When hobbies take wing

When hobbies take wing
My Japanese colleague is close to 60, bubbling with energy and has a unique hobby. Whenever she has some free time, she sits in a corner of the staff room and tries to create origami shapes and figures with discarded sheets of paper. Fumie, as we fondly call her, taught Japanese but I have never seen her wasting her time, either texting on her phone or engaging in mindless gossip near the water cooler. Once she jokingly asked me, “Don’t Indians have hobbies,?” “Hmm they do,” I quipped. “Has it got something to do with having time to do something or finding time to do what we enjoy?” I didn’t have a better answer to give my Japanese colleague, nevertheless it got me thinking.

A hobby is an activity or an interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation. It is something that can occupy us for hours together, and psychologists believe it is the best thing for a person’s overall well-being. From collecting shells, bells, postcards and wedding invitations to learning music, knitting, sewing, baking, photography and calligraphy — hobbies can be as varied as a man’s imagination.

As a child, I remember rummaging through the paper bins in my dad’s office to find that one valuable stamp for my stamp collection and burning the midnight oil practically every night to finish my embroidery or to write poetry. Where did that fire go? Did time and age douse those pleasures?

As more and more people realise that hobbies can make their lives worthwhile, they are beginning to take up simple tasks that give them great pleasure. Much like the brakes that could be a life saver in this accelerated life of ours, a hobby can give us a much needed break in our lives. People often wonder if it is worth the effort to pursue a hobby and create something with our own hands? Yes! Undoubtedly, say researchers. “In our pursuit to finding the worth of a hobby and appending a price tag to everything that we do, we forget the wonders it could do for a sense of well-being.” As Padmaja, a young mother who loves knitting, says, “The level of satisfaction I get when I knit a sweater for my daughter is way greater than buying a sweater at a lower price from a store.”

Therapeutic touch

“Hobbies are therapeutic because they help us to ‘switch off’ and at the same time, they meet our desire to be productive. In our modern-day society, it has become the norm to think that we should always be ‘busy’. Being busy has somehow become a measure of our worth, much to the detriment of our well-being,” says Betsan Corkhill, well-being coach and founder of Stitchlinks, a non-profit global support network for taking advantage of the stress-relieving benefits of crafts. She uses knitting as a therapy to create a sense of happiness in her clients.

Frank Raj is an editor of a magazine who enjoys writing prose and poetry in his spare time. “Every morning, we receive 86,400 seconds. Much of this time is squandered and we don’t even realise it. Poetry and prose help me fill those gaps in the day that would otherwise be wasted. I have published a book of 101 poems by snatching precious seconds, here and there.”

Crafts have often come to the rescue of people suffering from depression or loneliness. Devi Rao took to sewing and knitting seriously when she lost her husband at a young age. It kept her busy and helped her gain the confidence to raise her children single-handedly. Deepika Rai, another young woman says, “When my dad passed away and we got busy with work, my mom grew more and more weak and silent. One day, I handed her a drawing book and a few pencils as she was good at making rangolis. Drawing designs proved to be therapeutic and somehow it brought a smile back to her face.”

Age no bar

Having ‘no time’ to pursue a hobby is no longer a valid excuse. Researchers have found that people who have hobbies or take time to pursue them, end up being more efficient than those who don’t have any. Today, there is a growing tribe of hobbyists who have taken up a hobby later in life, even at the age of 70.

Haroon Khimani is one of them. Today, this octogenarian is busy with his painting exhibitions in India and the US. He finds his muse in collapsed structures and in both man-made and natural disasters. He resumed his love for painting after a gap of 30 years and after he was more financially stable. He now believes that art has no age. “Painting has given me a new lease of life, a rebirth,” he says, adding, “Painting engages my mind creatively and constructively. It has been a scintillating experience. I feel 30 years old again. I wish more and more people take up hobbies seriously, as it could rectify many modern-day maladies.”

Ever imagined what Warren Buffet and P Lakshmaiah of Mehbubnagar have in common. Both are hobbyists who, after a long day of work, devote time to what they love the most. Buffet plays the ukulele, while Lakshmaiah goes hunting for currency notes and coins of different countries.

