Posted by: Gaya | May 5, 2012

Improvising, improvising… I dance toward the Light (at the risk of sounding the Fool )

I live in Italy at the moment, in Florence, the city of rennaissance art. Florence incidentally, despite the hype, poses quite a few problems for those who actually live there. Florence is just another bewitchingly scenic backdrop against which the theatre of ordinary people’s lives unfold. The chief problem is the lack of real jobs for the Italians; the lack of big employers in this city of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Ferragamo, Cavalli  and gelato, leather and gold.

The city is a veritable walk-in museum and walking down to the Arno one day to the expensive shops selling useless luxuries coveted by no one, I spoke to a shop-girl.  She had nothing much to do and was dying to share her pet peeves on life in this blasted city.  I have a thing for attracting bleats… and doing the same… it’s kinda interesting when it’s not MY fault the mess is there in the first place and so one can relax and enjoy the view.

This convo took place around 3 years ago. There was something she said, though, which I never forgot : In order to get on in Firenze she said ( Italian real name for Florence) you gotta improvise.

You just gotta get on with it and make do with the imperfect options you got and just get the desired outcome without whining or waiting for it to be provided cos  ( hollow laugh and the stubbing out of an illegal smoking device indoors) there ain’t nobody to provide it. So don’t whine and wait and request advice and assistance just get it going with what’s available. Yeah… that’s it !’

You’ll be very happy and … there are worse places you could live in.. just travel and imbibe the paradise of tuscany and the nature… and hey, ( grinning) the people are just brilliant, friendly and you’ll have a great time. Ignore the politics, the Prime Minister ( then Berlusconi) and forget the stats as well as the raves. You are living here now and you will discover your OWN Italy, your way. It’s still possible here cos the people make the cities you know in Italy not the other way around ‘in the world where things actually are driven by programmed life …(mocking sotto voce) hehe !!’

I have since watched people cutting up mosquito nets and DIY ing the doors and windows at Summertime. Oh yes, we have the tiger mosquito here who is so shrewd it bites you and always evades the slapper.  But this argument was something bigger than a literal interpretation of improvising for life.

I have improvised ever since.

I’ve taken the good, celebrated the people and the fact that I have the best meditarranean fish ( Pezzico) reserved for me, informed of by phone, delivered to my door by the brother-in-law (Vittorio) who encourages me to be happy with the lovely kids I got and gives a bit of philo advice gratis before announcing that he is about to become a granddaddy with a shy smile. Last Sunday we drove a short way and walked in the lovely natural park with Anjou collecting pine cones to paint (Pigna) and Dhani poking a stick into every nook and cranny we passed. What did we spend on all this? Not much. Memories for a lifetime.

In the recess my mind is the Indian Ocean and a panoramic widescreen playing of  waves dark green and blue that purposefully ebb and flow against the shores of the land where I was born and lived and in a sense never really left.  Walking now through the best tuscan countryside wonderlands and vinyards you could imagine I am aware of the need to understand the Improvised Life better, especially now in fluid times, than before.

Yeah, the creative ability to find the good, celebrate it and work towards a better community and future, yet imbibing and improvising as I move along.

This morning,  while I sipped my mid-morning cuppa I called a  friend in Sri Lanka. he lives in Jaffna. We spoke of the two-day long power cut how annoying it had been and then I asked him how he really was doing, how was Jaffna?

Ah…. you may have heard of the crazy weather we’ve been having he said, thank God people over here are not dying of the cold but over in India, they are. It’s so strange he said, people are getting fever all the time, they are so not used to these temperatures you know.

“It’s completely the opposite to what we are going through in Europe and even Canada has had a milder Winter this year” I said and we tut-tutted at the state of things in the world. I am so thankful for such exchanges that bring some light from a faraway place where the extraordinary people live daily lives.

And yes, despite the cold, it is heartening to hear how the Galle Literary Festival has brought writers and other people of the world home to Sri Lanka. How they have creatively managed to speak to home-grown writers they would be interested in presenting to the world and its about poetry over politics. These people were interested in writers and literature beyond  Galle.

In the (R)oom, the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo. I always loved T S Eliot and the Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and recently a writing by Sugi Ganeshananthan on the Galle Literary Festival reminded me of this line and she answered a question in my mind. Thank you Sugi.

The Room is important to me for it is in the improvising of an opportunity, a room, a space that leads us to outcomes which will give us a little light. One day the room hopefully will splinter in the light and dissolve. For now, it is a Room. What we see, what we do, depends on how we can improvise with what today has to offer, how we use the driftwood and chip-chip opportunities that float up on the shore.

I myself try so hard as a mum, a writer-lawyer-researcher to craft a space on the internet that will be a Room without any flight tickets nor to-some-extent-politicised planners needed to access it. More than ever before, I am compelled to improvise and do what I can with the skills, resources and material I can summon at the beginning. I hope the outcome will be Light.

There is nothing that challenges and humbles the human and his mainstream education as learning a new language, the ways of another people, setting up home among ‘strangers’ and the ways of digital technology. This is my currency. So here’s to improvising and improvisers of rooms and life-spaces. For none of it would be fun,  enlightening and appreciative of the great diverse humanity the world has on offer, without the skill to improvise hands-on to celebrate life in its raw  yet, undauntedly hopeful reality.


  1. Interesting read.

    View at

  2. thanks for stopping by in this old ‘Room’ in another part of the house of lives lived. Reading it brought memories flooding back of the lungarno… the street that runs along the Arno to Ponte Vecchio, a familiar walk.

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