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.
An article in the BBC details the results of an interesting reflexive exercise: Flip back through the seemingly infinite jumble of snapshots that many of us have piled up on our phones and pick the last "normal" one - i.e. the last photo that you took, in 2020 BC, "before corona" - before history was rewritten against a vastly different course that's now been hijacked by the pandemic. In the article, the majority of photos included smiling people in large groups (doing the opposite of social distancing), attending weddings, birthdays, and sports matches, in blissful ignorance of the events that would unfold.
One of our last snapshots was a menu of a charmingly small but picturesque cafe in Benares. The menu was an inspiration for a long-overdue revamping of our cafe, The Mad Teapot, to drive home how limited yet fresh ingredients could be worked to create inventive vegetarian fare in a variety of ways. 4 months later, flip to a snapshot of an empty room; the only remnants of its workings as a cafe reflected in the piled-up chairs and dismantled coffee machine. The soaring chasm between our past plans and our current reality is stark - as many of you would find as you go through this exercise.
It naturally follows that we contemplate the closing question in the article: If you could go back to the start of the year and give yourself some pre-lockdown advice, knowing what was about to happen, what advice would that be?
Our answer: Begin now. Make that leap. You will never "feel" ready; you won't ever feel smart enough, talented enough, wise enough, brave enough. Don't wait for what you don't have, instead work with what you have, start now and what you don't even expect will come alongside with everything else.
So make that call, tell them how much you love them, adopt that pet, sign up for that marathon, pick up those dusty paintbrushes, pitch your idea. Whatever happens, whatever the outcome; just by starting you will transcend through - and meet yourself on the other side.
And with that piece of unsolicited advice; here are our favourites of the week:
To Listen: Traditional flight travel is still not encouraged, but when it comes to time travel - we're all ears. This website, allows listeners to sail through space and time across a worldwide selection of music spanning decades and geographies. Choose your favourite musical era and the country you would like to hear from, and allow this musical time-machine to toggle you through fascinating radio. This is a unique way to explore new music and revisit old favourites; who knew we would become ardent fans of tunes from Angola circa 1994? Head over for some delightfully unexpected eargasms.
To Cook: We've never more wanted to head out on a picnic more, than when reading the deliciously dizzying descriptions of food from beloved children's author, Enid Blyton (who penned The Wishing Chair books that inspired our company's name). This article provides a comprehensive lowdown of all the treats she mentioned with as much zeal as a contemporary food blogger. One of the delicacies mentioned, and one of our all-time favourite tea-time desserts are chocolate eclairs. Here's an exhaustive step-by-step method for getting them perfect, addressing every possible disastrous outcome, to make them idiot-proof. As occasional idiots in the kitchen - we approve!
To Marvel: On an Instagram account called Plague History, artist Genevieve Blais has been modifying the subjects of artworks to give them face masks. Seeing some of the most famous pieces of art in the world; the Girl with the Pearl earring, Frida Kahlo, The Scream, The Kiss, et al, rendered impeccably to be Corona-conscious, is hauntingly beautiful and eerie at the same time.
To Try: It's becoming increasingly hard to concentrate on even the most mundane of tasks without turning to the phone to check messages every 1.27 seconds or fall into a rabbit hole of 'doom-scrolling'. We suggest you bookmark this helpful infographic on ways that you can reign in that lizard brain to focus. Some of the practices mentioned were new to us; such as doodling as a way to assimilate thoughts or a special Yoga-focus hand trick.
To Read: This article is a beautiful meditation on loneliness in a connected world. It looks at the digital salves we seek as junk-food comfort and quick-fixes to ease our sense of disenfranchisement. Some of these intriguing digital balms include "late-night pillow talk" with Youtubers who pretend to be your boyfriend for the night, ASMR videos that soothe the senses, and 'mukbang' videos where strangers online eat elaborate meals so that takeout food by the viewer doesn't feel so lonely. We found it fascinating to observe the arc of human experience against the internet's very short history.
To Watch: Do you sometimes feel like the heavens are watching you, tampering with the story of your life as if they were harbouring some special plan? That your life is attached by strings handled by an invisible puppeteer who has an evil sense of humour? You're not alone with these thoughts; what you're feeling is explained as Jungian synchronicity - like a glitch in the operating system that serves as a reminder that perhaps the universe is not merely a chaotic series of random events. This concept is explained with bewitching anecdotal and illustrative charm in this video - do check it out!
And finally, to sign off, we'd like to share a poem that extols the curative powers of nature; especially true for us in Delhi, now that the weather has cooled in the wake of the monsoon showers:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world and am free.
That's all for now, as always, stay safe and keep carrying your light,
Viv and Avneet