“How strange and devouring our ways must seem
to those for whom life is enough.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke, “Part Two XIV,” from Sonnets to Orpheus
There is no Fall here in this coastal city I currently call home. There are many failings, many fallings in the wake of Covid but no obvious Fall. At least not visibly. Not even in terms of a temperature differential from whatever monsummer (monsoon and summer) we experience roughly ¾ of the year. That said, there is something that has turned both crispier and more muted at the same time in the movement of air through the fading yellow of silk cotton trees. I know the soft knocking of autumn by how rife my body tends to be with aches and allergies no thanks to an auto-immune disorder that has its own mysterious couplings with different seasons. Online, there is a lot of bustle about a socially-distant Halloween this year with the onset of pumpkin season juxtaposed against ever-growing dystopian visuals of global climate catastrophes and right-wing regimes steaming up the world in a plethora of oppressions. …
After Bhanu Kapil : “To write the disaster as a mode of revision: detection, containment, recovery, reconstitution. Translation: 4 kinds of grief.”
“Coherence is mutilation. I want disorder.”
— Clarice Lispector, from “The Departure of the Train”
J is in Wyoming and in one of the pictures she posts, the river she wades through is a song of crumbled amber. The sunlight is humble gold and the trees embroidering the path of water are lilting green. There is a dotting of purple flowers in the bushes where the ripples breathe in the land. It is peaceful in a way that Bombay isn’t right now. I want to transport myself to the mountains but for now, I am living through osmosis. I hold myself back from yearning or leaning into any event that possibility makes of our subtle distractions. …
Psychological horror is a redundancy. Violence for me is intimacy inverted. The mind’s dark train whistles through several cratered fiction in this phantasmagoria. Violence is its own origin and completion. The first thing you learn here is that every room is a palindrome. All that you want to transcend never stops speaking back to you in a self-same way from whichever direction you consider it. Every fear is ribboned in scrolls of synapse. It is not what you fear but how — the mimesis of hemorrhaged paint, the darkened orifices of doors aching with batik of blood; you become time ‘s spectral mobius strip. You are the room–you find eyes sharpened into buried beartraps. Your limbs feel whittled by the invisible gaze. This beautiful room, this burning damask. You skin yourself within the unselfing. You puff your cheeks to billow at the pause where air becomes light and flickers in a mimicry of snakes. There is a hierarchy of ghosts tied to each other in a perpetual rat king. You imagine jaws of anthracite teetering at a cave with its ribcage full of bleached butterflies: a riddle of wings, a skein into which you are slowly knotted too. If you listen closely you can hear your shoulder blades snap–you can feel the feathers rip through the flesh. …
The body knows itself to be pure water or pure burning.
— Emmanuel Levinas, Proper Names
Content Note: Abuse, death, harm, mental illness and s*icidal ideation mentions
I navigate an illness that makes me a protagonist of clichés.
Sometimes, the thought of release is a dream of falling through clouds. My friend excitedly speaks about watching the northern lights from the cockpit of a plane — the whole kaleidoscopic spectacle; every inch of that cursive diffusion. I remember wondering if death was anything like that kind of calm yet intense speeding through varying degrees of colours. …
Etymology for pain indicates a rooting in the Old English term for ‘penalty’. On some other level, I also think of the word ‘pine’ when considering pain. That aside, it has always amused me that tenderness is a perfectly acceptable placeholder for pain as per the thesaurus.
A running joke at my boarding school was about me never being allotted the top bunk in the dorimtory. There was a specific reason for this — if you let me sleep on the top bunk, there was a really good chance that I’d fall off of it while waking up. I wasn’t a sleepwalker or even that clumsy. It was just that ever since I can remember, I have always woken up with this startled urgency which translates to jumping out of the bed in a very literal sense. Over the years this has meant romantic partners had to learn, quickly, to not engage in any dreamy ‘canoodling’ during the morning because I kick like a neurotic colt while stumbling out of bed. Few years ago, I got out of bed with my characteristic frenzy and immediately crumbled on the floor like an upturned clothes-basket. I couldn’t feel anything south of my knees. The nearly refractory numbness lasted several minutes. There were other unwanted encores of this sudden paralysis that followed the first incident. A few weeks later, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder and till date, the true nature of my condition is at best acknowledged as a medical mystery that is riddled with ambiguity and devoid of any feasible panacea. My consulting specialist and I laugh about the prognosis of pain. …
Recently, I have taken to growing coriander and mint in discarded egg-trays. It is interesting how almost all of 90s sci-fi films imagined 2020 to be the year of inter-galactic time travel and flying cars and here we are in the throes of a pandemic, sewing face-masks from our grandmother’s handkerchiefs. In any case, my own mini parsely farms are partly an extension to my window gardening experiments and partly a delicate process of staying tangibly connected to some semblance of nature during the lockdown; a desire to remain embedded, even peripherally, in the hope for healing once all this is over. The process is simple and perspicuous. …
Today we stay home and practice
a radical vulnerability.
Today we invite a trembling loneliness
to the breakfast table and ask if it likes
its eggs over-easy or scrambled.
Today we begin to unstitch the wringing
seam of our chronic apathy.
Today we don’t throw in the towel. Unless
we just stepped out of a long, hot bath
and the mirror is fogged with the steam of
our solo striptease to a Rihanna playlist.
Today we bless our jaws & our spines with
the acrobatics of some bone-tugging laughter.
Today we are singular in embodying our solidarities.
Today we bind to our tongues words like “orenda” —
a compass for the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee peoples.
The native tribes name an arcane energy inherent to us,
a force as innate as exterior to our being. This energy
surrounds us — an extraordinary, invisible force that
empowers all that is known and unknown to enact
change through the benediction of collective will. …
Content Note : Suicide and Self Harm Mention
Finding out that a loved one or a friend online is feeling suicidal or has disappeared via digital channels can be a harrowing experience. Sometimes our heart is in the right place but we aren’t sure of what is the best possible way to approach a situation as complex as this. Here are a few pointers to consider when you are trying to check up on someone in a traumatised state —
1. Avoid constantly tagging their social media handles if you are contemplating on listing help via a social media search. This has long and short term repercussions and can cause inadvertent harm for the person who might be in a deep depressive and/or trauma-induced panic and is more likely to feel paranoid. This is especially true when you don’t know the story behind their disappearance. If they are experiencing abuse or familial issues, the tagging can be used to keep an eye on them and track their movements as well as whereabouts. A lot of people’s employers, family members et al might be on the same social network and this doesn’t bode well in that context. This is counterproductive and can make the sufferer even more agitated. A lot of times when people survive the low phase and come back to the those very social media platforms, they are then trolled for wanting “attention” for no fault of their own and that is debilitating. Suicide is deeply stigmatized socio-culturally and what goes up on the internet, stays up on the internet. …
“I am such a wet blanket, I am afraid of even failing at self-care.”
My client’s closing remark at the end of a therapy session is quite an honest admission. She is a single mom, recently divorced and has a high-pressure job with a media organization. She has survived depression for several years and mostly without much help from family or community. She weighs her self-worth in the currency of “self-utilization” which is sharply at an angle from any practice or habit that encourages her to also consider self-compassion. Her identity is rooted in “doing” as opposed to “being”. …
(After Édouard Levé)
It has taken me 15 years to learn how not to grit my teeth in a nettled rant when strangers try to correct the spelling of my name from Scherezade to Scheherezade. The first person who dubbed me “Waffles” died earlier this year. I miss the wingspan of his eyelashes. I am a polyglot who often chooses silence. My happy days are when I can wake up to Mahler and lavender roses. …