Talk with Dr. Lata Mani-Reflections

Neha Bhat:

Dr.Lata Mani’s emphasis on the body being  an indicator of emotion, thought and wordly intelligence in ways deeper and more reflective than the mind conditioned by what we perceive through the brain is what has entered my thought process and seems to be starting its own thread of thought. The latter, especially since we have been dealing with a great amount of thinking through our bodies in the last week and a half.

The mind is certainly what you cannot see while the body is the immediate visual clue. Hence, it is certainly strange that society has come to elevate thought and perception as compared to sight in ways that have certainly come to influence what we believe and why.

This stream of thought has somehow come to center my four week experience largely around the body and what it says.

It makes me come back to what I realised in Deepak’s class – If any body- male or female be perceived as just a body, then any form of dressing -male of female will be just a cloth- a cover to that body, and that leads me to the root of a hundred social and lingual connotations that complicate the structure of our lives.

Tanvee Nabar:

The discussion was riddled with debate. It was intense and eye-opening.

One of the concepts that have stayed with me is that of all Events are Causes. I.e even an Effect, is a cause as on an infinite timeline an effect will cause another event which will be the cause of a new effect.

Another one is the idea that to really experience a place u need to be there fully  and to fully understand it you must look at it through the diffrent perspectives of mind, body and heart – i take this as analatycial self, emotional self and physical self.

The idea of innate body wisdom captivated my imagination. Its kind of connects itself to this idea that is part of the idea of reincarnation that the ’soul’ comes with a lot of innate knowledge. Ofcourse these are very diffrent concepts rooted in very diffrent ideologies, but this idea of innate knowledge is very intresting.

Also the tool of questioning your ‘ofcourse’ responses i think will be very helpful in the coming weeks as well as in the long term , in terms of research and in just having a more unprejudiced approach to anything.

The tendency that humans live often trying to transcend existence is something i feel i really need to think about.

Pooja Gupta:

After a numerous amount of debating, something that has stayed with me is the “appearance of choices”. What exactly are choices, do they actually exist and if yes, to what extent ? These questions kept my attention. The fact that choices are not “real” and that every so called “choice” today has the same destination. For example, each individual may buy a different model of car but they all have to ultimately halt the car in the parking space which is the same for any kind of car.

What also interested me was how you can see different views in terms of the mind, body and soul. It seemed to me like they worked as different levels of consciousness for us and help and see and feel different individually.

The method of constantly questioning one self’s every step i think will help us increase awareness of our thoughts to a level more. I think it will help us also with our projects now and in the future and find more reason for everything we do. This will possibly help us is noticing and looking at things which we otherwise would not notice or consider trivial when it is probably not.

The discussion was very thought provoking and really helpful to all of us at the end of the day.

Saumitra Chandratreya:

The discussion started with reading “trash” and then it took some very beautiful turns like Lata Mani’s life and also the whole thing about sacred and secular. Now it was very difficult to write down each every point that she was making while guiding that discussion through.

So following are the thoughts that remain with me now…..

there was this issue that was raised in that discussion about how whatever information we receive should be subjected to contemplation. It can save lot of errors that our mind makes when we write off  some one or some things and also it can save us from the embarrassment that we have to face after the truth comes to surface. Itis just not useful in such situations but when we put the information under check it also  reveals alot of different perspectives, which otherwise we fail to look into or look from and also it helps us understand the issue much better. It ias also seen that when we contemplate on something we ourselves know the issue or information better.

Then i asked a question about Secularism being a lifestyle. It looks like it is. I mean a certain class in Indian society atlest can only afford to be seccular and i don’t just mean secular by religion but can have a purely secular lifestyle. In this case i mean secular to be non biased. So this means secular can have a lot of meanings and attributes attached to it. These attributes can be anything like a bias. This also makes me think on is there a difference between secular thibking and secular living or a secular lifestyle. Well on a surface yes there is. I sometimes think that secular living can not be achieved by living in this material world and not many of us perform what we think. I am saying this is because the life is so difficult for some people in India that they can not help but do anything for survival.

