Vistara

This is just a little something I wrote for my college magazine a few years back, about one of the most wonderful experiences I had there; organising the annual college fest. Now, preparing to go back to the role of a student for my post-graduation, I am reminiscing those days of fun and toil.

February 2014

The most awaited semester for a GCA student; the 6th semester, when you get the fabulous opportunity of organising the college event Vistara!!!

And surely, all the waiting did not go waste. Organising Vistara ’14 has grown into one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Moments that will always be remembered and lessons that will never be forgotten. The past few months have surely helped me evolve, having given me lessons in organisation, dedication, and so much more. Never before has been there a time that tested my patience so.

The small moments of joy on getting small sponsors, the satisfaction of a few responsibilities being completed, the few moments of dismay when you feel you do not have the voice you deserve, the anger that you cannot express towards the ones who appear out of nowhere and criticize the ones that are working hard, the times of pride on seeing the product of your hard-work – these sum up my memories of Vistara preparation.

The 5th semester ended in all excitement of the upcoming event. Having started on the preparation and promised to ourselves and each other to work for Vistara in full power once we are back, we left for the class tour. We soon returned, leaving behind the chilling cold of the North; once again back to the thrill and joy of the making of Vistara.

Though very much excited in the beginning, the class seemed to lose interest as time went by. In just a few days, the class went back to the age old habit of laziness. The participation of the majority of the class ended at visiting various sponsors, which, I have to agree, is no small thing. This might have caused concentration of work on a few of us, but we did not really mind! We were ready to dedicate any amount of time and energy to this dream of ours.

It was no easy job getting from other college-mates, the little help we did manage to, being part of a very unique batch of students who have always had a very poor connection with other batches. Luckily, we had good relations with some, while very formal relations with others. Slowly, with their help, we built the event up.

Happy to have done a wide variety of work, from keeping of all records and searching for sponsors to making the stage backdrop with my friends and doing installations with juniors, now I look upon the end product of our hard-work – Vistara ’14 – with a sweet sense of bliss.

As I look back at the struggles and clashes of the last few days while corresponding with other colleges for registration and results and our own college-mates during preparation, and so much more, it dawns on me – Our class is not so bad after all!!

Vistara ’14 has given me a new reason to be, however divided and disorganised it may be, proud of my class.

