Hobbies have a way of keeping you happy, creative, and eternally young. So search the neglected corners of your mind, shake the dust off your overlooked hobbies, and delve into them with the full passion of your heart, says Jamuna Rangachari
A relative of mine makes rangoli (decorative designs) on all festive days in temples and considers this her true gift to the Divine. Today, she is active and happy at the age of 90 and is always welcomed in temples. She feels that this hobby has kept her agile and happy. Many like her pursue their passion regardless of their profession and age.
We often pursue hobbies and arts when we are young. But as adults, we get strait-laced into thinking that we already know what we can do and keep walking the same path. We do not explore new hobbies. However, hobbies make us feel eternally young; therefore, it’s worth pursuing them. Age, after all, is just a number, so we can define or redefine ourselves at any stage of our lives.
A hobby is something you do when you are bored or have a lot of time and do not know what to do with it. Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes, but the goal is the same—to fill up time and make our lives more fulfilling. The more we focus on the aspect of fulfilment, the better our lives become. There are many benefits of pursuing hobbies. It is not only a productive way of spending time; it also reduces worry and stress. I am sure most of us will remember our childhood days when adults were always trying to help us do something more than simply studying our academic books.
A person who never used to waste her time was my late mother-in-law. Though music was her primary passion, she had hobbies in other areas too like painting, trying new recipes, and even playing games like carrom. As a result, till she passed away, her mind was agile and active. In a sense, having a hobby is the best wellness pill of all. In earlier days, sharing and doing things together was how people spent their time, which resulted in many hobbies being pursued by them. As a matter of fact, temples and ashrams of yore used to be places that encouraged people to pursue their passions. Some made garlands or rangolis, while others decorated the idols and made artefacts for their deities. This was primarily because temples were small communities in themselves and wished to encourage passion and crafts. This is probably why temples were always visited by people of all ages. I remember being fascinated by all the activities taking place inside the temple I visited as a child with my grandmother, and taking part in whichever one I could.
Creativity and its dimensions
Art expresses our subconscious mind in various ways. We all are born creative in one way or another. This is the design of life itself. The Designer has made it possible for us to express ourselves in myriad ways. This is why most schools have an extracurricular department. As most parents and teachers will tell us, children are happiest while pursuing their hobbies; so, by extension, would we also not stay youthful and vibrant if we continued to pursue our hobbies or interests even as we grew older? This seems to be the case with many who are doing so. This is the best way to live, as hobbies make us think, connect, and reinvent ourselves. With a dash of passion added to them, they add a lot of verve to our lives, as we can see in the experiences of the people mentioned below. All of them are from various walks of life and, yet, have never given up on their hobbies.
In my case, my late father always encouraged me to read books, saying it is the best way to travel without spending anything. Though I started writing professionally much later in life, a book was my constant companion and friend since childhood. This habit made me open to people and cultures, and realise that we all are the same in spirit regardless of the place of our birth and station in life. It also made me a better writer and made readers connect with me the way I related to the writers I admired.
The seeds of a hobby start forming in childhood, but sometimes they blossom later in life. When combined with passion, it can be a meditative experience. Ritu Bhatnagar, a painter, writer, and wife of a senior railway officer currently posted in Jaipur, says, “When an artist makes something with a free heart, it is their real creative power. And the moment in which he succeeds in creating something is the moment of divine happiness. His mind is free of all worldly bondages. That is the moment of creativity, meditation, and in these moments, his creative ability is at its highest.” She continues, “While science gave me critical thinking abilities, the power of logic, and understanding, my love for art strengthened my love for nature.”
Ritu’s mom was her teacher, who taught her painting and writing. Though Ritu has been painting and writing for a decade, she is now trying to bring them out from the realms of being just hobbies. It began with editing Hindi and English books, making art for the covers of books, doing translations, penning poems, and short stories, getting them published in various anthologies, and working as a Hindi translator, consultant, and expert to holding exhibitions of her paintings (at prestigious Art Galleries like Gandhi Art Gallery, Asian Literary Society Art exhibition at CSOI Art Gallery and AIFACS New Delhi.) Her paintings adorn the walls of many offices and homes of art lovers. She recites poems at various on-line and off-line events (including South Asian Literature Festival at Sahitya Academy, New Delhi, organised by ALS Sphere).
Ritu plans to come up with her poetry and short stories collection shortly. This has also made her collaborate with new people and make friends, both in the artistic as well as the literary community. All in all, she is eagerly looking forward to a very exciting future.
