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Haunting: A Desk
And an invitation
Today marks the 282nd day I’ve been in London. Next month, for a brief period, I’ll be returning home, to Bombay. I use that word home more out of habit than actually using it to name where I’m headed. Is home here in London, in the life I’ve built? Or is home back in India, where I lived much of my 30 odd years?
But where do we live? Where do I feel most alive? Usually, it’s at a writing desk. The desk means a lot to me: it’s my oasis when life gets difficult, it’s my centre when I feel lost at sea, it’s my island I send you these missives from. I’ve inhabited various writing desks, over the years. Some, without knowing. Like the desk in the corner at the very end of the fourth floor at the Birkbeck Library, the only one with a black adjustable office chair. Or the first desk my father built for me at home in Malad, the first room of my own, with a study table — a desk for all intents and purposes — with a side wall where I stuck all the stickers I owned and a magazine clipping of the first X-men movie because it had the words Blue Bewbs in it — and I’d chuckle every time I read it and no one knew. Or the desk I use here, in London — it’s a wooden plank, held by a mechanism that lets it dissolve out of view and fade into the facade of the white walls. It’s an ingenious mechanism, but it also has a way of saying it isn’t permanent. My partner says she can’t use that desk because there is too much me in there. I argue, there isn’t, but there is. I’m writing this to you from that very desk.
On the right extreme edge sits my Samsung wireless charger, which cradles my phone, keeping it charged. Beside it is my HomePod Mini that is my access to all things Siri and music — I’m listening to a Lo-Fi radio station on Apple Music as these words form. Lo-fi has been excellent in helping me tune out the world. Next to it is a blank space that is usually occupied by old grocery receipts and two tiny notebooks, one where I collect names and the other where I collect nib and ink combinations. Beside it sits my pen stand (which is actually a cheap plastic makeup pencil/brush holder I found on amazon) which holds one fountain pen, one Cross pencil I stole from my father and sometimes my Apple Pencil if it’s not connected to my iPad. These things have found a permanent home — a part of me that lives here consistently.
The desk itself also holds my iPad stand, my wireless keyboard and trackpad and if I’m working there, my iPad too. Also my notebooks — writing by hand sounds poetic, but the number of notebooks you end up filling, dirtying, and have to lug as you move homes is tremendous. Stacked up on the notebooks are various books, research that I am currently reading.
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This entire desk mirrors my old desk, the desk I have at home in Bombay, a replica in miniature. It’s almost like it’s travelled with me here. I wonder, if a part of me leaves himself behind at these desks or the desks leave a part of themselves that I carry around wherever I go?
I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared to return. Especially to my old desk. Will I slip into that old skin and still write like I do now? I worry about retreating into who I was once. I’m no longer that person and what if this new me is only a mirage, a reflection of who I’d like to be, one that can be shattered when the old me still lurking in the old places resurges?
Between the worry and the fear, I’m also curious to meet him, the guy who lives at that desk. He and I, we have a lot to catch up.
Maybe I’ll sneak you into some of the conversation next month.
Keep your skins moisturised,
PS: An Invitation
I’m not afraid of everything that I’ve left behind — somethings I miss. One of them is organising retreats and shows. While I do not have the bandwidth to organise anything officially in the brief period I will be in India, I am going for a solo writing retreat to Alekhya — my favourite place in the world. My dates are 11-17 August 2023. If you want to join in, let me know. This is not an official retreat, it’s just me, writing away in an apple orchard on top of a mountain. If you consider that fun, join in. We’ll write and spend most of the day talking words, sentences, and filling all the blank spaces between them.
I’m serious. If you are keen, reach out to me via email (reply to this) or Instagram.
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