siddharth  dhanvant  shanghvi


Shanghvi  Siddharth  Dhanvant

juhu - mumbai  25 agosto 1977


PAGINA    1  -  2



 roma 2008


I love novellas !

They’re seductive and profound

with  a genius of concision

that clarifies meaning and makes

beauty more irresistible

and truth invincible

No visit to Rome is complete without calling on my friend Jonathan Doria Pamphilj
who wears discreetly the mantle of prince, whose roster of artists in his palazzo on via del Corso include Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velasquez, and thousands more. He recently launched the most sumptuous record of his family's peerless art collection (the cover of this handsome book is in an equestrian "Pamphilj green"). I was lucky to come home with my own signed edition.
At the onset of this trip through Italy I asked myself: What is the role of beauty in our lives? Jonathan had many responses, including how beauty leads the way to more beauty, and of how beauty can companion our solitude. What I learned most from Jonathan in recent days is how to make someone interesting by your interest in them: I saw it over and over again, his ability to transform the smallest detail and incident with illumine language and scholarship. Perhaps this is also art, to bestow attention on conversation, like a knife hewn, until it gleams with enduring and beautiful promise.

fb/sds - 29.4.2016

Sometimes  I wonder why people  friends -  lovers - allies – leave our lives

The answer is: They do because they do. But the more who leave the chambered heart, the more it is returned to its authentic silence, its original darkness. Every diya you light tonight is a remembrance that the person you have been waiting for to return is so deep in memory it not possible for them to leave  :    you are the sum total of all you have known together .    In the darkness of their departure, when you are entirely alone, the sort of alone comparable to old oaks and sentinels, know that everyday you wake up you are already in the best company  

Yourself .   Everything is just right.

Happy Diwali 2012  -  -

you have said    'I needed to write the books then to make the photographs now.'    why?
Perhaps because the photographs have angularity, economy.      The photographs worked for the force and stillness the books did not have.      In a sense the books were a kind of apprenticeship.     All things are about voice, about finding it and the books might have been a kind of throat-clearing for other songs.
sandip roy - - 2013
fb/sds - - 2013
to be truly adult is to be child-like
Has everything changed ?  the Squirrel asked the Rabbit

‘Yes’, he said after a moment.   ‘Yes, it has: It has become more itself.’
Alright then,’ she said, relieved. ‘I was afraid I’d lost ... ’ She wanted to say you, but what she really meant was that without him she’d lost the version of herself she had known most acutely.  ‘I was afraid I’d lost everything,’ she said, almost to herself.
They looked up at the Christmas moon.
She felt tiny, as if with every breath that she drew she vanished some more. But here, with the Rabbit by her side, she felt she was vanishing with someone. That’s it, she told herself, to vanish with a friend, to see the invisible with equal eyes, to know together the dark side of the moon.
‘I have so much to tell you,’ she said, ‘that only silence will suffice.’
Thank you,’ she said, for tonight she could lay down the erratic forces of her mood, her compulsions and desires - the awful doubt that she actually existed and that perhaps this was not the best of ideas. She gripped his hand, and the wild, spinning compass of her heart came to still.
A cloud went across the moon, but on passage revealed a sky of unwavering brightness.

xmas tale by sds in goa - fb/sds 2013
So it’s raining like bonkers and I’m a little sloshed and a little blue as some friends and I are headed to this totally divey pizza joint in Anjuna and I wanted to tell you I wrote a new book, a little fable, actually it was something I made a few years ago for someone, with love, for love, so here it is, The Rabbit & The Squirrel, illustrated by my beloved friend Stina Wirsen
fb/sds - 11.6.2018
I wrote The Rabbit and the Squirrel five years ago, as a gift of love for someone.   I never thought it would see the light of day – it’s publication is a sweet, divine accident   -sds - 2018
A Love Story about Friendship  - A stunning picture book about love, friendship and sexuality, with a dash of absurdity.
Lit with longing, and tender questions of the heart, The Rabbit and the Squirrel is a fairy tale for the modern day by one of India's much-loved young authors. Illustrated by Stina Wirsén, this poignant and moving fable for all ages was originally conceived by the author as a private gift of love for a beloved friend. Featuring a bisexual bunny and an heiress squirrel, by turns witty and absurd, endearing and brave, this little book harbours a fine ache that lends it a timeless quality. - amazon - 2018
would you agree that the central premises of your books are love and friendship?
Yes, absolutely. It is strange to me that not enough writers take ownership of these themes in their work. Many writers want their books to be classified as ‘political fiction’ perhaps to pass muster as “serious”. Of course, it is crucial to write about war and oppression, caste and religion – these are important, valuable themes.
mallik thatipalli - - 2018
why animals?
Because they are infinitely more charming than people.
- If you are waiting, it is because you are deserving; If you are deserving, it is because you have waited -
shrestha saha interview - - 2018
.  -
Don’t date someone who doesn’t read: they won’t know how to pay attention to your quietness. -  interview - 2018
. The Demoness danced
Everyone - thespians, aristocrats, moneylenders, heiresses - watched the Demoness dance. Outside the castle, the poor cried out from hunger. The tears of the poor were seeds.     Later, they sprout in the form of storms. Billowing fire from the sky, torrents of rain drowned the castle. Wild currents swept away the audience.

