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I Am A House

Promona Sengupta

This is a song composed by Fakir Lalon Shah, a Baul mystic and philosopher from 18th century Bengal. Like many saints from the Baul tradition, he writes metaphysical songs full of deep spiritual understanding of the complexities of the human mind. Many traditions around the world accept and value the idea of many consciousnesses and people existing inside one body, a liberating alternative to 'rational' psychiatry that pathologizes such states of being. The Baul way is one such tradition. Music and other creative expressions are an integral part of this beautifully complex and ever-changing relationship with the self that houses many selves.

You know not who lives in your house, dear mind,
You know not how many live there.
One paints paintings, steadfast
One sits and covers herself in paint
Yet another destroys the painting
You know not how many live there.
One plays a tune on the ektara
One keeps the beat on the mandira
Yet another critiques the song!
You know not how many live there.
Drunk on this 'rasa',
Behold, the horse is off the reigns!
Who's going to hold those reigns, which one?
You know not how many live there.

I sing this song often as a grounding exercise, whenever I feel like my body cannot physically hold all my emotions inside. My mother tongue helps me feel rooted in my surroundings and the cultural memories associated with this song merge with the inherent acceptance and affirmations in the words to help me ride out PTSD flashbacks and panic attacks. 100% success rate. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Fakir Lalon Shah, my genius OG.

Promona (she/her/daddy) is from Kolkata and has lived in Berlin for 5 years. She works as an academic, activist and artist. She misses swimming pools.

Promona on Instagram