Archive for February, 2018


Irish best-selling writer, Marian Keyes, on how she survived her spell of poor mental health. And how life changed after it

Helen Walsh, the youngest of Marian Keyes’ fictional Walsh sisters, is a brave, scrappy, wasp-tongued slip of a thing who works as a private investigator, dates a “beautiful Viking” called Artie and is “abnormally, almost psychotically contrary”. She is also highly depressed.

On a Skype call from Ireland, Keyes explains why it was Helen, heroine of her 2012 novel The Mystery of Mercy Close, who had to wrestle the black dog. “People have been asking for a book on Helen, but I didn’t think it was possible,” says the best-selling author, whose books are, “always about women who go through something unpleasant and emerge different”. Therein lay the problem as far as Helen was concerned. “Helen has a core of steel. Nothing frightens her and I couldn’t imagine her heart being broken by a man. So, there had to be something almost outside of her that would be her story.”

Then, by the end of 2009, Keyes encountered crippling depression that lasted almost four years. “When I wrote the book, I was going through my own spell of horrible mental health, and it suddenly seemed right that Helen would be dealing with this, too,” she says. By February 2011, she had hit an all-time low, “an 18-month spell where everything plunged”.
Being Marian

On being a feminist
I am very aware of the power imbalance between men and women. And every book I have written, has addressed it in some way or another. I suppose I was a feminist without knowing that I was one.
On the Walsh family
We are five siblings with big personalities like them. And yes, Mammy Walsh is similar to Mammy Keyes.
On the book she is working on
I have just started a book about three brothers and the women in their lives. They all have secrets, something happens and many of the secrets unravel one evening. Hopefully, it will be received with warmth and people will laugh.
On creating flawed protagonists
I think absolutes can exist only in an unreal world. There are no entirely good people and no entirely bad people. We all do things that clash with our core moral values.
On writing
My writing connects me to people. I feel very lucky to have found what I was meant to do.

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Simply herself

Marian Keyes always loved reading and storytelling, but she never thought she could make a career of it. “Also, I thought because I was Irish, nobody would want to hear my stories. I didn’t think we were interesting enough,” says Keyes, whose soft, lilted voice gives away her Celtic roots.

Instead, she went on to study law and accountancy and take up a series of jobs, none of which gave her much pleasure. Alcohol seemed to, instead, and she soon developed a dependence on it. “I always felt different, like a bit of an outsider. But when I drank, I felt the way normal people feel all the time,” she says.

By 30, she was alcoholic and ended up having to check into rehab, like Rachel Walsh, protagonist of her second novel, Rachel’s Holiday. “I thought it was going to be very glamorous and full of massages and treatments and yoga. Instead, it was overcrowded and I had to peel potatoes,” she laughs.

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Not just Irish Blarney

It was around this time that she started writing. “I do think the two were connected — I started writing in September 1993 and got sober in 1994,” says Keyes, whose first book, Watermelon, came out in 1995. A dozen or so more novels about other “ordinary women who go through extraordinary stuff”, soon followed. happily-ever-after ending, leaves you feeling all warm and happy.

“It is the way I was brought up, a very Irish thing,” says Keyes. Laughing at something painful, once you get a distance from it, is healing, believes Keyes. It is also a way of knowing how well you have gotten, “when you look back at something terrible and can raise a smile”.

Saved by cake

Keyes says that she tried a number of things including medication, mindfulness and exercise but help came from the strangest of sources: cake. Her book Saved by Cake: Over 80 ways to Bake Yourself Happy, a chatty, colourful recipe book of sorts, also offers glimpses of her struggle with depression and explains how embarking on this new hobby — baking — kept her going. “It is impossible to overstate how important it was; it literally kept me alive,” says Keyes. Weighing butter, sifting flour, mixing things together, working with colour and icing was an exercise in mindfulness, she remembers. “It was the only thing that calmed me back then.”

By 2014, however, the depression went away, just as suddenly as it had come. “The clouds parted and I could feel like I was coming up from a dark, dark place,” she says. She still thinks of it as an illness that both came and left very suddenly. “I never thought I would feel normal again. And that is why I love to tell people — anyone who is in the black hole now — to hang on.”

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She is immeasurably better today, she says, adding, however, that “it is impossible to have come out of something as huge as this and stay the same”. She backs out of stressful situations, for instance, refusing opportunities or cutting back on work and travel if needed. “Earlier, I was always exhausted because I pushed myself. Now, I live my life and have more fun; I see the beauty and happiness in the small things,” says the writer. “My mental health is more important than anything else and I value feeling normal.”

http://www.thehindu.com/society/a-strangeness-in-our-mind-a-bipolar-journalist-asks-what-is-sanity/article20103052.ece

Madness is miserable, yes, but it makes sanity an ideal. Dialogue, I learnt, is more effective a cure than discourse

It is precisely this separation of the personal and the political that further exacerbates the despair of those afflicted by mental health disorders. By reducing internal turmoil to a set of physical symptoms, commentators like Joseph make it harder for patients to exceed their suffering.

Only sanity can help one transform the terror of madness into delight, but sanity, I would argue, can only be found in an embrace of the other. Confinement, when solitary, does not afford levity or reconciliation.

