Rosalyn D'Mello: Sorority of the solitude seekers

Published: Mar 24, 2017, 06:30 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello |

Though no one may be writing books about us rejecting the ‘norms of the society’ to live independently, we all exist on the same page

Never before in re­c­ent history have so many Indian women in their thirties rejected the set-up of an arranged marriage in lieu of living independent lives. Pic/Thinkstock
Never before in re­c­ent history have so many Indian women in their thirties rejected the set-up of an arranged marriage in lieu of living independent lives. Pic/Thinkstock

Once again I am on the brink of departure. By the time you read this, I shall be settling into my temporary working space at the Old Pereira House in Corjeum, an island in Goa. This will be my second residency, except this time around, I’ve been invited as a critic. I’m not expected to create work, an exciting proposition. I’m quite unsure what exactly my role will be, perhaps something of a mediator between the 24 artists who will be my co-residents. We’re being hosted by the graphic artist, Orijit Sen and his wife, and the little video I’ve seen of the house makes it seem spooky and dramatic. I’ll know in a few hours, after I land and am driven there. You’ll know next week, when I dispatch my column from the island.

It was a luxury to have been able to spend at least three consecutive weeks in Delhi, one I hadn’t been able to afford the past year given my travel routine. Most of my time, when it wasn’t spent trying to fix the continuing water crisis that has besieged my building for at least 12 months (and counting), involved catching up with friends who live here, and many who had been visiting. Last afternoon, when my writer friend, Sam (Samhita) Arni was leaving, I asked her to sign my copy of her “Sita’s Ramayana”, which had been gifted to me by Mona on my 30th birthday. She was the third person who’d come over whom I’d asked to engage in such a ritual. Two weeks ago it was Munem Wasif, a Bangl­adeshi photographer, and before that, Aditi Rao. It had assumed the aura of a ceremony, inviting people whose work I love and admire to indulge in either lunch or dinner. I almost wished I had kept tabs on the conversations, but much of it was so spontaneous and free flowing.

I also realised that I spent most of the last three weeks in the company of women. I think that’s what the rest of my thirties will inevitably be mar­ked by: female friendships. It’s a subject I’ve written about before - this sacred sorority bond. Still, I sometimes wonder why it is that I both attract and seek out more women than men. My most recently successful kinship with a man was during my residency at HH Art Spaces, but Tsohil is queer, which makes him additionally attractive. Perhaps it is, in fact, too complicated for men and women to be just friends. Which is not to say I don’t have amazing relationships with men, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them platonic. There’s usually a subtext; a subterranean heterosexual attraction that inflects our correspondence. It’s never wholly innocent.

My female friends, though, can make me feel loved in ways I can hardly fathom. Whether it’s over a phone call, where the concern in their voices quickly bridges the distance between us, or face to face, over lunch or dinner. We ‘hang out’ and reveal ourselves to each other. Within five minutes of Sam arriving at my place last afternoon, we spilled to each other the deep dark thing that PMS has threatened to become, how we can wake up in the morning during that week preceding our periods and cry over nothing, even entertain depressing thoughts that oth­e­r­wise remain concretely on the other side of our consciousness. Over the phone the other day with my friend Jyoti, we confirmed that this development had everything to do with being in our thirties. Her period, of late, has been punctuating its departure with a full frontal migraine. We bitched, we ranted, we laughed, and even though I haven’t seen her since October, it was as if we had been in touch all along. What should have been a 10-minute call turned into a 40-minute conversation, and when we finally said our goodbyes, I found myself laughing still about something she said that was hilarious even in retrospect.

I don’t hear men ending their conversations with their male friends with declarations of love. Maybe they feel no need to, maybe they utilise a different code. But me and my girlfriends, we have no inhibitions saying “I love you” or a truncated “love you” to each other when we’re done talking or are parting ways. And we always mean it in a pure, unadulterated way. We even come up with silly names for each other. Mona, for instance, loves to call me her monkey or her potato.

When this German journalist came over for tea two days ago, to interview me about my book, she asked me if I felt the sisterhood was something real. I conceded without blinking. I added that never before in re­c­ent history have so many Indian women in their thirties rejected the set-up of an arranged marriage in lieu of living independent lives. It’s like the secret sorority of the solitude seekers.

Though no one may be writing books about us, we all exist on the same page.

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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