A lesson in… Finding Your Acid. Part II.

“There are essentially two questions in life – a spiritual question and a material question. The spiritual question is ‘Who am I?’ The material question is ‘What am I to do with my life?’ One leads to the other.”
Rasheed Ogunlaru

So I guess from the above quote, I should conclude that the majority of unhappy human beings in the Western world are not merging their answers to these questions? Pah I dunno. My brain has melted – here it is though… my finished article. It would most probably be in my best interest to go to sleep now and look over this in the morning. But I have to say that my mind already feels lighter than when I left London a few days ago.

 

Finding My Acid… My Serendip… Myself.

Everyone has their own personal ‘acid’; you know- that ‘thing’ within yourself which keeps you breathing on this big, beautiful Earth. Some people are fortunate enough to have more than one acid within their soul – but for me, it’s that feeling of seeing a blank white canvas… the tubes of vibrant gouache paint… followed by letting my imagination loose on the concoction of colours created with a fine black ink pen….

Do you want to know a secret? When I was 18 and set off for University, I took what seemed to be the easy option and promised myself I would never go back to creating art; I thought that was the best decision ever because I didn’t have to deal with the ‘don’t waste your life’ lectures many Tamils love to give… and boy did I get a LOT of those growing up. So a few years later, my Future was most definitely sorted; Biochemistry degree almost over, a lovely little lab or office waiting for the insanely mature version of me- and I was looking forward to it. It was at that almost perfect point that I went through a pretty major life changing event. You may hear me talk about it sometimes in a really nonchalant manner, but let’s just say that I had to re-evaluate my existence, building myself up again as if I were a house of cards blown away in the wind.

The latter half of 2011 was when I started creating art again – but not because I wanted to, more like I needed to. Damn I was scared though. Wait, maybe more like terrified. My head was filled with a whole load of negative ‘what ifs…?’ The thing is, when your soul is pierced in the worst way by pain, it’s also looking for something equally as awesome to counteract and rebuild itself. It goes back to basics when looking for things which make the heart sing – I guess it remembered the 5 year old me with paint all over my school uniform.

This simple act of pen to paper got my mind buzzing like nothing else on Earth could for so long. It gave me that ‘high’ which so many people search for in the wrong places and made me feel strong again. You know those dreams where you find yourself flying and it’s the best feeling ever – that’s the sensation I get even now when creating art. I realised after the first few doodles in that coffee shop at the age of 21 that I had finally found my Acid.

Right now, I am working on my current series, which follows a young sari wearing girl throughout her adventures in mind, body and spirit. I guess my art, as well as saving my sanity, has also created this yearning within me to understand my roots. Throughout the Civil War, so many Tamils were pushed to all corners of the Earth and to careers which nowhere near do justice to their intelligence and ambitions. I was born in Jaffna and consider myself very fortunate for my earliest memories to be of Sri Lanka; holding my Appa’s hand to go and milk the cows, being terrified of all the puppies we had, peeking through a hole in the wall of the Sellamahal Theatre trying to watch the films. My Appa also loves his early memories of our country and talks about his youth so much. He is now terminally ill with progressive Motor Neuron Disease, yet he says that the degradation of his muscles opened his mind…and I see that. His ‘you’re wasting your Life, you should have become a Doctor’ quotes are now replaced with ‘go out there and show the World what Tamils can achieve’.

Like many other Tamils, my Family risked their lives to save their children from witnessing the same horrors they did… which saw my 3 year old self arriving in London town. So if the extremist politicians who messed up our country thought that we, as the future generations of Tamils, wouldn’t care about our culture, our heritage, our people or that we would forget our Serendip* – the most beautiful gem of the Indian Ocean – then we will show them that our intelligence, talents and determination are not lost. And my current paintings are just the start of my own personal journey to my Sri Lanka. (If you know me, you’re probably thinking, ‘when did she get so darn patriotic?!’ haha – I guess I can say that I finally found myself).

