Dreaming

My phone was dying at invigilation yesterday and this is dangerous for more practical reasons than I care to admit. If there is a question paper shortage and there is no one outside that you can plead to, then the student and I are both somewhat little screwed.

Yesterday however, there was no question paper shortage and no emergency except the thin voice in my head that wondered where that lovely blog I used to stalk all those years ago was? I typed in all the combinations of the two words I remembered with a 5% battery. Phone died, I felt weak, so I stared into space.

Today I sat at my table after invigilation and googled the link without any hassle, and the blog just came on, like magic, and I was returned to all those evenings and afternoons I spent years ago reading this blog, imagining independence and cities and independent women in cities. I felt more fondness for this writer than I have felt for anybody in months and wanted to run to her and tell her all about my life over a tall bottle of wine. That she may not be in town or be entirely uninterested in what I have to say is a fear I don’t have to deal with at all because reading her is a pleasure that will remain even if we don’t talk for months and years.

I read her and then I was moved into the kind of sleep that is yellow in its dreams. I must have napped for 10-15 minutes. I have no memory of what I dreamt about. But she was there and I was there and we were both chasing each other in a city that I was trying to reach in my sleep. I slept urgently and when I woke, I was grateful for having known her and to continue to know her. The dream was written in her language, with long and winding sentences that make me giggle and sigh and think of how much I love eating oranges.

For now, I am going to return to my dream and think of cities and how much they’ve given me and how much I love them.

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What would Thomas Cromwell do during Invigilation? — and other wonderments

That time of the month. In more ways than one.

I think I know why Hilary Mantel is called Hilary Mantel. Woman is mad funny. I am reading a scene where Thomas Cromwell and Mary Boleyn meet for the first time. Full seduction pro max – green stockings, heaving chest, heaving Adam’s and other apples, index finger tracing and all is happening. Our hero is leaning against the wall and she is standing close to him. (I have watched couples do this in Sophia College, Mumbai which is Spencer College in Ishq Vishq)

In Wolf hall, this scene is harmless flirtation but it is also 1530s. I don’t want to be pompous by assuming I know what is harmless what isn’t. Mary indirectly proposes to him and he is taken aback but says nothing.

She is on his mind long after the conversation, and they are both on ours but he is our hero for a reason – he believes it would be best to put some distance between him and all the Boleyns even if he and we are pretty turned on by all the wall-leaning. He tells Rafe (an adopted son-type boy who works for him), and Rafe says, ‘I think you imagined it. She must have meant something else.’

Weeks later a rumor is heard that Mary is pregnant. And Rafe asks Cromwell – Bro, are you sure you only leaned against the wall? it seems.

I guffawed. Am having mad fun reading this book.

In other news, I had invigilation duty in the Electronics lab yesterday. I’ve never been in there before. It’s part of the old campus and one way of knowing this is how cool the body becomes because of all the stone walls. There were two refrigerators inside, and 2 godrej cupboards which were kept ulta. I wonder why.

Took me back to my short-lived stint as a science student and how petrified I was of the Physics labs. The teacher apparently thanked god after I quit and called me a dud. Lol.

I wonder what she’s doing these days.

In other other news, we kickstarted the department quiz sessions yesterday. I teamed with Nodzi because she’s a rockstar and would win. I only knew 3 answers and was too afraid to be sure of 2 other answers which turned out to be correct. Somewhere in between, I began pouting and became inwardly bitter because there was some quiz boi energy I was getting irritated with. But watching Franny giggling, smiling, and basically having the time of her life while playing made me want to do the same.

When in doubt, always look at a girl having fun.

FFF

There is a young girl who lives inside me. She is hungry for something that I don’t want to give her anymore. Bitch wants female friends. Where will I go looking for them at this age? She wants it when she sees it in others, in films, in books, in songs. She isn’t happy just seeing them, she wants them for herself and then eats my head all day all night asking me why I can’t give her that. It’s not that I haven’t tried. But there’s this whole caste thing. I can’t say for sure that it’s why all of my female friendships have flopped in the past but I do know it’s why they leave, it’s why I leave.

