Rosalyn D'Mello: It's just a question of time

Published: Sep 01, 2017, 06:10 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello | Mumbai

A doctor, treating my fibroids, says what is grown cannot un-grow. But recent readings have compelled me to think differently about time

There's every chance that the holistic system I’m investing in might fail to "un-grow" the six-cm fibroid. But how much bad could come from investing in a disciplined diet, a yoga routine, and a general de-stressing? Representation pic/Thinkstock
There's every chance that the holistic system I’m investing in might fail to "un-grow" the six-cm fibroid. But how much bad could come from investing in a disciplined diet, a yoga routine, and a general de-stressing? Representation pic/Thinkstock

"The real question is how do you measure time?" I remember saying to my sister one evening, a few weeks ago, when we were making our way in a rickshaw through unsurprisingly dense traffic. We were speaking about the restlessness that can creep under one's skin from mindless routine, the kind characterised by full-time employment. When I lived in a hostel in JNU, I measured time in empty buckets.

Four days ago, as I was going through my writerly motions, listening to Anne Carson on YouTube reciting new work, I paused when I heard this line - "It all slips into a past tense that will not have happened yet." I had been wandering around my apartment clearing and cleaning, but I knew I had to cease all that activity to note it down, for future referencing. I finally pulled out my new second-hand typewriter that I'd acquired the week before from Adarsh typewriters in Connaught Place, a gorgeous crimson-coloured Brother, placed a page, and typed it out, smiling surreptitiously at the clickety clack of the keys resounding on the blank paper, staining it with ink to create an impression. Then I went back to pages 118-120 of Torpor, the book I'd just finished, an amazing treatise by Chris Krauss that could be considered a prequel to her more well-known I Love Dick, and typed immediately below, this stunning paragraph: "Tenses situate events relative to their closeness or their distance from the speaker. Rules of grammar give the empty space of human speech some shape. The simple past: We left. In more complex tenses have and had, the helping verbs help to separate the speaker from the immediacy of events. We had left. Had forms a little step between what happened and the moment when you're telling it. There is a tense of longing and regret, in which every step you take becomes delayed, revised, held back a little bit. The past and future are hypothesised, an ideal world existing in the shadow of an if. It would have been."

The wonderful gynaecologist I visited in Mumbai, at my mother's behest, in the hope of a second opinion about the urgency of surgery to extract my growing fibroid, theorised that the hormonal imbalance - its primary cause - could be because at the age I am now, I should have already have had at least two or three children. The tumour was a form of physiological protest against this lack. However, more holistic systems of healing prefer to think of these imbalances as symptoms of dietary interferences in the food chain. Both explanations have their individual merit. Yet, since I began the Tibetan medication about 20 days ago, I have been compelled to think differently about time.

Instead of agonising about whether to be etherised upon a surgical table, I've begun to discipline my body to receive this herbal detox with as much eagerness as it can muster. The process of having to grind each dose with a mortar and pestle has induced in me greater mindfulness than that which comes from simply swallowing an allopathic pill. I have begun to begin my day with 45 minutes of yoga, actually even looking forward to kickstarting my system with the surya namaskar, and ending it with castor oil packs in the hope that it might stimulate my body's lymphocytes.

It's intriguing that my next book's working title is The Miracle Of The Loaves and Fish, since it seems as though I am trying to perform some sort of miracle with my body. "That which has grown cannot un-grow," the gynaecologist had warned me, and yet, here I am inviting my physical constitution to collaborate in the business of self-healing, partly inspired by two women writers who had to contend with breast cancer, Susan Sontag, who wrote Illness As Metaphor, and Kathy Acker, who ends her piece titled 'The gift of disease' by transcribing her conversation with her surgeon whose diagnosis, after her mastectomy, is limited by the boundaries of Western healing. "As I walked out of his office, I realised that if I remained in the hands of conventional medicine, I would soon be dead, rather than diseased, meat. For conventional medicine was reducing me, quickly, to a body that was only material, to a body without hope and so, without will, to a puppet who, separated by fear from her imagination and vision, would do whatever she was told."

There's every chance that the holistic system I'm investing in might fail to "un-grow" the six-centimetre fibroid. But how much bad could come from investing in a disciplined diet, a yoga routine, and a general de-stressing? As of now, I'm measuring my time in bitter pills and deep breaths, alongside self-administered doses of hope.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputed 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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