December 30, 2013

Wrapping up 2013 - and welcoming 2014!

Judging from the last post and the several others I have dedicated to it in this last year, it would seem that I did precious little apart from Instagramming;) Well, I browsed through my blog archives and did a little bit of flashbacking to see what I was up to in 2013 - and it turned out that there was plenty of travelling, rekindling of creativity, whether it was writing, photography or painting, meaningful interaction with fellow creatives, and absorbing all the incredible sights of the multiple, diverse worlds that I happened to access throughout the year.

Here are a few vignettes:


I began to discover the city which I have called home for the past one year via a delicately blooming cluster of magnolia trees and bold, beautiful eye-sculptures. 


Spotting bio-luminscent bacteria, swimming in impossibly clear seas, and photographing deliciously hued tropical blooms and ice-cream colored houses in Puerto Rico = the best holiday ever!

 I discovered the joy of merging painting and collaging!


I pursued photography and more specifically, photo-essays and was featured in The Aerogram.


I wrote a lot more non-fiction, exploring the intersection of fashion, style, and personal narrative here and here.


I mused about what it is like to create a home, object by object, thought by thought...

All year-around:

I had the opportunity to interact and meet with some fabulously talented international women artists while guest-blogging for International Museum of Women's blog, Her Blueprint, such as Mona Kamal, Tulika Ladsariya, and Haleh Anvari (work featured above).

Wonder what 2014 will have in store?:)

 In the meantime, here's wishing each and every one of my readers a very Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you all that you aspire for and that you enjoy every moment that the forthcoming year has in store for you, like blooms of breathtaking beauty encased in buds limning tree branches...

December 26, 2013

The Stream of Consciousness/Poetry: Boxing Memories via Instagram

Multiple Memories, Pittsburgh

On a recent long-haul flight, I ended up re-watching the Hindi film, 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani' and something about the opening scenes snagged my attention. The leading lady, Naina (Deepika Padukone) is reminscing about a life-changing trip to Manali she took several years ago and once she eventually finishes flash-backing and drifts back into the present, we find her surrounded by keepsakes she has preserved from that trip. It got me thinking then about how I too once upon a time used to similarly and carefully preserve objects - notes, cards, gifts, trinkets - which had great sentimental importance and store them in pretty boxes...and more importantly, why I no longer do so anymore. Coincidentally, soon after I landed home, I received a message from friend and fellow blogger, Khadija, telling me how many things she had recently donated and how she finds that she doesn't seem to attach importance to these objects anymore. "I don't want things anymore," she told me. "Suddenly, they have no meaning and are just taking up space."

Leafing Through, Pittsburgh
I was quite a bit of a collector during my childhood and teenage days and I must say that the habit still persists; I continue to collect fallen leaves or feathers and will often place them in bowls or dress up my coffee-table with these found treasures. Yet, these objects increasingly hold ephemeral significance for me; as soon as they cease to fascinate me, I do not have any compunctions in bidding them farewell. Unlike earlier times, when I would bring back home a pinecone or a pebble or a shell as a physical, tangible reminder of a holiday or experience and steadfastly hold onto them, I am now finding myself shoeboxing memories, so to speak, in written/visual form. An object can easily shatter or be misplaced or simply disappear...a visual and written record is more durable and permanent, and ultimately, much more effectively bottle the mood and spirit of a moment or a journey. Suffice to say, I would prefer to photograph the object and memorialise in it in that fashion, rather than keeping the physical object itself!

Raspberry-Lime, Pittsburgh

Looking Up, Warwick Art Centre
And so I have taken to recording my experiences - whether its daily quotidian (eccentric flower-bouquets, garlic bulbs, a lady bug) or preserved-in-amber worthy (dramatic sunsets, clear, jade Puerto Rican seas) - in a daily diary and for the past one year, particularly via Instagram. What with my phone being my third-eye, constantly observing and documenting whatever catches my fancy, Instagram allows me to specifically curate these moments. If my phone camera roll is a stream of consciousness, Instagram becomes poetry, streamlining and condensing these moments into intense, singular experiences.

