This semester’s biggest achievement was discovering that Ambedkar loved the violin and learnt to play it a couple of years before his death. Also that he loved gardening and woke up early in the morning so he could water plants and spend time with them.
Only he could have known why learning a new skill or just doing something one loves to do is so important. Coming as he did from a world where people thrived on keeping him away – companionship with oneself wasn’t just natural but also a rebellion.
Ambedkar became someone outside of a portrait in the stories that I rummaged through. Reading Annihilation of Caste was a revelation. A lot of the things that I simply hadn’t noticed in school assumed ugly shapes. I understand now why friendships have never come to me easily and why they never will. And this realisation has also led me to believe that I’m completely at ease being by myself most of the time, barring the occasional loud moments of loneliness.
Last year I discovered Ambedkar through Siddalingaiah, and I saw in both their stories the image of my college- going father eating lunch alone. I don’t mean to present a picture of victimhood here because this is an image that I derive a lot of strength from.
This year, I was also prompted to ask myself why I haven’t seen or read the stories of my mother and my grandmother anywhere. But I can’t complain about not having read their stories because I haven’t made the effort to write them. It falls upon me to write their stories. I saw this after reading Sujatha Gidla’s Ants among Elephants. There is a powerful, unabashed confession she makes at the beginning of her book – about how important it was for her to learn her ancestors’ stories before they died.
This is a dizzying worry for me too – that if I don’t learn and write my ancestors’ stories – the history of an entire community would be lost – or worse – botched and rewritten in some dabba textbook.
From the other authors that I discovered through Ambedkar – Gogu Shyamala, Namdeo Dhasal, Mallika Amar Shaikh, and Vaidehi – I learnt to smell forgotten bits of my childhood which, as I have come to understand is easy to recollect but hard figuring out. Sometimes my childhood is watching Mr. India again and again and sometimes it is a gnawing desperation to run after some girls from school – to become friends with them.
In Living to Tell the Tale – everytime Marquez mentions nostalgia– it is used with the word ‘attack’. As in – ‘One evening, my mother suffered an attack of severe nostalgia’
Like a bad fever, nostalgia must then be endured and overcome. For the Dalit community today, I am wondering if nostalgia is an attack too. One that can only be endured and never overcome because their stories must never be forgotten. They must be told and heard over and over again.
This semester was also a rude awakening to truths I’d have preferred not to have learnt. I see a pattern in both my teaching and my writing. It’s that the effort is all there but it is never complete. I leave arguments unfinished; I don’t complete a thought because it’s too much work. And this is making me very afraid.
Usually when I stumble across ugly truths about myself, I take refuge in students’ writing. Reading them always helps me in ways that reading published authors don’t. Students’ stories are sometimes told so simply and with so much energy that they puncture my powerlessness with language.
This is important because I still haven’t outgrown my ‘cheeks like Christmas mornings’ phase. This phase is what I began writing with – imitating English writers, and borrowing their metaphors. English handicaps writers like me because it isn’t the language I grew up with but it is the language I long to perfect and dream of conquering.
It’s clear though that I can never write in English the way so many others do because my relationship with it will always be fractured.
My stories and my parents’ stories and my grandparents’ stories all happened in Konkani and Kannada. It is strange to imagine them in English and stranger still to write them in English.
How to write then? It is very annoying to surrender writing to that kind of helplessness. A writer who rescued me from this fracture is Marquez. In his world, my powerlessness became less menacing. Stories are perhaps best told in the language that they happened in. And English needn’t be the monster I make it out to be. It can be the formless amoeba to my Konkani and Kannada. And when they all meet, formless becomes form.
I am cringing as I write this because as someone wise once suggested – it’s a sin to put Marquez and Magic realism so close to each other.
But maybe a community’s story needs the playfulness of Magic Realism to tell it. My Kottuncheri story found release because of this. Earlier this year, writing in Konkani opened many doors. Maybe it’s time to return to that project.
Today I noticed that I have been forgetting to hang my keys on the key stand. Last morning, I panicked. I was getting ready for college when I realized that my keys weren’t on their usual hook. I retraced my steps, double checked my bag and ran around the house like a mad woman. Ma then told me that the keys were on the table in her room. I was baffled.
