I have been flirting with an idea quite lately. The idea is a romantic one. If you look up the word ‘romance’, you will come across the word ‘mysterious’ more than just one. My dictionary defines romance as a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness of everyday life. This is to say that, the experience of looking for definitions, emotional groundings and the surface through a dictionary can be more revelatory than imagined. While struggling to ground the sensations of love in the past few months, I realised that I had always been in the state of romance. That the feeling of love had always been distant and unresolved, which made it mysterious. But I anyway continued to indulge in it because it left me with a sense of curiosity, which fuelled in the excitement.
With this definition at hand, I experienced the sensations of love, while reconciling with the past. In a recent virtual correspondence with a friend, I realised that the past is continuously present more than we believe it to be. That the present is always reconciling with the past because it always ’happens’ in a state of retrospection. I had found a plastic bag filled with family photographic archives last year. When I say ‘found’, I mean that the photographs had been found, as they had finally come of age when I began to look at them through context. I found myself looking at familial history through history that was shared, history that was personal and history that I could only recount through what was left of my memory.
My memories were in fragments and the lyrical nature of remembering them, carried a weight of togetherness. So when these memories were placed in language, their sounds sung a form of harmony that probably wouldn’t have endured if my bodily existence didn’t account for reconciliation as a form of poetry. Distancing myself from physical archives, I ventured to document and understand my past — my history with romance, and my history with its language. I asked myself, where or what would the children of the future venture into, if they had to synthesise with a history lived in the millennium and if they had to ground our definitions of romance.
I became rather hysterical when I found the answer lying between the folds of an inanimate structure, whose life and lifelessness we ourselves haven’t acknowledged. I learned that all my important conversations and realisations vicariously existed and still exist [past x presence] in virtual reality, within e-mails, within WhatsApp history, within bookmarks made on a web browser dated 9th November 2009 — within a lifeless entity that was a technological archive. My technological archive, our technological archive.
I found the definition of romance. I found my definition of romance on my MacBook dictionary, which grounded the meditations that poured out once I started interacting with the most intimate memories present through this archive. The experiment reconstructed the lyrical fragmented abstractions, whose vivid forms had startled me earlier. These meditations are the coming together of my romantic history, of its mystery, and the distant form of what we know as love. I have three for you. I have three for you now.
In 2003, I lost my eye sight to a television. So when last night I placed a mattress beside the sea side, I could feel the endlessness from the peripheries of my soil. What I am saying is that my shadow could have been felt, could have been alive on those rocks that we named after our children seven days after falling in love. It has been written in our holy scriptures that my teacher spent her old age writing a poem that starts with the line, “I was born today” and ends with the line, “I was born today”. It has been predicted by our readers that I spent the last six weeks trying to write a poem that starts with the line, “I was born today” and ends with the line, “I was born today”. But it was only seven days after we fell into love, seven days after we named our rocks, my soil, and your departure, that the poet figured out what happened in between. The poet found the colour of endlessness, he found the colour of desire, and the colour seen through a dead eye sight. It was all that was to be written, and to be found between the lines, “I was born today” and “I was born today”.
I read a poet’s long fragmented essay on post-colonial trauma, which she signed off using an email she had received from her mother. What shocked her was not only how the language in the email echoed to the fragments she has written but also that her mother’s email was poetic and not intentionally. “You will see both the sea meet in Kerela / difference in colours / in the sea.”, she writes. I signed, as I read it in the ferry towards Erknakulam. There was no sea. But I saw a cloth part our colours into two, depleting our skin into different directions. While her’s slowly weighed down into lightness, mine developed a rare disorder. These days, my blood vessels thicken and disappear in the span of three days. When I rest my head against the walls, my nerves break at the count of four — her’s have always been cold. Sometimes, I ache to think that my nerves aren’t breaking because of the wall but because of her voice. Sometimes, I ache and break to think that my nerves have been opened not because of her voice but because of the conditions that fulfil my dignified existence. I promise myself every night that I will comfortably place myself beside her, but fail each time.
I read, re-read, re-imagined Bhanu Kapil and her clothes today. I touched her chikan kurta and believed it to be as light as the screen that could be cracked into my desirable destination. Yet, no matter which house I touched, I repeatedly felt the need to claim an identity. “What are the ways in which the universe responds to you?”, writes Bhanu. The houses immediately melted and condensed into water. Maybe it was the touch. Maybe it was too much touching. Or maybe it was the lack of it. What was left was stillness. What was left was her and I — waiting to be cracked into each other, waiting to become destinations for our desires to be spilled into. It was the cold morning of January 2015, when my undergarments finally knew what it felt to be wrapped around something alive and breathing. It was my skin that was dry from all the crying and my heart that was infected from all the stillness. The wind blew anyway.
Edits: Shriya Pant
Illustration: Pearl D’souza
Kabir is a queer feminist who was born towards the eve of their son’s birthday. At the age of 17, they proudly stood up in a classroom filled with strangers and recited their first poem. But at the age of 24, they decided to conceal their gender, their love and their personal belongings into three boxes that are patiently waiting to be unpacked into their next home.