Colour me Slow


This mind, this fickle mind, it is dependent on these tiny changes around it. And yet it knows it not. It swirls with the events, happenings, and the teeny-weeny shifts. But it seldom registers and often forgets. Like it rode on the golden rays that burst from the window in the morning. It noticed the tiny drop of tea that trickled along the rounded cup. It smelled the waft of breakfast in the neighbour’s house, and it sighed happily when the dog settled at the feet rustling that page of newspaper that floated on its way to the floor. And yet it remembered nothing overtly. It just vaguely felt a happy feeling somewhere, completely intangible and, somewhat transient.

It stayed alert in that yoga session, it stayed silent through that repetitive song from the childhood and, it was filled with melancholy at the thought of a loved one lost. It went off course on a travel plan gone awry, and was agitated and full of angst when the normal and sedate routine was disrupted. It even feigned anger when confronted. And yet, it remembered nothing overtly. It just vaguely registered the anxiety in the periphery of its being.

However, when the day had run its course, it settled in to a sluggish state of slumber. It’s only then, with the wisdom of the one that has slowed down deliberately, it paused at each event and wondered why one is not mindful of these deceptively tiny changes that in reality, have the astounding power to change the energy of the universe. What’s the hurry to move on, it asked. Why is it that these seismic shifts and happenings go unnoticed? Is this why the wise preached mindfulness? Is this what I am missing? The knee-jerk reaction was to pause each event, and to analyse each emotion. It seemed painfully contrived. But, the restlessness had been initiated, and action was inevitable. That’s when ‘it’ and ‘I’ merged. Experience, I knew, was mandatory. Action, I knew, was necessary. However, reaction, I realised, was optional. It was voluntary. So, yes, I paused.

I pause now to notice the stars that blink and yet it doesn’t. I look within, and somehow, the events stop rushing. They do not drown me. Instead, they just melt and mix, they float and flow. They become a slow dance of energy, filling the spaces vacant, reacting to emotions and thoughts and, eventually they change me a bit constantly with the newness of the experiences. I find it profound. I find it overwhelming. I just find it. I find me. I pause to notice the way I react. I pre-empt and I am prepared.

This mind, this fickle mind, has been splattered with the colours, these colours, made of experiences. All I had to do was slow down, notice, feel and acknowledge. So, here I slow me down, and feel the swirling colours as the shades splatter my soul, I revel. I see the missed moments in my mind: the bird, mid-flight, the leaf, overturned, the child, pouting, the mother, indulgent, the egos at play, the love at display, and the pulsating life that links it all.

See now, I am covered in colours so brilliant! It’s the exuberance of these slowed down experiences, and see, I am alive!

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The Quieter Ones


Image Source: Wikihow

I was never assertive as a child, and even as a teenager, I chose to follow the road of least resistance. I thought confirming was easier than being a renegade, because for me, it was always about the people. So, I followed the majority, I followed the society. I was sure, that the loud and the insistent knew the wrong from the right. I was certain that the quieter ones knew less.

Soon, I realised that it was difficult to do justice to any work or pursuit, when you lacked the interest or the passion, but elders said, perseverance was a virtue so I persevered on goals decided by others. However, that kept me average, bored and it made me a follower of whoever was loud and insistent. After all, it was always about the people and I was certain that the quieter ones knew less.

By the time, I embarked on an independent adult life, and took new responsibilities and roles, my learning, my motivation and my reasons had changed. I had spent so long, being quiet and observant, that I had begun to understand people more and more. I began to read between the lines, notice the gestures, understand the pause, and hear the words that were left unsaid: theirs, and even mine. It was then that it dawned on me, that perhaps the quieter ones knew a lot too, but it’s just that the louder ones were heard more. I decided to listen to the quieter ones. Not that they were always right, but I gathered that they had so much to share, and not enough people to hear them out. I moved away from the conforming tendencies, and consciously went about listening to the thoughts of those who were shy, quiet, or had no faith in their own voices.

So, here I am, a writer, a media representative and a trainer by profession, and it is my job to use my words, to speak my mind, whether in print or in spoken form, but in spite of it all, I am a listener at heart. But, this time I am not confirming. This time instead of listening to those who are insistent and loud, I am more inclined to listen to those who are quiet and subdued, and to listen to those who are wary and weary, but wise in their own ways. I am also listening to those, who have unpalatable stories to tell, and perhaps, no one to hear them out. All I can tell is that I am enriched and humbled because of these stories and because of these soft voices.

