The project started with the reading of Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’, a book which made me think about so many things in a different perspective. We then read a passage about a city called Isidora and tried to find the meaning behind it. We then rewrote that story and made our own visuals based on it. Then we picked out a passage of our choice and then worked with it throughout the duration of this project. As we moved forward we explored the deeper meaning behind Calvino’s text. I realized that all these descriptions written by him were more interconnected than I previously thought and understood how this talks about the various ways in which a mind of a person can work. There is an underlying reason for everything that happens in our life.
Even the passage that I chose, about a city called Esmeralda talks about the decisions and steps that we take affect our decisions in life. The way in which our future takes shapes is constantly changing as it depends upon the actions and decisions we take and thus the structure of it changes too. There are always multiple ways available to us to achieve our goals, but it depends on each individual person what they choose to achieve it.
When Italo Calvino talks about the city of Esmeralda as one of the travels of Marco Polo he describes it as a city containing a network of canals and routes so that the residents of Esmeralda never have to travel through the same routes every day to reach the same location. He also describes the invisible airy paths of the swallows that fly around the whole city.
I think that this text is a metaphor for all the choices and the decisions that we have to make in our life which influence our future. We all have our goals in life and even though our choices and decisions are influenced by a lot of things including the people surrounding us, the decision is finally ours and the responsibility of it too. To shape our life and form the structure of it, we move forward by making a decision from many options which further decides the path of the structure. These decisions can prove to be good or bad but at the time of choosing that option we always choose what is looks like the most convenient for us. There will always be some obstacle in our life but like the swallow, described darting down to gulp the mosquito and flying around as if fearless of the danger of the other predators shows how we should try to solve our problems instead of running away from them and live freely.
Wherever you go the ways that open up to you are many
It is for you to decide what to take
Whatever you may choose
It will never be the same
But there will always be a way
There will be ups and down
Sometimes you will feel restricted
Sometimes you will feel free
But you need to choose the right one and move forward
Because there will always be a way.
Esmeralda is a city which is built on water containing a web of cobbled streets and passages. The streets look huge and endless to my tiny feet as each path diverges into various other streets and passages. Not to mention the different turns that emerged out of nowhere while running on some street. All these routes look identical to each other and you have to take chances whenever you choose a path as any one of them can lead to the river flowing throughout the city.
There are only a few houses in sight with downward sloping red and brown roofs. Their huge balconies protruding out throw large shadows onto the streets giving shade from the burning sun. I can see some humans who I assume to be the residents of this city wearing light coloured clothes and straw hats. No one is looking down and paying attention to me which is strange as the sight of me makes them cringe.
A long time has passed since my arrival in Esmeralda but the sun shows no signs of setting and I need to feed my growling stomach. The next house that I shall come upon, I will search for something to eat. After a while I come across this huge white house and look up to see this giant door surrounded with potted plants. There is a pipe on the back wall of the house and i scramble inside it to find a way in the house. I start climbing up and finally come upon the ending of the pipe which opens up into the living room containing a huge sofa. I sniff around for food, being careful that the owner does not see me. I find my way to the kitchen where I find a piece of cheese and bread kept on the large brown coloured dining table. I nibble on the bread as quickly as I can with my tiny teeth and then I grabbed the piece of cheese and run out the way I came back in. The sun is still shining bright outside and a thought suddenly crosses my mind that maybe the sun never sets in Esmeralda.
Running through the streets I finish eating the piece of cheese and wonder to find the way out of the city. Suddenly a hole appears on the path I was running and I fall through it into the darkness. This is the time of confusion and I can’t understand what is happening. There is no light and all I could here were the sounds of moaning and groaning. The ground beneath my hands and feet feels rough and course. My nose is up in the air trying to sniff out the danger but all I could smell was the foul smell of sewage and wastage coming from nearby. I try to dodge that while running to find my way out. There is fear clogging in my throat and I know that there’s some danger in this place. Maybe there are some big animals for which I can become a food too. I could see human hands or feet or the scary eyes of a human face wherever light managed to pass through the darkness. High up into what I imagined was the ceiling I could see the holes but I could never find a something to climb up to it. I was afraid of being stuck here forever. After a while I got tired of running and my energy was running out. I chose a spot where there was a speck of light coming onto the ground. My eye lids were drooping shut and I thought that sleep was finally blessing me with its power of making the reality disappear for a while. I had a dream that I was up again in the sunlight and a giant bird flew down to pick me up gently and take me away to a place far away.
How does Marco Polo describe his cities?
Marco Polo starts with describing the location and the outer appearance of the cities. Some of the cities he describes are situated near the sea or the desert or they have lakes inside the city. He also describes the architectural elements of the city. Then when the some image of the city starts forming in your mind about the city he slowly delves into the smaller details of the city like how the people are, what they wear, what they do and how they behave. This sometimes can be completely different from what you had previously imagined the city as. In each description of the city he also describes one quality which is unique to that particular city.
What is the role that monuments play?
Monuments play a very important role in all the descriptions of the city. They give a sense of familiarity to the reader so that as they keep reading on they start making a connection. These monuments help visualize the descriptions of the cities that Marco Polo is giving. The monuments that can be listed in my city Esmeralda are the canals, streets, rooftops, the river, rooftops, underground sewers.
How does the Urban interact with the Natural?
The city that I have chosen is Esmeralda which is also known as the city of water. So the people in this city travel by canals or the streets. The swallows in the city fly over the rooftops connecting all the points of the city through their airy paths unseen to the human eye.
How do we distinguish between nature and man-made?
All the things that are man-made are always made from the elements that are obtained from the nature. Nature is not dependant on anything man-made while all man-made objects are dependent on nature in some or the other way.
The first time that I entered into the apartment that was going to become our home for the next 11 months; I felt this uneasiness in my heart. This was a usual feeling those days because I was shifting to Mumbai and there were all these huge changes going on in my life that time.
After finishing up the contracts and all the legal formalities for the apartment we got into the process of shifting all our stuff. We spent the whole day cleaning, dusting and arranging the whole place. I could however still not shake off that feeling. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to live here but at the same time I was excited to live by myself independently. In the evening there was just one box left for us to open and arrange its contents. We all had become pretty tired by then and the swiftness with which we had been working in the morning was definitely gone. My sister had been frantically searching for a dream catcher that was given to her by her friend, the whole time in all the boxes which we had got from her old apartment. Finally she found it with a squeal of delight on the bottom of this last box, wrapped carefully in a small bag. She hung it on a hook on the ceiling near the window where it kept swaying in the light breeze that was flowing at that time.
Somehow looking at the pretty colours of the dream catcher and the way the whole place had turned out, slowly my fear started disappearing and I felt some connection to the house. Six months later that fear is now a distant memory.