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Ok-ish by lam duan

The piece is titled “Ok-ish". It is a kind of modern epistle. A note or letter composed as a series of text messages – the medium of our times. (It is interesting how these days, some of our deepest inner currents are typed out in the generic text message format.) 'Ok-ish' is my attempt to make sense of and share my own inner world as it jostles against the chaos of the outer one during this pandemic.

Visually composed in a clinical, almost boring starkness, the messages in 'Ok-ish' are the kind that one would share with a loved one in a private moment of reflection or distress. Written in the tone of a confessional – it expresses things that I struggle with. It is deeply personal and honest, and notably, there are no attempts to sound upbeat. The sentences are written in a semi poetic ramble, like most navel-gazing text-conversations. We often make sense of our own narratives while saying them to others.

Why this feels relevant

As the number of positive cases rise, the Covid-19 pandemic envelops another year. The stress of coping with the fallout is immense on the individual. Things feel painfully congruent to last year. Levels of burnout, stress and depression among people are on the rise. In this moment, inner comfort is scarce.

In a time like this, to read a quiet account of another’s inner world may provide respite from the news on a news website. A kind of anti-news that is in its own way, still important news.

Throughout history, diary entries and letters exchanged between people have come to be an important source of alternative history. This piece is an open letter, an offer of my own reality to others – to offer solace. Intentioned to facilitate the feeling one gets on hearing an honest expression of another’s complex inner world. It is also to create for myself a moment of quiet catharsis. Additionally, it is a response to the feeling of being checked-up on, being asked, ‘are you ok?’ and wanting to, for once, give a real account of what one is feeling. Instead of the generic thumbs up. In these times of isolation, here is a public sharing of sorts.

“Art can do the opposite of glamorizing the unattainable; it can reawaken us to the genuine merit of life as we’re forced to lead it.” says the pop philosopher Alain de Botton. Though in his quote, I would change ‘merit’ to ‘complexities’ for my purposes. In this quote I find some of the relevance of this piece. As an artist, I find myself in a space where I’m unable to be creative this year – this bare piece is an acceptance of that too.

About the artist: I am an artist based in Bangalore. Last year my piece ‘In the Soil, a Tree’ was published on Scroll's website. Other published work: my story 'Hills and Stones' based on an oral history interview with a Likhai craftsman Gangaramji, was published by Yoda Press in 2016 as a part of the 'First Hand: Graphic Non-Fiction from India' anthology.


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