Stars Under The Rust

I haven’t said much these past few months, have I? Most of my time and creative energy has been taken up in the shows that SXonomics has been doing on various themes of gender sensitivity. It has been intense, time-consuming, demanding and emotionally draining. I also fall into habits of writing a certain way and in a certain rhythm.

I remember when I first chanced upon 55 word stories and took to them with such passion that all I felt about to produce was them. I had to push myself to say things with more words or less and stop myself from counting if they had gotten to the exact 55. Something similar happened when I first started writing fiction and I found myself unable to write the poetry that I’d spent most of my writing life producing. Now, three years ago I started performing and more recently gender-politicised commentary in a witty form. It’s proving to be difficult to come back to blogging, this way.

Reading ‘Rust and Stardust’ recently helped. This book is a chronicle of the true crime story that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita. In 1948, a 52 year old Frank LaSalle abducted 11 year old Sally Horner by telling her he was the FBI and was arresting her for stealing a notebook from a shop. For the next two years he travelled with her, posing as her father and repeatedly raping and abusing her. The book actually begins earlier, chronicling Sally’s hard childhood with an embittered mother, herself a victim of a runaway husband, then a suicidal second husband and painful arthritis. Sally is literally starving for affection, attention and validation, not to mention a fundamental right to live. Her sad tale of neglect, abuse and prolonged torture was hard, very hard to read. I spent 5 hours reading through it in one go and crying at regular intervals. I told myself I was reading for research and because I had to review the book.

But also, in this emotion-searing act of reading, I found myself tapping into parts of myself I haven’t accessed in a long time. A place that feels deeply and profoundly. Writers and other creative people exploit their own traumas and personal tragedies for their art and gain, yes. This means as one, I also need to frequently clean out the internal machinery and remind myself to honour the emotions and experiences and not just run them through the creative mill to churn out material.

I’ve already written a review of the book itself here. But it brings up so much more that I don’t feel able to articulate in words. I relived my own intimate tragedies while reading Sally’s story. I lived through the moments that felt like I would not be able to breathe again, experienced anew the situations that held me down choking and I thought I would never see light and the world again. The despair, the desperation, the anguish — all of it sprung forth again. And then, they faded. Do we keep picking at our scabs or do we keep sifting through the mess of our insides trying to make better sense of it? I don’t know.

But today has been better. I met a friend for lunch. We met when we were both 20, through some acquaintances. We lost touch but she found my blog almost a decade ago and we’ve had intermittent conversations on social media and occasionally in person when we’re in the same city. It’s a delicious adventure examining who you were and how far you’ve come, along with another person. From the 90s down to today, we talked about love, about selfies, about the writerly identity, about toxic masculinity, about accents, about personal expression. I told her about being in love at 20 and in devastating heartbreak around the time she met me. Later she said,

“Why did you put up with it? You are so much more intelligent than he is.”

This is a question I’ve answered to myself several times so I had the response. And in its telling, I found a bit more of myself. I hadn’t lost these pieces of me. It’s just as though they had been sleeping (or maybe I was, if it is possible to be partly asleep within the context of certain memories and abilities only). Parts of me felt like they were waking up.

Last week, The SXonomics Show performed its season finale of its three month run. It’s been an exciting, gruelling experience. And in all this growth, all this living, I’ve put my head down and worked hard so as not to get derailed by the hostility, the hatred and negativity around me. Several people I know came to the final show — a teacher who changed my life, a friend who I didn’t even know was a friend until she asked me to come to her mother’s funeral, a former love and a couple. This couple have been my people, as individuals and as a couple, for years now. But I seem to keep forgetting all these people, that they exist in only goodness and goodwill for me. It meant so much seeing them there. Another room in my head opening. It’s been there all along. I didn’t even realise when it shut firmly.

What's next for me?

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I guess I’m just glad these doors are opening and I’m waking up again.

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Moonshine & Architecture

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Stance Podcast: Ep. 17: SXonomics, Modern Mumbai, A Ballet Collaboration with Zakir Hussain, Playwright Natasha Gordon

Last month, SXonomics met the Stance Podcast team. Stance Podcast is an independent arts, culture and current affairs podcast exploring diverse, global perspectives. Presented as a transatlantic conversation between broadcasters, Chrystal Genesis in London and Heta Fell in San Francisco, Stance aims to inform, entertain and inspire action.

We met Chrystal and her team on their Mumbai trip, to talk about collaborative performance, sex and gender activism and Mumbai. We are featured alongside our friend Praful Baweja and the podcast also includes stalwarts like Zakir Hussain.