Things like this never happen to me. I am cursing myself even as I type this, I am muttering many touch-wood kind of things under my breath, but I really never lose things – keys, mobile, wallet. Never. Ever. Even if I lose them for maybe a minute or two, I always find them. There. I have said it. I know now that tomorrow morning when I wake up, my world would have turned upside down. I will find myself key-less, wallet-less and mobile-less.
In the department today, I read after a long time. I read a story about a Bengali woman who was consumed by the desire to write every day. Her husband hated it — he hid everything she wrote. But she’d write the same story over and over again. The story about a blind girl who could tell you the names of colors by just touching them.
She sat with a pen and a new sheet of paper every evening and wrote. She challenged her husband to a bet. He said she wasn’t talented enough to get published. Later he hid in his drawer, the letters that various editors wrote to his wife, telling her to send more stories.
In stories, either as writers or as characters, women are mad in a way that they cannot be in real life. I will disagree with this in the morning but this needs to be said.
When she writes every day, a little bit of her husband dies, until he cannot take it anymore and runs away. When I read this, I feel full and begin to smile endlessly.
I was just going to leave the department when it started to rain. So I sat and looked around. When I sit and look around, especially in the department, I have an out of body experience. I begin to think about all the things that have happened ever since we moved here. Things that happened last year and the year before that.
Outside, the construction workers were on full swing. There was drilling and what not. I sat on the steps and waited for the rain to stop. Every time the drone of machines paused for a minute, I thought the rain had gone and stood up to leave.
When I finally left, I thought about all the ways in which the place would be different tomorrow. Tomorrow of the bright day time. Of the endless work and its slicing hurry.
My day began well yesterday. I got to college quite early and worked on the women in loos piece all morning. I found a variety of stories that just kept coming. I have often felt lighter and happier when I talk to strange women in the loos. When I started writing this piece, I wondered if it’s only a good idea and nothing more because I couldn’t go beyond the first two paragraphs. With every piece that I struggle with, I learn more about writing than much else. Turns out, a good idea is just enough to write. I got impatient with the piece and was almost going to give up when I decided to stop fussing and give it another shot.
In class yesterday, we did Adichie on fashion. I find that I’m learning more from the pieces that I have read long ago. I’m seeing them newly, as if for the first time again. I liked doing this piece very much. The class was more like a confession. I told them how much I like dressing up and how long it took me to admit it. Sometimes I wonder if all classes are actually confessions for teachers.
Somewhere in the middle of last month, I got a mild anxiety attack about my career. Perhaps because I had spent much of my vacation writing, watching movies and reading; I felt a little irritated when I had to abandon all of it to prepare for classes, to teach, and to do college work. I felt selfish one morning when I wondered what it’d be like to have a whole day for myself – writing and reading. A whole day without the hourly bells at college. For a moment, I considered giving up my job to sit at home and write. And then along with the bell, came my father’s approving and smiling face. He’d be thrilled to show me all the men he’s been accumulating for my marriage since I was 17.
It pained me to see his bright face in the middle of all that. That’s when I shook my head like a goat and went to class. That day in class, we talked about writing and I realized that I like talking about writing just as much as I like writing. And which bakra can I catch and talk about writing to if I quit teaching?
When I came back to the department, I felt guilty. I like teaching. I like writing more. But I’m not insane enough to sustain writing on an everyday basis. I feel the itch to write more when I don’t have the time. And teaching offers me the luxury of feeling that itch now and then. The joy of finding free time in the middle of a busy day and to think of writing in this free time is better than having a free day and not being able to write.
In other news, I have discovered a secret. It’s to wake up at an ungodly hour to write. I have been waking up at 5 every morning to write. And it’s silly but I’m surprised that my day is longer, that I’m able to write freely and that I have time to do Yoga. Some mornings are given up rather easily to bouts of self-pity and such but then I think of that maha bastard, Unni Chacko and I feel guilty being sad. Unni Chacko has done something to me.
Every time I feel compelled to be sad these days, I think of Unni Chacko and feel something heavy lifting off of my shoulders. I must, I must write about The Illicit Happiness of other People. Such a strange, lovely book.
I’m excited about S’s ‘cute dinner party’ tonight. She sent me an invitation and everything. Yesterday, in Arts and Culture, we were doing Zizek! We talked about cinema and the conversation went off to what is real and what is unreal and other such heavy questions. Too good. Today we will continue talking about film, real and unreal and then Sylvester Stallone is going to talk to us about why he’s interested in making films.
