Slow Living in Big Cities

Slow Living in Big Cities

Conversations on the Paradoxes of a City

Our lives revolve around urban cityscapes in a myriad of ways – as spaces of imagination, interaction and conflict, with every movement we make. Shaping the structures and discourses of a large part of our contemporary life, cities have growingly become the proverbial thread that links us to – and often separates us from – ourselves. With all their eminence and bustle, cities present us with a seemingly contradictory question – can we really practice slow living in big cities? At IKKIVI, we spoke with a few artists to understand how they think of the city, their engagements and quarrels with its guises and whether it can become a meaningful conduit to live more consciously and slowly.


1.Your photography centres greatly on the ‘city’. Could you tell us a little about what the ‘city’ signifies for you, and how you would define it?

To me, the city is its light hum – the movement of vehicles, infuriating and consistent drilling noises from an ever-present construction site, rain befalling noisy roofs, three languages in one address. To me, the city is the sound and feeling of something in the works, of constant company and the people, stories and futures the audible movement of a city reminds us of. It moonlights as a fast paced life, but I feel so much is germinating – taking its time to come up. The city to me, primarily, is one that is constantly becoming. It is never quite complete and thus unsteady on borders – I find that very comforting, to think of a city that is yet to find out what becomes of it, much like most of its inhabitants.

 2. Your pictures have a particular nuance to them – as though you have intentionally photographed a scene mid movement. In what ways would you say your photography has a ‘slow’ character to it? 

It is photographing the city ‘becoming’ that is the fundamental essence of my documentation of it – most things I photograph seem incomplete. Which is why, almost as if by muscle memory, my frames seem to often have fragments of ‘another’ (person, object), or elements (people, spaces, contexts) in conversation with each other. It is like walking into a conversation mid-way,

you caught the last few words and it is photographing the articulation of what that moment would be, that is the feeling I document with. I like to photograph different portraits of what a slow city would look like – a cat lazily stretched into a snooze on a triple storeyed concrete landing canopied above with dusty, swaying trees, how sunlight makes different afternoons in different cities, how trees and plants consume the skeletons of concrete (old) buildings. I like to pause and indulge in collecting characters of the city that are forgotten on a hot, busy day in the city.

And while the city may be fast paced, it is an immersive experience in itself. It is precisely how consuming and demanding the city can be that prompts me to stop and find its various resting corners. Urban living is such a multi-dimensional phenomenon, but it is precisely that relentless integration of differences that makes me want to untangle it in my own language. It is a slow process, I’m only starting now. It makes me want to understand urban living beyond consumption, and as immersion – the latter being more purposeful in seeking, rather than aggressively consuming.


3. In what manner does your work interconnect with ‘slow living’? What was your intention behind starting ‘Slow Living LDN’? 

Slow Living LDN began as a personal project while living in London. I realised I wasn’t prioritising my well-being or other things that were important to me, aside from my career. I remember looking around at all the other tired-faced commuters and thinking, “I can’t be the only one who feels like this.” I started researching slow living for myself, but also wanted to share this way of living with others. Today, Slow Living LDN aims to inspire others to live more consciously, both for their own sense of well-being, and that of the planet.

4. What kind of growth or insights has the platform and your work inspired in your life, and in your vision of it?

Embracing slow living has helped me understand that always being ‘on’, busy or productive doesn’t equal success and it definitely doesn’t equal good health. Our lives are always in flux, and sometimes we’ll feel like we’re living in tune with our values and at other times, we’ll feel so far from that. So, I don’t believe in the concept of work-life balance, as it assumes work is not part of life, and that a perfect balance is attainable – it’s not.  I’ve also been reminded of the importance of nature for our well-being and how I find joy in living seasonally, and how this also helps me strive to live more sustainably, too.


5. Your art concentrates deeply on contemplative and slow living. Could you tell us a little about what these terms and ideas mean for you? 

I love the definition of contemplation that I heard once, “a long, loving look.” For me, contemplation means that I am spending quiet time going deep within myself, deep within the world and deep within my art which brings back up to the surface such beautiful gifts that emerge as poetry, as stitching, as insights, as healing. I used to live a very fast paced life, always rushing around doing many things at once which left me constantly exhausted. Slow living has been a return to the natural pace and rhythm of my body and the way that we as humans were designed, to be deeply connected to nature and the pace it follows.

6.  The pace of life in big cities often provide(s) quite a contrast to mindful, immersive practices such as with your art. What role and influence have city and urban living played in your draw toward these practices? 