She doesn’t believe me. She gets the caste bit but doesn’t think it’s a reason – she thinks I do something wrong, that I mess things up somehow.

I am going to be a year older soon and am already tired. I don’t have the energy to sit and wonder whether things happen to me because of who I am or whether I let them happen to me because of who I am not. Also, no energy for so much self-pity. All the worst things in the world don’t happen to me because I am Dalit. They might have happened to my father, my mother, their parents. But not to me. Especially because they didn’t work their butts off to give me this life only for me to sit here and cry about not having female friendships. Fuck Female Friendships.

Having said that, because of how much they’ve had to lose to give me this, because I wan’t born into the life that they left behind, I am often stupid and ungrateful. I have a very warped understanding of what untouchability is and am sometimes too spoilt, too blind to admit that it is happening when it is happening. Kindness returned with a stamp that screams no thanks, behaviour that automatically corrects its posture to stand and bow down to savarna/male presence, gifts that are returned without explanation, intimacies that are withdrawn and rejected again, again, again.

Sample this – it’s also a kind of caste chutyagiri at display when people make it a point to perform their loyalties to specific people in front of other people. A memory comes biting from years ago – a student, of all people, stood tall at my table one evening and thought it necessary to tell me that his loyalty is to his friends and that he would be very upset if his friends were troubled in any way. This was after they had all been called out for being casteist gobi manchurians along with a few older gobis. I now giggle at his hulk moment. But over the years, various people have demonstrated similar ways of loyalty performance through speech-giving and other pointlessly, painfully cute gestures.

In school, I tried desperately to become a part of a girl group. I invited five of them home for lunch one weekend, they all agreed. The next morning, one of them disinvited herself saying periods. By evening, two other girls said they couldn’t come because that girl was not coming. Eventually they all pulled out saying she’s not coming so I also won’t come.

My mother was relieved. I couldn’t understand why.

It took me a while to figure out that it wasn’t their menstrual cycle which was in sync. It was their untouchability radar. When I encounter versions of this today, I am merely amused. I applaud their massive self-worth and move on with my life.

Everything I should have said to them continues to die inside me in volcanic sighs. I am now writing with borrowed rage, and in echoes that are comical to say the least.

Maybe it’s a good thing to not have friends at this age- you don’t have to worry about performing loyalty to anybody.

As I write this I am wondering why this girl who lives inside me is hungry for FFs. But then isn’t that the story I’ve always told? The one about Kottuncheri Devi, that little imp who tricks people into becoming friends with her so they will play with her? She hides their valuables and returns them only after they play with her. Can’t believe I am having this revelation now, when I am bloody 35 – that I have been kottuncheri devi all this while.

New Yorker Mornings

Today, this moving essay by Peter Schjeldahl. It is attentive and demands that you read it with the same, if not similar attention it was written with. Here are some bits that made me giggle.

1) When I started writing criticism, in 1965, in almost pristine ignorance, I discovered that I was the world’s leading expert in one thing: my experience. Most of what I know in a scholarly way about art I learned on deadlines, to sound as if I knew what I was talking about—as, little by little, I did. Educating yourself in public is painful, but the lessons stick.

2) One drunken night, a superb painter let me take a brush to a canvas that she said she was abandoning. I tried to continue a simple black stroke that she had started. The contrast between the controlled pressure of her touch and my flaccid smear shocked me, physically. It was like shaking hands with a small person who flips you across a room.

3) My problem was not a lack of connection with the collective unconscious. I was a fucking poet. My problem was getting out of bed in the morning.

4) Writing consumes writers. No end of ones better than I am have said as much. The passion hurts relationships. I think off and on about people I love, but I think about writing all the time.

5) Writing is hard, or everyone would do it.

6) I met Susan Sontag once, at a party. She came up and praised something that I had written. Thrilled, I began chattering about I don’t remember what. Sontag froze. She retreated, taking backward steps before turning away. It dawned on me that receiving her blessing was supposed to have been enough: a solemn initiation. I had presumed on it.

