Sentient Beings

By Ranjana Dave
Actant

On March 13, Friday the 13th, I met S for dinner. We hugged. S is the last person I touched. I’m nearing 40 days of being in a sanitised bubble, all by myself. At most times, I like being by myself. I love coming home to an empty house and shutting the door on the world. But now, the thought of being elbowed out of a Virar local at Andheri leaves me wonderstruck, because it seems like an act of such profound intimacy. Some days, I wake up and hug a pillar in my house; I’ve always rolled my eyes at its questionable aesthetic value, but now I am thankful to have something that’s approximately the girth of a human being to hold on to.

When it was confirmed that we’d be working from home for an extended period of time, there were jokes about professors’ cats becoming low-key famous. I teach, but I don’t have a cat, but who says giraffes can’t be low-key famous? On my table lies a very flexible wooden giraffe from Channapatna. The giraffe is called G, and we have lived together for four years. G started appearing on my Instagram timeline. G has lived on my table for four years, but this is the first time they’ve been such a palpable presence. G has a supple spine. G’s preferred pronoun is ‘they’. G rolls their eyes a lot. G doesn’t like to be outdoors that much, but G does look wistful when they see the sky.

At first, G was my version of a cat, my attempt at seeing if I could make a giraffe an Instagram star in one month. Now, G also has a friend. Well, to say they’re friends is to stretch the truth; they co-exist. We met Skelly in an Instagram filter. Skelly looks amazingly life-like three-dimensional and Skelly’s first appearance saw a dancer friend ask where she could buy this skeleton and how much it cost. It’s hard to fathom why, but fake skeletons are expensive.

As I have anthropomorphised them, G and Skelly have begun to populate my emotional landscape. Skelly really enjoys dancing. G is obscenely cheery at 7 am. G is great at forward bends. In the mornings, G is usually around when I brew the coffee, and in the evenings, Skelly is ecstatic, dancing all the way as we walk to the gates of my colony and back. G was my cat joke, but now I have had students coo to G in online classes. Friends who say hi also ask after G and Skelly. With each of these gestures, G and Skelly accrue sentience.

I am still marvelling at that last hug on March 13. When I tap someone on the shoulder again, it will be in a changed world. Until then, I am going to roll on the floor, hug a pillar, let G nuzzle my thumb, and suffuse my life with generous doses of Skelly doing a manic, noisy dance in my kitchen.

Ranjana Dave is a dancer and writer based in New Delhi. Her interests lie at the intersection of the body, performance, and text. She loves socks; the more toes the better. Someday, she’d like to cartwheel.

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