The art deprived engineer

My relationship with art has always been like that of a child and his emotionally distant father.Present, providing and existing. But never connecting, nurturing and caring. Borderline abusive.

Then again, art is also the therapist I rarely visit and yell at for not being able to understand me, and for having zero chemistry.

I have been abused and I have abused my love for art.

I go to a mental asylum everyday, known as engineering college, for lack of a better metaphor. The students are animalistic patients and the teachers are doctors who have given up. Patients enter the asylum with the hopes of getting fixed, but for the most part, it worsens your condition.

The childlike fresher enters with hopes of chasing their million dreams, but ends up being that pathetically average kid at school, just like everyone else. It messes with your reality, because you’ve always been told that you’re special- that you’re destined for greatness. You’re an engineering student after all, a class apart- just like everyone else. But then life hits you and you can’t process it.

Ergo, by the middle of the second year everyone finds a way to numb the pain.
For most, it’s alcohol, cigarettes, weed or another form of addiction.

For some it’s a little more productive: art.

But don’t associate this art with beauty, for this art does not come from a place of value addition, but from a place of catharsis.

IIT training institutes with their choking toxic motivation, along with the traditional values of society and the media, mislead us to believe that we are in control. That we are the writers of our destiny. Engineering college makes us realise we ain’t jack.

The fundamental nature of life, to put it bluntly, is full of sorrow and despair.
Hence, just as the SE spirals downward into absolute abyss that aims to destroy their identity, they are hauled up by the saving grace of their art.

"Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life"- Pablo Picasso

Creating something from nothing, using only your imagination, creating a tangible product from a mere thought, makes us assume the role of god on a small scale.

The anxiety of powerlessness over the events of our life, over the uncertainty of the future is relieved a bit, when we, like god, create.

This is where art can help us.

In the process of creation or experiencing someone else’s creation, you can explore your emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress, boost self-esteem, and work on social skills. Hence, it may not come as a surprise to you to learn that art can be an effective tool in mental health treatment.

This is not something society has shoved down our throat, like engineering. It’s a natural urge to be creative. It’s like an itch that needs to be scratched. If you pit someone against themselves locked inside a house for more than a month they are bound to explode- sometimes positively- sometimes with imagination.

What interesting times we live in, with the entire day to ourselves! For someone whose entire existence has been dictated by being productive, being jobless and free seems like a daydream and a nightmare at the same time.

Ever since we were kids, we’ve always been told to take breaks between our study sessions, our work – thereby subconsciously brainwashing young children into believing that being content and happy is an occasional state- that you need to be sad for four hours continuously and only then can you be happy for a few minutes. Exciting.

Since the focus of our approach has been cored around slogging pointlessly, most of us don’t know what to do when encountered now with leisure, all because happiness and free time are an add-on, not the first priority, obviously.

After giving you, as the Gen Z Indian calls it, "BT", for two pages straight, let me assure you that the undertone of this piece is motivational.

When you are pitted against your mind in a locked house, something interesting happens. After sincerely trying out and failing miserably at the ‘I-will-come-out-of-this-quarantine-with-a-six-pack-and-spiritual enlightenment and-certificates-about -computer-languages-I-can’t-pronounce’ personality development extravaganza, and realising being productive 24/7 is a communist scheme, the mind automatically turns to art.

**"Art is a representation of our consciousness"

Have you noticed this? Ever since quarantine started, students have started doing what they love. Making videos of themselves playing the guitar, singing, dancing, messing with visual effects or writing poetry-you name it! It is because the human mind can and will do what other species’ minds cannot- scream out the fact that it is alive.

After dealing with dead, dry, grey and lifeless things for the entire day, you are bound to become the same. All day, it’s just wires, codes, numbers and gears. Which is why vacations are a blessing; because they take us away from the mechanical aspect of our lives and help recover us from the damage done by engineering.

We’ve always thought, this "art" is for the eccentrics, the off-beat, the odd and the non-conformist.

The thing is, something that is associated with expression and freedom can never be understood by someone who became a slave to coaching institutes at the age of 15.

It has attracted a lot of reverence and mystique for its own good. Perhaps other people have seen something we have never got the stomach to do: to look at our imperfect selves with authenticity. Our cracked view of the world makes happiness and connection with our spirit an eccentric feature. What a terrible jab on analytical minds.

"Art is anything that stirs emotion in you.
Anything created with the purpose of being experienced is art."

The emotions that get stirred up depend entirely on your identity and story
It depends really on your personal experience with it and the meaning that you draw from it. It gives us an opportunity to learn, grow and heal from it.

Fortunately, my pursuit of science
has given me something. An ability to structure and present my thoughts incredibly. But with the silver lining comes the cloud. Engineering has made my thoughts hazy too.

But then again, my words have a scientific tone. Engineering has sucked the music out of my words and left them dry. When you use words like parameter and troubleshooting in your vocabulary to solve emotional problems, you know there is something catastrophically wrong.

Now, let us address the issue people are sadly, the most concerned about:

"Playing the guitar isn’t going to fill your belly."

Don’t you dare feel the pressure to monetize your passion- it’s a capitalist lie. You don’t have to turn your hobby into your job. Sing badly, draw poorly, write trash and dance like a child- for life is meant to be enjoyed, not materialised.

Moreover, art and money, in my opinion are an interesting juxtaposition. An oxymoron, if you will. Because the former is associated with liberation, freedom, self-expression, joy and hope while the latter is associated with disgrace, deceit, unhealthy competitions and rat races.

With that being said, I believe we need to stop treating your craft as a disconnect or entertainment. It needs to be a part of your identity, of who you are.

"Art fights the false optimism of commercial society"

The world requires us to put on a cheerful facade everyday, but beneath that mask, lies a lot of sadness, anxiety and self-doubt- our true selves. The greatest masterpieces in the world are extremely dark and gruesome, be it a symphony, a painting or a work of literature: why? It is because it assures us about the normality of pain- making the pain inside all of us publicly visible and available- it can be sad with us or for us- like putting on ‘channa mereya’ after a breakup. It’s eerie, how it’s as if the creator made it specifically for us.

The reality is, it’s okay to be sad and stressed everyday, all of us are- art just helps in processing and acknowledging this. Your talent is not a remedy to the bad problem itself, but therapeutic aid for how badly life’s problems weigh us down.

The reality of the situation is, we are no different than daily wage labourers. We somehow drag ourselves to work, perform mediocrely, get paid and get home. But, if we, as engineers, find true purpose through being artists, we’d be better engineers, funnily enough. Happiness will arise from the belief that everything you do is for a cause.

I’m definitely not an advocate for the ‘Productivity Competition’ we all have set up for ourselves this quarantine season for hoarding certificates about things we don’t care about.

But I surely believe this time can be spent well. I want each person reading this to try to out some artform today; it genuinely doesn’t matter what it is. Pick up that paintbrush. That empty pen, that mic or that dusty guitar, even a needle really. They all serve the same purpose.

A telescope; for your soul.

A universe of magic waiting to be discovered lies inside of you.

Stay happy and have an amazing day.

-Jai Beri