Self-Portrait Without Mythology (Sharanya Manivannan)

That’s the thing about this business. Some days you sparkle like a teenage vampire. Some days you feel as though you’ve walked through the remains of an exploded dhrishti pusanika, which is to say, fucked. Most days, however, you pick out one item from your collection of lungis appropriated from men you have slept with, pin your hair up, cook your own lunch, and try not to think about it.
Now and then you buy yourself a single red African daisy from a flower-seller on the street. Sometimes you put it behind your ear. Sometimes you just keep it somewhere you can look at it.
You count on very little to run like clockwork, except perhaps the power cuts. Time exists only if you stop to ponder it, and it’s rarely wise to do this. It seems you were always here, long before you even arrived. Orbiting. Pivoting on a constant. You can go for months without entering the sea, but there is no given moment when you cannot point out its precise cardinal direction. All of it is deep within your being, if not your body itself – sweetness, slow dancing, the knowledge that grief has no after, places of pilgrimage, exigencies, seasons of plenitude, red-light districts, the memory of mountains.
Some things are important to you. These you must count frequently. There must be music. There must be something to drink. You love the sound of the human voice, and as difficult as you are, there are a few people for whom there will always be places at your table.
You number among what you own a gramophone, a small, seated bronze Parvati – solitary, her left foot extended, her inguina open – and your grandmother’s thaali. You number among that which you share your life with, but do not possess: windowsill cacti, visiting omens, other people’s children, full and eclipsed moons, books, the company of trees, owls.
There are no good photographs of you laughing from when your teeth were still crooked, but in your old age you hope to be wild-eyed, white-haired, a fearsome and fabulous crone. You think of old age often. On the most recondite of days the future shows itself to you in the blink of an eye. You are already there. You have always been here.
You are superstitious about the handling of knives, farewells and palli dosham.
You have few rules for this particular life that has become yours, but each is of consequence. Be observant but not vigilant, for the time for terror has passed. Love anyway. Praise every landscape that appears before your window; hold in equal measure the beauty of a cyclone and the miracle of a single woodpecker on a swaying coconut tree. Bear witness. Nothing lasts forever, and nothing is lost. Avoid regret. Love, any way.