“It has become routine to assume that the rewards of life are public and that our lives can be measured by how we are seen rather than what we do.”— How to Disappear, Akiko Busch
The intense activities of the last few weeks have left me feeling emotionally spent. As we come closer to the last few days of March, I find myself both exasperated and relieved at the close of this third month of the year. I always find March to be a very long month. An oft-repeated refrain is how quickly time flies by. More than the physically gruelling activity of travelling in Mumbai, I am exhausted by playing varied versions of myself in the last few weeks. I’ve had to open my heart and mind so many times, in so many conversations that I am feeling that I’ve given too much of myself away. I don’t know if this makes sense, but I’ve been playing different roles for so many different people in all aspects of life that I am drained from doing it all.
While browsing through my online library I found a book that I had saved in the past. It’s a book about how to disappear, how to be invisible in a time of overt visibility. In 2022, as the year came to a close, I realised that I was tired of performative living. Maybe finding this book is a signpost that disappearing (not necessarily physically or virtually) is something I might need to do. The author is not asking readers to erase their digital lives or wipe out their physical footprints and move bag baggage and ghosts to a remote island off the coast of the Indian ocean. She’s making a case for unsubscribing from being so ‘visible’ all the time and “finding some genuine alternative to a life of perpetual display”. I am yet to read the book in its entirety but whatever I have read so far summarises my need to not be seen right now. It is different from hiding. Among my other motley cracked-and-cooked beliefs, I do believe books come to you at the right time.
This morning I spent some time reading Mary Oliver’s poems on Pinterest. It was a way of making time simpler, untying the knots in my head to discern what is essential from what is urgent. I thought about the last time I shared her poems with someone, the time when my sister gifted me Mary Oliver’s book of essays and I was riveted by how I could hear the river when I read it, the highlights of her lines in my Kindle, and the postcard I made for a friend on which I wrote her words, not mine. Reading Mary Oliver this morning was an act of wanting to be still but finding myself moved and sucking in my breath each time I finished a poem.
“Of course I wake up finally— On Meditating, Sort Of by Mary Oliver
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints—
all that glorious, temporary stuff.”
Without becoming the kind of person who aggrandises her faith for prescribing a way of life, I want to say I absolutely get why my faith prohibits wearing nail polish on an ongoing basis. It doesn’t do so actively, of course. It just makes nail polish an inconvenience to prayer. This is because if you’re wearing polish on your nails, your ablution (wazu) is not considered complete. A complete wazu is a mandatory prerequisite for prayer. Due to this minor (major, in my case) inconvenience I have never worn a lot of nail polish. As someone who has been a nail biter for many years, it wasn’t exactly easy for me to paint my nails. For that, one needs a decent set of nails which I have never had. Recently though, that changed and I paid a princely sum at a salon to get gel paint applied on my nails. While it was pretty for the first two weeks or so, the gel started to peel off. It didn’t end there. Get this — I had to go back to the salon to get the nail polish removed, and yes, I paid for it. The entire affair cost me a lot of money that I am ashamed to put in writing. But now, my nails are brittle, look damaged, and have lost a healthy glow. I just have to wait them to grow out. Being a woman is an expensive affair.
Being a woman is also a lovely and lonely affair. I woke up this morning with Rekha Bharadwaj’s voice in my head. She was singing the Ghazal version of Aise Kyun in my dreams and in my waking mind. To me, her voice is like a heavy red curtain flapping in the breeze. I can feel the curtain move even though I’m not touching it. This version of the song grew on me in my dream last night not before that. So I listened to it a couple of times this morning and though, the original is still better how can I ignore her when she sings:
Aise kyun uske hothon pe achha lagta hai mera naamRaj Shekhar for Aise Kyun (Ghazal Version)
Aise kyun kuch bhi bole woh mann mein ghulta hain zaa’fraan
Girta hai Gulmohar / khwabon mein raat bhar
Aise khwabon se bahar nikalna zaroori hai kya?
While we start a month of fasting this week, I have the same thoughts I always do — how the entire month will be a completely different world, how I will mostly function at half my usual capacity, and how I am in complete suspense of the way my body will behave. Whatever happens, I know for a fact that Ramzan is always made easier by observing it with others, by sharing and being in a community. It is not supposed to be done alone or in a silo. Every year I see this play out in real life — people make things better.
Here’s to finding the balance between disappearing, preserving, and communing. Here’s to the tightrope of living.
Wow! What a breath of fresh air, this piece of writing is. I resonate so deeply with the first half of your thoughts. I’m questioning everything that is to do with digital display. Is it purely validation or is there more to it. I’ve comfortably disappeared amidst my search for an answer. But I’m going to look for this book ‘how to disappear’
Thank you and have a wholesome month, S . ❤️
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🙂 writing with honesty is really hard but I almost always find it rewarding. Hope the digital staying away is doing you good, S! Love.