On finding

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When I first thought about having to shift so far from home and my family for in-person college, I didn’t think of it in solid terms. The feeling manifested in my chest as an abstract ball of fear, homesickness, excitement, and thrill. These waves of emotions bled into each other until I could not distinguish one from the other. All I could decipher was the urge to move on and get away from everything that had become so familiar that its existence no longer registered as an entity separate from me. I wanted to come to Delhi and cut this abstraction out from my heart, give it dimensions, carve out its shape, and place it in the safe cage of measurement and quantification.

Home had seemed like an antique relic, valued for its permanence and familiarity but so bent and twisted by time that newer and shinier substitutes were bound to be sought. So, when I moved, the loss of the reliability of familiarity was more or less pushed back by the spirit of adventure that accompanies the unknown. I did not see moving as a challenge apart from the immediate logistical concerns. It was a change from the two years of pandemic-induced stillness, a change that brought with it movement, creation, and becoming. The past and nostalgia did not find a place in that dance of progress except in comparing what was and what is. So, when I hugged my mom and dad goodbye, I felt a sort of righteous pride over leaving home because it was the first time after the pandemic that I was the one doing something to alter my world and not having it done to me by things I had no control over.

My first night alone in Delhi was enough to expose my delusional naïveté to the ravages of reality. My roommate was due to arrive a day after I had shifted, so I had to spend two nights alone in the room of the Paying Guest service my parents had booked for me. Everything in that room was red. The desk, the cupboards and even the beds. A bright, oppressive red that my brain exaggerated to such an extent that after I switched the lights off, the redness of the furniture left dancing shadows behind my eyelids. As my head hit the pillow my Dad and I had bought in the afternoon before he left, the red darkness of that room swirled around in my head, digging up all the thoughts I had refused to think.

Back in Gujarat, my identity was shaped by the spatial and familial tethers of my home. I was the girl who couldn’t make plans with her friends because she lived so far. The girl woke up early in the morning and went cycling. The girl who read all day. The girl who wrote. The girl who knew that all that was being said about her was true but found it grossly inadequate. I found it so because I wanted to do so much more. Delhi was my first chance at that so much more. I was placed on the map of a city I knew nothing of, but more importantly, the map of the city knew nothing of me. I could create an identity not bound by the tethers of a place that had created one for me, brokering no space for negotiation. But, the problem with being bound was that once I got it, freedom seemed unnatural, like a gun in a child’s hand. Those tethers had left deep clefts in my skin, and as I lay in my narrow, red bed with my ankles sticking out from the end, I felt the absence of those bonds like a scab I could no longer scratch because it had shed. Freedom, at that moment, presented all of its chiselled angles to me. I realised that just because I had freedom did not mean I was free. Being untethered also meant that I was completely responsible for myself. I was responsible for crossing roads safely, for waking up in the morning on time on my own, for soaking in almonds at night before going to sleep, for not cutting my finger on the loose nail in the balcony door, for eating healthy, for taking my meds. For the first time in my life, I was responsible for my own survival. Responsibility became a reality I had to build my life around.

Just as freedom and responsibility redefined themselves, I also had to refigure happiness to fit the contours of this new city. Happiness in Delhi means buying fruits without being overcharged. It means going to college on seven hours of sleep and a filling breakfast. It means reading in the morning and also being able to clean up my apartment. It means being able to talk to new people. It means spending time with people I like. It means understanding myself a little more. It means not losing myself in the heady smoke of anonymity that clouds the city. I had to reshape my happiness to fit the maze carved out of responsibility and survival.

When I was a kid, I had once fallen asleep with a piece of chewing gum in my mouth, and when I woke up and found it stuck in my teeth, I was terrified, thinking I had broken a tooth and it had turned to mush because I slept too much. It took me a few seconds to remember the moment when I had eaten the chewing gum and to believe that it indeed wasn’t a broken tooth turned to mush. In the beginning, being in Delhi was the same. Every morning I woke up in that room with the garish red furniture, it would take me a terrifying few seconds to recollect the moment I left home for Delhi and then slowly spiral back to that point on the map of the world.

I always thought to create an identity I liked, I would have to find myself. This was a grand proclamation I made without fully realising what it meant. What does it mean to find oneself? If I wanted to find myself, would I have to situate myself somewhere in this world? And what if one is stuck in a limbo where the edges of their lives are so badly blurred that they cannot hold onto them? The moment I broke the tethers of familiarity, I floated off into an unfamiliar universe with nothing to hold on to, and I am yet to find my footing. While I do not regret breaking those tethers, it makes me wonder whether to be found, one should lose themselves to the place where they want to be found. It makes me wonder, how do I find myself if I am stuck in limbo between not wanting to belong to a home I left and struggling to belong to a place I left home for?

Four-Dimensional

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It has been almost four months since colleges reopened. The third dimension of life that the pandemic had so brutally smashed down has gracefully picked itself back up from the rubble and brought with it another dimension I had never experienced before–college life. College life has begun, it has finally begun, and its new beginnings have changed how I defined life in the pandemic-ridden world of the past two years. All the expectations I had fostered are finally manifesting themelves in the form of the red brick building of my college; in the form of my friends; in the form of hot, dusty physical classes; in the form of freedom.

