Need a group hug?

Updated: Jun 02, 2019, 08:15 IST | Ekta Mohta

Visual artist Ayesha Kapadia's collective Mulhum is for anyone who feels 'emotionally depleted' and could do with a Prateek Kuhad concert or a soothing playlist

Need a group hug?
Prateek Kuhad performs at the maiden concert of Mulhum

If #MeToo was about, 'I share your pain,' Mulhum is about, 'I'm part of your recovery.' Last year, when a wave of women spoke out about their experiences of abuse, 30-year-old visual artist Ayesha Kapadia was among them. "[During that phase,] I was listening to a lot of Prateek Kuhad to make myself feel better. I was talking to a friend when I described Prateek's music as 'balm to my soul.' My friend was like, 'Oh yeah, me too.' At that time, #MeToo was happening, and a lot of women were being very brave, vulnerable and emotionally out there. We were having these private conversations in a WhatsApp group and I really wanted all of us to get into one room and take a break, and just heal, recuperate and then come back to life, being really badass. So, I asked Prateek [whose videos I have worked on], if he would be willing, and he really wanted to help."

It started with a one-off living room concert. Kuhad and guest artiste Kavya Trehan performed, and about 20 strangers closed their eyes and forgot their worries for an evening. "I've never seen this happen at a gig or a concert," says Kapadia. "Everyone was sitting on the floor, just taking it all in. I remember that moment very clearly because this was exactly why I organised the night. Nobody said anything. There was an unspoken rule of not talking about triggers and keeping the vibe great." One of the attendees, Praneti Kulkarni, a retail and exhibition designer, says, "It was a unique experience that I will cherish for life. Everyone at the venue was a stranger to me, but somehow I was comfortable, probably because I knew it was about healing. We did not speak about #MeToo, but all of us had been affected by it in some way or the other. Who knew that all we needed was bubble-wrap flooring, candle-light and Prateek's soothing voice?"

Ayesha Kapadia
Ayesha Kapadia

This shared night led to Kapadia starting a collective called Mulhum, "a platform for anybody who wants to feel good." If you're feeling emotionally depleted, for whatever reason, you'll fit right in. "I want to get all of us in a room so that we can sit together, face-to-face, and not feel alone. It's not only for people who have a mental illness, it's for everybody. As the name suggests, mulhum means ointment, which you use when you want to heal. So, even if you're tired, you're welcome. I want everyone to feel like they are being hugged." Kapadia is currently working on the website, and plans to host concerts, poetry readings, and so on. She has a core group of people, whose feedback is helping her give shape to it. Which is appropriate because "Mulhum was borne out of the strength that grows when people come together to support each other."

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