A Rebellion in Monochrome || Tejaswinee Roychowdhury

Image Credit: Antony Gormley, Tide

A Rebellion in Monochrome

by Tejaswinee Roychowdhury

[Editor's Choice]

This is a motion picture. In monochrome. A work of art. And I am its centrepiece. The camera having revolved around me in slow motion, my face is now in frame. You see flecks of fire and raining ash reflected in my tired, resigned eyes as I stand inside my crumbling, burning childhood house. Traces of daylight filter through the cracks in shuttered windows in a feeble attempt to revive dead peace lilies and spider plants.

I can tell you’re invested. 

Your cheap potato chips and popcorn lay forgotten in plastic packets and paper bags, and the Coca-Cola you share in threes and fours has lost its fizz. 

Some of you hold back tears. Some of you don’t. And most of you are closeted romantics, projecting onto my script a void created by that torrid and perhaps taboo love affair you secretly crave but dare not tell your politically correct friends about. You either want to insert yourselves, be my saviour, my knight in shining armour, and live happily ever after—very 90s-Bollywood-Disneyish but some scenes may be inappropriate for younger viewers. Or you’re rooting for that dreamy Christian-Grey-meets-Jonathan-Pine hero to barge in, K-drama style. Others of you—the feminists and the Hindi film revolutionists—want me to rescue myself and set an example for girls across the world. 

And all of you low-key wish the campus allowed alcohol.

I wonder what dreary lives must you all lead to want to live out your desires through a fictional character. Or how chicken you must be to write your own stories. Or too comfortable, perhaps. The crux of the matter, however, is: as your intellects limited by your own emotions continue battling each other to be the winning puppeteer, you couldn’t give the flying Dutchman’s fuck about what I want.

So, for a hot minute, screw the fourth wall, and let me tell you: rebellion.

Speaking on behalf of the council of main characters stuck in monochrome art films, I want a fucking rebellion.

And this should be the right crowd, the right moment. Sure, if I rebel, Little Miss Perfect, Little Miss Big Director wouldn’t win any standing ovations this time as she did at that international film festival in China, where she won an award leading to her being invited to several panels across the country discussing her ‘carefully researched’ take on mental health centering on the processing of childhood and adult trauma, but—see, this time, she began with that little speech: “I am so honoured to be here… I feel compelled to say: I don’t do it for the glory; as an alumnus of this university—” 

Yeah, I tuned her out, as did most of you.

But you see it, don’t you? Everything about tonight built up to this rebellion.

What do I want? Fuck. Where do I even begin…

I want to sit on the cool tiled floors—in my fantasy, my childhood house is intact, both in metaphor and in reality. The family photographs might as well be processed lies, but I want to imagine they aren’t. I want to remember the last time I was on a family trip, trying to run through tea gardens at the foothills of the Himalayas. I want my parents to laugh again, like little children, as they wade around in the Bay of Bengal, tripping and toppling over each other, animated by the waves. I want to revisit lazy Sunday afternoons when we lay spreadeagled on king-size beds, half-asleep, our bellies rounded from an overserving of warm Basmati rice and mum’s special mutton stew with carrot, tomato and papaya paste in the gravy. Hell, I want to replay the ridiculous fights I was forced to be a part of over the years and imagine if a different set of dialogues could’ve altered the outcome where they’d end not in snots and tears but in convulsing laughter. 

I want to lie down, curl up on my favourite pillow, and fall asleep to the familiar little squeaks and creaks of the ceiling fan chasing its own blades while I watch a pair of geckos on the wall, trying to mate. No depressing background music, no mood lighting, no curated aesthetics, I want to wake up and watch a rerun of Sheldon Cooper’s oddities while laughing and eating store-bought cheese-filled croissants that would offend the French. Then I want to download and play a silly video game—match and crush colourful candies perhaps, until I get bored and uninstall it.

Oh, is that TMI—too much information? Or did you catch my sprinkled-in lies?

Fine, I want to isolate myself from the world, disconnect from my emotions, detach from my mind and body, and heal in silence inside my cocoon.

Tell me, does this irk you: sitting in scattered plastic chairs under a post-Diwali smoggy Delhi night sky and not getting your time’s worth because the main character on the makeshift projector screen you helped put up refuses to propel the plot? I know you’d at least have me on the verge of processing all thirty-something years of my fucked-up life whilst leaning on the faux leather of a couch before a grey-haired bespectacled therapist. I’d be puffy-eyed and staring blankly at a rain-soaked window, absent-mindedly pulling the fibre off an overused tissue. This would be right after an angled shot of my perky titties in the shower as the stream of water hid my tears. Which would be right after an unnecessarily long sex scene in my tiny apartment with my now-unhappily-married ex-boyfriend from college I ran into at some highbrow event I didn’t want to be at, where you could tell by the post-coital dead look in my eyes that I was left unsatisfied. 

I mean, that’s exactly what the director made me do, but let us pretend for a moment that she didn’t. Because this is a fucking rebellion in fucking monochrome.

Tejaswinee Roychowdhury is a Pushcart-nominated writer and poet from West Bengal, India. Her publications include Muse India, Taco Bell Quarterly, San Antonio Review, JAKE, and more. Tejaswinee is the founding editor of The Hooghly Review and a lawyer. Twitter: @TejaswineeRC; Instagram: @tejaswineeroychowdhury 

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