23 Sep

En Route, LD >>DY

Traveling between Leeds, a city I have come to know fairly well, and Derby, a slightly smaller city full of hidden treasures waiting to be explored, reminded me a lot of traveling between England and India. Although probably a tenth of the journey in terms of time or effort, the familiarity of going to a foreign place and contemplating it whilst in transit back to the known, brought back thoughts of Home. It seemed to re-evaluate this idea for myself. Maybe I must pry myself away from the known and delve into the unknown so as to better understand it. It is interesting to think that the theme of this residency really is a big conflicted question mark in my head. Something David said as we were walking through Derby that first day of the residency has been stuck in my head alongside the big question mark; “There are no bad answers, only better questions.” 

There are things you notice when you go somewhere new. The obvious ones, of course, are being able to find your own landmarks. Things that make you feel like the land is familiar. Things that make you feel like you know where you are going, even though you probably don’t.

Things that make you feel safe in the knowledge that you aren’t lost.

Then you start to look at the buildings; are they old or new? Tall and close together or small and spread out? What do the streets look like or the belly of an under-bridge? Is it lonely or vibrant? Coming into Derby station, it was about a 15-minute walk to the City Centre where the new Artcore building is located. The way there wasn’t a very complicated route only a few turns and crossings. The closer I got to the center, the more I started to notice the people and the pace of this city. 

I grew up in Bangalore, India which is home to 12.9512 million people, but I would say it is one of the more socially relaxed cities in India, for now anyway.  Although in comparison to England, Indian cities breathe and live chaos. Leeds reminds me of a small town fast on its way to becoming bigger, it’s pace quickening every year as the masses of students take over.  Whilst Derby although classified city had a very interesting pace and feel to it. Everyone seemed more at peace. I didn’t notice a single person rushing about looking hassled or late, but perhaps people from Derbyshire have incredibly good time management skills. There was something familiar about it but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it yet. 

The first day of exploring was quite exciting but also seems like a blur, new names and places that will soon become second nature. What I found quite interesting about Derby were the arrays of streets in the city center, every other one frequented by a busker playing their own eclectic style of music. From the man with his bucket drum set to the lady with her portable speaker, there was a range of street music to be found. What I found impressive were the people who had stopped on every other street to listen to their busker. There is something very insightful about a city that breeds people who can stop, step out of their bubble of existence and appreciate something with genuine interest. 

It reminded me of how the streets in India were never used just as a functional space to get from point A to point B, but rather a point of social access and gathering. The streets were where old men met around mid-day, having brought their own plastic chairs and sat in a row facing the traffic. The designated stereo man would blare old Bollywood music out on to the street from his battery-powered radio and they would watch the day and the cars go by. Occasionally they would argue, listen to the cricket or have a chai from the nearest tea shop, not far from their perch. 

I thought about this as I waited for my train back to Leeds, watching people be. Sitting on platform 1, facing all the other trains, a lady who was the station staff walked on to my platform where I assume she was waiting for our train to arrive. She waved across to her colleague on Platform 3 and my eyes followed her as he waved back. He was standing next to the guard, a younger-looking man, for the train going to Nottingham. They exchanged a few words I couldn’t quite catch. Then the guard hopped on to the train, said what I presumed was a funny joke and a farewell to his laughing friend on the platform. The train doors closed and just before it pulled out of the station, the guard in the train held his hands together like a namaste, bent down and bowed as though the station staff on the platform was his teacher and him a mere student, which maybe he was. As he disappeared forever, we locked eyes and I smiled at him across the expanse of the railway lines, and he smiled back. There was something so beautiful about not knowing them, not knowing what they said or why but just being able to see that intimate and homely exchange between friends. 

I think we forget to see. We get distracted with mundane day to day life and we forget to watch the stories of strangers all around us. We miss out on seeing the small things that make life and art in turn so preciously exciting. I think the next few months will be a  balance of finding the right questions for myself and this idea of home but also finding new ways of seeing, capturing and sharing the home that is all around us. 

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