'Save us !' they cried to the Gods
The Gods asked : 'Did you not hear the poor weep ?'
'No !' they cried in unison, bejewelled hands extended out of the black water, begging rescue.   'No we did not hear the poor.'
The audience drowned.   The Gods did not hear them, either. After the storm, the Demoness resumed her dancing.
fb/sds - 2.7.2018

. Several years ago
when my mother was alive but ailing, I’d just returned from America, nursing something like a bruised heart.   One Sunday afternoon, I sat on my mother’s bed – years had passed since she’d been able to walk. My father came into the room and settled into a chair. Slowly, the air stilled with unsayable things: What we had been angry about; how we had, perhaps, or most certainly, failed each other; life, in some senses, had panned out into a shambolic disappointment. A dark cord seized my heart: panic, with veins of shared loss and unencountered joy. I went up to my room and returned to my mother’s bed with a bottle of champagne. I’d been saving this for when I’d finish my book (at the time, this was The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay). I poured glasses for the three of us. I’m not sure what we drank to but perhaps something like still being around, after everything - cuts, cleavings and all.
And that was the last time we drank together.
My mother passed away shortly after.
Stricken with cancer, my father was not allowed to drink again.

Looking back, I’m so glad I’d opened that bottle of champagne (a posh indulgence for a middle-class Gujurati boy). In retrospect, I see the occasion had been that we had been together. Years later, during this awful summer in Bombay, as my sisters and I battle something like a calamity, memory chased back to that idle afternoon, to drinking with my folks. The only joy we may permit ourselves is being alive to life’s caprice. The only truth is that love is enough. The only certainty is that all that feels insurmountable will end, or that we shall for it. Just look good through all of it: misfortune spites nothing more than if you had your movie star face on at all times.

fb/sds - 2015
Mother's Day
I was recalling Padmini, so much, her radiant, brave heart, I was thinking: what would she have done today if she had been alive?

Why she'd have had a feast for her loved ones.
AAnd so we did, too. I have been drinking non stop for 36 hours btw .
fb/sds - 14.5.2017
. When I was an year old infant
my grandmother and my father had brought me to Nathdwara
,   to our family shrine of Shreenathji. Born after the tragic death of my brother, I was something of an answered prayer for my parents. Over the years I've come often, taking the long, dirty narrow road up to the temple, unchanged black cobblestone, the violet daybreak sky of Rajasthan, a tender, smoky air. I wanted to go with my father one more time, recognising that his health might restrict travel to crowded places. Ensconced against each other in the maddening throng, my head pressed into his back as I peered sideways to see clearly the great black idol, it's gleaming eyes, whimsical mein. We might not ever have been closer by design but there we were then, two pilgrim sardines. Later, I wiped his feet; I experienced the accumulated dirt as if diamonds.
From when he had brought me here as an infant ... to this morning when I came with him, as touches his eightieth year soon, I thought it has been this much time, time, nothing but difficult, unceasing, fine time. These cycles of holding, and being held, are unbroken, in spite of disquiet and disagreement, perhaps stronger because of them, they are inevitable as season, tide, love.
Jai Shree Krishna.

