It was an odd experience – to get to know someone for the first time virtually but it turned out be convenient too. I felt the experience removed all biases that kick in when you meet people physically.
I started talking to Elham on the weekend right after I wrapped up my day at work. Over our three calls that went on pretty late sometimes I discovered an individual with shared histories yet alternate perspective of the world. She was a person who was very well ware of where she came from and associated her identity with very closely with the history of her land while I defined my existence in the context of the nomadic life I have lived since the last 8 years.
I documented our conversations using emojis because note taking while talking doesn’t allow me to be fully present in a conversation. I tried to use no words and just graphics (think of them as modern day pictographs) to map our conversations.
On our first day we started with both of us pointing out and taking about our place on the globe. She spoke about her city Tehran in Iran and a little about her house where she stays with her husband and parents. When I introduced my current city (New Delhi, India) I could see her face light up on the screen. She pointed me to the fact that despite being on different landmasses we actually have a very rich shared history – geographically and culturally. This conversation piqued my curiosity to know more about our common rulers, combined cultures and ancestors. I realised during the interaction that my way of associating my identity was not oriented towards history but more towards the present. We ended day 1 on a lighter note with each of us exchanging music from our countries and a line up of movies to watch. The most valuable takeaway though was the curiosity that I was left with. To read more about my homeground and my city.
Day 2 started with a trip down the memory lane. I stumbled upon some photos of me as a child and my family. Although I had seen them so many time before, walking Elham though my childhood and high school memories took me back to the time when I had decided to pursue art and design and had drawn my first stick figure. Elham’s photo montage was from her wedding celebrations and a lot of the customs she showed me were very close to what we have in an Indian wedding. Post that, continuing using photographs as a medium, we walked each other through our commercial and creative practice. Her work in fashion brought up the long lost memory of my teenage when I had crafted a logo for my own fashion/design label in 10th grade. We also briefly touched upon our love for food and discussed what stands out for us in our cuisines. This interaction made me see how we were two different women cut out from the same cloth. We mapped out the things our identity was actually made up – values, beliefs, career choices, emotions, principles, interests, talents, dreams and finally our physical features. It was interesting to note how we define our identity by prioritising some of these building blocks more than the others. For example both of our home grounds and identities have a lot to do with our careers as opposed to the other things on our identity map. I decided to explore further how this map could be translated to defining the identity of not just a human but even our creative undertakings.
On the final day – we showed each other our immediate surroundings and talked about our families. I really liked this particular conversation because it was heartwarming to consciously revisit the connection we have with our original home and people we live with. Elham’s comfort in her space made me face my own discomfort. The videos she shared with me did not seem very different to my own surroundings despite both of us being in different countries. I had just moved back in with my parents and was feeling lost. My home ground is in a constant state of change. It’s not related to the land I dwell upon as much as it is influenced by the memories. This conversation made me realise that it was in my hands to turn around my discomfort into a comfortable space by creating new memories and give a try to making this new space my own.