Saying goodbye to home

Updated: Feb 07, 2020, 07:23 IST | Rosalyn D'mello | Mumbai

The impending uprooting of my life brings myriad emotions - right from melancholy to clarity about the path I must take

The wise thing to do would be to sell my belongings, but they give me too much joy because they feel, sometimes, like relics. Pic/Rosalyn D'mell
The wise thing to do would be to sell my belongings, but they give me too much joy because they feel, sometimes, like relics. Pic/Rosalyn D'mell

Rosalyn D'melloAs excited as I was to finally kick-off the most urgent leg of my fieldwork within South Asia through my visit to Bangladesh, I had to suppress the profound sadness I was feeling about leaving Delhi.

I've been trying hard to allow myself to feel my emotions fully, but I was aware that in this instance, it would be crippling since the melancholia I was feeling was tinged with the knowledge of impending grief. Were the circumstances different, I wouldn't have felt so gutted about not being around to watch how Delhi's silk cotton trees that have been lying for months in a state of leaf-full slumber burst suddenly into red-hued flames, their blossoming signalling the heralding of spring.

I wouldn't have felt so despondent about not being in my room to catch the light filtering through every afternoon in February. However, I am now wrestling with the certainty that I might have to give up my apartment in Delhi, come May. My lease is up for renewal in March, and since I must also return to Italy to honour the conditions of my stay permit, and since my continuing research ensures an increasingly low monthly income, I know I cannot afford to maintain the apartment.

It is needy and demands tenderness and attention. With each prolonged absence its tantrums become more pronounced — walls with seepage, blocked pipes, tanks that need cleaning. Something is always breaking down and I've no longer the headspace to continue to maintain its sanity.

It's an emotional loss for me, considering this apartment was one I rented singularly, and has been a home not just for me but for many of my dearest friends who sought shelter within its walls when the urgency arose. Signing the lease marked a moment of great transition for me. I moved in around mid-September in 2012 from Khirki with just a simple bed, a table, a work station, desk, clothes and some utensils and cutlery.

It was a 1,500 square feet apartment and I began to inhabit my solitude within its expanse. Each item of furniture it contains at present was sourced from the nearby Amar Colony second-hand market whenever I found I had a little bit of money. It's not solidly put together, and it has seen many avatars — the most recent came to be after it had been painted back in 2017.

I'm so unsure about what I'll do with all my things. In all likelihood, I will send them to our house in Goa. The wise thing to do would be to sell my belongings, but they give me too much joy because they feel, sometimes, like relics. I can tell you where, when, and why I picked up almost every object you'd come across. How I felt, even, when I was purchasing them. There's a profound sense of attachment. They're not just things, not just objects. They're my things; my objects. Something of me is irrevocably a part of their being. They and I live in the awareness of having co-habited a space. I'm not saying they are sentient, but their presence mattered to my existence and influenced how I framed my every day.

More significantly, giving up this apartment means I will be kitchen-less. Yes, my husband's family's home has a kitchen, as does my parents' house in Mumbai and Goa. But none of them are my kitchens. I realised I derive some feeling of exile from not having access to a space that is defined by my selfhood, that is the consequence of my likes and dislikes, my wild preferences, my habits, my culinary proclivities.

When my landlady was having the apartment repainted in 2017, I had asked her to consider painting the kitchen walls in a deep maroon. She agreed. I got a carpenter to install shelves on the wall so I could place all my ingredients in a manner that was more easily accessible. I achieved transparency.

Everything in the kitchen was placed on display, so it was easier to make decisions about what to cook. I saw this, too, as an extension of how I was feeling, how I wanted to live my life more honestly and transparently, without the need to hide anything or feel shame about details I was apprehensive about confronting.

In this sense, my life, after May, will feel invariably uprooted. While this ought to provoke anxiety and despair, it does the opposite. In fact, it outlines a clear path for what I want my future to involve. I will be impelled to spend the next few years finding ways to build my own kitchen. This doesn't necessarily imply ownership. I am meant to belong to a kitchen. I just have to find the right one.

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

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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