fb/sds - 2015
Everything is a gift
The breath you draw. The time someone you handed your heart didn't entirely break it. The goodness of people who write letters. The snuggle of a dog, the moving stillness of koi in a pond. The older I grow the more grateful I am for everything that comes my way, days when it didn't vividly hurt to remember someone I lost, nights when I was deliriously happy to be home alone, afternoons on the beach. Mostly, I remember the unforced and dear kindness of my parents, I still eat in my mother's old bartan, and what is on the table is food my father taught me how to earn. I am here. I will have another meal. I will go to bed. But there is still time for that. For now there is only the recognition that love illuminates everything.

fb/sds - 25.8.2015

Dusk light, orange veined with grey, poured out the sky and over the trees.
Birds in great numbers gathered to roost. Leaves of winter grass stilled. The day, it seemed, sighed with relief, to be free of light. How good, then, finally, to have no one to love tonight, to be absolved of the paraphernalia of romance. The respite of not needing to remember another birthday, or scratch the skin of a careless sentence uttered in argument. The reprieve of coming home to a golden light of lamps that illuminated pages, to shadows evoking scimitars and dragons. There was sand from the beach, a bag with sea-scented towels; celery soup on the stove; there was a great good quiet, it resembled something like love, but deeper, less jarring. How odd that the satisfaction one had hoped to derive from another was here, finally, unexpectedly, unasked: a jewel handed by time for the time one had endured.

fb/sds - 14.2.2016

Around 10 years ago

I shot my first magazine cover, in France, for Epok (the styling team was hugely disappointed: the cover before mine had graced Bono). Recently, I came across an old copy of Epok and later that day I had to vet through shots for something I did last month. Among all the verities between then and now, one is grossly undeniable. I'VE AGED! GET ME THE HELL OUTTA HERE!
fb/sds - 20.9.2015

Small announcement folks !
A few years ago I decided to make homes on a lark. It seemed an extension of the writing, the photographs, the storytelling. Yet, it was neither design nor architecture. After all, I had no training in the field or any particular interest. I recall telling William Dalrymple that I wanted to try and bring the novel to life through structure. He had smiled at me, believing it was impossible, perhaps because the interiority of a novel is hard to extricate from the formality and intimacy of a book. And yet I knew I could do some version of this. I found the most ideal collaborator in actor Lisa Ray, who told me the most extraordinary story of how she had fought and overcame her cancer: after visiting me at my cottage in Goa she wanted me to recreate a space where she might heal, and write a memoir she had been working on. By this time I had made a few book structures, or narrative architecture homes, and I felt vaguely adept to rise to her request: this was made to me at the fine Goa home of Farrokh Chothia and with the gentle encouragement of Isheta Salgaocar, my ally and close friend. Her home, which bears witness to the extraordinary act of recreation and survival, a saga Lisa writ to life, I was lucky to serve in its physical form. Pramiti Madhavji, editor of Elle Decor, invited me to feature this most special of my new "novels" in her magazine. It appears on the most recent cover of her magazine, an ode to Lisa's extraordinary belief and strength and my desire to serve this vision with form. My newest book has no name. It's a home in Bandra. And here it is.
fb/sds - 9.4.2016

Nearby Asian Country Short Story With Two Photos
Sit down. Have a coffee. It's been so long since we met. I never thought we'd see each other. I don't see most people any longer so this is a treat. I'm glad you held on to your long hair. I'm glad you're here. Wait. I'm glad I'm here too. I never thought I'd last this long. I don't do very much any longer. I go to shopping malls and I just sit around. I've figured something out, sitting around doing nothing, and maybe it's something half true. All the sadness of this world lives in the mall. When I go into one I have to catch myself. Sometimes I find myself crying from just being. I find myself crying on escalators. Just the other day this girl ahead of me and turned and she saw me and she smiled like you would at a dying dog or someone who had just broken up.
I wanted to tell her I was crying for her. I didn't know her, of course, and yet. It was because she was glad to be in the mall, shopping with her boyfriend, eating sushi in food courts. I wanted to tell that this guy you're with, this sweet thing with his slovenly mediocrities and selfie stick, you will spend the rest of your life loathing, or at least until Monday, he's not the answer. Any more than this mall and the juice bar. I mean, he's not even good enough for this mall. You were someone who read books and quoted whole passages from them, you waited for the days leading up the monsoon, your head out the window, tasting the air, you stood under the mango tree in a full bright marvel. Don't give yourself away to a baby crib. Don't settle for noodles at food courts.
I wanted to tell her that you're going to go to malls and buy gifts for people who don't care about you, and buy things for yourself and look real neat, a firecracker, and step out and hang with folks who never see you. You're going to gift-wrap things for relatives who secretly think you're wicked, or annoying. You're going to take your gifts home and give them away at a later date, maybe at a family dinner, and you'll think, I think they're going to love it.
All this I know from being around longer.
Honest to god.
I wanted to tell her that I'm crying because I see this, and I know that one day she would too, but I won't be standing behind, waiting in case she trips or falls, or to smile at her even. Everyone leaves. Every dream ends.
Everyone goes to a mall. Maybe it's the only real thing around and that's something.

