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The difficulty of living

The space between me and myself is enormous/ I cannot fathom where I begin and when I’m at the end of myself/ What is the distance between a leaf and a tree even if the leaf knows no other place to be?/I’ve come to lie so beautifully that my words wear the shine of truth, even if briefly

At Khoj Studios, Smita shows us how the mandated distance between a mosque protected by ASI/ And a place of dwelling should be fifteen metres/ But people live too close to the place of god in Khriki: they wash, cook, love, pray, pee/ This, Smita shows as negative distance, sometimes –0.03, the shadow of reality crawling up on what’s legality/ But should not that be positive distance, for has she not claimed this moment for art and poetry?/ Should we not again ask ourselves if there’s a poem in every moment, and just that we’re not always ready to receive it?/ Is there the poetry of survival in the existential need for encroachment along a mosque of the fourteenth century?/ Pooja tells Smita she could read up some theory, about space, about the distances within ourselves, interiority/ One of the little cut-outs Smita has made using photographs shows a minaret of the mosque rising like a penis in 3D/ Towards heaven, leaving behind black Sintex tanks and unplastered single-brick-wall buildings/ She seems to suggest that even if it’s impossible to bridge distances, desire could make us believe we could get there, individually/ But even if we opened ourselves up completely, even if we tried to collapse all distances/ We’ll never be able to see like the woman who dries her hair in the sun/ That comes through a latticed window of the mosque known for its windows, which is what khirki means

At the place I call home, a third-floor flat that stands unauthorizedly over what once was a forest along the Aravali/I’m too lazy to peel the skin off the garlic I need to cook an elaborate Sunday lunch/ I give the pods to my kitchen help Munni/ Who takes them to the unplastered single-brick-wall one-room tenement she calls home/ Where seven people live, and gives it to her daughter Roshni/ Who brings it in a plastic bag to me, and then lingers and smiles awkwardly/ I say thank you in a sweet and profuse way as if to make up for all my sins/ She’s standing still, dithering, and I ask her name and ask her why she’s so thin/ She nods and smiles like a sweet thing but is not leaving: is she expecting me to offer a toffee?/ There are so many people at work to let me be me/ Our washing machine—genus Elena, species IFB, capacity 5kg—rumbles again after being still/ Can I measure the time between Elena moving from intense spin to end for a load of delicates in terms of the number of words I’m able to, in the meanwhile, spin?/ Is it really worth counting the number of words in every poem, or knowing when, where, why and how they were made?/ It may be more useful to take a census of the cows that have developed a taste for plastic in Delhi/ To wonder if a Delhi cow would not know what to do if it were let loose into a meadow this monsoon, suddenly/ Will it go mad with delight or find nothing there to its taste?/ That’s going to be as easy as someone like me trying to find out how distant from myself I am honestly

Weekends are for cooking enormous food and putting it away in a ginormous fridge for the week ahead/ Listening to the many versions of one raga, drinking  beer, reading, and writing endlessly about the difficulty of living

Smita Rajmane’s work was exhibited at Khoj Studios as part of a month-long student residency. Read about the Khriki mosque here. 19 June 2016

This guest post was contributed by S. Anand, who is a poet and publisher, Navayana. With the artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, he did the show Finding My Way at Khoj Studios (30 April to 11 May 2016) based on a book of the same name.