Mutations and Deletions (3): For Ban
To make: “ … a turn to what Ernst Bloch would call the not-yet-conscious or the not-yet-here.” —José Esteban Muñoz, Living the Wrong Life Otherwise
(Social Text: January 13, 2013)
Because I wrote Ban on my blog like a finger. And because, at the last possible moment, I pressed click.
It’s not that I didn’t write a novel; it’s that I did not publish it. At the last moment, I deleted it.
Am I exaggerating? Perhaps I am under-exaggerating.
I wake up in Delhi, for example, focusing upon the freshly dyed black wool hanging from a line in the garden and dripping, observed through the netting of the door.
The door. The net. The grid.
The garden with its triptych of fuchsia, green, and black.
Complicated zig-zag stems.
It is my fifth or sixth morning in Delhi, and for some reason, I have put off visiting the site where “Nirbhaya” – The Fearless One – or: “Damini” – Lightning – died. Partly it is that I am staying with my aunt and uncle in
Vasunt Kunj. “Why do you want to go there? This is dirty stuff,” says my uncle in Punjabi, showing me an uplifting clip from The Ellen Show on his mobile phone.
There’s a complexity to how the morning will go. First we fetch the milk. Then boil it. Then it’s too hot. Or perhaps we are drinking tea. Or perhaps it is night. And the night-blooming jasmine is in bloom. Yet, at the end of my first week, I hire a taxi and go to the part [split] in the road where the Mahipalpur Flyover splits to become, also, a service road running alongside, through the market toward the garden center or “nursery.” When I arrive, a bright orange light flares then suppresses, or so it seems: itself. A low, toxic-smelling fog has turned everything white. The taxi driver is nervous. I stand for a few minutes outside Hotel 37, nervous, rethinking my outfit – a scarlet and gold silk kurta with ski pants – trying to breathe. A crowd of men gathers, curious, neutral at this stage, though by the time I pour the red powder on the ground – the site, that is, of some of the most extreme, abandoned gender violence even this country has seen in a long time – the men begin to stir, irritated. They are not smiling. The doorman comes down from the step of the hotel and stands next to me, indicating the notebook tucked beneath my arm: “Madam? Are you doing a survey?”
It is a regular spiral-bound notebook, wide ruled. 70 pages.
Was it this doorman, I think, who brought the white sheet from the hotel and threw it over the denuded [dismembered] body of Jyoti Singh Pandey and her partner, who lay, also, flailing, there, on the dirt where I now am, for forty minutes, before any one of these people – bystanders – called the police? In the death sentence judgment, this sheet is ripped in half. Who did that? Did they use their teeth? Before it was thrown over. The two: forms.
The taxi driver is anxious, the doorman is anxious. Nothing can happen here today, I realize, and also: nothing is here. I had imagined flowers and graffiti, as per the memorials at the Munirka Bus Stand, where Pandey boarded the bus – where – she was [would be]: decimated. But there’s nothing here, at the place where she was thrown from the bus, and the men who have gathered to watch – men loosened from the nearby paan stand – are chewing something. Two of them are biting off chunks of sugarcane, a typical snack. As I walk back to the taxi, something hits the back of my head, and then something else – my leg.
Chewed up, sucked dry sugarcane. Aimed. The thing I ate as a child on the long: sojourns. In 1970s and 1980s Punjab.
It’s not this visit but a subsequent one – in which I reach down and get [retrieve] some of the asphalt chunks, street dirt, fold it in a piece of paper and put it in my bag. Many months later, in Montana, at a conference on race and creative writing, I will eat it. I will eat a chunk of the floor of the world. An ancient practice from my home culture that I feel safe enough to share with the other brown and black people of the conference, though – at another conference, in Los Angeles – I stall and recede from – a depiction.
Of what it could be.
To eat the floor.
And thus to break it down. To be processed: by my own filters or organ meats. Are they fins? Are they screens?
Then discharged. A form, you could say, of assimilation. Oh shut up. Oh go back to England.