Vagamon, Kerala, India

Vagamon, Kerala, India


I recorded a version of this essay while riding a bike to and from yoga in a village two hours outside Kochi. A few days later, I arrived at a residency retreat in the mountains of Vagamon, where the owner encouraged me to use the space as a canvas.

The decision to paint this meant ceding control of my intended meaning of words, space, color. In this process of sharing, something is always (or often) lost, and hopefully gained.
About four lines in, I recorded a memo asking: "Painting or writing?"

This was largely inspired by several pieces at the Kochi-Muziris BiennaleTechnically, the process took about 12 hours, including writing; however, it's more accurate to say that each aspect is a sort of culmination of this journey.

Many thanks to Palette People for making this possible & Massolit Books in Kraków, Poland for the invitation to give a talk titled Biennale Immersion: Experiencing Art in India.

Sister I. nodded at me as I walked into her yoga class late.
The 7.5 mile bike ride was more uphill than expected and it was 90 something
          degrees on the way.
The sun rose; the honking symphony hadn't begun; traffic was uneventful, save
          for an elephant that zoomed by in the opposite direction.
Seventeen faces stared at me.
This is not on the script.
The ride home was hot, hotter, denser were the honks, the yelling, the stares.
With each moment, each interaction, each engagement, I had a choice:
Open or closed. Open or closed.
Closed, a "them" statement; open, a question, a sort of mirror.
My way is one way.
A place where "Why do these people do this?" is "Why do I do that?"
Open or closed. Open or closed.
A constant negotiation.
I wave back at young boys wearing white kufi.
I wonder how locals in my homeland would greet them.
My wise younger sister once said that being a good person isn't a place you get
          to, it's a choice you make every moment.
It is as simple as a glance.
Am I converting the matter that cannot be created or destroyed inside myself to
          love or hate? 
That transmission of energy vibrates through the air and is inherited, like peace,
          or secondary trauma.
If ... knew what this felt like, war could not exist.
The ability to move through space and time and minds, having—if only for a
          moment—the ability to be inside someone else's skull, makes you a
         traveler, not someone who travels, unrelated to tourism.
I chanted om shanti shanti shanti with my yoga teacher, in her habit.
Off script.
Even beside a heap of burning trash, it's a breath of fresh air.

-DB, 2017