The Delights of Distraction No.31

Over the last couple of days, we had a quick sojourn at Jaipur to meet some of our karigars and help roll out some of our product lines that have been on the back burner due to Covid-adjacent issues. It's been our first travel trip since the lockdown in March, and since we were exposed to quite a lot of folk outside of our usual "bio bubble" - we made sure to strap our masks to our face at all times. The 24/7 mask wearing, other than a blasting headache, prompted us to also look into the interplay between social interaction and masked individuals.

As Delhi girls, our reputation precedes us as being notorious for having RBF (resting bitch face.) Our RBF has been hard-worn acquired from years of painful learning that an innocent smile or a friendly grin flashed at an unknown guy can make them, like Uday Chopra in Dhoom 2, dream up a whole equation of girl + smile = romantic interest + love + dating + meeting mummy papa + marriage.  However, the new pandemic scenario, with social distancing and mask wearing - has rendered RBF redundant. While this might be good news for Delhi girls, it's bad news for everyone else who might seek connection.

Paul Ekman, a psychologist whose work focused on faces and emotion, found that humans express seven core emotions (joy, anger, fear, surprise, sadness, contempt, and disgust) through non-verbal cues in common facial expressions. A series of experiments found that both recognizing and making facial expressions to express specific emotions is common across all cultures, and non-verbal communication plays a primary role in communication. Masks can therefore interfere with this instinctual process.

We all use facial expressions to both communicate with and understand one another. Humans are especially wired to see faces and facial features in the random patterns in our environment. There’s an evolutionary advantage to understanding whether we've pissed off someone around us by reading their facial expressions. We have a primal need to search out and interpret others’ faces.

The “social smile” is one of the most effective ways of easing social interactions, but only a “Duchenne smile,” or "Smizing" - a whole-face smile that involves crinkling of the eyes, is detectable behind a mask - all the other "polite smiles" are sadly missed!

We realised how curt and shallow our connections in Jaipur were with our masks on - how tough it was to express friendliness, to show gratitude, or just acknowledge someone without gesticulating wildly. We wonder how going forward, we would start to communicate more deeply with those around us, without experiencing such forlorn disorientation. Do let us know if you have any ideas on this dear reader - perhaps a special wave, transparent masks, or eye-blinks that convey secret messages through Morse code? Do write in and tell us, we'd love to hear your thoughts :)


And now - to our favourite programming from the week:


To Long Read: We thought we'd compile a list of some of our favourite female authors, so you had some recommended literature to dig into alongside that hot chocolate over the winter months. But then Elena Ferrante bestowed us with her list of top 40 women authors, and we had to defer to the Duchess of Divine Lit herself (whose books, The Neapolitan novels, we can't recommend enough). Her reccos span from Japan to India to South America, and the unread ones have been dutifully added to our "Must Read" list for 2021. We suggest you get cracking!

To Watch: It's not women's day, but as women who celebrate our brethren everyday - we don't need a special "day" to recommend this video: a powerful, beautiful celebration of women in all her profound, poetic glory. Watch and share with all the butt-kicking, trailblazing, patriarchy-busting mamacitas you know.

To Zen: We love this site; it's an immersive visual stop-gap, that transports your mind from whatever zone it is now to a calm, peaceful forest, beach or desert, where you can choose to listen to the rain or star-gaze for a few minutes, allowing your mind to relax and re-orient into a more zen-state.

To Cook: If you're ever looking for those easy, back-of-the-pocket recipes that are quick to whip up, yet are flavoured with a certain je ne sais quoi, that belie their simple prep - then look no further than this Burmese Semolina Cake (yes, the not-so-secret ingredient is suji - which makes it unbelievably soft, yet textured). You'll be doling them out for all your friend's birthdays - (if they're worthy and lucky enough!) 

To Listen: Here's a list of the 10 happiest songs (according to science), that you should kick off your weekend with to get your heart soaring and toes twinkling. We have a happy playlist on loop at the TWC stores, and they feature almost all the songs on this list. Factors that qualify a tune as a "happy one": their average tempo is 140 to 150 beats per minute (faster than a pop song), they're mostly played in major key, and the lyrics either tend to be about romantic, partying experiences or totally nonsensical.

To Hack: Reading on your phone or laptop, exposes you to backlight that keeps you awake at night and raises cortisol levels. Instead, turn your Kindle into an article reader. Install this Chrome extension, press one button and boom - whatever article you’re reading will appear in your Kindle library - fully optimised, highlightable and with changeable font sizes. No more squinting or restless nights.

To Love/Ponder/Joy Read: Like post cards from an old friend, this website is a series of intimate answers to questions from readers and fans of Nick Cave, answered by the singer-songwriter himself. There is much to ponder and revisit in this gorgeous growing treasure trove of letters to the world. They are mini lighthouses of hope amongst despair, inviting us to engage in more rewarding and reflective conversations, which in an era of such hyper division, is perhaps the clarion call we all need.

And to round off our letter, here's a poem; to those with aching hearts, or aching knees, or perhaps like us, with both!


Maybe night is about to come

calling, but right now

the sun is still high in the sky.

It's half-past October, the woods

are on fire, blue skies stretch

all the way to heaven. Of course,

we know that winter is coming, its thin

winding sheets and its hard-narrow bed.

But right now, the season's fermented

to fullness, so slip into something

light, like your skeleton; while these old

bones are still working, my darling,

let's dance.

—Barbara Crooker, "Reel"


See you next Friday, until then shine like the whole universe is your light,

Viv & Ami

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