The part of me that will live forever

Updated: Feb 01, 2019, 05:48 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello

"Are you afraid of your writing being forgotten?" my therapist asked. I was surprised by the spontaneity of my resounding "No."

The part of me that will live forever
I fished out the emergency pen usually lying near my bedside, placed a fresh diary on my lap and let myself happen. Representation Pic/Getty Images

Rosalyn D'MelloFor a change, this sun-less winter morning, I stayed awake after letting my maid in. She didn't look pleased about the chilly temperature. I wasn't either, but tucked inside my body was still the leftover cosiness from a night spent under my double blankets. I fired up the kettle and concocted a mug of warm turmeric water. Then, I returned to bed, but sat instead with my back leaning against the headrest after plopping many pillows strategically into place, thus composing the unacknowledged writing-in-bed asana.

I fished out the emergency pen I usually leave lying near my bedside since my ink pens seemed clogged. I placed a fresh diary on my lap and I let myself happen. An hour later I got up and made a hot cup of Monsoon Malabar coffee in the gorgeously designed stove-top cafetiere gifted to me by my new love.

I returned to bed and continued to write. Hours passed. When my thoughts ran dry, I decided it was time to clean out the possible clots impeding the flow of ink to the nibs of my ink pens. I then surveyed all the diaries I have used up in just the last few months. I marvelled at the over-abundance of words stacked up within their spines. When the time was right, they would fit into a grander scheme that I was still conceiving.

Their fate lay in my brain, yet to be deciphered and ordained. It struck me that this is how I measure time, not in hours or coffee spoons, or even menstrual cycles, but by each drop of ink that forms these narrative units whose every count also contributes directly to my livelihood. This is what it means to be a memoirist, to feed off each morsel of thought that enters your brain after having run its course through your body. As I encountered the present-ness of these fresh reams of pages, the ink upon their surfaces yet to dry, I began thinking about their afterlife.

These strings of sentences birthed into being after a complex process of life experience and intuition would one day (soon, I hope) find their place among other sentences that might emerge under a wholly different set of circumstances. Through a network of unforeseeable events, they find their way to a particular subset of readers whose lives could even be altered by the truth they contain within their elemental selves. Or not. They could remain unread until perhaps some day some one rediscovers them accidentally, or goes in search of them with express intent. This much faith I do possess within me.

"Are you afraid of your writing being forgotten?" my therapist had asked me at our last session. I was surprised by the spontaneity of my resounding "No". "I'm interested in dialoguing with the future," I told her. Given that I myself embody the zeal of a feminist literary critic and art historian, I can say for certain that there are many like me who remain committed to resurrecting forgotten feminist, queer, and non-mainstream narratives. Words, like seeds planted by migratory birds, transcend time and space.

That is how the constellation of my literary inheritance came to be. I don't see why or how it would be different in the case of my legacy. One story from my Sunday school days remains furtive in my memory, about the Widow's offering. I am still trying to unpack its moral. It appears in the gospel according to Mark (12:41-44). Christ was sitting opposite a place near the temple where offerings were made.

"Many rich people threw in large amounts," the testimony goes. "But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents." Calling his disciples to him, Christ makes an example out of her. He alleges that even though she put in two small copper coins, her contribution was figuratively more sizeable than those who'd put in larger sums. "They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on." In my more rebellious days, I dismissed this parable as one that legitimised institutional greed. As I age, I keep revisiting it to rediscover its subtext. As a woman with limited means, I began, long ago, to invest emotional capital in the metaphor of the leftover.

From the crux of this culinary concept was performed the miracle of the loaves and fish. What will be leftover of my life after I cease to exist as flesh and blood — this is how I have begun to frame the notion of immortality. I began resisting the male-artist-oriented discourse around legacy the day I learned of the patriarchal roots of the word 'seminal' [of, relating to, or consisting of seed and semen] and subsequently expunged it from my concertedly feminist vocabulary. I am trying to envision a legacy that stems not from ego or from fear of mortality but from plenitude, grace and generosity.

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

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