These trees stood guard to the entrance of our village in Kerala since the beginning of my memory. Like old friends they've watched the seasons pass and, I suspect, shared many anecdotes between them.
The banyan tree in the image is estimated to be two centuries old. My brother and I, in our childhood, had the pleasure of holding on to its roots and swinging back and forth. Laughing, falling, crying, and then getting back up to repeat the cycle again. You could feel them gently chiding us for the ruckus and then lovingly gathering us back in its arms, as a parent would.
This month all of them were razed to make way for a wider road. While this was a sad moment, I'm not necessarily against progress or infrastructure development but I am concerned about its cost and long-term effects.
This poem never fails to pick me up. I found this beautiful piece of art on Etsy and thought of featuring it here.
Leaping sideways across the innovation chasm seems to have its own rewards! My earphones broke last week and since all the tech-stores were locked down, I had to resort to a DIY fix with black electrical insulation tape. The result is not all that pretty, but it is now functional and somehow is more endearing than when I first purchased it a few years ago.
But the question remains - where did that additional value come from? – From renewed utility? Perhaps it was the insulation tape? or Maybe it was the mending of it. Possibly.
The idea of mending and the value received thereof is captured quite poetically in Kintsugi (金継ぎ), the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery, and literally translates to ‘Golden joinery’. ModernMet writer Kelly Richman-Abdou described its process as follows, “Rather than rejoin ceramic pieces with a camouflaged adhesive, the Kintsugi technique employs a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.” Kintsugi finds its inspiration in embracing imperfection and as if the cracks were wounds, it seems to have application to our own lives.
As we near completion of our fourth lockdown in India, there is an urgency to jolt the economy back to pre COVID-19 levels. Industry captains are on news channels screaming about skewed government action (or inaction) since February 2020 and the government, in return, is responding with massive economic stimulus packages. Politicians continue to bathe in mud whilst the common person is out in the sun (literally), suffering. We seem to be in such a tearing hurry that we risk repressing or ignoring the trauma of the past seventy days. Whilst getting the economy back on track is critical, it should not be at the risk of a mental health crisis.
Mental wellness helplines across India are reporting a significant surge in the number of calls, 3000 per day, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. This trend is not just specific to India, it is a global issue. Job loss, salary cuts, increased work hours, balancing family care, isolation, the loss of a loved one and their impact on anxiety, panic and depression in individuals are becoming common place. Business leaders are also faced with several pressing challenges, deciding when to reopen; redefining their business model; and providing a safe environment for employees and customers, amongst others.
Its safe to say that we are yet to realize the full impact of the aftershocks of this event and their effects on the population, especially its working members. This piece does not seek to provide a solution to the mental health crisis – that should be attempted and delivered by professionals only. However, I want to share a few questions that may put us in the right frame of mind when we engage with our teams, partners and even customers.
In Kintsugi, we find inspiration because the cracks and repair are acknowledged as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Quite explicitly, it teaches us that broken objects are not something to discard, but to nurture back to use. Its scars make it unique and tells its own story of resilience. Our minds deserve the same.
Perhaps that’s why Ernest Hemingway wrote in his novel, A Farewell to Arms, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
P.S. A picture of my mended earphones.