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Daniel Nahmod, Anand Sonecha, Ellie Walton & Nimo Patel: Inner Voice, Service and the Creative Process

Nuggets From Awakin Talk With Heartists, Moderated By

13 years old Simran introduced Nimo. She shared that Nimo has created globally acclaimed shows like Jai Jagat, Ekatva etc. with slum children of ahmedabad but what touches her even more is instilling values in them through small acts whether it is neatly arranging the footwear or starting all their sessions with prayers, etc.
Nimo introduced Daniel, Ellie and Anand saying that these three were his favourite artists in the planet and probably that has a lot to do with who they are as human beings. Dan has been exemplary in touching people through his words and melodies and making a living out of that, Ellie’s loving trust and invisibility as a filmmaker allows natural stories to emerge through her films, and Anand should rather be called a hearti-tect than architect.
Nimo started with the question, “how did you find your connection with your art form?”

  • Ellie shared that filmmaking is like dancing for her. Dancers listen to the rhythm which is playing around them. For her, filmmaking is about connecting to the communities and the rhythm of neighbourhood. When she was 9, a guy in her neighbourhood was shot by the police. She felt that the police officer couldn’t see (empathize) with that guy, which left a deep question in her heart - “how can we see and understand each other?”
  • Anand, under the mentorship of BV Doshi learned that architecture isn’t about just creating buildings, but a deep way to shape the lives of people and community.
  • Daniel was working as a computer programmer, when at 27 his inner voice clearly said that “Danny you are a musician”. Since then, he has lived a largely unplanned life, striking his middle ground between serving the people through this art and providing for his family through that music. “My son just turned 9 and he has never had to sleep hungry for a day due to lack of food. This is a triumph that not for a day I take for granted.”

Next, we spoke about the “Creative process”. Having engaged with each artist deeply in past years, Nimo drew out beautiful specific events and projects from their work and invited speakers to share about their creative process they followed on those occasions.
  • Anand spoke about taking up a project to create a school for blind children in Ahmedabad, for which he took up a volunteering role in Perkins School where they have a very well designed facility for blind children”. How do you conceive architecture which completely depends on visual sense for blind children ? How do you involve those children deeply in the design?” These were the questions which led Anand to try many new experiments in crafting a unique process.
  • Daniel spoke about having lived most of his life and made most of his music in LA (which is a big city, and not beautiful :-D ). After 7 years, he made a leap of faith and went to a little town in Utah in extreme winters. Three months he spent there hiking in the national park. First time he lay down under the stars, he wept. He went without any agenda and from that emptyness, some of his most amazing music came. He also came in touch with books on Dao. I read and reflected on “Be done with your knowing, and your worries will disappear” - it was a big statement, especially for a child of lawyers. If we do today, thing that feels true today, with maximum kindness, that’s enough and all that is needed, he now deeply believes in.
  • Ellie - so much beautiful art emerges when there is no agenda. Art at its best is like an open heart surgery. I was invited by a small deaf school in liberia. So I invited and we sat in a circle and invited everyone to share stories, I was bewildered and blown away that most children and adults shared stories about music and dancing. I asked them “but you can’t hear it” and they said, “no we can feel the vibes”. And just by accident, Chad Harper was in Liberia at the same time, we just walked up to 2 local rap artists and asked if they were interested in making a music video. That’s how everything came together- no plan, no agenda, no mobilising people. I learnt that Ideas invariably come from if we just show up and keep our hearts open.

Practices to keep you grounded
  • Daniel - I don’t have any spiritual practices as such but I am a particularly grateful person. I say to my boy - we can turn on the tap and clean drinking water, we have a roof everyday to sleep - so many people don’t have those privileges. It keeps me grateful and grounded.
  • Anand - As architects, we typically serve only top 2% of the population. This fact disturbed me, so I have made attempts to engage myself in also designing structures which serve the rest of the 98%. I feel when I do that, the work itself is my currency, i am not too bothered about making money from that. I also teach, and so in those ways, I balance my income.
  • Ellie - “How do I keep my heart open?” is my grounding question. It helps me keep a check on myself that I am responding with empathy and love to people around me. I look at my young children and see a constant sense of wonder and amazement for most ordinary things, that inspires me. Having to care for the children has taught me about letting go my own attachment to working long hours without worrying about anything else.

“An artist is not a special kind of person, but every person is a special kind of artist”. Could you speak a bit to that - any story, or any advice of how ordinary people can bring creativity and beauty within and without through their lives?
  • Daniel - Find that activity, which you will do whether or not anybody is paying you or watching you or giving you any credit for. Surrender any illusion whether its good, whether anyone will like it, whether you will make a dime.When you engage in such action, time moves incredibly quickly and incredibly slowly at the same time. That’s the greatest service to humanity and to yourself.
  • Anand- I have always reflected on whether art is needed in our society. It may not be utilitarian but is philosophically and spiritually needed. I would encourage a spirit of questioning, not arrogantly but with a deep commitment towards inquiry and understanding.
  • Ellie - people will forget what you say and what you do but they will never forget how you made them feel.So I would go back to leading with an open heart and letting that guide your action.

I hope for….
  • Daniel - For America to be the country I can be proud of. A place of kindness, justice, self evaluation and improvement.
  • Ellie - A world where we can spend every saturday morning dancing in the streets together and listening to one another.
  • Anand- That I and others trust their hearts more. “It is with the heart that you see things rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

After the call, Dan remarked that Nimo is a “gold plated man” and everyone agreed and laughed. The call was full of smiles and love, and visuals and videos which can’t be captured in words, so if you liked these nuggets, you will love the video recording. :)


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