Mr Tan Chun-Jin, Minister of Social & Family Development

5 years as a volunteer-mentor to teens-at-risk with MSF. Here with Minister of Social & Family Development, Mr Tan Chun-Jin

It is my privilege to have completed 5 years of listening to the voices of the silent ones. I am immensely grateful to the Ministry of Family & Social Development, Singapore, for allowing me in their inner sanctum as a volunteer-mentor to teens-at-risk.

With Students (Singapore). Event: BTC 2017. Courtesy, SoCh

With Students (Singapore). Event: BTC 2017. Courtesy, SoCh

I am also thankful to Social Change in Action, for giving me access to the issues of the young through their DFC Programme and Be the Change Events.

With students (India), after a talk on self image, success and issues faced by the youth

With students (India), after a talk on self image, success and issues faced by the youth

This year, I went back to the schools in my hometown too. This is the city, where I studied till I moved away for my higher education. My love of people was nurtured here. I am grateful to the Principal of my alma mater, DPS, for allowing me to speak to the senior students of the school. I am thankful that they heard me patiently and gave me an insight to their thoughts. I am also thankful to my ex-teacher, Mr Sharma, who heads another school now, but remains open to discussing various issues faced by the teens in his school. I spoke to the students there too. In my sessions with the students, I talk about the things I have learnt through the years. I tell them, what I know. And I tell them that it’s not always the loud and the insistent ones, who decide the rules. I tell them that it’s not always the eldest who knows the wrong and the right and, I tell them that it’s not always judicious to keep quiet if you believe in what you have to say. I tell them to have a voice, loud or quiet, because each voice has value and each voice knows.

If there is anything that I have learnt, it is to do whatever one has to do to go ahead, but to still remember to reach out, to listen and to empathise. Because however, much the world progresses, and the technology takes over, however hard the keepers of the society insist on success, power and material possession, our very existence and our purpose will still be decided by our precious resource, the people. It will be always be about the people and their voices.

I am collecting quieter voices here, so if you are a teen, a teacher, or a parent, then contact us at ingrouphelp@gmail.com. For any other matter, contact rayprionka@gmail.com.

This is my 100th post. So, my final thank you is to all of you who read my posts. The listener speaks here.

 

Love


Love. It sure gets me verbose, taciturn, introspective, meditative, skeptical and mushy, all at the same time. The definition of love has actually changed with my age and my understanding of the world, or perhaps the understanding of myself.

When I was younger, a mere child, I lived surrounded by love, protected and nestled and cocooned by it. And that is my first memory of love without even knowing it was love. By high school, ‘love’ was ubiquitous, one couldn’t ignore it anymore or feign ignorance. Valentine’s Day was a word unknown to us still, but we loved and were loved. And that ‘love’ was defined by the movies, by the songs and in rare cases, by few books. MPK and QSQT became the parametres of love and those who don’t know what these acronyms mean are clearly not from my generation. But I am willing to help, so here goes… they stand for Meine Pyaar Kiya and Qayamat se Qayamat Tak, the teenaged, mushy block busters of our times. We watched those movies as many times as we could so that we could be completely sure what love meant. We were sure by the 12th viewing.

When I reached the late teens, Kevin Costner singing, “Everything I do, I do it for you” was the penultimate idea of love. It was the love anthem and I remember standing up in solidarity and in respect in the movie hall when the song played.

Being a little shy, I also had a quieter idea of love, one that was captured in the song, “More Than Words” or perhaps, “Aate Jaatey” (from MPK). Nevertheless, love was still decided by the media, still defined by the popular versions and still conveyed by the prescribed view of it. Even when I encountered the actual roses and the valentine-day cards, my definitions remained temporary and capricious, my understanding, swayed by what was expected.

As I grew older, love meant having a life-partner and then it morphed gently to include motherhood. I think motherhood still remains the most instinctive and beautiful love of all. But even that had a prescribed version of it. Prescribed or not, that love had the maximum changing power in it. It weakened the boundaries of love and seeped out of the prescribed lines. And then with experiences and age, the understanding of my ‘love’ grew.

Love was not about the movies, the songs or the people anymore. It became subtler. It was about the meaning of things and the depth of intentions rather than the visibility of the actions. It was about emotions, emotions that couldn’t be contained, that couldn’t be prescribed and that couldn’t be defined. It was all about colouring outside the lines, and overflowing the glass. It was about reaching out to the harshest of the people and feeling the beauty of all that was around me. The more my love expanded in meaning, the more I loved, and I loved grandly and lavishly, and I loved beyond the candle lights, and beyond the gifts, beyond the Valentine’s Days.

