by Arunima Singh Jamwal
Audio read by author
“flow like a forest of kelp
through cycles of time
with faith in your ancestor’s bones
roar more; unleash your full force!”
I, of the Storm.
Change is a force / kills false impressions / dances tandav on graves. Invites us folly to surrender to the wild indeterminacy of her powers. When you’ve received a colonialized education, you’re used to finding comfort in knowing enough. If our world were to flood, they would have us think that to survive means to be prepared enough, to possess enough, have enough / control over these ecosystems of death. Let us take flight from this. Let us ask instead, how will change possess us?
to grieve with courage.
I was living by the waters of Pacific Island Aotearoa. Certainly secure that we were on solid ground. The security of material and economic privilege is so strange / you become a frog comfortable in increasingly warm water / Did you know that powerlessness is taught and learned? When womxn bodies sense a threat, we can freeze dead in our tracks: we are nervous systems. This is not a system failure: preventing the leaking of energy / this is how we persist.
How have we arrived? You and I are millennia old. 202 years ago, the white man took on the burden of civilizing our families, our elders, our babies. Now, our survival has come to depend upon systems of learning created for earning, instead of learning to learn. We’ve been told that if we cannot / stop “producing,” we will perish. So we have become the best race at designing new technologies, efficiently utilizing our minds to labor for capital and accumulation. But Beloved, our liberation, foreign to these foreigners, lives beyond the patri-colonial designs of modernity.
Our Poorvaj have learned by // travelling // wailing.
When colonial certainties collapse, the ruins of this structure expose the rotting, necessary. Modern citizens put a lot of faith in the four walls of concrete buildings. Our territories will protect us from the danger of / that which is / stranger. This is a false and comforting impression.
A few minutes after I say “they wouldn’t risk sending us home,” our leaders announce that we have four days to leave the island country. While Aotearoa is one of the safest places in the world right now (and to come, as we shall see) College authorities do not know how this crisis will unfold. Borders are rapidly closing now. We used to have “countries” back then and “going home” from abroad meant usually crossing borders. Everyone else in my group called “the United States” / the name colonists gave Turtle Island / home. Lesson I: Corona has little trouble flowing through bodies. Our group is atop a blue ice glacier when our program gets shut down.
The rush of our departure from Aoraki Glacier slows me down: this inertia will soon haunt me, too. A few hours.. or days.. pass as if a strange dream. A few of the Americans in our group have prepared to leave as soon as we get word. Of course, they are nothing if not efficient. Whereas, swimming in ambivalence and strong attachments, I am currently unaware of how fierce high tides are. After a 10 hour bus-ride to the nearest airport, 6 hours on the airport floor, and 2 hours in a propeller plane journeying to the capital, we arrive in some hostel. Sharing bunk beds / I am once again in inanimacy and strangely unpleasurable intimacy with these strange white cyborgs
and their deadening / claims to occupation of space.
Audio read by author
What lies beyond conquest
Where do we go from here? The Government of India has barred all passenger planes. Chaotic change is here and I have no safehouse to retreat to. Aotearoa is fast approaching national lockdown. I call the embassy and a disembodied voice indifferently says, “ask your university to arrange accommodation until further notice. We have no information from the government at this time.” They managed to say, “we couldn’t care enough to get you home.” without uttering one word. Keep working. Our International Scholars office buys me a 36-hour flight departing.. tomorrow. I look up the airline to confirm flight details. As of yesterday, the airline is bankrupt. This flight was to refuel in Australia; the country is not allowing any travellers to leave or transit through its gates. Maa and I decide to try an Air India ticket. I should’ve booked these quicker. There’s one flight going to Mumbai! And just as I try to click buy, she’s gone. Faster than I am.
Chaos is holding my hand now. Inviting me to cultivate a relationship with change and her ruthless grace. Aims for my belly button / rams her horns into gut / piercing pain / I’ll wait / I want to go home and home is family.. South Asia / A pool of my blood is collecting. Still, beside myself / managing this unfolding / I’ll prepare to wait it out until they allow flights to run? Yes.. what else could I..? / Oh god.. My insides are cracking open. It hurts to keep fighting for control.
We remain very ill equipped for the reality of change.
Focus. try to / see clearly. This crisis is as much about a crisis as it is about continuing to dwell in colonial imaginations of crises. It is time to exorcise this all-consuming exercise for control.
Beware. Be less certain that you will always have the walls of your home to protect and serve. Seas of people among us who had homes yesterday are turned into refugees today, held by strange lines / limits borne of men’s imaginaries / What shields from the indeterminacy of chaos? What you deem / hoarded / yours, may become a burden, you stand to lose when change comes.
Security will mean bodies in / us / in / voluntary cages. To control is to possess security only until wild times rage. When walls built for protection turn to asphyxiate us, revolts will come.
“the natural order is disorder.”
﹣ Zaheer, Book Three: Change
Episode 10. Long Live the Queen. The Legend of Korra.
Change takes off. Her pauses do not allow time for the kind of painstakingly deliberated replies, which it is our colonial gift to provide, in the interest of stability / “in control” / pretenses of remaining unaffected, unchanged by her departure. How will we stay alive? The floodgates open.
Audio read by author
care flow tend
My entire being shakes. Finally. Let go. Relief arrives when you stop trying / struggling to float. I invite hands to hold me as grief flows. I am honest about the uncertainty of my situation with conspirators / a comforting outpouring of messages / con-spirare, to breathe together with. Multiple offers to stay in houses. A kindred settler spirit says, “do not worry, dear. If you choose to return to Turtle Island, you will be cared for.” We are all in the business of caring, tending to.
So what if this body becomes the first terrain to call my home? There is security in their, too, in the sense that dimming, darkness, forces of death are supreme / they render bare all uncertainty.
The Black officer at LAX’s Immigration, Border Patrol and Customs entrypoint has a beautiful smile. I tell him so. He blushes, and we are both pools. Soon after I arrive, I begin training. In the arts of undoing / preparing to receive death / the chaos that has only just begun. There is no planet-saving, no more civilizing conquests here. My queer water-body is an ancestral reverend / learning to harness the limitless imaginaries that our poorvaj’s prayers breathed into us. Learning melanin-richness, she holds / this infinite pluriverse / matters of love / dying matters / with grace and agility. As changes reap a late spring harvest of death, we dance wild with grief. We must. Care for those patriarchal, colonial, capital’s designs do not consider: all beings, more or less.
we survive, through intimacy with force: chaos, we thrive in. with care: we prepare for chaos.
Our bodies transform. We are sacred forms. our desires are ascetic; we exorcise domination
and relinquish his narratives of control. We are sacred seeds.
And we take root among the stars, Beloved.
Audio version of biography
Arunima Singh Jamwal (Pronouns: All interchangeably, 21) In Sanskrit, Arunima means the first ray of sunlight and red glow of dawn. Arunima draws creative strength from their Sikh, Scythian, and Suryavanshi ancestral lineages and Queer kinships. As an animist and affective anthropologist, Arunima writes to unveil hidden presents and liberating possibilities. Arunima works to bring healing and balance to bodies, cultures, and communities suffering from colonial-capitalism, intergenerational traumas, and cycles of violence. A’s favorite spiral is the Māori koru that always brings us back to our point of origin and calm harmony.
Presently a settler-immigrant on the Cowlitz’s lands in Portland OR, Arunima loves listening to plants and podcasts. When not writing, trail-running, or coordinating community-based Climate Justice initiatives for Lewis & Clark College’s Sustainability Council, Arunima can be found immersed in a melanated feminist book, reading about healing justice circles, or curating The Gurh Life at Instagram.