Yet Untitled 012 - Of Umbrellas and Exploding Hedgehogs
Strange Dreams / Protection from your Inner Censors
My dearest Yet Untitlers,
We are still far away from the rains here in Mumbai but the heat is already taking its toll. I saw someone faint at the Andheri passport application centre on Wednesday because of the heat! It isn’t surprising to me that I’m sending you a newsletter full of umbrella images.
For a long time, I considered this photograph to be “my best shot”. It was exhibited at a small show and a few people even bought prints. Enthused, I extended myself into the world of art and curation, hoping to be invited in and for this to develop into some sort of side hustle. When this did not happen, it left me nursing a dollop of resentment. Hmmmm. A door that I wanted to open simply didn’t. And this took its toll.
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about our inner censors - the caricature villains who live inside us, constantly naysaying. What we perceive as failure strengthens these noisy troublemakers. Cameron’s prescribed method of dealing with inner censors is first and foremost recognition - knowing who/what they are. We think they are actual people, but in truth they are an accumulation of negative causes that have latched on to our own insecurities, not allowing them to disappear. She recommends a variety of exercises that help with getting past them - morning pages being one - a tool I’ve used effectively many times.
To say the least, I’ve collected my share of of inner censors over time.
One of the reasons why writing this newsletter has been so wonderful is that it has allowed me to pinpoint and target (for obliteration) all such lingering regrets, disappointments and despondencies - my collective of inner censors - that I carry with me from my 20s and 30s. And you - my dear readers - have been fantastic here - simply by listening. Even your not hitting ‘unsubscribe’ so far is something I take as a validation. It has, after all these years, found me calling myself a photographer. And this is no small thing.
So, dear Yet Untitlers, I thank you for your Umbrella - this safe space that we find inside the thoughtful bubble of our conversation. It delights me in the same that Satsuki’s umbrella delighted her newfound furry friend in Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro (which is also my perennial recommendation to all people of all ages - something son the side of life that I consider it to be a true treasure of our times!)
Want to tell me about your own close encounters of the inner-censor kind?
Here’s someone who could really use a sturdy umbrella:
This artwork is from my work-in-progress graphic novel - Long Walk at the Break of Day (spoken of in Yet Untitled 008). It’s based on a dream I had - induced by a Past Life Regression Therapy session conducted by my wonderful friend Vikramjit, who I allowed to take me under via hypnosis at a time when I was confused about a lot of things in my mid 20s.
Leaving aside whether I think I ventured into my past lives or not, Vikramjit’s gentle questioning and prompting led my mind - absolutely trusting and relaxed in his compassionate presence - to form a sort of metaphorical story map of my inner terrain. It became easier to walk towards the light and seek a path away from confusions and suffering after he had done his work. Finding my way become purposeful - much like with the soldier in the artwork above.
Dreams (hypnosis-induced or not) have played an important part in my effort to understand myself and the world. They seem suggestive of things beyond our conscious grasp. That aside, I find them utterly fascinating in their off-centre bizarreness, inviting you in as if to solve some puzzle about yourself.
On that note, let me introduce you to Pointy Hegde.
Who is Pointy Hegde?
He’s a hedgehog who I saw in a dream. He was poised on the edge of a spoon.
And then he exploded! Again and again and again, on repeat.
Here a bad visual representation of my Pointy Hegde (it’s a Marthi surname, pronounced “Hague-day”) dream.
What’s interesting is this dream’s tone: it felt like the finale of a bizarre film called “The End of Pointy Hegde”. Imagine the scene playing on an infinite loop with this soundtrack (which incidentally was the first track on my Shiv Novosibirsk Mix I referenced in Yet Untitled 011):
At some point, consciousness kicked in - deciding that this stuff is too amazing to leave in the recesses of the subconscious. An exploding hedgehog called Pointy Hedge poised at the end of a spoon, exploding again and again to an acid jazz cover of a Zeppelin song - a fragment of a longer comic narrative where I only know the explosive punchline.
You cannot make this shit up!
So, I texted my wife at 4am in a desperate attempt not to lose this gem.
As you can see, Yet Untitlers - my commitment to you extends into my sleeping hours! Note my explanation at 8:22am, which is me imploring Vani not to think that I’m batshit crazy, the “Love You” obviously meant to offer her some solace that even if I am, my feelings for her remain unchanged.
I must confess, a few hours into waking, I thought that it was all crap. That there was nothing to decipher about the Pointy dream, let alone use it - or other dreams - as a tool in my newsletter - or for anything! However, as I was telling myself all this, I realised that I was beginning to sound very much like my inner censors - who, of course, would tell me that I should be nothing less than embarrassed about sharing Pointy with you.
So, thankfully, I didn’t cast Pointy aside. Instead, I reflected deeply about him and his appearance in my life. My reflection was tempered by something I heard in the film DUNE - that I watched for the second time a few days ago.
“The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” (Frank Herbert, Dune)
I believe it! But I also believe that it’s up to us what meaning we assign to the things we experience.
I have nothing against hedgehogs. I believe them to be very intelligent, resourceful and resilient creatures - just like my inner censors who have evaded my efforts to discard them for decades, who think of the most inventive ways to dissuade me when they want to.
That’s it. Pointy Hegde exploding repeatedly is - to me - the obliteration of the regrets and despondencies I have carried with me for decades. Nothing less. And…
No hedgehogs were harmed in the writing of this newsletter.
Had Vikramjit not taken me on a tour of inner terrain via the intent of exploring my past lives, perhaps I would not have been able to expound on Pointy Hegde as I have here.
Vikramjit - we haven’t spoken in awhile, but I have learned a lot from you - you Encyclopaedia of the Esoteric. Here’s another memory where you changed poison into medicine for me:
One stormy night in Mumbai, a strong wind blew into my friends’ apartment in Colaba and knocked down an antique full length mirror that shattered to pieces the moment it hit the ground. Angad, Tara and I looked at each other with the same question on our lips - “are we fucked with seven years of bad luck or what?”
Someone had the bright idea to call Vikramjit.
“Consider it the shattering of all your illusions” he said.
I am very grateful for the Vikramjits of our world.
The promised paragraph about Aahana
Aahana likes to draw and she likes to read. Her current favourite drawing subjects are leopards and her favourite books these days are The Babysitter’s Club graphic novels. She is a proud goofball who enjoys making you laugh with her funny faces and antics. When she reads she looks looks so much like my late father that I have to shake off the wave of memories that come to me when I see her thus. Aahana is adventurous, always up for trying new things. Being so very different from her sister, Aahana still considers Ananya her best friend (even if she doesn’t say it in so many words).
They’re both there for each other, these two, their bond a bright, blue umbrella covered with the pups from Paw Patrol.
Before we go…
…I’ll leave with you with my favourite tiny story about the nature of faith:
“Once all the villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer, all the people gathered, but only one boy came with an umbrella.”
Stay safe and hopeful, everyone. May you look towards tomorrow like this lady is looking towards her umbrella in the photo below. I have no clue why her brolly is making her so happy, but as we say in Hindi - aap ko aam khan se matlab hai ya ped ginne se? (What’s more important - eating the mangoes or counting the mango trees?)
Mango season will be here soon. Be sure to enjoy them mangoes.
See you next week!