Laugh like Sumitra

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.

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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.

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The month that was

Saturday was a fun day. I watched Delicacy with my students and liked it more this time. Later, we watched a stage portrait of Einstein in the college auditorium. I sat in the front row which may have, just may have, made me like the play more. A shortish review to come soon. After the play, I came back to the department and stalked a blogger I thought I had forgotten.

I remember feeling super impressed and a little jealous when I first read her blog. That whole design is hers and I learnt a lot from my stalking- sessions. I learnt about widgets, colors and themes, copyright on the blogosphere, disabling copy -paste through CSS and the likes.

She writes regularly and I can say she’s guilty when she doesn’t. I pay more attention to design, lists and posts that are part of weekly/monthly challenges on her blog. This is who I now turn to when I am running out of things to write. She has a post up almost everyday. There are quotes, lists, and pictures for days that she hasn’t written.

That kind of investment is all kinds of enviable. I also find that I need to stop feeling foolish about wanting to decorate my blog. There’s something so welcom-y about her blog. She does these reviews of months that I am fascinated by and want to try. I have nothing pressingly aggravating in my life that I want to protect as of now. So there you go, November was helpful.

  1. I went to Goa and Hyderabad. Goa reminded me that I should travel more often and Hyderabad reminded me to write more papers and attend more conferences — I loved the whole experience of being on my own in a university campus. I have now also understood the beauty of web-checking in.
  2. November also meant waking up to a fresh semester. Half a month has gone by and I have come to learn that there’s an odd sense of calm when only the students who are interested are sitting in your class. Sin Drama.
  3. November has been tight, money wise which meant that I made frequent trips to the bank. But I think I am getting better at managing money.
  4. The Reading Room met to discuss Rebecca. Our next book is The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I have only read three pages so far but I can already get a Madame Bovary- reading feel from it so, yay.
  5. I spent the last weekend in November watching various films. I am getting back to a decent movie-watching zone. I watched Coco before Chanel, Delicacy, and Deconstructing Harry.
  6. I love Woody Allen. He is God.
  7. I spent more time at home than I usually do. Eliminated 3/4 of the drama from my life.

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Sex without love and other impossibilities

All of today has been productive. I wish I live everyday with the same fervor as today. Although said fervor came from stalking women and their blogs. Anyway, one such stalking hour took me to this poem which has made me see sense – a solution to my needless self pitying sprees.

I found the poem on a blog I had been stalking all morning like a hungry cat. 

Sex Without Love by Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other’s bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health–just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.
 

The poem hit me hard where I needed to be hit properly and immediately. I was slipping into my obnoxious self – a past that I don’t want to be in, a present that is reluctant to promise and a future that thrills me just as much as it scares me. All morning I was in deep slumber – inspired in part by my need for pillow talk and in part by my obsession with knowing – answers and clarifications to my doubts and insecurities. This odd bit of truth lay it all to rest in one fitting swoop.

‘They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure’ drove home the point. My only hope now is to wake up as the same  person that is so much at peace and in love with herself today.