The joy of 'unsettling' into a home

Published: May 03, 2019, 06:20 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

I am learning to accommodate within my imagination the threatening prospect of a form of unbridled joy derived from companionship

The joy of 'unsettling' into a home
I feel naked and exposed, like the Peepal tree mid-April. But like it, I feel unafraid. I am boldly breaking ground. Representation pic/Getty Images

Rosalyn D'MelloBy the time I left Delhi, the Peepal tree adjacent to my apartment building had replenished itself almost wholly, an act of shedding and rejuvenating customarily performed by it every April. For the seven years I have lived in the periphery of its aura, I have witnessed this ceremonious unfurling, when the ground below appears like a carpet composed of dried, crunchy remnants of last year's newness, and for a brief period, between a few days to a week, the sacred tree stands bereft, its naked bark and branches totally exposed to early summer winds.

Before long, there is a riveting freshness; tender chlorophyll-green leaves that speckle preciously in the still shifting sunlight like jewels on display. I observed the newness spread across the ageing, sentinel tree as I performed several trials to arrive at a relatively minimalist suitcase. As I unpacked, having finally arrived at my intended destination, I found myself catching glimpses of the vermillion leaves of whatI was later told is the blood beech tree.

For the next month and a half, it will take the place of the Peepal back home and become my guardian tree. It lies in the outer courtyard of a centuries-old church in the village of Tramin, in South Tyrol. I never imagined I would return yet again to a region to which I had been invited almost exactly a year ago. The circumstances which governed my present arrival seem unprecedented.

I am here to explore the conditions and possibilities of a new form of home I hadn't foreseen or conceived of, because I'd been concertedly setting up my life as a woman committed to singlehood. I am now learning to accommodate within my imagination the threatening prospect of a form of unbridled joy derived from delighting in the intellectual, romantic, and physical companionship of another.

It's been hard to digest the fact that I fell in love with a man from another continent. Primarily because I hadn't envisioned that there might be someone out there who could be so invested and committed to my happiness. It isn't that I'd given up on or had discounted the possibility of being 'in love', it's that it has often felt incongruent — being 'in love' and feeling empowered.

Because to fall in love with someone has been disguised as a form of disempowerment, where you involuntarily submit to a state of relative helplessness, where your happiness feels dependent on the loved one's validation of your love through their admission of love for you. For the first time in my life, I have known the thrill of being equanimous in love without having had to shed my sense of self. If anything, I could say I've somehow managed to recover certain elemental traces of my being and becoming that I had forgotten existed, because I had not been 'seen' or hadn't opened myself up to the possibility of being 'seen' by another.

The difficulty has lain in expanding the boundaries of the future I had dreamed for myself, with me as the centre, around which lay multiple extremities of friendships and allegiances — all my many big and small loves. It's like making space for another person in a cupboard that has for decades had the sole function of being the repository of just your clothes.

Last evening, he did exactly that, offered me shelf space. As I occupied it, spreading my diaries and notebooks across the desk he'd positioned for me in front of the window in his room that looks out upon the blood beech tree and the mountains in the distance, I realised how privileged I am to be able to ascertain where my fate and future might lie.
For so many generations of women, it has been customary to take up residence in the home of the man they were either married to or chose to marry. I respect my parents for having chosen otherwise, but they had the luxury of being in the same city. Me, I'm now straddling continents, and am still grappling with the news of not having been granted the faculty studentship I was vying for, that would have funded my PhD.

There are two months to go till I turn 34 and it seems like I've committed myself to a form of 'unsettling', where there are no longer any fixed parameters, where the notion of home is stretched across many spaces and entities and continues to expand, and where all roots are pervasively aerial. I feel naked and exposed, like the Peepal tree mid-April. But like it, I feel unafraid. I am boldly breaking ground.

I am charting, through intuition, the course of my future contentment. At this present moment, I am unreasonably, unseasonably happy. And I have decided to allow myself to bask in the accompanying jouissance. No more over-thinking. No more over-intellectualizing. I choose instead to let myself happen, to allow myself to feel.

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
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