I have lived in cities for most of my adult life. I love the vibrancy, diversity and energy of cities. There is so much life happening within them. When I was living in Brooklyn, New York and working in Midtown Manhattan, I found myself craving something I couldn’t put my finger on. One day I decided to try making cyanotypes (also known as sun prints) on the roof of my apartment building. I walked along the sidewalk and picked bits of grass and leaves and experimented with making prints of them with the sun. I found myself coming alive in a new way through that experience. I felt like I was returning to a relationship with nature that I was forgetting by being surrounded by concrete and tall buildings, by commuting long hours on the subway and by working in an office with no windows or natural light. This art practice made me feel like I could breathe again. The role of the city was essential in that awakening because it was through the experience of suffering and feeling a deep longing for something, that I found a great peace within the art practice of collaborating with the sun and with the plants right in the middle of the city. I think having the experiences of living in cities has helped me feel intimately how much my soul longs for the trees and the sky, to hear the birds and the sound of my own inner silence.


7. What comes to your mind when you think of ‘slow living’?  

I believe slow living is about being more thoughtful and mindful. It’s not about doing everything slowly but rather at the right pace. Sometimes you need a slow walk on the beach, other days the body craves a run through the woods. It’s about letting things take the time that it needs and enjoying the process, not just the final result. Slow living as a concept was born from the slow cooking culture in south of italy where I have my roots so that’s a natural state of mind I have. We all love a sugo that has simmered for hours and that’s something you can apply to many aspects of life.

And it might sound cliché but by not rushing through life you learn to savor it. I have practiced so much in being in the present that I now am a complete ”here and now person” it has made me realize how precious life is and that we never will experience this very moment again so I inhale life as much as I can

8. Do you think such conscious or slow living practices are sustainable in big cities? What do you think we as common folk can do to connect more deeply with this lifestyle within the cities that we live in? 

The city is full of things that go very well with a mindful and slow living lifestyle. Sitting at a cafe looking at people or reading a book, walking in parks, going to old bookstores or antique shops. And not to forget museums and art exhibitions. These are all favorites of mine and I wouldn’t wanna be without them. Slow living isn’t so much about where you live but more a question of mindset.


9. Do you think ‘slow living in big cities’ is a contradiction?

The idea that living a sustainable, slow, mindful life is only possible in a rural setting largely comes from Instagram and all the image-crafting that takes place there. I firmly believe that any one of us can choose to live a conscious, green life regardless of where we are based, city or country! Cities are not going anywhere, and they are an environment in which vast swathes of humanity exist. It may feel counterintuitive, but life in a city – even a big one – can be just as sustainable if you continue to make the right choices. You can do things such as grow a patch of wildflowers for bees if you have a garden or even a windowsill in the city. You can pack your lunch, bring your own cutlery, or your reusable cup, and refill your water bottle. You can grow herbs for your cooking instead of always buying them in plastic, even if, again, all you have is a windowsill. You can be mindful of how many times you wear an item of clothing before washing it. The hustle and bustle of a big city cannot be an excuse to hide from the work towards better choices.

10. Beginning with mindful, conscious practices or activities (can) sometimes feel overwhelming, as there is much that can be done. Where do you feel may be a good place to start, for those who would like to welcome these practices in different forms in their own life?

I think that one of the reasons that people who live in a fast-paced, urban setting often find it harder to engage with more slow, mindful practices in their beauty or self-care routine, is because being busy becomes your default state. It is easy to be always on the go, especially if you don’t see much nature in your day-to-day life. We need to make time to slow down and notice things around, but it’s not impossible! If it feels overwhelming, or like it is yet another chore, I would suggest starting small. Commit to one positive mindful change, whatever calls to you the most. It can be switching to a bamboo toothbrush or meditating for five minutes in the morning. It can be committing to using up to what you already have in your bathroom and not buying more products on a whim. Anything to get you in the right mindset! Commit to that change for one month. Next month, add another small change and keep building towards a better lifestyle.

The five wonderful women we interviewed here are Nilanjana Bhattacharjee, Emma Freeman, Tanya Kuznetsova, Lina Paciello and Beth Crane and all images in this article are by them.



Healing Consciously

Contemplations on Finding our way back from Crises, Loss and the Pandemic

In beginning to slowly move back from our collective experiences with illness, pain and loss into the more routined concerns of our life, we would like to contemplate with you some ways in which we can connect earnestly with the many delicate emotions we have been confronted with since the rise of the pandemic. The unprecedented gravity of the global Covid-19 outbreak and the complex realities that it has accrued over the last couple of years have impacted all of us acutely. As we continue to trace our steps into learning how to be with the virus and our related feelings, these are some ways we think can gently lead us toward the path of healing and offer balance.

