To be chopped up in peace

This week’s illustration by the ever brilliant Bangalore-based Sonaksha Iyengar, whose work revolves around the ideas of self care, body image, gender, feminism, social justice, community care, and inclusion. Hire her for your illustration needs!

This week I am thinking of the trust I am bestowed to be allowed in one of the many opportunities where I get to reflect how to consider care and safety in the work we do, and the spaces we share with others. I am also thinking of how honoured I am to have amazing, talented, and self-actualised friends who would never hesitate to invite me along in their journey of growth and learning.

This week my heart is with my friends and everyone in Beirut, in Belarus, in Zimbabwe, in Palestine, in Kashmir, in Xinjiang, and elsewhere. It is depressing to think that the list is still going on. Not to forget all of us in this Bolehland, having to contend with the audacity of our political leaders obsessively mired in their drive for individual power, while the country and the world is ravaged with a deadly pandemic and a debilitating recession. How dare. It feels futile to even hope. But wherever there is hope, there is resilience. Wherever there is resilience, there is action. Wherever there is action, there is change. What better way to alchemise anger, tire, and hope than to turn them, one day at a time, into action. After all, in the words of Ursula K. Le Guin, “Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”

I also couldn’t stop thinking of this incredible photo of Frida Kahlo and the accompanying letter she wrote to Diego Rivera before her leg was to be amputated, or in her words, “to be chopped up in peace”. Whenever I think of how I want to express myself, I want to do like this exactly.

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Frida Kahlo takes a family photo, wearing a 3-piece suit and holding a cane, 1924.⁣ ⁣ Nearly 30 years later, in 1953, she writes a letter to Diego Rivera as she awaits surgery to amputate one of her legs.⁣ ⁣ "I’m writing this letter from a hospital room before I am admitted into the operating theatre. They want me to hurry, but I am determined to finish writing first, as I don’t want to leave anything unfinished. Especially now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived.⁣ ⁣ I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women. How did they let themselves be fooled by you?"⁣ ⁣ "…Let’s not fool ourselves, Diego, I gave you everything that is humanly possible to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you manage to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?" ⁣ The reason why I’m writing is not to accuse you of anything more than we’ve already accused each other of in this and however many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m having a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it wanted in the end). I told you I’ve counted myself as incomplete for a long time, but why the fuck does everybody else need to know about it too? Now my fragmentation will be obvious for everyone to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine…"⁣ ⁣ "…I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.⁣ ⁣ That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.⁣ ⁣ Good bye from somebody who is crazy and vehemently in love with you,⁣ ⁣ Your Frida"

A post shared by History Cool Kids (@historycoolkids) on

Reading in my tabs:


  • Reading: Sasha Costanza-Chock’s Design Justice and Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities.
  • Listening: I return to Ibrahim Maalouf‘s music every so often.
  • Watching: Audrey Tang, Taiwanese digital minister, on how digital social innovation can empower democracy.
  • Food & Drink: Ordered Korean spicy fried chicken from 4Fingers. Also, we have rambutans! My prefered way to eat them is to peel the rinds off, keep the peeled fruits in the fridge for a couple of hours, and consume them cold! The Instagram consensus, where I shared a Story on this, agree with the method.

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