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Refining

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Almost done.

Will launch it in early October in Saigon.

Pre-order here.

#amwriting #amediting #ampublishing

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Something different

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This story began in 1999.

I went to Sheffield to finish it, in 2015.
But I didn’t really get finished until I met the kind of people who reminded me, in a. flurry of accents, mostly, that there were things to go back to, things to express.

More about Briefly:  see it in our store, here >

books, lazy sunday longreads, writing

Briefly in Sheffield

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books, letters, space, writing

A new chapter


Project website: The Art of Not Knowing


A history of uncertainty

TEN YEARS AGO, I used to draw with markers. Just line. Keeping it simple. Trace the edges. This picture (http://dipikakohli.com/pagetwo/) was from a show in Seattle. What is it?, no one dared to ask though I suspected they were thinking that. If they had spoken to me about it, about ‘Wavular,’ this piece, I might’ve said: ‘Groundless, scaleless, boundless. I think.’ I’m still designing spaces for others to experience the ‘wait… what?’ To enjoy, I hope, the not-knowing before you show up. *!

Now, I want to go to places, meet random people, listen to their stories, and write them up into a book, the Art of Not Knowing. The stories would be part of a larger set. A collection that so far has essays, photographical sketches, artworks, zines, and more.

About uncertainty.

Already woven in are notes from: an unconference in Palo Alto; six sets of Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh; a lunch interview with a particle physicist (‘What is dark matter?’); a cafe conversation with a jazz prodigy (‘But how do you *start* a composition?’) In other words, notable outcomes of experimenting personally with uncertainty 2014-now, so far, are part of it.

Stepping out

BUT THE PAST THINGS feel, even though I love them, too comfortable. To edge out, I want to go to a part of the world where I’ve never explored. Melbourne. I’m in Phnom Penh, where I’ve been for three years (mostly writing the eBook ‘Breakfast in Cambodia’ (Kismuth Books // 2016)). It’s very possible to go and see. I’ve heard good things. Plus, I’m curious. Who might I meet if I go there? What will I discover?

As in Bangkok, when I met a life coach who told me to call my father, chance can radically alter your life. (I called.) As can whim: I randomly emailed an established decades-in-practice musician to ask, ‘How do you keep it real?’ His astonishingly simple and clear answer came back, and I got on a plane to compose ‘On Noteworthiness.’ Art of Not Knowing also has voice recordings, like ‘The Good Stuff.’ Photography pieces. A few collages. Mostly words.

The big idea is to take a plunge, without any clear agenda or formality, and see whom I might meet, and what I might discover. It would be really cool to include people in Melbourne. So far, it’s getting some interesting response.

But all concept art starts with the Idea, and in this instance, it’s embracing the uncertain, unknown, and different. The Art of Not Knowing. More: dipikakohli.com.

Would you like to help make this happen?

EVERY TIME I want to write a book, people tell me I should kickstart it. I don’t do that. They tell me I should write a proposal and shop it around. I don’t do that, either. The reason is because I want to write what I want to write, and discovering what that is necessarily starts with going and seeing what’s there. Not overdesigning it, nor ‘pitching’ it. I can’t. Not for the kinds of projects I’m into. Lately, conceptual pieces, like improvised theater.

The Art of Not Knowing.

A new book.

For those who are here, and who support this work of writing for connection, I invite you to pre-order at this page.

Many thanks! I’ll send it on 1 June.

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books, essays, letters

Book of Songs

The Book of SongsTHE FALL OF 2015. Sweden. A small boat harbor. A little bit of time and space. Me, my writing stuff. A couple of black pens and an empty grid notebook. The big idea was to go and discover about ‘uncertainty’. I mean, it was pretty open-ended. Sure it was. That was the point of it. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was going to run into a bunch of people who might, just might, change my outlook on how things are. How things go. What things mean, don’t mean, and what they might look like if you just shift the angle, change the lens. Another universe, for me.

Cool and Novemberish, the autumn. Such a discrete opposite to the same time of year in Cambodia, my home-away-from-home-away-from-home. A long story, this drifting into new territories.

You could say it’s inspired by Situationism, but I think it’s more about my situation. Getting lost on purpose starts with some degree of, let’s just be direct… necessity. Nobody who is comfortable where she is would really opt to get out there and get lost… would she?

To sort of figure out what the heck was going on with my life, I did something I very infrequently do. I wrote poetry. Poetry! Of all things. Yet it fit. The more the little boat rocked, oh yes, just a little gale, but also quiet sometimes, but then super cold and even -7 one day, that’s CELSIUS, I got faster and shorter with my notes. I didn’t write the novel. Not quite. I am in the middle of it now, though.

