Endings & Beginnings.

Hello you, it has been a full two years since I signed up for a mailchimp account and sent out my first newsletter titled ‘Prologue’. It was a way to get back to writing thanks to the urge of my favourite human, and aptly, I launched it on her birthday. Today would have been her 34th, but 33rd was to be her last, and so this edition of the newsletter must carry the weight of an ending and a beginning at the same time.

I’ve only had the strength to write eleven newsletters over that two years, and my words over that period barely concealed the tragedies I was living in then. I am aware that there has been a lot of sad in my words over the last few months. I also recognise that reading my dealing with the fragility of humanity may be too much for some. So if you feel like this newsletter is no longer for you, I understand.

While I konmari-ed through the cloud of grief, I am now trying to Kintsugi my way to a new chapter. Just like the Japanese art of pottery repair by using gold, I am also picking up the pieces, trying to piece it together, and embracing the broken-ness of it all. My long walks is giving me some space to think, and some momentum to move forward. The warmth of family & friends have kept my faith & connection to humanity. The guidance from my therapist is giving me some light and courage on the hazy path. I am still at the beginning of my ‘recovery’ but my faith keeps me believing that there is a kind of good that will come out of all this at the end.

Outside & inside.

In my last email to you, I mentioned that I will be pondering about the future of this newsletter. I reviewed it from all angles and kept myself open to a complete overhaul, eventually leading me to these:

 1. My newsletters have always been in longform writing. I enjoy writing in this manner and I feel like it keeps things personal, honest, and human. This is the kind of email/letter that I would like to receive and with that, I plan to keep it this way. Its flexibility also leaves the door open for the occasional ‘segments’ that I may indulge on a whim.

So all this reading that you have to do? It’s here to stay. Future versions of this newsletter will retain this flowy texty character, which I think some of you do enjoy.

 2. I also reflected on the books, articles, and podcasts that I devour every day in an attempt to sieve out recurring topics across them. I wanted to see if there was a big arc that tied it all together. I was searching for something that could be compressed into a one-liner for a bio. Something that I can use to explain to others what I write about.

I listed the topics: love, faith, community, authenticity, mindfulness, technology, creativity, literature, cities, environment, design, politics, ethics, economics. There were too many. But vaguely, it seemed to gravitate nebulously towards two cores: Human & Urban. 

As I thought deeper about it, I saw how these two ideas – on its own, at its intersections, and its fringes – have always been the underlying themes of my work and my life. As an urbanist, I think a lot about making it more human, and having us humans at the centre of the process. As a human, I ponder on what being & living in our modern cities should and could be. To reference Pico Iyer, one could say that I am always shuttling between my human innerworld and my urban outerworld. It is from this in-between space that my words seem to emerge.

 3) The direction for my blog and newsletter has been gently swaying in the wind over the last two years. In #000, I wrote that “there is no plan” for this newsletter. After bumbling through a few hundred words over a few editions, I added a section in #006 called Fascinations which are “short writeups surrounding recent explorations and discovery around topics of interest”. Then in #009, I wrote of my hope for the blog to be “my little place on the internet that will serve as a public record of my learning, un-learning, and re-learning” and for the newsletter to be a compliment to it. Of course all that got a jolt in May 2020 when a hard reset happened to my life, the blog and newsletter. It left things up in the air and begs the question: Where will Adib go from here?

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I have arrived at the conclusion that forward for my blog and newsletter will look like a one-man labour of love exploring questions about our shared humanity & urbanity. It’s always been there but it is for once, packed into a compact blurb.

This newsletter will continue to be called “Dispatches” and will be sent out monthly on the last Tuesday of every month. It will continue to be longform writing and feature behind-the-scenes thought processes bouncing in my head (like what you’ve just read), links to essays or blog posts that I’ve written lately, offer glimpses into personal projects (and in some way my life), and other miscellanies – all of it related to the my inquiry of being human and living in a built environment.

Perhaps all this may seem like a convoluted way of saying that little is changing except a little more focus and refinement to it all. It probably is, but in a time where nothing appears certain, I felt that I needed to do this and hopefully, give you a clearer reason to read my words. There’s just too much of life to live in this short time we all have, and I plan to respect the time and attention that you’ve afforded me.

So let’s start again from the beginning:

Hi, I’m Adib Jalal. This is “Dispatches”, my monthly longform newsletter about our shared humanity and life in cities. It is sent on the last Tuesday of every month.