My college is a 68 old year building that radiates a sense of broken intellect, the kind of intellect that is buried under years of bad administration and mismanagement but is always waiting to be found by those eager enough to do so. As soon as you enter through the gates leading to the college, the first thing you see is the silver letters spelling “Kirori Mal” at the top of the main building, with the huge silver ‘I’ of “Kirori Mal” hanging askew, ready to fall. Students joke that the “I” is falling for the “M”.

The first day of college frightened me. During the pandemic, life had shrunk into the walls of my house, and it rarely dared to venture outside. But, as soon as I stepped into college, I could feel that the wind that blows here is created by the fluttering wings of the dreams of all those who walk its corridors. I could feel that every minute in this place would be laden with possibilities of things I had only imagined until now. Every step I took that first day was laden with an overwhelming urge to flee. It was as if I was a caged animal who, after finally being set free, had no clue how to harbour that freedom. I remember my heart beating too hard with the thought of the sheer scope of all I could do with my life here. It takes a lot of time to reconcile with the enormity of the potential that college represents; I don’t think I have still succeeded.

Back in school, I had very little in common with my classmates; oddly, I had found solace in my singularity. But, at college, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. I discovered that every person here is unique and shaped by a story I haven’t read. So I sought solace in people who told me their stories with a kindness I hadn’t received from strangers before. I made friends. I realised that some people are genuinely interested in your story. So I slowly, hesitantly read it out to them. They listened to the past chapters and became a part of the new ones.

College life in a place far from home is built on the pillars of independence and freedom. This freedom is the kind of freedom that leaves you untethered in this vast world and brings with it a lot of responsibility. The responsibility is not just that of survival; it is of creating a home for myself in a strange, new place; it is the responsibility of being happy.

My first couple of months in Delhi were tough. I understood what homesickness meant. It’s such a heavy feeling, homesickness. It’s like you are carrying the weight of all that meant home to you inside your body. It’s as if the world you see in front of you squeezes out all its colours into the world your heart craves, and the one you live in goes colourless.

Fortunately, the relentless pace of college life soon took over. Lectures, college societies, libraries, cafes—there is so much to discover and so many discoveries to talk about. But, the homesickness always managed to sneak in through dark corners and gave the silence of the night a voice. So, when I finally did go home for some time, I expected the feeling to disappear. But, what really took its place was an intense yearning for the shade of the old trees at college, the department room with its brimming creativity, and the time I spent with my friends. As frustrating as it was, this is when I understood that the foundations of my new home had been laid in the liminal space between my homesickness and the longing for college and all that it entails. I also understood that the unfettered freedom and potential that college life stands for can be a very heavy weight if carried the wrong way. College life, I have realised, is like a roaring sea—it takes you in with its enormous waves, and once you are under the blue of the sea, you can either build your own Atlantis or drown.

The Green Line

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The Green Line of the Delhi metro is the slowest.
For the green line, each station is a
dear friend’s birthday and the journey to every
stop a stroll down the tracks of the time
it shared with them.
It’s almost as if it wants
you to let go of your destination and
fade into its thronging, metallic belly.

So, the world slows down from Inderlok to Peera Garhi.
The relentless pace of life Delhi has gifted me
with gives way for those 25 minutes, and
even though I see the world outside
the glass panes of the metro struggle to
catch up, it fails to outrun the zombies
of the cracked memories I had long since suffocated.
The silver surface of the train turns a
wild orange, mirroring the fires lighting up in
my brain as the women’s compartment becomes a
purgatory for the repentance of the sins I had
ignored the existence of.

Sometimes, the metro skids to a halt a few metres
before the station and declares that the stop
has been reached, as if trying to cheat the
passengers out of their destination
the way I had tried to deceive my brain
by showing it the corpses of the past.
And as the announcements declare how the metro
has reached yet another station that is not mine,
the rotting bodies pick themselves up and
shake out their putrefying limbs.
The stench of their decay
invades the cool, sterile air of the train,
it reaches my nose, clogging it,
making it hard to breathe.

On belonging

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Creativity needs inspiration. Without inspiration, creativity drapes itself with a dense winter fog that refuses to shed because the warmth of inspiration isn’t there to melt it. Writing, if I may take the liberty of assuming that’s what I do, needs to have a catalyst with which to mould the clay of errant thoughts that would otherwise be lost in the graveyard of unspoken and unwritten reflections.

I was going through some of my writing, and I discovered that almost none of them had a location. They were all just smoky, fluid manifestations of my consciousness with no anchorage to a space on the map of this world. Most of my pieces did not mention a world outside of my house. In discovering this I realised how much I had internalised my dislike for the town I have been living in for almost 13 years now. I realised how detached my inspiration was from this patch of Earth I have spent most of my life in.