It’s two years later, for sure, and I’ve been to a bunch of other places in the meantime. But the story from there, the interviews and the conversations that shaped the new thinking (which inspired the title, a title I can’t share yet because you know how it is when you talk too much about something and then you sort of lose interest in your own idea? Well, yeah, that). I need to share the gleanings, the learnings. The Denmark and Sweden of my six weeks in Scandinavia. If you scroll down on this page, under ‘links to essays,’ you’ll find ‘Six weeks in Scandinavia.’ Oh! One of the people I met was playing an incredible song and I drew it, and now it’s on their CD. That’s what the pic is about. Chance. Uncertainty. Serendipity. The road.

If you’re curious about the new book that’s coming out, check it out.

Here we go.

It’s starting. The new writing.

I love this part.

Ahoy!

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books, essays

A Punjabi story

AN UNLIKELY CONNECTION, but a powerful one. I have a lot to share about the conversations that began in virtual space and grew, and bloomed, into a remarkable collaboration. Here’s a hint.

A Punjabi-language magazine. A place for people to come and learn and write and make space to discover, and co-discover.

(Was I reading into it? I wasn’t sure. This is what my impression was, taking away from the internet gleanings on Wikipedia about Gurbaksh Singh, who edited Preetlarhi magazine.)

Took the risk in late 2013, from a hotel in Gangtok.

Could I ask about the writing residency there, I wrote into a form on their website. Could I know more about it, perhaps, since I’ve, um, I’ve got this story I want to write, and that would mean having to come to Amritsar?

I was typing on a digital tablet, which like me, was on the brink. Fumbling our way around India, with no plan or agenda or expectations. Or money. Could we make it to Punjab? If we got invited, we would find a way. And we did. A lot of bus transfers, via Kathmandu and this dusty border town at Nepal-India. Chandigarh. Et cetera. But that was just the road journey, to Preetnagar.

What happened next? So much. But the story continued, as we kept in touch ambiently through the next four years. Here we are in April 2017. And this month, Preetlarhi published in English the first chapter of Kanishka. All kinds of things to say about this, but for the moment, it’s just, ‘Wow.’

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books, cojournal, the forum, writing

Imagine

THINGS ARE MOVING in a new direction. Isn’t that always how it is, though?

If this were a letter, it would be to the people who had been reading the Kismuth e-letters, which I remember sending probably too often from the year I started Kismuth, 2012. I have stopped sending them, more or less. I guess because sometimes things find their natural ending, don’t they? Cycles. Time. Shifts, the story.

But I do remember writing a lot, and in the letter style. It would open in this kind of slow, easy way: I wonder how this note finds you, and how you are feeling where you are. Perhaps I’d go into a bit of a soliloquy, talk about something philosophical and maybe (probably) abstract. Esoteric. Admittedly it was a thing that would happen, an illogical compulsion towards illogic. Then I got into quantum physics. Then I learned about uncertainty, and its principles. I got intrigued, studied, and wrote completely other things for whole other segments of people. So I stopped with the e-letters to people in Kismuth, those whom I would meet while traveling in Viet Nam or India, who would ask me what I was doing, to whom I’d respond in my earnest and idealistic way that I was writing a book. A book about The Road, about the choice to go On It, and take a chance on things and buck the status quo, for better or worse. Sometimes it was better, sometimes it was far worse, but most of the time, and I think this is the thing that I must not forget, there was really good learning. And that learning is where the other things happened. Things that some people call ‘growth.’

I would go on about so many topics in my letters, much of those letters were long and long-winded. I don’t know. Somehow they led to new things, as things often do. I learned how to write in a way that was my own way. I stopped it with the old styles, the ones that had become bad habits. I won’t blame anything for that, they just were. Part of it was being afraid to say too much, at once. Fear. Fear of being seen as who I really am. When, I guess, if I am truly honest with myself (and you) about this, the thing is, if you don’t put who you really are into a thing, into a work, it’s just not going to be that interesting. To anyone. So you have to do it. For better or worse. Again, that refrain. This time, where will it take me?

The journeys are always good teachers. The reflection that happens at the endpoints even more so. But over the years I find myself returning to the same themes. Those of imagination. Those of love. Those of destiny, and the question, ‘What about if?’ But in a much more resigned way now than in that anxious kind of style that attaches itself to the young and dogmatic and idealistic and did I say dogmatic? Yes. Yes, I did. That is the key word, there.

