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Tag: art

Squared planning

To write after days feels good; to write after months? Is to recover from grief.

I gave my first piano recital on March 8; became a San Francisco City Guide on May 9; and 2 days ago, I launched an event called Aeolian Day for the world to experience the sound of the wind. This all must read like 6-months of reward driven work, but it turned my painfully nourished artist-soul away.

April was the greatest dip. I took a 10-day trip to India in mid-April. On my onward journey, I had to take 4 flights spread over 30 hours to get to my parents’ winter home in Coimbatore. The 4 days that I spent there, however, more than made up for the travel fatigue. There was a moment when I felt like a writer again and completed one of my short stories. I sat in the balcony that looked out at the horticultural farm and in great peace, the words just flowed out. That was the end of it.

The following days were filled with a wedding ceremony and more cities to hop. In the last leg of my trip, I was in Trivandrum and spent a lot of time with my extremely pregnant sister-in-law and my mother-in-law. I realized they were in great need of someone who could just make the world seem worry-free. I did my best and played a few games of scrabble and performed a few songs in the evenings. I know they felt joy, at least for sometime. But then, before I knew, it was time to leave. Why didn’t I stay for the delivery? – you may ask. Well, I had a training session that I had planned my trip around. In fact, my trip was exactly between 2 training sessions. A day before I had to leave, my mother-in-law said “It feels good to have your support, both physically and mentally.” I think, at that moment, my heart shrank. I considered cancelling my ticket too; but my partner comforted me and gave me enough confidence to leave.

On my flight back, thoughts of helplessness trapped me. The year 2014 offered my life a gap that unleashed an artist inside of me. I wrote, I painted, I played music and I sang; outside of these pursuits, I continued to create at random occasions – a glass harp, a spacecraft suit, 3 camera obscuras etc.. It was the most beautiful year and the one I hadn’t even expected. I taught myself to swim and trained myself to enjoy routine that in effect, fueled my creativity. However, on that flight I realized that to have just your ‘own’ pursuits is not only hard but weighs you with decisions that you don’t want to partake in. If I had an employer, I would have applied for a vacation and just to put my foot down and say “I have to be with my family.”, would have made me feel like a winner. I would have not kept my training sessions at such high priority and just worked around them. To have the world think that you have all the time to spare feels weird. You feel vulnerable and insecure about being taken for granted.

I felt bad that in my efforts to grow without an employer, I had become a slave to myself.

I returned home(alone) in San Francisco; somewhat broken but sick otherwise. A nasty flu (that I picked from someone on the flight) became an uninvited guest. It stayed with me for 6 days during which I had to recover from a jet-lag and an emotional low; and I had to prepare my first Mock Tour. I barely had 3 days for the tour preparation and despite a decent research and a rough story-line, I was too sick during the tour to make it fun. That felt like hell!

I withdrew into a deep state of despair along with a sense of failure. There was no one to listen to my rants, nobody to comfort me with a hug and for the first time I realized I didn’t have a friend around to call up! Yes, there are friends that I have made and yes, I would still call up just for a chitchat; but I found no answers in my head to my cries for help.

It took me about 6 days to recover from the flu but that depression hasn’t left me yet.

The event planning partially helped but towards the last few days, I burnt out. The joys of writing are best experienced alone but the success of a job is meaningless in solitude. And there is no reality to all this. It’s in my system and it continues to grow and I have spent a week blowing it off. There are still a few dark sparks but I hope that the rest of 2015 has enough lessons for me to plan my life better. I want to enjoy every day that I have, every minute that I live and every breath that I take. And I am quite uptight about that.


Art, an experience

My music teacher called me this morning. He is working on a mobile app that helps train people in Carnatic Music. Among the many features is one where users can identify a Raga by listening to the pitches/notes. The goal of the app is to build the knowledge of pitches and ragas.

I was asked if I had any thoughts or ideas that could make it better. From a random place in my memory, I mentioned that I would love it if people could identify Ragas based on their association of mood. Every Raga in Carnatic Classical Music invokes a certain kind of feeling between joy, temptation, sadness, anger, disgust etc.. However, not everybody feels the same way about the same Raga. So, while it’s hard to tie one mood to a Raga; I think for every person, their unique association remains largely the same.