Sometimes Life throws you a massive curve ball to make you realise that the things you thought you wanted from your years on this Earth weren’t really your dreams at all. I almost settled for the safe, ordinary Life and missed out on meeting extraordinary people on my travels to exhibit across oceans. And I thank God every day for blessing me with the courage to throw all the ‘what ifs’ out the window, so I keep going with unleashing the products of my Acid into the World. Lastly, to quote a great friend, “Never ever give up on Your talent, because it never gave up on You.” X

*Serendip; name for the island of Sri Lanka, Arabic in origin. The word ‘serendipity’ was formed in the English language after the Persian fairy tale ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? X

A lesson in… finding Your Acid.

Thoughts will lead you in circles. Silence will bring you back to your centre.
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

 

So here I am in my hotel room in Cornwall. Voice literally still nowhere to be heard (I’ve lost it) and trying to bathe my mind in silence to get it back.

Meanwhile, a Tamil student organisation has asked me to write a short article about my artwork – why I started painting etc… What on Earth do I say? I have always found it difficult expressing my thoughts about my art, so how do I start to tell my own community of the reasons behind going against every sane bone in my body. It is pretty insane really – even Steve Jobs (the incredibly inspiring ‘iphone guy’) said it- that those of us who try to make a living out of our passions are crazy. We have to be to slog through the initial money problems, rejections, unimaginable hours of hard work when others our age are out on Friday nights. But hey, I have all the time in the world right now to create, dissect and maximise the potential impact this article could make on someone’s life out there. So here we go…

 

Feeling Nostalgic… My 2nd of February 2009.

Take a look at these photos from one very snowy 2nd February 2009.

I took them a few years ago and discarded them as terrible ones heading straight for my digital recycling bin. However, they never made it there. I guess I just forgot about them until now. I remember this time in my life so clearly. I somehow also remember this day absolutely perfectly looking at these photos. The Summer just gone was when my Father received his ‘possible diagnosis’ of MND. I was not in a good place. Yet the people I shared that year with at University and days like this snowy 2nd February 2009, got me through all my thoughts at the time.

2009

My morning footprints in our garden, adjoining the ‘Narnia-esque’ forest of our student house. Spring Rise, 02/02/2009, 9.17am.

We lived in the most beautiful, brand new student house that year. Our garden was huge as you can tell from the above picture. The pond, (just cut off) existed in the bottom left hand corner and in the Summer we would watch deer entering the garden from the adjoining forest to feed on the shrubs surrounding it. I even have an incredible video somewhere of a deer being chased frantically around our garden by a wild boar (also from the forest) for about 10 minutes, until it has the ingenious idea of hiding in the pond to trick the beast (which worked!). I will try to find it for you – but I must warn you that my housemate provides some very loud background commentary, more like screams actually, at the thought of seeing a boar kill and eat a poor Bambi look-a-like.

I woke up so early on this day and looked outside to discover the scene looking like something from Narnia. The snow was untouched and, you know me, I just had to go and shove my footprints in there. Below is a photo of the entry to the forest (which surrounds Royal Holloway University) at the back of our garden. And yes that is a lamp post. It really was such a surreal vision.

2009

The garden pathway leading to the forest of our ‘Narnia-esque’ student house. Spring Rise, 02/02/2009, 4.41pm

Ever since I was a child, I have always taken a nap at some point in the day. Even at University, my friends would actually wait for me to finish my nap before our evening shenanigans (I know, they are an amazing bunch of  characters). However, I remember that on this day, two of them really wanted to explore the campus which was covered in snow but they knew I’d never go without my nap. So I went to bed and they woke me up 20 minutes later… after turning the time on my watch, my computer and all our phones two hours ahead haha. I was so confused as to why I was still blooming tired.

These last three photos below are now my favourites of that evening – even compared to the ‘good ones’ I took. I did not know how to adjust the camera settings accordingly (to this day I have no idea what all the settings mean on that camera) and so I just winged it. Look at the light emerging from the clocktower of the University in this first picture below, where my unsteady hand shook the camera. Or the luminosity of the stars – well they’re actually dust particles on the lens, but stars seem more artistically romantic- in the second photo outshining the same giant man-made structure in the foreground.

