This is how I feel right now, me and my cat Zulu. Lord almighty, please give me strength, a clear mind and throat; make me attractive and wise. More than 100 signed in for the conference -and counting- Who would’ve thought? I never ever imagined that my professional and personal path could be a subject of interest to people other than my cat. Well, let’s do it ….. even if not there anymore, this goes for you Zulu; I will always love you. Go get them Tiger!!!
Nothing dies forever; a little something always remains from which something new can grow… Well, there’s nothing for it; life’s got to be lived.”
When I first watched the film Antonia’s Line I didn’t even know how was to be a mother, but I very much wanted to be just like Antonia: a strong, sturdy woman with a sincere smile, far removed from Hollywood standards of perfection, but infused with a natural glow and warmth that made her truly charming. This is something my own sophisticated mother would never comprehend, but to me, such simplicity has always been the kind of beauty I’ve always strived to achieve.
What draws me particularly to Antonia is by far her personality. She forges her own path, plays by her own rules and always brings her own sense of spirituality and kindness to everything she does. Perfectly content and satisfied without a man—although she cares deeply for one, she refuses to become his wife. Antonia is swift and reasonable in her quest for fairness and integrity; she takes the law into her own hands when she discovers her grand-daughter Thérèse has been raped, silently and calmly picking up a shotgun, invading the male world of the bar and demanding justice. What a courage and serenity in the middle of such a crisis!
And God, she’s generous!! The old wooden table in her garden is a reflection of her soul. That particular table reminded me the one my grandparents used to have in their house at the Provence, with the huge difference that Antonia always welcomed a bunch of strangers in hers. And this is something I’ve always tried to accomplish with less fortune I must say, since my family never understood hospitality the way I did. They always wondered why I regularly picked up less fortunate people from the street and invited them to come over for lunch or even New Year’s Eve. I have wished so much to have an extended family, many friends and unexpected strangers who would tell stories from the far seas, wherever they might be.
The whole film celebrates life and love, philosophy and sexual pleasure, and every other form of creative expression—painting, music, mathematics, you name it. There is no hierarchy of ideas and ideologies; everyone and everything done in kindness is equally honoured.
On my previous entrance I talked about my reflexions on mainstream women and weddings in the US, however during my daily runs in San Fran men’s behaviour came to my mind as well. Wichtigtuerei, this a German concept that cannot be fully translated into English, but refers to an attitude of self-regard, self-conceit; a sort of grandiloquence that has the purpose to impress others especially in a professional terrain, but also in more personal interactions. Personal communication has turned into impure advertising, a self-promoting discourse with the sole purpose of selling a product, “Me” the best one in the market according to many of them. I smelled fear all over, fear of rejection, fear of solitude, anxiety of being perceived as a loser. How sad.
I really don’t know how these guys can possibly endure the self-inflicted long-run-pain of perfection. The problem is acute and gives me the chills whenever I think about the repercussions such a trait could have in the near future for a society where vulnerability can only be understood as a major disadvantage.
My point during one of the conferences held was that today more than ever, art is important in terms of accessing, recovering our humanity. In a world where productivity and efficiency reigns, engaging in a creative process may remind us that the shortest path from point A to point B is rarely the most enriching. Art may help us rediscover the lost value of exploration for its own sake. It reconnects us with our susceptibilities. Art helps us to rehabilitate uselessness, rediscover the efforts of work and find value in it. Even when we fail; or even better, because fuck-ups are not only allowed, but warmly welcome in art.
Art has transformed me. Wether in Tibet, Nepal or India many people have wondered why I rarely use map-apps to reach a destination. Explaining that to me the destination is the journey itself has not always been easy, but I have tried to the best of my abilities to make myself understood: I’m not afraid of losing focus since it is the path I’m interested on. And even if I have a practical goal, let’s say meeting with a client in a certain point of space and time, any road I take, will lead me to it since my internal radars are in shape. Every single day of my life I deliberately choose the risks of adventuring and eventually fail.
Art helps us develop emotional intelligence as well. Yeah, this kind of intelligence is not gasoline. It’s not a simple one-dimensional substance that can be measured the same in both the swift and the halt. To me there is no more certain indicator of true intelligence than an insatiable curiosity for the world and especially for the people who live in it. Thats why I find Wichtigtuerei particularly annoying; I wholeheartedly dislike ‘done humans’. I despise guys who seem to know it all, to have it all. How embarrassing is it to watch them trying too hard, how boring is it to hear them talk as if they were gods. Your new Rolex? I couldn’t care less. Get naked, impress me.
People can call me names, I don’t give a damn. No personality problems myself; as long as I know who I am, I’m done. But for heaven’s sake my last name cannot be THAT difficult for you French wannabe Valentine, try harder next time… if ever.
Every time I’m planning a visit to India my mother calls up expressing serious concerns, as if she would give a damn about my personal welll-being. But the reputation of the family comes first of course, how could she possibly explain her society an eventual rape? These are the kinds of things that fill her mind; she panics and mental paralysis sets in. This is how I try to discern her brain’s process and excuse the fact that her concerns offend me in every possible way.
