When you look at the title of this post, you could be thinking that i am talking about socialism vs. capitalism. If you look at the image on this post, you are right in thinking about how Perseus took Medusa’s life without looking her in the eye. However, both the title and the image are purely symbolic. How you perceive this is upto you and that depends on whether you use your right or what’s left.
When i was in school, i attended a workshop on excellence, and how excellence can be learnt and therefore achieved – using the brain in a way that we could possibly control it. Biology classes had taught us the anatomy of brain mapping which were basically layers of the cerebrum, cerebellum and medulla. The front of our brain (Cerebrum) is responsible for certain functions like movement, temperature,reasoning, emotion, hearing etc. among others and likewise the other parts of the brain too, are in charge of other things.
Apart from the biological classification, i was soon learning about a more qualitative division of the brain, namely the right and the left. The right brain is our creative craving while the left brain is our logical reasoning. At these ‘excellence’ classes, i was now being taught how i must control my brain. The tutor told me to place my fingers beneath my nose and examine my breath and breathing patterns. After about 30 seconds, i jumped up and almost yelled ” Something is wrong with me ! Air is coming out of only one nostril “. There were giggles in the room. I knew there was something wrong. I was waiting for class to get done, run up to mom and tell her that i should be admitted immediately. The person next to me suddenly nudged me and said ” Me too – one nose”
Soon, there was a lot of excitement in the room, since most of the students had discovered that air gets out only through one nostril while breathing out. The tutor then tells us that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and the right side of the brain, the left of the body. This means that if i can feel air coming out through my left nostril, means my right brain is alive and in control. Therefore i am going to be at my creative best, coming up with great poetry, winning prizes for creative writing, so on and so forth. When i am breathing through my right nostril, i could be a math genius, or a scientist making the best discoveries.
The tutor then told us that he would teach us to control our brain and therefore the way we function and operate. So immediately, a question came to my mind. It was like i had to decide then about which side of my brain i wanted to make permanent. Did i want to lead a life inside a lab, smelling chemicals, solving puzzles and experimenting with gadgets or did i want to rest under a tree with a nice book in my hand, writing some stories, making some movies, cracking jokes and having fun? Just as i was thinking about all this, another thought occurred to me. Which side of my brain was i exactly using at that point ? Wouldn’t that influence my decisions about which side i wanted to make permanent ? I just froze.
The tutor then explained to us that the body goes through a natural cycle of shifting from right to left brain, which means, automatically my breathing shifts from my right to the left nostril periodically. He said, we could control this through a technique called Body Yawning. It was a technique where you closed your eyes, held your breath, lifted your arms above your head and stretched out with your palms interlocked into one another and then thought within your head that you want to move from left to right or right to left. Then you breathe out in a slightly forceful fashion and that’s it ! you’ve changed your brain side. And trust me ! It worked. I just shifted it from one side to another.
The rest of the day, i spent shifting between my right and left, between my creative and practical, between my artistic and logical and i thought i could now be an Einstein as well as Shakespeare, both at the same time. I started doing better, both academically and creatively. I remember how i used to stretch out before a math exam and made sure i was breathing through my right nostril and when it was an english exam, i would do it the other way.
Eventually, life moved on and there were no more excellence classes to go to. That does not mean that i achieved it already. Soon i really forgot about body yawning and about controlling my brain. At office, in Daimler, filled with engineers, i would be called creative and when i came for drama rehearsals, people told me i was good at marketing and managing accounts. Hah ! So much for growing up learning to control your brain. These days i really dont care about being left or right brained. I just go about doing my stuff, but what i do consciously is space things out, over time, may be a couple of hours, or sometimes many days. This means that i am definitely allowing both parts of my brain to look at the what i am doing at different points in time. I know this has worked for sure, because people have told me that consistency seems to be missing in the eventual outcome. That explains it doesn’t it ?