Balance

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The most difficult thing in life is to get that perfect balance - of work and leisure, of boredom and fun, of purpose and laziness, of extraversion and introversion, of personal needs and social calls, of selflessness and selfishness, of good and bad, of black and white, and so on.
No, this is isn't a random unrelated quote. I am just penning down the thoughts I had while I drew this.
The most important and frequent problem I encounter while drawing, is my fear of blank spaces. I try to fill the space with patterns, and leave no void, black or white. I fear that voids might make my art incomplete, and I sub-consciously fill up all the voids with intricate patterns. Intricacy is my "thing", after all! It took me quite a while to understand that by creating so much clutter, I am depriving my art of its depth, and hence, a life, or a soul. Too flat, one could say, in simpler terms.
My fear of voids could very well be connected to a fear of emptiness at a higher, emotional level. I have always found myself incapable of doing nothing. Those of my friends who can, tell me that it is a highly freeing experience. But I can never let myself be idle. My mind has to, forever, be thinking, imagining, complicating and resolving. I feel a constant need to employ myself in productive tasks. I don't mean that I don't laze around, mind you. I just have a checklist on the back of my mind that reminds me of the time I am wasting, as I laze. Sometimes, on days on which I feel completely useless, I even manage to get some panic attacks. On those days, even my art is too slow to comfort.
I used to think of my art as doodling. My inspiration came from people who did doodles and my own love for patterns and all things aligned. Other times, I never "thought" of my art at all. I never thought of a possibility of there being a similar form of art, complete with mathematical rules guiding the artist. I owe it to my friend for introducing me to the concepts of "mandala" (which I knew about, but not in an artistic perspective) and "zentangle". Though I do not identify with either, I feel that knowing those terms have helped me understand my own art better.
My friend works on (from what I understand) a combination of Mandala art and Zentangle, while not limiting herself to the rules of either. She finds peace in the tumult of lines, and it was during one of those comfortable silences with her that I observed her work her magic. What struck me the most was how confident she was - her hands steady, her lines strong. The composition came easy. The balance that I longed for seemed to come naturally to her. She is my inspiration to push my artistic boundaries. Since that day, I have been trying to fight my fear of voids. With every new piece that I work on, I try to bring in bigger patches of smooth, clean, blank.
In spite of the trials of my childhood and the training from my architecture degree, I was never impressed by anything I drew. I know, I know! Everyone is an artist, and every artist has a signature style. I guess I am still discovering mine. I started doodling so as to take my mind off things from everyday life. I function better when I multi-task, and this seemed like a nice and productive way to challenge myself. In order to keep myself on edge, I try to bring complexities within order. In art, I have found, the best way to do that, is through the use (or overuse) of circles. A circle is the single most simple, and at the same time, the single most complex geometrical form, ever. I find it fascinating, how circles both simplify and complicate a composition.
The journey to calling myself an artist wasn't an easy one. I have only recently accepted what I do as art. I know that art, in its essence, is more inclusive than that. But I prefer to be critical of myself. But it truly is difficult balancing my love for perfection and my admiration of the imperfect. My art isn't perfect. But my art and I have met midway now. Now, I tell myself : I too, am an artist.
It is exhilarating to give in to your instincts; to be spontaneous. To not have an ultimate goal, but to consider the process a journey, where the destination will surprise me as much as the next person. While drawing this particular piece, I managed to surprise myself a few times with something new - a new type of line, an unusual pattern, a break in the default.
I have heard of how relaxing the process of drawing can be, when you really get into it. But I never expected it to be a changing experience. In addition to instilling patience, perseverance and motor control, every time I draw, it kindles something in my mind. At times, I have had to revisit some areas of the drawing, and while I do so, I get reminded of how similar it is to the working of the world in general, as with balance. There are some things that you just don't learn, even after being told multiple times. There are some things that you forget to remember. Things you learn only on personal experience. But who would have thought such a life experience can be found within art?! This drawing has once again shown me how a tiny little thing can make a huge impact on the overall picture (pun intended).
So here's to an amazing, spontaneous, even adventurous artistic life ahead of me, you and everyone. May art give you all the life lessons you need, and may we all get that perfect balance between what you are, what you are becoming, what you need to be, and what you want to be.