Another such person is Commander Oruganti Sukumar from Bangalore, who, after his retirement from the navy, started painting at the age of 65. Initially, he did it digitally on his iPad but gradually started painting on canvas, using acrylic colours. He has made around 110 paintings of various sizes, including landscapes, sketches, and abstracts. He recently participated in the Alliance Française cultural painting exhibition, and his work was also featured in The Hindu. He participated in the Chitra Kala Parishad event, is into Resin Art, and has produced various artefacts. This passion keeps him healthy and active in every way. He says, “I wish to encourage everyone to practice a hobby which gives them satisfaction and balance. By balance, I mean taking out a little time for yourself, besides your daily work rigmarole.”
As is often said, what you seek comes searching for you automatically. Many have interests buried deep within them, which come to the fore later. My husband, Ranga, and his brother are passionate about helping people. They have guided many in having their astrological charts checked to find remedial measures when they faced difficulties, as they knew some basic tenets of astrology. Post retirement, they decided to pursue this more vigorously and are learning and guiding all the time. This has made them much happier as they have made many more friends and well-wishers. Whenever he meets his brother, the discussion amongst other things is astrology and what the planets say. Now, all our relatives take their decisions only after consulting them. In the process, apart from astrology, he knows almost everything about our extended family. A joke in our family circles is “Keep your birth details secret from Ranga; otherwise, all your darkest secrets will be known to him.”
Very often, life shapes us in ways that leave little time or space to explore our talents. My aunt, a gifted singer, was never able to pursue this passion, as she was busy with her banking career and managing the household. However, after retirement, she performs, teaches, and learns music all the time. She is, in fact, much happier now than when she was working successfully as a banker. Music is her passion, and she is able to devote her time to doing what she loves the most. Even her stress and minor anger issues have disappeared. When people ask her why she did not become a professional singer, she says with a smile, “I needed to discover myself both as a professional in my work and as a singer, and this is something very rarely given to people, so I could not be happier.”
Another relative of mine, also an erstwhile bank employee, now pursues her passion for tailoring and crochet making, and is learning new techniques all the time. Noting the extensive use of plastic, she now makes cloth bags and sells them as well as gifts them to people, sending out a subtle social message in the process. Almost everyone in her vicinity now knows her as a bag maker, which is her new self-created identity. She donates these bags for free to the underprivileged, thereby enabling them to feel equal.
Mixing work with pleasure
Theatre has always been a passion for many. Abhijit Banerjee comes from a generation that considered engineering and medicine as respectful professions for men. Hence, he chose to study chemical engineering at one of the top engineering colleges in Mumbai after high school. He was also personally inspired by the academic disciplines of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) throughout his childhood and adolescent years of life.
However, after a while, Abhijit’s heart began to slowly gravitate towards non-STEM subjects and got entwined with HASS (Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences) and performance-oriented fields. This was due to various factors, like a plethora of opportunities for stage performance and public speaking that he took part in, in his school days, to his engineering college being very closely situated to the famous Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, which he frequently visited. He participated in plays and street plays in his college days, and the seed of interest in theatre as a hobby was sown early. Four years in one of the “coolest” engineering colleges in Mumbai gave him multiple opportunities to explore his interests. Though he had explored his interests, he still hadn’t found a way to shape and structure them. The next few years after finishing engineering involved corporate jobs and stints in start-ups and MNCs.
Eventually, Abhijit’s passion caught up with him, and he decided to quit his corporate job and become a certified behavioural trainer and facilitator, an emotional intelligence coach, and a neuro-linguistic programming practitioner. With this understanding, he began his first organisation, The Skill Hub: Training, Therapy, and Theatre.
Abhijit also found ways to introduce the learning from theatre into his professional therapy practice. He uses theatre processes and tools with his clients to achieve their individualised therapeutic goals. These include a combination of a number of psychotherapeutic modalities and evidence-based expressive art mediums like drama therapy (theatre of the oppressed, rainbow theatre, playback theatre, image theatre, forum theatre, rainbow of desire, etc.), dance movement therapy, music therapy, visual arts (abstract, mandala, zentangles, zendala, etc.), therapeutic storytelling, projective play, bibliotherapy, therapeutic clowning, improvising, metaphor, rhythm, poetry, mindfulness, bodyfulness, and meditation, aimed at accomplishing individualised mental health goals in a therapeutic setting. This project has been recognised by Global Goodwill Ambassadors Foundation, USA.
Many of us have talents that stay hidden before they come to the forefront later in life. This happened with Vishesh P Nair, an accountant who plays with cameras. Vishesh, a chartered accountant employed in an MNC in Bangalore, loves to juggle with the camera and calls himself ‘A CA with a Camera.’ The phrase itself was coined by him to show he is not just a CA.