7) I had a rage of ambition and an acrid dissatisfaction that, along with a love of the world, were bound to come out somehow. The self-centered motives have waned. It’s harder to pitch into writing with less to prove or avenge. To start a critical essay, I must prod myself until the old mesmerized flow resumes.

8) When I finish something and it seems good, I’m dazed. It must have been fun to write. I wish I’d been there. If you can’t put a mental frame around, and relish, the accidental aspect of a street or a person, or really of anything, you will respond to art only sluggishly.

9) Family and friends are being wonderful to me in my sickness. I’ve toiled all my life, in vain, to like myself. Now the task has been outsourced. I can’t go around telling everybody they’re idiots.

10) “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully,” per Samuel Johnson.

11) Life doesn’t go on. It goes nowhere except away. Death goes on. Going on is what death does for a living. The secret to surviving in the universe is to be dead.

12) One night in the early seventies, I perched on a tenement-roof edge despite my fear of heights, legs dangling, and ordered myself to let go. It was amid a love disaster. I truly thought I’d jump. But something inside me laughed derisively. Who was I kidding? Humiliated, I went downstairs. Some, in a crisis, must lack the laugh or muffle it for long enough.

13) Memory is a liar. It’s a heap of dog-eared, smudged, incessantly revised fictions. The stories make cumulative lies—or, give us a break, conjectures—of our lives. This is O.K. because it had darn well better be.

14) Reality was droning on as usual, with impartial sunlight streaming through a nearby window and picking out swirls of dust motes. A thing about dying is that you can’t consult anyone who has done it. No rehearsals. No mulligans.

15) Brooke has Texas grit: respecting everyone and taking no shit from anybody, least of all her spouse. When she’s mad, it’s scary, tapping a rage that once fuelled her escape from an awful family. There’s no recourse but to duck and wait for it to pass, which it does. The sun began to shine on my life when I gave up arguing with Brooke. She is also very funny and brings out the fun in others, her spouse not excluded.

It’s raining

Next to my table at work, there is a window which opens to a wall. On that wall there are two windows to classrooms on two different floors. In one of the classrooms, students are practicing dance to rangilo maaro dholna, a song I believe I only know as a song that girl groups in college and school continue to dance to. (Why do only songs and ads and chocolates take us back to the 90s?)

I have just finished a two-hour class on Ambedkar’s Castes in India. It is rewarding to teach this every year because every year, I discover one more thing about him, and the paper. This time around, it was unsettling to discover that he isn’t lazy in the paper. He is working hard at not taking the easy, most visible route to arrive at a conclusion. Even if I knew this last year, it is still nice to reknow it again this year.

I walked back to the department, spent 8 minutes trying to open the steel dabba of sambar. After lunch, I put my head down for a minute and an applause surrounded my window. I thought it’s from the dance group practising in the classroom only to properly wake up and see that it’s the rain.

Today, rains fell like applause. Today, it applauded rain. Today, it rained like applause.

On a Saturday Morning,

I come to work and find all 7 fans on full speed, the floor swept, and everything looking brighter and cleaner. Even the windows that are never able to grow look bigger.

At home, I wake up early and find it almost too painful to bear the joy of looking at the sun that never seems to withhold. Even on days when there are clouds.

Four days of yoga and my body wakes up with the sun and goes to bed long before I sleep.

One rainy night this week, I took a cab home and the boy who drove had the same earnest face of someone I used to know and no longer speak to. It killed me – this boy’s face; and I felt forced towards a kind of compassion that made me feel at once, lighter and freer.

What happens to anger that is so casually cast aside when the memory of who someone used to be and who we were with them comes knocking?

This time last week

There was a time when I measured good days by how I’d remember them a week later, a month later, a year later. I’d say: This time last week. This time last month. This time last year. Over and over, I’d say this loudly and softly until the sweetness of the memory was dissolved in my over-remembering of it. (Is there such a thing as overremembering? There should be no?)

These days I measure good days by the announcement of holidays. So that I am left thinking, this time last week, I was pleased even if it was the end of Sunday because after Monday — Tuesday and Wednesday were both holidays.

Sigh.