The Delights of Distraction No.82: Mothers in various forms and Eid Mubarak


We are Viv and Ami. And this is our weekly collection of delights to read, watch or listen to. You’re one of thousands of subscribers across India that tune in every week to read our random musings. Thanks for that, it's great to have you :) 

Just a quick public service announcement: It’s Mother’s day next Sunday! Unlock favourite child status and gift her something that would make her feel extra special. Coincidentally, we happen to have just what you need

And hey, we get it motherly feelings can be ambivalent; in the absence of a mom or a complicated relationship with one. Some of us will be spending it grieving or wishing things could be different rather than swimming in an ocean of childhood regret and resentment. We encourage you to celebrate those around who have shown “motherly care.” The friend who has said, “Come stay over at my place and I’ll take care of you”, or “I’m here, whether you need me to chat all night, hold your hand or sit together in silence and look up at the stars,” or “I made you your favourite brownies today.” Perhaps it’s a time not just to honour our mothers, but all those who have shown nurturing, bosom-hugging love. Sometimes the world gets a bit much, and we need to be held by someone who can assure us it will get better. A friend, sibling, family member. Who has been there for you? And more importantly, how will you be there for them? Write in and tell us, we love hearing from you. 

And here’s our links for the week: 

To read: Let's zoom out for a bit. Could this century be the most important for humanity ever - of all that ever were and ever will be? This long and thoughtful series of posts makes that argument. In a nutshell: 

  • Artificial intelligence will lead to an unimaginable explosion of scientific and technological advancement. 
  • When that happens, humans as we know them will no longer be the main force in world events. Instead, it will be digital people or misaligned AI. 
  • This could happen as early as this century. Therefore, now is our last chance to shape how that transition happens, making this the most important century for humanity. These are not simply Sci-Fi musings, but conclusions drawn from research (speculative in nature, sure, but well argued). 

You can choose to read a summary or the whole series, you can listen to the series read by the author, or hear the author explain his theory in an interview with Ezra Klein — whatever works for you.

To joy scroll: Over the weekend, we braved the tarmac-pounding heat of near 50 centigrade weather and visited the India Art Fair for a quick dekko. The Art fair, held annually in New Delhi, celebrates modern South Asian art, drawing together galleries, museums, artist collectives and private foundations. This year, after a two year pandemic break, we saw some clear themes emerge: 

  • A bridging of the hierarchical gap between crafts or typically termed “folk art” and conventionally exalted art. Our traditional craft and visual techniques, such as Madhubhani, Gond and Pichwai works were displayed on large canvases, re-imagined in contemporary themes and colours, pitched alongside gallery art. 
  • Many more young, emerging artists were showcased this year, a refreshing change from the usual Indian Masters that dominated the space earlier. Therefore, more current themes were explored: the worrying unfolding of climate change, post-pandemic transformations, of the self and the environment, rootlessness and identity and the impact of technology and social media on our minds. 
  • An overarching theme however, a thread that seemed to flow through most new works was a certain longing, for continuity and relevance in our shared histories. With a heightened awareness of the fast-paced change we’re experiencing, quickly nudging out old ways, there was a distinctive artistic intent to conserve the past and present; to crystallize our vanishing concepts in visual narratives. Nostalgia! A strongly recurring concept across the internet since 2020. 

To cook: A comprehensive list (in no particular order) of sweet-toothed aficionados' favourite desserts from across the world, after eating thousands of sweets from South Africa to Northern Thailand. Also, for Eid celebrations this weekend till Tuesday, some mouth-watering recipes for the dessert table. The Bombay bakery cake and the mango mousse look especially yummy. 

To WTF: Thousands of weird-but-true facts from a monster-length Twitter thread of hard-to-believe oddities. Some samples: 

  • “One of the favourite shades of paint used by Pre-Raphaelite painters, Mummy Brown, was made by adding ground up remains of Egyptian mummies.” 
  • “Hippos were almost released in Louisiana as a way to control invasive plants and as a food source for people”
  • Mozart wrote a 6-part canon with the text, “Leck mich im Arsch” (literally "Lick me in the arse"). Listen to it here:
  • “The last guillotining in France occurred the year Star Wars first premiered.”
  • Gandhi and Winston Churchill both served in the British armed forces in the same battle during the Second Boer War, for which Gandhi recieved a medal. 

To life hack: According to the Michelle Drouin, the behavioral scientist who wrote this article “The Time Hack Everyone Should Know,” the key to taking your time back is not a phone detox or monitoring your screen time, it is to remember we have the tool of choice (use, omit or substitute) and to have a plan of action ready the next time you reach for your phone. 

“There are two types of action: omission — carving out some intimate times (e.g., dinner) and intimate spaces (e.g., at night in bed with a partner) without your phone, and substitution — swapping passive time on your phone with something that has proven health benefits, like a call to a friend or a walk. Then, each time you interact with your phone, you’ll have three choices: use, omit, or substitute. Remember: Shifting in small ways can lead to big changes in our daily timeclock.” 

She’s right when she says, “Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you’re being sucked into your technologies. Instead, see your tech use for what it is: you knowing what you like, and you choosing to engage in it (at the cost of other opportunities).” 

To quote: “The three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. Think about it. If we have useful work, sustaining relationships, and the promise of pleasure, it is hard to be unhappy.” Dr. Gordon Livingston 

To watch: Viv has been having a recurring dream over the last 2 months. In the dream, she has bought a beautiful expensive dress for herself. But on the evening of the special occasion, as she’s putting the dress on - her friends and family burst into her room and strip the dress off her body, tearing it into a million pieces. 

What does this dream mean? That she doesn’t feel she deserves to step into the light? That she feels her friends and family don’t trust her to take decisions? Does it have to mean anything at all and are just the random firing of neurons on repeat? 

Dreams are mysterious, and since the time of the Ancient Mesopotamians, human beings have been recording their dreams and trying to figure out what, if anything, the secrets they hold. Some folks believe that dreams are just random images generated from our brains for no reason at all. But there have been scientists from different areas of expertise who would disagree. In this video - Amy Adkins reveals the top seven reasons why we might dream.

  1. We Dream to Fullfill our Wishes
  2. We Dream to Remember
  3. We Dream to Forget
  4. We Dream to Keep our Brains Working 
  5. We Dream to Rehearse 
  6. We Dream to Heal 
  7. We Dream to Solve Problems 

To lexicon: Mudita [moo-dee-dtha] Pali and Sanskrit (मदिुदिता) 

(n) the joy that comes from delighting in the well-being of others 

Imagine a world that experienced more vicarious joy. One that emphasized lifting each other up rather than cutting each other down to get ahead. Wouldn't that be some kind of wonderful? 

To end: 

The Last Days of April 
by James Tate 
Through the ceiling comes 
the rain to cool my lover 
and me. The lime carpeting 
darkens, and when we cross 
to retrieve our glasses 
of gin from the mantle, our 
feet sink as into drifts of 
leaves. We have a deep 
thirst, for it is the end 
of April, and we know that 
a great heat is coming soon 
to deaden these passions. 

Have a lovely weekend and Eid Mubarak everyone! Enjoy your friends, family and feasting.

Viv & Ami

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