Today, love is gratitude, loyalty and unconditional support. Love is a promise that I make to those I call friends and family, a promise that I will stand by you, no matter what. It’s also a promise to those beyond my immediate circle, and to those I don’t know yet, that I will offer you a form of benevolent love that runs out of the prescribed lines. I offer you a non-judgmental and perennial hand of friendship.

Because, love, it can never be contained. So, I let it flow and I included it in everything I do.

Social Commentary through Films: Interview with Regional Filmmakers


Every region has its own narrative, one that offers a glimpse of its pulse. Dipping in to each narrative, I have felt involved and yet distant at the same time. As if, I am submerged in to a deep body of water, but unable to fathom its depth. However, the more dips I take, the more my view clears. The more I linger, the more I view. My introduction to films of the region was initiated this way and very soon, I concluded that despite the uniqueness of each culture, the shared story of humanity remains the same.

Presenting my interviews with two acclaimed film makers from Indonesia, Nia Dinata and Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo. On the surface, they both are different, but both their film-making styles involve the same need to weave in stories from the society we live in. Both are experts in making their audiences think, feel and ponder at the rules the society makes, the rush for power that divides us as people and the values that make us who we are. The original magazine link is available here

# Interview 1

Nia Dinata 9Source: IndoConnect)

Nia Dinata (Source: IndoConnect)

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#Interview 2

Film maker, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo (Source: Indoconnect)

Film maker, Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo (Source: IndoConnect)

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These are exciting times of collaborations and shared narratives. I am greedy for more and looking forward to exploring more and more of these regional treasures!

 

My Reading List: 2016


Writers, artists, playwrights, film makers and all the others, who take on the responsibility of observing, commenting and understanding the society in which we live in are doing us all a great favour. They look at patterns in life, in society and in behaviour, and then they analyse it all to give us a summary, coloured by their own bias of course, but a summary, nevertheless. It makes our lives easier. It saves us from having to dwell deep in to the chaotic depths of our own personalities, the complicated mishmash of our own relationships and the unexplained mysteries of many combined lives. In short, they do our introspection for us.

My homage is to the authors today, especially the authors of fiction or perhaps, fact that is garbed as fiction. These authors offer us a glimpse of a collective struggle, they offer us explanation of why something is the way it is and sometimes they influence us to question everything that we know. My reading list of 2016 seems to have shown a pattern, quite involuntarily. Most of the books that I have read have questioned the society’s ways of doing things. They have questioned what is wrong and what is right and they have forced me, the reader to question the notion of truth. Many of these are asian writers but that, I feel has not made a difference to my experience as a reader. What has been consistent, is that I have been forced to think and rethink what I know and what I have believed in earlier. To be honest, I have enjoyed the process immensely! So, here is my reading list of 2016. These books reflect the society in different times and in spite of that, in each era, they have questioned why society’s rules are decided by a handful of powerful people or they have forced me to look at alternate realities and alternatives.

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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A Passage to India by E M Forster

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The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

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Dubliners by James Joyce

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Beloved by Toni Morrison

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The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

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The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

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Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

the-bloody-chamber-and-other-stories-by-angela-carter

The Bloody Chamber and other Stories by Angela Carter

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1984 by George Orwell

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Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

 

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Wild Nights by Joyce Carol Oates

 

Happy reading! May we always question. May we always want to know.

 

Singapore International Film Festival: Fantasy & Female Empowerment


The longest running international festival in the region, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is back in its the 27thedition to offer a ‘feast for the senses,’ with films that narrate unique stories from the region. This was announced by the Festival at a media conference held at the National Museum of Singapore on 27th October, 2016. This year, SGIFF will screen 161 feature and short films from 52 countries, with 16 world premieres, 9 international premieres and 18 Asian premieres.

Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie at the SGIFF Media Preview (Credits: 27th SGIFF)

Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie at the SGIFF Media Preview (Credits: 27th SGIFF)

SGIFF Executive Director, Ms Yuni Hadi said that the SGIFF continues to be a discovery ground and platform to connect independent films in Asia and beyond. As the leading international film platform in Southeast Asia, the festival strives to foster the understanding of regional cinema by giving a voice to individuals through stories and dialogue. SGIFF is part of the annual Singapore Media Festival (SMF) that brings together a rich mix of independent filmmaking talent to showcase the region’s stories through film, throughout Asia and beyond. SGIFF also allows established and emerging filmmakers and industry players to interact and exchange ideas, in order to contribute to the growth of cinema in the region.

