Rosalyn D'Mello: Living in a state of the art

Feb 03, 2017, 06:02 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

Residency life is saturated with chats with fellow artistes that go on late into the night, discussing the relationship between art and life

The last 24 hours at the Arpora residency had been saturated by the trill of infinite conversations. Pic/Rosalyn D'Mello
The last 24 hours at the Arpora residency had been saturated by the trill of infinite conversations. Pic/Rosalyn D'Mello

Last night, I went to sleep in the morning. I knew because I heard the cockcrow of dawn just as my head was about to surrender to my pillow. The flock of roosters and hens that reside in the neighbour's backyard were starting their day as I was finally ending mine.

The last 24 hours had been saturated by the trill of infinite conversations. The night before was spent at my writer friend Margaret Mascrenhas' house, after we'd had dinner (Margaret-made Paella) on the verandah of her favourite neighbour, our mutual friend and fellow writer, Maria Couto. The next morning we were joined by Lola, when we went to see Adil Writer's ceramic show at The Cube gallery in Moira. Margaret and Maria returned to Aldona while I left with Lola, who took me home so she could feed me a delectable meal of couscous made of fat, coarse semolina, with baked beetroots and carrots; and a serving of lightly fried fillets of red snapper doused in a butter-garlic-capers-olive oil-paprika sauce; accompanied by stir-fried lady finger and thinly sliced turnip seasoned with drops of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

By the time I returned to my residency in Arpora, the sun was beginning to set. I ran into Lisa, a fellow resident, as she was heading off on her bike, leading her to park by the side of the road so we could have a ten-minute catch-up about her three-night getaway to Paradise Beach, across the border from Goa. When I walked in, Romain Lousteau, one of the artists that run the HH Arts Spaces, was busy practising the drums, but he took a break as he led me to the kitchen, grabbed the last beer, which we shared, then decided that since the sunlight would soon entirely recede, we should soak in its vestigial dregs in the garden.

We grabbed our beer, then backtracked. We couldn't find the keys to the outdoor. Five minutes later, as we were about to call the maid, Neelam, we noticed it had been staring at us all along, strung from a nail by the sink. Romain reached for the bunch and instinctively counted 1,2,3 as he shifted each suspended unit between his fingers. It was an exercise he'd learnt during his theatre workshop days, the idea being that you were to evolve a code by which you allow your body to intuit what the right key might be, without having to use other, more visible identifiers. This led to several spiralling conversations about clairvoyance, lock pickers, and cooking as an exercise in practising one's sense of intuition.

Several phone calls later, one among which consisted of instructions to my best friend, Mona, about how to stir-fry the sausages she'd bought when she was in Goa last week visiting me, I welcomed into the house two friends of a friend, Heidi, and their guest, a visiting French chef, Sophie. A round of drinks followed, and, when the rickety bench by the community table finally gave in, bringing me down — almost — with it, we thought it the opportune moment to head out to dinner at Bomra's, one of my favourite gourmet restaurants in Goa.

As I introduced them to Bomra's finest — pickled tea leaf salad, his ode to his Burmese heritage; steamed snapper with its skin fried to a crisp in a tamarind and curry sambhol; Aldona pork, slowly cooked over a fire so the fat turned to a buttery crackling and its flesh was moist yet roasted; and seared tuna coated in poppy seeds with wasabi, soya and pickled ginger — and as they gushed over every bite, we spoke about how it is only through the act of feeding that the energy from one person can physically enter the other; food is the only form of art that gets directly assimilated into the bloodstream, that enters the body and constitutes it from within. As we sipped our single helpings of Paul John Edited, which bore traces of peat, I thought back to my conversation with Romain about continuity, how the craft of distilling ensured that residual traces of other liquors were summoned into the fermentation process; the idea of a glass of single malt containing the sediments of other lives and memories.

Still later, at Romain's stupendous rented house with intricate ceiling beams that looked like the hull of a boat, I eased into many conversations with Sohail, my fellow resident, who lured me with stories of his past performances, one in particular for which, brick by brick, he built a wall between him and his audience over three days only to break it down on the fourth with a spoon. He, unlike me, has been marking time in more authorial ways, inscribing the trail of sunlight upon his floor and walls. Me? I'm letting time pass through me. I'm no longer counting the minutes. I'm living them instead.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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