The Art of Creating Art
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved to write. Verses scrawled on the corners of math notebooks and pages of unfinished fiction written in hurried pencil and ink are testament to my persevering laziness and lack of follow-through. I love to start writing, but I can never finish. I love thinking of new, bizarre things to put into words, but I never seem to find the perfect way to turn it into something complete.
I know that I am a good writer. A little better than most, even. And that slight confidence has helped me find the courage to keep writing. Even when rejection emails from lit mags pile up in my inbox and I shudder at the thought of ever opening the Notes app on my phone, I get over it and write again anyway.
The folder titled ‘CW PORTFOLIO’ on my laptop slowly fills up with an eclectic collection of works ranging from 3-am poetry to mid-breakdown creative non-fiction. With every new Word document, I feel the title of ‘writer’ letting its warm red drapes sit slowly on my shoulders, guided by the faint glow of my laptop screen.
I know very clearly that I want to become a writer, and that I want writing to be my primary profession at some point in my life, and I do everything that I possibly can to make that a reality.
Writing is something I have never put in the effort to theorise and study. No one should be able to tell me how I ought to write because it’s my work. My style. No one is allowed to tell me that I use the semicolon too often; it could be a motif, for god’s sake. Whenever I type, I face a copy of the Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing, a book I’ve barely skimmed through past the introduction. And yet, I write; and most of the time, I write well.
With all this writing and the use of instinct and innate sense, I was able to make the connection that my writing, when good, is written during times of heightened emotional sensitivity and involvement. A lot of the work I’ve written has been in response to my life or what goes on in it. Simply put, I am a vessel filled with, and steered by, emotion - and I’ll tell you why I’ll never have it any other way.
Most of my life, I’ve felt things, like most others. I felt the normal assortment that everyone felt, but I never felt them as fully as I should have. Repression screwed a tight cap on this ever-growing, near overflowing big glass bottle of feelings that leaked out a little. When it did, I wrote horrible, depressing poetry that only the most performatively morose eighth-grader would like. My writing was fine, but there was something holding me back.
And then the bottle shattered.
Come high school, I finally developed a range of healthy emotions and ways of expression and coping. I wrote, I rewrote, I deleted. I wrote again. And as I got back into the practice of Feeling Normal Feelings, my desire to write and the quality of my work began to increase.
Now, I’ve reached the point where I am saturated with not just emotions - and by extension, things to write about - but with hope and power. I’ve found that the art of creating art is mastered when you channel all that is already inside you.
When I gained the ability to truly feel and understand my emotions, I imbibed my most sacred activity with it. The true reason why the pen is mightier than the sword is that it takes more willpower and courage to use your feelings to scourge the status quo with the former.
I hope that the purpose of my life satisfies my desire and absolute right to feel every emotion inside me, in unadulterated fashion, and then write a great column article about it.
Object Permanence is a Menace
Let’s go back to a couple of years ago: I was on a trip to New Zealand with my mother during Christmas, and we were on a tour bus with several other families. I had just watched the three Lord of The Rings movies and was completely head over heels for them. I couldn’t stop talking about the ‘one ring’. In our group, there was a really sweet uncle, and I noticed that he wore a necklace with the very ring on it. Fast forward to Christmas day, and I was sitting on the bus with my mother on the way to the next city on our trip and Uncle Murdock (that was not his name) walked down the bus towards us with something wrapped in newspaper. “Merry Christmas,” he said, and I opened up the wrapper to find none other than the chain with the ‘one ring’ inside.
He not only gave me a gift, but something that he loved without thinking twice, just so I would smile. I held onto the ring for months, never left it out of my sight, and always treasured it. But one day I lost it, and it was just gone. With that went a core memory of mine. If I didn't have the ring in my sight, I had no proof that it was ever there, to begin with, and I have felt horrible about it since.
This brings me to the concept of object permanence. It means understanding and realising that things still exist even when you don’t always see them. Think about something that means so much to you. The second you don’t have proof of it, it loses its credibility for some twisted reason that I cannot grasp. Understanding object permanence hasn’t come easy to me. For example, I ask people whether they are mad at me quite often because it’s something that I worry about and without any proof that they aren’t mad at me, I start feeling bad about it. Think about your friendship with them as the ring and how every time you don't have the ring in sight, you don’t know whether they’re mad at you or not. It’s a similar thing with not knowing if people love you or how much they love you.
More recently than ever, I have been working on a solution or a method with which I can better grasp the permanence of emotions. There are several things that I have tried to help me deal with this issue. For example, when my friends have been busy, I have been known to message them every day with pleasantries as a way to hold on to and believe the fact that they love me, and are not mad at me. But this method isn’t feasible because the person you are messaging has their own life, and would get quite overwhelmed with the number of messages they receive. It is pretty unfair to do this regularly as it almost makes people guilty for not talking to you.
