Constructing realities for me (and it seems many other dusty ladies²) is a problem, mainly because we can’t seem to divorce the personal from the polyphonic polemic reality we see around us. Either the words are too harsh or too far removed from the reality, because Cartesian dichotomies are quite fun to see the world with, no? Either, the words are completely censored, or the ‘fantasy or dystopia’ enters reality through tubes — as it does routinely for Mahashveta Devi — and then the stories don’t matter at all; for if it’s a fantasy, then it can’t have any bearing on our dusty backs or daily lives, of course. To voice such entangled truths, that we’re perpetrators, victims, enemies, servants and commanders of this epistemological violence, that the Empire may have crumbled — if history is to be believed at all – and we’ve created a new one in its place. As the Universal is designed to leave hued bodies like mine out, speaking from the personal is the only choice there is, at least until you ignore the censorship that sometimes runs bone deep. And after having these thoughts get past between my brain and eyes³, if any words do come out, it’s very difficult to not paint the picture like Shobha De tends to do, to show conflict that is consumable and easily resolved with a few — if at all, any — changes in the class structures; or to see the world through a single lens of ‘wholeness’ and ‘oneness’ the Indian government is always too quick to rationalise ‘diversity’ as. There are times, my friends and I wonder how would it feel to buy into the Nationalist Vision of India, to see it as a burgeoning economy which has somehow no debt to pay to the various people it oppresses — for ‘dalit’s’ are all ‘Maoists’ anyway, surely — and to enthusiastically and guilelessly cheer with Obama whenever he and the power he symobilises urges us to ‘do more’. Most times, we can do nothing beyond indulge in such empty fantasies, for we do know, that the moment the tongue starts twisting truths, it spits sharp stones edged syllables, no matter how thinly we veil it or not.
As a lady, who has always had history narrated to me, by people who do not resemble me, in a language that is not mine, many times, history feels like an interesting story someone’s weaved, but never physically real, were I to only rely on books and no narrativised accounts, of people I know and those I don’t. In such cases, I often wish I could change history, frame it as I see fit, stretch out voices that get shut in, and mostly, ‘erase’ the idea that we’re somewhere ‘down under’; so in some fiction pieces, I tried that too only to see the words didn’t sound like my tongue could ever form. It’s taken me a long time to see that I’m not a ‘point of access’ for people — familiar or otherwise — to my localised ‘history’, that constructing a reality that make me comfortable in my skin is the one that is going to dislocate someone else’s, or that I don’t need to be ‘away’ from the ‘story’ or ‘land’ or ‘soil’ that I see as ‘mine’ to build it successfully. Mostly, it’s a relief to find that Re-Righting My Roots isn’t my privilege, nor my duty, all I have to do is sound this ‘voice’ that comes as close as it can to mine, before I forget it altogether.
1. Because ladies write about the time they had coitus (even consensually! Gasp!) or the time they wanted to indulge in coitus (even consensually! Gasp!) was enough for some famous dude to claim that Indian Women Writers Are Basically Doing The Prostitution Under The Name Of The Feminism. And dude’s opinions on ladywriting is never wrong, obviously.
2. Ask the ladies in the ‘Storylines‘ anthology, they’ll explain.
3. I stole this from Regina Spektor, but it’s alright because we’re both Ladies and therefore practically the same person, no?