So, I imagined an app which would build a profile of my understanding of music, based on how I felt about a certain sequence of notes. The app, with the knowledge of my perception of music, can replay certain sounds/pieces in a genre of moods. By recalling an experience, I might be able to identify Ragas.

This is when I realized that all my life I have been better at recalling experiences instead of events. And I think this ability of my system to capture the overall mood of an event makes me a lover of all arts. Because, what is art, if not an experience?

Zither ka Zikar

Many, many years ago, when I was a child I had a dream; (Who doesn’t?)

To collect, amass, own, possess; (So what?)

To play, to make, to do, to share; (ok, what’s your point?)

And put it all on display; (Aren’t you a show-off?)

Just for me to see, me to think, me to smile and me to get carried away.

__________Yes, that alter-ego that never had a childhood, finally gave up._____________

I wished to create a room full of instruments of music. And now, I have a violin, a piano, a keyboard, a tuning fork (ha!) and because of my new music teacher – an autoharp. Furthermore, I hadn’t expected this Zither to become my favorite play thing. It sounds wonderful and doesn’t demand much talent. I can just strum through it while I sing my songs.

Welcome you beautiful!

Children’s Zither (Autoharp)

For those who are lost because of the title, it translates to ‘About a Zither’.

Cultural Baggage

Three short compositions a week and a phrase of ‘Numb – piano version’ – This is the usual format of my piano lessons. After the initial confusion, I managed to make this work for me. And last week, I realized that I show steady progress in western music lessons. I did however, nod in positive when someone said if the shape in this famous picture is of a Clef. It’s of a note and I didn’t correct myself on time.

Besides these minor, embarrassing setbacks which remind me that I am not a musician if I call myself one; I am happy with the way things are. The lessons add to my confidence and inspire me to devote enough practice-time every week.

I also learn Carnatic Music from a great musician. His wisdom is incredible and his innovative teaching methods have helped me look at Indian classical music in a new way. However, when I look at the kind of progress I make in the western lessons, I find the Carnatic Music lessons direction-less. It upsets me, stresses me out and I am tempted to go back to all those years of childhood when I got trained to be a singer.

I grew up in a typical Tamil Brahmin set up, although my parents are/were relatively liberal and open minded. Music was always an important part of our culture. So, I took training from 3 different teachers and after deducting breaks, my total learning period was 5 years. I performed several times, and won a few competitions as well. My voice was the greatest reason I stood out, whenever I did. But I had a hard time relating to the form of music. Here are some of the reasons for that:

  • I lived in a city in North India and this classical form is a part of the South Indian lifestyle
  • There was a cultural gap between school, college and the music classes
  • Most of the songs were in a language that I don’t understand
  • There is/was very little text on Carnatic Music
  • It evolved in a Gurukul system and hence, the lessons were passed on from teachers without a common structure

The last two reasons continue to affect and pose a problem in my growth as a musician. Compared to the different kind of associations that I can make with western music, there is almost no passive interaction with Carnatic Music. The only conversations I have are with my teacher; there are no constant social media updates on the subject; there is no hobby group where I can immerse myself in the dialogue and questions about the music.

I enjoy Carnatic Violin immensely, and since I remember I have had a violin as my signature sketch. But as I understand, it’s not enough. I need to find a way to make my development flow.

Not a butterfly

“I think we look like a butterfly when asleep.” He said.

“What? No!” She said.

“My head’s there, your butt is here and we are curled onto our own sides. Of course, we look like a butterfly.”

She picked up her brush, sat in front of the canvas and spent over 45 days, to create a theorem.


“Hence proved!” She said.

“Butterfly!” He said.

Nilofer Suleman

Two weeks ago, i had gone to attend the ‘India Art Summit 2009’. A very enriching experience and some unforgettable glimpses of great art.

I had not predicted it to be so grand and interesting. I watched some 10 short films from different countries. Each of these films were quite intriguing. Some of them had interesting ideas along with smart editing.

But unforgettable art was housed in the three halls of pragati maidan. Paintings, sculptures, innovative art, everything was worth more than a visit. I couldn’t see all of it but from the ones i saw, i am enchanted by the art of ‘nilofer suleman’.

Colors, culture & humor. I found the blend cheeky & amusing.

The visit inspired me to start sketching again. Art is fun.