What’s the most effective method then? How about taking a picture of the ring and keeping it with you when you can’t see the ring in its flesh? In a sense, that’s what I have been working on doing. I recently asked all my friends to add two songs to a playlist as a way to remind me of their love when I overthink it. Because really, even when the ring is lost, its memories don’t go away and you’re eventually going to find it in the drawer and realise it was never lost; you just didn’t realise it was there in spirit. I have asked my friends to do little things like record videos saying that they love me as a way for me to watch the video when I question it, which has helped and seems like an effective way because I do believe more than ever that the ring is with me even when I do not realise it.
If you’ve never understood what it was like to feel this way, I hope this article gave you an insight into what the permanence of objects entails and if you have faced this difficulty yourself, I’m reminding you that it’s possible to hold onto things sustainably when you cannot see them first hand. The ring isn’t going anywhere, so click a picture and look at it when you think it's gone, and remember that unlike objects, true emotions can never really get lost.
When it comes to interior design, I love crazy patterns and bright colours layered on top of each other. I love seeing hodgepodges of trinkets and knick-knacks on display. And I love mobiles, especially ones of different shapes and sizes, like in the third photo. They fill up space like nothing else does.
Yes, these rooms are colourful and eclectic, but what I like most about them is that they’re chaotic. No one who’s read this column will be surprised to know that I’m fond of chaos. And I love it because it takes up space and demands that people notice it.
On the other hand, I have a lot of trouble opening up to people. I find it hard to be myself, with all my clashing colours and ridiculous patterns. My room is the only place where I feel true to who I am.
I had covered my room’s walls with a mess of colourful papers, stickers, and photos of the people I love. But it still felt like something was missing. I was decorating a three-dimensional space with two-dimensional things.
Most of the rooms above use plants to fill up the space, but plants can get messy and I knew I wouldn’t remember to water them regularly. So, I decided to use the third photo as inspiration and DIY my own mobile.
After trying (and failing) to twist wire into aesthetically pleasing shapes, I turned to chart paper instead. I painted it, cut it into triangles, and strung it up in my room. The painting is a little sloppy and I tied the mobile so low that the triangles brush across my face every time I walk past them. And I love it.
I’ve spilt my soul on the walls, ceiling, and floor of my room in the hopes that the room will absorb at least a few drops of it and remind people of me when I leave. That’s why my room door is always closed when I’m inside – because it’s easier to let people love me from a distance.
It’s easier to leave my door open after the room isn’t mine anymore. After I’ve packed everything up and left only a few scraps of my soul lingering in the faded triangles swinging gently with the wind.
But I’m alive right now, and I want to take up space. I want to see people’s reactions to the quotes on my wall and the things that I’ve written on my photos. I want people to see my bright colours and chaotic patterns.
Chaos is never purely good - that’s why it intrigues me. I love how vastly different it looks when you look at it from afar and when you step closer. I love studying its various elements. Most of all, I love how everything in it just unapologetically takes up space.
There are books piling up on my table, filled with silly little scribbles and doodles. The walls of my room are covered with cringey quotes from my favourite musicals. There are triangles hanging from the ceiling, swaying in the breeze, waiting to brush against your face. My room isn’t presentable or palatable. It’s chaotic and messy.
But the door is open and I’d love to give you a tour.
THE WOMEN OF INDIAN CRICKET
Meeting the India national women’s cricket team was singlehandedly one of the most amazing yet embarrassing moments of my life.
There I was, in the Kempegowda International Airport, sharing a plate of hummus and pita bread with my father, when I saw two women walk by. These women strutted that undeniable I’m-a-professional-athlete-and-you-know-it confidence. But more importantly, they were proudly sporting official BCCI training uniforms. I realized I was looking at members of the national cricket team. More women walked by, flaunting their official merchandise. And then I saw her - Harmanpreet Kaur.
Kaur, along with Jemima Rodrigues and Shafali Verma among others, walked into the restaurant. It looked like they were going to sit at the table in front of us. I could hardly hide my excitement. My father and I looked at each other, then back at the women - I couldn’t believe they were the same women that I had seen playing cricket on TV!
I kept my head low, trying to hide my sheepish grin. Dip the pita bread, eat the pita bread, take note of the pasta preferences of the India national women’s cricket team, I thought to myself. This repetitive sequence went on for a good 10 minutes before I worked up the nerve to go ask them for a picture. (And when I mean ask, I mean that I let my father do the talking and I did the awkward standing around.)