This podcast helped me recontextualise the ideas I and we have been putting out in writing and in performance, within the global framework of important conversations around sex and art. This is tremendously validating and helps move past the misogynist attacks, the microaggressions and everyday hatred that comes my way.

Listen to SXonomics on the Stance podcast ep.17:

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SXonomics is a feminist content producer and a collaboration between Ramya Pandyan and Ishmeet Nagpal. SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and SoundCloud. Drop us a note at SXnomics [at] Gmail [dot] com to chat about feminism, patriarchy, LGBTQIA issues, sex and love positivity!

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Of This City

I remember this moment. I was on my way back from town though I don’t remember where I had gone and why. I also remember being in a train that was unusually empty for that hour.

I remember the feeling of uneasy relief and thinking how odd that was. Isn’t relief supposed to be peaceful, something akin to contentment? And it was but it also felt bittersweet, like something that was hard-won and felt not quite worth the struggles that came before.

It has to do with living in this city. Mumbai demands everything from you. You cannot be of anyone or anything or any dream else. All you can do is surrender to it unconditionally and trust that it will hold you. The Mumbai train is a perfect illustration of this. You battle mind-killing traffic, deafening sounds, lung-stopping pollution. Then you make it to a station thronging with people ten deep, straining to hear an inaudible announcement, read an illegible signboard to try and figure out which train you need to take. And then you look around at the crowd on the platform, waiting for the same thing. In that moment, Mumbai asks you to decide.

Will you die a little at the thought of fighting (yet again)? Will you strain and struggle and risk falling through the gap between the footboard and the platform? Will you push and shove and add a little more chaos to the desperate millions?

Or will you surrender to the city and be one with its messiness? If you choose this, when the train arrives, the crowd will pull you in with them. If you’re still a little outside the compartment, magically, there will be hands, strangers’ hands that will hold on to you. As they curse and frown, the others in the compartment will bend and twist to make some uncharitable room for you. Mumbai will rescue you, make room for you and it will hold you. Mumbai takes care of itself. So if you surrender to it, it will always make sure there’s a special place for you.

I remember thinking all of this. I remember realising that the silk saree I was wearing had not creased a bit. I remember noticing that my hair had settled perfectly into something very different from what the stylist intended. I remember thinking that my eyes look misaligned (they often do, in pictures) even though they are not in real life. I remember looking at the picture and thinking, “That looks like me. I belong. In my skin, in this city.” I remember feeling like Mumbai.

I remember this moment. I was on my way back from town though I don't remember where I had gone and why. I also remember being in a train that was unusually empty for that hour. I remember the feeling of uneasy relief and thinking how odd that was. Isn't relief supposed to be peaceful, something akin to contentment? And it was but it also felt bittersweet, like something that was hard-won and felt not quite worth the struggles that came before. It has to do with living in this city. Mumbai demands everything from you. You cannot be of anyone or anything or any dream else. All you can do is surrender to it unconditionally and trust that it will hold you. The Mumbai train is a perfect illustration of this. You battle mind-killing traffic, deafening sounds, lung-stopping pollution. Then you make it to a station thronging with people ten deep, straining to hear an inaudible announcement, read an illegible signboard to try and figure out which train you need to take. And then you look around at the crowd on the platform, waiting for the same thing. In that moment, Mumbai asks you to decide. Will you die a little at the thought of fighting (yet again)? Will you strain and struggle and risk falling through the gap between the footboard and the platform? Will you push and shove and add a little more chaos to the desperate millions? Or will you surrender to the city and be one with its messiness? If you choose this, when the train arrives, the crowd will pull you in with them. If you're still a little outside the compartment, magically, there will be hands, strangers' hands that will hold on to you. As they curse and frown, the others in the compartment will bend and twist to make some uncharitable room for you. Mumbai will rescue you and it will hold you. #train #mumbai #mumbaitrain #mumbaiker @mymumbai #my_mumbai #city #citylights #citylife #cityscape #urban #urbanlandscape #selfie #throwback #selfienation #selfies #selfiepoint

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

SXonomics On The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour Podcast

I’ve been quiet on the blog, haven’t I? It’s been a very busy first half of the year. I’m not complaining because it keeps me from worrying about other things that I can do nothing about. And the work has been good and fulfilling.

Ishmeet and I got invited to speak on The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour podcast. Just like SXonomics, TRJHH is also a collaboration between two women, this time cross-continental. The podcast takes on feminist issues as they pertain to desi audiences, in India and the diaspora.

