Image credits: Ambarish Suresh

Unmastery — 26th January 2024

Narayan Subramoniam


It’s been a mostly terrible two weeks. I am okay now, and no real worries for long term. Still, it was terrible.

Read on for a sad ranty recount of what happened, with minor sprinkles of reflection. I don’t blame you if you’d like to skip. Readers have told me that they like the biweekly quotes and articles, so I’ll put them up here in a departure from consistency.

This biweek’s quote is from the tail end of Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance. A series I’m happy to have by my side during this weeping winter:

“Words are where most change begins.”

This biweek’s article is an utterly mesmerizing account of going back. Who knew that geography seeps into artsy blogs:

An odd week.

It was around Saturday night when I woke up in the middle of the night (11pm for me) nervous as hell. Some writers describe it as the feeling of having someone walk over your grave. I felt my heart throbbing like I was near the top of a roller coaster and my soul was pacing. So naturally I called my sister. We’re not twins but there’s certainly something twin-like in us. She understood my babbles as a lispy kid when no one could. We both have had calls where someone starts with “Hey, are you feeling GREAT” and the response is always “hell, yes”. And we also share the downs: lethargy, sadness, life uncertainty, and sometimes anxiety. So the reptile part of me that isn’t rational felt like something was terribly wrong and I had to call my sister. She didn’t pick up.

Thankfully, she was fine (of course!) but I did end up in a car accident the next evening. I’m as rational as the next math major, and I’m sure some of you are thinking “maybe it was the anxiety (that could be an undigested bit of soy) that caused the collision, and not any troubling time travelling anxiety” and I agree with you. But it’s still a bit haunting in retrospect. I don’t want to go over the details of the collision but I’m perfectly fine and the car has minor bumper damage.

I will say there is a dash of PTSD. Me choosing transit over driving, a nervous bump on the brakes just in case, and checking my blindspot more than usual. I’ll get better. The practice and the mechanic’s stamp of approval on the car will help. But I think I’ll be more understanding of the people in cars on the road. Most drivers get into at least collision, so there we all are: driving while being haunted, some haunts bigger than others. As a funny aside, I had to navigate the whole insurance kerfuffle with a fucking flip phone. It was about -20C when I had to exchange insurance information, take photos of the scene, and get the bloke’s number. I don’t remember the look on his face but maybe he’ll have a story to tell. The time he was in a collision with a dude from the 2000’s.

I thought I was in the clear the next day. I was wrong. I got a phone call from my sister. My grandmother had passed away. I cannot tell you how bloody disingenuine it feels to explain what I was and am feeling about the news on this blog. So I’m taking the pass on that. I’ll instead recount non-feeling things. After getting the news, I packed up my laptop, some clothes, and a lot of food and transitted to Toronto¹. It was odd, those couple of days in Toronto. Hearing updates and talking to family in India. Not being in the same place, only having audio and 2D visuals to help realize the gravity. Are we deluding ourselves that we are beings without place? That instantaneous communication is enough to feel connected? I know I’m not the first person to bring this up but it takes an event like this to realize how low fidelity our digital interfaces are.

Things settled. Things started up again. There are metaphors between coming back from a travel and coming back from a death in the family. You are changed, and everything else is the same. You want to go back, you want to remember. But all you are is here, all you have is now.

The week after

I said goodbye to my best friend of 5 years who’s starting a new chapter in their life. Tried to get back on the research wagon, and remembered why I’m doing all this in the first place. Got back into playing squash, and dare I say it: I crushed it. Spent good time with friends, and spent extra quality time with one of them. All those helped and it’ll get better.

I’ve had mostly good news after that first shitty week. Excepting the fact that I may be the only Geography graduate student who isn’t going on a writing retreat in February. As I write that out, it’s so minor but that event tugs at the easiest thread to pull out in my blanket of insecurities: the fear of missing out. It probably boils down to a need to feel included. I’ll survive. Maybe I’ll make my own writing retreat, with blackjack and snookers.

The road ahead

I’m looking at the next two weeks in my calendar and it’s dirty empty. Just a whole bunch of research and the usual culprits of spending time with friends/family, playing squash/pool/water polo, and working on building up strength.

We’re entering February y’all. The wintriest month of them all. Hope you all stay warm :) Go call your loved ones.


1: It’s worth mentioning that one way I justify having a car is especially for driving to Toronto on emergencies. So it was a bit of bad luck there.