It’s only 8:20 am on a Saturday morning and I have the whole day. This better be a good weekend. Unni Chacko, please don’t leave me.
Holiday today. Life played its most evil trick on me yesterday. When one wraps oneself in a nice, warm, blue rug and calls it a day and hops to bed smilingly because one believes the next day is a holiday; the world must learn to respect that and leave one alone and not cruelly take it all away the next morning by undeclaring a holiday.
Only my damaged teeth knows how I peeled myself off of the bed last morning — all that angry teeth gritting. I survived yesterday anyway but not without ranting endlessly about having absolutely no time. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said some four weeks ago that that would be my last free Sunday for a long time.
When I slept last night, I was smiling. And it had nothing to do with the two glasses of Pina Colada I’d knocked down before. It had everything to do with today and all the time I’m going to have on my hands to do absolutely nothing.
In the morning, I woke up to major Sairat feels. I watched it again last week with my Arts and Culture students and was glad to find in the class, a like-minded attentiveness to the movie. It was liberating to not have to beg them to be quiet and pay attention — they were all glued to the screen and scribbling away in their notebooks. It’s finally happening the way it was always supposed to. I’m very excited about drama-free classes this year. Silver lining number 1.
I downloaded the songs on my phone this morning and listened to every single one of them on repeat – while cleaning, brushing and blushing. Only Sairat songs can make me blush like a 16 year old. The entire morning was a long romance with Sairat and then strangely at breakfast, I watched Curse of Chucky as some kind of punishment I think. I’ve never watched a single Chucky movie and decided that this would be the best way to spend my holiday. I watched the first of the series and am now going to watch the second.
My new coffee mug arrived a couple of days ago in a box that could’ve easily carried a printer. They sent me two mugs of the same color. One’s in the department and the other one’s at home. On some mad impulse I also ordered a bottle of Davidoff’s coffee powder from Nature’s Basket. When it arrived, it almost broke my heart to peel the silver covering.
When I dug for smell, it was there – all dark and lurking in its own aroma. Each particle of the powder was thick enough to make a tin-tin noise when it fell in my brand new mug. I didn’t feel like drinking the coffee though – I was too satisfied with its smell. I’m not abandoning my tea. I just need something powerful to keep me through the day. Tea is too relaxing. When I drink tea, it’s like telling the universe, ‘Hello there. Thank you for this moment. I feel absolutely relaxed to be having this tea right now. How I wish I had work to do so I could do it and have tea at the same time’
Having coffee is like saying, ‘Hi Boss. Thanks a lot. Like it wasn’t enough that I have unfinished work from yesterday- now I’m going to have to finish today’s work tomorrow. Thanks man. Where’s that coffee’
But I’m beginning to like this Davidoff guy. Silver lining number 2.
And then this happened in the afternoon and I fell about laughing on the bathroom floor:
Fuck winter. Zebra says period’s comin. Gospel truth happened off. Solidarity sister. It’s an app that lets women track their period and other ovulation dates. I think my PCOD has become powerless under GodZebra’s reign. Silver lining number 3.
I picked up Ferrante with great enthusiasm last month only to discover that it’s a pity how much I suck with time this year. Haven’t gotten past the 3rd chapter. My writing has pretty much died. I was working on a piece but it has stopped and is now shooting me bitch looks from the draft folder. The only thing I’m happy about right now is the weekend which is only a day away 🙂 Silver lining number 4.
Silver lining number 5 is The Open Dosa which is off to a great start this year. There’s decent work happening. Do check it out! Usually there are two tabs that open when I hit google – Facebook and Rumlolarum. These days, there’s Open Dosa too. I have five silver linings. I should be making a dress, not complaining.
It’s 5:00 in the evening. I’m sitting at my desktop with both the terrace doors wide open. It’s windy outside. I had an epiphany when I was finishing my chai and so I decided to make a blog post out of it. Today’s possibly the freest Sunday I’m going to have in a long time – until far, far November.
College has reopened and much as I am still hungover from the month long vacation, I am really excited about this semester. I have always had a school-girl fascination with new beginnings no matter how much I hated the endings. When college closed for vacation this April, I thought I’d roll on the floor and cry when it reopened in June. Turns out, I am a romantic like that. Nothing can make me hate my job. Nothing can make me hate my desk at work. And one month is enough to make me miss having a job and waking up to it every single day.
