I greet you this time with an image, the one below. It’s called ‘The Uncomfortable Watering Can‘ and its origins are in ‘a collection of deliberately inconvenient everyday objects‘ created by architect Katerina Kamprani and pulled together under the title of ‘The Uncomfortable‘. Her goal, she tells us, is ‘to deconstruct the invisible design language of simple everyday objects and tweak their fundamental properties in order to surprise you and make you laugh. But also to help you appreciate the complexity and depth of interactions with the simplest of objects around us‘.
As a winter cyclone unfolds into a gloomy December morning outside my window, it strikes me how apt this Uncomfortable Watering Can is as a pictorial metaphor for this year. I don’t think too many people would disagree if I say that this year has been one of profound discomfort. The smooth flow of our lives was disrupted immensely not just by the heavy hand of the pandemic but also the increasingly frequent climatic disasters that swept into our cities and countryside in the form of floods, cyclones, locust infestations and what not. Uncertainty stormed into our lives and swept all structure and routines aside. Work, school and home collided and fused, pajamas suddenly worked with formal shirts, little children wore dystopic surgical masks, for a short while a disquietening silence engulfed otherwise teeming Indian streets and markets even as thousands of tired feet silently made unimaginable journeys across the country. Year 2020 felt profoundly broken – made deliberately inconvenient – like the objects of Katerina’s collection, to evoke the most amount of discomfort. Yet like Katrina points out – discomfort has a perverse way of awakening us to what is often taken for granted. As the year ends, I am asking myself the questions that are embedded in her collection – The Uncomfortable Watering Can had startled me, made me giggle in confusion, it had made me reconsider my humble watering jar and pat it with appreciation – what had the Uncomfortable Year made me feel and do?
I immediately think of how the discomfort of being stuck at home, the vulnerability of feeling emotionally isolated, pushed my small gang of college buddies (now spread across continents) to come together on a shared call every Sunday – we whispered our fears, laughed at our surreal long days and patted each others tiredness away. We wondered why we hadn’t done this in the decade past. What was it about this moment, this year – that brought back together a scattered family? Equally interesting to us here at TCC was experiencing how our little podcast on well-being in cities attracted much more attention as Covid-19 spread through the country. It seemed that something was afoot, a re-prioritising under the duress of the discomforts of uncertainty. Difficult and agonising – but nevertheless useful and vitalising in the long run – like recentring a lopsided conversation within ourselves. Maybe this is the gift of discomfort, of uncertainty – providing the friction required to break out of the silent enuui of excessive structure to make us reconsider who we are and who we wish to be.
As December spreads like a silent ink blot and the cold makes even my kitten consider a slower pace of quiet and reflection – we are eager to hear from you on what your observations on discomfort and this year were! Please do share your thoughts and wisdom from the year past in this survey form – we hope to gather your responses and reflect on this broadly as a collective.
Do continue to stay safe and warm!