Rosalyn D'Mello: Travelling with only the absolute

Updated: May 19, 2017, 06:00 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello | Mumbai

My biggest predicament when I have to travel longer than 2 weeks is how to fit the diverse fragments of thought nestled within my room

The absolute — that's the accessory I want to carry with me everywhere I go. I see no point in traveling without it. Representation Pic/Thinkstock
The absolute — that's the accessory I want to carry with me everywhere I go. I see no point in traveling without it. Representation Pic/Thinkstock

The wallpaper on my desktop for the last four months has been Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own'. With a sky-blue backdrop, in the foreground, a three-walled structure, like a theatrical set, with three items of furniture and their accompanying shadows - a green armchair, opposite which lies a life-size fountain pen with the tip of its golden nib positioned achingly towards the ceiling, between which is a daisy-like blue flower, with a similarly golden core.

I am drawn to the image because of its reductive properties, how it illustrates a complex idea in the form of simple, everyday objects that belong to the world of the writer. The two Os in the titular "Room" co-mingle to assume the mathematical signifier of infinity, while the dark looming shadows cast by a golden yellow orb, that sits atop the centre, communicates a foreboding sense of weight. There is a sense of boundlessness, despite the finitude of the room. The image has become familiar, but, every now and then, I find myself staring at it as if it were capable of eliciting epiphanies.

Right now, because I, upon returning from the recent Khoj residency in Goa, decided to reconfigure my bedroom, spatially signalling the official beginning of my next book, 'The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish', placed my writing desk directly against the wall containing my window, the tension between the interiority of my world and the exterior that lies beyond the expanse of my windowpanes is more exaggerated than ever before.

Since my most recent return a few days ago from a brief sojourn in Bombay on account of a friend's wedding and another's engagement, I seem to have taken myself hostage within this room. My only voluntary outdoor expedition in the last 72 hours was to go to the VFS office in Shivaji Stadium to put in my application for the Schengen visa for my upcoming trip to Europe. My im­m­e­diate fate lies in the hands of the German embassy and until I know for sure whether I have their permission to go, I'm straddling the length and breadth of a limbo.

Within this liminal zone of uncertainty, I have been preoccupied with the notion of weight. It began as more of a practical endeavour.
My whimsical itinerary will have me moving between Germany, France, Greece and Turkey, which means multiple flights and trains. So, I feel the urge to travel light to avoid having to lug around too many extra kilos. Having travelled extensively with a photographer as a companion, I've felt quite blessed that my art doesn't necessitate the transportation of heavy gear, that it is not dependent on machinery for its efficacy. But I have also always envied artists and their relationship with materiality. As writers, we peddle in ideas, in the intangibility and evasiveness of words. We're like hobbyists with butterfly nets, chasing the ever illusive, the never contained.

That doesn't mean, however, that we don't have the same issues with luggage. It's just that most of our baggage is invisible. My biggest predicament when I have to travel for longer than two weeks is how to fit the enormity of the diverse fragments of thought that, at this present moment, are confined within the sanctum sanctorum of my room, nestled among the innumerable pages of my many, many diaries, resting among my bookshelves, encrypted upon the dregs of layers of peeled paint.
How do I collect all these insubstantial objects and fit them within the parameters of my humble baggage allowance of 20 to 23 kilos? Especially when this trip I intend to make is no ordinary vacation.

The religious bribe the gods with promises on condition that their prayers are answered. Some say they will pilgrimage to a temple solely on their knees if a sick loved one is healed. Some make indulge­nces to offer money to the disenfranchised, if only the god in question lets their child pass its final exams.

Irreligious as I often am, I had only promised myself three years ago that after I published my first book, I would treat myself to a trip to Europe. While I am tempted to bribe a god to ensure I get my visa, I've decided to surrender, instead, to whatever the stars will have foretold.

What I'm always anxious about when I'm traveling to a foreign land is the dilemma of how to translate one's self across continents when it's often so difficult to transcribe it among the bylanes of what we call home.

I chanced up­on a marvellous fragment in Frie­drich Schlegel's 'Lucinde' -"There are writers who drink the absolute like water; and books in which even the dogs refer to the infinite." The absolute - that's the accessory I want to carry with me everywhere I go. I see no point in traveling without it.

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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