1.Understanding that we may all respond to crises and loss differently

We all experience pain, fear and loss differently, and our expression of it is often as novel as our experience. Some of us may feel emotions as anger, grief, tension, anxiety, and/ or confusion quite sharply while some may naturally be a little more composed through it. In other moments we may withdraw inward in silence or look to share and voice our distress with a person or by engaging in a physical project. Whatever our (and another’s)  nature or disposition of responding to adverse conditions, we think it is essential to be mindful of the fact that there are not (and cannot be) any one or two correct ways of articulating them. Each nuance is truthful in its own right, and has the potency to reveal great depth of our human experience that we must be faithful with.

2.Giving light to and accepting our pain

To experience pain and to accept our pain are distinct subjects. Whereas the former arises of its own accord, the latter is an undertaking that requires conscious exercise at our end. Accepting our pain can feel overwhelming, confusing and agonising to us  upon occasion as it is difficult to foretell apriori what we may see or be met with if we look at it squarely. At such a time, it is valuable to have our friends and family who can support us in going deeply into our feelings, or to partake in grounding practices such as writing, moving our body, savouring a warm dish we like etc, if we are by (and with) ourselves. Though such services and spaces cannot by themselves lead us into acceptance, they can brace us when we are organically ready, yet hesitant or afraid to allow it. Allowing that acceptance, whilst fearsome, can bring us closer to feeling safe in our challenging experiences and we encourage you to try to do so slowly.

3.Being mindfully present with our pain 

Our pain has a unique language of its own that can show itself intimately when we look at its delicacy. One of the ways in which we can understand this language is by sitting silently and feeling the physical sensations in our body to our (emotional) pain. What is the texture of our pain? Does it feel cold, hot, dense? Is the pain moving downward or upward? Are you able to locate if the pain is centred near the head, chest, solar plexus or elsewhere? At an emotional level, we can ask what primary or central emotional form(s) our pain has. Is it felt as sadness, horror, anger, emptiness or something else? Is it a pure(ly physical) feeling and hence unnamable? Is there hardness to it, or does it feel a little soft? Questions and reflections such as these can prompt us into recognising and being with our experience more completely and honestly. But being with our pain can also involve characteristics other than observing it in quietude – such as while doing everyday chores or at work.

4.Identifying what we need for our healing

As we listen to our feelings and perceive their truths, we will gradually be able to discern what we need to be able to soften our distress and heal. Perhaps we need to take some kind of action, rest, or meditate, or do something ‘constructive’ or ‘wasteful’. We may wish to channel some memories of a loved one we lost in this time, find ways to bid them adieu in manners we previously couldn’t or that are personal to us, or just sit and stay with our pain till it runs its course. Maybe we want to be associated with social services related to providing relief to Covid patients or engage in healthy dissociation through watching television or reading a novel. In as much as we don’t abandon our pain (or our selves) when it displays itself in its rawest forms, we believe that whichever paths we feel are authentic to who we are, are worthy to pursue for finding healing.

5.Seeking assistance through therapy and other professional practices 

Our processes and needs may differ through this and other like periods, and consulting a therapist or professional to speak with about our pain or experience(s) can be invaluable. While the above noted ways have been personally instrumental for us at IKKIVI to practice, we are not trained in the diverse and holistic techniques that a professional in the field can entail, and advocate for such an approach if you may be thinking or wanting to pursue it. Please take our listed methods upon yourselves if you feel ready, or in the presence of a loved one, or a practitioner to receive guidance from. Therapy can provide a safe space and articulate structure to express and integrate our emotions, and we think that it is important to destigmatize and normalize talking about our pain in such environments.


The newness, unfamiliarity and effects of a disease at such a vast scale are such that we may find ourselves learning how to be with and in its presence all together again each day. As stepping back into the everyday discourses of our lives can feel uncomfortable through such a time, we believe it may be favourable to enter into them with matters that feel more simple to partake in – both in our homes and at work – as well as to evenly pace ourselves and extend as slowly and swiftly as you like.




