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A tribute to a mother and her brave battle with breast cancer.

Art from a broken heart: An Inktober series on cancer

The sketches are a moving addition to the conversation about battling cancer and helping a loved one in the fight

By Sriparna Ray

  • Published 22.11.18, 9:38 AM
  • Updated 11.01.19, 5:29 PM

Thirty-one days, thirty-one drawings, thirty-one times Ankita Mitra would have to wrench her heart out and pour it on a piece of paper.

Every October, artists all over the world take on the Inktober drawing challenge by making one ink drawing a day the entire month. Like every year, Ankita, a final-year student at National Institute of Design, Bangalore, has taken up the challenge in 2018. But there is a difference. She lost her mother a few days before Inktober started. So, she decided to channel her grief through her art. And it turned into a beautiful tribute to her mother and her brave battle with breast cancer.

Jake Parker, an artist, illustrator and animator, had created Inktober in 2009 "as a challenge to improve my inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavor with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year". A word is given to artists every day, and they are free to interpret it as they want. Artists are not bound by a theme, but Ankita's mind was only filled with thoughts of her mother. So, she drew a series on death. 

According to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, there have been 7.8 lakh deaths due to cancer in India in 2018 so far. The Indian Council Medical Research has estimated that number will go up to 8.8 lakh by 2020, with the incidence of breast cancer rising among women. October was marked as Breast Cancer Awareness month, and Ankita's sketches are a moving addition to the conversation about the deadly disease that claims lakhs of lives every year.

Here are some of the sketches that look at a journey with cancer, handpicked by the artist herself.

Drooling: It reminds me of the day she had her first convulsion — lying on her back, frothing at the mouth, fighting back with her eyes.

Spell: Her chemotherapy treatment began and the needle going through her hands looked like a magic wand.


Tranquil: When one of her breasts was operated on, it left a void that was both healing and heartbreaking.

Exhausted: A candle burns until it is too tired to hold the flame, leaving behind a puddle of wax and a smell that I will never tire of.


Scorched: After taking 20 radia therapy rays, her skin and breasts were singed, like the charcoal clouds that loom before a storm.

Swollen: The time we knew she wouldn't be able to make it. Her hands were swollen, not our hopes.


Bottle: Her heart was bottled up with pain, worry and the frustration of fighting a losing battle. No one could see the "out of order" tag but her.

Clock: She fought valiantly, we gave her a hand. The clock didn't.


Flowing: A plant needs water to survive until it withers into the inevitable. Our tears won’t dry but they can’t help life flow back into my mother.

Star: When we were children, my sister and I were told when a person dies, he or she becomes a star. We've been trying to pull our star back to earth.


You can see the rest of Ankita Mitra's Inktober sketches on `https://www.instagram.com/onkitami/`


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