Arth  |  Any


Mumbai, India

Session 5: February 2, 2023

Hitting puberty was hardly biological, quite hormonal, and very political: a cycle of extremities. Seven days of bleeding from down there, with weeks of crying at the periphery. Seconds of discovering the elation of belonging before it collapses, and people frown on your tiny little too-abnormal self in a tiny little abnormal world. Two years ago was a different world, one crisis less, a 14-year-old gendered blob who’d stare blankly into familiar faces because everything was a crisis and underwater, and there was nothing she could do.

Flash forward to now: a 16-year-old genderless blob, awakened in the sense of the ecosociopolitical internet educational course. A nerdy high school student with several jobs and years’ worth of project ideas crammed into months because everything is urgent, and they are an underwater observer to perpetual human rights violations, life leaving bodies, systems crumbling, all on a screen on the internet, and they think it’s real. Because the coastal line is really being encroached on IRL, locally, because journalists and activists are really in jail, because it is a very real prediction that this city and its metaphorical bowl of urbanity will be underwater by 2050. And breakfast doesn’t taste the same.

And now that this 16-year-old blob finally has something to do that is not staring at the fake stars of their bedroom ceiling, they are going to spend their every waking moment working, volunteering. Lone. A singular blob. Because interdependence is an exotic utopia on his tongue, a spice she’s never tasted, and they’ve only grown up on elusive sips of independence, a bull’s eye on a billboard. And so they’ll keep filling forms after forms, trying to help everyone and anywhere where the future needs it, because people are hard to comprehend, because society is hard to comprehend, because people are dying, because this blob needs to reassure her adults that her future trajectory is a viable source of living. Because they need to pay for their undergrads. Because foreign lands may hold the key to a safe space. Because if they work hard enough, the future may still be—there, here. Because if they work hard enough, the thoughts may finally leave their brain, and my search history has “university options” and “climate apocalypse book recommendations” one below the other. Because which artist can deal with student debt? Because which environmentalist can deal with student debt? Because which human can deal with perpetual death?

I distinguish the last syllables of “debt” and “death,” thinking vaguely of the distinct letters of the Dravidian script, even though English is my first language, even though Hindi is my second, even though Konkani is my third, and that each time I try to speak it, my endangered maternal language, the syllables warp on my tongue, drowning in its own curious thirst—a grief that tastes like over-salted commercialized fish grease. I’ve heard that “grief” is a verb. I’ve never felt the loss of a loved one. Yet this, it feels like grief, anger, angst, anxiety, existentialist dissociation. But there’s no space to feel that, not in a busy city, not in Mumbai, where urbanity can look like plastic being banned, only for a plastic bag to float past your butt in a flood—but actually, it might have been a sly hand. Pat. Pat. Pat. Actually, it’s better if it was a plastic bag.

Nature is a heritage of stories I’ve never lived. Urbanity is the only place I’ve lived in as a home. Urbanity is lonely and full, full of opportunities to meet new people who’re just like you. Who’ll still always come to help in times of crisis. Here, something is always on the horizon. Always on the clock. Always on the agenda. Smoke, love, water, unity—each as evasive. I hope whatever it is, it will save us.

Arth, 16, is a social sciences student, multidisciplinary artist/writer, and an intersectional climate justice advocate. They’re also the founder of The Diversity & Inclusive Collective, a community of diverse creatives from South Asia. When they’re not reading or doing any of the above, they’re philosophising to their camera.