Rosalyn D'Mello: In search of the elusive ecstasy

Jul 21, 2017, 06:10 IST | Rosalyn D'mello

Over the years, I have come to realise, the degree of positivity of the energy you emit is proportional to that which you will receive

One is a recipient of grace because one is also the giver of it
One is a recipient of grace because one is also the giver of it

Once back home from any trip of whatever duration, my first instinct is to resettle myself in my apartment. This usually involves unpacking my suitcase, restocking the kitchen, dusting all the surfaces in each room, and changing the sheets in both bedrooms. The amount of housework I attempt is usually directly proportional to the amount of time spent away. When I returned from the three-week-long Khoj Residency in Goa, which was followed by a brief week-long interlude in Mumbai, for instance, I got back and found myself completely reorienting my bedroom. I moved both beds myself from the window, upon the wall of which it had rested ever since I'd moved here in 2012 to the center of the room. I brought in a red bookcase from the living room so I could house the many books that form my current research, and the wooden trunk upon which I could store my diaries and a bottle or two of single malt, for a Mad Men touch. I'm still feasting on the quality of light that filters through the blinds in the early evening monsoonal weather. It is around then that I make myself a cup of coffee and read.

During this restless re-curating of my bedroom, I happened to lose a sheet of paper. It was among the printouts I'd made of the piece I'd written for my performance in Mumbai with the violinist. It upset me because this page had a handwritten insertion that I had no other documented proof of. It drove me batty to think it had fallen out of time and space. I looked everywhere, under the bed, inside books I'd been reading, in old folders and drawers, to no avail. But a week ago, after my return from my Europe trip, when I happened to be cleaning my house once again, this paper flapped out at me from the back of the bedside table, where it had been hiding all along. I spotted my handwriting and immediately read it aloud. It was an addendum to a portion of my essay on ecstasy. I'd been speaking about Simone Weil, and how she found that her daily and relentless reciting of the Our Father in Greek edged her towards transcendence, towards a sublime feeling of infinity. This was what I added-"In a completely different text, Clarice Lispector's Agua Viva, a euphoric text about the temporality of instants-now, the Brazilian writer demands profound joy and secret ecstasy, a space in which the world trembles inside her hands. She says, 'I want the vibrating substratum of the repeated word sung in Gregorian chant.' Through the word, the written word, she plunges into the almost pain of an intense happiness."

While Bhuvana and I were partaking of a bottle of excellent red wine yesterday as a belated birthday celebration (we were both born on July 16), she was telling me about a book she had recently read that had made her want to come to more expressive terms about acknowledging her atheism. I confessed to her that I was still attempting to un-condition myself from my religious upbringing. It would be hypocritical for me to call myself an atheist, because I know in moments of despair and hope and even thanksgiving, I find myself addressing my prayers to a God, knowing fully well that prayer is a form of incantation through which one draws strength and sustenance, and is not a form of wish-granting. My faith is too complicated to be bound to religion. I told Bhuvana about another conversation I had with my friend Marie, in Paris, when I was conveying to her how humbled I felt about all the many generosities I had received through my travels, particularly from strangers, and Marie, instead of smiling away my comment, made me consider the fact that I had been the recipient of grace because I was also the giver of it. It's true, in a way, a manifestation of something I learned more than 10 years ago, when I was coming to terms with living in Delhi and realised it was the kind of city where the degree of positivity of the energy you emitted was proportional to that which you would receive.

The thing is, more than anything else, what I want in life is exactly what Lispector does in Agua Viva, the vibrating substratum of the repeated word sung in Gregorian chant. It entails both mysticism and ritualistic mystery, something so personal and infinite, it's impossible to communicate its texture to anyone who hasn't experienced it. I feel blessed that even though my biggest accomplishment at 32 is the superlatively high quality of the friendships I have managed to build, I have also, simultaneously, come to place deep, deep currency on my solitude, because it engenders its own kind of ecstasy.

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

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