So much more to say. I’m afraid if I put more here, for now, you will become bored. I am going to stop, then. This would have been the eletter from Kismuth, but as this is a new place, a bloggy kind of place, and as this might invite new people, as it has somehow magically done in the past (blogging, I mean), I will see what happens. The new territory is as dogged, strange, dark at the corners as the real road was, in 2013. The new territory is a walk into the Art, the search for Beauty. It was always at the heart of it, though. This quest to find the better, the meaningful, the elegant and eloquent in that which is around us, right here, where we are.

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books, essays, lazy sunday longreads, vignettes

How I started ‘The Village Report’

Click to pre-order [$12]

Click to pre-order [$12]

AFTER THE STORY ENDS you think you have a way to talk about what happened. The good stuff, the road, the sharing, the journey. You try to do this in a way that’s cohesive and consistent. You put things into 750-word columns for someone somewhere on the other side of the world, whom you hope will enjoy it. You want to know if someone is reading, and engaging, and every so often you will get a tiny note that says something like, ‘I clip your essay every month,’ and it makes you think, Keep going.

I’ve always written, but not always for myself and a handful of others like those who find Kismuth and me and what I’m sharing, and who read the stories I publish through this site. All of this started in 2012. With the launch of The Elopement, a true story of leaping from America to Ireland, with a soon-to-be partner, perhaps for life. Now, with The Village Report, read the rest of that story. How a couple together broke free of yet other mores, abandoning a way of life for the ‘practice of the unknown, uncertain, and different.’ With a kid.

THE VILLAGE REPORT: BREAKFAST IN CAMBODIA is the new name for the book I’d promised to share with you when I set out on this long, long trip. I remember talking to RF at the Y when this whole thing got formulated, in a tepid way. She said, ‘Shree* said y’all are going traveling around the world.’

At the time, Shree was just four, so he didn’t know that you don’t just blurt out stuff like that. Makes it seem like you have some kind of cheek, bucking the status quo and tapping some unknown quantity of hidden funds from somewhere. It doesn’t seem fair. Taking a trip around the world for a year, or more. Coming back, perhaps. Storing stuff in friends’ attics, basements, extra houses. Even your parents’ place, even if that’s a little awkward, given that you are leaving because you’re not sure what they think about your philosophy and your ideals about Life and Purpose and Meaning and most especially Parenting, and you agree to disagree (but not really) and you Go Away. You make a big deal about it. You are stubborn and boxy. You kick up a yard sale, leave stuff on the yard on Gregson Street in Durham, NC, with a note saying, ‘Take stuff. Leave some money in the mailbox,’ and you are mesmerized that people actually do leave money in the mailbox, and then you take the last of it, which is way more than you wanted it to be, and you pack it up in the old room that is the new room in the house that your parents have. You’ll come back and get it. You will. You solemnly swear.

Pre-order The Village Report — $12

THREE YEARS LATER you call your mother for the first time since you left. You have come to some realizations, you say. You don’t want this to be hard. You know it’s hard as hell. You still do it. You email. You say, ‘I’m ready to talk to you, if you’re on for it.’ You wonder how it got this way, how you got to be way far away from the land and people you used to know, and yet, and yet, you are still connected. In the ambient, internet-y way, you only have to do one thing. Email. She says cool. You call. You have had some thoughts. You aren’t sure where all the thoughts are going to land. You erase many of them, mid-conversation. You write, you delete. It’s like the creative process, all over again. Just like every fork in the road: that time at the border in Nepal, where you were freaked, or the one when you had to face the people you didn’t want to face on account of fear and diffidence and pride and stubbornness and, mostly, yeah, fear. You do this. You go. You go on the road for a year, maybe more, with no plan, no agenda, and no source of income. Fling of the die? Throwing yourself into the ‘net’ that is supposed to appear? Trusting the process. Diving into uncertainty. Calling 2013 the ‘Year of Enchantment,’ like dressing it up makes going vulnerable somehow okay (it does, actually, help in some way), and 2014 the one of caring and the next one the year of the mountain and then, finally, it takes this one to get to the point where you realize it’s time to call home, the 2016 year comes, and it’s, (Jung’s Great Unconscious, plugging into your personal one, that’s what did it, yeah? had to be): it’s, yeah. ‘The Year of the Relationship.’

FLASH BACK TO 2013. IT IS APRIL IN DURHAM. The flowers are going to bloom. I’d said to Shree*, when the flowers come out, then we go. We will. I promise we will. I have no idea where, or how, but we’re going to go.

