Rosalyn D' Mello: Putting me at the centre of my world

Published: Mar 16, 2018, 06:20 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

The only way to get rid of my brain fog, I discovered, was to stop revolving around everything else and focus squarely on myself

To an onlooker, it seems as though the body is swaying circularly when in fact the movement is almost imperceptible. Representation pic
To an onlooker, it seems as though the body is swaying circularly when in fact the movement is almost imperceptible. Representation pic

Rosalyn D'MelloYou need to relax. Unless you do, you're not going to enjoy the facial," Ayesha tells me. "Is it that obvious that I'm stressed?" I ask. "Yes, your shoulders are very tense." I want to tell her that this sort of physiological and psychological duress comes with the territory when you define yourself as a writer. But, it's perhaps best if I stay quiet. I want to concentrate on her finger movements, but she applies pressure too delicately for it to have any immediate effect on my knotted up flesh. It felt nice, though, to have her repeatedly replicate the circular motion of her finger pads on my cheeks and collarbones and temples.

The cotton swabs over my eyes ensured that I retreated into interiority and lay absolutely still. It was doubly nice that I was in a parlour to which I had childhood allegiances. When the lights were off and Ayesha had left the room, I had a very distinct memory of waiting with my sister outside the veranda of the original version of Lis Silver Streaks, Aunty Phyllis's old home in Culbavour, Kurla, as my mother was getting a facial. I think those were the only moments when we got to see our mother (otherwise a force of nature and a full-time private nurse) relaxed and still.

I did leave the parlour all groggy-eyed. But, I don't know if I was more relaxed. When I spoke to Simar over the phone, I told her I was fatigued and that I wanted to write less. "There's a word for what I'm feeling, but I can't remember it," I said to her. Two hours later, the term came back to me. Burn out… I feel burnt out, like I've expended more energy than I had within me, or I over-estimated my reserve of words. Post-surgery, I've also had to contend with what my friend Margaret, an amazing writer who was also recently operated upon, has aptly called "brain fog". It's this eerie feeling when you are emotionally and physically present, but you still don't feel intellectually together. You struggle considerably more than usual. You feel detached from the primacy of your own interior monologues, and language feels like it's constantly at the tip of your tongue and yet is eternally inaccessible. It's everything that no one warns you about when they tell you a laparoscopy is nothing big.

On Tuesday, as I was walking towards the allotted gate to board my flight to Mumbai from Delhi, I chose to make an executive decision not to write gratuitously any more. While nothing that I'd taken on had ever been beyond me, I was suddenly aware that I was guilty of having over-extended myself to the point where I felt not quite dried up, but not motivated enough. There was only one solution: to take a break so I could stop revolving around everything else. It was time I orbited around myself.

This fact was driven home in the most literal way. As I was hula hooping. I never thought I'd use those words in a sentence, either in noun or verb form. But, I do now own a collapsible weighted hula hoop and in less than a week's time have learned to have it circumnavigate my body, clockwise and anti-clockwise, in two different postures, side-waist and front-forward. It has been an exhilarating experience. About ten days ago I asked my friend in Goa at whose home I was staying for the weekend to teach me how to hula hoop. She demonstrated and then told me to concentrate on my body. "Think of the hoop as an optical illusion," she said. For an onlooker, it seems as though the body is swaying circularly when in fact the movement is so slight and simple, it's completely deceptive. That Sunday, while she did laps in her pool, I was determined to hold the hoop at my waist for at least a minute, finally settling for four consistent rounds. The instant I returned to Delhi, I went to Decathlon and bought myself the weighted hoop I now own. It is collapsible, so superbly mobile and travel-friendly.

Hooping has become my favourite form of exercise, because it doesn't feel beyond my stamina. I can see how it's possible to read a book while hooping, or even talk over the phone. I've been feasting on amazing YouTube videos of women mastering the act of hooping so they look like lithe acrobats floating in time and space as they dextrously manoeuvre the hoop. It's become a way of meditating, of being still while also being in motion. But, more than that, the increased comfort with the sport has effected a paradigm change. I have come to question the orbits around which my world revolves. What am I at the centre of? I have decided for now to focus more squarely on myself, even if it means continuing to be gainfully unemployed and borderline broke. Ayesha was right. I really need to relax.

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

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