Nothing can be more distressing than pushing ourselves every morning to do something that we utterly hate. Hobbies can bring the much needed respite.

Haroon feels that our biggest social problem is that old people do not take up any hobbies and would rather waste their time. “No one should believe that he or she is old,” he says. “Time works on its own as age advances, but our mental status must be intact.”
Poonam Kakkar, who teaches art adds, “Adults need to take up hobbies for a healthier outlook towards life, especially when loneliness starts taking its toll.”

It’s never too late to start, but start we must. Gopika Satish, who studies horoscopes, took up the hobby five years ago. She is proficient in Sanskrit too, and is all set to get a degree in her studies in the golden jubilee year of her life.

Forget logic

When Nitin Mallpaur was introduced to the camera, he did not know that one day he would end up owning 18 of them, some dating back to the World War era. Talk to him about lenses and pixels and the conversation never seems to cease. Such is his passion for photography that he dedicates an entire day every week, trying to tell stories through his black and white images as he uses only analogue cameras. But why would he do this in this age of digital cameras? “I don’t take but make pictures,” he replies. “The kind of personal touch that an analogue camera manages to give us is one that a digital one fails to achieve. The play of light and shadow in a black and white image is way deeper than a coloured one.”

Divya Jayanth is an ardent fan of charcoal portraits. “Even though I create only black and white images, my work catches the attention of people as the portraits look realistic,” she observes.

Anita Rani, another young artist, creates wonders on her canvas using coffee powder, beans and instant coffee. “The challenge is to make a coffee painting as beautiful and special as a coloured one,” she says. “Art has made me organised, consistent, passionate and creative.”

Wild, original & unique

Ramashish Ray made his first telescope when he was just 15 years old by using a discarded pipe and lenses borrowed from a lens maker. Today, he is a Physics major with an MBA from IIMC. He has worked in India, Singapore and Finland. Eventually, he set up an observatory in the Himalayas. “Hobbies linked to nature have kept me grounded in the urban jungle,” he says. “I haven’t allowed my childhood passions and hobbies to die out.” When not star gazing, he indulges in wildlife photography. His wife Kaveri Ray, on the other hand, is an avid birdwatcher. She can identify more than 100 species of birds.

Not everyone pursues a hobby just for fun. A young ikebana enthusiast, Deepika Wadhwa began pursuing a hobby of creating beautiful floral decor, which has now turned into a flourishing business. Her floral design studio specialises in offering beautifully designed flower arrangements for hotels, offices and homes.

Room for improvement

Hobbies make us a better people by helping us fight our inner demons. Sohini Bagchi is a brown belt in karate, who practises kicks and punches on a regular basis. “I started learning karate in 2013. I was only looking for a change from my mundane tasks after office work and some way to charge myself up. I signed up for a free karate lesson and within an hour, I was hooked,” she recollects.

Buvana Raman had always loved the science behind ancient herbal medication. She decided to study this further, and her hobby takes her to some of the remote villages of Himachal Pradesh. Today, she is a popular practioner of herbal medicine and many turn to her for help.

Beat the stress

“Modern-day stress can build up insidiously in the background, and we don’t even realise that it is doing so,” explains Corkhill. “When stress levels are perpetually high, your body’s natural healing system is turned down. It is vital for our health and well-being that we manage our stress on a daily basis.”

Some artists like Sudha Venkat and Ashwini Mallapur have taken up Warli and Madhubani painting, and have dedicated an hour everyday to their love for these artforms. “It keeps me away from my phone,” says Sudha, while Ashwini feels like she is being transported to a different world devoid of negative thoughts. “Zentangle, which is the art of creating images by drawing structured, repetitive patterns is next on my list,” says Sudha.

It is interesting to note how a hobby can make a huge difference to the quality of life and how it can open new vistas too. Having won the young musician of the year award for playing the piano, Meagan Pandian need not have taken up any other instrument. But when she discovered the harp a few years ago, she found that a new world had opened up for her. “My life would have been different if I had stayed a pianist,” says Meagan, who is now a professional harpist too.

So, don’t wait for the perfect time to find a hobby. Grab the right one and it can change your life in more ways than you can imagine.
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