I’d already had a chance to talk to Surabhi a few months earlier and it was a real pleasure. When you live in a world where most people tell you that you are wrong for existing, where your ideas are shouted down and deemed ‘manhater’ (whatever that is, since it is not a real word), conversations like this one come as tremendous relief. It’s a lot like being an allergy sufferer in Mumbai. I don’t even realise how much I struggle to breathe until I visit a place that is cleaner and less polluted. Similarly, these rare conversations make me realise what an effort it is, even to exist in my world. And I am still one of the privileged with an education and living in a city. It’s an uphill task, this fight and I often consider giving up.

But just when I do, a conversation like this comes along. Surabhi got us talking about how SXonomics came to be, our creative process and the work we’ve been doing. But she also got us thinking about female solidarity, about what makes collaborations really work. The last such conversation I had that really grew me, was also related to SXonomics and was with Damini, the first person to interview us and take our story out to the world. Damini pointed out that even our combination-performance weaving music, poetry, comedy and drama together was a feminist statement of a sort.

So I guess I’m having an interesting year, all things considered – a lot of grit but also many, many adventures and unexpected treasures. To listen to SXonomics on The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour, click here: https://soundcloud.com/rjhappyhour/opinionated-women-in-the-house-say-hello-to-sxonomics

“All human interactions are transactional in nature. They may not be currency-based but they are transactions of power, of respect.”

SXonomics is a feminist content producer and a collaboration between Ramya Pandyan and Ishmeet Nagpal. SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and SoundCloud. Drop us a note at SXnomics [at] Gmail [dot] com to chat about feminism, patriarchy, LGBTQIA issues, sex and love positivity!

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

A Date With Polyamory

I first heard of polyamory when a friend guest-blogged about it right here. I went back to talk to him about it and I was surprised at the simplicity of his explanation.

Polyamory is the idea that we can love many people at the same time.”

Last month I went to a party hosted by someone who had told me they were polyamorous in our second conversation. We have since, spoken of gender politics, health (mental and physical), the cities we have known and a lot of other things. I like the time I have spent with them. Conversations with them have given me ideas and feelings that have furthered my life experience. I can see this tangibly – how I understand myself and the world a little better because of the conversations we shared. Is there any life experience that beats this?

At their party, I settled quietly into a corner. I have never been one for big, strange groups which is what most parties are. I prefer the intimacy of one-on-one conversations. Or with a group of people that I know really well. I seek depth and when I miss that in interactions with other people, I find it in being silent around them. There is such richness to be experienced in just watching other people be. The trouble is that most people are not comfortable with being watched, even as they really, desperately want to be seen. Thankfully, this party was not one of those.

I lurked quietly, shared some light banter, smiled in on other conversations. And then I drifted into a chat with a stranger sitting next to me. We spoke about art, about our work, about our generation, about cities. When I think about it, there is an unexciting predictability to the kind of conversations I seek and have. But that’s probably true of most people. The same things entertain and engage us over and over again, even as we learn newer things from them.

About an hour into the party and having been part of group conversations, interactions with other people and then back to talking to each other, the stranger told me they were polyamorous too and had been invited to the party because of having this in common with the host.

I’ve been talking to my new friend often since then. We met one evening and decided to go for a walk and look for a smoothie place – an actual smoothie, not the milkshake-that-passes. We found a parlour and drank our smoothies out of glass bottles that we got to keep. Normally, I would roll my eyes at this and call it hipster. But I didn’t. What made the difference? The person, the conversation.

 

And is this not the core, the essence of love? An experience (usually with another person) that makes you see the usual differently, that makes you examine yourself and the world around you and want to smile? How lucky we are then, to be able to find this with many people.

A friend asked me what a polyamorous person liked. I collected my thoughts together and said,

“I don’t think there is any one kind of polyamorous person. But something they all have in common is they really like to talk about stuff. It’s very, very important to them to talk about feelings – their own and other people’s. All emotions are okay, jealousy, anger, all of it. And it’s all up for discussion.”

I know that a lot of people associate polyamory with cheating, with sex, with drugs, with hippies and a lot of other things. But those have as much to do with polyamory as they have to do with being alive. Love is an experience, one that you may share with another human being. It could be as finite as sharing a smoothie with them. Or as vast as co-habiting and sharing a bed, a home and a relationship status with them. We share something as basic and as intimate as breaths with other people. In a crowded place like a city, we do this with hundreds of strangers. We share eye contact, we brush shoulders and thighs on public transport. We make tiny allowances, minor adjustments, little kindnesses. We also wage small wars and micro aggressions. Because these are a part of being alive, of colliding with (or brushing against) other people’s experiences of life, just as we are going through our own. How could this not be manifold?

