A Dismantling of the Sovereign Individual

We can guess what fear is. We are always afraid of losing. Our security, the great molar organization that sustains us, the arborescences we cling to, the binary machines that give us a well-defined status, the resonances we enter into, the system of overcoding that dominates us- we desire all that… Everything is involved: modes of perception, kinds of actions, ways of moving, life-styles… A man comes home and says, “Is the grub ready?”, and the wife answers, “What a scowl! Are you in a bad mood?”: two rigid segments in confrontation. The more rigid the segmentarity, the more reassuring it is for us. This is what fear is, and how it makes us retreat into the first line… The molar or rigid line of segmentarity… A future, but no becoming”
– Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 195, 227

“The breaking of so great a thing 
should make a greater crack.”
– William Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra

Before I left for India, I covered my bed with traveller’s journals and local maps – trying to anticipate the where of this journey. With highlighted roadways and scribbled margins, my maps would guide me through unfamiliar territories. The sea of papers were complemented with the contents of my backpack, a plethora of clothing and emergency items for every foreseeable challenge. I imagined the stories I would be telling to those back home with these things at my side. A crisp new travel folder clipped with plane tickets, directions, rupees, dog spray, band aids, and local contacts at the centre of my spread. I held these materials with assurance, an illusion of control during a transition that was truly unfamiliar to me.

The weight.

After 3 plane rides and over 28 hours of travelling from Vancouver to Goa, I arrived at the Vasco airport with my 50 pound bag and secured travel folder in hand. Navigating through a humid sea of persistent local taxi drivers, I tracked down the driver from my host organization, Akhil. After a hurried introduction, I was quickly thrown into the chaos of Goan rush hour traffic ­- speeding and weaving through cars, scooters, wagons, and bicycles in a rusted and screeching miniature truck. My eyes glided over the procession of scooters – passengers from bouncing babies and dogs to families of five and no signs of helmets – my western ways of knowing were undoubtedly troubled. Speaking through his endearing Indian head wiggle, a friendly social mannerism of the south which is sure to reassure a weary heart, Akhil shared that there was an accident on the highway and things were especially busy on this morning. Sitting in the passenger seat and holding on for dear life as we honked and swerved about the highway, my senses were on overdrive. Taking in the physicality of the situation, my body jerked and clenched with every bump; however my mind was taking in something more potent.

The smells.

So. Many. Smells. Of sewage, of garbage, of spices, of animals, of sweets, of petrol and baking – all stirred into one complex cocktail that can only be understood from the experience it offers. A daily walk through the local market in Mapusa offers a vibrant sort of ordinary whose pungency is so multiplus it can never be truly identified. Though at first interpreted as an assault to my airways, India’s authentic aroma would become familiar. Like the strong memory of my Great Grandmother’s perfume, it may not be a delight to my senses but its presence is genuine, warm – it feels like coming home.

However on this first ride in Goa, the masala mix that I was breathing in grew slightly different. Burning – not of the fiery garbage variety but of something much more intrusive. I shifted my gaze down to notice thick black smoke rising from below our truck and oozing through the rusty hole between our seats. Akhil yelled a few choice phrases in Hindi and abruptly stopped the car. Swarms of quickly moving vehicles flowed around us as if we were a tree in the midst of a thrushing stampede. As the smoke quickly filled our vehicle, I shuffled around the passenger seat weighing my options. Like the dark billowing cloud blossoming around me, I remember hovering in this moment as if it somehow played out slower than the rest of my experiences overseas; I was alone in India, there was no going home, and I was going to either sink or float. Energized with what I assumed was fear, Akhil yelled frantically at me to get out of the truck. Already in and among a heaping handful of unexpected social happenings, I was assured that this was not a situation he anticipated. Plugging myself back into my body, I frantically looked around to see vehicles speeding and honking past us – as far as I could see there was no way I could safely get out of the car without getting hit. Glancing around at my surroundings, I made fleeting eye contact with Akhil. I assume I must have looked like a fish out of water as he reached over and awkwardly pulled me out from his driver’s side door. He led me to the front of the deteriorating truck where I stood, head darting in every direction and erectly holding my hands out to signal traffic to move around me.

Honking, honking, honking.

Akhil yelled at me sharply to cross the street and stand at the side of the road. As you may imagine, crossing the street in India is almost impossible at times. I was frozen, terrified not only about getting run over, but also with alarm of the lit fuse that was our truck in front of me. The smoke was heavy and looming, looking at me from every direction as if it was naming my vulnerability. Blowing his whistle and banging on the hoods of cars to stop for us as he moved, a traffic policeman approached me with an assertive stare of authority that I was yearning – ­holding my hand, he walked me across the street as if I was a small child.

Breathe.  

Akhil and I waited for three hours in the afternoon heat at the side of the road with my luggage for someone to pick us up. I felt my nerves bubbling with a desire for comfort, for space that was quiet, for ease of the familiar. It didn’t come. Instead, an eclectic crowd of curious spectators gathered ­to watch the ruin – to watch me. Huddled at the center of their boisterous choir, I heard their volume but understood nothing. Touched by a sea of warm mingling bodies, yet profoundly alone. I looked down at my travel folder – sliding my fingers over its neatly labelled papers and pressing its body into the depths of my pack.

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