After two years of not knowing what day is what, Sunday now has some significance. I say ‘two years’ without mentioning the C word because I do not want to read it in the beginning of yet another narrative. It’s inescapable because of how passive we have had to be in what was done to us and yet that imposition of inescapability is what makes me want to escape it. That’s where I would like to begin. Sundays have started seeming significant because the movement and aliveness now also gives enough space to feel the desire to rest. These are the days I am most conscious of my pauses. These are also days when I am seeing and being seen with leisure because I am not hurrying to work.
I have chosen this topic for my first blog because I’d like to begin by going back. It helps me trace the past few months as a fellow and also have space for my own thoughts to wander without necessarily seeming to have a ‘point’. In the attached video, I have documented my Sundays and the associated associations are written here. What follows next does not have a moral of the story.
I went to a lovely place called ShilpGram. It’s interesting how my journey in and of Udaipur began there after our induction because this place is an ‘ethnographic museum that depicts the lifestyles of the folk and tribal people of the region’– Wikipedia.
It’s symbolic for me because this is how it’s been all this while before beginning this fellowship- experiencing art from a distance, experiencing real cultures in not so real museums. In places that try keeping them alive or try bringing them to life and yet inherently carry the lifelessness of puppets. Which you can only look at and think of, from a distance. This turned out to be a striking transition to what followed. Me going to all these villages and not having to see depictions of the folk and tribal region. Seeing people instead of imagined, created, perceived puppets in museums.
Here, I clicked a picture of a camel because until August this year, it was rare to see one. This also makes me think of what it is that we like capturing through pictures. Something we think won’t come back again, something we think is special only because it’s fleeting. I’m happy that I am still taking pictures of camels though. I am happy that mundane seems just as special.
“Well, first to document, archive and remember. Then to kind of explore, understand and see.”
“So I guess all art evolves from a need to record the apparent to a need to capture the essence?”
From Ship of Theseus (film), 8:42min
It’s nice how your body senses your need when your mind is unable to. Body coming to my rescue, let me get much needed rest. A slow Sunday at a colleague’s house who was generous enough to let me live there despite her not being around. I had a quiet day to myself and this was special because of the comfort I felt in someone else’s room without the person being there and the comfort in carrying the person’s trust despite being new. That was very welcoming for someone who was being really careful around everyone initially. Got a tan line within ten days of moving around in field areas. I noticed it only in this day’s lightness and respite.
A BIG Sunday. I shifted to my room in Gogunda. The end of living out of (multiple) suitcases! A lot of shopping to set up my place, a lot of getting lost to find my own place. Throughout this day, I kept realizing during many moments that I am becoming my mother, in doing certain things that I did or taking some decisions. Cutting plants to replant was one of the first things I did.
SK training. The first training I attended. I remember being struck by the term ‘Swasthya Kiran’ (SK) in my first week here because of the image of sun rays. When I saw most of them together in one place during this training, the image fits so well. Because of their general demeanour, but also because of all the colours they carried. I was also told to give a brief introduction about mental health and I did an activity with them where they made interesting depictions of what madness looks like. An interesting journey beginning with depictions, again. Let’s see where the journey takes us in shifting from depending on depictions to reality.
Now here, I’ll give you some context. My fellowship began in August and I am now in Gogunda, working with Basic Healthcare Services. I completed my undergrad and post graduation in psychology and my work here is majorly going to revolve around integrating mental health with the existing primary healthcare set up. The SKs are community volunteers. Females representatives from the villages we work in. Every three months, we have a residential training with these volunteers where we discuss topics surrounding maternal health, hygiene, nutrition and other diseases predominant in surrounding areas. In this particular training, we discussed antenatal care.
This was also the day my connection to Khakhdi village was established. The previous evening I had gone there with an intent to climb the hill but was told not to do that alone by curious, well intentioned passersby. When I was on my way back to the training hall, a woman from the village who seemed quite familiar (because I had taken a picture of her on the highway and then had a conversation with her the evening before) called me home for chai and I stayed there for almost an hour only to return later to the training place where everyone was worried because it was dark, my phone was unreachable and the area apparently has panthers.
I stepped out to buy something I couldn’t find because it was Amavasya (new moon day). Gogunda market is closed on Amavasya days. Even if a shop is open, they don’t sell anything. According to one shopkeeper this has no reason and just happens to be a day all shopkeepers in the market have agreed to keeping their shops shut. This seems like a day for rest but might also have some significance. It makes sense why the market would be shut on Amavasya night but why during day time? This is a question for my next Amavasya walk. Anyway, so I wandered in the neighbourhood and sat with two potters and watched them work. I asked one of them to let me be an apprentice.
Visited a beautiful lake. Sat there in silence, under the tree. This was also the time Dussehra preparation and decoration had begun.
In evening, some of us were invited to a colleague’s daughter’s birthday and this is the first birthday party I attended here. The colleague’s wife (birthday girl’s mother) had stitched both her daughters’ clothes and matched her own attire to theirs (or theirs to hers). This was a beautiful night. We drank chai at night while returning, walking on the highway back from the place we had dinner, telling each other stories.
Vishnu (my co-fellow) and I decided to go roam in Udaipur the entire day. Window shopping and pausing in the heat for ice cream, chaas and shake. Breakfast beginning with vada pav and eggs from Egg World (which Vishnu was keen on trying because he had done his share of pre-reading, being a foodie). Sitting at Gangaur Ghat for a while and seeing a romantic photoshoot where these poor pigeons’ lunch time was interrupted by the photographer stamping his feet so that they take flight and he could capture the motion in his background for the couple’s photoshoot. We stopped at Vinod’s which was a place the fellowship team had introduced us for it’s Kulhad coffee.
Following this, we started walking toward the stage area for Kabir Yatra. Saw a snake in Fateh Sagar, swimming to the mic – check tunes. Quite amusing. Some people had told us it’s a beautiful experience to witness and be a part of and the evening really was indescribable. At night we stayed at a friend’s place, talked and saw her struggle with crickets in her home. She draws lovely sketches.
This Sunday, I was in Delhi attending a mental health festival (for Mental Health Day). Something that struck me during this trip was that it is art that can evoke and bind people with and in all their differences. Art in different places is seemingly different but ultimately it’s people trying to express wordlessly somehow in whatever form. Art is what keeps you alive in all these places. And they are seemingly different art forms but are they really? Because at the core, the essence is the expression.