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’
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.
No one told me that a big part of being an adult is paperwork. I spent all of last week being a good adult. And must now die in the nostalgia of sweet childhood where being adult was a lot more fun.
I am still hungry for the romance that I assume will only arrive after running away from home. The romance of living alone with a cat which will come and go like in Eunice D Souza‘s poems. Of dealing with plumbing issues on my own. Of having the occasional dinner party where friends bring expensive wine, and after they have gone, of staying up late to wash vessels and finally, of gazing out into the window like Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the enemy.
I have friends who live on their own and as I write this, I can hear their bouncing laughs. It is nothing like this. And I believe them when they say it. Even so, this has been my ultimate love story – to live alone except for those long weekends where lovers drop in and go, but cats always come back.
The second thing I am beginning to understand about adulthood is that it’s mostly about being blind to it. A lot of growing up has happened over this year and I haven’t had the time to slow down, to see it, to either congratulate myself or curse it. Early last week, on Ambedkar Jayanthi, I wrote something that I had been trying to write for 2 years now. That post had been sitting in various angry drafts in various folders. It is a story I may have told very often, but for the first time, it didn’t feel like it was pointless. This time I had something to say.
Until a certain point, my life was overcrowded with people whose victories were quite strangely and rather strongly determined by how pointless they could make me feel about my writing. I have kicked them all out of my life and that is the third thing about adulthood – the gift of being able to say fuck off.
First Post carried my piece. They have some really cool design so it reads differently and better than it does on my blog. You can read it here.
I am grateful to Snegaa, who is famous for making Brahmin bedbugs weep. Snegaa who has always been there – ever since I started this blog. Over the years I have sent her pieces that I’ve enjoyed writing as also those I’ve struggled with. She has always taken time to read them carefully and offer solid advice. As of today, she is my dominatrix agent who sends me one- line reminders about sending writing pitches to publishers.
Namsiess, the love of my life is actually My Brilliant Friend. She is my Elena Ferrante, and my Lila-Lenu.
Very quickly, before this begins to sound like some lame I’d like to thank speech, I want to return to that Saturday evening of December 2012 when I was a newbie in the department. How I shyly took a piece I’d written to show it to AM and how I’d turned around with great speed and ran for my life immediately after.
Over the years, I learnt not to run, I learnt to be less afraid of my writing and what he was going to say about it. Right from calmly telling me for the 100th time, why something wasn’t working in my writing – to his comments in those balloon like things on Microsoft word that went – ‘Were you fucking sleeping when you wrote this sentence? WAKE UP’ – to ‘Vj, just keep writing like you don’t care’ — It won’t be an exaggeration to say that over six years, he’s the teacher I am still learning from. Not just how to read and write, but also to work, to be a friend, to ignore, and most importantly — to be kind.
It’s my first time getting paid for something I’ve written. I have been waiting to let that sink in. It still hasn’t. And I hope it never does. Letting that sink in would be to forget the various small pleasures that I can otherwise mindlessly engage in. Like thinking about how all my school and college friends are married, about how I am every day grateful for not having done science/MBA/IIT/marriage/babies, about how I used to fail science and math but still managed to adult well, about how small I’d feel on days they’d return test papers with 9/60 and 3/50 — underlining boldly – the big failure I was to become in life.
I wish someone else was writing this but because nobody is going to narrate my life in third-person Anu Agarwal style, I must do it myself. That is the fourth thing about adulting. That sometimes you have to be the narrator, the writer, the heroine, and the villainess of your own fucking life.
P.S – Today rumlolarum is four-years-old. This baby has helped me grow more than I could have managed on my own. I’m all smiles and love. See? Proof: I don’t have to be married to be a mother.
Today I celebrate rumlolarum and my PCOD- prone uterus. Cheers!
So this is my website (haw — never thought I’d say this) but you are now at rumlolarum.com. Bought a damn domain to celebrate 300 posts. It’s a Valentine gift to myself.
I believe I have withdrawal symptoms and worry that I will never be able to write again without the soft pinkish comfort of my older Adelle theme. It must be why I struggled for two days looking for a theme before landing on this one. It’s not as good as my old one but it reminds me of home.
This month has been weirdly good. Meta 2018 will officially be over in a day and I’m already looking forward to the next edition. I am not half as tired as I usually am during Feb but maybe that’s a lesson. If all Metas are like each other, how will I remember the years?
There are more reasons for why this month has been weirdly good. Ever since I interviewed writers Praveen Kumar and Manjunayak, I have been itching to write. Praveen Kumar put my laziness, self-pity, insecurity and everything else to shame when I asked him how he sustains writing. He simply said – Bitkodbaardu. Don’t surrender.
M said that’s how people ride in Bangalore Traffic and I laughed like 600 flower pots breaking on terracotta tiles.
Something changed after that interview. I have been able to wake up at 5:30 since then, to write. And I am surprised by how much I like it. I look forward to it with a delicious anxiety every night before going to sleep — like I’m getting dressed to meet a new love.
