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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

An Art Lesson

As in life, so in the pandemic, art and creativity are proving to be wellsprings of hope.

Written by Suvir Saran | Updated: November 1, 2020 1:30:12 pm
Healing strokes: No matter how difficult any given moment feels, art can help us find hope.

Ever evolving is how I feel our life has been calibrated and designed to be. If we grow with each moment, if we become better versions of ourselves with each chapter of our life, we stand to be humans who leave a legacy and do good by the world we inhabit.

Some have accused me of fashioning Pollyanna and her irrepressible optimism, hinting that I am naïve and simplistic. But fate is not destiny. Reality does not equal fatality. Rather, it is a moving point that we chart the course of through our actions. Of course, we must do all we can and as best as we can, but then we must let go and let life happen. Learn to make peace with the outcomes. I arrived in NYC when I was 20 and soon made my home there. A home that moved as I moved from student life to professional life to farmstead life. I arrived with a hunger to discover. I wanted to live in a cosmopolitan city, to embrace my own self and my life, and respect others for who they were and where they were in their journeys. Beyond that, I had no idea of what I was destined for or what I ought to aspire to become. It helped that I had an artist’s mindset, a vagabond spirit and a gypsy’s stamina.

Singing, cooking, knitting, crocheting, macrame, needlework, embroidery, painting, sculpting — these connected me to my soul’s needs, my heart’s enrichment and my mind’s grounding. As I made my name and livelihood as a chef, these passions were stored in my memory’s depths, where I could reach every now and again and find inspiring hope and fulfilling hobbies.

A single breath, a mini stroke, one moment in time is all it took to alter my course drastically. A grown man in the care of his mother and spouse, sibling and dear friends. With each day that brought me new handicaps, I was ready to give up on life. Then my inner Pollyanna managed somehow to defy what was predicted and led me to new beginnings, new passions, new avenues to channel my creativity.

As I set sail on a new journey in India, my motherland from whom I have been removed for over a quarter century, I see how art and creativity are similarly helping others, too. I see it daily all around me. Affecting people who are healed through the passions they have discovered during the vicious grip of the pandemic, or visual artists like Satyakam Saha, who has always used art as both his driving engine and his escape from the vexing vicissitudes of life.

Satya shames me into feeling like a copycat when he says, “I think that art can help in making better versions of ourselves. For an individual, it helps in forging a connection between mind and body. All art forms are considered to be repositories of society’s collective memory. The best examples of how art is transformative and able to heal the scars of a destructive period are from times after world wars.” It’s clear that Satya is a person deeply connected to his own humanity, and, so, most circumspect about the humanity that resides in all others around him. I asked him how he juggles working as a professional architect and designer with his work as a creative artist. His response:

“It’s tough and often challenging to deal with such disparate worlds. The artist in me enjoys the complete freedom towards my personal work or creativity, but when it comes to professional work, it has to be within the boundaries set by the business. I can fly as an artist but have to be grounded as an employee. This is the biggest differentiator between the artist and the designer in me.” And just like that, Satya shares another lesson that is all about being aware of the difference between circumstance and fate, destiny and reality.

When I couldn’t cook due to my health, when knitting and singing became a challenge, I discovered I could harness my creativity another way. Suddenly, my iPhone and the world around me became my kitchen and my ingredients. In my dark period, I found a ray of sunshine that brought me hope. When asked what the pandemic has brought to his world, Satya says, “It’s been introspective and humbling in many ways. Making art is just a means to an end. The world is in crisis, and, so, holds up bigger lessons for humanity. I feel blessed that maybe being an artist helps me ride through these tough times. That adversity can be channelled into something creative and fulfilling.”

The image shared with my column is a lockdown creation of Satya’s. As I watch him navigate the pandemic as both artist and co-worker, I see glimpses of what I’ve always felt and for which I am often challenged. I find a world which is always giving us opportunities, sending us new lessons and waiting for us to be one with it, and I see Satya make the most of each moment, with dignity and grace, generosity of spirit and magnanimity of thought, action and deed. Through his art, he shows us that hope can be found no matter how hard any given moment might seem. Nothing is permanent, not even a pandemic. It is beautiful to see that truth come alive in Satya’s creativity.

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