However, i tell my self that the guy who exclaimed about the consistency issues was just using his left brain at that point in time. If not he would have said, i like the way this thing is broken up and the fact that it’s not monotonous. These surprises are healthy Of course, what you think of what someone does or delivers also has to do with situation cues, what you had for breakfast, your state of being and what you think you need to achieve in the next 24 hours among many other factors, including the weather.
This is precisely why there are two sides to most things. There is a third dimension as well, which is of course a combination of the left and right. However, this is not what i call centre. This is because i am not sure if one knows what is the mix of both brains being used and therefore if something is more logical than it is artistic or vice-versa. So i think the term “Using your head” would apply quite aptly. It would apply to most things though and we would be closer to excellence if we did that consistently and yet randomly !
I had a boss who used to always say “Life is about Common sense. Everything, including Branding, Accounting, Media, strategy, R & D was all common sense”. I used to wonder if common sense was creative or if it was logical. Somehow common sense seemed like what was totally obvious. If you dint know it, you would either be dumb or stupid. So whichever side of the brain enables you, you had to have this. Let’s say a fire needs to be put out. You have a right brainer and a left brainer. Hand them each a bucket of water and what would they do ? I can quite confidently say that both these people would use it to put out the fire. I am sure neither of them would use that to quench their thirst at that point in time.
This goes to say that there are certain things that are sort of universal to the brain like reaction, reflex etc, which are more biological in nature. Again this can vary between individuals in terms of the extent and depth of the actions. Using the left or right side of the brain is a process element of how the outcome is delivered as opposed to the outcome itself being delivered. Each of us can be as right as we can be left and this depends on our choices and of course our actions.
I wont believe the one who tells me that he’s not creative and at the same time, i wont believe the one who tells me he’s intelligent. Left or right, believe that both are right for you, at the right time and at the right place. This feels like a no brainer now !
For a long time, I thought pots, made out of clay, were natural things that you could just dig out from the ground. Of course with time, I realized how they got to being the way they are. Even as a kid, I was very interested in making things out of clay. I remember when I was about 9 or 10 years young, I used to make some random shapes out of red clay, that My mom used to buy to plant her money plants.
I made some small coasters, small bowls and what not, with really withered edges, cracking at almost every end. I used to make these, and leave them at the courtyard to dry. After about two good days of sun bathing, these models of clay were ready to be my play toys. In Tamil, we called this ‘choppu saaman’, meaning small things used in the kitchen. I remember how I filled up these bowls with rice and gram and all sorts of things including water and mud itself.
I can’t really recall what happened to them after that. I remember throwing some of them into a well because i dint like the way they turned out. My mom did complain about muddy water a week later, but I decided to keep quiet. About 4 years later, we had a class trip to Dakshin Chitra (an art hub of South India), where I saw a potter use his wheel and magically make pots of different shapes and sizes. I was totally wowed by it and immediately got to dirtying my hands there. With this help, I made something that resembled a pen pot. Not bad for a proper start, I thought.
After that, I almost forgot about my love for pots and how I thought that I would make a great potter some day- not of the magical type though. Recently, when Karthik and I were drawing up a wish list of sorts, pottery cropped up again and I wanted to go learn pottery and make some really awesome stuff. How difficult could it be to just move your hands in a pattern to create some great shapes, I thought.
After i quit my job, i did have a lot of time in hand, which i call my creative sabbatical. So i decided I would spend the while doing artistic things that would further stimulate my right brain. I did my research, made a couple of phone calls and before anything else, I realized that learning pottery was really expensive, especially in Singapore.
But I was quite determined and after about a month, I found this place call Sam Mui Kim pottery, that offered basic hand building classes at about 500 sgd. I signed up and there I was, in front of a little hand building metallic disc that I was supposed to rotate in an anti clockwise fashion to create magic.