The Child and the Street

February 28, 2017

Throughout my final years at college, I had done various levels of study on kids and their relation to spaces. I also had a few friends in my class with similar dedication. We have always got positive feedback as to how our passion towards the topic is reflected in our study. When we had to choose a Thesis topic, though we had diverse options in our mind, deep down, I think, we always knew that we would design for children. That is how I ended up doing an ‘Integrated school’ and one of my friends ended up doing a ‘Centre for street children’. This was an opportunity for us to learn more about child growth and psychology. Even as I was deeply involved in my study and the design it would lead to, my friend’s topic fascinated me. I remember asking her for briefs of everything she had read, heard or observed. I remember her quoting the main tagline of her project, “You can take the child out of the street, but never the street out of the child”. I remember eagerly listening to her as she explained to me how she translated that tagline into her design.All these rushed to my mind in a sudden wave of emotion, when I heard that a student my colleague was mentoring for Thesis, was working on ‘Centre for street children’ for his Architectural Design Thesis. The topic seems to be trending, what with my friend working on it first, and now these students! It is indeed a really interesting topic, especially for those like me with passion towards it.  We all have, for sure, encountered these cute (but dirty), tiny human beings that we call ‘street children’, at some point in our lives. Most of us just ignore it, considering them unimportant. But some of us are part of moments that could remain in our hearts forever. Today, I would like to share one such experience with you, so that you may understand the seriousness of the situation at hand!This happened during my college days. We were on a tour away from college. It was one of those dream-come-true moments for me. A visit to the golden shrine standing at the centre of a peaceful water body. The ambience and tranquillity there was unmatched. Awestruck by the quiet I felt in that crowded space, I couldn’t help but smile ear-to-ear. I knew I’d hate to leave the place. But alas, I had to!! The bliss was short-lived.As I walked out from the ever-so-beautiful Golden temple, I felt a slight tug at my clothes. I looked down to find a small child, 5 or 6 years of age, hoping to sell an image of some deity. Soon, a slightly older girl joined him and together they pleaded me to buy something, as they needed money to pay for food and school. They uttered heart-breaking phrases like “Do din se kuch nahi khaya, didi” (We haven’t eaten anything since two days)and “Kal school me fees bharne hai” (We have to pay our fees in school tomorrow). My brain kept telling me that these were probably ‘pick-up lines’ they used on everyone. But I love kids!! It pained me greatly to see them begging like that. Over the few days of that North-India tour, I realised that the streets of India are filled with children of various age groups begging, stealing and/or selling petty stuff, apparently to make money for food and education (which I doubt that they get, anyway).Movies and articles have taught me to believe that the adorably sad kids are just another tool for the street mafia to extract money from the people in the name of sympathy. But when you see those pleading eyes and the tiny delicate fingers that wrap around yours, all that matters is that you want to, somehow, help the little ones. And maybe you can… maybe you can help those one or two children who run to you the moment you step out of the temple (that is, assuming that your help is eventually useful to those children and not some mafia leader behind them). But what do you do when there are 10 or 50 such pairs of hands stretched towards you, asking the same generosity of you?It’s been 3 years since that day. I still haven’t been able to figure out an answer to these questions. It’s a sad thing, really… Begging on the streets, while they should, actually, be spending their time learning. I wished I could do something about it. But sadly enough, I don’t have the means to help them! I probably don’t even have the means to keep aside time to help them.
As architects, we have this habit of considering any kind of problem-solving our responsibility, because almost every issue has an architectural solution that could make the situation better. This is probably why we choose such topics for our Theses… In hopes of carrying our ideas forward sometime in the future. Maybe someday I can help educate and uplift these kids. As of now, I just know that it is no child’s play! 

Starting the New Year in frustration

January 01, 2017

It’s funny how some people can affect you with their negative energy, however unimportant they might be to you. I am the kind of person who not just likes to remain happy at all times, but also succeeds in doing so most of the time. I am known to be a very happy person and I too believe so. I always keep negative energy at bay and avoid negative personalities. But sometimes, it is not so easy. Some people are such that they cannot be kicked out of your life.

Today, being the first day of the year, was meant to be kept happy and positive. That is what we all wish for, for we believe that a good beginning will ensure a good year. For the same reason, I decided to bring a smile to a very special person today. I was aware of the possible consequences. I knew I’d have to expose myself to the negative energies I’ve been avoiding. But what the heck!! I can’t let a few unimportant people affect my decisions! I know I can do this!

Just like I had imagined, the time I spent there was uncomfortable and highly irritating. But atleast, I’m glad the feeling is mutual! I left, wondering how it was that that place managed to awaken so much anger in ME, a generally calm and composed person… There’s something about that place.. the people.. the air.. each tiny speck of dust.. that makes me yearn for a punching bag (or person) every time I step out!! But being who I am, I just grind my teeth and get over it (or maybe I should say, brood over it). Perhaps I’d feel much better now if I had actually found something (or someone) to punch!! But hey!! That’s against my character! So I just calm myself down by sharing my experience with my dear and near… By now, I believe, you understand, that my purpose of writing today is the same…

I had not planned to write again so soon. But the circumstances are such that I had to!! Thanks for hearing me through, buddies!! I really appreciate you reading till the end, knowing the vague nature of my writing today! This is because it concerns real people who I don’t care about enough to mention in my precious blog! This is just a platform for me to express my feelings and that is exactly what I am doing.

Each post in this blog speaks of a different emotion because even though I wrote a lot many times in between these posts, these were the events that actually affected my soul deeply enough… I have written so many words which never made it to the blog because they came from my brain.. And even my brain knows that to be worth publishing, words need to come from the heart (the metaphoric one)!! So the ones you’ve read have come straight from my heart, out in one single continuous flow!

I hope you can empathise – or at the very least, sympathise – with me on this. But more than that, I hope that writing this, I have taken this feeling out from my heart, through my arm, my fingers and my pen, onto a paper, and then into this blog post… I hope that I will not brood over this anymore and will go back to my usual happy self!!  Wish me luck!!