I remember having an epiphany at Meta this year. Something about spaces having more meaning than people and how Meta has gone beyond people. Similar feelings are happening off for my job also. It is coming around to mean a lot more than it did a couple of months ago. It has gone beyond people and maybe even beyond me.
In other news, I’ve discovered a great way to blackmail myself into writing. I’d already bought The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma on Kindle when I was just finishing Cat’s Eye. And I told myself not to start reading it unless I finished writing about Cat’s Eye. This was especially hard because I was dying to read TPLOMS. I read an extract and it made me giggle and fall about everywhere. I felt threatened in those four long days it took me to finish writing about Cat’s Eye.
It’s a sick thing to do but I am not complaining. I’m bearing the sweet fruits now, aren’t I? Spent the whole afternoon giggling under my bed sheet, reading TPLOMS.
I’m also back to watching New Girl. Ransacked Seasons 4 and 5 in three days – also got suspiciously teary-eyed at Schmidt and Cece’s wedding. Damn you, Jessica Day. I love you more and more with each passing episode.
I don’t really care about the epiphany I had when I began writing this post anymore. What was it anyway? That today’s probably the freest Sunday I’m going to have? That’s alright. I am going to bed with Mrs. Sharma and Jessica Day tonight so it’s totes worth it 🙂
I get an erection when I think of free time these days. Yet somehow all that glorious free time is spent watching Season 2 of Gilmore Girls. I am not complaining though. I noticed a guitar in Luke’s apartment in the episode where Jess comes to Stars Hollow for the first time. I might be growing fonder of Emily than Lorelai – this is when I slow down, shut my laptop and contemplate life.
Summer is here – there’s blood and pus in my nose, boils the size of balloons on my face, grease and leaves in my hair, an egg that I am sure will neither fertilize nor crumble in my uterus, leading me to believe that much like me-that damned egg will live and die alone. In my uterus.
So PCOS 10: VJ Loser. It’s alright actually. I don’t even realise I have a malfunctioning uterus until a drop of the theertha is eventually squeezed out, once in three months.
Mintu and I went to Fenny’s last Sunday. Madam wanted to watch the match so she got there 30 minutes early and sat annoyingly close to the projector. I yanked her away to a nice little table with tall stools under some tree. I am yet to figure out how people grow so many trees on the third floor. Next to us was what they called a Lucky Ficus. Here’s something about sitting under trees –no matter how calm I am from the inside to be sitting right under nature’s bosom and all, I am permanently worried that there are snakes in nature’s bosoms. I kept looking up to see if there were any snakes hanging above my head and hissing. I didn’t tell Mintu because she would start crying and screaming and make us switch tables.
Mintu starts shaking if you so much as say ‘snakes’. Even the word, she says is snake-like.
In other news, I am no longer practicing tolerance and non-violence when people start screaming their guts out while watching cricket. At Social the other day, the waiters whistled with actual whistles everytime the blue men caught a six. My ears bled. I wanted to make something of theirs bleed. The drinks were nice though. The LIIT was an actual tower, a drink called trip on the drip actually came with a drip bag, and there were appetizers called crab balls to you.
Later that night when I went home, the match was still on and the peeps were mental. I was too happy and tipsy to complain so I joined in. But mother, B, M and V started throwing things at me because I was cheering for Bangladesh. When the match came to an exciting near end, my mother kept bouncing up and down, my brother was half sitting half praying, B and M were kicking me because I had spotted a man dressed as a tiger whom I decided to call Bengal Tiger for the rest of the night. Bengal Tiger beat his chest at various points and wept when India won. He had both his hands on his head and cried like a baby. Everytime he appeared, I yelped. Soon, they all joined and laughed the match off whenever they saw Bengal Tiger. He looked so sad – I think he died.
I am reading Tipping the Velvet and feeling bad for myself because after this and Night Watch, I won’t have any more Sarah or Waters to read. She reminds me of London, and the coach we saw London in. I can’t think about London without sighing and also feeling a little guilty. It’s close to a year now and I am nowhere near to finishing that Europe piece.
B is engaged! The wedding’s in August and I promised to wear a saree if she came with us for a vacation. B will celebrate her bachelorette or the Konkani version of it, on a cruise. I am making my list for the vacations– hopefully I will find the courage to let go off Gilmore Girls and get a life.