© Sanchayan Nath 2014

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One of the courses I have enrolled for this term is titled – “Life Story Research”. This course advocates the use of a deeply personal ethnographical approach to the study of human lives.  I have written about some of my learnings from this course here and here.

Yesterday we had a guest lecturer in class who urged us to write 6-words memoirs about ourselves. One of the books she circulated in class was –

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure

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We were required to use 6 words to depict our “lives in progress”. We could also use images, photographs, colors and any other material we wanted to use. We had about 60 minutes to complete this activity.

This course is floated by the Department of Education at Indiana University Bloomington. All students in this course are doctoral students – the age of the youngest student in class would probably be about 26-27 years. The age of the oldest student in class would probably be about 40-45 years. At 33, I would probably be at the median level. The class has a fluid mix of genders –ranging from fiercely male or fiercely female to openly bisexual (both male and female). There are students from Public Policy/Political Science (me), from the Department of Education, from Public Health and from Recreational Studies – with majors ranging from sexuality studies to religious philosophy. Most students are American students – in addition, there is one student from India (me), one from South Korea and another from Taiwan.  Most students have a fair amount of non-academic work experience. Some students are fairly well travelled.

At the end of  class, the guest lecturer kindly allowed me to take photographs of all the 6-word memoirs. I attach the images below –












And finally, attached below is my memoir –


My memoir is a blank white page with the following six words written in red ink – “I Seek Peace. On the Way!”. I could have very well used black ink instead of red (I had forgotten to bring any pens with me to class; so I picked up the nearest pen nearby which coincidentally had red ink). There is no particular reason why the phrase appears to be titled upwards slightly – it just turned out that way!

What was interesting was how seriously my peers took this activity! I was the only way who had nothing to do after the first few minutes. So, I spent the rest of my time, observing the others produce their memoirs –

The person sitting nearest to me produced the image which says – “Born Again and Again and Again”. He spent a lot of time coloring the empty spaces in the paper. And then he spent a lot of time systematically removing the excess color from the paper. And then, he spent a lot of time producing those particular folds in the paper !

My peers could very well have been 5 year olds in their first art class, and the classroom would have looked and felt exactly the same – there would probably have been fewer wrinkles on the faces, and probably lesser amounts of extra belly fat – a bit more noise, a few giggles here and there!

We are artists and our lives are our works of art in progress – we are constantly seeking to express ourselves, consciously or unconsciously searching for our true selves, trying desperately to fill those empty spaces ….

It requires artisanship to produce the perfect Masterpiece! But is there one?

Source of Images –

1 – http://www.timberlane.com/files/8913/6683/3884/Artisans_1.jpg, accessed on the 24th of April, 2014.

2 –  https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348097772l/2252947.jpg, accessed on the 24th of April, 2014.