(Re)negotiating identities: India diaries ’18 (I)

It’s the dogs that keep me awake. Otherwise, I can stand the heat, and the rumblings of traffic that pass from time to time. But it’s the dogs. They bark and bark, aimlessly, for the sake of complaint, or so it sounds. I toss and turn, and pretend it doesn’t bother me. And as though it knows, one will always respond to my attempted nonchalance by stretching its bark long, melodiously like it is the end of its ballad, burning and grazing its call into a mournful low.


We amble on the dirt-road outside our compound, waiting for the call-taxi to find us. My room mate – a French-German political science intern – has flagged down a boy from the street to explain where we are to the driver. He is probably not more than 18 years old, as guessed from the younglings of a moustache sprouting above his lip. He starts walking up to the main road and we follow him. His red polyester track pants shine radiantly against the bland dirt road. Every so often he turns his head backwards as he is talking and glances at me, curious. I am familiar with this gaze, though I do note that the gaze is for me, not my fair-skinned room mate. The twins from the compound keep tailing me until I reach the car, their small gold drops dangling by their buzz-cut bobs: ‘Aunty! Your pant is torn!’.
I know, I want to tell them. I spent $190 on these jeans.

The driver pulls up, mildly irate from not being able to find us. He unloads his navigational complaints on the boy and clocks me with a passing flick of his eye as I climb in. But once we start moving, he turns back and has a proper look. There it is again. That curious gaze.


It occurs to me then, that my tall-haired French-German room mate standing on the road in full salwar kameese is a sight that the locals can blink away. The possible narrative arcs of her presence – and others who appear like her – are well-known, predictable, and accepted without threat. But I am a subtler discrepancy. As I’ve been told before, the styling of my thin glossy hair, the shape of my eyebrows, the gleam of my skin and my sartorial preferences are more difficult to reconcile once noticed. Perhaps because, for all intents and purposes, I am Indian. For what reason, then, could I appear this way?

I imagine myself lean over and touch him gently on the shoulder, my chubby-faced driver with his headphones in. I imagine saying: it’s okay. It’s okay that you can’t understand what I am. It’s okay, really. Look again, and let’s both accept it.


It must be strange for you.

She says it sincerely, looking up at me from the day-bed after the seller-women have passed. They heckle all of us to buy beads and sarongs, but when I say ‘no, thanks Ma’am’, they give up sooner, though their gaze upon me trails on behind their steps.

It is. I reply. It’s like, I’m definitely not one of them, but I’m not fully Australian either, you know? On both ends, I am…exotic, or strange… something. I float between the two spaces, like bubbles at the top of a soda.

She is silent, but I feel her nod in understanding. We look up towards the water, letting the thought rest. I unfurl my legs and splay out on the day bed, opening my Kindle and sipping a Coke.


Thamizh pesuvela?: Do you speak Tamil?

I always ask eagerly. I am glad when the back of his head nods in response. Thamizha?

Aanh: Yes.

That’s right. I am Tamil.

It is late afternoon and the auto rolls and grinds through Bangalore’s nightmarish after-work traffic. The driver, Samir, pleather-clad with the dark-lined doe-eyes of so many Muslim boys in the district, drops in questions as they come to him.

Where are you from? What do you do? Do you like Bangalore? What’s it like to live in Australia? Is it hot like this? Is the traffic like this? Do you have a husband? Was it a love marriage? What art do you make? Could I live in Australia?

We talk and I titter happily as he compliments my fluency and laughs along with what I tell him. He stops several times to check the route (I have no address, only a hotel name to give him), but he is young and earnest and assures me we will get there somehow. I think to myself that I will tip him for all this effort.

But there is no need for me to make such considerations.

40 minutes later I will walk into the hotel, stuffing my notes into my purse, flustered and upset. I will retrace the steps of our conversation, trying to sift authenticity from our communication. I will berate myself for assuming foreign rules of politeness in engagement. I will block out that moment where his tone changed to begin his bidding, the moment I realised my Tamil lacked the vocabulary to fight back. I will quietly be reminded that I am a foreigner in sheep’s clothing. And I will give him 170 rupees.


