One residency. Two years of unpredictability.
“Shadaab, try doing a residency. It’ll be great for you.” – Sanaya Ardeshir
The words were probably not exactly these but I remember this conversation because it had a significant impact on my life. Sanaya is someone I respect a lot and I have always cherished the conversations I have had with her because I have learned a great deal from them. Ever since we spoke about this, I have wanted to be part of a residency program where I would get to travel to a different part of the world and do what I love doing as a musician – collaborate.
As Casey said in one of his beautiful vlogs, experience does for the soul what education does for the mind. Over the years, I have had the privilege to be part of some beautiful experiences and I am very grateful for that. I have also had my share of not-so-pleasant experiences and believe it or not I am grateful for them as well. Each one of these has contributed to my growth and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Post this conversation with Sanaya, I had tried to be part of many programs but things never worked out. Either work came in the way or I didn’t get selected. I started giving up on the idea of a residency. Then, one day, my friend Bhanuj sent me a link to a residency program by Goethe Institut. A simple “I think you should apply for this” message along with the link. I kept that tab open for days, procrastinating, assuming that I wouldn’t get picked. On the last day of submission, I scampered in panic and submitted the form convinced that there was no way I would ever get selected for something like this but there was no harm in trying.
Many months passed by. I had already forgotten about my submission and was going through my emails one day when I received one from Max Mueller Bhavan about the residency. My immediate reaction was, “let’s read how they have rejected me.” I have had plenty of those in my life and believe it or not, it’s nice to read a well-worded, kind email rejecting your submission/project rather than no email or a simple “Sorry dude, you didn’t make it.”
This email came on the 23rd of December 2020. In the middle of the chaos of the pandemic. I was one of the candidates shortlisted for the residency. Was this really happening? During the pandemic, where we were surrounded by so much negative news, even a slight bit of positivity would do wonders for your mindset. This one was a big one! It had an immediate effect on my state of mind. I forgot albeit temporarily the sadness and the destruction caused by the virus, all I could think of was the fact that I had finally been selected for something I wanted to do for a very long time.
This was the first step and now I had to start a rapport with the other selected candidates from Germany and then present to the jury, the reason behind my selection and our plan for the collaboration. We had till mid-January 2021. This also meant another few months of uncertainty. International travel was restricted during this phase of the pandemic so we would have had to wait for a while anyway.
Dario Klein and I had decided to collaborate for this residency. We sent an email in January 2021 and we were supposed to hear back on the final decision of the jury in February. I didn’t hear back from Goethe Mumbai for many months after that. I assumed that the residency was cancelled or they had gone ahead with other candidates. I have learnt over the years to not let setbacks affect me mentally. I accept them and try and move on. This doesn’t mean you stop yourself from feeling disappointment or pain. It’s ok to feel those feelings but it’s important to not dwell on them.
I got another email from Goethe Mumbai sometime in the middle of 2021. They had not gone ahead with other candidates, they had not cancelled the residency, they were like us, victims of the uncertainty of the pandemic. It’s a very difficult task to plan anything long-term when you have no clue what’s going to happen in the next few days. I was told that they were planning to send me to Germany in December and kickstart the residency. Excitement levels – 100!
However, Omicron decided to make an appearance and the residency once again got pushed. We had no idea when it would happen. All I could do was exercise patience and not let all the delays overwhelm me. It’s important to not let variables beyond your control affect you. It’s a waste of energy. Energy, you can use to do a lot of other productive things. We also looked at options where Dario would come to India, but India had introduced a mandatory 7-day quarantine on arrival and it would not make sense for him to waste one week out of 4 stuck in a room.
Months passed by without any information. The only constant during these times was uncertainty. In May of 2022, almost two years from the date of submission, I got an email targetting June as the start of my part of the residency. I had started my visa application process with a healthy dose of pessimism. Maybe it was the two years of cancellations or just me trying to keep my excitement in check to avoid disappointment in the future.
I had my visa appointment on 9th June 2022 and I got the visa on the very same day. My tickets are booked for the 20th of June and I will be in Germany for around 4 weeks. Through the entire two years of uncertainty, patience has been an important virtue that I have tried to embrace. Keeping my emotions in check and not getting over-excited or disappointed with the unpredictable situation has been the key for me. During this time, the support of my family and a few close friends has been invaluable. As I prepare myself for 4 weeks of an unpredictable experience, I cannot stop being grateful and remind myself that I am fortunate enough to be able to do this and I will never take these things for granted.