I was extremely nervous. What if they just want to wait for their pasta in peace? What if they don’t want any pesky teenage fans invading their privacy? What if they realize I don’t recognize some of them? I have to say something to them. How, without seeming to be a creepy teenage stalker, do I express my undying devotion towards them?
I hid behind my father as we approached their table. I ran lines in my head, trying to prepare a speech. I waited for all the women to turn towards us and acknowledge our presence, but seeing as their conversation was uninterrupted by the sight of a girl and her father slowly approaching them, I remembered they were professional athletes who did not care for this terrified teenager. Finally, we reached the table.
They agreed to take a picture with us! The butterflies in my stomach fluttered triumphantly, my heart racing, and my face contorted into the image of excited anticipation, my sheepish grin now with a twinge of mortification remembering my father’s complete incompetence at taking a selfie.
Now it was time for me to say something. I hurriedly dished out some spiel about how they meant a lot to me as a female athlete, and how women’s cricket is “criminally under-televised” (that phrase must have sounded jarring coming out of a seemingly small child because it made several of them look up from their phones.)
However unnatural the phrase sounds, it’s true - to a certain extent. Media coverage of women’s sports in general is abysmal when compared to men’s sports. Although the caliber and level of competition is just as high as men’s sports, women’s sports garner significantly less respect and attention from the media and the public.
I often wonder why I find myself less inclined to watch the Women’s T20 Challenge than the IPL. You see the same colossal sixes and magical wickets, the incredible athleticism and same thrilling run chases. Yet when I catch a glimpse of the stands, they don’t even have half the crowd of an IPL match. The women that were seated at that table in the airport are a constant reminder of the recognition they deserve, yet don’t receive.
But things are getting better - slowly but surely.
Recently, the BCCI announced equal pay for both men and women cricketers. The India men’s and women’s cricket teams will be paid the same match fee across all formats of the game, which is a massive advancement towards gender equality in cricket. The implementation of ICC’s Future Tours Program (FTP) for women is also a major victory for women’s cricket. The FTP guarantees that all members of the ICC will play one home series and one away series with every other member. This means that the number of matches the teams play increases significantly, bringing the pay parity policy adopted by the BCCI much closer to achieve its objective.
The success of the Women’s T20 Challenge also led to the announcement of a Women’s IPL in 2023, which will definitely bring about a significant increase in viewership and media coverage for women’s cricket around the world. All of these recent breakthroughs are also hugely incentivizing for future Indian cricketers, making a professional career in cricket much more appealing for young girls in India.
The road to equality in sport is a very long one, but it is events like these that remind us that it is very much possible - one sport at a time.
While the battle for equality goes on, the best we can do is walk up to our women’s cricket team in the airport while we still can - with the trajectory women’s cricket is on, it’s only a matter of time before they start using private airport terminals like the men’s team.
MORE THAN WORDS
I don’t consider myself to be a good artist. I stopped trying to be one in middle school because I felt as though I lacked dexterity with a paintbrush and watercolours, as though I didn’t have enough spatial intuition to be able to create the image I had in my head accurately on paper. Still, every now and then, the desire to make art strikes me. I feel a strange desire to stain my fingers with blotches of paint and ink, even though the feeling of it usually repels me. And this leaves me puzzled.
An event like this is analogous to when I first started enjoying Chemistry, or Geometry, or when I found myself craving a food item I usually dislike, in the way that these experiences contradicted my understanding of the person I am. It appears to be a broad belief that a significant part of what determines our individuality is taste; how it is intimately and indescribably personal. But we tend to forget that another determinant of our humanness is that we aren’t definitions, not even if those definitions encompass our personal taste; we aren’t predictable or linear. This feeling of inexplicable confusion I had quickly dissolved when I stopped thinking of myself as ‘someone who isn’t good at geometry’ or ‘someone who hates chemistry’ and I realised I didn’t have to be ‘an artist’ to make art. Defining things and people using criteria, tastes, and affinities doesn’t always work.
This tendency people have to define things became blatant to me when I decided to be a STEM student, mostly because the approach works for Physics or Math. I notice it most in Psychology classes when so many of my classmates try to understand concepts like learning, development, or motivation, with the same method. And it never works because all of these concepts are abstract. They don’t exist in nature in a defined manner, and the words we use to describe them are just our best attempt to understand them. Because a phenomenon in a psychology textbook can be ‘practical learning’ and ‘motor development’ or neither, or kind-of-but-not-quite-both. The same goes for any abstract thing - the words are just words.
My father was talking to me about how the Sanskrit word ‘dharma’ doesn’t have an English translation that does justice to the authentic meaning of it. It made me think, would someone who only spoke English even be able to understand what it is? I’ve seen on numerous occasions, a concept from our mythology being adapted into film in another language where the meaning is kind of lost. Not because of ignorance, but because a language has a tangible boundary, and some things exist outside of it. Similarly, I like to think that who we are as people transcends the limits of language.
