Rosalyn D'Mello: Cherishing the present moment
We must learn to renounce past and future to live in the present; because as soon as the future comes, it becomes present
Nothing, not even the exquisitely mysterious and seductive Matangi Quartet playing directly into my ears through my new Bluetooth headphones, can quell the ferocity of the downpour. Everything feels unfettered and unhinged. All around me rainwater gushes and tumbles down the ends of tiled roofs. I hear it sink into the liquid abyss of the next-door well. I take great comfort in how it patters down from leaves of trees. Everything is moist and green and fresh-scented. I am reminded that the colour green exists across a spectrum. Considering how last week, in Delhi, I felt great empathy for wilting plants and their sun-dried roots, I feel grateful to be here in Goa to witness this monsoonal meditation, which can be as rejuvenating as prayer; when earth and sky satisfy each other's lust and longing.
I feel privileged also to be able to so effortlessly embrace a nomadic existence in this state to which I unquestioningly belong on account of my ancestry. I know I can leave my luggage with a friend in a village somewhere and set out for the day with just an overnight bag, confident that I won't have to worry about having a roof over my head at night; that one of my many friends will invite me to stay so I don't have to trudge back. I can be spontaneous and still at once. I am happy not to feel the sun beating down on me. To be encased in what sometimes feels like an apocalyptic darkness. Right now, I am sitting in the balcao of a friend's rented home in Aldona while behind me there is all the drama of the monsoon; climactic downpour followed by bursts of relative calm, when water trickles down walls and trees and roofs; and suddenly, when you have grown accustomed to the quiet, there is the ominous pealing of thunder. Everything can change in a second. I punctuated this last sentence with a full stop and looked up to realise the electricity was no longer there. At this present moment, the rain has acquired an uncanny velocity. It seems torrential.
I have spent many of my nights this past week staying up till dawn, engrossed in the throes of conversation. There was much catching up that had to be done. My first day coincided with the San Jao feast, and as we were digesting the fish thali at Sai's, a boy named Faust handed us shots of Captain Morgan because it was his birthday. "Viva San Jao" we toasted as we quaffed them down. We went to the river much later, after the revelling was over, and soaked in the momentary quietness of the dusk hour. Some nights after, I remember my head hitting the pillow when the cock began to crow. Last night I managed to slip into bed by midnight, but felt too drawn to the intermittent flashes of lightning and the stillness around me despite the feeling of an impending storm, I could hardly sleep.
I refer to this as my annual monsoon fix. Because I often feel deprived in Delhi of this season; because I think my blood needs this feeling of a tidal swell. This time I've carried Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain with me to read. It is the first book I'm reading by a male author in a year or two that I look forward to finishing. The protagonist, Hans Castorp, an engineer in his mid-20s, goes to visit his cousin, Joachim, in a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps for three weeks. At least on his first day he is sure he is the healthiest inhabitant. Twenty-one days turns into seven years. His second day itself, when he began to sink into a delirious fever, felt like the second month. He is enraptured by strangely compelling dreams, and in this frenzy, has a "brilliant insight into what time actually is — nothing less than a silent sister, a column of mercury without a scale, for the purpose of keeping people from cheating." It is a reference to an earlier conversation, when he learns about a previous female inhabitant who, despite being eventually declared cured, is reluctant to leave. She tries to trick the doctors into believing she is unwell by using a rigged thermometer.
Simone Weil believed time is an image of eternity, but it is also a substitute for eternity. We must learn to renounce past and future to live in the present; because as soon as the future comes, it becomes present. "We want the future to be there without ceasing to be the future. This is an absurdity of which eternity alone is the cure," she says. "To come out of the cave, to be detached, means to cease to make the future our objective." I have privileged myself by choosing the life of the mind over a life characterised by fixed income and salary appraisals and requests for leave. It has taken vast amounts of courage. But right now, as I hear in the immediate distance, the cackling of a glorious yellow-beaked hornbill and watch in front of me my friend's cat, Skittles, guard my temporary writing space, I feel vindicated.
I am present.
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 email@example.com
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