What I would like to take into 2019

Updated: 28 December, 2018 05:46 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello | Mumbai

Nudged by a friend, I decided to make a list. Right at the top of it are my committment to joy and my engagement with the feminist movement

Never before has my life been so richly peopled. My feminist friends are  now integral to my sense of joy, purpose, and happiness. Pic for representational/Getty Images
Never before has my life been so richly peopled. My feminist friends are now integral to my sense of joy, purpose, and happiness. Pic for representational/Getty Images

Rosalyn D'MelloI was emotionally and physically exhausted when I arrived in Mumbai from Goa. I'd woken up at 6am to catch my flight and had spent the three days prior mobilising influential stakeholders in the Indian and international art world to sign a statement supporting the need for safer, gender-equal spaces and condemning the weaponised use of defamation as a legal strategy by powerful men to silence marginalised voices daring to speak out against harassment and abuse. I was grateful to be home where I could pretend to shut off the world, or at least restrain my engagement with it.

It took me two whole days to completely decompress, during which time I was busy helping my sister and her husband co-host their first Christmas party as a married couple, followed by their first Christmas lunch. For those twenty-four hours, despite the fatigue that had taken over my body, I found so much succour in household duties; arranging paper napkins between plates, creating fork and spoon clusters on the buffet table, making walnut fudge, marzipan, neoris, using my fingers to mould and sculpt beautiful things. I bought presents for my family and myself. I reached out to friends I hadn't spoken to in a long while. I didn't open my laptop for at least three days. The world could wait. I needed both time and perspective to recuperate, gather my energies, nurse my wounds before I could return to the trenches.

As I was chopping ripe, fresh figs for a salad, it occurred to me that while this has easily been the most exhausting year of my life, considering everything that has been thrown at me over which I couldn't exercise much agency, it has also been the most adventurous and most emphatically wonderful. I travelled more than I imagined I would and to spectacular sites, all on the merit of my writing. I met and was introduced to a range of amazing people who adopted me and offered me their friendship. I allowed new love into my life. I began therapy. I embraced more fully my activist calling. And most importantly, I learned to revel in my vulnerability and, as my therapist pointed out, enjoy my eccentricities. It has been a year in which I have taken great emotional risks, guided by little other than the certainty of my intuitions.

When I was in Goa, I was fortunate to find time to spend with my ex-flatmate Isha. As we were riding through the road that connects Aldona to Kitla, I was sharing with her my new-found joy in journaling. She suggested a stimulating exercise: make a list of all that you want to take with you into 2019, and that which you'd rather leave behind. It's stayed on my mind, mostly because I haven't actually found the time to journal. I'm still tackling the question and each investigative thought leads to intriguing possibilities.

What I want to take forward most is my commitment to joy, above all else, and the cause of my own happiness. What I cannot possibly leave behind and categorically refuse to, is my renewed engagement with the feminist movement. It's been a year of great struggle and casualties. We've all had to re-examine our relationships, especially with powerful and predatory men. A big lesson came from understanding that I have earned power through goodwill, not through any authoritative assertion of it.

Between me and my fellow sisters, we have more power than we could previously conceive. How can we extend the accompanying privileges to those you could benefit from it? How can we cast our networks such that more women, queer, trans people and those from systemically oppressed castes and classes can feel the kinship that comes from a spirit of genuine inclusiveness? How do we overthrow the hierarchies that have been constructed and rigidly maintained by patriarchally-run institutions? Can we dare to do the requisite legwork to demand a more equal world?

It is indeed exhausting to have to perform the labour required to offer those not in your corner the right perspective that might compel them to see otherwise. In the last few months I have had to hold people to higher standards, including myself, which makes you instantly less reverential than you ever were before. This death of awe is crucial for us to see each other first as human so we can begin to connect from a point of kindness, not intimidation.

I'm interested in non-patriarchal modes of rebellion and revolution, which is why I remain intrigued by the concepts of grace, empathy and compassion. These are what regenerate us. The past few weeks have been volatile. People in the art world in which I operate whom I used to respect have revealed themselves as non-allies, have refused to see their hypocrisies and have objected to taking a stand against someone they've all known to be a serial harasser.

Those of us who have had the audacity to be on the right side of history have found ourselves in delicate solidarity with each other. We anticipated the financial and professional losses we have had to absorb. What we didn't expect was all that we would personally gain, the deep friendships and intimacies that would arise from our shared vulnerabilities. Never before has my life been so richly peopled. What am I taking with me into 2019? My feminist alliances. They are instrumental to my sense of joy, purpose, and happiness.

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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First Published: 28 December, 2018 05:00 IST

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