Writers often find a muse in the landscape of their city; they write poems, essays, entire books fuelled with their love for its history, its culture, its eccentricity. When I want to write, I shut all my windows and close all the drapes. I suspend myself in the space shuttle of my room, and my words and I float in its zero-gravity until I have gathered them all in my palms, and that is when, clutching them against my chest, I descend to Earth. My spatial existence is forgotten; in those hours of writing, I live only in time. When I create something, I try to rid myself of this town. I try to rid myself of it because I see nothing worth keeping. There is no beautiful garden with a favourite tree I can go and sit under, no public library that made me fall in love with books, or even a single bookstore for me to find solace in. There is no bench a famous writer once wrote a masterpiece on, no famous origin story, or any story at all. There are no fond memories of places in this town that mark the milestones of my life. This town just is; it exists, that is all it does. It is just another town in a multitude of them with no personality to call its own, as if it were mass-produced with a product description that read, “Town. Pre-fitted with roads, buildings, trees and dust.” The buyers added the DIY creations of cow poop and environmentally harmful garbage all on their own.
If historians were to examine this town’s ruins some hundred years later, they wouldn’t find the remains of a lost culture; in fact, they wouldn’t find anything that would tell them that this town was a town of its own. How scary it is never to stand out, to only exist and not live, to have been just another star in the vast expanse of the universe.

I think these feelings were exacerbated by the pandemic, like the already shattered mortar of a pothole that is not repaired and keeps on breaking with each passing vehicle until it is big enough to cause fatal accidents. The pandemic made me realise how little of my personality was shaped by this town, how all that I have learnt has been taught to me far away from this town. When people say they belong to a certain place, they mean that they carry within themselves a part of the town they grew up in. They mean that they have a place in the overwhelming vastness of this world to call their own; they mean that their is a place in this world where they can go back to, tired and needy, and be sure that they will be tended, because they belong to, they belong in their town. Me? I simply don’t belong to this town. I don’t belong to its mundaneness; I don’t belong to its unimaginative creations; I don’t belong to its leaves; I don’t belong to the wood of its trees; I don’t belong to the wind of its breath.

Not belonging to the place I grew up in, not carrying a piece of it with myself makes me sad. I don’t want to be so harsh, but whenever I try and think of a happy memory created in this town, I come up short. I want to belong to it, I want to belong in it, I want it to inspire me, I want it to change; but thinking of this town gives me an inescapable urge to break free, to forget that I ever called this place home and see a world in which this town is just a ghost in my memory.

Writing all of this reminds me of what my mom told me years ago. She had said, “I think that our dislike for someone is often a manifestation of our own fear of possessing those disliked traits.” Maybe that is what flows through the veins of my dislike for this town, projected fear.

Hope

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A new year is about to begin. An old one is about to end. A new year is about to begin. An old one is about to end. A new year is about to begin. An old one is about to end.
Writing helps me process.
I am processing.
Covid’s surging again. Covid’s surging again. Covid’s surging again.
Stating facts helps me process, too.

We humans, we like to hope, we like to hope because uncertainty breeds fear breeds immobility. Immobility—the last two years tell us—means the candle of the world melting under our feet, the searing wax leaving us stuck. Stuck means we do move forward, in days, in hours, in minutes, but we are glued to the page of our lives that reads lockdowns, night curfews, social distancing. It means the world hanging on a clothesline, taking a break from being itself. Break means a sickness that spreads faster than its fear. It means all of life’s perfect colours are frozen into rigid, unreachable pixels. Sickness means the map of the world getting replaced by a single line made not of territory but death toll, no land being spared.

Nightmarish déjà vu is taking me back to the beginning of this year and the near middle of the year before that. No endings though, endings always bring hope because they mean beginnings.
And beginnings are better because they have the past to learn from. We will say goodbye to an unhappy year and hope that the next one will be better. Goodbyes are sad, but it’s different when you are trying to bid farewell to sadness itself.

Emily Dickinson said about hope, “Yet never in extremity/it asked a crumb of me”. Her hope must have been so delicate, so light, after all, it is a “thing with feathers.” But, our hope, it is a thing with oceans,
it is a thing with the sky, it is a thing with the sun, it is a thing with the moon, it is a thing that gives life to all those that live in it, it is the earth itself. And so it asks a lot of us, it asks us to protect ourselves and others, it asks us to stay at home and be with our family, it asks us to persevere a little longer, it asks us to hold on to it, tightly, and never let go.

A new year is about to begin. An old one is about to end. A new year is about to begin. An old one is about to end. A new year is about to begin. An old one is about to end.

I am still processing.

Two-dimensional

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When I visualised college life before the sick weight of the pandemic bent and twisted everyone’s lives, I would think, this is what people must mean when they say “my heart jumped with joy in my chest.” I would think of the experiences I would have, the friends I would make, the places I would go, the teachers I would admire, and most importantly, the great unknown which comes with change. Before admissions began, I would see the photos of my dream college over the Internet and imagine myself sitting and reading in the lush gardens in the pictures, the feeling of grass between my toes and the dappling sunshine falling on my face under a big tree. These dreams were so real in my mind, I could almost touch them, but then the pandemic forced its way into our lives, and the whole world became untouchable.