fb/sds - 24.5.2016

I spent the evening wheeling on a motorbike
through the crowds of Rishikesh, dodging pilgrims, cows, ascetics, and monkeys, to get to Maharishi Ashram, tucked in Rajaji National Park. Here, thanks to founders of the Rishikesh Street Art, Mansi Thapliyal and Tushar Sangar, I glimpsed one of the most oddly wonderful exhibitions I’ve seen, in what’s locally labeled “The Beatles Ashram”.
Lashed over the abandoned ashram walls are remarkable examples of haunting, audacious graffiti art, the strokes are whiplash, the colors muted, rain-washed. Amplifying the rigor of the artist’s collective work – see incomplete list of contributors in images below – is a strange, visceral awareness this exhibition is mounted in the jungle, that artists painted on the walls of an ashram where The Beatles meditated, and as I noticed with awe, the domiciled fauna – wild elephants and tortoises - cut through my path.
Right behind the Beatles Ashram flows the Ganga, thundering past in monsoonal hues while dread-lock hippies are singing Imagine, and you think that in the evening you are never the person as at the start of your day. I’d stay at the always amazing Ananda, and then drive out for this fantastic exhibition in the forest.

fb/sds - 18.6.2016

Few sights arrest my heart
as the fields outside my cottage, farmers planting, picking, timeless rituals of meeting season with sickle, of bringing rice to table, the recognition of life going on, horrors at bay just for today, a river turtle raising its little head to mighty rain, seeing, breathing, marvelling.
fb/sds - 24.7.2016

Dear All :
I have given up all worldly attractions and retreated to manage a small bar in the village of Mayem in North Goa. Please contact me for all future queries at Lakeview Bar & Restaurant ...
fb/sds 30.8.2016

A world he had left behind :
South Bombay parties he arrived at with swirling dread in his stomach and fled in secret, after midnight, swerving past Babulnath, fretting the hostess would notice (she never did but one had loved him outside of measure); the lovers, voluptuous, off-the-grid beings who spurred in him secret language, for them he wrote with daring, magic tricks and pleasure. This was a world to which friends paid subscription, structures they believed might work, marriage, conventions of conduct. They could not comprehend why he was always gone but they feared to wake one morning and see that they had done the wrong thing, they had been with the wrong man, or that they had not stashed enough to leave abruptly in a cranky red car one Thursday afternoon, to simply quit: richness was setting aside enough for the wide arms of failure.

We fall in love for the same reason we read. For our broken, disjointed selves to be held by our solitude, or by the attention of another, this is not in the belief that we may be accepted as much that our private distaste for who we are is temporarily in abeyance. We are alright. A book says this to us. So does love. We are many people, many selves, but language, or your touch, holds me as one tonight.
fb/sds - 23.11.2016

I wish I could have brought you here
The nearly last sunset, this impossible year. Sea gulls championing sky. An upturned starfish. All the things I scribbled for you in sand, endearments, complaints, but chiefly, the recognition of your sweeping pleasure, your great sterling worth. If not reconciliation, perhaps it's too late now, in the black bowl of dusk I leave behind forgiveness. And I seek again your old whisper (love?). For a season, it kept me safe, healthy, robust, your touch, your sudden embrace, even your fear that this would end. In my heart, I have the conviction to reverse everything. My love is larger than your fate. My belief is bigger than any fear. I am waiting for you.

fb/sds - 30.12.2016

When I find myself thinking
No one reads, I catch my cynicism. Perhaps fewer people read now. In any event, better people read, or reading has a bettering principle. Readers also make finer lovers: To be held by another, as a story held in imagination, or memory, this is a scholarship in intimacy. Thirteen years ago, The Last Song of Dusk was published on this day, it brought the best vigilantes of soul into my life: thank you for your gift of reading. Just so this does not keel over into sentimentality, here are a few book covers made in jest, to set down what happened after ...
fb/sds - 23.4.2017

Last year
after a spate of attacks on me for a piece I wrote, I drew up a series of observations, published here by the Sunday Times of India. Normally, I don’t respond to critics: it’s pointless, they’ll assume what they wish, and bitching is what they will do until they land a real job.

