experience, a memory or a dream. My work is never planned, or if it is, many times it changes as soon as I start interacting with the stories that I have running at that point of time in my life, as well as the story of the brand and where it is at the time. That’s why I don’t have one particular style. I have been so lucky with my clients and collaborators who give me the space to explore and travel with me until the end.
How did you interpret the work for CNT?
Rymn: I started by reading through Divia’s words. Throughout my career my guiding principal has always been to only work with people whose work I admire, and who have their own creative vision. Also, with people who are kind and curious. I knew that Radha would be all these things, and more. Radha and I chatted, I had a vision in my head of how we tell these stories, which was enhanced, refined and brought to life by her talent and insane creativity. Over the course of a few days, we fine-tuned the way we wanted to tell the stories of these moments. Both Radha and I love the abstract rather than the literal and as we looked at art, photography and typography, we arrived at the look and feel we wanted for these pages.
Radha: Rymn and I went through the writing and discussed images, words, moments, feelings that could be turned into visuals. After which it seemed like I was traveling with Divia’s words and experiencing some of the emotions and the landscapes that she described so beautifully. Thereafter, I entered this landscape of memories and started working on the visuals one after another. It was such an engaging and a full experience for me to give them a visual life and in those 4-5 days I was living on that plane alone. It was such a pleasure to collaborate with Rymn as she gave me freedom and space to make visuals of our conversations and ideas! We both love the abstract and she would always pick the ones that seemed wilder and somewhat unpredictable. I remember her telling me that we all have seen enough travel pictures, let’s create visuals that tell stories!
What does travel mean to you?
Rymn: Travel has, from an early age, brought out the best in me. It has allowed me to nurture and enjoy the most beloved version of myself. When I am abroad, I am the other—an observer, a participant, an onlooker. I have learned the value of respect, the tingle of discovery, the thrill and enormous privilege of immersion in someone else’s world. It made me realise that how I held myself was how I was perceived in cultures where language was not the medium of exchange. I smile more, I am more open, more curious, and more sensitive. Nothing else but falling in love for the first time has ever evoked all those emotions. Travel does that every single time.
Radha: Oh as I write this, how much I miss travelling. I feel the most rejuvenated and inspired after any trip. I come back feeling like anything is possible. When I’m in a new landscape I have learned most from the silent moments and the spaces in between, like for example how the light plays in the bedroom in the afternoon. I often sleep much better when I’m in a new place and that certain impermanent home that you make for that short period. It almost feels like I have a new or a different life. I experience such freedom because I have no attachment to any identity at that time. When I travel I make a connection with my soul and that makes me feel alive and present.
Our tenth anniversary issue celebrates that the #BestTripsLastForever. Tell us about your most memorable trip.
Rymn: I would have to go back to my maiden voyage to Italy, when I was 11. We joined a tour group from London made up of older English couples enjoying a jaunt through Italy. And then there was us: my stunning 35-year-old mother and this pigtailed 11-year-old. We landed in Rimini (which I assumed had been named for me), travelled in a bus to Venice, Florence, Rome, and Torino with this chatty troop of English retirees. Tried my first sip of Prosecco, fell asleep mid-way through an italian singer’s performance in a grotto, threw my obligatory coins into Trevi, was serenaded by gondoliers in Venice, had a bus driver named Romeo who tried to chat up every female under the age of 60, and fell in love with a country that I adore to this day. There have been other trips since, but nothing is so indelibly stamped in my memory as this trip.
Radha: I travelled to Amsterdam for the first time in 2012 with my girlfriends. It was the most memorable and cathartic trip ever. I went with a heavy heart after a breakup and my head was full of memories and pain. One afternoon after having one too many glasses of hot wine in the cold, I spiralled and almost had an out-of-body experience. It took many silent moments, cold baths and emotional upheavals in a day but I knew I gained something and that has stayed with me ever since. I remember every single moment from that trip not as if I lived it; it is like watching a film. Every time I revisit that, I am reminded of the resilience and freedom I experienced.