College life, post-pandemic is, put simply…sad, very, very sad. The teachers I admire are walled behind a glinting screen; the things I learn from them are not said in a classroom where the walls and desks hide stories of past lives, but in a room I know nothing of, a thousand kilometres away. The teacher who is going to teach us Sophocles, is an elderly man who teaches us like we are his equals. It is an amazing feeling, being taught by someone who considers you their equal even though we probably don’t have 10 percent of the knowledge he does. Being taught as equals makes one feel deserving of the knowledge being sent your way. His voice sounds as if it is released from a vacuum, a sort of husky tone that seems a little other-worldly. He has an air of wisdom about him—the kind that is honed to the brink of perfection with age—with his crescent moon of wispy hair, a beard that stands like a bush across his neck and his half-rimmed glasses. But, it is not the kind of wisdom which is intimidating, it is the kind of wisdom that is restless in its excitement to be shared. He said he is going to retire next year, I just hope that video calls, WhatsApp messages and emails are not the only way I get to communicate with him.

In lieu of introductory sessions with teachers we had separate WhatsApp chats created for every subject because the pandemic has delayed the session and there’s no time for introductions now. Everyone introduced themselves in a chat message. How could a chat message on a flat screen in my hand replace the experience of feeling the nervous energy of a classroom full of strangers trying to fit their personality into a few sentences for each other’s convenience? It was like my life had turned into a two dimensional space, the third dimension deconstructed by the pandemic. All of the friends I thought I would make are no more than names in endless group chats I never bother to read. How can I become friends with someone I know only from words, not from their laughter, not from their idiosyncrasies, not even from their voice?

I hear my fellow students say stuff like, “I am glad to be a part of this college”, and I wonder if I am the only one who doesn’t feel like a part of anything. I wonder, how do these people have the capacity to love something they know of only from a screen? I wonder, how do I feel like a part of the college when I don’t even know what it looks like from the inside, when I haven’t felt it’s body at my fingertips; I don’t know what places near it are worth visiting, I don’t know I don’t know what places have the best food. I know my college only in its very bare bones: the internal organs, the muscles, the nerves, they are all strangers to me. I didn’t really make the effort to know them, because I didn’t want it to be another two dimensional hope poking at my brain.

College was supposed to be a new chapter of my life, but right now it seems like my life hasn’t even bothered to start a new sentence. The college experiences that are supposed to change the course of the rest of my life are currently leading a metaphysical existence in the great unknown of a change that hasn’t occurred yet. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but I’m ready for the great unknown, I am ready for change. I desperately want my college to reopen. I want life to be three dimensional again.

Beyond Reason

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Are days and nights
sun and moon’s compromise?
Do clouds ever want to
jump down from the sky?
Who eavesdrops on whispered
secrets more? A sunny day
or a starry night?
Does the land beneath our feet
ever feel stifled with our footprints?

Why can’t we shed our worries
as easily as tears?
When did prejudice smother
humanity?
Why does growing up make me
feel so small?
Do happiness and sadness have
a schedule to follow?

Why does everything become
just so much better with colours?
Why can’t we sometimes
just let the inexplicable
remain unexplained?
Does there exist a safe
somewhere, that stashes
all the mysteries of the universe?

Fitting In

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Do hands and feet have
to be an appropriate size?
Was a standard size of bones
issued someday,
unbeknownst to me?

Because my fingers are
spindly, sweat-slick vines
that fit no ornament or jewel,
bones of fog,
they vanish as soon as clasped.
Screwed into palms that
stretch like a never ending
yellow desert,
they are streaked with paths
darkened by lines of fate
set atop a red land
of life-giving blood.
And these palms,
these palms
know no other,
they are defective locks
that fit no key,
metal rusting away
into the heavy air
with no house to guard.

Because my feet are
descendants of cyclops,
untamed,
they smash into
wooden corners
and crack into floors.
They are thick cacti,
the trunk holding up five
protruding elongated arms
I call my toes.
These thorny paws
settle in no shoe
they enter,
and with no place
to rest,
they wander—
adrift.

Do hands and feet have
to be an appropriate size?
Was a standard size of bones
issued someday,
unbeknownst to me?

Birthday blues

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Yesterday, on my morning jog, I saw a cow with a bent horn. It was as if the horn had been pulled down like a lever but never pushed back up. As I was wondering if an injury caused that or if it was a defect the cow carried from birth, I realised that the cow was now walking right next to me. Given that its horns were big enough to pierce my body in two, I increased my pace to try and leave the cow behind. But, as soon as my feet started moving faster, the cow raised its speed too. I tried to go even faster but the cow continued to match my pace. This went on for a few minutes until fatigue got the better of me and I stopped and caught my breath on the footpath. I was half-afraid that the cow would stop too, but fortunately, it finally left my side. I kept thinking about that strange incident as I walked back home. It wasn’t until I was almost home that I realised that what had happened was just like growing up. If you try to leave it behind, it runs even faster, and if you just stop and give up, it leaves you behind.

All of this pessimism was of course brought on by the fact that I of turned eighteen recently. Just the thought of it feels as if my heart was squeezing out the last seventeen years into my veins. Eighteen seems so big, so overpowering.

