Written by Emily Curtis for Parimukti
I attended a three-woman acapella theatre ensemble recently. It was a welcome surprise to see a guerilla theatre expression of young women in the Indian context. The space, a mix bohemian bookstore-library, boutique clothing retailer, café, was filled with a wide cross section of people. Notably exceptional, was to be the only non-Indian national at a Goan soiree! After the performance, the social architecture began to take shape and was highlighted by alcohol and smoke. I was feeling a little out of place. I managed to channel the former smoker in me such as to illicit the necessary feeling of compassion I would need to overcome my awkwardness, or my disregard for the air quality.
After some rounds amidst strangers young and old, I found myself colliding with one of the young women performers. Her gaze was intensely set on me. She pulled a drag off her cigarette and asked me: “what do you do?”
Now, I could have said any number of things, I could have… But what I said was, “a lot of things!”
She replied, “such as…?”
Blank-blank.I had the prodding feeling of needing to conform to a social norm. Note, given the normality of her query, why couldn’t I just say something pithy and clever, like “do you mean what do I do to earn money, or what do I do to stoke my passions? Or was it that you want to know what I do to pass the time, or rather to sustain my healthy metabolism…?!” I rode home with my partner with that sticky feeling like I had betrayed my authenticity. I hadn’t had the courage to say, “I’m a magician! I’m an experimental engineer! I’m a participatory mapping methodologist, a grassroots empowerment enthusiast, I’m a revolutionary living artist, I’m a priestess of the divine feminine, I’m a singer, I’m a dancer, I’m… I’m… I’m awkward at having to confine my identity to a prescribed social norm, especially one that puts how I earn money first.
In the tradition of it never being too late, and in the pursuit of maintaining communion with myself, I think this is how I want to answer the question now: I do. I be. I do. I be. I search for meaning in the stars, in storms, in symbols, in patterns. I’m on a quest to find resonance between my physical, energetic, emotional, mental-intuitive, and spiritual bodies, and I know what is real when I feel harmony. And when there is discrepancy between self and other, I can pause, breathe, and choose to align self with self.