The legacy we ought to remember

Updated: Sep 20, 2019, 05:17 IST | Rosalyn Dmello |

To despair at the present scenario is to invisibilise the labours of so many hundreds of people who are continuing to work for justice, as well as the many who have come before us

It is unimaginable, the extent of this repressive, violating siege, this callous bureaucratic toying with people's lives, the normalising of violence, the forced separation of families, and the game that is continuing to be played by news channels, the flipping between versions of untruths and manufactured falsehoods. Pic/ Getty Images
It is unimaginable, the extent of this repressive, violating siege, this callous bureaucratic toying with people's lives, the normalising of violence, the forced separation of families, and the game that is continuing to be played by news channels, the flipping between versions of untruths and manufactured falsehoods. Pic/ Getty Images

Rosalyn D MelloThis morning, around 11 am, I witnessed the wind rustling through leaves in a manner that felt seasonally significant. The air was cooler, even though there was no perceivable evidence of rain. I was briefly transported to Graz, in Austria, which is where I was last year on the last day of summer, when, through the span of that September night, I felt and saw and smelt autumn setting in. Tomorrow I leave for Kolkata, officially embarking on the field research for my book for Oxford University Press, based entirely on my visits to South Asian artist studios. I'm excited. Also because I've never been there in October, and I'm curious about what the weather will be like. When I return, a week later, I will be getting ready to leave for Tramin, to be reunited with my partner.

I am overwhelmed by excitement. Because I have never been in Europe longer than mid-October, and this will be my first real experience of winter there. And since I will effectively be in the Italian Alps, there's a chance I may even experience my first snowfall. I've frolicked in old snow before, I've seen light snowflakes, dandruff-like, floating, but I've never actually known what it's like to see snow fall more relentlessly, to find the ground deposited by layers of ice flakes. My partner tells me the world slips into a special kind of silence when it snows, and I'm looking forward to such a natural form of insulation.

I also have this restless anticipation because I cannot wait to see in person the fruits of my labour on my partner's apple farm. I spent two days in summer helping him thin the 1,500 trees on their small patch, during which time I was fascinated by the process itself wherein you have to actively pluck some of the tiny fruits to assist the tree to reduce the burden of nourishment. It took me some time to understand the logic behind the sacrifice. I imagined, naively that plenitude was desirable, until my partner explained that the tree itself discriminates between its fruit in terms of nourishment. I could see how some of the tiny buds just fell off because they were no longer umbilically attached. I soon got into the flow. When I go now I'll finally see whether the decisions I made then fructified. I'll be better poised to learn from my mistakes. And moreover, come November, when the Pink Lady variety, which he grows, is ready for harvesting, I will be there to assist him.

The thought gives me as much pleasure as the news about apples rotting in Kashmir pains me. It is unimaginable, the extent of this repressive, violating siege, this callous bureaucratic toying with people's lives, the normalising of violence, the forced separation of families, and the game that is continuing to be played by news channels, the flipping between versions of untruths and manufactured falsehoods. It is very important for us to keep this issue alive in public consciousness. It is imperative, even, that we do not lose our sense of empathy as individuals, especially since, as a nation, we have already lost it. Whatever we choose to build now will be tainted by this wilful act of colonisation. We no longer have any moral high ground.

I'm trying to synthesise these emotions: unbridled excitement alongside deep disappointment; eager anticipation alongside crippling fear over our immediate and long-term future as Indian citizens, especially those of us whose ideologies do not resonate with the mainstream. I'm choosing to channel my energies through the prism of radical optimism. I have decided that hope, as an active verb, is a transgressive force. To despair at the present scenario is to invisibilise the labours of so many hundreds of people who are continuing to work for justice, as well as the many who have come before us, because of whom we today have the privilege of what we regard now as certain inalienable rights that didn't exist before. This is what feminism reminds us; that we exist within a legacy of women who fought for the rights we take for granted. Feminism also teaches us about the how to live the present by imagining what we want our future to look like, and then to give all we can to make that future a reality.

Yesterday, I finally read Rebecca Solnit's essay, "If you think you're woke, it's because someone woke you up," which is available online at lithub.com. I'll leave you with one of many powerful insights she delivers in exquisitely simple yet empowering language: "This is a time in which the power of words to introduce and justify and explain ideas matters, and that power is tangible in the changes at work. Forgetting is a problem; words matter, partly as a means to help us remember. When the cathedrals you build are invisible, made of perspectives and ideas, you forget you are inside them and that the ideas they consist of were, in fact, made, constructed by people who analysed and argued and shifted our assumptions. They are the fruit of labor. Forgetting means a failure to recognise the power of the process and the fluidity of meanings and values."

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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