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With the COVID-induced lockdown requiring most to stay indoors, what flourished was a reconnection to the arts – music, literature, dancing, and even painting and sketching. As the self-isolation period weighed down heavily on one’s mental health, taking to the visual arts has been nothing short of therapeutic for many.
Bengaluru’s Payel Saha, currently a homemaker previously worked in recruitment, she had been an art enthusiast since her childhood with some prizes in her kitty. Saha says the pandemic situation has somehow encouraged her to go back to her love.
“It was getting monotonous staying at home, with only online classes and work from home, where we as a family were only engaged with our screens which were tiring and boring after a time, and it was reflecting badly on my kids making them more cranky and restless. Then I thought to engage my kids in art and creativity, which could give joy like nothing else. It is one of the sweetest memories for us as a family in the pandemic days.
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It also, helped me find my interest in the lost passion for art,” Saha, who indulged in DIY art and craft projects, glass and canvas paintings, and the making of a dollhouse from waste materials like cartons, told IANSlife.
In quite a similar journey, Mumbai-based Zohair Shaikh, the co-founder of a full-service marketing and communications agency, says the lockdown and the intense number of hours of curiosity and confusion were a road back to his long-lost romance with art. “A passion I always held dear but never found the time or inspiration to really submerge myself into producing quality output.
In the early days when the world came to a standstill, I found what it took to translate my hobby and passion into something more fruitful. Reconnecting to the basics of creating sketches out of nothing has given me a purpose in life that I seemed to have lost in the crazy hectic life of the advertising world and has also helped me relax and look at things from a whole new perspective.”
But, why is art a calming activity?
“Nikki Giovanni once wrote Art offers sanctuary to everyone willing to open their hearts as well as their eyes’. In a time of such immense uncertainty and anxiety, a sanctuary is something we all crave and can find in the simple act of taking a brush to canvas or pen to paper. Biologically, immersing ourselves in art reduces our stress hormone – cortisol and releases endorphins making us exceptionally happier. Art in both forms, creating as well as observing can nourish our soul and lift our spirits,” explains art entrepreneur Amrita Deora, founder, and CEO of The Designer.
Ekta Nankani, a New Delhi-based public relations professional, told IANSlife: “I have always been an admirer of art and the mere process of creating something astonishes me. I bought some art supplies two years back and used to paint not-so-often, maybe once in two months. While I was always inclined towards painting, I didn’t know where and how to begin. Initial days of lockdown were a relief from the hectic life we all lead. But eventually, being home started to get to me. There was chaos inside my head and the build-up of stress, anxiety, restlessness took over me.”
Adding, “that’s when I rediscovered my supplies and began painting again. The process helped me calm my nerves and gave me something to look forward to at the end of the day. I have now bought different types of painting colors, sheets, and brushes and also attended a Zoom class on watercolor painting. From painting once in two months to now making 4-5 postcards a day, I have relished every bit of it. I have created many mini watercolor and gouache paintings/postcards and I learn something new every day. I usually paint florals, leaves, and mini landscapes of the pictures that I have clicked. It’s so therapeutic, soothing, and such an indulgent activity; I absolutely love it.”
A Greater Noida-based communication consultant Shruti Mathur said, “I only pursued art till school, and used to enjoy it. However, during the pandemic, due to the high-stress levels and work-related pressure, I started looking at ways to express myself better and channelize my thoughts and feelings in a better manner.
I randomly picked up watercolors, an art notebook, and glass colors and started taking time off in between work projects and on weekends. It really helped me calm down my otherwise hyperactive senses. I never set out to achieve a perfect painting, instead felt relaxed during the process. My mood uplifted instantly by doing this and I could bounce back and respond to the real-time issues much more quickly and effectively.”
Facebook says it plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to work on a new computing platform.
The company said in a blog post Sunday that those high-skilled workers will help build "the metaverse," a futuristic notion for connecting people online that encompasses augmented and virtual reality.
Facebook executives have been touting the metaverse as the next big thing after the mobile internet as they also contend with other matters such as antitrust crackdowns, the testimony of a whistleblowing former employee and concerns about how the company handles vaccine-related and political misinformation on its platform.
In a separate blog post Sunday, the company defended its approach to combating hate speech, in response to a Wall Street Journal article that examined the company's inability to detect and remove hateful and excessively violent posts. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Metaverse, Augmented and Virtual Reality
As children, singing the rhyme Rock A Bye Baby was a fun thing to do. It was a statement of thrill and adventure to imagine a child climbing to the top of a tree and rocking to sleep. Especially in the Indian context, rocking a baby to sleep by attaching the cradle to the tree is quite a common thing. But the origin of this rhyme, or lullaby, seems rooted in other histories.
The most popular notion associated with this lullaby is of women leaving their babies tied to tree branches, rocking to sleep with the wind. It is believed that at the time this lullaby was written, it was inspired by a coloniser who saw the Native American women tie their children in birch bark cradles to the trees. The babies went to sleep rocked by the gusts of wind while the parents went about their tasks.
