For the love of Keret-IV

Aishwarya Rai in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is no longer weeping for Salman Khan. Ajay Devgan is playing Salman’s role. The villain- her father, stands arms folded between Ash-Ajay. Someone forces him to muster the decency to leave them alone for final goodbyes and he does. Ash collapses into Ajay’s chest. Then she cries, he cries (although I can’t see his face) and over his strong, broad shoulders, I see her eyelashes, heavy and wet with tears.

***

I am in a Thai film. I am in a hurry to get cake for my mother. Someone drops me off at a market where I am suddenly adopted by the people living there as one of their own. The architecture of the building is funny and scary, like strange buildings in new cities are. The entire building is zigzag, like our parking spaces in malls.

A tall woman with shiny black hair and swan’s neck is my new mother. My new mother gathers me in her arms but we are quickly separated by something. There is chaos, the enemies are coming and just the word is enough to send everyone running. I am everywhere and here at the same time but deeply, miserably aware that my new mother isn’t with me. I can suddenly understand why babies need their mothers so much, why I need mine, what all the deal with mother’s love is about. I pine for her, gathering my heart in my hands and running and looking for her in the chaos. I’ve lost her.

***

My year-old nephew is playing in my arms. We are at a big, bright house by the beach. Everyone is here, my whole family. And even as I am with them, I can’t fight the all too familiar feeling of having/needing to be somewhere else. I curse myself. Why am I such a terrible planner? Why do I make promises I know I cannot keep? There’s a furious wind and I remember with great desolation, my alone and small bike that I’ve parked at college, right in front of the beach (How to move here permanently?)

I tell Amma I have to go. She is mad.

***

The Haunting of Bly Manor

It is all kinds of thrilling to finally be able to meet a ghost who likes dresses, and dressing up. I dreamt of The Lady in the Lake this morning, at 3:30 am that too. And thought how unfair to be trapped that way under the lake when all you want in life is to wear nice dresses, and make your own decisions, and be your own woman.

I had goosies watching her wake, walk, sleep, wake, walk, sleep. I’m not able to get her stubbornness to live out of my mind. I wish I never have to. And this coming at that same time as *that time of the year* when I do Didion in class. Self-respect, folks, is the stubbornness to keep on living, even when your fucking sister murders you because she wants to wear all your dresses.

So sly the makers of The Haunting of Bly Manor are: they took an age old irritation with younger bloody sisters who keep stealing all our dresses and made a horror/love story out of it. Super.

Sigh-filled dyku scenes, and amazing clothes also. And they are right, all love stories are horror stories only no? Especially if miserable people like me have to sit at home and watch hot women in amaze clothes (HANNAH GROSE FTW) all over each other.

Big joys for rumlolarum

This came out today and I am smiling. To think that someone sitting so far away (not that it matters) has read me and allowed rumlolarum.com to sit inside their body and mind is a gift I will cherish for a long, long time.

When I began this blog in 2014, I had no idea where it was going. I only knew I had to write. WordPress was on the syllabus of a new course and I had to learn it before I taught it. Odd that students seemed to outgrow it but I never managed to. AM was saying last week that I am the prototype of the first EJP graduate, I agree wholeheartedly.

I did become a graduate in that sense only after I began reading and writing, which through my undergraduate and postgraduate days, I hadn’t learnt how to. Like RP Amudhan once said, ‘It took me 20 years to realise that I could learn’

400

I can’t look back properly. I don’t know what I will find there. Some days, I’m afraid that I will be so ashamed of what I find there, I turn around quickly. But why must an unsure, timid version of you shame you? It’s still a girl – writing, scared, writing anyway, longing to run away, confused, angry, bitter, sad, but mostly in love. And I am not devastated that I am still all these things.

Dawn Powell says, ‘Better not to trust anybody much until you know them; then, not at all’

This helped me discover that if there’s anybody I don’t trust at all, it’s me. Never have and never will. It’s why I find myself in situations where I don’t like what I am saying or doing.

What I think and what I say are not always the same thing, except when I am teaching (and here too I have to try very hard). What I think and what I write are more sisterly even if they are not always twins. Sometimes the writing launches a thought. Often they happen together. But more often than not, the struggle, as always, is to retain the music of the thought in writing which is getting more and more difficult, especially after having noticed it.

I have always been afraid of people who can say what they are thinking clearly with very little reluctance and interruption from their own selves (Lila Lila Lila) With me, it seems as though I am so used to the interruption that even when I am close to a semi-solid articulation of a thought, I anticipate (sometimes even welcome) the interruption so I abandon the thought entirely.

***

I’ve been watching reruns of GG again & thinking how much I want to undo a piece written in 2016 . There’s so much more to say, so much better, so little I am now willing to be satisfied with. But it’s because of my blog that I am unable to feel shame about what I can’t undo now.

Last week, same day, I woke at dawn to write about Dawn Powell (gihaha) I don’t know when the piece will be out but that’s how it’s been with everything I have written over the last few months. I work at and push through pieces which I send off in a hurry, and then don’t see for a long time. I like this. It’s a new way of working and learning distance. All my editors in the past two months have been tough to please, I like this even more.

