by verse bridge arts
While the arts and sciences often seem poles apart, there are some who cross the divide. Alan Lightman, the first professor at MIT to hold a joint appointment in the sciences and the humanities, is one of the best-known, and has explored the overlap in the bestselling novel Einstein’s Dreams,
as well as the poem Song of Two Worlds. Profoundly moved by Lightman’s writing, first-year Srishti student Derek Domnic D’Souza penned illustrations inspired by the poem, which will now be published in a new, visual edition of the classic work.
Taken by the sensitivity and maturity of D’Souza’s work, Srishti School of Art Design and Technology tutor Ajai Narendran took the step of emailing Lightman with some samples. “It’s not very often that I do something like that, but I could see from Derek’s illustrations that the poem had really gone through him,” says Narendran, adding that Lightman replied ‘almost immedi
ately’, expressing interest in the pen and ink drawings. “He immediately understood the immense relevance of the illustrations, and suggested using them in a new edition of the poem,” Narendran elaborates. To be published by LA-based Red Hen Press, the final book will include D’Souza’s original illustrations, as well as nine more specially commissioned by the publisher. “I was surprised but also pleased that they didn’t ask me to change anything, as it was a very personal response. I’ve been given complete creative freedom,” adds D’Souza.
While D’Souza’s art has a strong connection with Lightman’s words, there is also an intensely personal element
to the drawings. “I always draw inspiration from reflections, memories and dreams. It’s like putting down a part of myself on paper even though I am illustrating a passage,” says the student. Explaining that Song of Two Worlds always had an ‘Indian connect’ Lightman shares that he was originally inspired by Tagore’s Gitanjali collection, and describes D’Souza’s illustrations as ‘imaginative and wonderful’. Both Lightman and his young protégée are keen to print in multiple languages and editions, and are currently seeking partnerships with Indian publishers for a local edition. Lightman also hopes to visit the city to connect with both D’souza and the Srishti student community.
—Maegan Dobson Sippy