Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Storyteller In Us

Deep within each and everyone of us lies a storyteller. Keen, curious and imaginative. The role of stories in our life seem so insignificant, but when you look a little deeper you realise that we are a part of innumerable stories everyday. Some stories that we hear stay with us and eventually become a part of who we are.

There are bedtime stories, incidental stories, old folk tales, stories that trace the origin of recipes, movie stories, drunk stories, ghost stories from sleep overs and so many more to add to these. What is it about these stories that builds an instant connection between us and the subject?

Menu art- Farzi Cafe, Gurgaon

Growing up, my dad told me stories of the time he spent on a sugarcane farm with his uncle. These stories would thrill little me as I reimagined every moment in my head adding my own twists to it. I felt little shivers when I imagined cold rainy nights at the farm when my dad cuddled with his pet dog to keep him safe and warm. This was one of the classics that I asked my dad to repeat over and over again. I think it's these stories that nurtured the inexplicable love I feel for dogs.

Artists have a blessed opportunity to immerse themselves into someone else's story. We listen to a story, digest the story and then become the story itself. Painters bring stories to life with imagery from their own imagination. 

Illustrations by 4 different artists derived from the same love stories of Radha and Krishna
A few centuries back, Kathak dancers enacted tales and stories of gods and brave kings to village crowds. The word 'kathak' means storyteller and is derived from the word 'Katha' which means story. But unlike theatre, a dancer plays all the characters in a story. She brings out actions and reactions of multiple characters and paints a beautiful tapestry for the audience.

Everytime I play a character through dance, my guru repeatedly reminds me that I am every character but none of the characters are me. Telling a story as is, without any influences of personal experience, is what makes 'Abhinaya' (enactment) so challenging.

Storytelling has so many forms, but in every form it brings out the same child like innocence in all of us. Eager and inquisitive to get to know the end.

My sister in law, Mohavi wrote and illustrated a children's story recently. The main protagonist of her story, Lakshmi is a child full of character and spunk. Everyday Mohavi imagined how Lakshmi looked, spoke, sat, thought and felt. As Lakshmi evolved through the story, she became a part of our household. At lunch and dinner, every one of us added a new element to Lakshmi's character as we got to know her better. 

Creations and Evolution of Lakshmi

What touches my heart about storytelling is the fact that someday, somewhere a child is going to read this story and connect with Mohavi's imagination and add a little more reality to it.

An idea swims through our minds and drowns itself in our emotions before a beautiful story is born. The power of these stories are evident to us only when we think of how many years and lives they have survived before we decide to re tell the same tale to our kids. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

My Pretty Cloth Bag

A month long sabbatical and it's been a writer block ever since. 2 days back, in an attempt to get back to my schedule I went for my dance class. It was almost like magic. I felt like my systems went through a reboot. I guess what a vacation does for most people, a rigorous dance lesson does for me. So here I am, unclogged of all the blocks and back to my blogging self. 

I typed out this post 2 years back. April 10th 2013 to be precise. Still new to my life in Oman and very pissed off with how casually we live disconnected from the world's problems here. This weekends Y magazine reminded me of my post and how strongly I feel for this cause.

You could catch me on a day at the mall without my cell phone but im always with my Pretty Cloth Bag :)  

My Pretty Cloth Bag

I luv the confused look I get from a bag packer at a store when I say 'I have my own bag'. It's like i'm asking him to give up his job at gunpoint. I've even noticed cashiers smirk at me when all my stuff doesn't fit into my cloth bag. Its like a 'Ha Ha...I told u so' face. There have been times when packers have put my pretty cloth shopping bag into a plastic bag and given it to me. So much for environmental awareness.  Give it a minute and watch the packing trend we follow here. There is a new bag for every 2 items!

Once I get myself out of the store I always meet cynics who think there is a perpetual comments box available to them "How does it matter?..Everyone does it anyway!".  "This is an oil rich country..who cares" and of course my favorite "You're just doing it because you think it's fashionable!" WHAT?!!!