Mindful Ways to Cultivate our Relationship with Fashion

For our friends who wish to recreate their wardrobes as part of their conscious lifestyle, or who would like to transition into a mindful lifestyle through the insightful and creative space of ethical fashion, we have noted below some maxims to support you initiate and continue the practice. In our intention to live meaningfully, one of the foremost domains that many of us now feel naturally called to modify, are our wardrobes. And being so elementally attached to our body, our clothes connect viscerally with our being and human experience and hold an inexplicable influence in our everyday lives.

1. Reflecting on what a conscious wardrobe means or would mean for ‘you’

If you feel you would like to build a conscious wardrobe, we’d like to encourage you to think about what having or creating a ‘conscious wardrobe’ means for ‘you’ personally and how you feel connected with the idea. Is it that you would like to be more environmentally and socially just, or that you would like to make more informed decisions about (buying) clothes, or you would like to treat your clothes more mindfully, or that you would like to learn an alternative way to your existing practice? (Maybe all of them, and more). Deciphering our underlying inspirations for making a shift in our way of being with (our) clothes and fashion can guide us in adopting ways that would be authentic to who we are and to our own intentions. It also allows us to start viewing and thinking about how we would like to re-organise our wardrobe hereafter.

2. Beginning where we are

We feel that going through what we have in our existing wardrobes is a good place to begin the journey. Looking at our less sustainably and ethically made clothes, and thinking about how we can treat them ethically and with care can be an insightful step in the process. We would not want you to feel that you should do away with your present clothes and replace them with new mindfully made clothes. In place of solely buying sustainable clothing, we think being ethical with our current clothes can give a lot of room for creativity, learning and engaging with our clothes. Learning to make mends and small fixes (such as sewing buttons or patching a tear), washing with care, wearing clothes till their shelf life, repurposing them, cleaning our shoes in the right way and passing on clothes that may bring comfort to another are all small, yet vital ways in which we can begin having ethical interactions with our clothes, accessories and shoes.

3. Understanding the role fashion and dress play in our lives

Fashion and dress can mean different things and carry different influences upon us. They can be a medium through which we express ourselves and our individuality, a space of creative exploration, a recreational or formal occupation, a political and social tool, an art form – and more. Understanding in which ways we dominantly relate to them, would support us in visualising what kind of designs we would like to assimilate into our ethical wardrobe and the role they (would) play in our quotidian sphere.


4. Budgeting

Whenever you feel that you need to or would want to buy new clothing, it would be valuable to think about the funds you would like to allocate to it. We feel that some good ways of making budgeting decisions for our clothing are to think in terms of the price we would be paying for a particular fabric, silhouette, or item and in terms of the purpose the garments may serve for us (What occasion do we need them for? Everyday, work, gatherings, formal events and the like). This way, when you begin looking at clothes and shopping, you could have clarity on what you want to spend where, and keep with your intentions and concerns. A further thing we can be mindful of is the cost-per-wear of each garment we may purchase. Cost-per-value considers the value of a piece in relation to the number of times it can be, or is, worn. An instance is if we buy a dress for Rs. 4,000 and wear it 4 times a year, it’s cost-per-wear is Rs. 1,000 per wear. If we wear it 10 times a year, it’s Rs. 400, and so on. The price we pay for an item should be reflective of its functional value.

5. Researching for conscious and ethical fashion brands mindfully 

When building a conscious wardrobe, it is constructive to keep researching and studying different ethical brands, and understand who they are, what their notion of fashion is, what kind of packaging they use, their aspirations with their brand and work, their materials and their story. These processes help to see and select whether their values align with ours and how we envision our wardrobe to be. They can also be very educational and offer inputs on how we can transition not only to ethical fashion practices, but also to ethical and mindful living. This would also give us the agency to observe the level of transparency, inclusion and diversity a brand offers, and to hold them accountable as consumers to make reforms – using the power we have through the internet and its multiple communication channels.

6. Balancing our present wardrobe with a vision of creating a conscious one

As you add new and conscious selections to your wardrobe, it can be meaningful to keep revisiting your existing and older pieces. Taking out our clothes, seeing what we like, what fits us well, why we purchased them and from where, can stir past memories that highlight our process of purchasing and the emotional connections we have created with them till now. This gives us the chance to integrate our collections, style varying silhouettes, and curate a holistic relationship with our clothes (and possibly with ourselves).


Our wardrobes evolve as we do, and we’d like to encourage you to build your conscious wardrobe one step at a time. Read from reliable sources, magazines and journals as your interests develop and try to incorporate practices that resonate with you. And as you make individual changes, it would be rewarding to also try to be involved in larger organisational changes at a pace which you are able to go at.