Delights of Distraction No.34: Words of the Year

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. If you are just joining us, you can find all previous editions here. 

It's the Delight of Distraction newsletter's second last issue of 2020, and in an attempt to try and sum it up -we realised we had no words. But on closer inspection across the interwebs, we're not the only ones: even the Oxford Dictionary can't help. This year is the first time ever the Oxford Dictionary didn't name a word of the year!  They described 2020 as “a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word.”  Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year for 2020 is: pandemic. 

People's Choice 2020 Word of the Year by Dictionary.com is: unprecedented. In the Netherlands, the word of the year is: anderhalvemetersamenleving. The word, directly translated as "one-and-a-half-metre-society," refers to a society that allows people to maintain 1.5-metre distance from one another in public spaces. Other word of the year winners from online dictionaries: Lockdown, Climate Emergency and Quarantine.

Meh. All these words described the nature of our physical space and its limitations during 2020, but none of them come close to describing the tumultuous, roiling swirl of our internal worlds. So we scoured the world's languages to start a lexicon that could at least start to chip at the tip of the iceberg of the sentiments we felt in 2020:

Weltschmerz (German). Literally translates as "world pain" and describes a world weariness felt from a perceived mismatch between the ideal image of how the world should be and how it really is. We had envisioned a plan for The Wishing Chair in 2020, with more stores across the country, buzzing Mad Teapot cafes, a larger team of women working at the studio - that (like for many of you) took a sharp U-turn this year.  Weltzchmerz is probably the all-encompassing sense of loss, dread and grudging acceptance we felt back in June. We think it's to be paired with the Russian word Toska; a sensation of spiritual anguish, accompanied by a dull ache of the soul for something that could have been.  

Pyt (Danish): Used to express that you accept a situation is out of your control, and even though you might be annoyed or frustrated, you decide not to waste unnecessary energy on thinking more about it. You accept it and move on. And you have no choice really do you? Pyt has a wonderfully positive resonance, the sound of relief as you let go of something you can't control. The sound we breathed out in July 2020, when we drew the final shutters on our first store and cafe in Shahpur Jat, and thought of ways we could rebuild anew. 

Desasosiego (Spanish): It literally means unrest, unease, anxiety. A state where one cannot find solace in body and mind; emptiness, unrest, discomfort, longing and desire all in one. When one of our's husband was sick with Corona, when our parents were thought to have it (false alarm), when our grandmother died, when bank accounts rapidly eroded, when people we knew suffered, when colleagues had to be let go, when we didn't know how we'd pay the next month's rent: they're all captured in this word; 2020 really has been a desasosiego of a year! 

Fika (Swedish)Literally,  this translates as coffee break, but is elevated into an important ritual of bonding and connection. For our families this translated to "Catch-up" zoom call meetings, for our friends: a Sunday potluck. For us, this newsletter has been a grounding, meditative journey of discovery and connection with our readers. We have found a community here, our ritual of reaching out every week, and every week we are delighted and pleasantly surprised by your emails back to us, wrapping us in a huddle of warmth and comfort. 

Saudade (Portuguese): that feeling of longing for something or someone that you love which is lost. This feeling of emptiness, melancholy or nostalgia is why we kept going back to songs we listened to when we were young, binged on the foods that gave us comfort as kids (Maggi, Masala Lays, Cornetto cones, deep-fried everything), watched reruns of Friends and the Mahabharat. Saudade carries with it the repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return and was once described as "the love that remains" after someone or something or a way of being is gone, and all you're left with is a bittersweet, empty feeling of it missing.

Meraki (Serbian): One of our favorite words, and one we really hammer home with our joyful declarations, "It's the little things". Meraki refers to a feeling of bliss and the sense of oneness with the universe that comes from the simplest of pleasures. It is the pursuit of small, daily pleasures that all add up to a great sense of happiness and fulfillment, and the one philosophy that kept us going through lockdown life: Sunshine streaming in through the window. Patter of furry friends feet. Smell of hot morning coffee. The taste of evening chai. Joints cracking after a long stretch. The feel of soft fleece pajamas. Stretchy pizza cheese. A Zoom meeting cancellation. Long drives on empty roads. A houseplant turned towards the sun. Merak is our little word of remembrance, a word that ushers us, that no matter how uneasy, anxious-ridden and doubtful we may feel, to always turn towards the sun.  