Passion for Vishesh is a strong emotion that he pursues not with the intention to make money but to express himself. What attracted him to photography was his natural tendency to observe and put those observations into a frame. He says, “I capture moments to keep them as memories and cherish them for a lifetime!” He has done this since childhood. Since this is something that gives him immense joy, he does it sincerely, which has added meaning to his life. He is a self-learner and keeps learning and exploring all the time. Knowing his verve and passion, I feel he will maintain it for a long time, and his photos will continue to speak to many people.
Making a difference through one’s hobby
In another area, Vijay Arora from Mumbai, who is currently employed in Chennai, enjoys pursuing his passion for philately. He started his hobby of collecting stamps watching his elder brother’s friend at the age of 10. The colours, designs, and shapes would fascinate him. Philately, or as some call it ‘the king of hobbies,’ was just opening up. One stamp sheet that he is happy to have contains the stamp released on a famous painting made by the late M F Hussain in 1988. The subject was freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s call ‘Swaraj Is my Birthright.’ How could one honour this occasion, the iconic painting, and the artist? He met M F Hussain, who lived in the same building as he did, and he willingly autographed the sheet. He believes this is perhaps the only sheet which blends the hobbies of philately and philography, the hobby of collecting autographs. Thereafter, he contacted many people he admired and collected their autographs. Vijay shares a very touching instance which he was extremely moved by. He says, “I wrote recently to a Bravery Award winner requesting an autograph. He gracefully obliged and thanked me with a personal letter for finding him and writing to him. This was tragically the last letter he signed and sent, as three weeks later, he was part of a horrific air crash and succumbed to burn injuries.”
For Vijay, this was a small way in which he honoured the patriot instead of just talking about him. He follows all the news of less-discussed soldiers and their travails. In another instance, Vijay sent a letter requesting the autograph of a soldier who was honoured by the government for his hand-to-hand combat in a terrorist encounter. The soldier not only replied but took the trouble of calling Vijay and talking to him personally. He was deeply touched that his bravery was recognised. Thus, the true purpose of collecting his autograph was served well.
We are different from others in many ways, so pursuing a hobby adds a unique signature to our lives. All we need to do is add the flavour of passion and true interest to our hobbies. We can see how people grow exponentially when they pursue their interests because they want to learn and enrich their lives. In this sense, hobbies open us up to many areas, making us more complete and holistic as human beings. This does not happen through a syllabus defined by an outside agency but through something we ourselves figure out quite naturally. Is this not how the Creator wants us to be and grow in life? For, we are indeed born to create our own story by pursuing as many talents as we can without being limited by conditioned thinking and leading a structured life imposed by society.
It is easy to say we are as young as we think we are, but it is difficult to step out of our comfort zone and work on developing or reconnecting to the interests that we pursued earlier as our hobbies. The fact is that most hobbies are a reflection of a passion lying dormant within us, which, on pursuing, lead to personal growth and happiness. Even if they have been buried inside for long, they can be rekindled, revived, and new ones pursued, as life is full of adventures and never ceases to surprise us.
Developing a passion or a hobby
Forget about your age and begin pursuing a hobby
Connect to your inner interests
Find others who share the same interests
Do some research
Pursue this for joy without expecting anything in return
Keep learning and evolving
Share your passion with all
Benefits of developing a hobby
Reduces stress and worry
Makes us more joyful
Keeps our mind active and agile
Introduces a new angle into our lives
Minimises unwanted pursuits like gossip
Teaching story - Creativity while pursuing hobbies
A traveller once visited a temple that was still being constructed. He had come from abroad, so he was curious about the activity there. He saw a sculptor sculpting an idol of God. This was something that he had never seen before, so he went closer to the sculptor. He noticed a similar idol lying nearby and, not understanding why there was another one, he asked the sculptor, “Are you doing this as you need two similar idols?”
“No,” said the sculptor, continuing his work. “We need only one, but the first one got damaged at the last stage.”
The gentleman examined the one discarded and found no apparent damage. “What is the issue ?” he asked.
“The nose of the idol has a minor flaw” replied the sculptor, while continuing his work.
The gentleman asked where it was to be installed.
The sculptor replied that it was to be installed on a pillar twenty feet high.
“As it is so far away, who will notice?” the gentleman asked.
Stopping his work, the sculptor looked up at the gentleman, smiled, and said, “I know it and my Creator knows it!”
Interpretation: Working for oneself is the best way to pursue anything, be it a hobby or a profession.
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