It began with the little things like no longer reading the works of DWMs, and escalated to the slightly larger things like no longer having sex with LWMs...Was this a narrowing of possibilities, a policing of desire, or a focusing of energies and a reclamation of self? At every turn I had seemed to cast no reflection; no simulacra had peered back at me from page, wall, or screen. Inevitably, I kept returning to that old maxim: if you want something done, do it yourself.
I don't know which of my memories are my own remembrance, which are tales whispered to me secretly as I lay in my bed, or which are ghostly afterimages, effigies petrified between the tissue leaves of photo albums. Which have happened, which are wild imaginings. Which are yearnings on my part for more memories greater, more colourful than my present existence. An existence in which adventure, possibility, abandon are reined in; a quest not for experience itself, but for representation, a catalogue of experience.
These fragments, these visions played out behind my eyelids, are not just dreams, but imaginings of a place I call home. Home exists... if only within the boundaries of my body. Through these visions, home is extrapolated, given form, moulded into memory. Through memory, I know these places exist. Who is to say this is delusion? Who will say, to my face, that I have no home, no place I can say I belong to? Just a litany of temporary shelters. Endlessly moving on. Endlessly leaving.
What do you see when you look at me? One of a million faces on your TV screen; eyes crawling with flies, brown withered limbs protruding from a distended torso? What do you see? Smiling dark eyes, nutbrown body, promise of the East? Where am I on your sliding scale from nightmare to fantasy? Or do you see the beauty which radiates when ugliness is shared? Lover, let me share my ugliness with you, that I may see myself reflected in your eyes as beautiful.
We clamoured for re-ownership of the swastika, decrying its description; invoked a pantheon of heroines and heroes, Rekha to Rani ki Jhansi, Amitabh to Tipu Sultan; we became more 'desi' than thou, clinging to every last vestige of 'home'; and, along-side our 100% Kashmiri shawls, draped our Indianness brazenly over our shoulders.
Yearning for a passage to an India left behind, some sent bricks to build temples, hopelessly thinking to revive the fallen lotus.
In all my dislocations and relocations, like a latterday Columbus, I unwittingly bump into America. Bottled, canned, screened, logoed. Surrounding me, confounding me, preventing any backward glance to my mother country, leaving it to its convulsions. America the beautiful, oh, America the great. Open your arms in paternal welcome to this once pathetic little Indian, this prodigal American son, this potentially prodigious Indian American.
The facts of leaving and arriving remembered as physical endurance. Third world smell, noise, heat and mosquitoes of an overnight stop in Cairo. Holding in my shit for two days until a blissful evacuation in the aseptic toilets of en-route Frankfurt Airport; piss-baptizing and shit-splattering the pristine porcelain: my first rite of passage and entry into the Western Wonderland. Simultaneously my first act of its pollution.
City or country, which city or which country. The boundaries between one and another—so fragile in their definition—are beginning to crumble. Where does one end, and the other begin? Where am I? To say New York, USA, conveys little of the reality, and even less of my own sensing of reality. The question, 'Where am I?' continues to reverberate in my head, but it is becoming increasingly obsolete.
The physical leaving of 'home' was an event so large, so traumatic within my imagination that it has passed into mythology. Like Rama banished into the wilderness, I believed that one day I would return to reclaim all that was 'mine.' And yet, the wilderness, the place of exile was also the place of desire. Simultaneously everything that it was not; loss and gain together. And the condition for living there—here—was to live, think and feel this simultaneity.
It has become a joke between us that I always surprise you. Each time you are surprised, I try to explain myself, and each time I feel more of a stranger. Who is this person you know? It isn't me. We make virtue out of honesty and shatter each other's every experience, every perception and mould them to our own schemes. When did truth stop being a virtue and become instead malicious manipulation? To assert my version of events would mean doing battle with you, or at least engaging in a different form of warfare than the one we already wage.