Empty, But Not – Essay by Pulkit Mishra

Words & photographs by Pulkit Mishra
Pulkit Mishra online here

The world has come together in a fight against the virus. For me, World war II was the last crisis. It was only available to me in textbooks. Consider this sardonic, but I wished for a time where I could witness a crisis. I was never sure what a crisis would be or what it would feel like. 

Over 4 million affected by the virus and approx. 300 k dead. The whole world has come together, to fight the virus which does not discriminate. This definitely is a crisis.

For me growing up, exposure to the outer world was through books and movies. Whatever my innocent little head could understand, it did. Movies and texts made me believe that a world crisis is something which built character. It built the strongest, toughest humans that the world has ever seen.

Anne Frank survived those years locked up in a space, no one should ever be in. She was a 13-year-old girl who wrote about her experiences. For me, she was not 13 and she was not just another girl. Somehow during her struggles, she grew up. But somewhere she was still a child. Experiences change us. They build us, they define us. The life journey that we as humans carve out for ourselves, defines the character we become. Our life story reflects the choices we make.

Too many have lost their lives, and many continue to struggle. Families are stranded, there is a shortage of essentials and in the middle of this crisis there is communal hatred. There are people who are in need of help. Medical personnel, Police and many other frontline workers are losing their lives serving us. The privileged are getting bored and the have nots are fighting to survive. But hasn’t it always been like this? I have complained about the little inconveniences in my life while others around struggled to get what I took for granted. 

I had come to Mumbai for networking and planned meetings. With my agenda all set, I was trying to make it in the dream city, extravagant like the name BOMBAY (now Mumbai). A friend without knowing what was in store, agreed to let me stay with her. A stay which was supposed to be for a week has now extended for more than one and a half months. I must have some good friends. 

For as long as I can remember I have been running, in life and in my own head. But hold on, what is this lockdown? Did I just get an actual pause on time? Can I not work and just Netflix it? Gym’s closed? No workout? No going out and feeling fat? No wearing the contacts? A never-ending Saturday. Wasn’t this the dream? Or can I not make it one? 

I was overwhelmed. My head was prepared for the hustle, my heart was not. Again, the lifelong battle of the heart and mind. Mind wins. Period. Hence, the mind agreed with the news and the people around. It started to worry and wander. But as hours, days, weeks and now months passed, I noticed that the mind just stopped fighting the heart and it’s voice became softer.

Then I sat down, with a coffee mug in my hand and now all I have is time. Time to be whoever I want. It is time to detox my soul and revive what lies within. I could be someone who doesn’t have a job. I am someone who doesn’t work-out. I could be anyone, do anything. The feeling is euphoric. 

By Pulkit Mishra

I belong to a middle-class family. We never had a lot but always enough. My parents worked hard and gave us the best education they could. And my current monetary situation can be explained quite simply, I am an artist. Artists are broke, in every corner of the world. 

I was living in Chelsea, New York for last 2 years. The hustle was real, to survive and to even afford the lifestyle I was in. I was working even when I was not. Oh, the city is something! I miss my life there. It has standards, it comes with a certain cost if you want to live in it. It has to accept you, more than you have to accept yourself. And did I not become a New Yorker. There is United States of America, there is California and then there is New York. These three are not the same. Like Buz Luhrmann in one of his speeches “Everybody’s Free” says “… Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.” East Coast is tough, its cold and rough. But I had fun. During the week, I met the best minds in my industry. On Friday’s there were Irish bars, China Town binging and more bar hopping. Artistic weekends at MoMa and the Met. I had it all. I was living the dream. But, only in my mind. My heart was restless and there was something constantly bothering me. I could not really figure it out. Somewhere during the week, I wanted to just run away to some small town in Upstate New York and stay in a hotel with a TV and just chill. And now, I finally have it? In my own country? It was a dream for me. Yes, I am happy. 

By Pulkit Mishra

My mind is a glass and it is partially filled with water. I could simply empty it. Or fill it with whatever I want to. The most useless or the most useful. That is exactly what I started doing. I started doing whatever gave me pleasure, at that very moment. I just lived in the moment. I did whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. And suddenly, I just realized who I was. What I actually like doing. What makes me happy. And now when I finally realized this, I had a schedule. I was working, but still managing to do things which made me happy. Yes, I am concerned about my savings. There are inconveniences, there are things which bother me, but they are small compared to the mountain of life I was climbing like Sisyphus. I am in a good state, I have no actual discomfort. There are people who are surviving in much worse conditions. I feel bad for them, I wish they could be with their families, reach their homes. Those who were unlucky to have been struck by this virus, I wish them speedy recovery. But this does not stop me from feeling happy for myself. 

This is the start of my journey within and it’s a long way from here. A world where I could differentiate between a problem and an inconvenience.

P.S. My deepest condolences to the victims of this crisis and their families. A salute to the people who are working day and night to fight this ghastly situation.

By Pulkit Mishra

Born in Lucknow, India, Pulkit grew up playing and experimenting with cameras. Having an academic background in law, he practiced the subject as a criminal defense lawyer for five years in India. His inclination towards art and creativity led him to New York City, where he assisted Photographers who were making an impact in the industry with their approach. Pulkit’s work is a unique blend of deadpan aesthetics mixed with the subtle expressions. He is presently in India for his ongoing personal projects.  

Pulkit Mishra online here