KThe past year passed in a daze of online classes and waiting for the results of an exam I didn’t even have the opportunity to give. One day blurred into another like a not very smooth movie scene transition. It’s as if I have to drag my memories of the past year in the wheelbarrow of time like an old pet nearing death. This has made me understand that my life is a clay sculpture that can be forced to be moulded into whatever the world wants it to be, and now that I have turned eighteen I will be the one responsible for it. I have shed the skin of a child and worn that of an adult.

By definition, an adult is a person who is fully grown. Isn’t it unfair to just fix an universal age for everyone to be fully grown. What if I don’t want to be an adult when I turn 18, what if I want to stay a kid a little bit longer? What if my body just grew up faster than my heart?

It isn’t the freedom that comes with being 18 that I fear, I fear the responsibility which tails that freedom. I fear that I will make wrong decisions and then waste my time regretting them, or even worse, make no decisions at all. I fear that the life will make me realise that I am just a little girl who forgot to grow up. But then I see Ma teaching me how to make poha—don’t soak it too long, don’t put in more than 1 tablespoon of salt unless you want high BP, roast the peanuts until they are golden brown; I see my dad teaching me how to iron clothes—don’t keep it in one place for too long, if a cloth is too sensitive, place another piece of cloth over it and never, never, leave the iron on; I see my brother telling me which app to use to find my phone if it gets lost and how people in college hostels are beasts and will rob you blind if you are not on your guard (this was clearly an exaggeration…right?).
I see all of this and realise, I might just be able to bear the weight of responsibility because I have a wonderful family to help me carry it.

Writer’s Block

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When I started writing, it was less about making art with my feelings and more about letting them out so that they didn’t burst open inside me. I would let my passion squeeze out into words through my fingers and get a taste of what true achievement felt like. Whatever I felt, whenever I felt it, I would jot down, creating a chequebook of hopes, desires, dreams and everything connecting them. I would write something I was genuinely proud of and rejoice. I didn’t think it was possible to be unable to write because it was impossible for me to stop feeling. But I didn’t realise that sometimes feelings weren’t pliable enough to be formed into words, that just because there was ice on a mountain didn’t mean that it would melt into the river.

The first time I couldn’t write something that I knew I should be able to, I felt like how I imagine a half-broken tree must feel, how it still had all its parts, but it couldn’t do what it does. I sat in front of my diary with a pencil in my hand, playing catch with the letters that stubbornly refused to be welded into something I could hold. Eventually, I gave up, and the only mark the pencil made was the one I had made on my index finger with its lead, in thought, until it was black as soot.

It wasn’t until I googled why I couldn’t write that I came across the term writer’s block. Reading those words, I pictured a traffic barricade forcing my words to a standstill, stopping their journey to wherever I wanted them to travel. I pictured my ideas atrophying behind the barricades until they finally disappeared, taking my words with them. That image terrified me; what could be more terrible than a lack of ideas, an absence of intention? But then I thought, I could just be manifesting my lethargy into something bigger than myself; I could just be searching for something to blame for this apparent drought of words. It wasn’t late before self-doubt followed, and I started questioning what I had done wrong to scare off my creativity.

It took me a long time to realise that the inability to write was a very crucial part of writing because, without it, I wouldn’t sufficiently appreciate my words when they did decide to stop eluding me. I realised that self-doubt was something that would always follow me, no matter what I do, because it is a part of creating something, and the only power I had was to choose how I dealt with it.

Flamingo

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On a Friday morning at the summer’s end, my dad woke me up at 5. We left the house behind for a grey sky waiting for the sun, blackened by the remnants of a fading moon, hosting the clouds of a monsoon yet to come. The silence of the early morning was one that I had not heard before. It was a silence of peace, of Nature healing the injuries dealt out to it in the clamour of the day, a period before the start of another noisy sentence. It was a silence that holds within itself all the secrets we keep even from ourselves. The wind, carrying the cold of the night, sighed in our faces as if preparing itself for the weight of the heat it will have to lug during the day.

We were going to see flamingos. Dad had heard about a place where they came this time of the year. We drove for some time, and as we got closer, the tress got denser, the road, narrower, and the silence, deeper. Bird calls smoothed the silence like a final layer of paint on a masterpiece, so many different birds, very few of them known to me. The noise of the engine seemed as out of place as a gun in a child’s hand. The smell of damp mud and unknown crops trailed us to our destination; we parked near a field and set out on foot.

