Notes on love / on disturbance

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I find ridiculous the contemporary idea that love  must exist without disturbance, without inconvenience. That love must only be continued if there are no consequences, damage, “cost” (to borrow the favoured business term).

When a person extends her hand into the water, the water is disturbed. When the whisk goes into eggs, the eggs are disturbed. A canvas has to bear the disturbance of paint. A plain wall is disturbed by the appearance of a shadow.

Disturbance is contact.

My Heart Doesn’t Want

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From the city palace, the ghost of the disabled emperor still gazes at the city from his wheeled sofa. The city’s colour alternates depending on the colour of the stained window.

The secret is that one who goes into the Pichola emerges from the Vltava.

I wrote a short essay on the state I call home. It’s a personal, dream-like impression of Rajasthan and its four cities. You can read it here.

With gratitude to Youssef Rakha.

The Tale of Basil

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I recently started researching how to prune basil – my interests are more domestic than I would like to admit, nothing pleases me more than cooking, or planting a new herb, or the chance to not leave home – and it seemed like now was the right time. Basil must be regularly pruned and must be prevented from flowering as it will lessen the intensity of flavor and leave a bitter note at the end.
I brought out the scissors, ready to cut the plant at the stem. As a child, I had heard that one must apologize to the plant before picking its fruits or leaves.

I cut the plant right at the stem. I made no apology. The rule is that life must be sustained by life. One cannot be alive except by inflicting death on others.

On some days, I cut the basil. On some days, I am the basil.

Why do I cut an onion?

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Why do I write? This is a question I struggle with daily – why continue writing when there are so many good writers, so many exquisite books, why go on, why not delete everything and hold only a blank page in my hands?

The problem with questions is that they are rarely just questions about one thing. The question “why do I write” must then be followed by the question “why do I do anything” which then must be followed by the question “why do I live”? One can easily extend this question even to the simple task of cutting an onion. Why do I cut an onion? The real question is: will I stop cutting onions because I do not know why?

The oil sizzles in the pot. Everyone knows the answer.

 

A short update

I apologize to long time readers of my blog that I haven’t been writing as much here – I had been busy with many things but I plan to start the everyday jottings soon. This is just to let everyone know that I now have a website (to streamline everything), where you can also read three (really short) extracts from my in-progress novella:

I will continue writing on this blog. But I hope you will visit the website, too.

“What Do You Care What Other People Think?”

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Let’s begin even when we don’t want to begin.

I had been busy working on the manuscript of my first novel, and while I am pleased to say (despite the daily dramas that occupy me more than you can imagine) I have finished it, it has already been refused by one agent. Yes, sure, I was disappointed, but really, what else was I hoping for a book that has no apparent story and can be best described as an exploration of a young woman’s mind? At the residency earlier this year, someone asked me where it was set. I said that it wasn’t set anywhere. Upon being insisted that it must be set somewhere, I answered: it’s set in the mind.

I have many thoughts on being a “woman writer of colour from a developing country”, but let’s reserve my opinion for another day. And let that day never come.

In the middle of all this, Anthony Bourdain died. Which is a particular kind of tragedy, especially at this time, when all we want to be is risk-averse in every sphere of life, making sure from an early age that we can afford the coffin we will lie in at the end. No, no, it’s a good thing. Please. Let’s all buy coffins, and lie in them already. I am saving for my first coffin, having already been left behind as my peers have already purchased their third. Tony, come back, we will give your coffin to someone else.

 
Earlier today, I read that a mathematician of Indian origin Akshay Venkatesh has won the Fields Medal in mathematics.

Paden (his wife) describes Venkatesh as a homebody. “Routine, consistency and home — these are comforts for him,” she said. They give him the freedom he needs, she said, to be adventurous in his mathematical life. “I feel like he takes leaps in his work that he doesn’t necessarily in life.”

To take risks in work without taking risks in life.

“Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman.”

On Marriage and Love and Marriage

The following text was written during my time at Sangam House. There were four of us, and we decided to play a game of sorts – our administrator, Pascal, would give us a topic to write on and we’d have to finish the text in 30 minutes. The topic was marriage. I am posting it here. Why now? Maybe you will understand, maybe you won’t. 

 

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Boredom is the reason behind most marriages.

 It was in this moment of intense boredom, lying without a book on a sheer veil of sand, that I had decided to get married to the infinite sea moving in front of me. It was a well-reasoned decision – the sapphire sea with its immense, endless, dancing body was almost erotic, it could seduce even God, but there was also its essential stability, its infinity, its assured presence that made the sea a good candidate for marriage. The sea would be my husband, so. It was decided. “In the presence of something unknown, I now declare you and the sea man and wife – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” I hadn’t realized the gravity of this joke until years later.

As most marriages, this marriage, too, was forgotten like one forgets an unimportant anecdote. I continued living my life, with only a hazy memory of a vaguely beautiful afternoon. It was years later when I fell in love that this marriage, like most marriages, turned out to be the greatest hindrance. Dear reader, do not disbelieve me when I tell you, that during the course of a rather joyful vacation, the love of my life drowned in the very sea that I had accepted as my husband years ago.

There was nothing I could do. This marriage, like most marriages, had successfully ended another love.

