Pain

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‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird’ 1940 (oil on canvas)

It was the first year of undergraduate studies and I remember Slam Books were very popular at that time. I had mine since the end of school days and only a couple of pages were left to be filled. There was a long list of boys who wanted to fill my Slam Book, but I wanted to learn only from two of them. To answer one of the questions, when asked to describe me, one of them wrote, “a beautiful girl who does not smile as much as she should…” I probably did not know then that it was true.

I first came to know about Frida Kahlo‘s self-portrait in the Bengali movie Antaheen (2009). I did not watch the movie when it was released but I watched it much later. When they showed the painting in the movie, it looked surrealistic. Her face had a somber expression, she was surrounded by a monkey, a cat, and a hummingbird and wore a necklace of thorns. with blood dripping from it. I was very intrigued. Being a huge movie buff since childhood, I remembered that the movie Frida (2002) was nominated for a number of Academy Awards – I have a special place for Salma Hayek and maybe that is why I remembered it. I immediately researched about Frida Kahlo and found her other paintings.

When I looked at them, I was taken aback and frankly, very shocked. Her portrayal of herself seemed violent and sometimes, just looking at the paintings was painful. Since childhood I have been very intrigued by the human condition. I remember when I went to Belur Math, as a child, instead of being mesmerized by the beauty and calmness of the place, I was fascinated with the young monks who lived there. For months I could not stop thinking what led young adults to leave their homes, every contact with their family and choose a life like that. But over the years, often the inquisitiveness would turn into sadness and since I knew I would be sad I tried to push these thoughts to the black corner of my mind and forget about it. That is what I did in case of Frida. I closed the images, and suppressed my inquisitiveness. Maybe I was scared that if I went digging in I will discover something that I did not want to know about.

Many years passed and in 2013 I visited MoMA in New York city. MoMA was fascinating to me, I will write a whole another post about how much I felt inspired after I visited MoMA if I ever get that much time. There, once again, I came across works by Frida which were not as violent as the ones I had seen on the internet before. I was curious and wanted to watch the movie Frida, but when I watched the trailer I decided to watch it later and then I kept postponing it, because I was not sure I will like it.

In 2014 December my friend visited La Casa Azul in Mexico City. When he came back he brought with him tons of photos of the place, specially the kitchen and he told me that I would have loved that place. I kept looking at the photos and kept wondering why would I have loved the place and if really I would. In architecture I prefer very modern clean lines, simplistic furniture, light colors and bright open spaces. This place looked quite the opposite. It was loud and rustic and the kitchen tools looked like art, not really useful. But it was fascinating. Every corner of the house looked like the person who lived there had paid special attention to it. I have not been to the museum myself so I am not sure if the Mexican authorities kept it as Frida (or may be Diego) had left it. But I like to think it is.

I started reading about Frida and what her work represented. Why did she portray herself in such violent details? What did they signify? I came to know about her accident, her chronic pain, her political activism and her tormented relationship with Diego Rivera. A few months later I watched the movie Frida, which depicts the professional and private life of Frida Kahlo. It stars Salma Hayek in her Academy Award-nominated portrayal as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as her husband, Diego Rivera. If you have not watched it yet, I highly recommend it. Salma Hayek‘s portrayal of Frida Kahlo is poignant. I loved the cinematography – throughout the film, a scene starts as a painting, then slowly dissolves into a live-action scene with actors. I was moved when I watched the movie. When I watched the movie I had already read so much about her, so I was not expecting to be overwhelmed like that.

There are many good movies that you watch and forget. There are good movies that you watch and remember. And there are good movies that influence you. Frankly it was not the movie itself, but watching this movies was like the amalgamation of all the information I had collected about Kahlo. This movie stayed with me. Even though many good things happened in 2015, it was the saddest year of my life. In my experience when you are sad for a long long time, that sadness becomes something physical, like a pain. Like a pain through your spine, like a lump in your throat, like a migraine that no medicine can cure. In no capacity I am comparing my pain with that of Frida’s but as the year progressed, I started to identify with her more and more. I have wanted to write a blog about the movie or Frida Kahlo for a long time. But it seemed a daunting topic. But in the past few months I found myself going back to her work, specially her self-portraits again and again. I have never been that girl who uses others’ pictures as her profile photo or borrows fancy quotes to describe her feelings- because I always felt that was very pretentious. But somehow, I feel that I can identify with Frida.

In case of Frida, the more I learned about her life, the more I started to appreciate her work. Initially I thought her work was grotesque and violent. But now I feel that there was a lot of passion and depth in her paintings. In her works, some people notice only her uni-brow and moustache, some people see only pain, but I see irony and humor along with the pain that she felt. I think what draws me to her is that she was a fighter. Many incidents in her life could have diminished her spirit, like the crippling accident, the health issues, or Diego’s infidelities. But she was not crushed by anything. She reminds me that: Pain… is strength.

