Thursday, 7 November 2013

Lighting Up Yet Wanting to Rip Things Apart

The week before Diwali was intense. I volunteered to help with the condo lighting. It was an impromptu thing which I thought would be a breeze. But, I ended up spending five days yelling instructions from the ground to standing on shaky bamboo ladders, hanging onto tree limbs, rounding up the condo staff who were involved in all manner of daily errands to come help me put lights on branches, wrap strings of tiny bulbs around tree trunks and hang the made-in-China-lights at even lengths and create patterns that required discipline and a sense of aesthetics they were just not used to.  My assistants were the firemen, plumbers, electricians and house-keeping staff that could be spared, and each day I had to train a new set. All in all it was an experience to remember- both annoying and enjoyable but, not all moments were quite as delightful as when the lights went on in their full splendour.
In the evenings I would be exhausted after a day of work that was  physically quite demanding and it would be difficult to settle down and embroider. But at that point, things were mostly in place for very rhythmic work that was more therapeutic than thoughtful, so I was able to do an hour or so each evening.
The lights were not good quality which made the job at hand a rather frustrating one. Through the day we hung the lights with such care and perfection of length, height and design but when we switched them on as the sun dipped, they would light up as would our eyes in expectation, and then fuse. And in all that glowing splendour would be dark spots that were not supposed to be there. I just never quite got a sense of satisfaction when I looked at the whole picture, and this did not go down well with my innate desire for perfection.

 But, when I zoomed in on the details, it was satisfying to see the Champa [Frangipani] tree trunks embraced by tiny blue bulbs and the laddis [strings] of white and yellow lights, cradled by her leaves. Or, for that matter the long line of Ficus hedge surrounding the garden, garlanded from its height of over seven feet, along with a neat row of blue lights lining the railing that belted the Ficus in.

I had worked around things in a way that after circling the burned piece of muslin, which was almost like creating an energy vortex or even a healing vortex, if you like, I found myself stitching on small boxes of matte that I had cut up.  I had already placed some matte to embroider on the organza and it was while doing this that I felt the need to do some more. The ordered process of doing cross-stitch was appealing and the boxes have all been set in place for me to embroider, but the hand is restless and wants to tear through the nice round lines of Kantha that formed the healing vortex, to shake things up again.

Each day,I had to muster a great deal of patience to keep going especially since there had been no real planning behind the lighting design as it was just a spur of the moment thing, so there was a shortage of everything from lights to wires to the electrician’s tape and even manpower. But I used everything in my power to get it done and it was satisfying to hear all the compliments and especially to see the delight in the children’s’ eyes when the lights came up as they played in the park.

Those weeks leading up to Diwali week had been very steady. My daily routine was easily adhered to and therefore I found myself working from creating the vortex with Kantha to forming an ad hoc grid of sorts, using cross stitch matte. It seemed that order was coming into place. Those thoughts that had been processed through the fire, had been further cleansed with the vortex and were now entering a grid, and things were falling into place. Or so I thought....
This year at Diwali there were the usual parties and also more family do’s than usual. Siblings and cousins and nephews with fiancés were visiting from all over the world. I was out four evenings in a row, in addition to the lighting affair and buying of gifts and mithai for everyone, which is way too much externalizing of energy for me. I like my time alone, but with Diwali, and all that it brought this year, this was not an option. I mean, the last thing I want to be doing is sitting alone stitching, when there is so much going on around me.
 I keep looking at the fabric, feeling uncertain about what to do with it now. This transition from an utterly busy week with so much energy being given outwards; desperately wanting to return to that space of calm collectedness but just not getting there, is very frustrating. There is so much contemplation, so much to process and put into perspective that the transitory phase seems like a lot of time is lost in contemplation!
At this point, about two days after all the festivities are over and there is some semblance of order returning to life, there’s a kind of screech in my head that I cannot quite contain and it seems to be coming out of my ears. [I can certainly hear it in the tension and tenor of my voice when I have to deal with people who are just not performing up to the mark] To top it all Mahipal has also gone on leave which means that I am short-staffed at home and also without a driver. And the maid is new and so raw, that much as I am grateful to have some help, I am tearing my hair out at the moment [to put it mildly].
I have this intense desire to put the fabric back on the hoop, stretch it taut and then cut through the spaces between the parallel circular threaded lines of Kantha. Those translucent spaces – the very idea of space when my head is so crowded is irksome.  I want to take a pair of scissors and rip right through them, then take apart the warp and weft – shred them. It would feel like I am not alone in this frenzy and I think that somewhere that is an important place to be in, where I don’t feel alone in being disconnected from my sublime self.
But yesterday I held myself in check. I followed the pattern already set in place and said that before I did something drastic that I would regret, I should allow things to settle. And there is nothing quite like the rhythmic motion of doing cross-stitch to restore order to one’s mind.


