Friday, 16 November 2007

Crowded Corners

Before embarking on my annual overseas end-of-the-year trip, I've been trying to clean up the clutter of the year gone by. From the dust on my bookshelf to the trash in my email to the inconsequential texts on my mobile to the stale applications on my Facebook page, it has been quite a journey of accumulation and good riddance. Sifting through some of these tangible and intangible remnants made me alternately nostalgic about certain moments and hopeful regarding times to come. Moreover, as I near half a decade of staying in Australia, I realise that I have 'stuff' in this country - people and things, places and memories. I have become an adult here. I have learned to give and receive. I have self-expressed, self-cooked, self-sufficed. I can walk to Coles with my eyes closed and sense my bus stop without once looking away from the book in my lap. My environment is now embodied in me. My space is becoming my place. My gaze at Adelaide from the descending airplane will no longer bring forth a tide of dis/mis-placed emotion. I hope I can find Familiarity in Canada during my two-week sojourn there. And then slide easily into the domesticity of my parental home in India. Perhaps, when I get back, I will not feel crowded, or empty. And another year or choosing and discarding this and that will begin.


This is all I have to give to the
That is elicited with the labour of
The agony behind each word of
Of accumulating this fat on my
No purpose during floods and
The mind with the obesity of
The burden with poetry, prose and
Heat and light using paper as
The flames of my only offering.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Aloof Heroines and Moi

The hauntingly beautiful Catherine Deneuve in French director Luis Bunuel's film, Belle De Jour, is also elusive and ethereal. Just like the narrator in Asian-Australian writer Alice Pung's memoir, Unpolished Gem, I feel the need to explain my own attachment and detachment to the different cultures that have shaped and continue to shape my overt and covert selves. Needless to say, this calls for a constant definition and re-definition of rules pertaining to acceptable personal and social behaviour. I am more than aware of activities that would be regarded as 'normal' in one context, and bordering on morally repugnant in another. Do I then, non-chalantly allow two paradoxical personas to reside within me and 'perform' as the situation calls? Would this be hypocritical or simply strategic? Perhaps I could even find a literary/cinematic parallel in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. However, the existence of characters like Severine/Belle De Jour, and 'real' women like Alice/Agheare assures me that my dilemma is not as gothic and far-gone as the Jekyll/Hyde tale. Being a student/practitioner of critical theory, I am often tempted to adopt the much-celebrated postcolonial term, 'hybridity' to put a positive spin on my existential status. But most self or other-proclaimed 'hybrids' would know that they are not hybrid at all times, that one or the other dimension of their fluid identities pre-dominates at any given moment. Is it then, appropriate to consciously/un-consciously show a monochrome and more palatable version of myself to an acquaintance, while reserving my full spectrum for those closer and better positioned to understand me? Or am I precluding (and excluding) potentially interesting people from my kalaedoscopic life (while also assuming their life to be so dull that they would be incapable of comprehending any difference)? Then there is also the trouble of people being 'interested' in me only because of my difference, and not being able to digest the possibility of any 'sameness'. I have written, photographed, filmed; deliberated and calculated; debated and discussed; yet I have no solution(s). If I rebel against one system, I will still be conforming to another. Let there be strings then, but let me control the distance.