Woke up at an odd hour and couldn’t go back to sleep. A part of my late night/early morning reverie included cursing myself for all the things I shouldn’t have said this week, the things I should have, a tired desire to live better from today onwards, and the realisation that I couldn’t possibly begin living better without new clothes.
All the ones I wear now have stopped wearing me ten years ago. Why do I keep wearing them when they have outworn me, I don’t know. It’s like I have stopped buying clothes. And yet it seems like all I do these days is put my paws on instagram’s window and salivate endlessly, occasionally (lol) buying things I don’t need also. Another red color bag, some senselessly cute bottle with a dead flower in it that came with its own fucking stool, a ceramic blue shoe that is also an ashtray, books that I am buying and not reading.
And then I have the gall to ask where is my money going, darling? Food, drinks, fucking PETROL, bills, loans, mother fucking Instagram ads man.
I need clothes. Why am I not buying clothes? And then I went and read the lovely Aysegul Savas’s lovelier essay on similar pangs- CLOTHES!
Today I want to be like Aysegul’s mother who “had sets of clothes like costumes. They hung side by side, each one on a hanger with its own set. That was the thing with my mother, she always knew who she was on a given day. All she had to do was pick from left to right, Monday to Friday.”
It’s a good thing I have classes to keep me grounded. I have been flying restlessly all morning. Yesterday, I read the first essay from Elena Ferrante’s latest, In the Margins and have been thinking about how I began to read and write. I am unable to go beyond the four line alphabet book we had to practice writing in, in school.
In math, I know I found the number 8 table particularly hard to remember until one evening my mother didn’t let me sit until I had by-hearted it. I was made to stand in front of her, hands folded across my chest, a wooden foot ruler in her hand. My nose was burning from rubbing off all the snot, my eyes wouldn’t stop crying but she was relentless in the way mothers sometimes are and now I’m glad that she didn’t let go until the 8 table was flying from my mouth. If only she could make me write everyday too. Foot ruler in hand, me crying, begging, weeping but writing.
Even so, I am not able to recall what difficulty I had with reading words because I am sure there were many. I was slow in class, teachers and classmates hated me. Even I hated me. But even that wasn’t enough for me to begin reading.
A part of my mind is still with Violette and I’m tempted to put my life on hold till I finish reading her. I have a class in 20 minutes and I want nothing more to keep this crisscross of reading alive. But it’s a good thing I have to go because I have been jumping from ferrante to violette to david hayden to llosa to wodehosue to zadie smith and now I must stop. When I return, I will continue reading David Hayden’s story and then proceed to Wodehouse.
After a long time, I watched a film in a language that made me pay attention to the silences between words, scenes, and walls. My Happy Family was on Rheaa’s recco list and I immediately bookmarked it because the synopsis said that it was about a woman who leaves her family to live on her own.
What I didn’t know was that the woman is a teacher, married, has two adult children, parents, one brother, one husband, and husband’s relatives. She leaves them all and decides to live in an apartment far away.
Manana has been wanting to leave and live on her own for sometime now. When we first see her, she is already looking for houses. But the urge to finally do it comes from one of her students who is newly married and even more newly separated from her husband. Apparently when the girl told him that she was leaving him, the husband told her that if you say no, you must say it without hesitating, otherwise there is no point.
The next day, Manana packs her bags, moves out and begins living in her new home. All we need to know about where she lives now is that her apartment is on a floor closest to tree tops and their leaves and rustling. Her family goes berserk and there are various meetings held at home and in coffee shops to persuade her back to her life (“mark my words, you will come back to us in one week”– to which she says “ok”)
After one such noisy family intervention where everyone yells at everyone, she leaves them and returns home where she cuts herself a piece of cake, listens to Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca on full volume, sits on a sofa right in front of the tree and eats.
If it is at all possible that an image from a film, a sentence from a book or a conversation with a student can make you alter your life completely, then I wish it is this scene for me. It is something I want to personally and professionally work towards: the silence to have your cake and eat it in front of a tree. While listening to Mozart.
Every day after work, she stops by a vendor downstairs and buys fruits. She is very deliberate in doing this, making sure she only picks the fruits that she wants to eat, and in the exact quantity.
One day, she tries to play her old guitar and learns that its seventh string is broken. The next day, she is at the market looking for the seventh string. She finds it, goes home, reads student’s assignments, smiles at one, drinks wine, and plays the guitar.
She makes it look like it is possible to dust off the many parts of you that you have allowed to rust because life just kept happening and you didn’t notice when you stopped doing the things you loved to do. That even at 50, if you find the josh to go looking for some fucking seventh string, then you have nothing to be afraid of.
At the beginning of the film, we are shown Manana with her family. She is just sitting down at the table with cake and her mother asks her to eat it after dinner. People have called this a feminist film because she leaves her family and lives alone. I like to believe that the film is simpler. It is about a woman who dumps her family to eat cake in peace. If that makes it feminist, then we should all have our cake and eat it too.