Jonathan Hollander    “India stands out in the world for having eight distinct classical dance forms and hundreds of folk dance forms so the richness of Indian music and dance can never be fully understood or explored. There’s always more material to discover,” he explains. The company has also been conscientious about its work in dance as a means of ‘social cohesion’, most prominently in conflict zones around the world, including Thailand, Iraq, Israel-Palestine and North and South Korea. They are also known for their workshops and programmes that reach out to schools and young talent about the importance of dance. Among the most significant of these programmes is the 20-hour ‘Dancing to Connect’ programme conducted by their dancers in over 62 countries. The company, led by Jonathan, was also instrumental in establishing arts education at the school levels in New York Public schools.

When we undertake a programme like this, it inspires us, makes us love our art form even more because we see that it can do something for people. It can bring joy and reveal capacity to other people that they didn’t know they had.” This stems from their deep concern for the world and the need to understand what they, as dancers can do.

“As a team we contribute a lot. When we do this, we set tasks in motion. Young people like to dance, you are not going to teach somebody to dance in 20 hours, but you can create an environment where they feel free to experiment and innovate.

Languet 

Weight of Joy was devised exploring the title’s seemingly contradictory ideas — weight and burden, paired with lightness and joy. Languet asks, “What is the price to pay for a joyful moment? For there are both pure moments of bliss, and others that can harm people.” He began by “asking each dancer for his/her definition of not happiness, but joy. Then my interest lay in the conditions of emergence of joy, where does it come from”…….Creating ways to enable disabled and non-disabled people to dance together, Languet explains, is about moving away from preconcieved notions of a so-called standard model of movement for a normal body. Instead, he gives “everyone tools to develop their own repertoire of movement. It is about re-assessing what can be beautiful.”

Hakanai  

Hakanaï converges the technology zeitgeist with a cathartic dance to evoke nuances of evanescence.Hakanaï, which is Japanese for ‘fleeting’and ‘delicate,’is described as a “choreography that draws the evanescence of dreams and the impermanence of things.” This emotive digital art and dance was created by Claire Bardainne and Adrien Mondot of the Adrien M et Clair B Company in 2013 after careful formulating with a large team of programmers, scenographers, sound designers and visual artists.

The poetics of the precise

….Neha Lavingia’s small-format works may be described as visual haiku. They speak of the precise, the poetics of the minimal. “In the push, pull and shove of life, how often do we take the time to stand, to stare, to wonder, to feel, to experience?” …….

 

Madhvi Subrahmanian, another Mumbai artist, is known for her larger-than-life ceramics that emulate the human form. They evoke a gamut of textures, shapes and shades, but she has scaled down the size of some her works and those are the ones that fit in perfectly with this show. She continues her exploration of and reflection on the urban environment and its disconnect with nature, as she had done in her recent solo show, ‘Mapping Memory’. ‘Mappa Mundi’ maps the routes of her daily journeys while ‘Dilli’ is constructed with cones as markers of time. Her work titled ‘Blue Print’ juxtaposes the city map with a house, directing attention to the human desire for congregation and dwelling.

The works of the three artists are united by their architectural feel and their quietness. While Minimalism as a movement was primarily dominated by male artists (as was painting itself), in the early 1960s artists like the late Nasreen Mohamedi and New York-based Zarina Hashmi created a space for women artists to experiment with minimalism. Mohamedi’s retrospective at The Met Breuer in New York created waves among the cognoscenti.

The spartan nature of her straight lines and grids said much more than daubs of paint could. Her work unwittingly broke several assumptions about ‘women artists’.

It is generally assumed that women paint decorative canvases and dwell only on feminine subjects. While this might be true of many women artists, several male artists too create decorative and autobiographical works.

Gender does not and should not decide the stylistic domain of any artist. One would be best advised to ignore the gender of the artist and enjoy the art, given that it is a universal language that urges us to uncomplicate our lives and go for the simple.

The reclaiming of public spaces is the running theme at this year’s Urban Lens Festival

He could have raged on about it, but was advised by a confidant to get creative instead. The expression of dissent would then last forever, not just stay relevant for the moment. So Prabh Deep started articulating angst and anguish in his rap songs. He now has a loyal SoundCloud following and revels in the endorsement he has been getting, not just from family and friends but, as he puts it, from his “hood” (neighbourhood) as well.

Music gives meaning to his life, makes him feel alive; the street where he has been living for almost two decades is his anchor and inspiration. And the two passions come together in a song called ‘Delhi 18’ (an ode to his pincode). The defiance reflected in their music stems as much from circumstances and situations as it does from the claustrophobia (physical and psychological) they feel in their homes and lives.

The journey of immigrants in Daphna Awadish’s enchanting Journey Birds is across countries. The unique animation presents individuals as hybrids between human beings and birds, those who have flown far away from their original nests to build homes elsewhere. Four narratives — of Nona, Irene, Abraham and Karen — provide commentary as Awadish explores the aching for a homeland and the curiosity for a new habitat. I still don’t know where I want to be, says one of the immigrants. I can’t say whether I am at home here, says another.

 

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