This is my 400th post and I am happy. (Reading Sheila Heti’s Motherhood has come at a perfect time)

rumlolarum.com is my baby; so much so that even after it became a website 2 years ago, I still won’t call it a website. I built my life here. Anniversaries are the only great thing about time. How else would we acknowledge who we were (are), keep them at eye range, and nod at them occasionally? (Didion)

Happy 400th to me.

In other good news, my Silk Smitha piece was translated to Kannada and you can read it here.

For a while, we are children again – my cousins & I

In the Mannagudda house in Mangalore where the tallest point of the slope touched sky and one section of houses bent their ears to gravity.

We didn’t want to sleep but we had to.

Under the angry eyes of my mother and theirs,

we pretended to sleep, our eyes closed to them and open to us in every other way, grateful. They couldn’t see that we were playing behind the red screens of shut eyes.

I have stayed up many nights after that but never quite like I have on that night.

We lay in silence, stifling giggles because someone tried to find his way to the others and was kicked back to sleep by an awake, upset adult.

Little by little, each of us managed to leave our beds and walk with our palms pressed to our mouths as if that would somehow mute our feet.

We gathered in the backyard and poured laughter

All delight of a sleepless night released.

Then the pointlessness set in. We had escaped sleep, the dangerous quiet it brought, and adults. Now what?

We couldn’t do nothing with the time we had stolen (and stayed up all night for)

So some of us went to gather sticks – big and small

– just so our hands had something to do that early in the morning

And the others dutifully went back to sleep.

Dear Toni

I broke down in class last week when I was reading out this piece by a student. I haven’t wept in class before. I have caught myself just short of breaking down (sometimes unsuccessfully) while saying goodbye to students in the last class. But never like this, never in the middle of reading a piece. Maybe I wouldn’t have broken down if the piece wasn’t written by a student. Maybe I wouldn’t have broken down if she had never sat in my classes, if I had never watched her write, if I didn’t know what she was talking about. But I did, and I do. I am making excuses after all. I have always cried after reading her, sometimes privately, and now I can say publicly as well. She wrote things that aren’t easy to write. I cried because she was walking around with everything she hadn’t written until she wrote that piece, I cried because I don’t know what else she is still carrying.

I could have stopped reading, told the students to read it on their own, switched my camera off and composed myself. But I kept going, I don’t know why. I think she made me keep going. And I pray she keeps me going.

I once cried at Meta when a girl student had yelled at me under the banyan tree in college. I didn’t know what to do. But I just kept thinking, if I were a man, or a tall & pretty Savarna teacher with perfect teeth, sharp nose, and bright wide eyes, I wouldn’t be crying under the banyan tree. Maybe I would, I don’t know – but it’s unfair – this desire to know what it would’ve been like if I was Savarna. After all, how often does a Savarna teacher spend time thinking about what it’s like to be a Dalit teacher?

And also – I don’t like feeling that way. Because I know that if I were Savarna, I wouldn’t have been able to read Beloved the way I did and let it live inside me like it now does. There is a reason you write the way you do and when I’d finished reading Beloved, I felt closer to you in a way I wouldn’t have been able to feel if I were Savarna.

I don’t know if I’d have not cried if it were a boy yelling at me, not a girl. Because boys and their words have a way of hiding behind my teeth and making me angry and sour, never sad. The girl returned after months with two roses and an apology. I smiled and accepted all three. Then I wondered if I shouldn’t have, then I was happy that I had. Will I ever reach a stage where I’ll be confident about the choices I’ve made? Will I ever know what to do immediately? Will I ever have it in me to not cry, not be angry? But why should I not cry? What will I do with all that strength it takes to not cry? Where in my body will I keep so much strength? So much self-respect? So much control? I don’t have that much space in my body for that kind of control.

***

I have been waking up early, not to write oh but how I wish I could. I have been waking up early to look at the sky and think of you. I had read that you woke at 4 to make coffee and watch the light come. It’s how you knew that you were ready to write each day. That you didn’t have to be in the light, you had to be there before the light with coffee to know you were ready to write. I loved the sound of that so much that I have been waking early to watch the sun come up, to look at the way it touches the tree outside my door, and to think of you. Thinking of you makes me want to get ready to write.

I don’t know how it’s possible but your belief in storytelling, in the stories your parents told you, about themselves, and the world is how I see mine. I think it’s not easy for Savarna people to understand this or to even take this seriously. And I am learning to live with that. Because their inability to see love and stories makes me never want to give up on myself.

Today, I woke at 4:30 from a dream I wanted to urgently return to so I went back to finish it (Possessed teddy bear-owl with flapping, beating wings is going nuts in my room. Doesn’t leave me alone so I dump it in the trash outside. It becomes a baby and sits on the windowsill cackling at me before jumping to its death and returning again to my bedroom to haunt me. Basically this is Clifford Geertz + Mixer Week + Google Meet+ Online classes)

And when I woke up again, it was 5:59 and I felt like the day was already over, that I was too late. Then I really woke up, told myself to fuck off and begin the day (take trash out, bring milk, put it to boil, put bread in the oven, boil water, make coffee)

After that crying episode, I was afraid the students wouldn’t take my classes seriously anymore. That because of this ’emotional’ outburst, I have shown them that my intellectual relationship with the subject at hand (Resisting caste) has been compromised.