I wish it were fashion because then more people would be doing it. 
I spent a whole month in Gurgaon and I was blown away by how successfully india has managed to almost completely stop the use of plastic bags. Carrying a cloth bag of your own or just condensing all your purchases to one single bag can make a huge difference.

Reduce your use of plastic.
Recycle the plastic that you can.
Reuse the bags that you already have.
And now REFUSE to use plastic bags on your next shopping trip

Stay Green! :)  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

When Pruple Expressions met Violet Hues

Ever given a shot to something you are extremely skeptical about? Last week I took the leap and attended 'The Journey of Consciousness'; a talk about the deeper aspects of the mind and the soul (yup, I am one of those...) I had a couple of reasons to attend the talk. The important one being the speaker, Natesh Shetty, my childhood buddy.

Violet Hues is a healing center run by Natesh and his wife Dr. Sushmita Gowri. They specialize in hypnotherapy, energy healing, DNA theta healing amongst other therapy methodologies. So now amongst all other fancy professions, I also have a healer as one of my closest friends :)

So like most people are after a talk like this, I expected to feel renewed, moved and inspired. But I felt none of these. I expected to now start believing in hypnotherapy and Past life regression therapy but I am still skeptical. All I felt was a every deep and honest admiration for MYSELF. I felt like a director would feel when he spots talent for the 1st time.

The brain is an immensely brilliant organ and its manifestation (i.e. thoughts) can determine every single aspect of our existence. Throughout the talk, I kept thinking about how little of this immense capacity we use. We have heard for years that positive thinking and the power of the mind can even heal physical injury. If thats true, we should be able to physically measure this change. Masaru emoto,  a Japanese author, experimented with healing of water with positive thinking. 

Masaru Emoto simply spoke words of love and chanted prayers to water samples from different lakes and rivers. The findings of his experiment were astonishing. The water samples crystallized to form beautiful hexagonal shapes.  

Masaro goes on to explain that if this is the influence of positive healing on water samples and humans comprise of 70% water, the possibilities of healing the human mind through positive thoughts are endless. 

Its a beautiful thought and Masaro theory restores so much faith in my heart that I could manage a difficult situation myself through just my thoughts 

Many have challenged his findings and labeled it pseudoscience. But with all my heart, I want Masaro's theory to be proved right. 

Our brains are programmed to continuously store data. Good or bad, every thought gets ingrained in our system. So how much of this can we control and alter? 

When I was in college, my roommate Srishti and I did this thing called the 'crazy dance'. Everytime we felt dull, bummed, annoyed or just bored, we would turn on the silliest playlist of songs and throw our hands and legs in the air. It was ridiculous, hilarious and looked nothing like dance. Anyone who saw us would think we were electrocuted. But nothing in the world equaled the stomach clenching laughter that followed every single time. We'd look at each other innovative moves and burst out uncontrollably. When I look back now, I like to think of 'crazy dance' as a forceful positive healing experience. And what could be more healing than dance? 

With so much happening around us everyday in our lives, its hard to always keep ourselves positive. So I have begun a little experiment myself. Every morning, I pin up a positive quote, a joke, a picture or anything that makes me smile. I think about it consciously for 5 minutes and those 5 mins make a huge difference in the way I feel through the day. 

Of Course there is no way to prove if my experiment is science, pseudoscience or just hokum but I think it works for me. After those 5 minutes in the morning I feel like I have control about how I will feel and think through the day. If my brain is going to store every piece of info it is exposed to, I would like to believe that I can monitor what it takes in and what it leaves out.  

Our brain is so advanced and capable that it can weave a complex intertwined web of thoughts in a few seconds. As much as we want to give our thoughts direction, the mind wavers between so many past experiences and influences that it becomes hard to focus. 