Once again, let me wish you all a very Happy New Year and many more ahead!! (Ironic, saying this at the end of an angry post, but, anyway…) So long, and thanks for all the fish!!! 🙂

A different kind of New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2016

My first New Year’s Eve alone… If I’m not mistaken, my first New Year’s Eve away from home!! It’s a totally different feeling. Perhaps I am feeling a bit homesick. I mean, what are celebrations without family?!! Christmas and New Year have been a tradition in my home for some time now, more likely to be celebrated than Onam or Deepawali. I don’t know if this is because Christmas and New Year allow a lighter, simpler, easier celebration or because of the spirit of ‘Goa’.

Back home, the celebration continues without me and my brother. We, away from home, celebrate in our own little ways. Now I wonder… What thoughts are going on in their minds? Just like it is my first new year away from family, it is their first new year without me, in years. They probably miss me like they do everyday. But for me, today is special. Everything about today is special. The boredom, the homesickness, the loneliness, every little feeling is special. It is as relaxing as it is haunting, as exciting as it is uneventful. This sudden wave of mixed emotions shall always be cherished. I wonder if my brother felt the same way on his first New Year’s Eve away. It is difficult to tell – New Year’s Eves were different for us in those days – and I never asked… And even though he has spent many a New Year’s Eves away from home after that, I doubt if he has ever spent one alone.

The day before New Year. When people discuss their plans for New Year’s Eve and Day. Unlike every other year, this time, I had nothing to say! No plans, bro!! This New Year will see me spending a peaceful night with soft music, some simple food and a glass of my favourite red wine… Some call it a perfect plan for New Year’s Eve! But like I said, I have mixed feelings about this. There is a part of me that yearnsto dance my feet off at a loud party… another part of me that wants to be back at home with family, talking, laughing, eating…. yet another part of me that desires a whole night of deep conversations (silent and otherwise) with a bunch of close friends… And then, there is this tiny part of me that is excited about spending New Year’s Eve all by myself!

Christmas passed by like it should, as i spent the eve with my roommate and the day with another friend and his family. New Year’s Eve is when the feeling finally kicks in. I have, for a long time now, known that I will be spending this New Year’s Eve alone. But not for once did I think of what that would feel like. But now I realise… there was nothing to think about. Even now, close to experiencing it, I have no idea what-so-ever how I feel about it!!

I am, somehow, at a loss for words. I don’t seem to have anything more to say. I should probably get to my kitchen and cook my simple New Year’s Eve dinner. See you next year!

May we all have happy years ahead…. Happy New Year!!

A weekend well spent!!

November 8, 2016

Weekends are generally supposed to be spent in leisure. The satisfaction that a jobless weekend gives is said to be unmatched. But all happy weekends are not plain and uneventful. Some are made of action and drama, swift movement and sudden brakes, awakenings and falls… often quite literally! This was one such weekend.It all started with a theatre workshop held at the college where I work. The purpose of the workshop was to extract the creative talents of the students and to inspire them to rise beyond their inhibitions. I was looking forward to it for it was something I too needed, to an extent. As the person responsible for organising the workshop, on the one hand I was busy coordinating with the students, while on the other, I was planning shuttling between home and hostel, all on the day before the workshop.The next day, a Saturday, began with my usual chores. After a lot of running about the city for various works, I finally reached on time for the workshop, which was to be conducted by a renowned dancer and theatre artist, from one of the famous theatrical families. She was a young and pleasant woman and we would lovingly call her ‘chechi’ (a term we Malayalis use to address our elder sisters). I was glad to see that chechi chose to conduct the workshop under the open sky, rather than the Seminar hall we had arranged for the purpose. Her demeanour was friendly and animated, inspiring us to break out of our shells. Though not a student myself, I was invited to participate in the workshop alongside the students. I readily agreed as this kind of an opportunity rarely knocks at my door. After a few warm up exercises, we turned to more intense character depictions. Chechi observed each participant in detail and formed a programme for the next day that would help each person in their area of weakness. The second day of the workshop concentrated on dialogue rendering, voice modulation and areas of weakness particular to each student. Though I enjoyed the exercises from the first day more than those from the second, I believe that the second day was more helpful for everyone, both in terms of career as well as character building.I guess it was the effect of having learnt something new that caused the energy drain by Sunday evening. But laziness gave way to excitement at the prospect of an opportunity to practice riding my bike! It is not every day that I have a friend with me, ready to help me practice! Overjoyed and excited, I proceeded to ride my bike. Uncertainty and ecstasy took their turns dominating my mind, as I mounted my childhood favourite CT100. I was reluctant to let my feet off the ground at first, having very little practice riding a scooter and even less so of a bicycle. Determined, I started off on my first ride. Having practiced only on scooters, I found the positions of brakes and gears utterly confusing.  Surprisingly enough, apart from the initial trouble, I seemed to be handing the bike well and could cover a long (long for me, a first-timer) distance. Was it the over-confidence given by the smooth beginning, or my friend’s comment (that the day would mark my first fall) lingering in my mind, I experienced a slight imbalance and landed on one knee with the bike lying on its side. Nevertheless, I got up and continued with the practice till I was completely drained.It was a memorable weekend, on the whole, and I couldn’t help but write about it. That is why I call it ‘a weekend well spent’. I dedicate this post to Gayathri chechi, my students and my friend Ashwin, for gifting me this wonderful weekend! 