And here are our faves of the week: 

To Long Read (books): There have been many book of the year book lists, and we've shared a few.  But this list by Resh Susan at Vogue, that picks the best books according to what you're in the mood for, has something for everyone, plus it's a great mix of Indian and International authors. 

To Short Read (articles): The best of 2020 lists are packed in these two links, The best Long Reads of 2020 and Bloomberg, which lists all the articles across the year that their writers wished they had written instead, ie The Jealousy list. Our article recommendation for the week is FiftyTwo's ,diligently and brilliantly researched essay on Dr. Kamla Chowdhry who was the faculty member of IIM Ahmedabad, and has since been tragically reduced to a footnote by sexism and selective memory.

To Joy Scroll: This article on My Modern Met breaks down the most creative projects we saw in 2020 that jolted some hope, happiness and humour into our dreary, lockdown lives over the past months. We have featured many of these artistic endeavours in our previous newsletters, but the ones that brought us the most joy were the tiny gerbil art museumsenior citizens re-enacting iconic rock stars' album coversthe Getty museum challenge where folks at home used everyday pieces to recreate masterworks and these series of "before and after" comic illustrations that reveal how much life has changed after C-19. 

To Cook: It's cold in Delhi, the air is thick with fog most days and the chill seeps in through the walls and into your veins. The only rational way to deal is to snuggle under a very thick blanket with Netflix, a hot beverage (spiked or otherwise) and stuff your face with cookies. This article at Food 52 provides a comprehensive list of some of the most delectable cookie recipes with time-tested tricks and tips. Our personal winners were the Tahini Chocolate Shortbread bars and the genius Flourless Chocolate-walnut cookies, made without butter, oil or flour (How? It's a christmas miracle!) P.S. We have all the TWC Bakeshop Christmas cookies up on our website now delivered across the country.

To Listen: Many of you write back enthusiastically when we share our personal stories through the entrepreneur journey, so you might enjoy this podcast recommendation: How I built this. The host, Guy Raz dives into the backstories of all the best known companies, a behind-the-scenes narrative arc of the challenges, struggles and little victories faced by founders, innovators, creators and dreamers alike. 

To Watch: If anything happens I love you - A 12 minute original short by Netflix about grieving parents in the wake of the loss of their 10 year old child. An exquisitely rendered simple animated film with no dialogue, that made us feel ALL the soul blistering feels that the film-makers intended us, and their characters to go through. This is a storytelling masterpiece, and if you don't have a netflix account, you can sneak a peek of the one minute trailer here. There's nothing else to say: except watch it. If you know what loss feels like, you'll bawl your eyes out and then hug your loved ones extra tight today. 

To Warm Up: With the cold wave creeping across North India, causing us Delhiites to shiver in our booties and stick our bottoms on heaters, we thought this article on how to stay warm (because being indoors in Delhi, is truly as bone-chilling cold as a mountain ski peak in Europe). Our personal pro tips: drink copious amounts of adrak chai, switch to toddies at 5 pm, load up on snuggies (those blankets with sleeves), get cosy in fleece pajamas and declare hibernation till February. 

And finally, from our very own Priestess of Poetry, Mary Oliver:

I Worried

“I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?
Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.”
— Mary Oliver 

How has language helped you during the pandemic? Are there any words that resonate, or do you find language woefully moth-beaten and bedraggled and that your deep emotions tend to fall through the holes? And if you have any words we can add to our growing lexicon, do let us know! Either way, write in - we love hearing from you.  

Wishing you a cozy winter and much more sweetness and light in the coming days, 

Viv & Ami