Wabi Sabi is a Japanese term rooted in Zen culture. It means seeing beauty in imperfection – Appreciating the rustic, raw, broken, sometimes older ideas/objects. Against the current culture of perfecting everything letting certain things just be as they are.
Everything, every place, every being has a texture and a character. If we see the city of Mumbai, the CST station, Horniman circle, the by lanes of Kala Ghoda, the flea market of Linking Road, tiny windowed buildings in Byculla…. are there since ages. It is old architecture that has lost its sheen but retained a reflection of the era in which they were built.
Talk about broken toys, they take you back to your child’s childhood, old clothes refresh the earlier patterns and fabrics, older advertisements bring the same jingle tune to your mind as it is, old furniture reminds you of the hard work that you had put in building a home…..
Initially when I read about it I found the concept to be humble and interesting. In this complex world of chaos, Wabi Sabi calls out for simplicity. It reiterates that the grandeur of something outdated is no less than the marvels of innovation – the beauty of something former and tattered is nothing less than a newly manufactured object.
I also shared the concept with a few others, each belonging to a different field. I generated a questionnaire as stated below and sourced their responses:
- Give me one old object (living or non- living but not a person) which you would like to keep forever even if it rusts, loses sheen or becomes outdated?
- Identify and mention the imperfection (by way of appearance, communication and attitude) in life.
- Now that you are face to face with your imperfections, how do you deal with them in day to day life?
- How and where do you think you can apply Wabi Sabi? Give only one instance.
Jitendra Gursingh, MBA Finance and Promoter – Digilocal is a young entrepreneur. Object/s that he would like to keep forever is his Apple products and some old printed photographs. I could feel the contrast in the nature of items material as well as emotional. According to him he has an attitudinal imperfection where he feels there is no balance; sometimes he is aggressive, sometimes laidback. He clearly stated that Wabi Sabi should not be applied to work; money and finances. He says, “I think the concept works as long as you are AWARE that something is not perfect. Awareness & acceptance is the first step to making it perfect.”
Neena Dhody, a homemaker wants to keep her mother’s chappals. Honestly did not expect an answer of this type. Neena says, “Mom used to wear them and one day I just wore them and never returned them to her. My husband and daughter always tell me to get better looking new ones … honestly I have tried getting new ones myself. But just for the looks of it I can’t part with the utility the old one offers me …somewhere maybe emotionally it also makes me feel connected to my mother.” On where she applies Wabi Sabi, her answer is illuminating – she says her house is simple. It does not have the best interiors or fittings but for her it is Heaven as it gives her peace and comfort. It’s a happy place for her family.
Sejal Agarwal, a young software engineer, working with Accenture has something very abstract that she wants to keep, ideas of older generation with no pressure to wear the modern plastic. Well said, after all ideas make an entire generation. She shares a special bond with her younger brother Krishiv, who is naughtier and lazier than most of his counterparts. He keeps his work pending till the last moment. Though not ideal she felt there is a lot of cribbing over it and too much pressure on him to extend his capacities. She says, “Wabi Sabi can be applied here and we could let him do things within his caliber and not compare him with others. Let him be himself and love him for his uniqueness.”
Nikhil Furia, Promoter Era Ethnics, wants to keep his late sister’s Rakhi forever. Who would want to give up on such a treasure? Among his imperfections he says his anger is short-term, but quite blunt and insulting for the person facing it. Once he realized this he says, “Its only now, that I have started talking to myself, that not everything is in my control, and by using the harsh language, I am just being someone whom I don’t want to be.” A thorough leader that he is he wants to apply Wabi Sabi to his expectations from his junior staff members.
Nilesh Talreja, Owner UCID specializes in marketing and creatives. He wants to keep letters from his college girlfriend forever. It’s unique how each individual has a different keepsake. He is one respondent who is unknowingly applying Wabi Sabi already. He says, “I don’t ask for things. So I tend to drop the desires. So have learnt to live without much wants” which means happiness in what you already have.
Radha Gupta is a Yoga teacher and an artist @ Kolorkari, she wants to keep a hard disk which is full of her past memories and keep adding to it as looking back always makes her smile. She thinks she has a round nose, probably a not so good feature of her otherwise pretty face but she has accepted it and other flaws in her by practicing the ‘I am grateful for…..” activity that she learned from Yoga. She expects a lot from her near and dear ones and exactly the way she wants. That is where Radha would like to apply Wabi Sabi, to make her relationships healthy.
Sujata Patki, Founder Owner of Thinking Cap Library mentioned a couple of things that she would like to keep. From the list she shared, I picked up these two – “A bag my daughter used to carry to her dance class when she was 10 and a sweater my son wore when he was a toddler.” Clearly she has seen them outgrow and still she wants to keep a part of their childhood with her. I never knew that inanimate objects can epitomize such intricate emotions. She says she is hurtful when she has high temper which she wants to resolve by staying objective at the time of conversing. Just like Radha, she says she wants to apply Wabi Sabi to improve her relations with near and dear ones by lowering her expectations (pertaining to perfection) from others.
Wabi Sabi in no way promotes shying away from your weaknesses. I feel it takes you closer to your strengths, closer to positivity, closer to what you currently have. It does not restrain our aspirations; rather we can work better as our spirit is free. Whatever we are going to make of our life in future is separate from what we have made of it till date. Appreciating today’s achievements and possessions, coveting them is significant… and that is what Wabi Sabi means to me…