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SANIKA PHAWDE

Sanika Phawde (She/They) is an writer-illustrator, educator, cartoonist and reportage artist born and raised in Thane (Near Mumbai), India and currently working between New York City and Boston. Through autobiographical comics, visual essays, drawings on location, gouache paintings and illustrated interviews with members of her local community, her work captures and communicates instances of emotional connection and intimacy, queer immigrant culture and conversations people have over meals. Sanika has worked with clients such as Spotify, Simply Gum, Ole and Steen, Uber India, The New Yorker, Food & Wine Magazine among others. Their work has been awarded and recognized and featured by the One Club for Creativity, D&AD (Design and Art Direction), VICE, PRINT Mag, Creative Boom, American Illustration, Boston Globe, The Nation, The Society of Illustrators, and the Comics Beat among others. Sanika has exhibited work in group shows at Rendez-vous Carnet Du Voyage (Clermont-Ferrand, France), Jamestown Arts Centre, Pao Arts Center (Boston), Woods-Gerry Gallery (Providence), SVA Gramercy gallery and the SVA Chelsea gallery, City Hall (Jersey City) and Secrets Risograph show in Hamburg, among others, and has been invited to exhibit her work at numerous book fairs.



YELP REVIEW

It is raining outside, and inside 

our 300 sq ft studio apartment.

There is a hole in my ceiling, a package thief in my building, 

wet plaster of paris splattered on the floor.

We have become used to waking up to little floods.

Something about repeatedly twisting out of bed 

to step into an unexpected indoor pool.

Can make you want to give up.

 

The apartment almost caught fire last week.

I woke up coughing

to a room filled with dense smoke.

Apparently the hot plate

that came with the room 

in place of a kitchen likes to turn itself on

even when the dials are off.

John found a human turd in the laundry room.

On Fourth of July, someone started a fire

in the industrial sized community trash can

behind the building.

I saw its reflection in the window 

of the building next to ours. 


For a second it looked like that room was on fire.

I almost called the fire department.

Then I heard people celebrating.

By morning it was a heap of bluish grey ash,

garnished with bits of melted plastic.

 

One night a naked white man

covered in tribal tattoos

who lives on my floor

took it upon himself to throw his body

against our front door repeatedly

from 8pm to 3:30am  

on a Thursday night.

We sat wide awake wordless 

in the darkness holding hands.

Pretending we weren't there.

 

I learn that there is lead in our walls. 

Yours too,

if your home was built before the 1970s.

But in New England they have to explicitly declare it

in the lease.

So I know for sure.

 

You can drink the tap water though. 

Until you can’t.

We get an alert fron the state that the water supply is contaminated.

We should buy our drinking water till they lift the advisory.

"What do you think it is?" 

“Poop. It's usually some idiot shitting in the reservoir."

"But that's absurd."

"Yes. But it has happened before." 

 

Our downstairs neighbor takes up smoking tobacco in her bathroom.

Where there are no windows, only the exhaust

that carries her smoke up into our home

so that it too may smell like a casino.

The only remedy: leaving our exhaust on for all hours of the day.

The issue: our exhaust sounds like Emily Rose 

from The Exorcism of Emily Rose

mid-exorcism.

This building is not haunted. 

But it is trying to kill us, yes.

 

When we first moved here

we tried to change things, fix them.

We put in work orders. Filed complaints.

Tried to have appliances replaced.

Now we just live around the small catastrophes.

We keep our hot plate unplugged at all times.

Make sure our door is double bolted.

When one of the 2 light bulbs 

in the apartment goes out,

we learn to appreciate mood lighting.

When we awoke to to the songs of rain on the skylight last night

we just moved our shoes, plants, work desk, side table, bicycle and bed

out of the radius of the drip.

There are multiple ways to exist in a studio space.


We count the weeks until we can leave:

38 days and 2 hours.

This is the first Yelp review I have ever written.

We do not recommend living here.







WRATH ALLOY


I grip the rock of my rage in my throat. 

Where it brands me in secret. 

Melts into its own heat,

drips into spaces between the bones in my neck 

and hardens into an infectious pain

For me to carry. 


Like my mother.

Who holds her fury in her eyes,

averted

She refuses to share it with ones who have wronged her.

She refuses to share herself.

Not her voice, not her gaze nor her touch.

She teaches through creating a scarcity of herself (threatening an extinction). 

She learns through the scalding loneliness.

 

My father writes his anger into texts he will regret. 

Deeply Uncomfortable WhatsApp forwards,

he slips it into objects of daily communal use 

strewn about him strategically

For us to slip and fall and hurt and notice Him.

 

 

My partner slams his heavy anger into cupboards, 

crashes it into dishes,

throws it into metal trays banging 

clanging clattering against the sink. 

Punches it into walls with expletives. 

Working like so many incantations 

compounding it

into the foundations of our home.

Making it load-bearing.

 

Like his mother

 

Who blessed him with it.

And his sisters and his nieces. 

Taught them to deposit it, grunting 

into the rooms around them.

Taught him to hide it in the steering wheel. 

Inside coffee cups.

In all the odd numbered aisles of our grocery store. Never even. 

In every third crack in the pavement

in the hurtling interstate Commuter Rail

taught him to bend it into waves neither of them can control. 