I don’t always write though. I go out – watch the sky go from dark blue to light blue to vanilla white. I sneak into the kitchen to make Elaichi chai and then sneak out to crush said Elaichi pods softly because house is still asleep. The Brahmin house next door is up obviously. Their steps and garden already smelling like rain.
Discovering mornings has been the best thing to have happened to me. As David Bowie says it here –
Posting an excerpt here from that gorg interview:
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Reading.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Discovering morning.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Talent.
What is your greatest regret? That I never wore bellbottoms.
What is your current state of mind? Pregnant.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Living in fear.
Current mood – A little happy and very yawn.
Current music – Juno
It’s all I am leaving you with today. And, this. Read, smile, love, sleep. Repeat. G’night.
For as long as I can remember – I have always been a stalker, first, a writer second. Even when I am not writing, I am stalking. It isn’t worrisome because if stalking happens then can writing be far behind?
I have spent some spectacular nights on my phone jumping from website to blog to YouTube interviews of women writers I’m madly in love with. It’s usually the kind of night that spreads itself neatly on my bed till 4 in the morning – my body gently breaking from all the postures I have been trying, my eyes tired and watery, and my head brimming with inspiration.
So what am I trying to learn from them?
In the beginning it was mostly about learning how to say fuck off. Even now, I’m afraid, I’m still learning the same thing. But please understand that at various points in life, women need different degrees of being able to say fuck-off. The fuck-off that you imply at home for instance is a lot different from the fuck-off you want to scream outside.
Beyond this is another freak show behaviour on my part. I’m obsessed with a strange desire to know everything about these women’s lives – who were their bullies in college? How did they fight back? How old were they when they first fell in love? When was the last time they cried? Do they use napkins or tampons or cups? Do they decide what to wear for work every day or do they just throw something on? How did they begin writing?
In the early 2000’s – the idea of a working woman in my family was radical. Her education, on the other hand was not radical because it was necessary to keep an engineer bride ready for a double-graduate groom. It was maybe more than necessary – it was meritorious.
Today, unmarried women in their late 20’s instinctively learn to show their middle-fingers at people who bug them about marriage and babies.
In the urban space therefore, even if I know many, many working women – it gives me a kind of high when they have work problems. My sister Bubbly’s work involves numerous conference calls when she is at home. Sometimes she sits with her laptop, her eyes scrunching at all manner of squiggly codes. I derive an odd pleasure from watching her work. One such busy morning, she was on a conference call when she was interrupted by a brother trying to wave at her. She shot him one killer look before going back to her call.
I love this. It’s incredible to see women being busy in a world that is just theirs. Kind of like a Bechdel pass. Bechdel fails are almost heartbreaking to watch- where female friendships are compromised because playing out to male fantasies or impressing men becomes more important. This is where Ferrante wins. In her world, there is neither any place for male fantasies nor for women who make everything about men.
I’m wondering also, if things in my past could have been handled better – meaning- without losing calm and foresight. I’m not going to get into the details here because I have already written about it in several other posts. But just what is a decent response to bullies?
My friend says that being unavailable to attacks or the attackers is one way to go about it. You don’t give them space – either in your life or in your head. It’s the only response that merits many degrees of coolness in my opinion. The unavailability isn’t physical. Although that’s a good beginning. It’s mostly emotional, intellectual even. When you don’t talk about them or about yourself in relation to them and their attacks – you outgrow them, you take away power from them. They become small when you focus on something else – your work for instance.
Being unavailable doesn’t mean not caring. It’s this rock- star ability to make attackers cringe by laughing at them. Which means that you care but just not enough to satisfy them – you care, but only enough to laugh at them.
Say a co-worker has an opinion about you and your competence, and has said shitty things about you to people who are directly related to your work – like students maybe, or clients, or people you are in a business partnership with – what do you do then?
Do you call them out for being unprofessional? Do you do major drama? Or do you just ignore it?
Here is a thing I wish I had done – I wish I had laughed at them. I wish my body had filled itself with an untamable Dalit energy and I’d laughed in their faces. Gogu Shyamala’s Saayamma has this energy. So does Devi’s Dopdi.
A short-story I once wrote has a woman named Sumitra leaping wildly, beating her chest and laughing at a man she hates very much. I don’t know where the energy to write Sumitra came from. It was based on an incident narrated to me. I gave her mad things to do because by then, somewhat of a mad woman was living inside me.
I’d like to believe that all Dalit women are naturally equipped with a capacity to laugh menacingly. How? I don’t know but they just do. Someone once said that a good, strong laugh is one that shrinks cocks down. It is true. Nothing shrivels a cock and savarna pride more than the loud and ‘vulgar’ laugh of a Dalit woman.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you hit 200 posts on your blog, people will *nudge nudge wink wink* and say ‘Blogging is not actual writing no?’. It is also a truth partly acknowledged that it will not be said directly. Here’s a clue. This is what they want to say: but she’s not a real writer ya!