The family down the street has purchased a Saint Bernard. It is monstrously large and chained up in the front verandah, ogling strangers and no doubt keeping local dogs away from the chickens. There are other special breeds around too: Chow Chows and glossy Cocker Spaniels are walked by familial servants in white half-sleeved shirts. The strays don’t go near these dogs when their minders are around. Looking at them, you can see in the sheen of their coats that all they know is the care and luxury of high-class domestic living.


The waiters at the Taj mostly stand in a semi-bow, a state of cat-like readiness should they need to greet their patrons with practiced servitude. My friend’s partner, an Indian expat himself, attempts to joke with them, but they receive his humour as reflecting dissatisfaction and, apologetically, only work harder to please.

Neatly dressed Indians, expats and foreigners alike are arrayed across the settees, ordering grossly overpriced food and cocktails with careless flicks of the hand. I realise that I receive no curious gazes here. Instead, an unbreakable hierarchy is at play between guests and staff; it is impolite, insulting even, to try and interfere with its order. It is articulated at all times between wait staff and patrons by a measured distance of standing. It recalls its own caste system, reminding me of my last trip to a temple in Chennai where a “low caste” man humbled himself to the ground for nearly bumping into an Iyer priest.

We eat dinner and the bill comes to Rs.6400.

My earlier folly begins to sink in and I quietly acknowledge Samir and his bidding.





I am too engrossed in typing to look him in the face, and frankly, he doesn’t give a shit. I am the only Indian-looking person at this place, and I have to accept what that makes me; or is it what I am? Whatever the case I resume my focus and order a soda water to pass the time.  I am a patron at this beach side restaurant in Goa, and that’s all I need to be.

The bikini-clad Europeans tanning on the sun beds barely flinch as the local seller girls walk up to them. One woman asks to take a photo and the two Goan girls pose for the camera, before resuming their bidding. I see them shaking hands and smiling. A good price for my friend.

Down by the shore a stout middle-aged caucasian man plays soccer with the local boys. His skin is sun-drenched, camouflaging him momentarily, but he can’t be missed, carefree in play as his dirty white jocks jiggle their wares.

Occasionally, men high on bang and whatever-else stream down from further up the shore, trying to ‘befriend’ the tourists sun-baking in their petit two-pieces. For a culture submerged in principles of modesty, this is an overwhelming feast for the eyes. But the lifeguards come down from their post to shoo them away, as burly Russian men raise from their tanning to bark their disdain.


When I was younger, my relatives in Chennai would lend me their children’s clothes, and I would fade into the background of 40th street in Nanganallur. Except when I would beckon a stray puppy to follow me home, or a calf at our gate would bring me running from the verandah, calling for a banana to slip onto its sandpaper tongue. The women of the street peering down from their balconies would smirk, bemused, as they combed their long oily hair. She’s Lakshmi’s girl: my Aunty would call. Australia lenthu vandirka.


She says, Don’t stretch your hand to him, as I move towards Gundu, opening my palm. He is barking and trembling, fiery eyed.

He used to be a stray before we adopted him. When you offer him your hand, it triggers some sort of trauma for him.

I coo at him naively, but withdraw my hand and back away as he watches me wearily.


At some point I have to give up. Give up attempting to know the unknowable systems and spaces that I inhabit here. For all of it’s difference, my status as an anomaly – as the bubble rising to the top of the glass, neither part of the water nor the air – is shared across millions in our diaspora. These small unfoldings I observe are but the fractured splays of colonisation, immigration and capitalism. It’s not something I can reconcile, although I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me sometimes.



When he saunters up to our table and looks at us wary, I let my partner offer his fair-skinned hand first. The pup smells it tentatively, before slipping his thin scalp under it for a pat. Seeing this, I too offer my hand, and he comes to nose my palm.

He looks at me wistful, receiving my rub. Eventually, he settles himself at the foot of my chair.

A young Nepali boy, smiling, brings us our meal.


‘Now, and the Mind Tears’, immersive installation at Agency Agency, Nicholas Building, Melbourne


Now, and The Mind Tears

you walk down the street 
youve stared too long at nothing
something steps your miss
you are where?

An installation exploring the existential quandary of the city-dweller, inquiring into apathy and conscious renunciation as a response to the chaos of contemporary life.

This work intersperses writing from the Hindu scripture known as the Avadhut Gita (Song of the Freewith reflections written by the Artist.

