Catching Up With

Catching Up With Lisa Ray

Through the course of the pandemic, each of us have felt ourselves alter. We developed newer perspectives on our lives, and realised what mattered most to us. When we sat down with Lisa Ray, a published writer and talented actress, she further reminded us “to be gentle with ourselves” and reflect on our lives within the last year or so. In the following interview, Lisa talks to us about her relationship with the arts, how she dealt with the mental and physical tolls of the pandemic and reflects on her journey of motherhood through these trying times.

Were you always interested in the arts?
I honestly had no clue what I wanted to with my life. I always say, “I am an accidental everything”. I bumbled into acting, which was never part of my plan because I was very shy. However, I did always want to do something with the literary arts.

Being a successful actress, when did your passion for writing begin?
Writing was my original passion, and everything else happened around that. In a strange way, having had all these really rich experiences — and I don’t just mean my career — has given me more material. It has given me a deeper and different perspective on life. They always say that as a writer you have to have something to say, and I guess I do have that now.

I have never thought of my career as my career, because every time I do, I feel very suffocated and things don’t flow for me. While I am grateful that acting has given me so much, it is not my focus. Keeping an open mind allows me to stay open to opportunities, and things tend to just drop in my life, as did the show Four More Shots Please!, and I am very grateful for it. We are always break- ing down notions of ourselves and building ourselves back up, and I try to live with a beginner’s mind. I believe in the Buddhist practice where even if you think you know everything, and know what is going to happen, just pretend you don’t. Live for the surprise.

How do you stay constantly connected to the arts?
Reading will hopefully never be a lost art and I find it to be my greatest inspiration. Long reads like novels and fiction are what I particularly enjoy. Of course, I do enjoy films,but I have been watching many more limited series rather than full-length films. I have to admit, my attention span is becoming suspiciously short. But reading, while keeping me connected to the arts, is also a good discipline in terms of attention and focus. I have also always loved the visual arts and have been collecting modern Indian art for some time. It has actually been a secret passion of mine as I have been collecting over the years. I do miss going to museums and art galleries, but I tend to keep up with a lot of it online.

How have you been spending your time recently?
Well that is a loaded question. Firstly, it feels like time has taken on a very different quality. Sometimes it feels like time has stood still, and sometimes I lose track. That same quality has spilled into my life. I feel like my regular routine has been interrupted. However, recently, my main priority has been my kids, and because we have all had to take a step back from our work and realign ourselves, I have actually had the opportunity to realign myself as a mother, which has been a wonderful experience.

I have also been trying to write and focus on my next book, but honestly, I ran into some roadblocks. So, I decided, instead of struggling, let me take a step back, and I am hoping to resume writing soon. We as a family were in Canada for a certain period of time and have recently moved back to India. It was a very different lifestyle for a while, but I am thrilled to be back in India and resuming the kind of life I have always wanted. By this I mean being surrounded by friends, family and all the wonderful things in this country that feed my soul.

How have you been coping with the pandemic?
I think I’m still handling it. I realize now that initially it was very strange for us as a family because we were moving from one place to another, all through the duration of the pandemic. For the first while, I was in denial and traumatized by the new. But of course we were in a place of privilege where we had it relatively easy. I think I was in shock, and now coming away with some sort of PTSD. Initially I was able to write. Now I feel like I have been frozen. However, I am not being hard on myself because we all need time to heal and now is my period of healing, where I am hoping to really understand the full impact of Covid.

There have been a lot of lessons, and I think I have become a better mother, dropping more of the unnecessary things from my life. I have clarity on what is important — my friends, my family, my writing, my expression. Though my wardrobe has suffered, I have thrown out so many things with the intention of starting from scratch, and it feels good. I feel so much lighter!

How did you stay mentally and physically healthy during this time?
Really, it was being gentle on myself. Of course there is a lot of advice we can give, “create structure, have a routine, exercise, eat well”, and it is all valid, but then at somepoint even that was not working. I decided to just be gentle with myself. My needs change day-to-day and if I felt like I needed a day off and lay low, that was okay. If I needed to go for a long walk, that is what I did. It was not always about finding structure in the day. Then again it may just be my personality. Having had such an erratic life whileworking in the arts, you simply get used to working without structure. However, it definitely took a big toll on our lives. We may only be able to comprehend it in its entirety in a few years from now, looking back.

Are there any projects in the works in terms of writing or television/ cinema in the near future?
I have been trying to work on my next book and have a lot of notes. I have enough notes to write a book, but I’m still not clear of its focus. Now that I am back in India, I have realized that I do need a little breathing space. I have realized that there are parts of the world or environments that stimulate you or inspire you, and environments that can suppress you or depress you, but India is a place that elevates me. My creative energy is always at an all-time high in this country.

Coming from Canada, I can say that because Canada is a very steady stable environment, there isn’t a lot of gritty art that comes from there. However, in India I really believe the arts are flourishing, and it is because we live in an environment with so many challenges, we all have something to say. Art needs that friction. I have always done a lot of public speaking which has been fun because we were able to bring it online, but I do look forward to getting back to speaking to a room full of people live. I am also still a part of Four More Shots Please!, and let’s see where that goes. But all I can say is, I am not in a rush.

This article was initially published in our September EZ. To read more such articles follow the link here.

Text Sarah Affonso
Date 22-10-2021