2009

Royal Holloway, University of London. 02/02/2009. 7.39PM

2009

Royal Holloway, University of London. 02/02/2009. 7.42PM

2009

Royal Holloway, University of London. 02/02/2009. 8.13PM

But of these three, it is this last photo which makes me relive the child like wonder of that day. There we were, inhaling the beauty of the huge frozen lake hidden within the grounds of the University, when a few seconds later… SPLAT came that snowball, straight in my face. Well played my dear. Well played. X

 

A Lesson in… Forgiveness

“When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines upon you.” – Jon Krakauer, Author

You know, I actually wrote this story in detail on another blog of mine last year. So many of you have emailed me over the years to tell me how touched you were by my words and for the way I handled the situation. But it is finally time for me to leave the details of that tragic event in my past where it belongs and rely on word of mouth to warn people of the circumstances under which it happened. I hope you can understand why I just want to keep the wisdom I gained from it on MyBelovedSunset.

Here are some words from the final extract from that story;

“I pray that I never perceive my compassion as a weakness… Right now, I am the best version of myself I have ever been…because of the way God helped me deal with this situation. Watching someone very close to me nearing the end of their life has shown me that it really is too short… As human beings I know that the most awful situations can help us figure out who we really are and with this experience instilled within me, I find no reason to worry about what life brings anymore. Going back to Uni to do my exams was probably one of the hardest things I have had to do and, whether I pass or fail them, I’ve found strengths within myself that I never knew existed. Instead, I look forward to the day I can look to the memories of mine and his pretend friendship and see him as just someone I used to know, rather than the friend who almost killed me.”

It has been almost 3 years since that incident happened. And I can finally say that it does not affect me anymore. I feel so spiritually connected with the Universe. Yet I know that he will never be okay, and I truly feel sorry for him because of that. At some point in our lives, we have to forgive to move on. But that does not mean what they did was fine, it just means you are done with it. That chapter is finished. For when we are on our deathbed in our final moments on this Earth, it will not matter what other people have done to us. What will matter is how YOU have treated others and dealt with the situations Life has handed to you. So in the words of a hero of mine – Maya Angelou, ‘it is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.’

 

‘And, when you want something…

…ALL the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.‘ – Paul Coelho

Recently, I finished reading ‘The Alchemist’ by Paul Coelho for the first time. The backbone of the story made me feel a lot calmer about Life – especially the above quote. I have always been more creative than academic but never had the courage to TRY and make anything of it. I think I even did my best to suppress the creative side of me. Until two years ago. I just remember having this need to draw e.v.e.r.y single day after going through something which got me feeling pretty *bleurgh*. And every time since then, when I’ve thought ‘what on earth am I doing trying to make a living out of this?!’, encouragement enters my life in the form of words or actions from family/friends/strangers and new artistic opportunities. I sincerely believe that the dream which keeps coming back is your destiny – and for me this is it; unleashing the creativity I kept locked away for so long into the world. All I had to do was try. X

 

Just to say I’m still on Earth

“Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your Life worth living.”  -Albert Einstein

There is a lot to say regarding the previous post last year. It’s been a while eh. One day in the future I will write about the 11th July 2012 – but I’m not quite ready yet. I don’t even know when my next need for some ‘serious’ writing will emerge. I’m just taking good old Albert’s advice right now and hoping that the words will appear in my mind soon.

Hakuna Matata

THE LION KING was our very first VHS and I am not even sure why my mum picked that one out from all the others. But I fell in love with it immediately at six years old and am still undeniably addicted to that film. It may seem crazy, but whenever life gets me down I still feel as if that film can help me out in dealing with things. I must be so attached to these characters in a way that is completely not understandable to any sane human being.

Simba did not want to go back to pride rock. He was scared and felt alone in facing his demons. Although his friends encouraged him, he chose to go back in the end himself.