In addition, it has made me even more sharply and vividly aware of the river of sights that streams past me every day; what I earlier may have been oblivious to re-presents itself in form of quirky visual messages instead. I am learning to distil beauty from the mundane and create dream-like stories from a family of otherwise merely sundry individual objects.

Chopsticks, Pittsburgh

Morjis, Muscat
When I cast an eye on my feed for the past eleven months, moments brilliantly leap out to me, like a fish arcing from water at dawn. They are safely stored away in this virtual chocolate box of memories, allowing me to re-experience nuances of these special coordinates of time as if they happened just yesterday, rather than long ago...

How do you preserve your memories? I would love to hear!

December 7, 2013

Being featured in Once Upon a Tea Time's online magazine

I have been following Priya's gorgeously curated blog on interiors, lifestyle, and visual prettiness, Once Upon a Tea Time for quite a while now. What I have always enjoyed about her blog is that in addition to feasting one's eyes upon beautifully-assembled and presented interiors and learning about various organizations and individuals creating unique and interesting products (I admire how she has consistently supported entrepreneurs and artisans world over and brought them to her readers' attention), I also appreciate how she thoughtfully intersperses these posts with personal meditations upon life and her constantly evolving interiors through features such as A Postcard from My Life.

One of Priya's recent posts was concerning Project Home - and I felt compelled to write in with my thoughts and pictures. She then later graciously invited me to contribute these thoughts in form of a short piece for the first issue of her online magazine celebrating her blog's fifth birthday. I was honored to be part of these birthday celebrations and associated with her blog...and looking forward to the magazine's subsequent issues!

I am reproducing the piece and pictures below here:

Blue Moon

 'Project Home', which was a thoughtful meditation upon what home means to different people, made me think quite a bit about what home means to me. I initially associated it with 'homelands'; 'Project Home'  made me perceive it in terms of physical sanctuaries instead. I must say that getting married, moving to a different country, and having a home of your own quite literally turns the definition on its axis. Now that I have a home, I am much more mindful of the elements that will contribute to making my home an enjoyable and beautiful space to inhabit and be surrounded by. I am still gradually building it up; as I am most likely to shift home in few months, I can't layer or extensively decorate the place as much as I did like to. However, it's also simultaneously impossible to live in a bare space and I am learning to strike a balance between minimalism and maximalism. My home at the moment therefore is a reflection of my present state of mind: I am in transition and yet, I need to populate my immediate spaces with little bits and pieces to call it my own.

Dressing the Mirror
Spilt Shadows

What are these bits and pieces? I have used miniature pumpkins and fallen leaves as table center-pieces; I decorate my shelves with ceramic bowls painted and glazed at a ceramic art store (his and mine). There is a pink framed mirror dressed with a Rajasthani leheriya dupatta and paper kites flying high on the wall above it. Above the dining table, a tomato red and saffron Rajasthani miniature painting depicting a bride travelling to her marital home in a palanquin (how fitting that it is a wedding gift!) looks down at us. Back in my old house, my dressing table was my stage of decor, containing my knick-knacks and some which have migrated from there to here: Moroccan trays, Kashmiri and Iranian boxes, Venetian Masks, and Omani bedouin thread key-rings.

Pumpkin Crisp

Venetian Drama

It's a home being put together and I would any day dress it with what Priya beautifully describes as the patina of life in her 'Project Home' post. It may not look like a photograph from an interior magazine or Pinterest but that is perfectly fine with me. As the evenings darken with winter's onset and I illumine the room, I feel a sense of cosiness and intimacy, surrounded by objects that I brought from my old home and which are now joining the others that my husband and I collect as we build our new home and life together.

December 3, 2013

Almost-winter musings and notes on an inverted Ramayana: Raavan


Is it already the of beginning of December? Has winter officially begun its invasion upon the world? I awakened today to a world shrouded in blank whiteness, sombre, stark snow-limned trees outside my balcony, bearing no memory of their elaborately green, leafy costumed summer selves or when their leaves caught fire only just a few weeks ago. As I briefly wandered through the street, walking upon the slushy tarmac, I marvelled at how swiftly the arrival of snow excises all reminders of the previous worlds. Did a cluster of pink roses really bloom in this house portico? Where had the trio of squirrels vanished to? And who ate the blue sky up?