Yeah, women are not exactly safe from public harassment in India. But truth be told, nor are we in America or Europe. It’s true that if you are a woman, drinking and dancing in Mumbai is risky business; I had to be extremely watchful during my nocturnal escapades. Everyone from the waiter to the white-collar guy at the next table thinks a woman out for a drink is up for grabs. But you know what? It didn’t stop me. I love getting a drink, and I went back to that same damn bar for weeks. It was awkward at the beginning, but it worked out. Unmolested I managed there to read mails, send millions wapps to friends and family, write my daily diary-entry and sometimes even draw, which to me is the ultimate prove I was feeling alright and this happened certainly not due to excessive alcohol consumption, but due to the kind atmosphere. In the wee hours I usually walked alone down the Colaba streets back to my tiny, modest, and comfy home. No incident to regret, ever. Lucky me.
In my country any woman who’s ever tried to have a fun, unfettered night out with girlfriends knows that men drinking in bars often feel free to make lewd remarks and otherwise sexually harass women who aren’t interested. And many of these guys can’t take a hint when women try to move away from them, they just don’t take no for an answer. It happened to us yesterday, good thing was that bar staff were largely helpful; bouncers intervened and tossed out the dum-dum boys of the bar. We were grateful and glad to acknowledge that things are getting better in our country; bar owners are proactively working on keeping us safe.
Bad thing was that I could recognise one of the guys; he often seems to chose by mere chance the same places I visit, even the most unlikely. Scary. This is no joke, believe me. Sensing that my whereabouts are somebody else’s business freaks me out; so much that I’ve been seriously considering leaving the country, moving to India maybe. I pray hard to the heavens that this shit would only stop or proves to be temporary or non existent; my bad, a wrong perception. In overdrive mode…. just in case.
Yeah, I am the wrong person. Who the hell am I to give advice in this particular field?
For reasons unknown the idea of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf falling for each other came to my mind while designing this year’s Valentine’s card. Since I’ve been working hard on more serious projects, I just wanted to rest, giggle a bit, and have some fun coming up with something fresh, naïve, uncommon. It felt like holding hands with the enemy or meeting someone totally different, from outer space and out of the blue. Free translated the text reads in English:
Happy Valentine’s Day. Forget about Prince Charming; go find yourself a Big Bad Wolf who sees you, and hears you, and eats you better.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports that Mexico-City has around 30,000 people living in the streets; a disturbing 50% are children. Poverty, family breakdown and physical abuse are the main reasons so many children in my country do not have a roof over their heads. Many children prefer to run away from their homes for fear that arguments between adults will become violent.
But how do Indian people end up on the streets? Men, women and children can be found sleeping along sidewalks, under flyovers, near transport stations and next to railway tracks all over India. But depending on the region, population and challenges differ. In minor cities, homeless are single, male transient migrants in search for economic opportunities who keep close ties with their rural home base and eventually either find a place to live there or return to their native villages.
In India’s financial capital however, the situation seems to be different: in Mumbai a large portion of homeless are families who have lived on the streets their entire lives, even for multiple generations. According to a study conducted in 2011 by the Bombay Urban Industrial League for Development, 96% of Mumbai’s homeless families have lived on the streets for more than 5 years, while 58% have been homeless for more than 20 years. There are families who have lived on the streets for 40-50 years at a stretch. They no longer have connections with their villages and consider Mumbai their home.
Without Walls an exhibition put together by Carlin Carr, an urban researcher of Megapolis, provided a peek into the overlooked lives of Mumbai’s homeless, specifically women. The purpose was raise more awareness about the multiple issues this vulnerable population is confronted to.
This project was co-curated by Studio X Mumbai with contributions from NGO Pehchan an organisation that fights for the rights of the homeless population and BIND, a photography collective. They used multimedia, photography and mapping to interrogate three key aspects of homelessness: lived experiences of Mumbai’s women; livelihoods and the dignity of labour; and the physical space and its relationship to the infrastructure of the city.
The latter has been always an issue. A 2010 Supreme Court judgement makes it mandatory for civic authorities to build shelters for the urban homeless, but Mumbai has virtually no shelters except for a handful intended for street children. The organisers hope to spark interest, empathy and monetary support and for a pressing unmet need: family shelters.
Homelessness is a neglected issue. People in the city face abysmal conditions with a scarcity of shelters, and affordable housing options,” says Carr. “A vicious cycle of rising prices, illiteracy and low-level employment exacerbates Mumbai’s unique situation of inter-generational homelessness. We are raising funds by selling postcards and doll key chains by them at the exhibitions to build them the city’s first family shelter.
I hope the exhibition had at least helped the audience gain insight into the lives of the homeless families and understand their world, their work and the overwhelming challenges they face in gaining more equitable access to land, shelter and services.