The very last of here and now

Published: Apr 17, 2020, 04:46 IST | Rosalyn D'mello | Mumbai

Amid the few remaining days in my home of nearly a decade, days are filled with a rush of memories intermingling with my present

If I peep out the window in my writing room/bedroom, I can see the virginal white glow of frangipani blooms
If I peep out the window in my writing room/bedroom, I can see the virginal white glow of frangipani blooms

picIt isn't just that I can no longer identify which home I long for most, it's that because, suddenly, there is time enough, I find myself entangled within simultaneities. This feeling has coincided with my recent progress with German — I finally felt confident enough to attempt learning the perfect past tense; and my re-reading of the beginning of Clarice Lispector's Agua Viva.

"Every thing has an instant in which it is," her character writes. "I want to possess the atoms of time. And to capture the present, forbidden by its very nature: the present slips away and the instant too, I am this very second forever in the now." This it-ness is of an intermingling of time. Because I am aware, even though I may not be able to predict with any calibrated precision, that at some point in May, I will have finally moved out of my apartment, my every moment within it, this 'now', is inflected by the rose-tinted glare of retrospection.

Many elements that constituted my domestic routine are being performed for the last time. For instance, I had evolved an intuition about when the gas would run out. Because I use my oven a lot, a typical cylinder lasts me three months. Yet, I always manage to be caught off guard when the flame goes out, and I find I have to improvise my cooking because I cannot always be sure the new cylinder will be delivered expediently.

Once my sister and I had to transform our breakfast plans. Instead of fried eggs, we made muffin-shaped baked eggs. They were delicious. This time I was in the middle of making a coconut-based pumpkin stew, which we would have eaten with chapattis. Just after I tempered the mustard and jeera, I witnessed the flame flicker. The inevitable was transpiring.

I quickly modified my intentions with the pumpkin and transposed the method to suit a baked version. Instead of chapattis, I decided to knead a whole-wheat Foccacia dough, which sat in a corner rising while my pumpkin cubes baked. By the time I added in the coconut milk, it was time to deflate and spread out my dough on the cast iron, and to dimple the surface and cover it with an olive oil and sea-salt brine. I topped it with the seeds I'd saved from the pumpkin's core and put it into the oven right after I had taken out the stew.

There is something ceremonious about all of it. And, given the circumstances, my partner and I are the only witnesses. I had hoped, before, to throw a big lunch or dinner and have many of my dearest friends over and cook some kilos of Vindaloo and Cafreal and Pulao and other feast items.

In the light of all that's transpiring, to proceed with that would be irresponsible. I'm still looking for ways to document these instants-now. Beside my building, for instance, I see the Peepal tree unravel its leaves for the last time as a resident. This tree has always shed itself later than others in the neighbourhood, many of which are already dressed in fresh chlorophyll.

Some weeks ago, over two storms, my floors were littered with dried out flowers from the Eucalyptus tree at the back. If I peep out the window in my writing room/bedroom, I can see the virginal white glow of frangipani blooms.

To have lived in this apartment since September 2012 entailed being surrounded by all these non-human events... like when two monkeys happily wandered into the kitchen while I was at my writing desk, helped themselves to peanuts, and felt no remorse when they were 'found out' by me. They took their own time to leave. Yesterday, my partner discovered on the ledge in the balcony, a spread of bird dropping and, randomly, a shining one rupee coin.

This is the longest, most sustained period I have spent in any apartment, in my adulthood —10 years, almost. And, because I have received the grace of duration, of uninterrupted slow time, I seem to be processing my memories even as I inhabit my present.

A kitchen scent evokes an incident: my friend Supreet carving the pork shoulder I roasted, so we can saute it before letting it out the kitchen to feed hungry guests... except, as the scent intensifies, a queue starts to shape that extends through the hallway. Which reminds me of that time I was frying prawns in my kitchen in Khirkee. They never left the vicinity of the stove. They were consumed instantly by voracious appetites.

It feels significant to have my partner here and for him to voluntarily shoulder so much of the responsibility of closing things up. Sometimes I share with him what unfolds within my recall, but I have made my peace with the specificity of these memories, the fact that they are perhaps relevant to no one else but me. It's part of my preparation towards un-belonging, eschewing attachments to physical realms in my quest to become a true domestic nomad.

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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