The Avadhut Gita is poetic scripture based on the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta (non-duality), which posits that the individual soul is comparable to the highest metaphysical reality.


Of Nectar; ‘life-giving drink of the Gods’

Compound of
     ‘Nek’- coming from “death” (necro), and
‘tar’- coming from ‘tere’ to cross over, pass through or overcome:

– that which overcomes death



I present this work as my first public installation, inquiring into how the themes of poetic verse can be communicated through immersive and experiential means.

You are invite to enter this work and make your way through to the centre, reading as much or as little of the text as you would prefer.

I am curious about the potentiality for non-traditional readings to communicate new messages and would love to know about your experiences should you wish to share them. Please find some pages for you to leave your thoughts at the back of the room on the ledge.

About the Avadhut Gita:

The Avadhut Gita is believed to have been anonymously written during the 9th or 10th Century BC. Later accreditations to the author as ‘Sri Dattatreya’ have been proffered, but historians cannot validate this character. The poetic translation used in this work comes from Swami Abhayananda.

“Throughout history, it has been the contention of the mystics of all cultural traditions that the “vision of God” reveals man’s essential oneness with Absolute Being, awakening him to his true, eternal Identity. Prior to such divine illumination, say these mystics, man suffers under the mistaken illusion that he is a limited and finite being, separate and distinct from other beings, who possesses his own individual identity.”

The Artist and Agency Agency would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, and pay our respects to their elders past and present.

We note that this performance takes place on land that was appropriated violently and against the will of the First Australians. We also acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded and the Australian Government continues to systematically persecute and abuse Aboriginal people in Australia.


Agency Agency exists as a place of space for provocateurs of the unconscious. Double-agents of agency Dario Vacirca, Nick Roux, Nithya Iyer and Ching Ching Ho operate in service of the proverbial people, creating and facilitating critical media, reflections and manipulations for individual and mass de-sedation. Agency Agency can assist with locating one’s agency, ensuring all holes in the matrix are quickly exacerbated, and calculated ruptures to modus operandi are executed. “On-world” services include experimental performance and arts-inquiry, intercultural theatre arts translation, sound and video design, critical writing, research and scholarship, and all other forms of creating. For more information, insert message through the space-time continuum here, or alternatively phone/email as follows.




Apathy & Democracy: Reflections on a Sunday of protesting Manus

The following reflection was written whilst sitting on the tarmac outside Flinders St station, Melbourne, with protestors from the Artists Against Abuse initiative. It was the third protest against the treatment of the refugees in Manus held that day and it was also the smallest, commencing with a performance outside the National Gallery of Victoria to urge the termination of their contract with Wilson Security – a company involved in running our detention centres.


I guess this is the closest I am going to come to being in a conflict zone. (Ha. Sheltered much?) I’m sitting on St Kilda Road outside Federation Square and Flinders Street Station alongside 100 or 150 protestors who are also sitting or standing, and some of whom are singing. Opposite them on the road are what feels like nearly 100 police officers, eight or ten on horses. People of all ages and backgrounds.

It never occurred to me until just now that this is where protest ‘ends’ – in attending to the final picket line and the stalemate that happens when the protestors and the police meet and it becomes a wait out. Who will last longer? How will the protestors be removed?

I am shocked by the level of police force that is being shown. I can’t understand it. I feel like there was less police force shown at the Australia Day protests, which had thousands more people. Later people will tell me that it’s because of how big all the other protests have been, or a show of force for the media, or that it’s to quash any attempts at violence, or out of genuine concern for how big the rally could become (no one knows).

There is also the absurdity: The protestors carrying banners reach within half a foot of the police blockade and then… nothing. They stand. Onlookers pause, probably waiting for the scenes they have observed so often on television of screaming protestors being dragged from the street. But it doesn’t happen. Cigarettes get passed. People take turns carrying the banner. After a while, the grim looking police with their hands clasped before them start to loosen up and chat amongst themselves. (This makes them lose the veneer of ‘evil oppressor’ somewhat.) Protestors attempt to keep holding up their gesture, fists crossed at the wrists above their heads, but we are hot and tired and it doesn’t last long. There is a palpable sense that no one knows what comes next – some of us are beginners, adhering to our roles in this strange theatre of democracy. We the people object, here we are objecting, and then…..?


Artists Against Abuse picket line.

