My Happy Heart: On Nidhi Chanani
Of the many glowing comments on illustrator and artist Nidhi Chanani’s webpage, the one that best describes her art and the sentiments it inspires is “Dil Khush” (Happy Heart). Chanani’s images are eye-catching, colorful, and just so cute. But what stands out to me most about her artwork is the culture that her images portray – her Indian American culture as well as the new cultural norm which accepts diversity in our close personal relationships. Born in Kolkata, India, raised in San Francisco, and married to a non-Indian (whom she lovingly calls hubbahubba), Chanani describes herself as Indian and American and draws from her “hybrid existence” and rich cultural experience to create pieces that reflect her identity and relationships. To do so, she presents intercultural relationships in a sweet and playful tone that others can identify with, regardless of background or skin color. The real appeal of her work is that she uses intercultural relationships as a platform to warmly capture the essence of universal themes such as childhood, innocence, humor and love. And it is the successful blend of these two aspects – the intercultural and the universal – that brings me back to Chanani’s work time and again. Here are just a few samples of the couples and family relationships in her impressive collection:
Chanani’s work first created that “Dil Khush” feeling for me when I saw the perfect piece to commemorate Diwali of 2010 – when Robbie and I hosted our first family puja (religious service) together in our married home.
And she was able to inspire that same feeling again when we were expecting Aashi. I saw this adorable image of a father and daughter, which I could imagine was how Robbie would one day look sitting with our daughter. This piece is now in her room, above her crib:
I will no doubt return again to find pieces that reflect Aashi and her own “hybrid existence,” or maybe just to browse and get that “Dil Khush” feeling all over again.