Courtesy the creative

We are the Lifeless by Madhubani Dutta

Visual Art

This project is aimed to bring back the focus on simple pleasures and findings in life that can restore mindfulness and harmony. During the pandemic, we were stuck in the house for months with no hope of what the future awaited and the only thought most of us had was freedom. The home provided us with the shelter we needed, the shelter of comfort and protection however the desperation to go out in the world was so extreme. We struggled to meet our loved ones, go on a picnic, enjoy a toastie at a local cafe or go shopping. The news said it could take weeks for the lockdown to be lifted as COVID cases were multiplying rapidly. And so were mental health, depression and anxiety issues. People felt stranded and locked in their safest havens.

I realised that the repercussion of the pandemic made people unsee the many things in and around our house that constantly thrives in making our lives happy and comfortable. Every corner of our homes has a story to tell, every piece of decoration we have installed has a process of planning behind it, every random object narrates a memory and every part of that favourite pillow moulds towards ensuring a good night's sleep. And yet we complained and complained that it was getting impossible to stay home.

This photography project captures the untold stories of the many objects that our home contains and inspires the audience to take a moment and cherish the voices of the lifeless world and their relationships with its residents. We often forget to value what we have and understand what matters; we tend to focus on what we don't have and forget to embrace the existence of big-little items around the house that make us feel at home.

What would our rooms look like without these items? What if you wake up and find those objects vanished from the shelf? What if they just walk away from your life because you didn’t care enough?

Abhaya Mudra - A symbolic gesture of fearlessness, protection and peace

Abhaya means fearlessness in Sanskrit and Mudra symbolizes peace, protection, and the act of beating the fear. When she woke up in the morning and realised that the world is still fighting, people are still struggling and the virus wouldn’t leave them alone for a long time, she looked at her mirror and said, “you can really do it”. She has been getting treatment for anxiety for a while now but every time she decides to get better, the world fails her. She chanted to herself a famous quote by Swami Vivekananda, the iconic spiritual leader and philosopher of India, “all the powers in the universe are already ours.” She decided to take a few minutes and start the morning by reading a few pages from that book. She then closed her eyes and made the sacred hand gesture and resorted to deep meditation.

Fika - A moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life

That phone call was the last thing she expected. She was already having the worst day of her life – her car broke down in the middle of the road, her kids were unwell, she had no help and then she received a phone call only to be informed that all her shifts have been dismissed for the week. She needed the money and had no clue how she’ll manage; she wanted to call her manager but didn’t have the mood for it. She is a single mother, and this is the last thing she needed. Her mum is in the hospital, and she can’t trust anyone else to look after the kids. Oh! life is horrible, she thought. She fiddled through her tote to get her puffer out, she was sweaty, panicky, and dizzy. As she searched through the pockets, a little something touched her fingers – a laminated bookmark that her son had made for her first Mother’s Day! She stared at it and wondered if she ever took a pause and counted her blessings - because there would be so many. She put on some makeup, cleaned up the toy room, made breakfast for the kids and sat down with a new idea – she’s going to start a business!

Kaizen - Philosophy of continuous improvement and becoming 1% better every day

If only she could say that she’s trying, trying a lot. If only she could say that everyday is different for her and loneliness makes her struggle like no other. Her therapist gave her some exercises to practice but she just doesn’t feel the urge to leave her bed and go do something. She had a difficult childhood and is dealing with a break-up; her mum passed away a week ago and she has since developed a drinking problem.

She wanted to call her therapist and tell him that it’s not working. She checked the time, it was 2pm and she was still in bed! The doorbell rang, but she didn’t order anything…

She opened the door and found a box of crayons and markers with a note on it, “I know you are going through a lot so I won’t come in until you want me to. Here’s something to add some colour to your life, get creative. Remember, one step at a time - Love Dad”

Meerak - A feeling of bliss and sense of oneness with the universe that comes from simple pleasures and pursuits

She never though she could be good at anything. Her sister was a chef, her brother was a successful banker, and she still doesn’t even have a proper career. She is overweight, have no savings and the last job at the warehouse gave her nothing but nightmares and backpain. She has stopped seeing her friends, haven’t called her parents for weeks and only wished that she could go back to her country forever. But she can’t. She’s worried she’ll be looked down upon and now she has nowhere to escape.

She decided to take a walk. On her way to the creek, she noticed a man perched on a plank patiently waiting for his first catch. “Uncle Hwan used to take me to the trout farm every weekend”, she recalled. And then she remembered how she would come home and cook a meal together with him every Saturday. Why don’t I cook anymore? she asked herself.

She walked back home as fast as she could, cooked with whatever she found in the fridge, took some random shots of the smoking hot fries and soups, and wrote her first blog that night.

Presented as part of MAV’s Ahead of the Curve program.

Supported by The Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.