Rosalyn D'Mello: Retrieving epiphanies from a void

Feb 24, 2017, 06:20 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

How does one nourish the gift of ecstasy without allowing it to be corroded by time, traffic and the mundane business of daily living?

The setting of my room for my performance, "The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish" at HH Art Spaces, Goa. Pic/Dheer Kaku
The setting of my room for my performance, "The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish" at HH Art Spaces, Goa. Pic/Dheer Kaku

Having returned to Delhi after my month-long sojourn in Goa, I find myself not restless but uncertain. After a year of relative insanity, juggling a burgeoning work schedule with my own writing and assignments, I find I have yet to de-condition my body from the state of anxiety it had come to accept as habitual. So, I have been waking up in the morning with a slight sense of residual panic.

After combing through my planner I accept that for the first time ever in many, many years, I am on track. There are no pending deadlines, no massively overdue emails, no calls to return. The only appointments I have to make are with dear friends whom I haven't had the pleasure of catching up with on account of my overwor­ked past. It's like waking up in a kind of twilight zone, except instead of some eerie circumstance, I find myself relieved from the urgency with which I had been conducting my affairs. I am suddenly free, and I keep suspecting there might be a catch, that any minute now the phone will ring and a frantic voice will command me to drop everything and focus on some unforeseen-to task. But the phone is rarely abuzz, and when it does ring, it's a telemarketing call from a 1408 number, which I'm delighted to ignore.

Given this newfound sense of ease, I find I'm focussing on certain specific words and lines. Among them is this — "wellspring" which is synonymous with abundance,
because despite the slight confusion from the withdrawal symptoms, I feel effusive. It was a wonder I managed to make my flight back to Delhi. I travelled on the 18th, my flight was scheduled for 1.20 pm, but the night before was the open studio at HH Art Spaces, the culmination of the month long residency, where I did, to my utter surprise, make my debut as a performance artist.

I began my intimate 15-minute-long, one-at-a-time-only piece at 8.15 pm, and, unintentionally, ended at 4.30 am, after which I had to somehow muster the courage and enthusiasm to pack so I could make my departure from the room I had inhabited for long enough that its walls had been lined with fragments from my dreams and the brazenness of my words. My body ached because of all the movements I had commanded it to make, and yet, after each visitor left, it felt reenergised because it was able to receive their generosity. It was an exhilarating experience for a writer who otherwise practises in solitude; to witness first hand the emotional consequence of one's words upon another human being. Two people wept. Three kissed me on my forehead. All 20 hugged me in return. The title of my piece proved so enormously fitting — The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish.

So I returned, sleep-deprived, but full of something deep and gushing, something like grace. I felt beatified, and I felt I could glimpse now why certain figures are represented with haloes above their head, though I'd like to muse that the aura is not always a sign of holiness but of an overflowing of spirit, a sacredness of intention that is the opposite of self-righteousness. A kind of ecstasy, when everything you do feels a lot like a prayer; not the type that is filled with wanting as much as thanksgiving.

TS Eliot's Prufrock spoke of a life measured in coffee spoons, a nuance I mimicked when I lived in JNU and wrote upon the surface of my bucket that life was in fact measured by empty buckets. It's not an equivalent image, I realise, for the coffee spoon is heaped but the bucket empty. But they work alongside each other if you think of creation as something that emerges from a void, and if you were to think of the void as not vacant but invisibly brimming, not vacuous but rife with possibilities. The question, then, is one of intellectual and emotional sustenance. How does one nourish this gift of ecstasy without allowing it to be corroded by time, traffic, telephonic interruptions and the mundane business of daily living? How does one continue each time to retrieve epiphanies from the dark crimson-vermillion flesh of beetroots?

Clarice Lispector speaks of "is-ness" — a term she uses for both the temporary and for temporality — of locating oneself in the instant, being in the now, yet embodying a prescient sense of past and future. Through her Agua Viva I continue to feed my spiritual core. "Is God a form of being? The abstraction that materializes in the nature of all that exists?" her anonymous protagonist asks. "For each one of us and at some lost moment of life — is a mission announced that we must accomplish?" she says. Like her, I want to refuse any mission. I want not to accomplish anything. I want just to live.

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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