Making leisure as relevant as chores

Updated: 11 September, 2020 06:44 IST | Rosalyn D'mello | Mumbai

Things like equal division of labour at home and the way women's bodies are perceived in public, have let me inhabit a more peaceful space. Can we make that happen for all womxn in our societies?

I find the most profound biological change within me is the heightening of my powers of smell, maybe because the air is cleaner and not interrupted by the smell of tobacco and countless other odours. Pic/Rosalyn D'mello
I find the most profound biological change within me is the heightening of my powers of smell, maybe because the air is cleaner and not interrupted by the smell of tobacco and countless other odours. Pic/Rosalyn D'mello

picAfter the intensity of August's 31 days, performing several part-time jobs while somehow also managing to complete the first draft of the first chapter of the sequel to A Handbook for My Lover, I'm enjoying settling into my solitude.

September has been calmer. I've ensconced myself in the bubble I've carefully built so that every otherwise upsetting detail about matters over which I exercise little agency has to be filtered before it can alter anything within me in a molecular way. After having nursed my feminist rage for almost a decade, I've learned how to imbibe a more sanity-preserving perspective over triggering things.

This doesn't make me a less political being. This is, quite simply, the mechanism I've had to evolve to retain some of my recently acquired wholeness in a belligerently patriarchal and capitalistic world.

I've been guiltlessly affording myself the luxury of listening to the natural world. I spend time watching leaves turn; waiting for particular flowers or fruits to bloom, and cataloguing the various aromas that captivate my consciousness.

I try to listen to the sound of grapes being crushed as they enter the steel barrels. I watch the scoby in my first batch of Kombucha travel the length of the glass bottle through the day. Sometimes it seems to be swimming at the bottom, and sometimes I spot it levitating in the centre of the Earl Grey-flavoured black tea potion it is currently inhabiting.

Near it rests a batch of sourdough starter I brought back with me from Innsbruck on Sunday from my friend Johanna's kitchen. I've been feeding it regularly and I often walk in on the yeast when it is at its peak for a hit of its frothy, warm, dour breath. When we go for evening walks to catch the moonlight, I can smell ripening apples. I am now more aware than I was before, of the harvest schedule, and I'm gradually cataloguing the different scents.

For, three months after having landed here, I find the most profound biological change within me is the heightening of my powers of smell. At first, I thought I was simply more conscious of smell as a way of assuaging my paranoia about whether I might have contracted COVID-19. I'd learned from a few friends who did get infected that what they lost, momentarily, was their olfactory ability.

But now I wonder if it's the cleaner air, the fact that it isn't interrupted by other odours or sometimes stenches, as was often the case in Delhi. Or maybe it's because I live in a tobacco-free environment. Could that contribute to my ability to sift through various fragrances, allowing them to enter my body in the first place? I don't know, I'm still processing this new-found power, and I'm aware it is helping me sharpen my talents as a cook.

There is a peace that comes from delighting in interiority that I cannot quite express. For all the things I miss about home, I have to say I don't at all long for or feel nostalgic about how people are always in your business, all the time. And of late, I've found that I have more energy because I don't have to contend with daily instances of misogyny or sexual harassment.

When I walk on the street, though I'm aware my brown body is looked at, I am relieved not to feel like I'm being raped by someone's gaze. If I cover my body it's because there's a chill in the air. There is alot to be said about how having these basic freedoms can offer you a greater emotional bandwidth. They should unarguably be a given, especially when you are a citizen of a country.

Additionally, to live in a home where my partner and his parents and I equally share housework so that no one is exclusively saddled with more tasks than they can handle comes as a welcome luxury. All of these things have very directly translated into my having more time and being able to delight in that time. For the first time since childhood, I think about hobbies I might have liked to have evolved but couldn't before, or skills I might want to acquire that I never had time to pursue before.

I'm sharing this not to brag, or to validate proximity to whiteness as something inherently empowering. I want us to talk, instead, about the conditions that are necessary for womxn to feel like they have time, for our minds to not be occupied with the challenge of pleasing our families and our societies, or for our bodies to be constantly fielding off violations and aggressions. To have, instead, the peace of mind and the leisure to daydream. This should be as precious as every other right we are fighting for in our quest to smash Brahmanical patriarchy.

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
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First Published: 11 September, 2020 06:44 IST



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