The Grammar of my Body

The Grammar of my Body

We live in a world where disabled narratives are often sidelined, ignored and often unexpressed due to lack of support. Ableist narratives are considered the standard. Abhishek Anicca tries to break this standard by bringing forth his memoir, The Grammar of My Body. He subverts the expectations for disabled people to be 'inspirational' or 'who made it despite their illness' by embracing self-love and telling stories of his everyday realities. He lays bare the intricate details of his self, body and his needs that able-bodied often leave unacknowledged. This book becomes a window for able-bodied people to understand their privilege and establish a supportive environment for disabled people. In this conversation, Anicca talks to us about memory, disabled narratives and melancholy as something productive. 

How did writing this memoir evolve your relationship with your body?
Writing became a form of catharsis, even a form of healing. I often resort to poetry as a form of coping mechanism. So writing these essays was an extension of that process. After illness, while recovering, writing helped me to put my life together, understand my body and all the changes it has gone through,and make peace with it. Things I could no longer do. Things I could still do. And bodily changes that I had to plan for.

Since the memoir contains events of around 10 years, what role did memory play in the writing process? How did you navigate the nuances and potential gaps in your recollections?
Many of the essays were written as things happened in life, some of them just for personal consumption and then they evolved into full pieces later. For others, I relied on my memory for the job. Of course, there were many traumatic memories and writing sometimes meant reliving them. Which was hard but essential. But despite all the baring, there were parts where I was afraid to go and I left them there, to preserve myself.

What sort of conversations do you hope to bring forth from your book?
I hope people talk about ableism, and the bodily privilege experienced by able bodied people. It should not come out of guilt but as a bridge for conversation. Maybe they will go beyond the discourse of pity or inspiration and think about day to day lives of disabled and their own bodies. That will definitely help in a more empathetic society and even with its limits, empathy is very useful.

Why do you think there haven't been much narratives of disability in our art forms?
Even if there have been, people have comfortably ignored them. I think it takes a lot to talk about these things. All of it has consequences. Being vulnerable is not easy when that vulnerability doesn't change people around you. Disabled people have been stigmatized or ignored for centuries, what we hope for is preserving our dignity. Plus, there are hardly any disabled creators who have been allowed to express themselves across forms because of inaccessibility and stigma. Most able bodied people see disability as an individual question and not as a societal question, perhaps that's why they can't see the importance of our narratives.

In the last chapter, you talk about how we are also forced to make sadness productive. Do you think that offers an escape from the melancholy or it's a process of understanding it?
I think making peace with sadness is a complicated process. It is often seen as a form of giving up. But that's not true, is it. All of us experience happiness and sadness. Although we tend to showcase happiness and hide our sadness. Acknowledging sadness is a brave thing. It makes us realize the strength of vulnerability. That we are open. Open to embracing everyday realities. There is no shame in being sad. Once we stop faking, there is a truth that becomes part of our reality. And most good art has some form of truth telling. I think it is time to embrace that.

Words Paridhi Badgotri
Date 15.12.2023