• Atazia Hadjirouseva

Indra Kartodirdjo | The Cosmic Carnival

“So, how about we order takeout at the same time, and then we can have dinner ‘together’?” Indra suggests to me while we’re on our video call this rainy October evening.

While contemplating the idea of a takeout dinner with Indra – I peer outside the window. Luminous copper and scarlet reds float against the watery grey with a delicate buoyancy. Harmonies of hues flowing and pirouetting between the drops of rain. Autumn. A season where beds of glittering jewels enrobe the ground before the trees are kissed into their winter slumber. “I’m ordering Chinese, how about you?” Indra’s sweet voice is like an auditory hug. Beckoning me back to the moment, and to the Thuisbezorgd menu. Our dinner date ‘together’ successfully in order, we soon are settled in over our Asian takeout selections. “As a musician, being on stage is a part of your identity. So, now I feel like I am rediscovering parts of my identity. Who am I still without being on stage? There’s still a lot left there, but if you’re on stage very regularly you really get used to that. It’s not your entire self – but you really miss it when it’s gone. It becomes your normal. And it’s a lot of fun, all of the adrenaline.” She momentarily glances downward with a stillness. I meet her in this moment. Memories of concert halls and venues echo through my mind. “We had a theatre tour that was planned to go throughout the Netherlands, but it was postponed. Shows that were originally planned in March and April were postponed until now (October). We were planning to play the shows that had been rescheduled from spring, and now they got postponed again until June 2021. So, some shows have been pushed to another date a couple of times in a row now. We started rehearsing with a few new band members last week, and performed a show. From now on we were supposed to be playing every week from now until Christmas. We had our first show last week, but now everything has been postponed. I performed in Muziekgebouw aan ‘t Ij in Amsterdam this past Saturday with a Moroccan artist, which was a bucket list location for me. It was really a positive event for me, that that is the last show I got to play before all of the shows were postponed again. Our band is in a group chat, and before we got on stage that evening, we read that it was probably going to be our last gig for a long time. I think that this information added a different dimension to our performance. Because we knew that there was a big chance that it was going to be our last for a while.

I hadn’t been performing since March, and now everything is postponed. All of my income right now is coming through teaching. I chose to be a teacher long before corona happened, and I feel privileged to be in this position. I don’t view teaching as a back-up plan or something that I have to do for financial reasons. I did take on some extra work, more work than I was planning to. I was planning on working only 2 days a week and then performing shows. But then I decided to work 2 full days and 4 half days as a teacher. I work for a very nice music project on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I work as a primary school teacher, and on Thursday as well. My work as a primary school teacher entails of me working for various music projects and of being at different schools. It’s freelance work, and it’s for the entire year. Giving violin lessons online via zoom proved to be a bit of a challenge, because I am not able to physically help my students adjust their posture. During the first lockdown, when the children weren’t allowed to attend primary school, I provided my music lessons by making videos. Which took quite a lot of time and effort to achieve the final product I wanted – and not all of the kids watched these videos.” So how did she keep herself occupied during the summer, when the schools were out?

“A couple of summers ago I went to Greece to do some work as a music teacher at a refugee camp there. I wanted to do something with my time that gave back. This year I was already planning on going back to Greece for that, but because of corona I couldn’t. Over the summer I found a project, that is a sort of travelling circus originating from England; The Flying Seagull Project. They travel to refugee camps as well to bring smiles to the faces of the individuals who are in the camps. Their mission is to bring togetherness and strength. But this year their project also couldn’t go to Greece. They decided to do their project throughout the countries that they could, to form groups of performers in these allowed countries to carry out the circus show and workshops - not only for refugee children, but also for children in hospitals, for people with disabilities, and for those who are really experiencing hardship because of corona. We travelled to various locations to perform these shows with the same purpose. I participated with the same intention I had - that if I am in a place to be able to give to others, then I want to. And it was beautiful to experience. What gets me through corona? What you mean to others, and what others mean to you. What you can do to help others get through this. It makes me feel like we are all together in this. So let’s mean something for each other. If people are having a hard time and you can do something for them, then do it.

This year I feel that I have been truly experiencing and discovering that I have a rich social life. Because I live all by myself, I found myself questioning: how am I going to do this if I have to go all alone into lock down or into quarantine?

Even though I live alone, I discovered that there are so many people that I somehow have stayed in very close contact with. People that were in touch with me. Although I was in lock down, I wasn’t alone.

But you don’t bump into people anymore. You don’t go to parties, you don’t go out. It’s hard to come into contact with your friends. Yet despite these restrictions during this corona time, I feel that I have been brought closer to some specific friendships that have turned out to mean a lot to me.

These times make you realize who your true friends are – and that can make you feel very strong. That we stand together. I think it’s good to realize this very well once in a while, who the important people are in your personal life. Because in the beginning of these corona times, it became obvious who the first people were that you called when this pandemic started. I think that’s the beautiful side of this whole corona crisis. The conversations that you have with your friends and family. It’s bringing people closer to each other somehow. The hardest part of the crisis for me is not feeling free anymore. For me personally, an important part of my life and what makes me happy is social contact. I have found ways to still maintain that, but this has still been the most challenging part – and to also see this with the people around me. I consider myself fortunate because I have a lot of contact through my work and I see my friends on the street, but for some people like my grandma, I feel bad. It has been the hardest to see people who are really suffering from this. I didn’t like being forced into quarantine, feeling lonely and not free, but I hated seeing people feeling really lonely and really unable to be free. It has made me feel guilty. That I can’t do anything about it, I feel helpless. You want to do something, but it’s out of your hands.

I find myself being more intentional. Every contact that I have has a purpose. There’s more space to pay attention to it. There’s less background noise.

You’re more mindful of who you spend your time with.” Indra [@indrasalima] is a musician and music educator. She is currently performing with The Cosmic Carnival [@thecosmiccarnival], and is living in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Listen to her 'Songbird' cover here:

Photography by Qing de Man [@qingdeman] (photo 1) and Atazia Hadjirouseva [@atazia.pavlina] (photos 2 and 3)