We walked across muddy ponds and fallen branches, thorny bushes and nameless fields, the mud clang to our clothes and crusted upon the soles of our shoes. And finally, finally, we reached the lake of the flamingos. Surrounded by a thick cover of impenetrable trees, the lake sat protected, the water tinged dark green with human ignorance, reflected the folds of the leaves that gave it cover, and in the middle of it all were the flamingos. So many of them. It seemed that the beauty of the landscape was nothing but a reflection of the majesty of the flamingos. Their white bodies stood on long and lean, reddish-pink legs, more than half of which were lost in the water. They stirred the water with their gentle, webbed feet like a mother caresses her newborn. Their necks were shapes of elegance, curved like nothing human ever could. Their bills began straight and then bent down to allow eating. They stuck their beak into the water and lapped at it tenderly to filter out the water and get their food. This simple act of nourishment seemed like a beautiful dance to the most brilliant song in the world. When they landed, they unfurled their feet like an aeroplane releasing its wheels to land on the runway, making it seem as if the water was the road leading them home. When a few of them flew away, their wings were the most dazzling combination of pink and black, stirring up the wind just like they stirred up the water, softly, as if the wind might get hurt if they flew too hard.

This scene was a world so distinct from ours. I felt almost afraid that someone would come, outraged, and ask us how we dared to set our eyes upon what we were seeing. But that didn’t happen, and dad and I stood there for hours, in our little piece of serenity and watched the flame-coloured miracles live. In such moments we realise the importance of stopping, of looking around us to see, really see, all that we have the fortune of seeing.

I was wading through a poem that ended in the poet realising that in the race to know what we don’t, we forget about the brilliance of all that we already do.

The reunion

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Last week, I visited my school after about a year and a half for a small reunion the school had organised. This was the first time after the pandemic started that I was going to meet my friends outside of a Zoom call. The whole day, I wondered how the day was going to fit into the new reality that has been built for us, and did I even want it to fit in?

As my cab entered the narrow road—surrounded by brick walls on one side, and huge fields on the other—leading to the school, I let myself be soaked in the nostalgia that the steep twists of the road, the peacocks that unfurled their magnificent wings and danced in the fields, the farmers and their wives carrying pots of water, brought in waves. But once I reached inside, I realised that everything had changed.

The dirt paths that led to the school had been paved with red and grey stone tiles, the volleyball and basketball courts that used to be bare grounds with nets were now painted red and green, and marked with playing measurements, there were fences around plants, and flowers I couldn’t name peeked out from under them. Despite all of these changes, as soon as I stepped out of the cab, it was as if I had stepped right into my last year at the school. Each step I took brought forth fresh memories that I hadn’t realised I still had. I saw the tree I had hidden behind during a game of hide and seek and remembered with a wave of fresh glee how no one had been able to find me until I came out on my own. I walked up the stairs leading upto the school gate and remembered how during monsoons, I would dip my shoes in puddles and leave shoe-shaped imprints on each step. I still remembered the sound of the bell that rang to transport us from one subject into the next. It was as if I could almost feel the rough bark of the tree as I had giggled behind it, seeing my friends scrambling to find me, the coolness of the rainwater, and the metallic sound of the bell, jarring me through time.

But the nostalgia of the place was nothing compared to what it felt like to see the familiar faces of the people who were the only ones who could share this feeling with me. Given that most of us were vaccinated, we hugged each their welcome and those hugs squeezed out all of my frustration and anger at the world for being so crazy. We fell into the camaraderie that we shared so easily that it was hard to believe that we had been neglected by time in all those months we couldn’t meet. We met our teachers who still carried their wisdom and knowledge as an open well, and let us drink from it, just as they had when we were in school. They wished us luck for our future with an earnestness that I will forever be grateful for, as I will be for their unconditional blessings.

Afterwards, my friends and I roamed the school’s familiar hallways. We bounced half forgotten stories off of each other, checking to see if someone remembered what someone else had forgotten. We spoke so fast that it seemed as if our words were running after each other. Although, in our defence, we were trying to fit in years’ worth of memories in two hours. We pointed out the places we had been punished at, the art and crafts we had made that still hung on display, and marvelled at what was different. So much had changed, yet everything was still the same. We were ghosts in a museum we had helped create.

The entire visit was like reading the sequel to a good book, the plot had changed, but the characters were still the same. It is so difficult to remember what makes a person who they are once they become them. But it is moments like these that help me remind myself that no matter what I do and what I become, no matter how much I grow up, the places and people—especially the people—that helped me grow will always stay with me.

The red earphones

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Melodies fill my head 
like rain seeping into
the earth,
giving life to
all that can live.
Harmonies 
of ignored pains,
of forgotten tales, 
of unconfined happiness,
of lost love,
carried to me
by these 
simple, red earphones. 
These earphones which
are always there,
waiting their turn 
to help me escape
the clamour
of my world,
like a daydream
that carries me
away in its 
promise of the 
improbable. 
They fill my head 
with the sounds 
of a world
I have yet to see,
with only
two thin, red wires. 
On these wires 
my favourite voices travel,
like reckless adventurers 
walking a tightrope,
and reach the buds
tucked into the
crevices of my ears,
triumphant,
glinting with their 
effort to carry 
me a little closer to 
my longings,
to the music of 
the life I wish to live. 

The cyclone

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This piece is based on a prompt I came across on the incredible writing community called Write The World:

“Point of view (P.O.V.) is the perspective from which a narrative is told. Pick up a novel, and it might be written in first person, using the “I” perspective of the main character.
A novel may also be told in third person, in which the main character is referred to as “he” or “she”.
And then there are the less common P.O.V.s—the collective, and second person, in which the main character is referred to as “you”.

