Pause;

Waterfalls in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, Australia
Waterfalls in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, Australia

As cascading rains,
savour life’s seeping moments—
a step at a time.

Goes both ways

I often talk about what it means for me to write. To be able to translate the wrangling mess of confusion bubbling on the surface of my mind, to put it down on paper or screen, bare. To rid myself of that pressure, so intense that it sears my being every time I postpone writing. It’s a privilege to have the freedom and capacity to sit down and ball up all that thoughts into a form that could hit people, make them pause, muse, smile, relate, and even change their minds.

In a way, creating art is such a selfish act. I write because I want to spew out ideas galloping in my head. I expose part of myself when I write, and I do so willingly, deliberately, consciously choosing and trying to achieve the emotion I wish to impart.

In other words, artists often create art to satisfy themselves and their egos.

What of the consumer, though?

Graffiti in Melbourne

Browsing through photographs from Melbourne, I came across one of a graffiti. It was at one of the many infamous graffiti alleyways of the city. And on it was a piece of advice you’d least expect to receive from an overcrowded wall. Free your mind, it said. As if it knew that despite wandering around town ecstatic at the experience of exploring a new city, I was processing angst and fear. Although I was in the moment, taking in the beauty that sprawled around me, inhaling the chemical scent of rebellion splashed across the walls, I still had other things in mind. Some of those were important things but most menial—like where I’d go next or what I’d get for dinner afterwards. And as if it knew the meaningless banter cantering through my head.

It wasn’t new. I’d heard the same words many times in various places. And yet, that work of art spoke to me. Waking me, throwing me off of everything I could’ve hoped for.

That’s what art does to the consumer.

Art, when delivered at the right time to the right person, becomes a conversational medium. The creator doesn’t need to intend to self-satisfy, but instead to share, inform, and educate.

That’s when art transcends personal involvement, transitioning into a commitment to convey something to society. From being what the artist feels, it becomes what they want you to feel.

Tea or coffee?

“Er—”

As a lover of both, it’s one of the biggest dilemmas I face in a gathering. Most people are either tea drinkers or coffee fanatics. I understand that. However, I come from a long history of tea estate owners and workers who used to wake up to the decadent smell of dewy tea leaves outside their windows, and who washed down their morning carbohydrates with a steaming pot of black tea. To say I’m a tea lover is like saying the Joker is eccentric. It’s moot.

That said, I also partly come from a society that relies on the laxative power of coffee to kickstart their day and metabolism. A hot cup of flutter coffee infused with sugar and milk is the stable beverage of a typical south Indian household.

And so when choosing one, I struggle like a mother being forced to choose between husband and child. While the former leads to the discovery of the other, the other only increases her passion for the first.

I like tea. I like coffee. And I always struggle to choose between the two.

So for a long time, I made a compromise in such a way that I give both of them equal importance in my life. Instant black coffee served as the first dregs of fuel for my engine, kicking off the day, whereas a cup of tea became my standard breakfast. Afternoons were dedicated to either lemon tea or black filtered coffee, depending on the weather, while the other one became my regular dinnertime beverage. Some days lemon tea went with lunch and some days with dinner. Either way, I was sure to get enough of both in a day.

Then I went to Melbourne for the first time, the coffee capital of Australia. It offered me some of the best-tasting coffees I’ve had in my life. Not to mention affordable, even in the central business district (CBD). However, that wasn’t the most noteworthy thing about Melbourne. Aside from the impeccable coffee, I discovered a strange thing called dirty chai.

Dirty chai with cinnamon topping - Melbourne

One of my American colleagues (who was visiting Australia) introduced me to the miracle that is the dirty chai. I had no idea that you could mix tea and coffee and end up with a concoction so addictive and mesmerising that it’s unbelievable it’s not more prevalent.

Yet, there it was—a simple brew of stewed tea leaves and a shot of espresso, melded to create a beverage that not only thrills the tastebuds but also satisfies, satiates, the penduluming soul of the tea-coffee lover.

It’s one of the many reasons to love Melbourne. It has such good coffee that it transforms a plain chai into a dirty chai that you’d love to cuddle between your palms, taking in one of the world’s best fusion creations.

The small Tudor village

Art finds countless ways to make history. When in Melbourne, attending a work conference, I managed to wander into the Fitzroy Gardens. It’s a massive nature haven with a 150+ year history. What’s more, it’s in the heart of the city, making the city far more prone to desirable infection from beautiful greenery, flora, and thousands of chirping birds.

Part of Melbourne’s charm, aside from its century-old Victorian architecture and artisan coffee, is that everything has a history worth remembering—or trying to remember.

To appreciate how deeply history and art are embedded in Melbourne’s lifestyle, I had to see the Tudor Village.

Tudor Village in Fizroy Gardens, Melbourne

Among the many historical elements in the Fitzroy Gardens, The Tudor Village is a piece of art and a gift from a British artist. Mr. Edgar Wilson was 77 and lived in Norwood, London when he made villages as a hobby. Modelled in cement, the Tudor Village is one of his three works and is a miniature replica of an English village during the Tudor period.

It took me a while to notice them, but the village comprises of thatched cottages, a church, school, hotel, a barn, and all the public buildings you’d expect in a self-sufficient small town. Even the architectural elements were precise to that period.

The Tudor Village, however, isn’t just any gift. It was a symbol of gratitude to the city of Melbourne for sending food to Britain during the Second World War.

It’s such a great icon in the gardens. There I was in Victorian Melbourne, dropping my jaw at an ancient Tudor-period village.

If you visit Melbourne, stop by the gardens. There’s plenty more to see as well.

Seeing nothing

Art is seeing things no one else does. From nothingness comes beauty and a stream of endless creativity.

Street art in Melbourne

I came across this piece of work in one of the many alleyways in Melbourne. Like most of the graffiti there, it was insightful and stunningly beautiful. But it was more than just eye candy. It made me stop and stare. Even after browsing through countless alleys and numerous shades of black and brown and everything else in between, after taking photos from all angles that my camera could twist into without losing its stamina, this art stopped me in my tracks.

It was powerful because, unlike most art you see on a daily basis, it stood out in a different way. It requires the viewer to look at it from a certain point of view. From close by, the art is nothing but a bunch of oddly stuck pieces of paper with strange ink marks. From close by, it’s easy to assume it a worthless waste of space. You have to be far enough looking into the art to see it for what it is. You have to have a mind and eye open enough to entertain the possibility of blending a physical product with a patchwork figurine. 

And that’s what good art does to you. It makes you consider aspects you’ve never considered before, see visions you’ve never envisioned before, and feel emotions you’ve never thought you were possible of feeling.

Art forces you to become aware of what’s around you, in such a way that you start sensing the wetness of the dense air that hangs right above your shoulders, like a ghost’s arm, invisible but so clearly present.