27 April 2016

This guy is dancing on the train with his earphones on. He suddenly stopped!
Did the song end?


I went to the airport today to pick up some things that my mother sent for me through a family friend who was traveling to New York.

I picked up the bag of little things and headed to the subway station. As I was returning back from the airport, my eyes fogged up with tears. For the first time in 7 months, I felt the absence that I had been anticipating everyday since I moved to the city. I wondered why I never missed my family. I guess I didn’t have the time. Today, as I hold the things that my Mother carefully packed yesterday I have never been this aware of her absence and I have never felt this longing I feel today for my family.

Context : It is 2:32 am and I am writing my Physical Computing project proposal.

As I am typing out this elaborate proposal, I try to “comment out” a certain sentence that I am a little confused about. #overcoding

Twice in a week I meet my music teacher. We sit across from each other, cross legged, back straight and focus. I turn on the tanpura – the sound resonating within the room. Loud enough to mute the incessant thoughts in my head and soft enough for me to hear the sound of my will. Searching for an identity within octaves, I set the scale to A Sharp. I take a deep breath and begin. I hum ‘OM’ in the note Sa. ‘OM’. I breathe again.

‘Sa-Pa-Sa’ ‘Sa-Pa-Sa’

I ascend. I descend. I wait till the walls ricochet the sound of my voice. As I dive into a world that is far removed from reality, I am most aware of all my senses. I listen carefully. I see the notes juggling across the room, colliding with one another, transitioning into one another. I see them interact. I command them to move as per my will. I shuffle them around. I skip a note and jump to the next – I come back. The sounds just appear. Then disappear. Like a little soap bubble on the skin. I tune the tabla to play the theentaal. It sets a grid for my idiosyncrasies. I synchronize my notes with the beats of the tabla.

‘Dha Dhin Dhin Dha – Dha Dhin Dhin Dha – Dha Tin Tin Ta – Ta Dhin dhin Dha’

Each beat asserts itself in a different manner. I focus – but I don’t. My voice naturally adapts to the pattern, like it was yearning for it all this while. I learn sustenance. I stop at a note and stay there till I feel comfortable. I complete it – not wanting to rush ahead, but to live in the moment. I make the most of it. One breath. My body feels tense. It begins to sway with the notes. The act of creation liberates me. I condition an organ to function differently. I teach it new ways. My voice understands pitch, it recognizes new sounds and learns how to create them. My voice perseveres. It repeats – once, twice, thrice; a hundred times if it must. It learns sustenance. As my mind liberates steadily, so does my body. I feel detached from my own person. I am now separate identities. I coexist with myself. I am a performer, a spectator, a critic, a learner, a teacher. The sounds now understand me. We make music, we make mistakes. I now understand the sounds. They talk to me. I tell them about my happiness, my pain that wont go away. I tell them about my day and how uneventful it was. I ask them about theirs. The sounds introduce me to peace. They tell me he is a good friend of theirs. And sometimes, I can smell sound. Maybe it is just my breath. Or the freshly washed sheets on my bed. Maybe its the trees outside or the dust? Maybe it is indeed the sound. It lingers and intensifies as I progress. I smell anxiety when I struggle to find the right note and contentment, as I struggle less and less. I smell calm. I smell music.

This month I am reading The News by Alain De Botton. The book discusses the content that is being put out by news agencies of today – the intent (or lack of it) behind what they choose to publish and what they choose to not; and how it all subliminally affects the readers. There is a section of the book where he talks about the use of photographs in news reporting and what meaning each image conveys. He says:

“We might usefully divide news photographs into two genres. The first are images of corroboration, which do little other than confirm something we have learned about a person or an event through a accompanying article. The idea here is that photography should just furnish an extra level of proof as to the reality of events which have already been described in language. Then there is another, rarer kind of image, the photograph of revelation, whose ambition is not simply to back up what the text tells us but tot advance our level of knowledge to a new point.”

A while back (in September 2014), a friend uploaded a few pictures from two different events on instagram. Images from both events were arranged in a grid – one picture grid for each event. I asked –  Why not publish all the individual images separately as two albums? My question came from the fact that I couldn’t see the peoples’ faces clearly. The grid of pictures inside the already small frame of instagram were just too small for me to engage with. What struck me was that as a viewer of those images, I felt an inherent need to connect with what I was looking at. I wanted to engage with it. To my friend, as she put it, “it is only for documentation”. This got me thinking..

Isn’t us putting out our lives in front of millions (often painting a picture that could be only part of the whole truth) also a form of consumable information published intentionally, just like the news? We have an audience, just like the news and just like the news, we too want either to evoke a certain response or inform. Do we not then have the responsibility to express meaning beyond corroboration? Seldom do we find pictures that are intended towards revelation and seldom do we ourselves put out such content.

One often forgets the need to create meaning in the rush to constantly establish a presence. As a consumer of all this unfiltered information, I find only a tenth of the posts that actually mean something, even to the one posting it. As a designer I have felt this occurring in my design process too. On an instinct, I go for the image that is usually the norm – something that would align with the message. It takes me several iterations to realise that the choice of image though absolutely relevant, isn’t advancing anyone’s knowledge beyond the text, neither is it that of revelation. Should this be something I should embed in my instinct? or is the awareness good enough?

As much I understand the general negative point of view about “new years resolutions”, I fail to implement the idea myself. The rationale usually put forward is that people resolve to do things which they don’t end up doing, consequently getting disappointed with themselves. I don’t fear disappointment as much as I do the prospect of having no faith in people, experiences and one’s own self. Hope is motivating. A glimpse of the ‘better’ pushes me to work harder. I construct expectations for myself to live up to, all the time. What I am learning with time though, is how not to be unrealistic. But then again, my definition of ‘unreal’ may be very different from someone else’s.

Here’s my theory, the whole point of expectations is to preempt an action in our minds – so technically it is all fantastical anyway. One can never be sure if what they anticipated will ever truly happen, till they are in that moment in time. And if that be the case, why not expect an ideal course of events and work towards it? This can lend itself to a philosophical debate where one can argue about relativism and idealism versus realism, but the idea is to find a logic for one’s actions. I am a bit of a dreamer and my logic is this – if everything is in my imagination, I can aim for the stars and see where it takes me. Same with resolutions – I have elaborate ones. Even if I do half of what I aim for, I am still learning far more than what I know now.

And of course my resolutions:

1. Read a minimum 12 books in this year. One a month is just perfect. Last year I probably read just 2.
2. Learn a new musical instrument. I bought a Jews Harp for myself on my birthday in November 2014. I am hoping to learn that or something that can be a useful accompaniment to my Hindustani Classical Vocal classes.
3. Learn a new form of Marshal Arts and/or Work out regularly
4. Get an Intermediate Skiing Certificate
5. Resume Horse-Riding
6. Participate in a minimum of 5 design competitions
7. Do weekly exercises to learn & sharpen software skills
8. Write a daily journal
9. Learn how to surf
10. Do one extensive passion project and 12 tiny ones.
11. Move to a different city

Yes, this looks like a lot and I might add more stuff as the year progresses. I am willing to give this a shot…because why not!