The familiar brick red steps hit her like a splash of cold coconut water on her face. Or that was just the air conditioner leaking from her family home in Goa, India. Too soon, she woke up. She opened her thick eyelashes to the sun dappled room in all of it’s white curtain, soft blanket comfort. Her mother must have come in at some point in the morning and regulated the temperature of the air conditioner. This was the first time in a year that she had woken up without having to blink back the tears borne out of uncontrollable dreams that were usually caught between her eyelashes. The worst frustration felt when they refused to spill over and grant her release. Not onto paper as ink, and not onto her cheeks as freedom.
This morning however, she didn’t need to improve anything with the power of her imagination. She looked out of her window and yawned a big, happy yawn to send as much oxygen to her brain as she possibly could. A sparrow outside her window opened its beak in response. She laughed. What a pleasant sound. I haven’t heard that in quite a while.
As if attuned to her every emotion, her mum walked in, right on cue. Theirs was a family of artists after all. Everything, even time, could be improved by aesthetic manipulation. Maybe that was the reason, she only ever felt content at home.
A cup of tea and an assortment of dry fruit, arranged playfully on a patterned plate with cashew nuts fresh from their orchard and figs fresh from their favorite grocer were brought in. A slice of cold cheese on toasted bread was presented.
She nibbled as best as she could, and her mum did not rush her. It took her an hour and a half to get through the breakfast, but she did. Without anxiety, without tears, without the feeling of going into a combat devoid of armor.
She saw her mother’s helpless disbelief as she absorbed all of the changes that her body had suffered over the past 6 months. Outwardly, she knew she looked like a simple collection of bones, held together by a strands of bruised flesh. She wondered though, if her mum could glean from this the moments of unbearable unhappiness in which she punished her body into contortions for hours on end, extending it and contracting it in an isolated ballet studio in an unknown country – all in the name of art.
She began to wonder what growing up would have been like for her mother, who wasn’t a dancer, who had never moved away from home. Did she know what it was like to be trapped within her own mind? to be closeted in a room full of mirrors all day helplessly distant from the perfection of movement she wanted to achieve? Did she know how the euphoria of pirouetting off a rose strewn stage, deafened by applause could slowly spiral into an all consuming dependence on the same applause for a mere sense of identity?
. Were her problems simply limited to the trivial, non physical minutiae of everyday life?
No, her mother had much worse to deal with. She had to watch the life that had sprung out of love from her womb, inch closer to suicide each day, in a mad scramble for acceptance. She had to save her daughter from herself in the span of a winter break.
New York University Abu Dhabi