Quarantine Journal V

30th April, 10:46 am

I keep dreaming of fictional towns. Last night, it was a divided into two sections. A cloudy, gloomy, grey Industrial town, bit like an Irish docking yard except I’ve never been to one. It’s always the outdoors with expansive skies. A few nights ago, it was what looked vaguely like a Portuguese town with Romanesque houses doused in the harsh European sun, glinting across a Mediterranean I only remember from my dreams. This country has broken my heart. My father has broken my heart. The best moments of my day are when I see my boyfriend grin at me in-between kisses and the flash of warmth and love in his eyes as he looks at me laugh at his most ordinary jokes and silly manoeuvres. The body can literally get used to any outcome. It’s going to be two months in quarantine now and I don’t know how “inward” I’ve been compelled to go but I have realised certain truths along the way.

I have anxiety that never truly leaves me. I’m a hypochondriac. I fight my body a lot and don’t allow it to truly rest or heal or recover. I do like cohabiting with a partner; it just wasn’t the right partner earlier. I wasn’t the right partner earlier.

Assuming responsibility for my own actions is so much easier for my peace of mind than expecting others to assume responsibility for their own. Self-work is continual and exhausting but worth every bit. I give in to momentary gratification. Everything is a habit — if I don’t eat sugar for a week, I’ll stop wanting sugar soon enough. I’m paying attention to all the little thing — the little lick of saliva when our lips meet, sharing mangoes post dinner, any acts of kindness, living with no clear idea of the arrival of any payments. Endless emails sent to companies for work (30 to date), several non-fiction pitches to magazines I’d like to see my byline in, five syllables said out breathlessly. My father says if there isn’t money attached to it, it means nothing. I know he’s wrong. I don’t need too much to be happy. But, I can’t help feel that pang of disappointment, of irritation. I’ve shouldered the blame for my apparent non-success for far too long. What happened in February? For whatever reasons, being asked to leave the consultancy I was a part of. Going back one each promise made. Not being given a full month’s notice. From where I sit, I see my friend using the influences I introduce him to to send across to people who’ve just given him a job. Meanwhile, another friend texts me about a music video that’s been pending for months he’s finally going to make. I should really learn not to compare but I can’t help but do that. Clear glass ceilings, more like all encompassing polythene that wraps itself like a noose around your neck and chokes it each passing day, each time you have to nod along to a man who fashions your idea as his or reduces it to platitudes that sell but go very, very far away from what you initially set out to achieve/want.

There’ll never be a time like this again. When all the differences in the world seem to have compressed but at the same time become more pronounced. I think I’m meant for a life like this. Simple, minimal, less. Why is it so hard for me to stick to something? Money never feels enough in Bombay. I turn to spirituality and therapy and I know it helps but I’m also aware it’s a luxury. I can feel myself getting caught up in my interiority again. Can I only afford it the cost of a career determined by external factors? I don’t need too much but perhaps, my father is right. I have to watch what I spend and that involves learning how to demarcate clear social and class differences between my friends and even when there aren’t any real differences in outlook or personality or intellect. I am tired. I want a simple life. I want a man I can go home to, maybe a child, definitely a garden.

My parents remind me to be strong but this generation has witnessed two worldwide economic recessions, the rise and cementing of worldwide rightist ideologies and fascism, active Islamophobia, an actual pogrom where the houses, livelihoods were burnt across parts of a city I was born in — Holy Child Family hospital, Okhla Road, twenty five minutes away from North East Delhi where the pogrom happened. How does that not leave a deep mark in my psyche? My parents got married in Claridges, my mum tells me proudly on her 29th marriage anniversary. Unfortunately, I know how it reads and it’s a hard fact to reckon with given how it’s my father but then, I think of his Kanpur University education, “just a BA pass,” how he must have been systemically prejudiced against growing up, how he never had equal access to opportunities like my mother’s family. He finds his footing in a new country where he’s no longer a part of the ostensible minority and doesn’t need to be treated like a second rate citizen but then I think of how at the slightest thing going wrong, he considers himself a failure. I feel sorry for the kindness and generosity he cannot extend to himself. I remember his smiling face, bright as a star, making me laugh, showering me with constant attention and praise, growing up, pinning all his hopes on me. I look at him worried for his future. I think of my dead grandparents. All the abuse and grief and pain that eventually stood for nothing. Just damaged children who further, damage their children and what continues is intergenerational trauma.

I sometimes look at my boyfriend’s face and wonder why I’m so attracted to him. It isn’t even an entirely erotic, sensual sort of attraction but often, it’s maternal. I marvel at the kindness he’s capable of possessing but after a few long-term relationships gone sour, I also know my own ability to immediately put the people I love on a pedestal.

Growing up is making sure you don’t self-censor endlessly.

Are women indulgent of an interiority because historically, they aren’t allowed anything public? Or, largely judged for any outwardly, public display of anything — strength dismissed as bossy or overpowering, weakness dismissed as histrionics. Any which way you turn, it’s going to hurt.

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