3:16pm: the refreshments are being brought out. Umbrellas, Starbursts, muesli bars and sunscreen for the protestors, bottles of water for the police. Everyone is woefully underprepared for a long-term sit-in (a knowledge that tinges the environment with a sense of idiocy). I assume I appear on the side of the protestors, and I am too , but at the same time the reason for my presence has morphed. I am here because I am curious about the state of the Machine – how is this supposed to work? How is this accommodated within our system of governance and democracy? The half a foot between the protestors and the police is a chasm quickly filling with questions. In this scenario, there is the unspoken but overwhelming evidence that eventually the protestors will leave (they do) because they are not equipped to take on 100 police and 10 horses. Perhaps, though, the protestors don’t care for that; perhaps they just want to stall city traffic for four hours on a Sunday afternoon – a fair disruption some might say. But what each person wants to do, what each person expects, how far each person is willing to go – this is a mystery. It wasn’t on the Facebook event: “must be willing to get arrested”. The only certainty, it seems, is that the police will win.

I wonder: What if there was 10,000 of us? What if St Kilda Road was packed solid with our bodies? What then? How would we be cleared off? How would this affect the choices made?

It is tense.


(I think about how Police States begin. I think about how revolutions are started. I think about my partner, and safety, and moving to Portugal.)


I regret that at some point I will have to leave. I am not willing to be arrested or forcibly removed. I am too scared. After all, I only just started my career as a reporter 15 minutes ago after getting spooked by the police presence. And now, embarrassingly, I am captivated by the drama.

I wonder how many artists and protestors came today with the intention of staying all day, of sitting in all day. I wonder how many are prepared to be forcibly removed or arrested.


A thought gnaws: The fact is that the protestors cannot overthrow the police in this State, no matter the injustice we are protesting. The fact is that we cannot (or just have not been able to) disrupt to the levels that would be necessary in order for citizens to form the kind of threat or volatility that would actualise a change in law or national policy. This one fundamental hinge of democracy has seemingly been dismantled in Australia. The might of civil society, moderated through “anti-terror” laws and protest regulations, seems almost ornamental. Are we pretending to have a democracy?


GetUp! protest at Federation Square earlier in the day.


I come home and tell my partner about everything that has happened and we research more about Manus, about Nauru, about Christmas Island, about detainees being beaten and murdered or sewing their lips together in protest, or killing themselves; about almost 2000 refugees awarded compensation for ill treatment by the Australian Government from the High Court; about women being raped by employees at detention centres; about ex-military open firing on refugees; about Medicine Sans Frontiers being denied access to the men currently held on Manus; the list goes on. We look up these places and they.are tiny little islands, forgettable to the rest of the world, dotted across the northern shelf of Australia. I wonder how much money has been paid to them, I wonder what they have consented to, how they were duped into this agreement. I think about John Pilger and about A Secret Country and I wonder where we actually are living.

I think about what it means that an anti-abortion bill was voted down 31 to 21; that 21 people voted for an anti-abortion bill and that is nearly half of the total count and that is terrifying. I imagine protesting for the rights to my body, and standing at a picket line and knowing I will lose. I think about what happens when it gets to the point where the extremes are more extreme and I wonder if something ugly will have to happen here before something good can come.


The previous night I am at a party with my best friends. One of my friend’s is in drag, his checked shirt tied at his belly and his shorts folded up to his thighs. He is wearing red lipstick and an Akubra and playing cricket in his cowboy boots. We drink and laugh and sing and we are as we are, all happy and lost and all nowhere, in a backyard in Coburg with our gaping mouths thrashing out the songs of our youth in some voracious catharsis of living.

Some part of me thinks: this is Australia. And I don’t know what exactly that means and I try to locate it, but it is this indiscernible, ungrounded quagmire of being, where we hold on to the threads of community that we can muster from virtually nothing, thread our sense of displacement into the greater lattice of everyone else’s seeming displacement and hold on to each other, muted to the absence of connection. This is what it seems to me it is to be “Australian”. To go ever deeper into the bland oblivion of an identity that cannot authenticate itself, and cannot recover itself in the face of a globalising world as anything more than a pawn colony for America and Britain. A country with so many secrets that patriotism can only be upheld by shallow and loosely strung tenets of shared suffering and compassion, rather than an acknowledgment of humanity.

