A found object might bring sorrow or delight, but a lost object presents a question mark. Its absence can feel like a cleave, a permanent one, in our memory. Absences inevitably lead us to quests. In this personal essay, which is linked with a larger writing project on family and material memory, I search for the contents of an “essay” written by me when I was ten years old, on the very day that India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated. In searching for this lost object, I excavate and access childhood memories that were forgotten or, perhaps, lay dormant waiting to be awakened. The essay remains unfound (lost), but in looking for it, this essay that you are reading here, emerges, showing me why the object, the essay must remain lost, so that a forgotten moment of my childhood can live.
Devika Chawla is professor in the school of communication studies at Ohio University. Her research focuses on communicative, performative, and narrative approaches to studying family, home, and its relationship to social identity. Her work explores how human beings transform themselves in the relationships that surround them, and the resources—social, political, economic, material—that are available to them. Most of Chawla’s research has taken place in the context of contemporary urban India. Her recent book project attended to cross-generational refugee identity in the iterations of home among families displaced by India’s Partition of 1947. Chawla is working on an experimental memoir on material objects, memory, migration, affect, and social identity. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Devika Chawla; The Essay. Journal of Autoethnography 21 September 2020; 1 (4): 347–353. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/joae.2020.1.4.347
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