Why Oct-O-Ber is Our Black Eyed Girl

Why Oct-O-Ber is Our Black Eyed Girl

Swara Bhaskar’s incisive questions through art plus why Oct-O-बर matters. Community over individualism, moss as mentor, sex films to love and other ways to find yourself.

“For artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet arrived is what must be found. It is the job of artists to open doors, invite in prophesies…unknown, unfamiliar,” writes Rebecca Solnit in her poetically philosophic book The Field Guide to Getting Lost. “Scientists too live on the boundary of the unknown, but they haul it in like fishermen, (while) artists get you out into the dark sea,” she adds.

This Oct-O-बर edition as TVOF terms it, is not exactly our version of the September issue, the blue-eyed girl of fashion magazines, yet it is special. It is a guide to finding yourself in ideas and action through guided navigations by science and art. It is about change and transition, about fashion’s colour cards that move from ochre to orange, ecru to moss green, rusted maroon and make meaning together as “autumnal”. It is also about audacity, the light of which acquires a certain warm, muted-brightness only in October. But this audacity we nudge is not only in imagination. The bumper roll of “Being beyond Buying”—the tagline of this edition isn’t just a daisy chain of smart words. It brings you people who have experimented with these tricky treks in life and art. Experiments in fashion, film, literature that have succeeded even as they remained critical of the dominant narrative.

Who better than Swara Bhasker, the Hindi cinema actor to be on the cover of this edition? Her new film Jahaan Chaar Yaar rolled out recently, but Bhasker is among us especially because she is an intelligent thinker, a persuasive, bright actor and a straight talker who wants to ask uncomfortable questions, as she says, through art. That though is hardly the sum total of who she is. Listen to her speak to Sohini Dey in the video interview Ideas Without Fear, where she sparkles without being defined by the urge to please everyone who is watching her.



For the bumper list that forms the rest of the edition, I invited the editorial team to write short pieces on ideas, clothes, movies, books, social media constructs, business bursts, tools of beauty or health from the industry of restoration that had moved them in some way. Whether this jostling of the self was soft or it crackled like dry twigs in autumn.

Paramita Ghosh’s recommendation of a book titled Embroideries is not about needles and thread. Ektaa Malik exhales a FOMO sigh on missing out Navratris in childhood. Snigdha Ahuja tells you her small tale of big finger rings and Shubham Ladha argues why Twitter is trending for fashion updates above Instagram. There is also an endearing video story of Shampa Sarkar, a cook in a Delhi household, who is learning to be a makeup artist.

I made my list, while gazing out from my sunlight-dressed room in a Tuscan farmhouse ten days back. This was at a residential training course in narrative psychotherapy. It is conducted by two senior American professors of the discipline who invite a multi-cultural group of therapists to work together every year in the walled, small, medieval hill town of San Gimignano in Italy.

Here are a few entries from that list.



“Madam, I had to sell that sari for money, but I wish I could keep it for myself,” said a male rural weaver at a crafts bazaar in Delhi.

The Emotional Value of Labour: “Madam, I had to sell that sari for money, but I wish I could keep it for myself—maine pyaar aur kala ke saath banaayi thi. Yeh sari lockdown mein mere dhairya ka sabut thi.” (I had made it with love and skill. This sari is a proof of my patience during the lockdown). These are the words of a male rural weaver I met at a crafts bazaar in Delhi. It left me with a sense of loss—because never before I had wondered or calculated the emotional value of labour, in craft or well, construction work. I hung my head in remorse but will always remember what something ‘costs’ the maker beyond its selling price.

Moss as Guru: It is hard to stop moss from re-growing unless you completely change the condition of the land or mountain, the environment, the climate where it is found. It is persistent, it can be resurrected in a laboratory even 400 years after it was entombed under a glacier as a 2013 scientific study found. It grows slowly but consistently gathering essential nutrients from rain and mist, and doesn’t need soil. What can we learn from this never-say-die resilience? Perhaps the question is what can’t be learnt from it?



The Gifting Economy: Earn money to make a living of course, then spend for health insurance, household expenses, eating well, shopping wisely, for essential savings and sharing with those who are under-served. But always and anyways invest in gifting. The Gifting Economy is a promise of optimism. It is a two-way mirror. When you buy a gift, you spend memory time with the person you are planning the gift for. When you actually give that gift, you can see yourself and the other person transited, even for a moment by the warm gaze of gratitude. For being counted. In its global enormity, as an industry, the gifting economy is a giant wheel, and not entirely about existential joy, but I am not arguing for Big Business.

Community over Individualism: While I invited the TVOF team to write about individual meanderings and musings, I am arguing here for community and collectivist movements. This is a new learning for me. How collective movements—whether they are celebratory and transformative or ceremonies of protest (like the anger and global resistance against Iran’s morality police after the tragic death of Mahsa Amini for allegedly violating the Islamic headscarf code)—help us define who we are, what we must do. Not everything is a personal war after all.

Happy Oct-O-बर then.

I wish you Moss and More.