I wonder if any immigrant ever knows what it means to move to a Western country. Falling over themselves, we line up and “jump queues” and pay and negotiate to drag ourselves and families and children faraway from homelands that are slowly being ravaged, or that were once so violently raped they remain in disrepair. The spoils are sold back to us by the very countries we now seek protection within; this in itself a delayed act of refuge; a sickly, transnational Stockholm Syndrome. Such genius then, to shower us with comfort, sedate us with economic insulation, assure our loyalties with privilege, and as a last test of allegiance, swear us to believe whatever we are told: cross our hearts and hope to die.


I used to pretend to be a social justice activist. I didn’t know I was pretending, but I was. I am not brave enough, passionate enough, selfless enough, faithful enough, to really put my life on the line. I have blinked away hundreds of injustices and gone on with my life of excellent coffee and food and friends and unbelievable privilege. When it gets too much I am empowered to turn the feed off and withdraw. And it’s not because I don’t care: it’s because I am sedate with comfort and assumed powerlessness. This, if anything, is Australia’s disease.


Later I am having a drink with a fellow documenting straggler at the protest. We both sense the mounting tension and decide to leave before we are forced. He has a camera and a gorgeous Japanese Akita named Aki. He was around for the anti-apartheid protests of the ’80s.
“What did you do?” I ask him.
“We fought.” he says. “We wore helmets and we organised and we fought. You can’t do it if you can’t get people on the street.”
We both look up at the people celebrating at the Greek festival being held in Federation Square – all of whom have no idea of the protest happening a few hundred metres from them. A newly married couple, glistening in their finery, walk through the square with their photographer.
“I don’t think anybody knows that there is anything to fight”. I sip my drink.
“They’re too comfortable. This country has had too many decades of uninterrupted wealth.” he says emphatically. ” The GFC happens and we roll right through and everyone thinks its going to be fine forever.”


Neoliberalism says otherwise. Climate change says otherwise. Populist politics says otherwise. History says otherwise. And any time we do our own research, it says otherwise. But we don’t raise a fuss. We don’t panic. We just carry on. She’ll be right. She always is (right?).


No one can force you to protest. You have to want it yourself. And you have to want it because you want to know for yourself whether there is any sense to what we call a society. Whether we are all pretending that this works, or if it actually does. And if it doesn’t, then what? You have to want the answer to that question, not because you’re morally superior, but because you are flesh, and blood and life and your purpose here is to live. And if we are all pretending that this works when it doesn’t, then we need to acknowledge that wilful blindness – even if it is the only coping mechanism we know. We have to acknowledge the reality of how we are governed, and that we consent to it when we are silent. As it stands in this country, 2 + 2 = 5, and one day we might turn around and not see anything wrong with that.


I don’t think I have been reformed as an activist. I think, rather, that this small and tame display of what happens when people confront the State machinery, considered against the factual history of this country and its current politics, has put a tangible sense of reality in me. One so sharp that the cushiony goodness of my privilege can’t seem to suppress it.

As I said, no one can force you to protest. But it’s important to know that no matter the petitions that are signed, the phone calls to Ministers made, the long rants on social media, the shares and the cares, change is articulated when actions occur in real time. Possibly when 10,000 or 100,000 people organise effectively and sit on a street refusing to budge until those who govern us exchange ideas with us meaningfully. Until such acts occur, the sentiments we express remain theoretical. For a generation consumed by media and wracked with increasing levels of anxiety, the notion of reality becomes fluid and illusory. It is perhaps because of this that actualisation – of what you claim to believe, of the values you think you uphold, of the humanity you feel in yourself – is where our greatest salvation lies.

At least this is what I think. What about you?



Artist Against Abuse protest at NGV

MOKITA – a secular grieving ritual.


A durational performance, a ritual, and an invitation, MOKITA is mourning in motion. Exploring grief, and the complex emotions arising from, but not limited to, environmental collapse, Mokita is a participatory, immersive and meditative experience where attendees are invited to submit their grieving to the space and to share in the catharsis

A Kilivila word from Papua New Guinea, meaning ‘the truth we all know, and have agreed not to talk about,’ MOKITA is a performance work that seeks to create a space dedicated to grieving, and asks how we maintain our humanity amongst a time of rapid destruction and change.

