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to stand and bow down to savarna/male presence, gifts that are returned without explanation, intimacies that are withdrawn and rejected again, again, again.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.

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French press with a Russian twist

“…and in the violence of her feeling she did not notice how they both walked into the house and sat down to tea”

The Darling by Anton Chekhov

Read this short story and felt betrayed. I should’ve read this when I was 19. 23. 27. It’s a good thing I read it now or I would’ve had to add 34 & 35 to this miserable list.

The story is about a woman who is either perpetually in love or waiting to be. She allows herself to be consumed by the men she falls in love with and thinks it neither wise nor necessary to keep some of her to herself. She begins to speak like the men she loves, borrows their speech, colours her world with them and makes their moods hers. In their absence, she refuses to see herself as a person, and feels challenged by the meaningless of feelings and objects around her.

She survives heart break after heart break and is driven to the edge of loneliness until accidental motherhood comes calling. Here, Chekhov stops.

I was moved by this woman who gives herself so foolishly. I was moved when she went from one heartbreak to another because she saw it as moving from love to love, never quite knowing that what she was perhaps looking for was the chance to feel like a person again. It made me see how differently I love now.

Reading this then would’ve meant insurance against believing that the only way to be a person was to be somebody’s something.

But then reading Annie Enraux’s Dairy, 1988 was a reassurance of sorts for all the time and energy lost. That the best and worst of us love being loved. What to do? It was a pinching reminder of our ability (read: stubbornness) to remain fixed on the fleetingness of love despite the tickingness of time and the general busyness of life.

She is writing and waiting. She is attending events but also waiting. She is caring for her two children and she’s waiting. Seems to me that we go about performing the non-love activities in life (regardless of how central they are in our lives or we in their lives) as if it’s playing in an autopilot way in the background. And the heroine in us, despite being the fucking heroine is only waiting – not even performing.

Was reminded also of Dorothy Parker and Roland Barthes.

Finally began Wolf Hall. Found myself, quite unwillingly, back on a hospital bed in Payannur where I first started reading it and couldn’t read a word after page 4, having just come out of surgery for an ankle fracture. The rod and screw sitting tightly in my post-surgery foot protested every time there was Cromwell’s bone, rib, eye socket being crushed.

Now, I am not only enjoying the blood bone-crushing but also feeling most wonderfully taken by Mantel.

3 Idlis, sambar and chutney

“I went to San Francisco because I had not been able to work in some months, had been paralyzed by the conviction that writing was an irrelevant act, that the world as I had understood it no longer existed. If I was to work again at all, it would be necessary for me to come to terms with disorder”



In the space that is sometimes as large as my heart, often just as tiny – I see myself alone – with all the books I am not reading – sitting on the impulse- on the dot -on the any moment now of waiting – for the beginning of a story that may or may not arrive.


“I dealt with it the same way I deal with everything — I just tended my own garden, didn’t pay much attention, behaved deviously, didn’t let anyone know what I was doing”


My garden is overflowing with the sincerity to protect my laziness.


Read a story by Colette today about a woman who almost runs into her husband’s ex-wife (husband spots the ex-wife and rushes his new wife to another table). Wife is curious, husband bitches about his ex endlessly, says they weren’t able to make each other happy because she was difficult to please. New wife grows curiouser. Husband praises new wife’s ease to be around. New wife is happy. But even as they are leaving, she cannot stop herself from looking back at the woman, the other woman, the ex-wife who got away. She envies how the ex is smoking deliriously, her head resting on the back of the chair, eyes closed, smiling to a secret only she seems to know, unbothered by her ex-husband, and his new wife who both exit the restaurant in a kind of tearing hurry that she has neither the need nor the desire for.

Made me happy to read this short story.

My body is craving a routine I am not able to give it.

There is something that terrifies me more than not being able to write and that is not being able to read. I will stagnate and die if I can’t. I want to so badly read. I want to get lost in a novel. Surrender to it and feel torn every time I must leave it and go, like for class or for a shower or something. I want to feel murderous rage when I come back to find it lost, and then I want to carry that empty feeling, like I just lost a part of myself, and with that I want to sleep angrily, hungrily.

I am now thinking of what I do when I don’t know my own mind. I am soon to be a 35-year-old woman and can’t believe the fullness with which the numbers 3 & 5 throw themselves against the walls of my mouth. What does it mean to be 35? I don’t know. I don’t even know what it means to be 34, like I still don’t know what it meant to be 30, 29, 28 even.

I am worried that if I don’t write now, I will never write. I want to give myself away to 35 and seal myself there. I also want to grow older like all the woman who wear flowers in their hair do – with so much laugh and wine and long and lazy lunches with friends, and many photos of bright, sunlit windows on InstantGram. I can’t wait to grow old like that. Not like this where I can’t tell if I am crying because I am 35 or still 25. That’s something no one tells you. As you grow older, you don’t cry lesser. You cry fewer maybe but not lesser.

