This text was performed by Meenakshi Thirukode, and accompanied the installation Form 2 from Form 1, exhibited at Exhibit320, New Delhi.
Let us begin with a story.
It shall begin the way all good stories ought to begin. (Do not contend that I am presumptuous, for once.)
Thus it shall begin once upon a time, long, long ago. We will talk about the fluidity of time today. So long ago might just as well be yesterday. Or the week before, in this hurried zip-zip-zipping carousel of time we never get off from. How flimsy and clumsy it is. Space, that vague idea that we carry around, ever pushing, ever morphing into things and people, ideas, restrictions and prisons, open air and what nots, that space is fluid too. So this mystical space we seek and demand and carve out and keep undefined, hence subjecting it to instant, constant change, can be that room of my own in the upstairs, with the window lined in rosewood, or that vast, fountain ink coloured expanse that I call the mid-April sky. With fireflies competing from the ground up, perched all over the mango tree that has never borne fruit in all the thirty one years that I have lived.
Maybe it is phantom expecting, this tree. It is a thing, this phantom thing. Really. That huge belly that women sprout and describe it weirdly like bun in the oven, stork above the house or eating for two, that belly, once the bundle pops out, it must just lose steam and deflate and fall back, folding skin upon skin. No? Does the space that was earlier there and is now no longer left feel empty or non-existent or just… Nothing at all? Would that be a void or something unthought of? There might not be that time to think about silly things like this. Perhaps the memory of what the old space was is a natural state to revert to. Perhaps the space is inconsequential, irrelevant when a new being, that bundling of supposed joy creates new spaces, taking away all concepts of spaces you had in your previous form. I cannot imagine answers to concerns that concern the spaces of the body this way, for can you tell I have not baked any buns or biscuits?
They say that when something is there for a long time and then suddenly is not there, you can still feel it there, like a phantom. Like an old grand love affair, often illicit, that is buried in the backyards of selective memories. I read a story that went like that once, about phantoms and lots of other imaginary things that the brain makes you think you have or feel or be.
This time and space business is…like the idea of god that parents employ to teach their children to be good and kind….omnipresent, omnipotent, omni- other stuff. Can’t escape these damned ideas. From negotiating with a lover or spouse or child or boss or both, or either, to those damned conflicts they pose in the recesses of the unfocussable busy busy busy mind, time and space are…huh…what…who goes there? Damn damn damn. Terming it fluid is giving it leeway, giving yourself leeway to make it what it is, what it can be, or letting it be the way it damned well wants to be.
Can’t escape these things, accursed that we of this two-legged mammal species are, with our elaborate rituals and routines and practices that we repeat and repeat and call our space or tradition. Strip all this society and evolved and intelligent crap away and like DNA, it simmers down at the bottom of the darkened pan to this: you start from here and end there, in every second of everything you do. In the interlude, the droplet of water that drips to the edge of a hair strand after a hot shower in Delhi’s wicked winters has the ambition, the potential to be a mighty river. Cauvery with a K or a C or Nila or Yamuna. The river always, somewhere, joins the sea. All along its turns and tricks, you and I and that one over there, and you too, will end up designing rituals, for, the sturdy, dependable mountains, the contemplative rivers and elastic blue skies rake up the primeval.
Don’t call ritual religion please. In the manner of an ideal separation of state and religion hoped for, yearned for, ritual is not dharma. I hear stories of your visits back home, when every evening my rival river draws you in to watch the sunset together. To be that plum hued sky over dimming shimmery liquidy gold, emerald fields and thatched huts like some cluster ring setting, that is your ritual. Mine? Mine is to do with the mountains that bend over and hush and whisper indulgingly over my backyard. We are mountain people. Our ritual making is like that.
In my head or in the words that bleed out of it, in the physicality of a movement, in the practice of constant transportation, in the micro space allowed for a water-drop to flow from just here to just there, in every dreaded change, just before the actual physical shift or the mental rebalance, there comes an interlude, a suspension, a freedom, a potentiality that has the markings of a great beyond.
Now these interludes: spaces between the words as I type these words out, spaces between where something starts and just before the something that has started ends up in another space, these suspended, unnamed events, occurrences, times, let’s talk about those. We can conduct the ritual of coming back to other things later. There might be time. We will make space. We can employ fluidity.
Let’s mull over for now, or meditate, if that’s your thing, on this in-between when anything is possible, when that thing, whatever it is, is suspended in freedom and unrestrained by properties inherent in it when resting and stationary. It is free from the spot where it is born, it is not yet chained to where it will be placed before it is born again and chained elsewhere and so on and so on. In this freedom, in this third space of dissent, in the taverns and watering holes and the L-shaped corners of meat markets or road bends before steeple/spire/gopura/domed institutions, in here is where probably lies the magical, elusive potion of grand ambition.
Where a drop of water can be a river. Where a word can become a masterpiece, or a swift slaying sword. Where a summer leaf can become the azure tropics. Where a kiss, flimsy and like cinnamon dust on a cookie, can be the entirety of a sordid affair. Where in a grain of sand is a whole city built.
“I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”