Kinshuk Surjan:

Dr.Lata Mani offered me new glasses-sometimes I look through them

It surprises me why for a couple of moments I could not remember anything rather I have memories of me being completely immersed in the discussion. Maybe I can term that discussion almost similar to an experience/incident so overwhelming that mind knows about its occurrence but hardly remembers what it encountered. Strange and complex are the ways by which mind and body function

Consciously rearticulating responses of “mind, body and heart” can lead to building up of new vistas and insights into the unconsidered. Awakening up to a kind of a awareness that will help in understanding and appreciating matter in a fuller sense. But how do you classify a response as conditioned/conscious or unconditioned/natural?  It seems that this knowledge comes gradually by itself as awareness about conditioned and natural develops with practice of reconsideration.

Examining a subject with different perspectives reveals a whole new world of interconnected relationships. Lata Mani gave one such example. Our aversion from trash when examined through social, cultural, historical lenses exposes cause and effects at micro and macro levels. This aversion from trash reflects our cultural disdain from body and matter, the belief that value rests in function, our practice of alienation and discrimination by building up our own notions of hierarchy, social prejudice faced by labour class, the way first world treats  third world countries .

this way of observing profoundly challenges our sensibilities of” that’s how it is” which is often built without seeking any reason.

Also, observing beauty in the ordinary, in visual as well as ritual sense.

Much more has stayed with me than written here, which hopefully would be triggered and utilised during my project.

Prerna Bishnoi:

A Talk to Remember

Having read Aesthetics of Display I had a good idea that Lata Mani was going to be someone I could learn a lot from. The truth is I had no idea what was in store. The discussion was overwhelming. It was more than I ever imagined. Although I thought of it as a complete overdose of thoughts, ideas, beliefs and view points, today sitting a week later to write and reflect on that day I can’t believe the knowledge that I thought was going way over my head has stayed  with me (at least some of it).

I always knew that every individual thought differently yet there was a similarity among certain individuals. I became aware of the fact that there is a particular way in which I think, my opinions are formed but I never quite understood why? It was the first time I actually became aware of the term “conditioning” and applied it to my life. When I think about it, my life is similar to that dog’s life (not to be degrading) in Pavlov’s experiment on conditioning. I have lived on certain kind of food, environment, and people, reacted to and observed certain behaviour- actions and reactions more importantly my responses have been reinforced. Hence I am constructed.

Another interesting concept is naturalized response. The conditioned responses become so ingrained that one no longer identifies them as conditioned or constructed. Instead it becomes one’s natural response.

For me, sitting in Srishti, I feel like I am unlearning. I am becoming aware of the fact that a lot of my responses are conditioned. That awareness itself is pushing me in the direction of unlearning. I am now conditioning myself to question, research, and look at things from different perspectives. I now understand my surroundings. I understand people in a particular setting of society. For example when I became the vegetable vendor and had to be invisible this behaviour to question and observe everything around me made me stand out in that space, for the women vendors there neither engaged in answering nor questioning people. It just seems like these women have accepted their surroundings for what it is. I feel that conditioning involves a strong feeling of acceptance.

Another thought that stuck with me is thinking from the head, heart and body. I knew that the heart has an opinion but I always thought it was my head doing the talking for the heart. I feel that for the heart to start thinking I need to realise for myself the difference between my head and heart. But what I do understand is the body doing the thinking, to just let your body receive and react to the environment. An interesting statement that Lata Mani made was that “the body is the most unconditioned self.”

When I touch something with my hand my body doesn’t have any preconditions. My body senses things as they are. So in a way thinking through the body is the most naturalized response. But I also feel that thinking in general should involve all three- the head, the heart and the body together. However all this is easier said than done but at least her talk has made me sensitive to the world of thinking.


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