Well, I will be pondering all these questions and more, perched upon my couch and surveying the winter balcony vistas; in addition, apart from cooking soups, baking desserts, and writing, I also intend to Netflix my way through the winter and catching up on a backlog of movies and shows. Since getting married almost a year ago, I must admit that thanks to my husband, my viewing choices have become much more varied compared to my pre-marriage self, which contentedly inhabited the comfort zone of romantic comedies, quirky favorites and Bollywood masala. It also meant that I lost track of the number of times I remarked that I had heard of so and so acclaimed movie and fully intended to watch it one of these days...only to reach for a DVD of an old favorite whenever I did get around to watching something. However, nowadays, my husband and I frequently and feverishly debate over what to watch and in the process, I have abandoned my comfort-movie diet to experience great documentaries, such as Jiro Dreams of Sushi, international cinema, a delightful Iranian children's movie, The White Balloon, and classics such as The Pianist and Forrest Gump, which I predictably had never got around to watching. I have enjoyed all of these but not before initially resisting and insisting that we watch a Yash Chopra romance for the umpteenth time!

                                                                 Raavan's theatrical trailer

The other night, though, we somehow rather quickly came to a consensus on Raavan; I remember wishing to see it in the cinema in Oman, where I was living at the time but it did not linger in the theatres for too long. However, an intriguing re-interpretation of one of our greatest literary epics, Ramayana and furthermore, that too one which inverts and questions the traditional good vs evil paradigm and redefines the borderland of gray was what compelled both of us to watch it...

Raavan's poetry visuals: a fallen leaf
This contemporary Ramayana takes place in milky mist-shrouded hills, ravines, rivers, and forests; rain is also an omnipresent character in this film and the manner in which the camera explores and utilises the landscape while marrying it to the atmospheric elements is what I particularly liked about this film. The incredible photography and Mani Ratnam's signature mode of telling stories through his visuals means that as viewers, we too parachute into the landscape and experience the elements, the sheer physicality of the river-battered rocks or winding through the dense forests or swan-diving off the cliffs. While there is an inclination to be a little too photogenic and embrace the cosmetic (the incredible shots of Aishwarya trapped in the embraces of a tree branch, much like an ochre leaf caught in twigs only serve to make capital of Rai's beauty for the sake of it, rather than adding texture or weight to the narrative ), I nevertheless thought the landscape actively participates in the story in a palpable, visceral manner. 


However, as crucial and relevant the landscape is to the film, the moot point is the interpretation or rather, more precisely, the inversion of Ramayana; here, we largely see events unfolding from Raavan's perspective, we become privy to his thoughts as much as those of Dev Pratap, the Rama-figure. Indeed, we do find ourselves sympathising with him, as Rai, who initially resists, fights, and later, begans to develop ambivalent feelings about him - and in turn, Dev, her husband, savior, and whom she describes as god. Who or what exactly is god/villain anyway? In this culture-unspecific landscape, nothing is what it seems: what appears to be dense foliage is in fact men in camoflauge. A gesture of peace from the enemy side becomes blotted in blood. Trust evaporates, leaving behind acidic hillocks of distrust and suspicion. 

Concluding shots...

For me, Ramayana has always been problematic in the sense as in its depiction of Lord Rama and his  relationship with his wife, Sita following their return to Ayodhya and how he doubts/questions her. I always perceived Ravan in entirely monochromatic black, a foil to the hero, rather than as a fully nuanced character in his own right; indeed, the most remarkable aspects that I associated with him were his ten-heads and that he abducts Sita in the mythological precedent to the air-plane, the air-vehicle. While the film does not entirely do justice to its provocative contention of recasting Ravaan and indeed, re-presenting the narrative through his eyes, it made me realise more than ever that there is no singular way of narrating a story and that multiplicity of perspectives allows multiple stories and voices. I left the movie, feeling intrigued enough to learn further about Ravan and locating him beyond the broad strokes of antagonist and adversary...

Has there been a significant movie that encouraged you to radically alter a perspective of a situation or character?