I wrote this post on XX Factor but I realised it sounded a lot more like my The Idea-smithy side so here it is. I am manifold in myself (as we all are). How could my experiences with love be anything but?

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Who’s Here For The Screaming?

Summer is here and this time it seems harsher than it has been in past years.

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not 2017 anymore. While the world is in turmoil in so many ways, it still feels like a better time for me personally than the last year was. Do we get used to suffering? I think so.

I’m not a suicidal person but…sentences that begin that way lend themselves to assumption, don’t they? I don’t assume I know the ending of people’s sentences when they start. But lately, I’ve been finding myself cut off more and more in conversations. I’ve spent a lot of time calling out mansplaining and the silencing of women and these actions are definitely gendered. But I also think this kind of NONONONONONANANANANAANAICANTHEARYOUIDONTHEARYOU speaks about our culture.

We are a world of screams and no words. I’m not here for the screaming. I empathise with the anguish that makes a human being unable or unwilling to receive any kind of input from other people. But I don’t want to tend to anybody’s wounds now. I don’t think I even can. It’s a hurt world and its healing lies in itself. Maybe that is the lesson of living – how to remember to stop hurting.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Being The Story

Yesterday I ran into a friend. The last time we met, this friend visited me at a new home I was building. I was also newly engaged. So obviously, that would be the starting point of our conversation, a picking up where the thread dropped off. I rolled my eyes wryly and said,

“So much has happened since then. I don’t live there anymore. I’m not engaged anymore.”

My friend’s immediate, almost urgent reply was,

“My good friend is close to him so I will not comment.”

I have navigated hundreds of such conversations in the past six years.

I had a (somewhat) public relationship. Given that I write about relationships and the fact that they form such an important part of my existence, I found it hard not to. Shutting up about that would essentially mean to quit blogging, which would be akin to losing a kidney, a limb and maybe a few other vital organs. But my partner was not an open individual (quite the opposite) and I felt I had to respect his privacy too. So I have never mentioned him by name and I have only sparingly offered details of our relationship, while trying to be honest and open about my own feelings and thoughts (these are mine and I’ve never felt the need to have anyone else’s permission to share them). This has been the trickiest juggling I’ve done in all my adventures with anonymity since I began in 2004.

I didn’t have a chance to think about how this would turn out, if we parted ways. And given how suddenly everything crashed, I barely made it out alive, let alone with enough stability to think clearly. The thing with sudden disasters is that you don’t get time to stop and collect your thoughts. The world hits you with life, even as you’re still lying on the ground with your heart ripped open, bleeding from wounds you didn’t even realise had opened up and were being systematically poisoned. You just learn to cope and hope to heal on the fly, as you get carried along on the rollercoaster ride called life.

In six years, I have run into, got back in touch with and in some way reconnected with possibly hundreds of people. Most people in my world have some connection to my narrative through my blogs, my work and having interacted with me on digital. I have tried to keep my narrative as true to myself but it has to be a filtered, edited one, for reasons of safety and respecting the privacy of other people connected with me. This includes exes, even the ones who have behaved in very, very bad ways.

Last year a friend screenshotted something my ex had put up and sent it to me. I wish she hadn’t. I was not even thinking about him and seeing this forced me to remember his existence in an unnecessarily immediate and close way. She said she thought it would make me feel better but it didn’t.

A few months ago, somebody else told me about someone who liked my ex. They said they were concerned about this person and that they were making a terrible choice. I get that concern. But I don’t get what I am supposed to do in this. This story has nothing to do with me.

Now…

“My good friend is close to him so I will not comment.”

I felt knocked for a loop by my friend’s statement. Because I was starting a conversation and their response was a very clear iron-curtain style wall. The last thing that was called that was part of something the world knew as Cold War. Why did my friend feel the need to rush in with that statement when I had not even asked for comment? Possibly they thought I was seeking validation, asking for them to join me in bashing my ex. I wasn’t. I was just telling my story.

But, in the very act of writing this down, I feel my balance restore itself to normal. I cannot fault my friend for not thinking this through. After all, they haven’t seen me in years. I can also see the good intentions behind the actions of the other friends. They were offering commiseration in their own awkward ways. They were also trusting that I would act with sanity rather than viciousness and while that is overwhelming, it is also inspiring. Maybe I can be that person if people think I can be. I write a narrative that is one that inspires me. And I can only write it if I live it. I am so glad to be a writer.

 

The difficulty in writing your own story is having to explain every word and every edit. But maybe that is also the best thing about it. Remembering the story, that’s all that’s important. The story of me.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Welcome Summer

 

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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