Does he know how lucky he is? Someone from The Road would ask, way later. By that point I’d gotten into a groove. I’d grown cooler, more collected. This practicing uncertainty thing wasn’t so bad. Not yet. Not really. I’m a picture of repose when this young person asks it. ‘No,’ I say. ‘He’s just a kid.’But before. Before the whole moving over to Asia, before the airplane changes at Narita for the longest last leg of my life and trains and buses and too many suitcases, I’d had to face the others. The people. The old villagers. In Durham, NC, where I’d thought I’d had a bit of a home (but now am sure I didn’t). And answer the hard questions, the ones behind R’s, when she’d asked it. ‘Are you really going traveling with your kid? For a year? But how will you… how will you live? Are you going? Is that true?’ People were asking. They wanted to know. It was getting a little uncomfortable. It was getting hard.

Back then: Ohhhh, man. How do I explain this in a way that makes it okay?

Now: YES. I am. We are. It’s absolutely, definitely true. And I trust that it will work, because it has worked. And that is experience. What was that thing Einstein said, about personal experience being more important than knowledge? And what about the other stuff, Jung’s stuff, about finding your ‘tribe’ in the people you meet and feel a kinship to that’s outside of geographic, dogmatic bounds, but an ‘usness,’ a sense of that, which is of a variety uniquely its own?

In this frame of mind, from this opposite side of the world and having emerged from a long period of wondering what it was all about and now having written The Village Report to share the conclusions, some of which those reading along in the Kismuth newsletters will have seen me meandering towards and then veering away from and wondering about, later, or assigning less and less importance to the ‘figuring out’ of which, I’m relaxed. I’m also older. Sure. That helps. And so is Shree. That means it’s not so weird anymore. Expat kids are everywhere, here. Life moves. It happens. People find us. We work for them, from time to time. We invent new ways to keep ourselves alive, fed, happy, safe, together, sound, warm, cherishing, engaged, and most of all inspired, when we interact wholeheartedly with The Village. I can tell you more about it another time. Or you can read it in the book. Or we can meet for a cup of tea one day, if I’m in your neighborhood, and talk about it. Maybe a book tour will happen, in living rooms around the world. I’d never, ever send The Village Report to a traditional publishing house—that would ruin it. I don’t need someone to put it on a poster, to ‘market’ it for me, in order to know it’s good. I’m only sharing it through the Kismuth page. This one. And that’s it. Because if just three of you get it, then you’re the three that it’s for.

HUMANITY. The idea is that we are human, we are connected and connecting, are engaged and engaging. We see each other when we notice our differences as much as our similarities… we are human. We are all just part of it. The big thing. The village. And this book? It’s written by not just one of us, but all of us. And that’s it, you know? The village? The village is the sharing.

This book is for AKK.

Pre-order The Village Report — $12

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Air India Disaster Memorial, Atha Ciste, West Cork Ireland

Air India Disaster Memorial, Ath na Ciste, West Cork Ireland

ON JUNE 23, this.

For —.

books, writing

30. Years. On.

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New memoir by Dipika Kohli releases Tuesday June 23. Click to order now.

New memoir by Dipika Kohli releases Tuesday June 23. Order now here.

 

THIRTY YEARS AGO ON JUNE 23.

That’s when it happened.

The things that I want to tell you more about. The event that I alluded to when NPR host Frank Stasio asked me about it in this interview. The event I shared about at TEDx Raleigh, too.

The airplane.

The friend who ‘didn’t come back.’

What happened, why did it happen, what if it hadn’t happened?

These questions led to 30 years of running around the world “in search of meaning.”

Get it here now:
Buy KANISHKA

books, writing

June 23, this.

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books

3 decades on, still asking, ‘What if?’

New memoir by Dipika Kohli releases Tuesday June 23. Here.

THIRTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH.

That’s when it happened.

The things that I want to tell you more about. The event that I alluded to when NPR host Frank Stasio asked me about it in this interview.

The airplane.

The friend who ‘didn’t come back.’

What happened, why did it happen, what if it hadn’t happened?

These questions led to 30 years of running around the world “in search of meaning.”

Opened up new queries, the secondhand tiers of that pull you to the existential books on the shelves in libraries, entice you to the Himalaya just to see the moon rise. To look at the stars. To ask the Sheltering Sky things that only it might know. Kismuth means ‘destiny’ in my parents’—and her parents’—native language, Hindi.

A lifetime of search, of query.

Thinking out loud, in letters, stories, columns, and sometimes, in books.

I want to tell the final story in the series Kismuth.

Kanishka—coming this month—is Volume I. Yes, I started with Volume II when I launched The Elopement in 2012. I just wasn’t ready yet to tell Kanishka right. Now, though. Thirty years after this tragedy shook the psyche of other 10 year-olds who, like me, wondered what had happened to our dear and no-longer-with-us friend, I’ll share the words I think are right.

Here.

June 23.

This story is for –.

Soon.

For pre-orders, please go here: Kanishka on Gumroad >

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