My Father was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND) 6 years ago. I know that many people lose their parents to dreadful circumstances and because of this, I think I have always felt a little undeserving to be so upset over the fact I am going to lose him one day. But nonetheless it doesn’t stop me from thinking about how he won’t physically be in our future.

Thinking of the strong, athletic build of a man he used to be to before this disease tore at his muscles rendering him immobile, and soon-to-be speechless, puts him at the top of my most inspiration people ever to have lived list. Because even though he is in this state, he still smiles and laughs at the silliest things. To quote my Alzheimers ridden Grandfather’s remark to my Father – ‘even though you can’t walk, your smile makes you look very beautiful’. I get what he means.

My Father and Grandfather; both with neurological disorders - MND and Alzheimers Disease respectively- but both still determined to share a joke. P.S. Photo credit goes to my sister (if she ever finds out about this blog and I don't tell you that, she gonna be so mad!)

My Father and Grandfather; both with neurological disorders – MND and Alzheimers Disease respectively- but both still determined to share a joke. Photo credit to my sister.

And so, at those times during the early hours of the morning when I cannot cope with the idea of a life without my Father- a voice comes into my head which says, ‘if Simba can do it, you can too my dear’. Aaaaand now y’all probably think I’m cray cray. Lol.

A lesson in… just accepting the Reality, especially when it is Incredible.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, Humanity cannot survive.”

                                        – Dalai Lama XIV, ‘The Art of Happiness’

I think today will be with me for the rest of my life. An amazing friend of mine managed to get me a free front row VIP ticket to see HH The Dalai Lama at the Royal Albert Hall. I was about 10 steps away from one of the human beings whose words and actions gave me hope last Summer. People dream of being in the position I was their whole lives and I couldn’t believe that I was actually there.

Sitting so close to HH I just felt so blessed to bear witness to this incredibly inspirational man’s teachings. And what I loved most about his demeanor- what made me have so much more respect for him than I already had- was that he had the utmost humility. From helping the camera crew pick up wires off the floor, to laughing with us ‘as if we are family’ (which is the way he put it), it’s hard to believe that he has seen the most disgusting, outrageous acts human beings cause. Throughout all the horrors of his life, he still believes that the human race is compassionate above all else.

As if this wasn’t enough of a remarkable experience for me, I had the honour of sitting next to Voltaire Taiwo de Campos.He was awarded the Youth achievement award by HH. They announced that his cousin had been killed as a result of ‘postcode warfare’ – but instead of seeking revenge, he put all his efforts into helping those involved in the gang life get out of those ways. At 16 years of age, he is now a mentor. As soon as his mum started bawling her eyes out at how proud she was of her son up on that stage with HH… so did I. It really was a very moving moment and it proved The Dalai Lama’s point. It is compassion – not the need for revenge to satisfy our own anger and quench our egos- that makes us honorable human beings. I am sure it’s not the last we’ve seen of Voltaire.

Oh by the way, a bit off topic, but I just found out that I’ve achieved a 2:1 in my Biochemistry BSc degree (for those who don’t live in the UK, it is a very good grade to get at university)! I can’t believe it. I am in shock. A lot has happened in just the last month. God has blessed me with so many incredible achievements and experiences— seeing old friends again and having new friends come into my life, passing my driving test, getting offered a solo art exhibition at a renowned gallery, being asked for my autograph by strangers (I know right!), passing all my exams and then getting a really good classification, as well as all these career paths He has placed in front of me.

I feel scared that one morning I’m going to wake up and this would have all been a dream. That I’m still in the mind frame I was in last Summer after all that stuff happened and that I’m not going to make it through the day. I used to have the odd dream amongst all those days of anguish where I would be happy again— but then I’d wake up. They were just good dreams in a reality which felt like part of my soul had died.

But now I actually have to take moments to stop and think whether life is real. If all these unbelievably good things are actually happening to just an ordinary person like me. And it feels so strange- like I’m living someone elses’ life. Even though some days are still tough, I feel like I’ve finally found a sense of peace within myself. There is no need to be afraid anymore – I’ve made it.