Of late, I find myself using the words ‘mind space’ a lot. In fact, I contract them so that the ‘d’ is unstressed and it seems almost subtracted, silent. Usually, I am admitting the absence of what the word signifies. I often don’t have the mine-space to either communicate over the phone or respond to emails or texts or start crafting a new piece of writing or even work on an older one. Recently, I haven’t even had the mine-space to be social enough to attend a party or art opening or raise my voice against clearly aggressive behaviour. Being sick has significantly contributed to this definitive lack, besides the sizzling summer heat and having to deal with a drought-like situation (our building hasn’t received water for more than two weeks).
Recently, I haven’t even had the mine-space to be social enough to attend a party or art opening or raise my voice against clearly aggressive behaviour... Life is too short to get livid about everything. Representation pic/Thinkstock
I have always believed that as a feminist who believes in the need for maintaining one’s sanity, it’s important to choose one’s battles wisely. Life is too short to get livid about everything, which is what I told myself minutes after I’d settled into my seat on my flight from Goa back to Delhi. It was a great spot: 3F. A Sardar was assigned the aisle seat while an unassuming chap sporting tight trousers sat between us. All was well. I had carried my dinner with me; two sausage paos plus beef patties, and I had the last 50 pages of Ali Smith’s How to be Both left to savour. Soon enough, the flight took off. I tucked into part 1 of the sausage pao, my book spread open in front of me. Except, from the corner of my eye I couldn’t help but notice that the passenger seated next to me had put on earphones and was air conducting. Fair enough, I thought, we all have our moments when our bodies seem ecstatic and un-self-conscious. However, mid air conducting, this gentleman, I discovered, could be seen to be rubbing his balls. At first it seemed like an innocent gesture, something he was doing to relieve a momentary itch. But 40 minutes into the flight, I could no longer ignore it, no matter how much I sunk my face into my book. The frequency with which this passenger scratched at his balls had increased exponentially. Eventually it would seem like all he was doing was administrating to his itchy testicles.
At first I was amused. I thought I could silently observe his asinine behavior for future recounting to friends. But I realised I had a low threshold for perverse behaviour. Mid-flight, I got up, asked both men seated next to me to move so I could exit, and made my way to the front of the aircraft to have a word with the stewardesses.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I’m having a problem.”
“What’s the matter, Ma’am,” one of the two asked as they were clearing away the food trays post service.
“You see the guy sitting next to me. He won’t stop scratching his balls.”
At which point both girls burst out laughing. I joined in. The situation seemed so absurd, I couldn’t help it.
“Can I get you another seat?” she asked.
“Could you, please?” I said. “I cannot sit there, there’s still at least an hour before the flight lands.”
I had to wait a good 10 minutes. It was a very busy flight and there seemed to be no seats available. Finally, the airhostess came up to me and asked if I would be okay with an aisle seat on the 29th row. I grudgingly agreed.
I retrieved the rest of my belongings from my lovely 3F seat and made my way to the back of the plane. To my right was a newly married couple returning from their honeymoon. I felt like an trespasser intruding upon their intimacy. It angered me that a man had acted like a pervert and that I punished myself for it instead of making a scene.
But that was precisely it. I didn’t have the mine-space to make a scene. It was a late-night flight and all I wanted was to get back home with my sanity intact.
As an Indian woman there is never a dearth of reasons to be pissed off with the world. Injustice lurks at every corner, as does inequality. When all may seem right with the world our very bodies betray us. Our mine-space shrinks.
I have yet to come up with a remedy. Until then, a Girls Night Out seems like an excellent temporary cure, offering a safe space to bitch and rant and secretly male bash. It’s one of very few things I have the mine-space for these days.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputed art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org