But what hurt was when an old buddy turned against me.
Now my old buddy had been a benefactor of my private generosities of commendation, prayer, deed, conversation, and deep, pure love. While I normally laugh off criticism from a public balcony – who are these crazy screaming people anyway? – I don’t weather a betrayal too well. This is to remind my friend that my cold silence is only for unknown decriers, and that I can go from champagne dandy to rampaging tusker in three seconds flat.
I love you.
But don’t do it again.
fb/sds - 7.5.2017

It’s the phone call you dread but expect anyway
‘Papa passed away,’ my sister said through muffled sobs. ‘He died,’ she repeated, as if I might not have understood her the first time around.
It was February. I was in Jaisalmer. My father had passed in his sleep in Bombay. My sister was in Bangalore. Expanding between the geographical trine of Bombay, Jaisalmer and Bangalore, a silent, spreading pool of loss. My two sisters and I would have to tread through it to come out to the other side.
fb/sds - 21.6.2017
Five years ago, I did a show of photographs on my dad and his life after cancer. We made a little book of the images; it was called The House Next Door. We went to Matheran, my sisters and I, and we opened the first copy of this private family book in the mountains.
Today is my dad’s birthday. Now he is gone. I wonder if he’s looking down and thinking of his favourite Kadam flowers and Toberlone, if he still calls my mother by an odd little nick name “Madam Cama”, and if his heart catches with the great gratitude and affection my sisters have for him.
Happy Birthday always, papa. - the house next door
fb/sds - 29.1.2018

Every day at lunch I feed the crows out of my thali
Returning home after a long trip I was in the balcony of my dad's room when a crow called out at me. Noticing something in his beak I wondered if he was going to eat what he had brought along. But no, he (or she) simply placed it on the ledge and then flew off. It was a present, I realised, my heart rising; it was a piece of khakra. How can you but not be deeply moved by such unbelievable acts of generosity ?

fb/sds - 3.7.2017

Few landscapes make me feel
as clearly as the Swedish one does, of the solitude of things. The countryside is dense copse, blue berries and truffle, great, lofty branches wind whipped, rain slathered. When I wrote about one of my favourite countries, Sweden, for the Hindustan Times Brunch, under the excellent editorship of Jamal Shaikh, I was lucky to extol its lures – design, food, art and my great friends here.

But I return, every year, for a walk through the woods.
fb/sds - - 2017

they were running from something
wretched things, too much stuff, they were worn out but tireless, expert rollers, charmed reefers, hippies and runaways with amazing skin, they had friends with proper lives (children, dogs, happy coloured instagram accounts), they did not want for much, they knew a little place on the playa, in Ibiza, or Comporta, although for the winter they were in Goa, with rented bikes, at this seedy Anjuna bar, sloshed in the afternoon, having the time of their life, they’d be dead soon, or maybe later, but right now they were alive, more than alive, the cyclone had come to pass, the demon fed.

fb/sds - 6.12.2017

When people ask me what I do, I struggle to answer
The stock response is,   'I’m a writer.'   Or, now, I say I help out with an arts foundation in Goa — I kind of curate shows. I also make homes — design narratives in form. Yet, none of this feels entirely true. It feels a little like dressing up for the job, it feels like make-up, it feels like I’m angling for the ticket of an employable person with a semi-important public designation. To be honest, most days I’m on the beach. Or I’m travelling. I’ve never held a desk job. Even as I read this, I’m scared: for I can see my future — I’ll be selling pressure cookers on a home shopping network and date night is only ever going to be with my cat.

