Categories
Caste Food In Between

D for Desire

It’s yellow like the amrutanjan yellow, the smell tiptoeing around your nose when you are asleep. Gone by morning like the memory of a headache.

It’s not neat like the aligned rows of corn that tempts eaters to do two things at once. One, bite off just a kernel at a time, and two – leave a gash open in its middle, showing the loud wound of oval teeth marks. There is ease in eating corn out of a cup but the spoon always gets in between – never enough to feel the fullness of it in the mouth.

Sometimes desire is a glorious unexpected purple, the kind that bursts out of colorless colliding pies in Tom and Jerry. Most other times it’s a coriander green. The kind that traps early morning sunlight and never lets it go. The kind that romances with a blob of water droplet, again -never letting go, again almost going – like lendi. 

It is wanting human intimacy to match with the pleasure of eating mangoes in white petticoats and lying on the floor for hours after, playing with the afternoon sun weaving tangible window patterns made of gold threads.

It’s permanently wondering if things would have been different if you weren’t Dalit, if there would be a ruthless admission of love and desire for you if you weren’t Dalit, if the words fuck you would’ve come to you a lot easier if you weren’t Dalit. It is wondering if Dalit anger is preferred over Dalit desire.

I googled ‘Dalit Desire’ & found a bunch of “research-based” essays, some obviously written by Savarna academics. I giggled. First they hijacked pain, now pleasure. Is it research when skill is put above experience, pain above pleasure, discomfort above desire, and community above individual?

Last year, I put together a syllabus on Resisting Caste & made a conscious decision to leave out all research-based essays, those serious, intellectual, Savarna- academic ones that play Word-Olympics with caste, those that are written in such complicated language, that even caste will begin to feel like it exists only in theory. No wonder people continue to think that caste isn’t alive anymore.

I put in experience, thoughts, dilemmas, insecurities, fear, love & decided that theory will come nowhere near my classroom. But I forgot that at a certain point in their lives, students are made to feel that if they don’t know theory, they are the Jon Snows of English academia. What to do then? How to teach? 

Ambedkar approached a lot of what he wrote on caste with the seriousness & precision of a scientist even though he had lived experience to begin with. But he knew that for his work to be taken seriously, he was going to need something stronger than experience, something that can shut people up. Merit. Scholarship. Poetry. There is a reason why I can read his works like they were love letters. Because he wrote with the passion of a poet.

Nothing is as powerful as a Dalit child reading Ambedkar for the first time. It fills her body with an energy that is both thirsty and insatiable. Like a desire to finally start living.

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Categories
Writing

Gabito’s yellow butterflies and Ursula’s thirty-six eggs

So I got a tattoo.

The plan, like all tattoo plans was made 5 years ago. I’m grateful for the 5-year-gap because I’m not sure Spider Man is an ideal tattoo for a 29-year-old woman. It’s good that I waited because I most certainly absolutely truly madly deeply love Garcia Marquez. It’s also good that he’s dead so he won’t do stupid things like kill someone or suddenly become a Nazi-sympathizer.

After Spider man, I was obsessed with getting a tea cup tattoo. One of those Japanese ones with steam rising from the brim and all that.

And then on the morning of the tattoo day, I was excited by the possibility of a rebellious sword/pen/ image with the words Jai Bhim inked out. It’s what I had in mind when I entered the studio. Later, when I asked Namsies if the pen thing was too writer type, she grimaced and I had my answer.

Gabito’s face came and stayed. I googled and found a really cute picture of him with his yellow butterfly and my eyes sighed. What else could I have asked for? The man’s stories have made mine write-able. Every time I am stuck with a piece – reporting or fiction – I think of yellow butterflies and the story writes itself.

I feel alive because when I read him, I feel like I can write. As if all my stories suddenly wake up from a long coma and demand to be written. As if all I have to do is set my stories free from the weight of the English trap and the writing will happen automatically.

In a world where mathematics makes no sense to me and accuracy has never had any meaning in life, Ursula’s thirty-six eggs have managed to break my yolks.

A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José , and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Ursula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.

If I do a quick soul-searching exercise, I know I will find that I was the happiest  while reading Marquez, especially Living to Tell the Tale. It’s a book that taught me many many things about writing -and more importantly, a lot about living. His discoveries about himself as a writer, of falling off the bed when he read The Metamorphosis’s first line, of feeling happy that one could lie while telling stories have all made me a somewhat happy person in life 🙂

It’s crazy no? That a writer could be sitting/dead so far away from you; but his stories make you feel more alive than you have ever felt in your life.

***

The tattoo didn’t hurt but that’s probably because years of menstrual cramps have taught me to giggle at other kinds of pains. And partly also because I am blinded by love.

Here is a picture that came very close to being tattooed. This is my favourite picture of Gabito because it appears as though his whole face is smiling. Look –

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Now all I have to do is have chai with Sujatha Gidla, a dinner and more date with Adichie, and get Vargas Llosa’s name autographed on my bosom. Then I can RIP.

 

*Featured Image Credits – Prothom Alo

Categories
In Between

E – Egg

Some things just snap me out of the lousiest possible moods. On days that I wake up early and write 500 words, for instance, nothing goes wrong. Even if things do go wrong, I don’t notice it. Even if I do notice it, I am rarely worried because I am happier on days that I can write. And then there are the occasional postmortem sessions that I conduct on my blog that leave me dry and suicidal.

The Egg is another thing that comes close to snapping me out my any lousy mood. I mean all kinds of egg here. Boiled, poached, scrambled, omelette, sunny side up. So long as the yellow is in the egg, I love consuming all manner of eggs. I am convinced that without the yellow,bulky, thick, gooey mixture of the yolk in my mouth, life would be very very dull. Also cruel.

These strong feelings that I have for the yolk don’t all have to do with the taste. I am sure that if the yolk was blue or orange, instead of yellow, it wouldn’t taste like the egg, much less look like it. The yolk and its yellowness are pleasures dipped with guilt. Well, guilt because, you know, cholesterol and all. But what pleasure is fun without a little bit of guilt here and there?

Picture a cold Sunday morning. And the faint smell of egg being cooked with coconut oil and curry leaves wafting into your nose and teasing your nostrils. I can only picture that one scene from Tom and Jerry when Jerry is magically being flown towards the cheese by a string of the cheese smell. I think Tom and Jerry and Popeye show are the only shows in the world that realise the importance of smells. No wonder they give ‘smell’ a whole new visible form. It has color, texture and is able to lift people off their existence. Even cookery shows don’t do that.

I am no food enthusiast but I am all up for adding coconut oil in everything that I eat, drink and rub. A cousin once taught me to fry eggs in coconut oil and a bunch of curry leaves and I feel indebted to her. It’s the best smell in the world. Also the best cure in the world.

Without the yolk, the egg can pretty much go to hell. What’s an egg without its yolk? The vegetarians should get some sex and relax. Don’t tell me the combination of white and yellow wasn’t meant to be eaten. Most of the time, I ignore the whites because too much reaction is already happening, what with the yolk bursting into buttery little balls in my mouth. But there are many things you could do with an egg before eating it. Like watching the little volcano of yellow explode when you poke the sunny side up with a spoon or a finger. Watch it as the liquid flows out of its cave and melts on the white. Collect a dollop on your finger and suck on it. The aftermath of the its taste will be strong enough to make you cook another egg.