PLACES, PEOPLE AND THEIR INTANGIBLES
The new decade has ushered in revolutionary changes in our life. It would surely be mentioned as the most transformational chapter of the century. As quoted by the British novelist Pico Iyer, “The beauty of being foreign is that it snaps you awake”. And that is exactly what this year has brought to us. Being in self-isolation is probably the most unfamiliar phase we have ever witnessed as a community. To meet and greet each other is the basis of human civilization as we are all social animals. We are born with that instinctive need of having one another by our side through all walks of life.
However, this shift has made us well aware of the immense progress that the digital world has made. Thanks to the technological advancements, we have effortlessly moved on from social distancing to just physical distancing. Right from video calling and binge watching to making payments online, we are exploiting technology to its fullest.
But while we have wholesome technology at our bay, we still miss the outside world. Ironically, we all secretly wished for this inclusive life, didn’t we? Why does it feel horrible to stay away from the “monotonous-boring-stressful life” that we always wanted to change? Well, this question really makes me think, what do we really miss? Despite having every necessary and luxurious item stocked up at home right from food, water, appliances, accessories and innumerable other things, why do we experience boredom? We can reach out to people with a click on the phone and feel the same fresh air in our balcony, so what is the major missing all about?
It’s probably about missing those nooks, corners, spots and spaces that we once created when we were with people. We, are programmed to relate people and activities with “places” . Eventually it is the memories we create in these places which lasts for a lifetime. Every story we narrate is always people and place specific. These places can either be our morning walk garden, or the office canteen, or the games room, or the society club house. It can literally be anything!
This realization dawned upon me while in conversation with a healthcare architect a few years back. While I was interviewing her for my university project, she affirmed that “As a hospital designer, my aim is to relate homely atmosphere with people to heal them effectively. Being at home provides people with a relaxation feeling and that is the best suited mental state for healing. Similarly, the law implies to every other building design. You should design according to the purpose of the place and the rest would follow.” Retrospecting into her early practice days, she said “Unless you reside an emotion in a place, it has no meaning to it. Feelings drive not just people but also places.”
Today, when I look back at this conversation is when I understand its underlying meaning. Places are important because they are human-driven, or rather emotion-driven. We relate our emotions to places. Places are precisely a reflection of our interpretation about them. We behave differently based on the emotion we attach with every space. Our brain is accustomed to perform different activities at different places, and home is one such place, which gives a very comforting and easy-going feeling. So now, being at home does not really trigger the right kind of emotions for us to read, work, create a blog or do any other non-comforting activity. We often say that “I am not getting the vibe” signifying that the place is uneasy to be in. The feeling of missing on something is the loss of vibe that we speak about. Likewise, we cannot relate any other emotion with our homes, and hence we cannot enjoy this space. Therefore, places largely impact people.
We all know that this self isolation is here to stay for a while now, and a lot of us even later will limit our outdoor activities to ensure safety. Therefore, distancing is a must. So, we probably might not be able to visit the outdoors at the earliest, which will further add to our boredom, anxiety, mental blockages and frustration.
So, how can we deal with this emotional breakdown now? How do we replace these ill feelings with some amount of love, optimism, happiness and a sense of freedom? Can we train ourselves to think and feel differently about our homes? No matter how big or small, organised or messy the house is, can we make it any better for us?
Maybe we can try! We can create spaces in our homes just like we have created in the outside world. We all have once thought of redoing our home decor, so now can be a good time to try a hand at it. We can create a warm corner to read that inspirational book, a cosy place to binge watch that movie we like, a formal work desk, an evening tea spot that you have always wanted, an artist’s den to unleash that imagination, a music abode, a meditation cocoon, a story telling corner, a bird viewing spot in the balcony and so much more!
We can let ourselves create new memories in these newly designed spaces. We might not be meeting a whole new bunch of people everyday but a majority of us are living with our family during this time, so why not create new stories with them. The narratives of these times are going to be your story bank to share with the next generation. Let’s make sure that we make this year count and curate even more events to celebrate life. Place re- making is one of the ways to overcome this monotony but its what you create in those spaces which would actually create a story. So, live up the change and drive your emotions to these freshly crafted spaces and allow them to charge us till we go back to our previous lives. Until then, let’s practice what Pico Iyer says “In an age of movement, nothing is more critical than stillness.”
Photo Credit: Nick Hillier