Maybe. Maybe not. But this is how many fucks I gave about it today. One. And that’s why I am writingblogging about it. And then I’m all out. I feel strangely at peace with things today. First day of the academic year and I almost called in sick because I didn’t want to leave home, didn’t want to leave mommy. I’m not even kidding. The only reason I wanted to get out bed was because I spent my holidays doing absolutely nothing and was hoping the first day would yank me out of this sick – gestation period. This is the worst I have been at holidays. Worst. All my days were chewed up by meaningless binge-watching of HIMYM. My nights were long, warm and useless. I didn’t even wake up feeling refreshed.
The only good day I had was the 31st of December. I woke up, kicked myself, didn’t make my bed, had a bath, watched Romedy Now (Reruns of HIMYM, obvi), took my scooty and went to college. In the department, I made chai, cleaned up and settled down. I found futureme.org. A website that allows one to write letters for the future self. I wrote one. It will be delivered to my inbox on the 31st of Dec, 2016. I can’t wait to read it. I am wondering if it will make sense at all. The letter is 2000 words. It tired me so I ordered food from Khazana and watched HIMYM while eating it. The Ghee Rice, Dal, and Phal all agreed with me. Except when I dropped half a packet of Dal on my white palazzo pants. Best 31st Dec, ever.
I can’t think of a more perfect way to end my 200th blog post. I’ll just say today was a very interesting day. I am glad that holidays are over and that it’s a new bloody year and everything. The good ol’ Ladies Finger ran an essay I wrote about the women in my family. It’s a great boost – To begin New Year’s with the finger. Hee Hee.
Back home, I got fried for writing about this because apparently the man of the house has to be protected. If I’m not too careful, I may end up falling in love with all the women in my family. They are too busy protecting the men from getting hurt. This gave me the giggles. Mean ones.
Bubbly and I sat for hours this evening, talking about out great-grandmother. At one point, I had to whip open a tissue paper to map a family-tree, which began with one woman and ended with plenty of sons. I discovered many things about my family today. Some surprising, some disturbing, and some crazy- funny stories about a great-grandmother I never knew. I feel strangely inspired. Strange because it’s the same feeling I get after watching movies with a superb female cast.
I feel stronger because of the stories I heard today. Some days, maybe it’s enough to want to know more about the strong great-grandmother, and being told that she was strong. That’s all. It’s like watching Arundhati – scary, inspiring and deadly.
It was a pretty spectacular 200th blog post day. The high point of the evening was when Bubbly and I started talking about our Mangalore house. We began looking for a lost childhood that was short enough to fit into the house and long enough to follow us here, today.
The first few weeks after my post-graduation were spent sitting in an arm-chair, looking for jobs and streaming How I Met Your Mother. Two tabs for teaching vacancies, two for writing and two other tabs for stalking women’s blogs. I didn’t know this then but I think stalking women’s blogs made me want to have a writing life and made me see how independent the women who wrote were.
Two of my favourite women bloggers were on blogspot then and they had written extensively about their work and living alone. I gobbled up their archives in a day and was thirsty for more. I went looking for them online. I stalked friends of friends on facebook, googled their names and arrived at a set of conclusions. These women were employed, lived alone, liked to read, and wanted to become writers. They were part of writing and reading workshops, were in touch with each other and wrote motherfucking every day.
I was more envious than thrilled. I was only just coming to terms with my own desire to write and these women– some even younger than me, were a lot more accomplished. It was around this time that I got a job at an NGO in Mysore. After a lot of persuading, my parents agreed and I started to pack my life of 22 years into medium-sized suitcases. I packed tea mugs, all of my journals which needn’t be hidden anymore, my books that were waiting to be read after I had become an independent woman, and family albums, just in case I missed them (so many giggles)
When we got to Mysore, I realised that I hadn’t really given much thought to where I would be living my independent woman life. I hadn’t thought of accommodation. I assumed that a PG would come flying by to my rescue and I wouldn’t have to worry. Long story short- I didn’t find any accommodation that my parents approved of so I lived in a government guest house for three days before giving in to their emotional drama and eventually quitting. I cried and kicked all the way back to Bangalore. My theory is that all of my dad’s government car drivers know me better than my parents do. So many of my life’s tragedies have happened in these cars. They would look straight ahead and drive on sombrely, ignoring the hysterical and weepy woman sitting next to them. I wonder what they knew. I wonder if they judged my father.
Months later– sitting in Uttarahalli where I got my second job, I took my first step and started to blog. I had reached a dead-end. I was stalking all these women and becoming nervous and ambitious all at once. These bursts of energy only made me more jealous so I’d binge-watch Gilmore Girls and call it a day. Here I discovered a blogger who lived in Bangalore and went to college by day and wrote madly by night. I followed her writing very closely and that was the exact moment when ambition became inspiration. I wrote about watching Julie & Julia that day and went to bed a happy woman that night.
I continue to stalk women now. I turn to their writing for comfort when my own writing hits all levels of shit and my personal life hits all levels of madness. These women taught me how to be but they didn’t know that I was learning from them. Three years later I find that I have a writing life. It’s not the greatest but I’m sure that if the girl sitting in Uttarahalli knew this, she would be happy for herself.
It’s not easy to write. Especially not when I am sad but it’s the only thing that I can call mine and I trust it to make me feel better.