Of daunting right-wing aggressiveness

Published: May 24, 2019, 05:48 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

I no longer want a seat at the table designed by patriarchs but want to build my own feminist table and the ecosystem around it

Of daunting right-wing aggressiveness
BJP supporters carry a cutout of PM Narendra Modi as they celebrate the party's victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, on Thursday. Pic/PTI

Rosalyn D'MelloIt's okay, it was time," my sister said to me over the phone a day ago. I'd called to inform her that I'd successfully received a refund from my bank for the amount that had been fraudulently withdrawn from my account while I was in Vienna. I'd been the victim of a crime I learned is called "skimming", when someone reproduces your debit or credit card and then uses it to withdraw money from your account. My sister was responding to my grievance about my laptop being stolen on the night train to Vienna. It's true, what she said... it was "time"... the laptop was old. It was a Macbook Air I'd bought back in July 2012 — a gift I gave myself after having saved for almost a year. It was on that machine that I'd finished my first book. Last week's column ended up being the last bit of writing both performed and dispatched using that somewhat dysfunctional device.

I now found myself in a peculiar, somewhat precarious situation here in Europe. I cannot access my bank account, since my debit card had to be blocked, and I am laptop-less. The desktop in the apartment in which I'm living in Tramin presents itself as a potential solution, but the German keyboard is confusing, the y and z keys are in the exact opposite position as on the QWERTY keyboard I'm accustomed to, forcing my fingers to move counter-intuitively. Added to this is the phantom-pain-like consequence of the habit I'd got into of using my caps-lock key to replace my non-functional left shift key. It was my way of avoiding spending Rs12,000 to have the whole keyboard replaced. It's easier to write on my smartphone, I've discovered. It's not writing so much as swiping. But here I am, sitting at the kitchen table as I wait for the bread pudding I steamed to cool down so I can upturn it and leave it to stand in the fridge.

For the first time in my adult life I am compelled to be entirely dependent on another person. Fortunately, this person happens to be my boyfriend/fiance. I'm allowing myself to surrender, to allow him to pay for me, to buy me coffee or a glass of wine, to scan pages of my notebook for me when I need them or to even occasionally proof my writing because I'm unfamiliar with an operating system that's entirely in German. I have had to trust that it's okay to rely on another person in order for me to function. Oddly enough, instead of sinking into despair, I've been eerily happy, even a bit joyous.

If I really wanted to wallow in self-pity, I have no dearth of stimuli. The recent rejection of funding for PhD, the horror of finding my backpack in a train toilet, laptop missing, learning someone violated the space around me while I was asleep, the somewhat sorry state of my finances, the fact that I finally feel like writing voraciously but am missing a device that'll help facilitate the process... I could go on. But instead I find, because I'd been working on feeling my feelings, that none of those things are intrinsic to my happiness. This morning I woke up to find that Indians had chosen to vote pro-fascist. It upset me but I refuse to let it affect me. I'm delighting in the radical texture of unadulterated happiness — a state of being that isn't contingent on externalities. Perhaps this is my survival mechanism, my way of coping with worldly despair.

Or maybe it's the realisation that in fact all I need in order to write is an implement and a surface. In the dystopian authoritarian and patriarchal world of Margaret Atwood's 'A Handmaid's Tale', women aren't allowed to read or write, lest their heads be filled with the wrong ideas. Her protagonist who must fulfill her role as a surrogate for the commander and his wife, discovers in her room an inscription in Latin that she has to decode, which she eventually learns is an old Latin joke, "Don't let the bastards get you down". Her surrogate producer had left it for her. It's dramatic how the knowledge of my laptop being stolen has stimulated my imagination, given me more cause to write; and how the reality of our election results makes me determined to continue to resist. It's never before been more evident that we're living in a patriarchal, capitalist world that only seems to nurture the politics of inconsideration as if to legitimise it as a viable strategy.

Me, I'm committed to framing my personal politics in direct opposition to androcentric discourse. I am invested in evolving a culture of inclusion that is premised on love, not hate. I refuse to be daunted by petty thefts and right-wing aggressiveness.

I'd rather focus my energies on building communities of resistance and solidarity. I no longer want a seat at the table designed by patriarchs. I want to build my own feminist table and the ecosystem around it. And I want to serve what I cook from what I've managed to forage together.

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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