|Vemali, Baroda, India
You awoke out of the bad dream of unending ghetto blasting beyond a level that you could not explain or do anything about. It was a kind of attack almost every day and night for eight months. Your rage knew no bounds. You could not understand the benefit of it in this foreign culture where noise is glorified. The ceaseless firecrackers sounded like guns. The ear-splitting music ruined days and nights. Work was put on hold. No one cared about the health dangers nor the torment. This is not your country. This is not your apartment. No one thought to tell you that this would be the case here in disco India.
The return home was unlike any other. The jet lag dragged on. Your mind remained confused and fuzzy. The tension would not drop. You were out of shape since the heat, dust, lack of sidewalks and destinations prevented activity in a physical sense. That is not an issue now and with every step in the cool summer air, profuse with greenness, you realize the weakness of muscles. You feel you have aged prematurely. You feel old. The trauma of the mother’s passing becomes evident. The torment of your residence with her exacerbated by this time battling a daily assault on the senses. Post-traumatic issues burned into the mind, the body, the spirit.
You proceeded with work, with reading, with research. You could not use power tools on metal sculptures for fear of injury. The mind was so rattled, the nerves so spent, concentration difficult. You began to paint with gouache on the many gatherings of handmade paper that you treated with Damar varnish for translucency. The texture of the paper merged with the texture of the gesso, accommodated by the medium. All emotion transmitted through the method. Your international audience online responded profusely. You would not have survived without social media and pharmacological assistance. A dry state ruled out cocktail hour, but you thrived anyway. The language and cultural barriers prevented interaction as did your own proclivities. The power in those moments of creation every morning, though, gave you the strength to stand it all.
You think of the revered Rothko who came to the day when the black swallowed the red. He ended his life so drastically, so messily, so violently. You have not reached as deep into the paint, into the canvas, into the beyond. You appreciate his torment. Work of such encompassing beauty. Is it dangerous? You do not know. Additionally, you appreciate torture victims. During the moments of the torture, you strive to get past it. It is only until later that the true cost is realized.
You connect with things that are important because of this. The experience loses it pointlessness and becomes useful. In this life, there are many who wonder, why me? Why am I in this boat crossing the Atlantic looking for sanctuary? Why am I ripped apart by bullets as the world ignores my country’s violence? Why was my son killed in front of our home by a police or thug’s bullet? Why? Why?
There is no reason but that the world goes on and you may be caught in its crosshairs. The only solution is to find the worth in what life has handed you since there is always someone who has it far worse. You have not been sex trafficked. You are not under daily fire from mortar. You are not starving. You survive and succeed. That is a gift. Make the most of it. Yes. Make the most.