sunday was my last working day at my old job. i'm not going to talk about why i quit - it's a moot point, it's over and that's all there is to that. this post is about sorting out the muck in my head: it's about trying to figure out why i can't write anymore.
i've said this before - i took that job because i wanted to travel. i wanted to see the country in ways i hadn't done before. i had spent way too long in a university, and i was aching to get my shoes dirty again. it was romantic in my head (it still is): i'd spend days on trains, lug my black and yellow featherlight vip suitcase up and down railway stations between towns whose names don't matter, meet people whose names i won't remember, gather stories i can never tell. i was indestructible when i took the job. i didn't figure i could be worn down by the people behind those stories, that hotel rooms inspire a dull throbbing loneliness, that at the end of the day i would be left with exhaustion (both physical and emotional), that i would be so angry about the world in general, that beauty would be so hard to find in depth and complexity.
n-ben (last month), who was gathering firewood for a long, cold night when i met her. she's over 75 years old and alone. she has no shoes, no warm clothes, no house, no children. a brother who beats her, a sister who protects her. h, the lines on whose face were hard to count, who lost her children to the earthquake, who lives in a house made of wood, who scrambled around in the dark for half an hour to show me a heavily photoshopped photograph of her daughter. s, a dalit woman whose ghoonghat was yanked down by her friend when a man passed by the door, who doesn't sit on chairs because "yeh hamara culture hai" (a line delivered to me, seething with irony, anger dripping from its every syllable, so sharply i think she cut me with the kind of mastery only uma thurman in kill bill could manage.) m, a mahadalit woman who is fighting her upper caste mukhiya everyday, for whom caste is a debilitating physical reality, who articulates the everyday indignities she faces, who wears bright pink lipstick in defiance, who lives in a house made of sticks under a roof made of plastic sheets. these women are numbers on an excel sheet, omitted stories in boxes, anecdotes in a world that seeks "evidence".
what am i allowed to feel? what am i allowed to think? how involved am i allowed to be? here we are, seeking a paradise experience between death camps and suicide bombers*, sitting in cafes that can be delhi, muzaffarpur, istanbul or paris just the same, seeking happiness in things so deeply embedded in the urban and elite. are all these just discontinuities in a world whose boundaries are drawn by technologies, filtered through screens, pixellated and defined through narratives we are taught not to hear, linearities we cannot draw because the locus is so damn hard to find. what the fuck am i supposed to feel? where am i to seek clarity, because goddamn it, i feel like i'm walking through a fog right now.
*if i may borrow that phrase from romesh gunesekara.