A Native American wooden cradle Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Another interpretation of the rhyme is that it is an allegory to Betty Kenny, or Kenyon, as some versions record it. The Kenyons were a tree-dwelling family, and they used to live in a yew tree. They had carved the tree branches to fit their babies and allowed them to nestle there during the day. The part of the rhyme that talks about falling off the tree is a little scary in this context, but the speculation is that the tree branches were quite low.
The final interpretation of the lullaby has political allusions. King James II of England, was the last Catholic king. He had no heir and reportedly used another baby to impersonate his own. But he was found out and exiled in the Glorious Revolution that took place after he was deposed. The act of falling down from the cradle is a metaphor for those who make mistakes from being overconfident or proud.
The many versions that exist of the rhyme/lullaby make it confusing to really know why it was written in such a strange and morbid manner. Each version points to a different time in history where certain practices were prevalent. However, despite all the various interpretations available, the lullaby itself works wonders in rocking babies to sleep, and perhaps that is the only reason it has survived.
Keywords: Lullaby, Rhyme, King James II, Kenyons, Native Americans, Colonisers
As kids growing up in different states, Shoba Narayan and Michael Maliakel shared a love of one favorite film — "Aladdin." Both are of Indian descent, and in the animated movie, they saw people who looked like them.
That shared love has gone full-circle this month as Narayan and Maliakel lead the Broadway company of the musical "Aladdin" out of the pandemic, playing Princess Jasmine and the hero from the title, respectively.
"Growing up, there was such little South Asian and Middle Eastern representation in the American media, and Princess Jasmine was really all I had. She was a huge role model to me as someone who was intelligent and strong and independent and beautifully curious, and that's who I wanted to be," says Narayan, who grew up in Pennsylvania.
The pair arrived at "Aladdin" in very different ways. Maliakel is making his Broadway debut, but Narayan is a musical theater veteran, having made her Broadway debut in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and touring with "Hamilton" as Eliza Hamilton.
She was in "Wicked" as Nessarose when the pandemic shut down Broadway in March 2020. Her agent called in April with the prospect of auditioning for Jasmine. She sang "A Whole New World" over Zoom on gallery mode, pretending to be on a magic carpet. "It was a very unique experience," she says, laughing.
Disney producers flew her to New York to meet face-to-face and go through the material again. Narayan was asked to read with different Aladdin potential actors. She got the gig: "I went from a wicked witch to a Disney princess. Can't complain."
Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, came from the world of opera, a baritone who studied at Johns Hopkins University and the 2014 winner at the National Musical Theatre Competition. He trained his voice to be flexible, waiting for the right window to open.
"I didn't really see a lot of people doing what I wanted to do in the world," he says. "There just wasn't a whole lot of representation. So it's really hard to imagine yourself in those scenarios when you have no one to look up to as a role model or an example of how it could be done."
He played Porter and understudied Raoul in a national tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," which ended its run in Toronto just before the pandemic hit.
"I always dreamed that Broadway might happen someday," he says, laughing. "I'm just kind of dipping my toes into the waters in one of the biggest male roles in the business right now, and it's kind of surreal."
'Aladdin' featured as a Broadway Musical with a cast of Indian origin playing the main roles Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Broadway's "Aladdin" is a musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Robin Williams. The musical's story by Chad Beguelin hews close to the film: A street urchin finds a genie in a lamp and hopes to woo a princess while staying true to his values and away from palace intrigue.
Key Alan Menken songs from the film — including "Friend Like Me," ″Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World" — are used. The lyricists are the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin.
The show — and it's two new leads — had a few performances to celebrate Broadway's return from the pandemic this fall before it was forced to close for several days when breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected. The actors say the safety of the cast, crew and audience are paramount and closing was the smart move.
"This is how we keep theater going in the pandemic," Maliakel says. "The other option is to just not do it at all. And that's not an option. A week's worth of lost performances, when we look back on things in a year or so, I think will just be a little blip on the radar."
They both look back with heart-thumping appreciation at the early performances when they welcomed back theater-starved audiences, who gave the company 3-minute standing ovations just for singing "A Whole New World."
"It is every brown girl's dream to be singing that song on an actual flying carpet," says Narayan. "And the fact that I got to do it on Broadway in the full costume with the lights and the 32-piece orchestra beneath me — oh, my gosh, I really had to hold it together. It was emotional overload for me."
Maliakel recalls that he and his brothers wore out their VHS cassette version of "Aladdin." He remembers having lunchboxes, pajamas and bed sheets with the film's theme. Aladdin was "every little brown kid's prince." Now he is that prince.
"Now, finally, to get to get paid to do it on the world's largest stage — it's not lost on me how crazy that is," he says. "The responsibility of my position right now feels really great. This moment sort of feels bigger than me in some ways, and I don't take that lightly. I think it's a really exciting time." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Aladdin, Broadway, Musical, Indian Descendant cast,