santa fe/new mexico
Back in Spring, 2017, on the campus at the Indian Institute of Jouranlism and New Media, I sun-salute on a soiled yoga mat on the gravelly basketball court to the hot orange fireball that comes up on the horizon beyond the fringe of unmowed jungle beyond the pump truck which generator ran all day and all night to reach the water table which in Karnataka has almost run dry. The ladies in their saris come up through the fields by the watermelon vendor and feral barking dogs to clean the two-room cement block house I live in, the bedroom curtains printed with brown and beige flowers and the scratchy sheets printed in a riot of red and orange and pink blossoms, the pillow with a triangular burnt iron mark on the right edge and two windows that don’t open onto the pock-marked pot-holed asphalt road where brown-skinned boys on motorcyles speed by and cement lorries pass at night, the rumble ten feet from my bed, headlights shining through the closed drapes as hot as twin suns in that sweltering space.
When Lakshmi comes, I lock the double clothes cabinet–as advised by the Vice Rector of the Institute–where I keep my passport and wads of rupees and a stashed bottle of Jack Daniels. Off the bedroom, a bathroom’s cracked toilet and a cold water spigot over a blue bucket and a plastic cup hung by the handle to wash with after each pee and poop. In the kitchen a microwave but no electricity, a cold water sink, a baby frigo where I put wilted greens bought from the ladies sitting on tarps in the open market at the turnoff to Kengeri Hobli. In the tiny front room, I sit on a grey polyester upholstered box loveseat and look out to a trash-littered lot where three sheep tethered to ropes graze almost and women crouch in the heavy green undergrowth, public defection the number one issue in the local Hindi language newspaper every Institute worker reads crosslegged on the dry grass. After four months of curriculum development, I launch the e4journalism project and escape in a pick-up truck to recover at Susheel’s farm.
More than a year later, in Santa Fe, I clean off the souvenir shelves in my guest room and this morning plant in the dirt by the roots of the plum trees in my walled garden the tiny carved Ganesh I’d bought at Keshava Temple. I put the Japanese fan and Senegalese talking balls and Mongolian ivory babies away in a drawer to make room for my SmashBooks: thirty years of dreams and shamanic journeys, new moon wishes and lists of affirmations collected in found coffee table books, half the pages ripped out so the maps and poems and photographs fit without breaking the bindings. These personal archives are now standing vertically on the shelf, each wrapped in block-printed Thai paper and labeled with the years like l989 Dakar; 1990-1993 Tokyo; 2014 South Africa; 2017 Karnataka. As soon as I can comfortably sit on the hand-knotted silk Persian silk rug with my temporary hip supported, I’m going to stack them around me on the floor, search between those covers to find out just who exactly I thought I was those years, excavate whole chunks of text and riffle through photos, an archeologist sifting through the years, looking for artifacts, found in layers to share digital space in upcoming work.