Yet Untitled 011 - Who We Are through our Stuff
Rituals of Accumulation and Placement
Dear Yet Untitlers,
You know, writing this newsletter can get pretty precarious on some days! On some weeks, it’ll be Tuesday evening and I still won’t have a clue about what I want to say in the Friday dispatch. It happened this week - this sentence expressing my distress was written on a Tuesday night!
Some close friends had gasped when I started “Yet Untitled”. They asked me: “isn’t there enough going on to stress you out anyway? Y’know, like life? Whatdj’ya stick your neck down this hole for, then?”
Their cautioning wasn’t misplaced. The distress is real. But…(there’s always a lovely ‘but’)…
But the pleasure lies in this dance between knowing and not knowing; between exploring and discovery. I have never felt so creatively alive for such a sustained spell as I have since I’ve started writing “Yet Untitled”.
So here I am.
Now, the good thing is that I set a rule: to start with an image and go from there, trip-trapping over two or three related topics. It’s a good rule. And if I don’t do the image thing, I tend to get cerebral. Very cerebral. And when I’m cerebral, I’m boring.
So here goes. I picked an image for reasons yet unclear to me.
Here’s to discovering why.
Welcome back! Hope you enjoy Edition 011. I want to refrain from a This is Spinal Tap reference, but then again - why?
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Ah! My desk from a decade and a half ago!
I guess it’s better than a shot of my feet.
A good place to start is with the visible objects (you can tap on the image to enlarge it and get a closer look) . There are many things on the desk that I have or had a significant relationship with. That silver pen in the front is now gone (it more or less simply disintegrated), but I have never been able to draw with other pens how I was able to draw with it. The notebook with the drawings is still with me, a precious reminder of what visual expression means to this person - Vasant - in this lifetime.
I could go on. There’s a whole story about why I’ve written “Contacts!” on the business card holder in that deliberate way (you may guess if you saw my short film SHANU TAXI after reading Yet Untitled 009). If I start on the books, we’ll be reading one long, long newsletter! So I’ll pull back and say this:
There’s a comfort in having familiar things at hand, in my case, especially at the spot where I do the things I consider important.
To elaborate: 15 years ago, the amalgam of meaning on that table told me something about who I was back then. Shit has disappeared, disintegrated, been thrown away or got lost since then. Other shit has taken its place. There is a new amalgam of meaning. There is a new amalgam that is Vasant.
I’m also struck by how much the suff on my desk says about me to me. As some of you readers may have figured by now - understanding myself is a recurring theme in “Yet Untitled”. It keeps coming back and I’m not fighting it. There’s no need to. It’s fun!
In a time when missiles fall and obliterate desks, notebooks and the assorted paraphernalia that is the person who collected it, I also - albeit through many removes - feel the cost of war and understand what is at stake. At the same time…
…the desk in the photo above is now gone (gifted to a friend for her house on the hill). And I’m still here.
There’s hope to be found in this.
One thought would be to follow the last section with a photo of my current desk, but you’ve already seen it in Yet Untitled 005. Besides, it’d be boring. Besides, Vasant as an amalgam of his paraphernalia is available to you in another for already though this newsletter!
Instead, I’m going to show you a photograph of this paraphernalia seller from Juhu beach:
Because when I look at the image, I think of the word “Monster”.
And there’s a monster on the loose in Russia.
I will balance the presence of the monster with its antithesis.
Here’s a photograph of me with Ananya - one of my twins. There’s a reason why it’s here. In Yet Untitled 003, I had shared a photo of me with Aahana, my other twin - just the two of us. This did not go down well with Ananya 😬.
Ananya is a kind human being who will always look out for you if she sees you in distress. May her tribe increase and cancel out the predominance of monsters in our world.
PS: In the next newsletter, you can expect a paragraph about Aahana. The fact that I wrote one in praise of Ananya here didn’t go down well with her 😆!
Recaliberation, discounted at 70%
A few days ago, I picked up a MUJI wall mounted CD player at a very marked-down price. About 3 units lay in the discount section - ignored and unloved. But it was decided the moment I looked on them - one of those babas was coming home with me.
I can actually remember when I saw a CD player for the first time. I was 10. It was a coveted other-worldly object; and those shiny reflective discs looked like something beyond sci-if to my Indian, pre-economic liberalisation eyes. Today, a CD player has a status one notch above e-waste. My last functioning machine fell apart a few years ago and was replaced by a range of Bluetooth/Airplay speakers.
Heading back from the mall, I was extremely excited about the renewed access to the hundreds of CDs hibernating inside forgotten Case Logics (remember those?) inside a forgotten cabinet at home.
Clearly, my music collection has been emblematic of my changing self over the years of my life. Spotify and Apple Music have been working hard to make the tangible proof of this important identity-artefact redundant.
But I bought my access to this artefact, that too at a 70% discount!
That CD you see in the photograph - that itself is a poignant trigger! It was burned in Cardiff University by my friend Shiv, who brought it along when he visited me in Cambridge over a weekend. It wasn’t intended so, but was spontaneously gifted to me on the eve of my departure to Siberia (see Yet Untitled 008), and thereafter became the soundtrack to that very significant adventure. That makes this CD the vessel containing the soundscape of my early 20s.
I just cannot fathom an ephemeral pocket of digital information carrying the same weight. That CD - a tangible object - with all its scratches and leftover label glue (which by now has likely petrified lint and gunk from god knows how many nations) is an emblem of my life at a time when I was transitioning from being a student to walk the open road of career and independent life. That’s a big one!
This brings me back to the comfort having things at hand that point in the direction of who we are, and I wonder why this is. Perhaps we live in a world where easy to forget this.
Buddhism offers what I find to be a profound and useful perspective:
According to the Buddha’s teachings in the Lotus Sutra, we are all inherently Buddhas. However, living in today’s world - replete with its contradictions and confusions - we succumb to the darkness of ignorance and forget who we are.
It takes a practice of reminding ourselves that we are indeed creatures of hope (the Buddha being an entity of unlimited hope), even if we are surrounded by despair.
In the light of this perspective, my rituals of accumulation and placement begin to make sense.
Seen this show yet?
I really, really enjoyed it. I always get drawn in by anything whose subject matter telecasts a certain type of experience, and then the thing surprises you completely. If that’s what you’re looking for, watch this show.
It’s about grieving. It’s about picking up your life after loss. And it’s totally hilarious! Set far away from any familiar city environment, in American crop-land, this show is relatable, raunchy and…
…it’s about music pointing someone back in the direction of who they are; back towards what makes them happy.
I finished all the episodes a few days ago, but I can't stop thinking about the story and its characters.
What made me like it so much? I been thinking about this.
I’ve been thinking about finding joy in surprising places.
Perhaps it suggests to me that joy is to be found everywhere, without exception.
As always I’d like to leave you with a question (more like a bunch of questions):
Can you tell me about a piece of music that is definitive of a particular time in your life? Is it important for you to hear it off and on? What happens when you hear it now?
Hit ‘comment’ or reply to this email.
Please tell me. I’d like to know!
Before I go, a couple pf requests:
Please share this post with someone who’d relate to it.
Please share this newsletter with someone who you think would get a kick out of it.
Love you guys! See you all next week!