The mandatory Introductory post!!

October 29, 2016

I hope to talk to you again soon! Thank you for hearing (reading) me out!
And that’s all for now! I really do hope that I can continue writing this time… for a change!! See you soon, folks!!

Hi everyone..!!Let me introduce myself in the usual boring way! I am Ar. Medha N. Gayathri (no, not Dr. !! It’s Ar. !! It means Architect) and I just joined a school of architecture in Kerala, India, as one of the teaching staff. I have been wanting to write for a while now but, I never found enough time or leisure to actually do so. You will probably hear me lamenting about that a lot, at least in the first few posts! For a start, let me show you the introductory note i wrote for this blog a year back.
Hello dear friends!!I have been looking forward to this moment… when I would FINALLY write something that would actually be read! But of course, lack of time is an integral part of the beautiful and exciting field of Architecture. Four years into the course and I am yet to learn time-management. A final year student now, I have begun to think about the wishes of my past and my expectations of the future. My increasingly frequent encounters with the words ‘thesis’, ‘dissertation’ and ‘research’ seem to have awaken in me a sudden urge to write. So here I am, pouring my heart out to you, hoping that I will find time and energy to continue with this endeavor. 
Recently, I have been meeting a lot of people who encourage me to write more. (You know who you are!!). I have also come across many highly demotivating people. (I wish I could tell you, who!!). But, to my satisfaction, I have, so far, been successful in turning the situation around, by taking inspiration from these influences to hone my creative skills. What you are reading now is a result of that inspiration.
As an ice-breaker, let me tell you my story. I was born as the second child in a Malayali middle-class family in Kerala, India. My elder brother, being the crazy bookworm he is, brought me to the world of books. Since then, it has been one of my favourite worlds. I call it a world because I believe that when you read, it is like a parallel existence! You are a different person, living a different life.. living many different lives! When you are engrossed in reading, you are at the epitome of your imagination. It truly is a great feeling. I and my brother would sit up all night just to finish that one book we picked up during the day. I have lost count of the books I have read during those 10-15 years of my life, while I was still in school. I was living a happy literary life. And then, Architecture happened! Though the sleepless nights of reading did help me complete my college assignments, architecture did not quite return the favour. On the contrary, it took away my precious reading time. The few times I tried to regain it, I understood that an addiction for reading is not healthy for my career, as I could have a VIVA anytime. Nothing could stop me from reading once i started, and by the time I found the strength to stop myself, it would be too late! Hence, my reading has come down a thousand miles, and I am nowhere comparable to what i used to be.
Now that you know how hard it has been for me to find some time to read, you will understand why I haven’t been able to write, till today. As much as I would like to tell you how inspiring architecture is, I will have to keep that for later. I am very talkative, as you will realize soon! But let me just keep this short and sweet (if this can be called short) as this was just an introduction of sorts.