But I did read this lovely post by Aparna Vinod who just celebrated her 40th. Here is an excerpt:

For everyone who is asking me what being 40 feels like, it has been rupture. Attachment and disengagement are easy decisions, I value the senses and intuition much more. The Self is mostly unapologetic for being imperfect, both in body and opinion. There is a sense of calm, for I know who and what matter. There is unsettling desire to do more, learn more, be more … I have so much to give! There has not been a more trying decade than the 30s, but life creeped in slowly, opening windows, carrying light and promise, urging me to look at that awaits.

~Aparna Vinod, from FaceBook

This was reassuring to read.

Tomorrow is a new day. I will build myself a little more strongly tomorrow. For today, there is a glass of wine and a film.

My Happy Family

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.

Manana found her seventh string and then she couldn’t stop playing.

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.

The film is available on Netflix.

The Haunting of Bly Manor

It is all kinds of thrilling to finally be able to meet a ghost who likes dresses, and dressing up. I dreamt of The Lady in the Lake this morning, at 3:30 am that too. And thought how unfair to be trapped that way under the lake when all you want in life is to wear nice dresses, and make your own decisions, and be your own woman.

I had goosies watching her wake, walk, sleep, wake, walk, sleep. I’m not able to get her stubbornness to live out of my mind. I wish I never have to. And this coming at that same time as *that time of the year* when I do Didion in class. Self-respect, folks, is the stubbornness to keep on living, even when your fucking sister murders you because she wants to wear all your dresses.

So sly the makers of The Haunting of Bly Manor are: they took an age old irritation with younger bloody sisters who keep stealing all our dresses and made a horror/love story out of it. Super.

Sigh-filled dyku scenes, and amazing clothes also. And they are right, all love stories are horror stories only no? Especially if miserable people like me have to sit at home and watch hot women in amaze clothes (HANNAH GROSE FTW) all over each other.

I for Inventory. Intimacy.

inv

One morning, I held a hot cup of tea in my hands after cutting 15 green chilies lengthwise. When the heat pulsating inwards began pouring outside, I couldn’t tell what was feeding what.

When someone who doesn’t want to laugh, laughs — I look for the line of anger on their face that suddenly hides. I worry the line will return when they are alone & I won’t be around to humiliate it into hiding again.

A friend once told me that it’s not possible to hold on to self-respect when one is in love. I felt  victorious & betrayed. Why though? It’s not like I am a mountain of self-respect when not in love.

When he drove, I liked looking at the folded sleeves of his red checkered shirt on the forearm. But I desired him most when he reversed the vehicle, and put his left arm around my seat to look back, his Adam’s apple teasing.

I get annoyed when I stand before the mirror at the end of a long day to find by bra strap peeping. Why didn’t my girls or aunties on the road tell me or better yet, put it back gently & tuck my hair behind the ear also? The only time I felt happy in convent schools was when girls would sing ‘Sunday is longer than Monday’ everytime a petticoat played hide & seek.

I don’t want feminism that takes away intimacy between women in bathrooms. Come, weep into my arms sister. I will hold you, you hold me.

When I was 6 & refused milk, Mouma pulled me to her lap & promised to show me one breast if I finished half the glass, and both if I finished the full glass, permanently ruining all possible hetero relationships for me. 

Even hickies are forgotten in hours. The warmth of chilies still hasn’t left.

Epipoofy

One December morning in Goa, I sat in a shack overlooking the beach – within reach of all things comfortable – hot water with ginger lemon & honey, a pack of ice burst, the book I was reading (Machado’s In the Dream House), kindle bookmarked to Miranda July’s short story called The Man on the Stairs (a woman sleeping next to her partner wakes up to sense a man walking up the stairs, towards the bedroom – he takes forever to arrive and she waits for him, often almost going back to sleep but everytime he shifts his weight, she wakes up again), a notebook, sunglasses.

Two shirtless white men are playing frisbee yet the only other nakeder thing on the beach is a lone tree bending awkwardly to its knees – it changes posture every now and then – depending on who it is imitating. Presently, it is bent to catch a frisbee that no one throws at it.

There are women in white bikinis who don’t rush into the water like I had just a few hours ago, in a yellow bikini that had made me feel small, unattractive, pleased. The women I am watching from behind the safe, cool shadows of my sunglasses – are, despite their composure (they don’t rush out of the water either) pulling me furiously into their bodies and I arrive at a wetness in a sudden poof that I cannot recognise.

It hadn’t taken more than a gentle squeeze of one of the thighs to produce. It was unfamiliar but welcome. I felt grateful to not have had to imagine anything more because everything I would ever want was there in that moment. I figured I enjoy watching women so much, it didn’t matter that there were two Hindi-speaking men at the next table who I wanted to beat up with their sunglasses because they were imagining perhaps the same things that I was.

After years of vaguely saying bi-things, I had arrived at an epiphany – an epipoofy. It was easy, like vanilla ice cream.