All photos are sourced from Google.

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Cats: Photos, Volunteering and Adoption

 

It has been a long time since I posted any pictures on my blog – which is surprising since I take a lot of photos everyday, also since that is primarily what I used to post in my blog for a very long time. So today I thought I will post some cat pictures on this website. Firstly, cats are undoubtedly the most popular animal on the internet, so I’m hoping this will bring in a lot of traffic to my blog. Secondly, I volunteer at this amazing place, The Cat House, in Lincoln, NE and they do an awesome job there, so I thought about giving them a little publicity. Finally, I get immense joy from volunteering. It releases my stress, makes me happy, I contribute to the society,  and most importantly, I get to bond with a lot of animals and get a love of love in return. I feel most fulfilled when I have spent a couple of hours there. So here are a few of the photos from the past month.

Me with a cat named Cuddles – absolutely adorable and what a poser! If you plan to take a lot of selfies with your cat then adopt this one 😀

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My room has a new inhabitant – Poof. He has amazing fur coloring and with that lion cut he looks especially exotic! If you don’t cuddle her immediately he comes up to you and demands it… if you  move on to cuddle another cat, he meows from the distance for a while, if you still don’t come over to him, he comes over. What an attention seeker! Very pet-able 😀

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This is Sally, like Poof, she too has a lion cut. I’ve seen her at the Cat House since last year when I first started volunteering. She has a mild skin infection and really picky about her food, I think that’s why she hasn’t got adopted yet, because with her sweet personality there can be no other reason.

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This is my favorite duo – Samual Jr. (got adopted recently) in the background and Daisy in the front. When Daisy came in this room for the first time, she was really shy, would not come out of her corner and hiss at any other cat who would pass by her. But two weeks later she and Sam were the best of buddies. I am sad that they didn’t get adopted together. Daisy is super warm with humans and she loves to get petted. She also headbutts you when she feels loved. She’s extra special and I really love her a lot!

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These are the new kittens on the block – born on 7 April 2014, these are the brother and sister duo Philly and Frannie. They are tiny kittens with lots of fluff, very human friendly and loves to get cuddled. But at the same time really well-mannered. Look how they posed when I asked them to… I fell in love!

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This is another of my favorite pair – mother, River (grey) and son, Sunny (orange). Sunny is really shy and wary of humans. I have been trying really hard to socialize her and have succeeded only a little bit in a few months, but I am not here for long and that kind of worries me. But The Cat House is a great place and I know she’s in good hands. River on the other hand is really sweet, friendly and photogenic and hence very popular on my instagram 🙂

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If you like these pictures then definitely go and check out the website for The Cat House. it is an amazing place. I have volunteered at other shelters before, but this is different from any of them. It’s a complete no-kill shelter; and once they take one in, if it does not get adopted, the cats are there for life. Unlike other shelters, the cats are not kept separated from each other inside small confinements; instead they match their personality with other cats and put them together in a single room. Each of the volunteers are assigned one room so that they really get to bond with all the cats in that room, and can spot if they are sick or not behaving normally for any reason. Often they try to get bonded pairs of cats to get adopted together. For example, the room i am assigned to had 6 cats and recently two of them – Mr. Ink and Samual Jr. got adopted together. Also all the cats pictured in this blog are available for adoption right now.

If you are looking for a cat I would suggest that at first you look at the shelters in town which does not have a no-kill policy, because these are the cats with the highest risk of getting euthanized. If you don’t find your cat there then you should look into places like these as you know that even if no one adopts them, they will be taken care for life. But personally I believe you should never compromise with the type and breed of pet you want just to be able to adopt from a certain place. If you are not happy eternally with your choice you might eventually end in returning the animal to the shelter once again. I have volunteered for only a couple of years and still I have seen that happen more number of times than you want. But adopting is a noble act as no matter what you are saving one life so I will always encourage adopting over anything else. Sometimes if the shelters does not have what you are looking for immediately when you are ready, you can wait a few weeks or months to see if that kind of animal becomes available.

Another thing I would like to point out, about adopting cats, is that it is always better to adopt an adult cat than small kittens. The adult cats have well-defined personalities, so you can pick one up that suits your requirements –  a cuddle buddy, an explorer, a love bug or a personal assistant! In fact, another place I volunteered at (Capital Humane Society) has a well-defined scientific cat classifier that you might be interested in checking out. Also most of the times adult cats are litter-trained and a great deal is already known about their activity levels, sociability and health. These information are always useful, especially for first time pet owners or for people who already have other animals at home.

Finally, whether you adopt from a kill shelter or a no-kill shelter you still open up place for another animal. So before you go buy animals, please consider adoption.