In this prompt, dear writers, write a passage of fiction, employing the second person—“you”—point of view.” (For the full prompt, visit: https://writetheworld.com/groups/1/assignments/936)

Here is my take on the second person:

It is your first time experiencing a cyclone. Your Ma watches three different new channels, all of which declare that the cyclone will hit the coast at a speed of 160 kmph, in an eerily similar cadence. You don’t think much of this. You still haven’t associated the word with the phenomenon. For you, the word is like the sound of too loud television from a neighbour’s home, something you tune out, not heed the warning of. You think this, and immediately think how college for you is kind of the same. How you don’t really know the real world, apart from the fact that it exists. This thought does not settle well with you.

When the cyclone hits, it looses a lot of its power. By the time it reaches you, it is not as destructive as it once was, but it still hasn’t run out, like a villain who gets defeated in the first part of a superhero movie, but is back in the second one with stories of how they conquered defeat.

It feels to you that the cyclone is slowly brainwashing every element of nature and taking revenge for some wrong dealt out to it ages ago. It starts with the wind. You hear the way it seems to beat against the entire house like a too loud, off beat base. You refuse to believe the possibility of what is so destructively insistent in you ear. You think, maybe there are a thousand helicopters in the sky, beating their wings in tandem and sending the dismembered air to beat against your windows. But if that were the case, the trees in front of your apartment wouldn’t have fallen, electricity would still be there, most of the affected regions’ crops wouldn’t have been thrashed to death by the wind.

Next comes water. At first, you enjoy it. The suppleness of your surroundings, the fresh smell of wet earth, the cool raindrops on your face. But then, the rain too becomes a weapon. It terrifies you how something as simple as rain washes away all concepts of day and night with the dark grey clouds that seal off the sky. You help your Ma plug all the openings that can let any water in and tie windows to their bars so they don’t break. You watch as all your attempts turn out to be useless as ultimately the water seeps in through the minuscule space between the wall and the window sill, the floor and the balcony door, until the house feels like every surface was made of soaked clouds.

When finally the cyclone has its revenge and the wind and the water see reason again, you think back to your thought about college. It terrifies you. The fact that the phenomenon is so much bigger than the word. The fact that the real world is really real, not just a fantasy your overthinking brain developed. But then you think that the cyclone was also just a word before you were in the middle of it.

What is home without a location?

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I hear the pitter-patter of the sorghum grains or jowar, as they are called in Hindi. They hit the window ledge, falling rapidly from my Maa’s fist. The first thing Maa does after waking up is feed the neighbourhood pigeons.“You are spoiling the pigeons”, my brother and I like to tell her. I hear the bright red acupressure slippers Maa wears for the pain in her feet smack against the floor like they are slapping it for existing, and guess from my half asleep state that it must be 5:00 a.m. I hear the thump of the yoga mat as Maa spreads it on the floor and the faint hum of a hymn called “Gayatri Mantra” Maa plays every morning. I roll over and fall asleep again.

I am dreaming about the largest supply of chocolate in the world when the soft yellow light of my bother’s table lamp falls on my eyes. I think this is how the clouds must feel when the sun is backstage, just about to start for the day, and even that metaphor doesn’t make me less sleepy. I groan and place a pillow over my head. It must be 5:30. I am just about to fall asleep when his laptop makes the grand noise it makes before starting up. It’s not late before he furiously starts typing some code for some programme into his laptop, so I start counting the number of clicks his keyboard makes and fall asleep again.

I am awoken once again, this time by my Dad. The smack of his rubber slippers is much less powerful than Maa’s because their soles have worn off, but he won’t replace them until they are nothing but useless pieces of overused rubber. I hear him gargling with the heinously warm turmeric water Maa prepares for him to keep his throat healthy. It must be 6:30. He will soon start preparing the “sick pee”, i.e, water in which flowers of neem trees have been left overnight. The name was coined by me when I was 6, hence it’s unadulterated grossness. It is supposed to protect us against the harsh Indian heat. It tastes like what I imagine the earth would taste if the planet’s surface was its tongue. Needless to say, it made me prefer a heatstroke of drinking it.

I am just about to fall asleep when Maa’s spoiled pigeons start having their breakfast and since my bed is right next to the window, they spill half of it on me. I should have known that waking up late in the Bansal household is as easy as trying to make a waterfall flow upstream. I give up and sit up with a sigh. After all, home is not truly home if I need an alarm to wake up. 

To the loneliness of the girl who sat next to me

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You little sneak, 
how do you hide? 
in your white home 
under the black sun,
darker with every blink.

Swimming in the sea 
with the red shore
your claws crust step-stones 
on her cheeks,
for the hollowness 
to make a good climb.

With your house crammed full 
of your miserable associates 
you crawl your way 
​out of the rheumy grave 
of her laughter, 
melting away your ruse 
with the flames you light 
in her chest.

Her hands
clenched around themselves 
betray her heart’s desperation, 
as you mock her attempts 
to bleach her face 
of the redness 
​of your savagery.