Till it becomes its own being.

 

When we marry, 

amidst all our finery 

and lovelier attributes

we roll our similar angers 

from our dissimilar parents

up the hill.

Into an unfamiliar home. 

And hope they will get along.



POEM FOR JOHN


I would love to return to you

from my adventures

to tell you

how clear the glacial water was

how it tinted the colourful pebbles

under it aquamarine

how warm the sun felt

even as the air pushed me to clutch my jacket tighter

around my body.

How loud the Puget Sound echoed

through the hills in Anacrotes.


 

But I know I love you. 

Because I would rather ask

Do you remember?

How clear the water was?

How silver the sand?

How it squeezed in place

submerged upturned tangles

of towering knotted tree roots and stumps,

bleached white

older than our ancestors?

And I asked you,

"Do you know how they get like that?"

 

Do you remember the man on the beach?

Fishing for pink salmon

that run upstream once every two years?

And his yellow plastic box of assorted bait

that looked and functioned a lot like

a multi-tiered jewelry box

(I told you)

I had when I was 13?

 

How liberating it felt to afford our first pairs of proper hiking boots?

No more slipping and sliding in Converse

no more crossing canyons and river barefoot

no more raw-dogging the mountains for us.

Do you remember?

 

How you ran panicked

through the forest

through several campsites

past prehistoric fern species

for over two miles

in search of a port-a-potty? 

 

Do you remember how

you were worried about kissing me

because you thought you were

coming down with something?

How the billboard sized marquee 

outside the only grocery store

at that US-Canada border announced:

"Customer of the week: Trisha"

and we tried to imagine what it must be like

to be Trisha's best friend in town?


I know I love you because

I would rather you be my witness

than my confidant

would rather be in each other's stories

for when we are ancient, and

I can hardly believe

how happy

I have the potential to be.

"Do you remember?"

How far from lonely

how lovely.

How in love.







RHODE ISLAND: A NON-EXHAUSTIVE LIST


A large open air warehouse

filled to the ceiling with mulch

you can see into

while you drive past on the I-95.

Another filled with internal organs

and skins of RIPTA buses.

 

The way that none of the exit numbers

on the actual highway

match the exit numbers on any map apps

because the state meant to change them

on the ground last year.

But hasn’t gotten around to it.

 

Signs next to the state’s construction projects

erected by the state itself

announcing how many days late

and dollars over budget each project is.

Hilariously underperforming,

but brutally honest.

 

Benefit Street embraced in hundred year old trees

that carpet the ground with small white

richly fragrant flowers in the spring,

and dried leaves in autumn.

So you can feel like like a kid

when you crunch-cronch your way home.

The lawyer’s office, the dentist, the thrift store,


the restaurants, the patisserie, the butcher,

the hardware store, the many ceramics studios

that all look like somebody’s home

because they were somebody’s home in the 1800s.

And haven’t changed their exteriors since.

 

And the houses!

Mansions! Or cutesy and colourful

life size wooden doll houses

wrapped in the memory of Victorian trimmings

(“built with sticks à la second little pig”):

John grew up here and hates this analogy.

But doesn’t deny it!

 

The log cabin that they say

George Washington pooped in one night.

the severely haunted Bridgewater Triangle

by the spirits of Wampanoag people massacred here.

A comically large inflatable blue bug affixed to a roof

also known as Nibbles Woodaway

(claimed to be the largest artificial bug in the world).

 

Amidst these things, they say

have “always been here”

some things unexpected:

 

Personal Injury lawyers fighting for real estate

on billboards, passive aggressively trying

to out-perform, out-entertain, out-seduce.

This month,

you can "In Pain, Call Wayne" !

(His current avatar: a 3D Blender-generated illustration.)

But "Rob Levine

(shirtless and jacked with a single rose stem between his teeth)

Will Slip and Fall For You."

 

The church sign congratulates the high school graduating class of 2023.

And also says Eid Mubarak

the permanent horseshoe crab exhibit in the public library

is expanding to other species.

That one practically historic local lemonade stand

is flirting with a line of (far too potent) THC infused products.

 

Racist women follow me around map stores in Newport

and a racist bus driver in Jamestown

bullies me into getting off the last bus home.

More racism from passengers

on the MBTA.

Actually, more racism per week

than I have ever experienced anywhere before.

 

But also,

kind desi deli-wala uncles,

“The Frooti and Kurkure is a gift beta.”

Truly accessible and inclusive artist spaces

a community of badass elder femme ceramicists

who freely share their knowledge and stories.

Really incredible Yucatan, Moroccan, Syrian, and Korean food.

And the best cakes!!!

 

The sunsets in Prospect Terrace.

Can remind you how to breathe again.

 

Almost everyone I have met here

seems to have a funny/scary personal story

about former mayor, Buddy Cianci.

The many many vanity license plates

that mention the beach.

White people losing their shit to RRR

In Roger Williams Park.

A whole generation

identifying as Fienstein Junior Scholars.

The bizarre mystery/rumour that the city of Providence

yanked out the oldest colonial houses

from various neighborhoods

and replanted them on Benefit Street.

But how????

 

I once told myself

I would figure that one out before I left.

But I like not knowing.

It is more fun this way.

Like eavesdropping on tipsy adults

sharing ghost stories at Christmas.











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