Brainmap in a few seconds

Through my experiment, I am attempting to give my thoughts a positive pattern. It is said that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit (maybe another myth!). And so I am going to keep at it.  I don't know if this will work for me in any way at the end of 21 days. But I will always carry with me the thought that I stuck with a positive habit for 21 days. Its important that every one of us feels empowered and in control of our thoughts. The method we choose doesn't have to be scientifically proven or even acceptable to the world. 

 Here is the beautiful thought I started my day with. Take a deep breath, read the words and let the water in your body soak in the positivity of each and every word. 

"Ideas are the mightiest influence on earth. 

One great thought breathed into a man may 

regenerate him."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Speak When Spoken To

I'm in the midst of a few thoughts right now. One of the greatest cartoonists of our time, RK Lakshman passed away recently. He is credited for the creation of a cartoon character called 'the common man'. Through his work he has left behind a reflection of himself in the 'common man'. For years RK Lakshman used his wit, intelligence and creativity to reflect the hypocrisy of our country. While india continues its long battle with corruption, humor plays an important role in reflecting the opinion of the masses.

The simplicity of the common man is what tickles our thoughts. RK Lakshman had a lense through which he could view everything around him and recreate it with such innocence and honesty. Of course he offended some but he hit the nail on its head with the blatant truth.

So here comes the thought of free expression and speech. How far is too far? In the wake of a the Charlie Hebdo incident this thought crossed my mind so many times. Its disgraceful and unforgivable  the heinousness of the crime but is it still ok to step on broken glass when u know it could cut u? Secondly, who decides what is appropriate humour and what is outright disrespectful?

 A group of Mumbai based standup comedians who call themselves All India Bakchod (AIB) hosted the 1st real Bollywood roast in Mumbai.  For a couple of days it was trending on everyone's Facebook and Twitter wall. All of a sudden the 'moral police' woke up to this piece of entertainment and labeled it 'culturally unethical'. 

The complainee stated " The show, which can be seen on YouTube and other websites, was extremely abusive and it is not only ruining the clean image of the Indian culture & women, but is also misleading today's youth,"

Just because obscenity is sung in a tune and called an 'item number', it makes it no less offensive. For some perspective, here is a translation of a very popular bollywood song that plays on TV with no age restrictions or objections. 

Joban hai pyaasa to jor kare
Ainvai ye din mein bhi shor kare
Takiya bana lipat le
Kambal bana rapat le
Tan hai kateela par 
iski ada hai shaitani
This youth is thirsty, and hence loud,
It makes noises in the day even..
Make it (my body) a pillow and hug it,
make it a blanket and glide over it..
The body is jagged, but it's style is naughty..

Night ki naughty kahani
Ye Halkat Jawani
Teekha ye namkeen paani
Ye Halkat Jawani
Night ki naughty kahaani
Jawaani.. Ye Halkat Jawaani..
the naughty story of the night,
this careless youth..
This salt water is spicy,
this mean youth..the naughty story of the night,
this careless youth..

Sadly, the AIB roast has been taken off YouTube. Personally, I enjoyed parts of the roast. Repeated sexual implications are little over the top for my sense of humour. But I enjoy the innuendoes and outright honesty in humor. So the roast was a little long but an entertaining watch for me. 

The roast began with a very detailed disclaimer giving the audience a very clear picture of what was to come.  Insult comedy by it's very nature is designed to be offensive and all of a sudden people who had absolutely nothing to do with it woke up and said "this is offensive". Well, that was intentional. It's like sipping milk out of an expired milk carton and saying "let's shut down the dairy!". Satirical and insult comedy and fairly new age styles of comedy in India. There is a large section of the urban indian audience who enjoy this structure of comedy.

So heres going back to my initial question. There are different styles of entertainment and different structures of comedy. Then why should there be a one size fits all sort of format in humor? We are an intelligent country with the gift of freedom of speech. Then why do we need governing bodies to tell us what we can and cannot speak about?