The Delights of Distraction No.24

Hi There,

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.

"Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence."Gandhi's words of advice seem quite prescient, today on his 151st birth anniversary.

However, for a true wake-up call we'd like to refer to an article we came across by Indi Samarajiva who lived through the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka that killed about 80,000-100,000 people over 30 years. His article is a warning to residents across the pond in America, but the circumstances perhaps more aptly refer to everyone of us as well. Samarajiva cautions that societal collapse can feel quite normal for many people — but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.

He writes, "This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down." Apparently, the process of collapse isn't announced with a large billboard and fireworks;  it's just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary wickedness, most of it happening to someone else. 

In light of a sobering reality check, the only respite may be to channel Gandhi himself. To be the change. To conquer with love. To burnish an indomitable will. And most importantly, to still glimmer with hope. As Bapu said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."

And now back to our distraction-led programming. Here are our faves of the week:

To Read: Hey - you know what? You don't have to engage in performative grief 24/7. 2020 may be canceled but if you happen to be doing great  - it's ok to feel ok. "Yes, this mild form of survivor guilt is the least of the nation’s worries. But the pandemic, and the array of emotions it has spurred, presents an opportunity for us to think about the complexity of our feelings and how to manage them.” 

To Joy Scroll: Japanese artist, Akie Nakata turns found stones and rocks into adorable animal paintings you can hold in the palm of your hand. In a kind of Zen wisdom, she says the stone chooses her as much as she chooses it. She will hold the rock in the palm of her hand and feel, "the history of the earth the stone has silently witnessed." Her stones aren't sold, but "put up for adoption", and their demand is skyrocketing. It's not hard to see why - each stone animal is remarkably lifelike and oozes cuteness

To Cook: It's pumpkin season! We have stuffed every single kind of pumpkin and pumpkin-shaped squash into our fridge and are now determined to convert them into something edible. We've made pumpkin salads (used to be a favourite at the Mad Teapot cafe), "petha" style vegetables to be guzzled with puris, baked them in a honey glaze and dipped them in garlic sauce, whizzed them into soups and stuffed them into atta dough. Here's a recipe for the weekend, to enjoy over brunch; pumpkin french toastDon't let the dreaded addition of "kaddu" in brekky-dessert deter you - the addition results in a wonderful moistness and flavour without the added fat. Enjoy!

To Watch: This is a deliciously clever, feature-length film that's free to watch on Youtube. It was showcased as an experimental film at Cannes in 2012. The director, György Pálfi has constructed a beguiling love story using clips from 450 films that span nearly the entire history of cinema. Half the fun of watching this film is recognizing your favourite movie characters and scenes from Hollywood, clipped in a way to way to convincingly construct the much-loved romantic movie trope. The editing and direction is wonderfully smooth and seamless and it's hard not to get sucked in.

To ListenRadio Garden is a website and an app which features a giant globe. On the globe are green dots. Each green dot is a radio station. Garden invites you to tune into thousands of live radio stations across the globe - instantly connecting with distant cultures, music and languages, as well as re-connecting with places in which you may have cruised to the tunes of the car radio.  You can spin the globe and listen live to anything anywhere. Endless jazz from Tokyo, revivalist anthems from Namibia, Orthodox chanting from Russia - and fascinatingly enough: a string of radio stations in Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi in London!

To Learn:  John Gottman is a psychological researcher; his institute can predict whether a couple would still be together years later with over 90% accuracy, just by observing a couple in conversation for 3 minutes! He identifies what he calls the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" for relationships. If left unchecked - they sound a death knell to their bonding. The four horsemen are Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. Fortunately, there are antidotes to the four horsemen -  the traits Gottman observed the masters at relationships use instead. Check them out in detail here, and hopefully, you might save a friendship or a love worth fighting for. 

To Try: We love all things lyrical -  so this Google AI experiment “PoemPortraits“ was a project that we enjoyed playing around with. You "donate" a word (no money involved)  and the AI produces a unique two-line verse, pulling from more than 20 million words of 19th century poetry. The poem then becomes a part of the ever-expanding and evolving machine-created poem, that scrolls down the page.We donated the word: Melancholy. Here is what Google Ai came up with; words that are forever plastered on their AI poetry page: 

My melancholy stars are the first stars of  morning,

the disappointment of the heavenly stranger

The temperature has dropped in Delhi, with the gifts of a cool breeze channeling through the air. We're not sure that we can sufficiently convey the delight that we take from these first cool days of the year.  In the midst of everything, we hope you have similar small but not insignificant pleasures attending your days.

Happy Gandhi Jayanti,

Stay safe, make good choices and keep that light on,
Viv and Ami


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