Performed by Luna Mrozik-Gawler, Nithya Iyer and Devika Bilimoria, accompanied by sound art by Amy Hanley, and supported by Nardine Keriakous,
MOKITA considers the global, environmental and personal grief arising from the  urgent and distressing circumstances that we are surrounded by everyday.

It considers the absence of contemporary, secular spaces to confront difficult emotions such as melancholy, rage or grief.

As Facebook-feeds flood with images of war-ravaged communities, beached whales, nuclear spills, screaming cattle, burning forests and rising waters, how are we to acknowledge this collective emotional trauma? Where are we to put this grief?

MOKITA aims to create a secular contemporary ritual space that answers this need.

 It exists as a salve for those unable to process or release their own sense of grief; whether it arises from situations commonly associated with mourning, such as a death, or is a result of any kind of change, or ongoing anxiety.

On the day of this seven hour ritual, participants are invited to confidentially offer their grief into the performance space to be carried through a meditative performative process.

The grief will be individually placed in native seed mottled clay by  participants, and at the conclusion of the ritual, will be planted in the soil surrounding Birdlands Reserve in Belgrave Heights.

In this way our grief, individual or collective, small or insurmountable, will be offered back to land as a contribution towards ongoing revegetation of the site.

Iterative processes of fracture – A consideration.

[Suggested listening while reading this piece: A Winged Victory for the Sullen, start at 39 mins 1 second]


Iterative processes of fracture; is walking, is speaking, is contemplation.
Split pre-birth in a chromosome chain, split post-birth from the mother, split post-adolescence from maternal ideologies, split at teenhood from innocence, split at adulthood from false conceptions of humanity. And, into the jungle.
‘Why is he crying’ I asked the nurse.
‘Oh this is just the cry for the woe of being born. For the pain of existing’.
He cries and fresh-born voices from across the corridor rise in empathic accord, eerie in mutual mourning.

Iterative processes of fracture; is reading, is introducing, is paraphrasing.
Words stored in archival sensibilities of what was once said, or where ideas wounded us most in their manifestations. Sentences bound for incision, for ego-fed triumph, to oust arguments, to win debates, to regain validation in some internal sense of intellect. The point divides and becomes conquered, by the semblance of the point, by the imagined medallions of ownership of intellect and taming an idea with parameters of masquerading reason. We forget the power of words and make idols of those who conduct them.


Is ideas shattered by truisms.
Is faith fallen to logic.
Is swells of paradigmatic navigations overwhelming minds seeking directions.
Is learned ideologies innately unable to absorb foundation-shifting informations.
Is identity’s fickle flirtation between erudition and foolery.
Is salvation from immoveable places before.
Is asking and seeing.

Iterative processes of fracture; is dressing, is using forks and knives, is first-world education.
Civilised I learn and cut my hair in particular ways. Stop biting your nails, don’t hunch and don’t forget to say please. Thank you. What is your mother-tongue? You speak so well. Where do you come from? Whereabouts do you live? Do you go back often? Oh, you weren’t born there. New rights and agencies learned turn against ancestries and the seeds split once more, and the tree breaks or bends into a sorrowful display of itself. Biodiversity supports some foreign flora. Fauna may mutate, or upset the equilibrium of the surrounding ecosystem. Homelands dig holes for other imports now prized.
You would think I was a wealthy white woman,
Afraid of the natives upon my travels.
But no,
I am simply self-loathing,
And have spent too much time judged/ judging (myself)
For all the Motherland I am not
And have spent too much time groomed to carry myself as if,
I know better and am generally
If I see myself as they do
(I imagine)
I hate myself.
Because I became one of Them formerly the Other.

Iterative processes of fracture; is the ecological body completing itself in relation to the dysfunction of megacities. The body, as a system, is a circuitry aiming to complete itself in relation to its environment*. My body, our bodies massing en heave in cityscapes and linear time parameters of working life, adapt to the city as an organism. My circuitry seeks relation to the pipes and clutter, to the punctuality and incivility, to the noise and the smell and the sound and the effuse. My circuitry breaks down and I wonder about how much nails hurt when they are bitten passed their whites.

[Sitting down for long periods of time shortens our lives].

