Kismuth and the Way - 2019


Rooftop Philosophy

By Dipika Kohli

I am in Bangkok.

A party, a roof.

Coming towards me is an acquaintance, a singer I've met, on another rooftop, in another part of the city. “Hey, DK. How"s it feel to be back on this side of the world?"

“Really good, to be honest. I had missed the street life, the colors. Good to see you. I can't believe it's been what... four years? What have you been making?" Genuinely curious: I've read somewhere that we overestimate what we can do in one year, but underestimate what we can do in five.

“I wish I could say a lot more than what I actually am... I figured I would be finished with some new songs, by this point, since I have more... financial security. See, I got a day job, so, I figured I'd work at night on a new album."

“How's that working out?"

“Could be better. I'm not sure if it's any good, but I'm trying new things, like we talked about before. Brute force method, and all that. How about you? Are you well? Where did you go this time? I think I got some mail from you but... somewhere in... Latvia? That's random. Why?"

“Eurovision."

“What?"

“It's a long story, but they had hosted it, a jillion years ago, and that piqued my interest... and then, well, more stuff, but, it's not that easy to get into, it's hard to process, writing a book actually... Yeah. Still working out my thinking. Another whole story, but I'll save it."

“A book, huh. Mmm. Listen, I don't... well, okay. I'll just say it... I'm sorry about not replying to your emails. See, I just didn't have time, you know, to read everything. Plus, I knew, well, I just wanted to find a good moment, you know, to properly reply? Like a Sunday, over a cup of tea, when I could really focus, and everything and?

“It's okay. I send a lot of email. I've heard."

“You kinda do. But I just feel... a little bad."

“Don't."

“Alright. But tell me, what brings you to Bangkok?"

“I'm here to host a party... It's kind of fun, but it's a new thing I've been doing. Kind of an internet blind date, but for just six people?no, not like that kind of date, but like, a conversation date. For... the Third Place, have you heard of that, no? It's like where people get together, in a place that's not home or work, to meet and talk, just talk... Really. It's where I meet all my favorite people, now. I don't go anywhere or do anything much, outside of my own small-scale events, to be honest. I figured that was a little unhealthy, though, so here I am. Walking the walk, going out of my comfort zone, to other people's... rooftop nighttime parties... no, really, I prefer smaller settings, where you get to really focus on a conversation and the people... hum? Oh, Saturday. No, well. It's... already full... actually. I know, right? Where did I start it? Oh, well, in Phnom Penh, because I had two close friends that I met with regularly, over time, you know, so I got to know them deeply and could carry on at length, then I figured, I'd connect them with each other, then I figured why not mix this up a little, yeah, like jazz, right? You know what I mean. You sing jazz. Yeah, that's why I wanted to come see what you're doing now, because improvisations and invitations... are where the good stuff is at...."

“Okay but can I ask you a personal question?"

“Kay."

“How do you afford this lifestyle? I've so been wanting to ask you that. I'm trying to make my ends meet every single damn day."

“A lot of people ask me that."

“What do you tell them?"

“Subscribe to my online magazine."

“Seriously?"

“Yup. Why bother answering every question? It's just people being nosy."

“That's not fair, is it? People are just curious. They want to know. How you are able to do what you do. Live the creative life, and all that."

“It's not like that, really."

“Sure looks like it."

“It's doing work that people engage with, and making it better, year by year, iteration and design and learning as you go. Figuring it out. Adding to the mix. And I'm by no means perfect."

“Well, I have to hand it to you. You're living in a way that I'm really jealous of you. For me, it's like... it's all I can do... to combat my own self-loathing. By the way, I burn a lot of bridges. Just so you know."

“Which is why it took four years to reconnect."

He smiles, wanly. “Why did you stay in touch?"

“Because you make good work. And that, to me, is inspiring. And that's why I'll go around the world and try to maintain a very small handful of acquaintanceships, which you know, if I'm honest, I think it's harder to keep friendships going than any other kind of relationships, they're voluntary, and prone to rupture. Plus friendships require the very tactful and artful back-and-forth and giving-it-time that you need for people to grow, apart from each other, and intertwine again when and if they're ready. That's a special kind of trust and bond, you know? And yeah, so I have very, very few friends. I will do it, though. I'll manage to keep in touch, and keep things going. Because: the conversation, the continuity, the longitudinal relationship; that is its own kind of beauty, and art."

“Well. Thank you. I really appreciate it."

“I want to hear the new stuff. When you're ready, send it to me. Can you do that? Good."

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Dipika Kohli is the author of Kanishka, The Elopement, and Breakfast in Cambodia. See www.kismuth.com.