Yep, folks, my future is really not very bright. But my present is semi-excellent.
This is because a few years ago I consciously decided to live in delight of the ordinary, and in exhilaration of less.
... There was nothing.
Slowly, I have grown aware, and come to prize that this nothing as everything, and that the rooms often look most beautiful when they are empty.
And that the real work I have been trying to do all along is to come home to myself.
sds/ - 2018

It’s perhaps none of my business to comment
- or maybe it’s all our collective work - but at an airport this morning I encountered two opposing sides of modern India. On one hand, women cleaning staff working assiduously hard to keep the airport clean; I noticed them run brooms and mops for the duration I was there.

On the other hand, I noticed our passengers using the airport like it was their own living room, radiating a defiant aura of entitlement that announced: We will do what the hell we like. I noticed children spewing snacks all over the floor, men and women sprawled out on the floor and eating out of plastic boxes and making a giant mess. Of course I understand snacking is something we all do - I certainly do - but what riled me is the blatant arrogance of an upwardly class of people (of which I am default member) who believe our labor teams were put down on this planet to clean up after them.
Yes, this happens in India all the time, but shouldn’t the airport of a country where our taxes are now first world levels have a management team that says this is simply not allowed? And that you will be fined for littering. The public airport is not your living room. And these hardworking cleaning women have not been put down on this planet to clear up after you. Your arrogance, your entitlement, your inability to honour women labor teams is, quite frankly, disgusting. Next time you do this, someone else will document you. And we don’t need to shame you: you do an amazing job at this yourself.
fb/sds - 15.3.2018

I’ll probably spend the remainder of my years making origami storks in a basement but until then how lucky for me to bear witness to this beautiful moment. In our awful times of moral policing, no jobs, despotic governments and world class scams we can remind each other that the real light of this world is love.
Earthlings !   Go forth and hold hands !
fb/sds - 20.3.2018

