We recently met the fabulous and gorgeous writer Rosalyn D’Mello who made her literary debut with A Handbook for my Lover, a contemporary non-fictional work of erotica.
Not only is she is a great storyteller but a much needed voice in the world of Feminists who was found speaking boldly about her work, censorship and gender politics in a conversation with Sharmistha Ray, founder of Bellevue Salons.
Both of them curated an engaging and thoughtful evening on the politics of deconstructing the male gaze in the visual literary, and performative arts – a much needed dialogue in todays’ times.
We made the most of the evening by asking her a few questions that are usually left for a private conversation but deserve a spotlight given its relevance.
Q. Through your book are you advocating the idea of free love and polygamy as the enlightened way of life?
I wouldn’t say I’m advocating any specific way of life so much as asserting my right to not conform to societal prescriptions. I believe that institutions such as marriage must be questioned and not blindly subscribed to. Unfortunately, many members of my generation succumb to familial pressures and surrender their free will. I believe that if anything, self-awareness can lead to enlightenment.
Q. Every form of performance is ephemeral. Yet, the only real presence is that of the body. How important is the body to various representative idioms?
As a woman I cannot separate my self from my body. Everyday I feel the colossal weight of it, its imperfections and misgivings. As I was turning 30, I made a very conscious decision to never, henceforth, as much as was in my power, to let anyone make me feel terrible about my body and how it presented itself. It has been liberating. Now I feel like I revel in all the idiosyncrasies my body presents, whether it is illness or even occasionally shame. I don’t know if I can speak of the significance of the body to representative idioms, but I feel certain of the subversive potential in writing the female body in all its gory and glorious detail, and in doing so, rescue it from patriarchal and misogynist narratives.
Q. In today’s world does only the male gaze needs to be deconstructed? What about the conditioned female gaze that equally objectifies the body?
I suppose that is what I am looking to do through my writing. I want to inhabit my body while simultaneously feeling somewhat detached from it. Also, the male gaze isn’t necessarily specific to the male gender. I once met a beautiful man and I asked him if he felt objectified enough by women. He said no. So I promised I would make up for it, and I have been ever since. And I do so unabashedly, because I love the idea of me as a woman publicly desiring a man for his beauty, without necessarily actually objectifying him in an exploitative or reductive way.
Q. What are your views of the institution of marriage in our country? Are live in’s a better alternative?
I believe that marriage ought to be a choice that two people make. But unfortunately, I sincerely believe that in India, it is not a decision so much as something that’s foisted upon both individuals and couples who may be in love. The live-in arrangement has very little social sanction, and most couples acquiesce because it seems easier to marry and give in to the pressure than to rebel against it.
For me it’s a question of choice. And the choice, irrespective of which way it veers, ought to be respected by society if two consenting adults make it. Sadly, we live in a country where everyone has their noses stuck up in each other’s backsides.
Q. And finally, do you believe in ‘Love conquers all’?
I believe that true love transforms. The idea of investing love with a kind of battle-cry-like motto seems very unrealistic. Love is a quietly messy affair. But between people who experience it as eros, who share a true understanding of each other’s greatest strengths and vulnerabilities, and yet accept the other, it can offer transcendence.