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keeping it in the closet

Sunday, as all workaholics know, is not a day for snoozing, but for spring cleaning. My father loved sorting linen cupboards, grocery store-rooms, wardrobes and cluttered drawers on Sundays. At such times I would get sudden unverifiable ailments like ‘feeling feverish,’ ‘feeling vomit-ish’, be unable to hear when my names was called and even, feign homework — anything to be spared industriousness on a Sunday.

My father’s closet was an ode to order and clarity. Symmetrical columns of shirts, precisely, evenly hung trousers, squarely stacked handkerchiefs and some, old unused stuff stored with the same care, a thing that perplexed me.


Illustration/ Amit Bandre

Genetic revenge being what it is, I now often find myself spring-cleaning on Sundays. I have a theoretical commitment to neatness. I don’t like a mess, but I do allow things to get a bit out of hand occasionally, before I feel a sorting and straightening operation is imperative.

Partly the Sunday sorting and reorganising of belongings and space imparts a feeling of purity, nobility and achievement, which directly transforms afternoon gins and tonics from indulgence to just reward, not an alchemy to dismiss.

Partly there’s a meditative quality to sorting, time to reflect on your life primarily in the form of clothes that really ought to be given away because those streaky purple stretchy velvet pants will a) never stretch enough to fit you again b) be in fashion again, c) yes, you personally will look like a joker in them even if they come back and d) you will not have the kind of life where you frequently worked 12 hours and then went dancing in those pants and glitter eyeshadow again.

It’s common to say we must always “move on” — as if time gives us a choice! While we can hardly spend the present dwelling on what has passed, good or bad, there’s an implication that the past is always an irrelevant thing; that its glories and defeats have to be processed and discarded with military precision, in a regular spring-cleaning of the soul.

Somewhere it says, “once I was foolish and naive, but now I know better.” Now we are sensible ‘grown-ups’ living seriously and doing the right thing, no longer expecting adventure and romance but only a series of right decisions. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to confront again the pain and humiliations of youth. We would like to stamp out all evidence of the things we did wrong, our stupid political notions, our dud choices.

But the past isn’t a place where we always did things wrong. Our past selves, however gauche, also have their own wisdom, in which we did things incredibly right. In which we allowed ourselves to be hurt by our friends, chose the wrong lovers from romantic idealism, made asses of ourselves for things we believed in (as also by wearing purple pants), took risks that paid off and misbehaved enough to learn our limitations and limits. Sometimes our past selves were less strategic and valued their own beliefs, where our present selves have begun to doubt those beliefs in an era where success matters above all else and we are the numb sum of our defences.

I may be wrong, but it seems hard to live in the present, if you don’t keep a few of your past selves alive, even if you aren’t really using them, even if it doesn’t seem sensible. I don’t think it’s clutter. Your present self needs the solidarity of the other yous to feel less alone.So I fold those purple pants neatly and put them back in my closet.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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