Rosalyn D'Mello: Revising and rewriting who we are

Nov 03, 2017, 06:14 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

Through the written word, we can return to moments in the past, break them down and see how we could have behaved differently

There is something undeniably delicious about being able to watch a play while sipping on a glass of red wine. That is among the experiences that Odd Bird Theatre in Chattarpur allows us dilli wallas, apart from the luxury of being inside an exquisitely reconfigured warehouse space with great floor to ceiling depth, white interiors, an affordable yet gourmet menu, and did I mention, you fix the price of your wine? I went with one of my bestest friends, Bhuvana, for a production by the Tadpole Repertory, Quicksand. It was my second time there, as is obvious from my very recent raving about a venue that is already known for having transformed the vibe of a vicinity otherwise only known for farm houses. My first time was a few weeks ago, for Rehaan Engineer's three-person production of Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney. I hope, over the course of the next few months, to become a regular there. Maybe you'll even see me serving 

I immersed myself in the post-twilight solitude that is peculiar to south Goan beaches, the lack of blaring noise or exaggerated lighting, little to distract you from the crashing of the waves and the tidal moon
I immersed myself in the post-twilight solitude that is peculiar to south Goan beaches, the lack of blaring noise or exaggerated lighting, little to distract you from the crashing of the waves and the tidal moon

behind the volunteer-driven bar and food counter, or hiding in the green room ahead of my own production of something. Neel Chaudhari, a friend, had directed Quicksand, a well-meaning portrayal of what happens when an outspoken woman uses her phone's camera to film an abrasive co-passenger being rude to her when she tries to bypass an airport queue because she's late and fears the flight may take off without her. The details unfold sketchily and, as an audience, you're continually trying to piece together what happened on the basis of conversations into which you feel you're eavesdropping. The narrative had some flaws, but the acting was rather brilliant. But this is not a theatre review, this is backstory, build-up for a brief punchline the play delivers about the beauty of revision.

The lead character, Noor, whose life gets upturned after the video goes viral, has lost so much since the exposé, particularly her dignity and reputation. She recites from a blog post, something about how she could go back and 'revise' the moment. I was too busy holding my glass of wine to make a note of this sentence. But you get the general drift, I'm sure. "Writing is revision," I either read somewhere or wrote myself. It was a way of explaining to myself how, through the written word, I was often able to return to moments to toss them around in my head, break them down and see how I could have behaved differently, understand how I could have been a better listener or a better human being in general, sometimes, a better feminist. What if one carried this revisionist impulse as behavioural intuition, would it change or influence the tenor of our reactions?

Last evening, after running a series of errands, I rode my neighbour's bike to one of my favourite beaches in the immediate vicinity of my house in Goa. I'd come here on Tuesday to help my parents with household renovations, and I thought an evening walk by the sea would do wonders for my lungs.

I continued to think about the idea of revision as a performative mode, a way of engaging with the self, as if it were not anything permanent or stable, but constantly shifting, unstable, flexible, accommodating. As I fed my Fitbit, I immersed myself in the post-twilight solitude that is peculiar to south Goan beaches, the lack of blaring noise, the absence of exaggerated lighting, little to distract you from the crashing of the waves and the tidal moon. I remembered the first time I'd ever come to this stretch of the Colva coastline. I was 15, it was November, around the time of our church feast, my cousin Wensley had brought me. I was riding pillion, and I still remember how he took the right turn from the Benaulim junction and zig-zagged through a set of winding roads. Out of nowhere, the sea appeared. I still remember the astonishment of the unpredicted encounter. Over the years, I have been the person to introduce others to this moment of utter intrigue. I can no longer tell how many times I have trod along this shoreline. Last evening, it struck me that I am all of those selves that were present here at different moments in time, through different phases of the same moon.

This most recent version is perhaps the most forgiving one, the one most at ease in its own skin. It seeks to be at peace with the world, but not by blindly accepting the status quo, or by relinquishing its right to greater equality. It is less attracted to the certainty of a rigid position and more inclined towards entertaining diverse points of view. It's a self that is no longer aching to pupate. It already has and hasn't. It is being revised as we speak.

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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