Reflections Off a Mural

At work are undergraduate students of the Azim Premji University.  What started off as a project exclusively undertaken by students of the mural-making course soon attracted many other students, and what we estimated will take two weeks, got done in one afternoon!

We spent a couple of classes planning the murals, mainly   What do we want to make? Why? How? Where? Preparing rough sketches. Planning out the proportions on the wall Deciding on the colours, and the quantity  that each colour will be required in. Purchases. Getting a sense of the strengths in the team; who can scale a sketch confidently on to a wall, who can paint well, who would rather work on small patches, who is in charge of ‘zooming out’ from time to time and ensuring everything is unfolding as per plan etc. etc.

Students were brimming with ideas from the word ‘Go!’ Ideas, ideas and some more ideas and then going back and forth on each one of those ideas up till the moment the paint started to be put on the walls…… and even after that! I witnessed students wondering, arguing, discussing, feeling confused and sometimes even frustrated  as they discussed “what all do we do, what exactly do we do, this can be done, and oh! that too, but this as well and all those other things too”.

Apart from supporting the groups with their mural plans, acquiring the required materials, soothing out an odd moment of panic in one of the groups, cleanliness and waste disposal, there was this other ‘thing’ we tried to be mindful of,  which was to ensure that we don’t miss the feverish, buzzing enthusiasm and the torrent of ideas engulfing us. I was wary of not letting this torrent just rattle through us / rattle us while leaving us unable to ultimately put anything up on the walls or half painted walls, at best!
I wondered how to work together with this large group so that the energy that was created wouldn’t just pass us by. How do we not watch it depart far into the horizon, leaving us spent and with nothing in our hands, emm, walls?
Amid all the incessant talk and jabber, and an outpouring of fantastic, wild ideas and all the inspiration and the inundating enthusiasm, I daresay, we succeeded in catching a little, albeit just the tail of it all, and what we could do is slowly showing up on the walls.
There it is, I thought, for all of us to see, the creative process with its accompanying exhilaration and agony.
I wonder if something similar happens when some of us write books or research papers or make music. I wonder if this happens when the students are coming up with ideas for their science projects, essays, or while expressing an idea through a sculpture or a dance piece etc.  Some of us are better at staying rooted amid a ‘storm’ of ideas and inspirations, such that we manage to do what is required of us.
An edited version of this piece appeared in the ARC Bulletin, March 2016, a newsletter of the Academic Resource Centre, School of Liberal Studies, Azim Premji University.

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