House of Solitude
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi on the house where he wrote his bestselling novel, The Last Song of Dusk.
In 2002, I returned from California to Bombay. A love affair had bombed. I was to start on a master’s degree in San Francisco the following year - a scholarship had been secured. Interim, I had a year to kill. My father, the practical Gujurati, insisted I get a job – perhaps as a reporter. My mother said, ‘You don’t need to leave the house. Why don’t you start a pizza parlor in the garage?’ Around that time Hrithik Roshan, who grew up in the same neighborhood, went from totally awkward badminton playing teenager I’d seen him at Juhu Gymkhana, and transformed into a world-class nipple-flashing film star. One of my school contemporaries, whose kindergarten achievement had been target urinating in Limca bottles, distinguished himself not only by marrying but also begetting a child the same year.
Folks in my neighborhood were flashing the absence of chest hairs, and the presence of heirs.
Meanwhile, I was nursing a broken heart and quarreling with my mother – no, I did not want her mami’s recipe for pizza sauce; and yes, this made me a bloody ingratiate. I retreated to my room in the house, the photographs of which grace this magazine. I rescued from my temperamental desk top computer (it only started after I folded my hands and recited the Gayatri Mantra) a manuscript I’d finished two years prior. My novel was a love story of sorts, a marriage under threat, a young woman whipping into her sexual and artistic own, the shadow of music on their lives – these were key strands. I wrote all day, then deep into night; I edited like the demon was in me; I revised everything. I had charts. There were diary entries I revisited. I tried not to think of lost love. I was young. There will be others, I told myself in my terrace, where I gazed at the pond at the rear of my house. In a few months, I brought into being the story that later brought me into writerly existence: The Last Song of Dusk was completed in this house. From the fate of the house, from its invisible veins and ventricles, its secret cloacal, a book came to be.
The house gave my parents and my siblings distance from each other while allowing us to be close. The extravagance of a home in Bombay – this accidental good luck has never been never lost on me – is how the five of us persisted doggedly as individuals, with our private failings of mood, cranks of personality. My parents had their rooms; I shared a room with my siblings until I was twelve, following which I lived in a small room that was originally a storeroom - yes, I had limited equity in the family. As I was obsessed with rescuing animals, the storeroom turned bedroom is where I put up with a menagerie of rescue kittens, abandoned puppies, a baby goat one summer, and for several years, a rooster, George, who presided on my desk and crowed stridently several times in the middle of the night (as a result my heart is now aneurism proof). The month George died I turned fifteen, and I lost my only two teenage friends when my mother looked them square in the eye and asked them to be ‘extra nice’ to me because, well, my cock had just died. They had been seated on the crescent shaped sofa you see in the pictures.
While I cohabited with farm animals, my grandfather had a small flat to himself – he had built this extension for the winter months when he returned from America, where he lived. As a scholar and an analyst – he had studied with CG Jung - he read extensively and deeply, and he wrote in his studio. His bedroom has the circular art deco mirror although the walls were stripped to a rough cement peel only recently. He met with his students who had come from Varanasi, from Chicago; he analyzed the dreams of his grandchildren; he bought me a microscope from a jumble sale in North Bombay Housing Society when I told him ‘I wanted to learn how to see properly.’ My mother, who in her later years was disabled, was confined to her room – here she had installed a movable stove over which she flamed to life recipes for gatte ka saag that she had learned as a young woman in Rajasthan. Some evenings, deliciously feet halting scents would emerge from her bedroom – she was conjuring up a curry from her portable kitchen. And this room, which was her bedroom, became many things, a haven for midnight conversation, a quarrel resolution unit, a kitchen where appetites (and hearts) were fed – a moveable feast, indeed. There is no photograph of my mother’s room but I know you can see it clearly.
Principal in the permutations of how we inhabited this house was our commitment to solitude. We were always learning to be alone, then more alone, because this house made room for it. In this alone we sulked, we repaired, we took the pieces of our broken selves and darned them into a kind of fine and crazy whole. Imagine this house – which in these pictures appears so decorous and calm – and see if for it is: a lab for the human spirit. Imagine it as a dollhouse, the roof now open, and you are looking in, at a gangly, self-conscious boy rooming with a rooster; an analyst, on his chair, speaking with his students, matching their trepidation with consolation; imagine, now, my mother, cooking from her room, in her bed, defying restrictions of health and emerging triumphant, full of poetry. Oh yes, she wrote a book of poems, which we launched in this house, and one evening she read her poems to all her friends.
This is a house of solitude, but equally a house of language, of the meaning of language, and of how language resigns to silence.
In Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, the house has such animating resentment that floorboards quake and characters are pummeled into walls. Miss Havisham waits for a lover in Great Expectations, and Dickens infuses her grief into the crumbling walls of her villa. The mansion in The Great Gatsby becomes a symbol of romantic failure for the novel’s central character, underscoring his remove from the world (later to reflect the writer Fitzgerald’s own isolation). ‘If you are unhappy, or vulnerable, or hurt, or lost,’ wrote Jeanette Winterson, ‘it is still possible to live in or to create a happy home. This isn't sleight of hand, it is magic at its most sympathetic.’ While homes in literature are sometimes devices to express rage or longing, the actual practice of making home can be one of alchemy, Winterson suggests – ‘alchemy that shifts one thing into another.’
My family house, too, has shifted in meaning and form. My parents are gone. My siblings are long married. I, now, live here alone. This is nothing more than the alchemy of time. The beautiful room is empty, a line from one of Kafka’s letters, is the title of a book by Edmund White. White also wrote The Farewell Symphony, named after a piece by Joseph Hayden, wherein the musicians, one at a time, abandon the stage until only one player is left on stage.
The last musician will also leave.
Silence will be president.
But perhaps there is time for that.
When I wake at night, and descend this majestic, lonesome stairwell, I hear only music, my mother’s sonorous dawn hour bhajans, my dad’s boyish claps of laughter, my grandfather reading out a passage from the Tripura Rahasya. I see the areca palm leaves alive to their own mystery; I see all the people who have sat on our chairs. ‘The present flowed by them like a stream,’ wrote EM Forster in Howard’s End. ‘The tree rustled. It had made music before they were born, and would continue after their deaths, but its song was of the moment. The moment had passed. The tree rustled again. Their senses were sharpened, and they seemed to apprehend life. Life passed. The tree rustled again.’
The beautiful room can never be empty.
Ronitaa Italia Dhanu invited me to write an essay on home ...  fb/sds - 1.3.2018

An indicator of how brilliantly my life has flopped is measured by my tremendous pleasure in wholesale flowers from Mapusa Market .
fb/sds - 31.5.2018

Growing up
I had a bunch of snobby cousins who asked me:   Are you wearing clothes made from old curtains ?   Turns out, they were right .   White trousers made from sofa fabric leftover (thanks to tailor Soni-ji of Udaipur) .    I’m so lucky my mother raised me solidly middle class.

fb/sds - 3.9.2018


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