It was on this sorrowful afternoon when I watched my lover swirl into the depths of blue water that I realized what marriage is. It is everything that can end love.

The island of Koh Rong and 2017 : wrapping the year up.

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On the first day of 2017, I was in Sihanoukville with my mother – it was also my birthday – and I suggested that we make a day trip to the island of Koh Rong. We took a tuk-tuk from our hotel and went to the port. Of course, everything was booked, but we finally somehow managed to find one large boat that would take us to the island. We bought the tickets, they were not expensive, and we started to wait on the port – the boat, we were told, was only an hour away. Sitting on the port, I started staring at the ocean and imagined that the water was time on which the world was floating : the idea was not mine, the elements of it were borrowed from the ancient Hindu concept of Purush and Prakriti. One hour turned into many, and as we waited, we realized that the boat would probably never arrive.

Perhaps it was synchronicity, perhaps it was something else, but the first day of 2017 foreshadowed the rest of the year accurately. I waited for many things that never happened – it was a series of failed attempts to reach the island of Koh Rong. At the end of it, I am exhausted and absolutely tired, almost broken but not completely – and maybe therein lies the solace. The year was unexpectedly difficult, it tested my limits and strengths, and I often found myself at unbearable low points, questioning the very things I hold most dear to my heart, without which – to me – life would lose its meaning and worth. At large, the world has taken a turn rightward, and India has plunged deeper into the depths of Hindu fundamentalism which has reduced Hinduism, a sophisticated and varied set of philosophies into one immovable, terrifying mass of anger and intolerance.

In the middle of all this, Philippe and I managed to (surprisingly) complete one year of RIC Journal. I also wrote a short piece for the Seagull Books Catalogue. One of my unpublished short stories –Autobiography of a Girl from an Undiscovered Planet – was shortlisted for the DWL award. I was just recently offered a month-long residency at the esteemed Sangam House – where I will be in January ’18, hopefully working on the novella whose subject has tortured and made me suffer greatly this year. One writer that has been a source of personal comfort to me during all this is Clarice Lispector, whose writings have managed to anchor me, helped me hold my own, and for that I am eternally grateful to her heart and pen.

Will it, then, be right to say that I do not believe in the things I believed in? No. I still believe, as I would, till the very end of my life. Emmanuel Macron, in a recent interview to Der Spiegel, talked about the importance of grand narratives in the 21st century – and though, I am always suspicious of politicians, and have no great knowledge of either European or Indian politics, I agreed with him on this point without any reserve. A rejection of postmodernist worldview is necessary to survive the ennui of modern life – to reclaim God, to believe in God not in a limited religious way, but to believe in God as something greater than ourselves.

To believe in destiny.

To believe in the cosmic metanarrative. To know that sometimes the boat to Koh Rong doesn’t arrive, but other times it does.

To 2018.

Love letter of a fool

Do not be foolish, the world constantly whispers in our inner ears.
To believe in radical love, to think about what cannot be known,
to close our eyes in the middle of a busy street and remember our true souls, to pause when one should walk,
to not give up when one should, to trust when one should not,
to dream during death,

to play the piano with a phantom limb
to cook without fire
to remember the time before you were born

is to be a fool.

But

Beyond reason

God is.

Beyond your better judgment

I am.

 

Of poisoned bones

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I know a little boy back in France who spends each afternoon reading strange stories of bones, of bodies, of lives that some think have been left behind, some believe have dissolved forever into an uncertain sky, sometimes flickering unnoticeably into an invisible air. It was one afternoon that under the deep underwoods of olive tree, he found a centuries old bone buried, a femur, that belonged to who must once have been a beautiful woman and it seemed almost shining, like the most exquisite, the most ancient of all riddles. He took it to all the old people he could find, who had lived since perhaps forever, but no one could see anything, recognize any spot of any face they ever could remember. It signified to them nothing more than what it was, a fragile shard of calcium. But a hazel-eyed woman from the corner had whispered secretly into the boy’s ear that once, as a child, she had read in an unknown Latin that there exists on earth a light that may reveal all, even about ruins.

It was years later, walking in the cemetery close to my father’s house, that I’d found a piece of femur bone that had strayed far away from all graves. It was coated in wet dust, I was slightly hesitant to pick it up but it stayed there and after a few minutes, I just had to touch it with my fingers. I turned it many times, in different angles, hoping that maybe the warm sunlight will tell me something about it, maybe the moment of epiphany will arrive. It never did, as it never does, and so I threw it away casually further than where it was found. Had it been under the never-found light, it might have been seen that its white clarity, in places, reflected metallic yellows and that it belonged to the broken thigh of an aging queen who, in her desperation to keep her young lover around, had killed herself with aurum. Night after night, she drank a bitter elixir of gold chloride and diethyl ether as her body failed a little more each day, remembering the vision from her childhood where every summer was spent without idyll, eating ripe mulberries found at the bottom of neglected trees. She believed it preserved her beauty.

The woman who died of gold poisoning for her love, in a few hundred years, becomes an anonymous piece of bone. Sometimes, not even that. The bone your dog chews at the edge of your garden could be of a man you once loved, in another life.

The little boy knew already everything he was ever to know. In my dream, he is 6 years old and sometimes he tells me that in the decay is the extraordinary.


This was first published in the Seagull Books Catalogue 2017-18.