East Sider

Patterns of Life

In her latest book, Christine Chitnis illustrates her decade-long relationship with India


From the moment Christine Chitnis first landed in India, she noticed the patterns. They were everywhere: in the clothes, the architecture, the garlands of marigolds that decorated local temples. “I keep seeing these repeated color patterns,” remembers Chitnis. “Everyone said, ‘I don’t see it that way, but now that you mention it, you’re right.’”

This fascination persisted for 10 years, as Chitnis made repeated visits to Rajasthan with her husband, Vijay. Their ongoing exploration has resulted in Chitnis’s latest book, Patterns of India: A Journey Through Colors, Textiles and The Vibrancy of Rajasthan. The book displays 300 photographs from the couple’s journey, most of them candidly taken in the streets and markets of the northwestern state.

“It’s important for people to understand that it’s a reflection of my journey with my husband,” says Chitnis. “So much of the book is informed by our travels together.”

Chitnis grew up in Michigan, Vijay in Canada. While Vijay grew up in an English-speaking household, his parents were both natives to India. Vijay decided to spend his twenties in his ancestral land, learning both Hindi and Bengali. When the couple met, they settled in Providence, but Vijay’s work as a development consultant led to frequent visits to Rajasthan – and an ever-deepening connection to daily life there.

Chitnis is a photographer and writer, and her past works include two cookbooks and a guidebook to New England farmers’ and artisan markets. Patterns of India is far more ambitious; here, she uses a visitor’s vantage point to reflect her experiences on the other side of the planet, where refrigeration is rare, everything is cooked from scratch, and busy, open-air bazaars are a keystone of daily life.

“It definitely has personal touches, but I try to tell the story through a wider lens,” says Chitnis. “This is what I see when I go there. This is what I love about it.”

As much as Chitnis loves her family excursions to India – she also loves her life in the East Side’s Blackstone neighborhood. She never expected to remain in Providence, but the city has won her over these past 11 years. “We’ve found a community here that we love,” she says. “We love the walkability – we walk everywhere. We take full advantage. It’s the best – something between a city and a neighborhood. It’s a quirky group, and they’re from all over. It’s not a bubble. It feels like an extension of the greater world.”