Within the first 20 minutes, I was faced with cruel realisation that pottery is not just about artistic building, but a lot about achieving technical precision. What I thought would stimulate my right brain, ended up being an enormously consuming left brained exercise. I was making concentric circles, measuring the centre of a clay flat, cutting the clay out at particular diameters and looking for balanced symmetry. None of that seemed artistic to me from any angle. Over and above all this, there was yet another quality of mine being put to test – Patience. Pottery is about patience. The creative mind goes searching and wandering to find as many things within a given time, the logical brain is also almost like that. But I had to whip both these senses of mine and commonly produce a state of being called patience. At may points during my first session itself, I wanted to give up. I wanted to tear the clay away as it was being built. However, I kept motivating myself thinking that when this is done, I can now call myself a creator. A creator of a perfect pot.
After three hours, a successful pen pot was made, not perfectly symmetrical though. I was happy about the asymmetry. Nw I can call the pit artistic. The expert potter Mr Kim Told me that I was very good for a beginner. I knew it was his way to let me know that I should come back for the next class. My palms were aching, my fingers were numb and I was in pain. Creation is bloody painful !
Over the next 3-4 classes, I sort of got used to the rhythm and routines of hand building. And when I saw my first pot all fired up and painted, I felt great. I felt even better, when friends of mine asked me where I bought the pot, when I showed off my new creation.
Now I have made pots, bowls, vases and even a tea pot, all in just about 30 hours of painful work and patience. Now I know that I can never look at a pot the same way I did before. I can look beyond the pot now, and understand what would have gone into creating this and that, is my pot of learning
For the last four years, i woke up somewhat early,did my routine chores, got into my car, switched on Chennai Radio and drove into peak hour traffic. After stepping out, i entered another zone, also full of traffic, only of the mental type. It was called Office. A Corporate Office. I settled in, wished people around a very good morning, set my laptop out on my desk and logged into the Daimler world.
Lotus notes had my entire day planned out for me. I always wondered why this e-mail system was called Lotus Notes. To keep in line with it’s identity, i attempted to keep my writing flowery. However, that dint help. You still had to do what you had to do and do what others failed to do.
I worked in the Marketing Department of the world’s most glorious Brand, Mercedes-Benz. That sounds really cool, doesn’t it ? I must now also let you know that i worked for the Trucking division though. Now, that reduced the glamour by about 99 %. Local market insights, customer buying behaviour, Total Cost of ownership – All these were some Marketing/Trucking Jargon that was thrown at me, which i subsequently threw at other people. Consultant meetings, process checks, timeline tracks, Team meetings, Weekly updates, Daily Morning meetings and quarterly Town Hall meets – I attended all of this and more. Infact, i had to convene some of them as well.
Daimler not just invented the world’s first truck, but also gave me the opportunity to drive my First Truck. It felt great – like a sense of power in your hands that you can go about thrashing everyone else. I was reminded of those Monster Truck Madness games that i used to play when i was much younger.
I must thank Daimler for it also gave me the time to do theatre and do so well. I guess it was the whole German efficiency attitude that trickled down into my working patterns.
Yes, we launched a new Brand in India, showcased some great capabilities and won many customers.As all this was happening, i was also figuring out life on a personal front. (Daimler gave me time for that too ! Infact, this time i made time ! )
I got married in 2011 and was also toying around with the quintessential question of what next ? That’s when it occurred to me that Theatre had given me so many chances and i had given theatre none. A sudden gush of “Oh my God ! It’s now or never !” occurred to me.
Karthik also kept telling me about how the world does not need more left Brained people. I thought hard (most of the thinking i did with my left brain though) and told myself - GO FOR IT !
i could have gone out there and continued doing theatre the way i did it over the years. However, i wanted to go study theatre professionally. i did my research for over 2 months, spoke to people, Alumni of Art Colleges to try and figure out what course in Drama would really make sense to someone like me.
I figured out London was the place to go to. The American universities offered Post Grad programmes for three years and at three times the cost. I dint have that much time nor money I applied, auditioned and made it to Central School of Speech and Drama.
My Course (MA in Advanced Theatre Practice) begins this October. I am going through the formalities of my Visa and all that. Hopefully it should all come through. I am getting to be student again after almost 6 years. I am excited about Branching out. I am eagerly awaiting all those Dramatic encounters that i will make – With Art, theatre, People and Places.
I am Branching out, but you stay hooked on to this page for more.