In April, we - Vivita and Avneet, the co-founders of The Wishing Chair, released the "Delights of Distraction" newsletters; a grab-bag of some of our favorite links across the internet that lent some diversion, inspiration and solace during these unsettling times. We hope to continue this weekly correspondence as long as it resonates with you, our readers - our true sources of joy and delight
As many of you already may have heard: yesterday, we closed the shutters of our Shahpur Jat, Delhi store for the last time.
They first opened eight years ago, when Shahpur Jat then was still a sleepy little village, its back-lanes peppered with wedding-wear workshops and dyeing huts, while the front held just a handful of stores and eateries. The to-let shop we had visited to scope out the area, used to be a Chinese takeaway that the landlord hacked into two – and we looked upon the oddly-shaped gloomy space with the wide-eyed excitement of a dream that could turn into a real possibility.
Our slapdash store was pulled together from family-loans and personal savings and held up with fairy lights and the many, many hours of toil offered by generous hearts (you guys know who you are); sticking on price labels, gluing paper lanterns to fishnet lines, lifting and shifting boxes, lending out camera equipment, offering an ear and endless advice into long nights. Two months after that first visit, in the scorching summer of July 2012– The Wishing Chair opened its doors to the world.
In quick succession, the serpentine roads of Shahpur Jat filled with beautiful, specialty boutiques: art galleries, design and film studios, organic stores, book-shops, indie jewellery, and fashion houses, and gastro-artisanal stores. We grew into a dynamic, supportive community of store-owners and scrappy entrepreneurs, trying out new brands and ideas in a burgeoning market that we hoped would become Delhi’s alternative culture hub. Some of our closest friends emerged from this community; and in this 8-year journey, a few brands have moved on to conquer the world, while some sadly fell by the wayside, as the landscape of the quiet village only briefly peaked as an art &culture district before taking a sharp turn towards pricey commercial real estate.
Yet over the years, we couldn’t have asked for a better playground of learning; surrounded by wonderful creatives and loyal customers, we slowly evolved our brand experience in a direction that we hope to have stayed true to since: to make beautiful things, and to create joy while doing so.
We say farewell to Shahpur Jat knowing we’re not alone in making this tough decision. We also mourn the loss of many cultural touchstones (restaurants, bookshops, cafes) that have fallen off the map in the pandemic aftermath.
It’s time now to renew and revitalize as we drive our energies to our other branches and our online store. But like one’s first love, Shahpur Jat will always hold a cherished place in our heart. The precious memories of the community, friendships and experiences could never be replicated nor forgotten. For now, we shut our doors to old ends, and open our hearts to new beginnings.
And back to the business of distraction: here are our favourites from the week:
To Cook: Roxane Gay - professor, amateur baker and writer extraordinaire chronicles her culinary victories and vagaries in the kitchen, her adventures in cooking perhaps reflect many of our own during quarantine, finding solace in the immediacy and urgency of chopping, measuring and boiling. In immersing oneself in the full sensorial presence of cooking, we may find a kind of freedom. Have a read of it here. And while you’re at it, bake up one of Roxane’s favourite recipes from this smitten kitchen blog: cinnamon sugar scones - they’re sure to sweeten your weekend.
To Read: For a real plunge into escapism, read How to go on holiday in a pandemic. The real struggle for restless wanderlusters, is the sameness of the everyday, the ground-hogging of Monday through Friday with no real movement to drive the plot. This article may ask you to revise your perspective, take advantage of reduced traffic, and just explore the quietened landscape of our city.
To Listen: Here's a beautiful episode from the iconic podcast, This American Life; about a phone booth in Japan that attracts thousands of people who have lost loved ones. It’s a touching story about making sense of loss in the wake of a tragedy.
To Do: Play Exquisite Corpse with your mini-me’s. This was a drawing game invented by surrealists and was one of Frida Kahlo’s favourite games: “Participants play by taking turns drawing sections of a body on a sheet of paper, folded to hide each individual contribution. The first player adds a head – then without knowing what the head looks like, the next artist adds a torso and so on. In this way, a strange, comical, often grotesque creature is born.” This video gives further tips on how.
To NOT Do: Doomscrolling. As we explained a couple of newsletters ago, doomsurfing/scrolling, “are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.” This article explains why it’s a bad idea. Do 50 jumping jacks instead.
To Watch: Thanks to the city of Chandigarh, Le Corbusier is one of the most recognizable names in modern architecture in India. This short film seeks to explore his mixed legacy, of being both a modern genius and the originator of terrifying austerity. Watch it here.
And a final thought before we sign off: Entrances and exits sometimes birth from the same place. New beginnings can only stem from endings, and they are evidence of how lucky we are to experience something magical, even if it was brief. As the world spins us around and we clamour to find our feet, we choose to orient ourselves towards joy. Towards gratitude. Towards you. Thank you for the overwhelming outpouring of love and support you dear friends have shown us through this time. We are truly lucky to have you.
That's all for now, as always, stay safe and keep carrying your light,
Viv and Avneet