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
The soothsayers were prescient: Unlock 1.0 seems far more difficult to navigate than Lockdown 4.0. Our newsletter may feel a little somber this week. We have had a rough week with long, emotional store landlord negotiations, dwindling stocks as production is unable to start with most artisans having gone back to their home towns, and the overall looming anxiety with cases in Delhi touching new highs. As cases escalate at an alarming rate, the idea of going out into the world - to work, to perform duties and to ignite the economy - armed with a mask and a pocketful of hope, seems paradoxical and yet, inevitable.
How do any of us deal with the overwhelm? We wanted to share a little meditation that we have been going back to this week. You could save it as a post-it note on your phone and go back to it every time things feel hard:
Take a deep breath. Allow the collective hyper-analysis to run through you like a wave. You do not have to over-process or over-think every WhatsApp message or news update. You do not have to exert emotional labour for yourself and everyone around you all the time. You can just be.
And being, sometimes, just means indulging in the luxury of doing something that distracts you. And so, here are our favourites of the week:
To Marvel: If you want to spend the next 5 minutes, grinning in amused awe at what the magical mix of ingenuity and boredom can produce; then do scroll through this Instagram feed of folks recreating famous works of art using just themselves and 3 household items.
To Cook: The 90s are having a bit of a moment in fashion, and apparently the cupcake made a comeback during the pandemic too. It's no surprise: they offer a sugar rush (and therefore sweet comfort) with the heavenly decadence of cake in perfect portions for one. Unlike some of the 90s fashions that were hilariously tasteless, there's no doubt this list of top 10 easy-to-bake cupcakes is tasty in spades.
For all our Delhi & Gurgaon supporters, we are also working on how to bring you all your favorite Mad Teapot Bakery treats to you. Watch this space next week!
To Do: There's something about keeping your hands busy when your brain feels broken. This is an activity both you and the kids can try which is guaranteed to grant bragging rights: how to solve a Rubik's cube. It just takes a little practice and running through a few key rules. While so many of our problems right now can feel unsolvable, actually solving something is a wonderful distraction.
To Read: Did you know that mental illness can be culture-specific? In East India, 57 people were diagnosed with 'koro', meaning they feared their nipples would disappear into their bodies. This fascinating article chronicles culture-bound syndromes across the centuries, how they've evolved and how worryingly, even our mental health is being colonized by the West: We are, "Americanising mental illness – shoehorning the array of emotional and psychological experiences into a few approved boxes, such as anxiety and depression – “homogenising the way the world goes mad”."
To Watch: Animals are always enchanting to watch, especially when recorded in their natural habitat. Do feast your eyes on this award-winning documentary on the rich biodiversity of Karnataka, available free to watch here and narrated by none other than the inimitable David Attenborough. Also, immerse yourself in the majestic, sumptuous original soundtrack by Grammy-winning composer Ricky Kej.
To Ponder: This is a lyrical, evocatively graphic piece by Sam Anderson, about quarantine existential angst and what caterpillars actually go through inside their cocoon.
He writes "Terrible things happen in there: a campaign of grisly desolation that would put most horror movies to shame. What a caterpillar is doing, in its self–imposed quarantine, is basically digesting itself. Only after this near-total self-annihilation can the new growth begin. Inside that gruesome mush are special clusters of cells called ‘‘imaginal discs,’’ which sounds like something from a Disney movie but which I have been assured is actual biology. Imaginal discs are basically the seeds of crucial butterfly structures: eyes, wings, and so on. These parts gorge themselves on the protein of the deconstructed caterpillar, growing exponentially, taking form, becoming real. That’s how you get a butterfly: out of the horrid meltdown of a modest caterpillar."
We wonder, what do we look like, as we emerge from our own meltdowns? Do share your experiences in the metamorphosis from your respective cocoons; we love hearing from you.
That's all for now, as always, stay safe and keep carrying your light
Viv and Avneet