(More on my write up on SGIFF. This article was first published in Indoconnect)

SGIFF by Prionka Ray (First published in Indoconnect)

SGIFF by Prionka Ray (First published in Indoconnect)

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Stories and Us!


Stories and Us!

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Our world is made of stories and we are defined by these stories that we tell ourselves. Who then would know if the stories became reality or reality inspired these stories! Exploring the art of storytelling and the unique stories in us all is the The Singapore International Film Festival and nurturing this storytelling in the young students is the National Story Challenge.

SGIFF

Asian premiere of Interchange at the 27th SGIFF. (Photo credit Bonnie Yap, SGIFF)

Asian premiere of Interchange at the 27th SGIFF. (Photo credit Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

Championing the voice of Asian Cinema, the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) rolled out the red carpet for its gala opening yesterday at Marina Bay Sands. Celebrated Malaysian auteur, Dain Iskandar Said opened the 12-day celebration of independent cinema with the Asian premiere of his fantasy noir thriller Interchange. Present with him were award-winning Indonesian TV personality and actor, Nicholas Saputra, husband-wife duo Iedil Putra and Prisia Nasution. Other noted guests were last year’s SGIFF Cinema Legend Award recipient, actress, Michelle Yeoh, Korean director Lee Sang-woo, acclaimed Southeast Asian filmmakers Eric Khoo, Joko Anwar, Brillante Mendoza, and Vietnamese-born director Tran Anh Hung, who will be receiving the IWC Filmmaker Award – the first to be presented in Singapore – on 26 November 2016.

Michelle Yeoh and Mike Miluan (Credits: Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

Michelle Yeoh and Mike Miluan (Credits: Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

SGIFF Executive Director, Yuni Hadi, said, “It is heartening to see the gathering of so many passionate film lovers at the opening of SGIFF. While the industry witnesses the transformation of cinema reflected in how we watch and make films today, the timeless stories told through film will always continue to engage and captivate us.” Over the next two weeks, SGIFF will present 161 films from 52 countries, and a varied slate of panel discussions and masterclasses with renowned filmmakers and industry experts.

I am excited to catch some of the movies. Having interviewed Indonesian Film maker, Nia Dinata recently, I am looking forward to watching her movie, Three Sassy Sisters!

National Story Challenge 2017

Story Challenge

Story Challenge

Meanwhile, to nurture the stories while young, is the The National Story Challenge Tournament. The challenge is an original improvisational storytelling competition created by The Theatre Practice, and is open to students in all primary and secondary schools in Singapore.  Registration starts from 19th December! Details here

And last, but not the least, here’s my contribution to the stories: reading stories to the children at the community centre, where I am part of the committee that organises programmes for youth and children.

Storytelling at the community centre (Source: Prionka Ray)

Storytelling at the community centre (Source: Prionka Ray)

The wise said, that we become the stories we tell. If that be true, then let the voices be heard and let the stories define us again and again and again…

Reading now: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

My Moleskine & I!


Love the Black! (Source: rebloggy.com)

Love the Black! (Source: rebloggy.com)

I am in a serious relationship with my Moleskine notebook. For those who get attached to routines, circumstances and things, this post is for you!!

So, yes, I am in love with my notebook. It means I am never without it and I get anxious as the year nears its end, because then I must be in possession of a new one before the pages run out in my old one. Not only am I loyal and proud, but I am also pedantic about the kind of notebook I buy. For the uninitiated, Moleskine’s notebooks are stylised to follow the aesthetics of a ‘traditional’ black notebook with rounded corners and ivory-coloured paper. Bound in cardboard, it has, what they call a spine, which allows the notebook to lie flat. An elastic band is used to seal, and a ribbon bookmark is included along with an expandable pocket inside the rear cover. You can see that I like describing it. Now, coming to its name, Moleskine. It does not have an official pronunciation in any other language except Italian.

Aware of my loyalty, one Christmas, my girls decided to gift me a Moleskine notebook. But alas, it was too late in the year! December 25th! That’s really too late to buy a planner that I would need right on 1st January. Isn’t it? Unfortunately, they knew not that each year, somewhere around October/ November, I dutifully make my way to the book store and buy that same moleskin. And so, that year, I was the proud owner of two Moleskine (yes, exactly the same ones).