Iterative processes of fracture; is the inability to satiate purpose in ones actions.
Dynamics of productivity and capitalism rendering uselessness upon lack of money-earning identity. What do you do? How do you contribute to society? What are you? Indecision breeds identity parenthesis. Useless ascetics wander in the margins seeking contracts and consultations and adjusting hairs and eyes in mirrors, seeking reconciliation to the former useful self. Where to for purpose? Jungian archetypes are now marred in Temazepam and double-shot happy hours or deep fried to quench mineral deficiency. The Madonna is busy right now, she’ll call you back. But never fear, purposes are a dime a dozen. See embossed business cards for future options. In the mean time: try to raise your child-contribute to your community-be good to your parents-pay your taxes-don’t live off welfare-be safe-be healthy-buy a house-stay connected-do your best-prepare for ageing.

Iterative processes of fracture; is when God is with you and then isn’t.
You go to sleep. You wake. You end. You begin again.
You fracture.
You scar.
You thicken.
You die.

Iterative processes of fracture:
You live

* Theory articulated by David Abrams.

this much i retain.

this much I retain

a smugness of tongue
pores augmented to
particular frictions

of phrase
resonant taut

frenulum linguae:
my fine flesh spine
rooted bottom-mouth, is

finessed in tricks of
banana-fruit custom.

Unearthed twice,
seeds of heritage soil

were vacuum-packed and
to ensure ease
of naturalisation.

Despite the sojourn through
the Singlish ‘lah’
ruby saplings
harvested from my mouth
carry globules of

Dravidian authenticity.

Thamizh ponn

the hard edge of the ‘L’
should subsume into
curl instinctive
against the palate like
beetle-nut leaves or

Hubba Bubba.

The double-N

‘girl’ sounds softly

but deep

like the goodness of
it is imbibed
with assurance.

I enunciate
with perfection
as though
sweaty backs are
being slapped
concrete verandas
cooling and
good young girls
combing afternoon oils
into auspicious brows.

(You speak so well)

I wax naïve,
oblivious to the
philosophical peaks
and credos
contemplative in
the insinuations
of a language
born of sages

now kept
in store-bought pots

beneath the mantle,
contained for private adoring,
my sea-locked tone
is strung fraught
in tight swallows

it remains thus,

rooted-bottom mouth
and disguised
in tricks, of
resonant taut
frenulum linguae
the fine flesh spine

this much I retain

Originally published by Peril magazine as part of the 2017 Queensland Poetry Festival edition, ‘I Can’t Speak To You’

Mumbai musing.

Fairy lights on Bombay nights.
Darkness lit to hide that which lurks in the inbetweens, beneath the seams,
Where black cats ride with heads slung low,
Tails cut to stumps by the sharp edges of a town known by a sum of its parts,
In a country known to none.
I am one.
Amid the dust and drain which soaks and stains white linens in pale hues,
That dries and tires skins,
Shone bright from time to time by laneway fires,
Burning rubbish in the gutters,
Catching fallen tree leaves that escape the nets,
So that their bodies too die, in the ash and smoke,
Turning to fine residues that stick thin,
On faces and arms and upturned brows,
Lest they look below,
And see what lies beneath,
In the darkness,
Between the strings of twinkled light,
Strung slack between the faces of this Bombay night.

Absolute planes.

Find me something absolute,
Find me something with solid edges and clear planes.
Show me, if you can,
Something that fits in measure glasses,
Or compacts into mortar, and holds whole bricks up to cast shadows against light.
Find me this, solid and whole.
But find it for me most,

Immovable. Irrefutable. Untaintably,
real. So sure of its existence,
So certain of it’s truth that I can rest my elbow upon it,
In yards, or metres or milli-inches, that I too,
Can show myself against it,
Can realize these bones I hear,
And know myself,
Immovable. Irrefutable. Untaintably
An absolution.

Let me not linger in the maybe,
Of the fate of existing.
Forgive me from hovering in the atomic questions of faith and being.
Save me from the limbo of disappearing when I close my eyes.
From being unsure,
If I am yours,
If I am here and real at all,
If I can be held as one and a mass beyond illusion and dream.
If I have surface and width and planes that exist,

As absolute.
As salvation from becoming, and going,
And alls and nothings.
I ask you,
Make me whole.
Show me just one thing.
And let me weigh myself upon it.
So I can cease from this maybe of being.
And know once and for all.
If I am here.
If I really exist.