  1. Intriguing indeed. Reading and re-reading. I guess I am going to read this one many times more.

    As an afterthought, I am most interested to know / find out, what the mind would have undergone between the two stages mentioned in last two paragraphs.

    What is that makes one 'check himself' for not doing the drastic.
    What is is that can bring back someone to senses just before touching the point of no return?

    There is something, maybe some good sense embedded so deep inside that just springs up just before one decides to collapse stuff.

    And does that always happen? Wondering...

    1. Ashish, what a fabulous question. However, responding to it in detail would probably end up as long as another blog post, so I will try make it as concise as I can.

      I think that everyone has their own checks and balances in place. What happened to me between thinking of ripping things apart and then checking myself was really a question of following the rituals of living that I have in place.

      On Tuesday [5th Nov] every muscle in my body ached and I could do nothing. On Wednesday, I wrote this piece and that allowed me to view the situation a tad objectively. And knowing what I was feeling, becoming aware of it helped a great deal because it allowed me to make a conscious choice. I wrote this piece in the morning and then went about my day as usual. This included a rigorous work-out in the gym along with affirmations and healing techniques that I have incorporated with my exercise regimen [in the evening], followed by meditation and then listening to an inspirational talk on video. I really did not think about what I would do about the embroidery till such point as I took it out to embroider. By this point, the restless energy had time to settle and honestly I was quite tired when I did begin work. Therefore it seemed much easier to go with what was already in place, because to tear it all up requires courage and a lot of energy. The restless quotient which was egging me for a couple of days had settled and that is pretty much how I managed to check myself. Hope it makes sense.

      Whether it always happens: I think that if one has processes/ rituals in place that allow you to become aware of your behaviour and thought patterns and re-align with your higher self, it would be possible. That innate good sense embedded deep inside, that you refer to, does not spring up. We have to allow ourselves to connect to it and for that a lot of work needs to be done on the physical and emotional level. And that is the essence of what did occur between thinking destructively and then holding myself in check.

  2. Tarry my dear, you are just exhausted and its all coming together. It will pass. This post is one of the most beautiful one I have seen or read on yours. Things might be in place/or maybe putting this post up, has done the trick.

    1. Yes, Julia, I was exhausted and you are also correct in your perception that writing the post allowed me to put things into perspective. I decided to post this despite the tiredness and unresolved state of mind, as working on my embroidery is a significant part of how I resolve issues and thought it would be apt to be spontaneous with the chaos and allow the process to reveal itself this way. I am glad that you resonated with it.

      I have responded to Ashish's question above, in detail, explaining how the process of writing helped. Thank you for reading and writing in.

  3. My friend Maggie emailed this to me so I thought I would share it here too:
    Hi Gopika,
    yes I know I should go into the blog, but it is a hassle and am in a hurry. But loved the new embroidery - please don't do any more to it, keep it loose and slightly empty just as it is. The combination of loose free lines of stitches, abstract shapes and little details of geometric x stitch works so well. Don't overwork and please do some work. Seeing the light has worked!
    Love Maggie