2016 is nearing its end and today was my Moleskine buying day. ‘Black, soft, daily’, I blurted to the lady at the store. She was used to this. There are many like me, you see, who refuse to budge from what they like, what they are used to and what they hold on to, very dearly indeed! Perhaps, it is somewhat like holding on to ideas that you get accustomed to. You don’t want to change. Sometimes, because you are too comfortable with the status quo and some times because accepting new is like admitting that your previous idea had a flaw.

So, at the store today, like a dogmatic authoritarian, I guarded my choice. Yes, the same one! There are other colours, said the lady at the counter, tentatively. Equally hesitant, I glanced at the range. Red, Orange, Blue, green. Wow! But no, no, I need to be loyal, I thought! ‘Black, soft, daily’, I repeated my preference again. The lady disappeared to find my love from the dark and deep drawers of her store. While she was gone, I glanced at the colours again and gingerly touched the orange one. It was so lovely! Feeling brave, I asked if I could look at that piece. ‘It is only available in a hard cover’, she informed. ‘What! I only buy soft’, I replied. She smiled. ‘Of course!’

To all the people, who are attached to routines, circumstances and things, please know that I have picked up a hardcover, orange, daily Moleskine! Ha! Dogmatic? Who me? Not at all! After all, Orange is the new black!

Orange is the new black!

Orange is the New Black! (Source: Prionka Ray)

Happy B’day dear H, wherever you are…


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Source: Etsy

Today is a special day. It’s my mom’s birthday. (Happy B’day, mom!) It’s also the birthday of a little girl that I befriended, a girl who touched my heart. She lived in a foster home and I was asked to go and meet her. It was a sunny afternoon five years ago and I still remember our first meeting. She looked at me, sizing me up, trying to gauge if I was trustworthy enough, funny enough, nice enough, kind enough…Those initial meetings were hesitant and she was cautious and closed. A little girl, who had seen enough of life, to be wary of situations and people both. I am sure, there had been many like me in her life too, trying to be kind and preachy and condescending.

One day, I stopped trying to be the adult that she met regularly and instead decided to be just a listener, a listener of her many small and big stories, a listener of her ramblings and a listener of her thoughts, spoken and unspoken. I realised that I enjoyed listening to her. I began to look forward to meeting her. Those warm afternoons, those rainy days, those overcast evenings, those little walks, all became special.

She was a kid when I met her first, but soon she turned in to a beautiful teenager, full of life and I grew very fond of her indeed! However, there were many unpleasant and pleasant turns on her road and I, as the listener of her thoughts, felt both her sadness as well as her little excitements along with her. Who was I to her? We spoke of that often. On official paper, I was a registered volunteer and a mentor. Was I a friend, a confidante, a counsellor? She couldn’t decide, so she just said, you are Prionka to me, as if that one word would explain what I meant to her. Having said that, she smiled her full smile. I smiled back.

Little girls grow up. H grew up too. She is integrated back in to the society and not under special care anymore. I have no way of contacting her now but I think of her often, especially on days like these. Doe she still like to eat the boiled eggs? Does she still forget unpleasant memories? Does she still hold dear, the teddy bear that I had gifted her on her (13th or was it her 14th?) birthday, I don’t know. I get to meet other girls but I miss her still. And I wish the very best for her.

My dearest H, if you ever read this, please know that you are amazing and I will always remember you! Happy B’day with love!

Prionka

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Lesser


Pride,

I had wrapped myself in it.

A garb of the young,

a cloak of the naive,

A delusional veil of the ignorant!

Fear,

Yes, a bit of that too,

perhaps…

I knew not,

that time spares none,

Yes, not even me!

Why was I surprised

at being thus reduced?

Wasn’t it but inevitable?

Wasn’t it meant to be?

It was.

And it did do away

With my claws,

My edges,

My height.

My walls,

My disdain,

My might.

I was to be

Stunted,

small and slight,

In stature and in circumstances.

Was that it?

Aghast,

I lowered my eyes,

With disbelief at first,

With humility later

And with acceptance eventually.

I am ready, I said,

To chip off a bit more,

To crumble in places,

To be reduced as deemed right.

And now here I am…

Blunted,

Softer,

Lesser,

And yet at peace.

I am proud still,

But of others.

I am garbed still,

But in reflected glory.

I am resplendent still,

But that’s a joyous sheen you see.

A seamless, serene and sequinned mist,

That lends light to every pore in me.

In my nothingness, I discovered vastness,

In being lesser, I received more.

I surrendered,  and I accepted the inevitable.

It’s when I drifted that I found my shore.

(Lesser© by Prionka Ray)