our inside/outside selves
28 October, 2018
Friday wasn’t remarkable by any stretch of the imagination, but I guess the thing that started me thinking on this particular convoluted track, was that Maushmi and I randomly found a vacuum cleaner as we were walking from our dance class. It was surprisingly peculiar seeing a home appliance sitting alone in a public space, and then how we had an exchange that usually happens in the privacy of our kitchen. It made me reflect on the idea of intimacy, how we display different parts of ourselves in different contexts, and I thought about how we are constantly negotiating different levels of comfort and trust.
So anyway, there we were on the street, trying to find a consensus between us and make a decision. We both were enthusiastic about the fact that, unlike our current one, this vacuum was bagless and it appeared to be relatively new. Given how much mess and how many crumbs I generate in a day, it’s safe to say that I truly love and appreciate all cleaning inventions. Maushmi is probably one of the few people, who has seen how my eyes widen with excitement when there’s an ad for the latest vacuum on TV. However, we were on our way to a protest in Redfern [aptly about the inaccessibility of our transport system] and the logistics of getting it home were tricky.
I can’t remember if it was before or after we found ourselves dragging the vacuum up the street, when I somehow was talking about the philosopher, Hannah Arendt and her ideas around social resistance. (I have become the cliché I always joked I could be: a white, university-educated person, now sporting a manbun, spouting some philosophy they only half understand). Arendt believes action only becomes meaningful and powerful when it’s visible and public, and generates a collective identity, without that, any protest is ineffective, This is deeply problematic for the Disabled, who find it hard to leave their houses. In a structural - cultural sense, I can understand how one can see some truth in this, but the internet has made the separation between public and private spheres practically non-existent. In a very personal sense, I strongly disagree, as I have said countless times before, I believe everything we do, and everything we are, impacts everything else, that the way we live matters.
The way we live and relate is the foundation of any protest. After dancing, I was quick to express my frustration at the assistant facilitator’s overemphasised eagerness and the wide eyed way she smiled at me. I did my best to work with it and let her know I wasn’t deaf, because from the way she was talking, I thought she might have assumed I was. It gets tiring, always having to reassure myself of my own worth and capability, and that I am a whole human, not some 2-D cute little disabled girl, who should be praised for breathing and not being blown over. This is a form of social resistance, my political protest, to be comfortable, find my pride and pleasure in my little good body.
“Us abled-bodied people are very easily impressed,” Maushmi half-joked, in attempt to make me laugh about this boring frustration, and proceeded to dance at me while we were walking down the street. She called herself a weirdo and wondered why I chose to live with her. “Because I am also a weirdo..”, I answered her like she wasn’t aware. She laughed “It’s funny… I think the more people get to know you, you seem more and more normal, like I have begun to question who’s more weird”. That’s a solid observation from someone who I spend 90% of my time with.
I don’t think I am, or never claim to be, extraordinarily weird, cool or alternative. I am ridiculously boring and straightforward, I may appear confident, edgy and interesting (or cute and young) at first glance, but I am not, well maybe I am. Who can measure these things? One of the sentiments of riling against identity discrimination is that “the personal is political”, and I find my strength and protest in those who I love and who love me, who I share my life with . In those who will occasionally humour me and haul a vacuum because I think it’s probably worth it, and then feel awkward but still stand beside me while I ask a barista if we can test said vacuum in the café. But maybe most significantly, in the people who will not hesitate to hold a microphone and be my audible voice at a moment’s notice in a crowd. Not because they pity me or want to do a charitable deed, but because they respect my voice as equal and want to hear what I have to say. They believe that I should be able to rant about how fucked it is that only 65% of our public transport is physically accessible.
For me, it’s often what motivates me to get out of bed in the morning, despite feeling like I have no energy to do anything that is meaningful. I remind myself that whatever I do in the day, however I need to do it, is significant and is resisting something, even if all I’m resisting is my own mind and my seemingly magnetic pull towards despair and being horizontal. There’s a tonne of people who don’t measure my worth by my productivity or my ability to reply to texts and emails, and they aren’t deterred by my grumpy inarticulate self. I also try hard to love people without expectations or prerequisites, and will always show up if they are in trouble. So know I am a person who won’t fret or flinch if you need someone to cry with, to rant to ( or to look even more wonderfully crippled for us, as I carry a vacuum cleaner single handedly on a train and then a bus, because you are hungry and want to go to the library). Seriously, message me, I am here and there’s no need to be on your own, especially if you are going through shit alone.