• rushi

Ritual A - Cut the Cord - Week 2

Updated: Oct 14

Ritual A –Week 2 –Cut the Cord –18/9/20

Steps for Ritual:

1. Each time I will a. choose a place, in various levels of exposure to others, to perform the ritual, and b. choose an object meant to represent my tie to colonial institutions of control and my complicity with those institutions. I will wear the janoi thread throughout the day from morning onward.

a. Today I return to the opposite end of Whakahekerau, at the rocky ledge of Second Beach

b. Today I choose the Oxford Annotated Bible

2. Once at place, remove shirt so that my torso is only covered by the thread draped across my chest from the left shoulder.

3. Prior to removing thread from my body to tie myself to the object, I chant two verses from the Yoga Vāsistha, the Rsih Vāsistha, according to my mother’s family “gōtra,” being the oldest recorded ancestor on that side. The verses read like this:

Yatah sarvāni bhūtāni pratibhānti sthitāni ca

Yatraivopaśamam yānti tasmai satyātmane namah.

From which all beings shine forth and are sustained, where alone they attain dissolution, to that Truth, I bow.

Aham baddho vimuktahsyām itiyasyāsti niścayah

Nātyantam-ajño no tajjñah so’smin śastré dhikāravān.

I am bound, let me be liberated. I understand I am not totally ignorant, nor do I possess Truth. This one is qualified to study.

4. Remove janoi from body and use to tie part of my body to colonial implement. Bible for today.

5. Recite/read first of two poems chosen for the day’s ritual.

Today, I chose a poem from a song “Ek Maitra Raangadya” by Sheetal Sathe formerly of Kabir Kala Manch, translated by Ashutosh.

6. With a pair of scissors, cut the Janoi (sacrilege) while repeating Bhanu Kapil’s question from The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers “Who is responsible for the suffering of your mother?” five times.

7. After the thread is cut, read the second of the day’s chosen poems.

Today, that is “Mountain Time” by Hinemoana Baker

8. Sit in silence for 10 minutes.

9. Retie the janoi. Write.


Lab Notes:

Sometimes the action does matter more than the actor. It was cold. Today, Tessa and I made a makeshift pizza date before this ritual. When we arrived to the Esplanade, the waves crashed into the seawall, splashes climbing up onto the Esplanade itself. Coupled with the wind, the ocean seemed a portent, an angry body. After pizza, we had a drink, and then she split for a local youth singing competition in which one of her students was competing. After running her student’s music to her, I parked the car back by the Esplanade and walked up the Second Beach walk, called Second Beach as it was the “second” named in the settlement of Dunedin, but in the last few decades it has eroded away. The ocean rising. The sunny day turned to wind and gray with sprinkling rain. The wind whipped and the clouds descended with the sun as I started the ritual. Providing me shelter from other humans other than anyone watching from their glassy house with binoculars on the ledge above. Though sheltered from gazes, the wind and cold hit my bare chest. This was tolerable. My hands and feet would numb, but this, too, was tolerable. I recited Sheetal Sathe’s poem trying to imbue with them the charge that her singing voice carries. I had listened to her song repeatedly earlier in the afternoon. A ten minute song listened 6 times over. And while the translation into English from Marathi doesn’t, I’m sure, carry all its resonances, her voice cast the words in richer hues. And the cold. The chill. And the eerie comfort of feeling alone in public space, feeling the air on my chest, and feeling comfortable among the rocks and gravel and kelp swaying in the rough waves below. The sky darkened. I remained. Until I got too cold.


The ceremony undercut.

A downward punch with cold

hand in the wind cloaked

dusk. I am procrastinating.

(no to be verbs) I procrastinate

to undercut ceremony.

Let chance dictate the place

of the rope’s severing

three threads doubled up in one

thread one rope around the body called

this. Today the waves announce

to the humans how much larger

we’ve made them. Today, no seawall

prevents the uprising against

the Esplanade’s shops and restaurants

and dogwalkers and gawkers.

Let this day be forever

remembered as the day in which

I virtually met Sheetal Sathe

thanks to the internet, gratitude

to Soundcloud in this the age

of venerable corporation. Listen

to her plead “ek maitra raangadya”

Hear this, friend. Listen. For too long

my ancestors did not listen or if

they did, they did not hear.

Listen to the torment of the ocean

that we call our. The calling of the our

is less the issue than the manner

in which communion is summoned.

Yes, sometimes the action does

matter more than the actor. Sometimes

the we must be delayed, allowed

suspension in the ambiguity it is.

If our is called by the spirit of

Possession, this, brahmin I must relinquish.

If our is beckoned by the spirit of

reverence, perhaps it’s worthy of keeping

and keeping, too, betrays well-intention,

for reverence must let go its desire for

fixity, surety in some postponed

reverie—the gulls gradually circling me

making me think as though their deity

waiting for the scraps of my leaving

not realizing I bear no food.

If our is sung in ecstasy, the joy

only borne by a child being invited in

to braid their older sisters’ hair, an

our longing to own into, knowing

the summoned thing to ever-evade

possession—the same gulls leaping to ride

the gusts of wind emerging at 4pm,

not to eye prey, no, plunging back

into the wind to glide amidst

friends agains, yes, knowing the air

to be something whose making

they participte in, but can never

bade whip—the weare talking

The world in which I was first

held and which I’ve help up the way

a roll of pudge holds its upstairs

neighbor, is a world in which few

we’s have ever been of the third

kind. Sheetal Sath, sing to me of the nausea

I’ve imagined, but never felt, sing to me

Until I can no longer hold, but heave.

See my brahmin-ness. It is here, only,

in my asking you to sing. The ocean

beats, and in this lifetime

the beach on which I cut this Brahminical

cord will be gone. Country, dangerous,

ocean, cold. The sea lions

air out fins on the shores

I walk. Gulls sore. They do not

scare us off or try to make us hide

in our villages. Cold as the loam

on which I sit, no creator could

know the song you create, Sheetal,

you sing and I must follow. All these

wors I offer to you, the way

I was taught to gift my labor

to gods.

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© 2018 by Rushi Vyas