If we had just one piece of advice to give...: The Delights of Distraction No.99

It's been a month of cyclones, heat waves, and all the weather machinations of ever looming climate change doom: we hope you are safe and comfortable, reading this in air-conditioned environs.  

The month has been quite action-packed for us over at The Wishing Chair. We launched a store in Surat, visited some new workshops a few hours from Delhi to sample a new product range, are experimenting with different distribution channels and doing some things outside our comfort zone.

And by the latter, we mean that over the last month we are trying not to be as uncomfortable on camera as we have been over the last decade. In the past, if ever we were we were asked to pose for a photo as founders or perhaps film a live video interview, the request was always met with a mix of dismissal, horror and anguish, a guttural "Ohhhh God no", escaping from our lips. Instead, we would furnish an old photograph of the both of us from 15 years ago, smiling and sweaty at a party, looking the opposite of professional, but happy, still in blissful ignorance of the world of Instagram and maintaining an "image". Still unschooled in the the idea that business promotion was as much about self-promotion too. (See Linkedin and Shark Tank for reference.)

Well, this time we bit the bullet and while we were in Gujarat did some video promotions and even filmed interview on our journey over the last decade, answering questions about how we started, why "this" particular business and how to navigate friendship and business.  One of the last questions we were asked was about advice we would give to aspiring entrepreneurial women, and our answer was about businesses being like babies that you have to learn to let go, and not be a reflection of yourself. 

That answer was fine. But if we could redo the interview, maybe we would provide an addendum to this answer. We always imagine once we start something, it's going to be a runaway success. Which is why we start it in the first place. But the world is a wild, unpredictable, uncontrolled environment over which we have little control. So our best advice, which was funnily enough concretized by listening to a podcast by Francesca Grossman , who doesn't talk about entrepreneurship at all, but about chronic pain, is : When you have the choice, choose kind.

One thing we imagine we all have as a relatively privileged lot, is a lot of choices in life. We think we control most of what happens to us. But this is an illusion. All it takes is one algorithm change, one investment gone wrong, one tax filing gone awry, one bad day, and things can spiral fast. You don't get to choose when your dad dies or when a hurricane hits, or when your big client drops you, or your husband's funds dry up. You rarely get to choose what will happen, even if you prepare and plan and practice.

Of course, we can do things to steer the ship a bit, but the truth is: the world makes a lot of our choices for us, and our reactions define us more than anything else. When we feel small or victimized or like the universe is conspiring against us, it is easy to fall into a place where we want to pull away from the world, to form ourselves into a tight knot and retreat. It's particularly hard when it seems like no one else is going through our particular brand of hardship, where everyone else's successes are brandished across our swiping eyes.  We get angry. We get tired. And sometimes, we get mean.

This is the place where we do have a choice. We can react to things with the venom that is coursing through us. Or we can be kind, which is sometimes a heroic act. 

Love is big.

But kindness is small.

Offering a shoulder to cry on. A hug. Reaching out instead of pulling back. A genuine compliment. Paying attention and asking, "are you okay?". A spontaeneous gift. A favour. A smile, nod and acknowledgement. Listening. 

Small kindness can have huge impacts. 

And now, on to our programming:

It's no shocker that optimism yields happier and more resilient people. It equips us with a greater ability to deal with hardship. However it doesn't mean that optimists are under pollyanna delusions that everything is ideal. Rather, they believe that bad things are produced by temporary causes that can be overcome. The case for choosing optimism and why it's so hard for us to see that things are indeed getting better, are articulated with kind, cold-eyed logic in this article. 

Hoping for a nostalgic hit of "the magic of girlhood", the writer delves into her teenage diary, only to find that her past self was cruel, mean and sad. She often deliberately hurt others while also deeply hating herself. "The funny thing about low self-esteem is that it’s not mutually exclusive with being astoundingly cocky." As bingers of teen movies across decades, we realise the familiar trope of the school nerd and the popular bully don't really exist. Most teens, as well as people generally, tend to be both. An eye-opening read. 

Why are we Indians suckers for the umami explosion of Chinjabi or desi Chinese food - that sweet salty taste of tomato ketchup with soya sauce? Or extra, extra parmesan on our pasta? And did you know that the entire Indian sushi boom is based not on fish but on the combination of rice and soya. Sanghvi deconstructs the elusive "umami" flavour as it takes over the Indian imagination, from our dal to our desserts.

The first podcast is a scripted narrative that journeys through the triumphant judgement striking down section 377 that criminalised homosexuality.  It’s cinematic and engaging with interviews featuring the brilliant individuals who helped bring about the judgement.

The second podcast addresses the tricky challenge of coming out and seeking support from Indian parents for queer folk. It’s accessible, easy going and never patronising. Yogi and Kabeer do a great job of providing real tips for families that are far removed from the "woke" culture of the West. 

Life Hacks 💪

Keeping up

The ultimate justification for a late response to an email:

“I am a long time answering your letter, my dear Miss Harriet, but then you must remember that it is an equally long time since I received it – so that makes us even, & nobody to blame on either side”

– Mark Twain, in a letter dated 14 June 1876

Emotional housekeeping:

Every decade of your life, answer these 40 questions to help navigate where you want to go and acknowledge how far you've come. Daily, real life resists a narrative, and in the abstract we can’t see the path from where we started to where we are in the present. These questions can help ground us and ignite and illuminate a path for where we really want to go. Questions such as:

What was your greatest waste of time?

If you could give everyone in the world one gift, what would it be?

Quote of the Week 🌺

"Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew. It's the same when love comes to an end, or the marriage fails and people say they knew it was a mistake, that everybody said it would never work. That she was old enough to know better.

But anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Like being there by that summer ocean on the other side of the island while love was fading out of her, the stars burning so extravagantly those nights that anyone could tell you they would never last.. Every morning she was asleep in my bed like a visitation, the gentleness in her like antelope standing in the dawn mist. Each afternoon I watched her coming back through the hot stony field after swimming, the sea light behind her and the huge sky on the other side of that. Listened to her while we ate lunch. How can they say the marriage failed? Like the people who came back from Provence and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.

I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph."

-- Jack Gilbert, Failing and Flying

Watching my Friend Pretend Her Heart is Not Breaking

By Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

On Earth, just a teaspoon of neutron star
would weigh six billion tons. Six billion tons
equals the collective weight of every animal
on earth. Including the insects. Times three. 

Six billion tons sounds impossible
until I consider how it is to swallow grief—
just a teaspoon and one might as well have consumed
a neutron star. How dense it is,
how it carries inside it the memory of collapse.
How difficult it is to move then.
How impossible to believe that anything
could lift that weight.

There are many reasons to treat each other
with great tenderness. One is
the sheer miracle that we are here together
on a planet surrounded by dying stars.
One is that we cannot see what
anyone else has swallowed. 

And that's all we have for today! We hope you have a great week,

filled with tenderness and joy,


Viv & Ami

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