Tuesday, February 12, 2013

UnBox 13

Last weekend, I found myself at the third edition of the UnBox Festival in Delhi. Apart from helping my friends around with their installation projects, helping to set up a fun print lab and being part of this little assembly line that dished out these brilliant picnic lunch hampers, I was also fortunate to be part of an interesting workshop with URBZ and even more fortunate to write for the live documentation team at Unbox, the Zinepress. As I google the names of its core team members today, I realize the real extent of fortune of being surrounded by the people I was surrounded by that Saturday night. Some of their work, I had come across and LOVED so much! and never imagined meeting them EVER.

The interesting thing was that because I hadn't seen them ever, I didn't know who they they were that night. That night they were some very warm and supportive (to me and to each other) people, who were from everywhere but were working together calmly through the night, with great planning and diligence.    They saw the product come together.

Unfortunately, I really wish:
  1. I could contribute more to the production of the magazine after writing that one piece. With no Photoshop and Indesign skills, I am still technologically 5 years too dated. 
  2. I could do better than being only half awake through that night, especially realizing later how much  I am going to fondly cherish/regret it through life. Most of the warm/cold night is a blur in my mind with extremely familiar music playing through it. I remember singing along some of the songs half asleep on the couch. Rag Doll by Maroon5 was one of them. Was it? 
The part of the night that I do remember is when I wrote the following. You may want to listen to this track on loop while you read. I listened to it while writing the piece.


This happy yellow afternoon, the second day of Unbox, in the lawns of  Zorba, as we sat together for a vino picnic lunch consisting of yummy sandwiches, salads, sangria  and cake, blaring Bollywood music from a family party  in the neighbouring farmhouse gave us some surprising company. We turned to our firang friends with embarrassing smiles. ‘Hey, welcome to India: this crazy mash up of juxtaposed realities that we smile at irrespective of what side we are on!’ But how would it be if even our neighbours were playing progressive EDM and classical music collaborations between the harp and the Indian Cello. Hipsters would never remain hipsters if they were too many of them, would they?

Cities are crucibles of transactions and hence, opportunities. Wikipedia tells me they are large centres of high density. It is often in this largeness of the city that people turn into numbers on census data and volumes on the Metro and buses.  In the busy business of urban life, we often forget about all the opportunities of conversation that this density brings and, in contradiction, yearn for the little easy place ‘back home’.

Does it reveal something about creative professionals that they are often found seeking joy in the bylanes of transforming urban villages of Delhi? Is this where we see the potential of positive urbanity harnessed at the right scale? Nostalgia for what home would have been like, or a faint inkling of what home must be like. What is this elusive comfort in the smallness of things that fills the void in our everyday urbanity?

UnBox, among many other things, sparks local and global conversations that are possible only in the physicality of this pop-up village of people. Insulated as it might want to be in this urban oasis of a farmhouse, the Bollywood music next door only puts us back in context and reminds us that that this conversation could be very every day, everywhere.

The festival doesn't grow any bigger every year. It only triggers a million other UnBoxes that could potentially spring up in neighbourhood parks and street intersections every day; local surprises that we could unravel every day in our little big buildings, in our small city homes, in cities that could become large homes.


An hour later, out of that space, not listening to the same music, I was already disagreeing with what I had written.

Nostalgia is always exaggeration and never happens to everyone. I forgot about all my friends who have always lived in cities and found themselves at most ease here. And the point really is about the smallness of things, not the rurality or urbanity that they can be present in. Urbanity has a degree of intensity in all its activities that the village lacks. The ease comes together only because of the scale of operations.

I got the point quite wrong I think. ThankyouNitinSawhneyforthehoaxcalltoeldorado.

You can see the UnBox 2013 Zine here.

Update: Reshu says she liked the piece. She didn't know I had written it.