Monica Dogra & Shilo Shiv Suleman

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Mukul: So, how did you two meet?
Monica: Shilo emailed me, long ago, she told me about her work, and she appreciated my work and I wrote back saying that I appreciated hers too, and one day we can collaborate and she started doing installations and stage work for Nh7 weekender and then we met again, 4 years later maybe in person and then a very good friend of mine from Bombay started to be very close to her and I guess I have a problem letting new people in, because I really liked her and I just didn’t know how to get close, she got close to my friend and then we started to hang out lot of time and I think it was at Magnetic fields when we really bonded and I realized she is my soul mate and now there are very few people in India to count on two hands, my closest, and she is one of them.

Mukul: Tell me about your time at the festival, how did it grow you two as people and as friends?
Monica: Shilo and I have been coming to this festival together for three years. We call ourselves, jokingly, the Ranis and often find ourselves with Agarbatis and giant headgears on. Shilo does a lot of work that thematically aligns with all my works, yes, we do different things.. hmm, she is a great source of inspiration for me- a muse and confidant.
Shilo: Its actually quite appropriate the logo from magnetic fields – 2 squares located around each other making a star, cause it feels like me and Monica are like that, I am one symbol and she is another symbol then we interjected in a very beautiful way, sort of complimenting each other. So, I think magnetic fields has been the center to it, like we all come back here, it is really intimate and magical, and then we do a whole circumference around the world – she does one in her own direction and I do one in my own direction and sometimes we meet in other places as well and then we meet back here.
Monica: I told Mukul that just this year we were in California together, New York together, Bangalore, Burning Man, and Nevada…
Shilo: All over.

Mukul: Interesting, both your life purposes – art, music, they have these elements of gypsiesness and wildness. For you Monica, the sense of travel, openness, expression as you told me – does that become a common point or somewhat collaborative, is that what it joins you? Is that the common motif between the two of you?
Monica: I think when I experienced her art for the first time, one of the things that I really loved was that it is very poetic, it is very spiritual. It draws a lot from mysticism and approaching life with eyes of a dreamer and an idealist and I can really relate that idealism in her work. A touch of innocence and touch of refusal to inform that things are not only what they are, that they could also be something else, and beyond.
Shilo: She helped me to paint the piece outside, huh?
Monica: Yeah, but literally, I go through the stages of insecurities because I cant draw, but she is always like, ‘be fearless, you can do it’, She exists in mediums that I don’t exist in but we have very similar themes, a similar process, we are both lovers, we are intense lovers, romantic idealists.
Shilo: So it’s funny because with Monica’s work and also with mine – there is this wildness to it – when she is on stage; ferocious, right? It’s like weooew, and I love it! I remember seeing that ferociousness from many many years before we became friends. Strangely, what I love the most about her and also ‘us’ is the softness coz it’s just not the wild and the fierceness, its deep-well honey inside of her.
Monica: We’ve given each other names, you know?
Shilo: Her name is ‘Madhumakhi’ – which is basically the queen of honey bee – Like a Queen bee. When I listen to her poetry, it’s the softest part of her. There is so much more to her and there is this soft center. It feels like honey; also she has this ability to not only create honey through her words but also recognize honey inside other people, which is really beautiful.

Mukul: You guys are so mushy. I love it.
Monica & Shilo: (laugh)Yes, we are super mush.

Mukul: Tell me about your work collaborations together and the prospects of it.
Shilo: We haven’t collaborated yet but we will.
Monica: Budgets and time never worked out before, and especially in that phase, everything was work oriented and now my life is not designed that way. I leave energy for relationship and love just to produce something and just do!
Shilo: yeah and we are both are super production heavy as well, when we will meet she would record a new song, shoot crazy things, travel 10 different places, and, same here.
Monica: We are workaholics actually- forward, romantic, idealistic.

Mukul: Tell me more about you two as people. Beyond art, beyond the creative process, just mundane stuff. What do you guys do in your room? What are the things that you enjoy the most? Everyday stuff that you two share!
Monica: We both love to dance. Yeah, particularly to sexy bass music. [Laughs]. We both love mysticism and rituals so always the dhup burning and agarbatti burning.
Shilo: Podcast in the morning
Monica: we both really like cold coffee! Actually we have lot in common. I practice yoga, I run, I do a lot of long distance running. She gives me the best books of poetry ever. I love decorating my house, she loves decorating her house.
Shilo: We travel!
Monica: I travel a lot. We work always; there is never a moment when I am not producing something. Yeah, she is not drawing or painting something.

Mukul: What is that one thing that you share as people together and you wish people have more in common?
Shilo: I would say openness.
Monica: I was going to say the same.
Shilo: yeah, over the last 2 years when we met each other, we are both at our most complete, chest spilling forms, into each other, completely. And I think, over the course of the years, we both have had the moment of closing up a bit, like cocooning essentially, and opening up again eventually. So, I wish for more openness. Like what is wonderful about her is regardless of whom she is interacting with – an amazing musician or really wonderful volunteer – the love is the same. The openness is the same. There is no moment of distinction or separation of an important person and this is not an important person. Everybody is equally available to be loved, I think we both have that in common. I wish there was more of that, yeah.
Monica: Just to extend on that, I have been practicing on a lot of dropping judgments and I think it goes with openness. Dropping judgments have opened me up because it is easy. Luckily, it is easier in creative spaces; I have been cultivating beautiful friendships, realizing there is room for everyone. Shilo also exudes abundance constantly. I had a moment when I realized that because I am slightly competitive, I do a lot of comparing, at least I used to.

Mukul: What is love and how would you define it, existentially?
Shilo: Oho, kya baat
Monica: It is everything!
Shilo: All of it. I mean in my current universe, it is the opposite of fear to me. It is beautiful piece by Rabia, Sufi mystic from Iraq, who says ‘I was born when all I once feared, I could love’. Also, Monica’s first album was ‘love, love, love’, yeah, it’s opposite of fear.

Mukul: What about you Monica?
Monica: I always say love and hate meet in the middle, like it is the circle, circle is the symbol of the universe. Everything is dual. Ultimately love is always present in everything.
Shilo: All the things

Mukul: Together as friends, what is that one silly thing that you do together?
Monica: We just scream at each other all the time.
Shilo: We yell so much.
Monica: We only yell at each other.

Mukul: Favourite foods together!
Monica: Sea Salt cookies and Cold Coffee in the morning over podcasts and dim sums at night and M&Ms!
Shilo: She is a very good cook.
Monica: I put M&M in my smoothie and it’s a thing, other things like almond milk, frozen berries and spinach.

 

 

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