Rosalyn D'Mello: Looking back on a Bohemian year

Dec 01, 2017, 06:15 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

Despite the hectic, erratic nature of a writer's life, there's no denying our complete originality when it comes to the business of living

I've just about managed to realign my writing desk to its usual position, by my bedroom window. everything else is in disarray. It's as though a vivisection has been performed upon my apartment, and while the procedure was relatively successful, the sutures have yet to be made, so all the flesh is open-wounded and the seams are waiting to meet each other so the body can be restored to its functionality.

Representation pic/Thinkstock
Representation pic/Thinkstock

I am not complaining. I imagined it would take much longer than it has. But 10 days since we started and we're close to completion. I am amazed and a little perplexed by how much I've managed to accomplish despite all of this homely confusion, the mess of chipped paint and the odour of primer and the intermittent droning of the electrician and carpenter's drill. Three big articles last week, almost on deadline, and another two in the last two days. In between, I locked up all my belongings or left a few at a friend's place and sought shelter at my best friend Mona's house, where I doubled as cat sitter for Fifi. It helped, to be in a large empty space, looking after no other demands than that of the muse and the beautiful feline whose territory I briefly inhabited. It's no exaggeration. Solitude is everything when it comes to writing.

And now here we are, on the first day of December. The year is completing itself, rounding up its months and its days and hours as we inch towards 2018. There's been so little time for reflection or even to circle over personal achievements, small victories that matter greatly in the cosmic scheme of things. Is this not something that you do, too, in the beginning of the last month of the year? Pause. Take stock. Realign your resolutions if you can even remember what they were? Sometimes I wonder what all this striving is for. What is its purpose? Then I am compelled to remember all the joy there is in the very pursuit.

Two weeks ago, when I began to clear out my apartment to make room for the renovation, I began to look at all my belongings through the eyes of someone who wasn't me. If someone were to frame an image of the kind of person I was, or sought to be, purely from the evidence posed by the things I owned or my decorating aesthetic and my collection of books and art, what version would emerge, I wondered. When my neighbour - Sonia, a 30+ schoolteacher with a background in interior decorating - came upstairs to survey all the changes that I had commissioned in terms of paint and floating book shelves, she declared, in her sweet Punjabi accent that it was all very "artisanal". It's an adjective I felt I could live with. But I am curious about the impending experience of re-settling into my apartment once the paint is dry and the stitches have been undone. It's what I ought to have been doing all of tomorrow and the weekend, except by the time you read this, I'll be in Mumbai, gearing up for my sister and our friend's bachelorette shindig. In between serious deadlines for stories ranging from the provocative questioning of the category of women artists to self-portraits by them to working on a proposal for a whole book based on my visits to artists' studios, I've been browsing Pinterest for ideas on creative cocktails and unusual parlour games. So far, my best discovery has been a pin about Rose pepsi-colas... You know those little plastic cylindrical bags filled with flavoured ice that we used to relish as children? except with Rose champagne.

I often envy not my neighbour's goods, but the very predictably settled nature of her existence. She works hard all day at a private school, then returns home to her parents, spends the evening tutoring underprivileged children for free (she says she does it as part of her deal with the 'uparwala'). On Diwali, I glimpsed at her praying with her mother, facing the altar that they've installed in one whole in-built cupboard. She had that blissful look on her face. She is not un-opposed to marriage, but would rather not settle down with a total stranger with whom she may have nothing in common, much to her parents' chagrin. But she's such a dutiful daughter, I cannot imagine they would grudge her that decision.

Me, I'm very little like her. My life has settled very differently. I do not share her hesitation about living alone, or her pious, god-fearing demeanour. I struggle with goodness. And the hectic, erratic nature of my writing schedule denies me the solemnity of the quotidian. I seem to have stumbled into a Bohemian lifestyle, which I embraced open-heartedly. The jury is still out on whether it's admirable or not, but there's no betraying my complete originality when it comes to the business of living.

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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