But then I thought, wtf – a teacher moved to tears because of something her student has written is nothing to be ashamed of. If there are teachers who have cried teaching Shakespeare, then A. Suresh is no less than Shakespeare. But it will be used against me, I know that. Someday, when I am least expecting it, it is going to come back and bite me.

So yes, bite me.

“I am not interested in happiness. Not yours, nor mine nor anybody’s. I don’t think we can afford it anymore. I don’t think it delivers the goods. Most important, it gets in the way of everything worth doing. Happiness has become a bankrupt idea, the vocabulary of which is frightening: money, things, protection, control, speed, and more. I’d like to substitute something else for its search. Something urgent, something neither the world nor you can continue without. I assume you have been trained to think- to have an intelligent encounter with problem-solving. It’s certainly what you will be expected to do. But I want to talk about the step before that. The preamble to problem-solving. I want to talk about the activity you were always warned against as being wasteful, impractical, hopeless. I want to talk about dreaming. Not the activity of the sleeping brain, but rather the activity of a wakened, alert one. Not idle wishful speculation, but engaged, directed daytime vision. Entrance into another’s space, someone else’s situation, sphere. By dreaming, the self permits intimacy with the Other without the risk of being the Other. And this intimacy that comes from pointed imagining should precede our decision-making, our cause-mongering, our action. We are in a mess, you know; we have to get out, and only the archaic definition of the word “dreaming” will save us: “to envision; a series of images of unusual vividness, clarity, order, and significance.”

~Toni Morrison~

When I read this from your Sarah Lawrence Commencement Address, I had a warm desire to hear you and Babasaheb talk to each other. I grew hungry to have you both in my belly, walk into a classroom and roar, walk to my table and write my heart out.

Someday, it will happen. I can feel it gathering in my fingertips.

Image credits: Speakola

Featured image credits: nytimes.com

For the love of Keret-III

In a dark corner of the mind where there is rain everyday – there are infinite spaces in which to write. The terrace with its right angled cushion sets, plants, sun. The room under the terrace which is also a terrace, and here too, plush sofas and round tables, plants, sun.

Sandy is here with the children, her temples permanently dotted with three drops of sweat, her armpits soaked and her teeth, perfect squares. She is fascinated by the space, plants, sun and is wondering what it would be like to begin the day with this every morning.

Dawn to Dusk

I had the strangest dream this morning. I was reading Dawn Powell & I reread 5 lines over and over because they said something fantastic about life that I obviously can’t remember now. I had the knowledge that writing and reading wouldn’t be the same now because it was all going to change, because I had something delicious just within reach. My first copy of Dawn Powell is on its way as I write this and I am feeling terror within.

More when I’ve read her.

Raat Akeli Hai

I like the songs of frogs and whisper of crickets, especially in films. Raat Akeli Hai is full of these sounds. My ears were sharper than the poke of a single stray hair hanging by the shoulder.

In DC, where we stayed at Georgetown University, the cicadas kept me smiling. I walked around the campus, fighting a mild slew of loneliness but the crickets kept me independent and helped me gaze outside instead of inside. It’s why I like watching films too.

It’s a delight to watch Nawaz on screen. He brings the sort of sharp deliberation to every pause so that you are forced to never leave his face. His face is a moment.

Here are some scenes that made me giggle:

  1. (Nawaz and friend at a restaurant ordering food) Nawaz says no to chowmein and orders fried rice because chowmein reminds him of worms. This offends his friend and they have a tiff. Despite his refusal, chowmein has somehow landed on their table which Nawaz, like the grumpy husband that he is, refuses to eat. I seem to not just tolerate but also like men on screen only when they perform such coupledom.
  2. Nawaz has an even funnier relationship with his mother who is looking for a wife for him. She doesn’t seem to mind the women he minds because he is a man baby she mostly ignores.
  3. My favourite anecdote was Nawaz complaining about his name (Jatil Yadav) which was apparently the result of a spelling mistake his mother made when she was trying to spell Jatin.
  4. How he hides flattened tubes of fair & lovely behind the mirror.

There are ample Uttar Pradesh shots in the film. Lots of Kanpur and Jajmau. And this is more reason to watch any film – roads, gallis, rain, and sky.

My one serious grouse with the film is its glaring absence of the notorious police-boots sounds. The only good thing about the Bollywood-cop films were the sexy kitchkitch sounds those boots made. It’s also why I still enjoy watching 90’s Kannada kalla-police films.

But that was forgiven and forgotten when I had a Jhilmil moment with a scene showing Babasaheb’s portrait in the police station. It was strategically and predictably placed next to Gandhi’s (barf) and Modi’s (double barf) portraits.

There were various references to caste, some flung around carelessly – others making an attempt to go somewhere but holding back noticeably. I will come back to it when I know what to do with it. For now, all I wanted to say is this is how a film gathered around my evening yesterday.