• Manju Sadarangani

Absent





Absent

5" x 7"

Mixed-media on Canvas

May 2022


I started working on this piece on Mother’s Day.


The silk comes from a sari I inherited from my mother, which I have worn but once. I finally gathered up the strength to wear it without being overwhelmed. Afterward, I put it away wrapped in tissue, stored in a camphor chest, cossetted. A year later, I noticed the delicate silk ripped.





Once I got past my embarrassingly emotional reaction, I found myself running my hands over the silk. Why it is so valuable when you hold onto the clothes of someone who passed? When my mother passed-away, I like to think I handled it stoically. Except the day after her memorial, when it was time for me to pack up her things. I found myself bent over in my mother’s bathroom retching uncontrollably.I didn’t finish packing anything that day. God bless my cousin who took pity on me, packed everything up and very lovingly shipped many, many miles.





This was not the first time unpacking my mother’s clothes. In fact, there are still drawers full of her clothes from when she lived with me, like little ticking time-bombs waiting to devour me when I least expect it. When I miss someone, I find myself stepping into their closet and smelling their clothes. I used to climb into my very absent father’s suitcases as a child hoping to find him. Clothes are magical I think. How else do we explain Marilyn Monroe’s dress at the Met gala.





I started working on this piece on Mother’s Day, but it wasn’t just a reflection of personal grief. It is also my sense of guilt. I grew up with rights my mothers and grandmothers fought for, and as I pleated this sari fragment, I know I have squandered them for my child. Because of my generation’s inability to keep the wolves at bay, there will be missing women. Again.

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