A few months ago, I got a bad grade for the first time in a while. Until then, I never realised that I had been seeing myself as ‘someone who is academically competent’ and when I did poorly on a test, it dismantled my perspective. I had been refusing to see myself wholly; I was focused on what was right or wrong, black or white, and missed out on everything that was in between. The truth is that the most beautiful parts of the world are in the in-between. Taking off the black and white lens lets me see everything in its full colour. It makes me feel human.
Since time immemorial, there have existed a handful of basic emotions: fear, joy, sadness, disgust, contempt, surprise, and - the one I like to call the king of all emotions - Rage.
Rage is the truest of all emotions. It brings out what a person really has the potential to become. Be it Adam and Eve, the fall of the greatest empires, or even both world wars, Rage is at the heart of it all. Rage is the one emotion that has a direct effect on not only you but those around you as well. It causes the greatest minds to slip up, but if harnessed correctly, Rage can help the weakest achieve glory.
You couldn’t get your morning coffee, or your bus was late, and your teacher said that wasn’t a “good enough” excuse for being late? Are you angry about it? Take that anger and make effective use of it. Make what would have been a bad day one of the most productive days of your life. Complete your record work, dance to a song, or go on a few kilometres long run. As long as your rage doesn’t directly harm yourself or anyone around you, you can even choose to remain angry. Scream into a pillow, go to an open field and kick rocks, or better yet, write an article about rage.
But by no means bottle it up. Never bottle it up.
Keep it bottled up and Rage will take its toll on you both mentally and physically. It can go to the extent of causing severe medical conditions. Rage, unfortunately, is a double-edged sword. When used correctly it can bring forth the most beautiful of creations, but at other times, it can be the ugliest emotion conceivable causing pain to yourself and everyone around you.
Take Alexander the Great. His military prowess was unparalleled - he conquered every kingdom from Greece to the Himalayas. But eventually, his army was tired and could not go on. His rage flared up, but to no avail. Alexander died at the young age of 33 due to his raged attempt to cross the river Indus.
Because after all, it was Plutarch who said -
“No beast is more savage than man when possessed with power answerable to his rage”
You can interpret this in two ways. And I will leave that choice entirely up to you.
MUSIC LEFT ME
- KUSHAL PODDAR
The butter knife I strike against
the dish and the plate with
a soggy biscuit
spills some music.
The newspaper states that there
should be no note left
in my head.
The flash is - the music
has been last seen standing
holding the mast of a bridge
the authority forgot to build.
- KUSHAL PODDAR
A sail penetrates the virgin skyline.
The sliver of shattered mirror strewn stream
bleeds my morning eyes.
"What do we have here? A good haul?"
I ask the fisherman. He removes
skin from a blister.
I sniff to remember. This odor
slithered as the first river in my brain.
I was curled up inside the womb of arrival.
I would hear the fluid ripples soon.
WHAT RABBITS EAT
- LESLIE CAIRNS
Content warning: eating disorders
I worry about my ribs. Only eat salad, but want the meatballs wrapped lovingly, with spaghetti. Dripping with your cheese & your smile as you made it. You told me that’s what rabbits eat, and if I was sure I didn’t want anything. I looked at the crockpot again, beckoning, and shook my head.
Now I run but not all the time. Now I swim and sing lagoon songs just for fun. My body soft and not my enemy. Now, I’m technically a BMI of 25.9. Overweight in the index, but still unable to say any feelings but the empty ones: frown, sad, fearful, anxiety. My therapist gives me a pinwheel of emotions, there are poet words on there, swirling at me: cheeky, disillusioned, repelled, fragile. I could easily put them into poems, but I cannot utter them. And, yet, I couldn’t believe I was paying copays for this, spinning emotions on a wheel of colors. But when she asked me to tell our story, and then look at the wheel, I put my head into my fists. Couldn’t think of any words except sad, daisies, and tears. She said that was a start, but not enough.
Now: wearing a crochet crop top, black shorts always. Wishing I could pat that person on the head, tell her that someday you won’t see her again. She folded napkins, opened up the extra leaves of the table, just to fit you in. She wanted you to feel full, whatever that meant to you. She noticed you skipped dessert for coffee, she saw you lace your shoelaces for a run until you felt dizzy. You’d say the word nervosa like a playlist song, she saw how you came home as if dragging the underbelly of all the cows bellowing, of all the cats lonely.
I’d tell myself the one worrying about pleasing people is holding a different kind of weight. Just take the plate, thank her, pull her close & kiss her forehead. Because someday you’ll embrace your curves, and you’ll miss her anyway.