She sits in a pool of eyes
that track her every laboured breath 
and wait for the her 
to drown in a fire 
of which she is accused 
as the arsonist. 

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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“One summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke.” (Saenz Pg.1). You know a book is going to change your life when its first line makes you feel more understood than anything or anyone has done in your entire life.

This book. This book. Benjamin Alire Saenz has confronted the tumult that are our teenage years with this contemporary fiction about a beautifully honest and tender friendship between Aristotle and Dante, our main characters.

The book is set in the city of El Paso, Texas, and although it spans across over a year of Ari and Dante’s lives, the summer sun acts as backdrop for a major portion of the unlikely friendship between Ari and Dante that slowly morphs into an exploration of relationships with parents, of love, of loneliness, and of friendships so intimate, they make you question who you are.

Aristotle is, well, he is a complicated person. He is lonely, he is lost, he is insecure, he is angry, he struggles to express himself, and is still trying to find, as he likes to put it, “all the secrets of the universe”. He is tired of all the silence about his brother who is in prison. “I caught myself whispering over and over again, ‘my brother is in prison, my brother is in prison, my brother is in prison.’ Words could be like food—they felt like something in your mouth. They tasted like something, ‘My brother is in prison.’ Those words tasted bitter.” (Saenz Pg97).

Dante, on the other hand, is the most open-hearted, happy and unabashed person Ari has had the chance of meeting. He knows why birds exist, “Birds exist to teach us things about the sky.”(Saenz Pg 54). He reads poetry out loud, he draws. He can get along with just about anybody and always knows the right thing to say. He cries when he feels sad, he laughs when he is happy, and most of all, he always speaks what he feels, never caring what others think. He is, as Ari likes to put it, “uncensored”.

Ari has never met a guy like Dante. In fact, in his opinion, all teenage guys are “disgusting”. But in Dante he meets an exception to the rule: “And there wasn’t anything mean about him. I didn’t understand how you could live in a mean world and not have any of the meanness rub off on you.” (Saenz Pg 19). Ari, who has never had a real friend before and is still learning to navigate being one while Dante has no problems being Ari’s best friend:
“I liked the sketch,” I said.
“Why?”
“Because it looks just like my chair.”
“Is that the only reason?”
“It holds something,” I said
“What?”
“Emotion.”
“Tell me,” Dante said.
“It’s sad. It’s sad and it’s lonely.”
“Like you,” he said.
I hated that he saw who I was. “I’m not sad all the time,” I said.
“I know,” he said.
(Sáenz Pg 75) 

The book also focuses on the relationship between Ari and his parents, as well as the parent-child relationship in general. It shows the importance of expression, it shows how secrets can break the strongest of bonds, especially within a family. We see the way secrets threaten to taint Ari’s relationship with his parents and the mistakes parents can make in a bid to protect their children, in the most honest and raw way possible.

The book transformed the way i looked at friendships and forever changed their meaning. Ari and Dante’s friendship is the purest one i have ever come across, so whenever the twists and turns of the story threatened it, the fear I felt was palpable. Through their friendship Saenz portrays the complicated, painful, yet beautiful experience that is discovering one’s sexuality. He has created characters so vivid, that by the time the book ended, i felt like i had grown with the characters. That whatever Ari and Dante had gone through, was somehow a part of my journey too. Not just Ari and Dante, but their parents too, are characters that all the other new characters i will ever come across will have to compete against.

The book is written in first person, from the point of view of Ari, which makes the words that Ari feels, so personal. It is divided into five small parts which each begin with a small quote or a single, sneakily prophetic line that is bound to get you thinking. In each part, the tension that ties the various threads of the story together builds up even more and Saenz’s ability to twist the plot at just the right time is bound to keep you hooked.

The book drew me in with Saenz’s incredibly unique writing style. His writing is so profoundly impactful in it’s simplicity that it is impossible to not marvel over the power of words at least once while reading it. “My mother and father held hands. I wondered what it was like to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.” (Saenz Pg 140). The emotional depth that underlies the uncomplicated sentences that he weaves together always leaves me stunned. The resonance of his writing makes the journey that Ari and Dante make to discover their true selves, so much more meaningful. 

This masterpiece will forever be one of my favourites and to anyone is struggling to find their place in the world, or more importantly, within themselves, this book is meant for you.
Moreover, who doesn’t want to find all the secrets of the universe? 

Lost

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I left myself 
sitting on a milestone 
eyes towards the sky 
wishing more brightness 
for the stars 
and more darkness 
for the dark they sit in 
the horizon to the path ahead 
tucked away ~ like blurred memories,  
in a hyper-aware mind  
there, but not~ 
the sand beneath my feet 
siphons into a place 
beyond the reach 
of my dangling toes 
and as I wait 
for my heart to get 
my feet moving, 
memories imprint onto 
themselves 
like wet words 
the insignificance of 
my fading self 
hammers me down 
until I sink enough 
to show travellers 
their way home. 

New year.

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My thoughts are shape shifting.
They are the words that make my life a 
story worthy of pride.
They are my North Star, guiding me through 
forests of uncertainty and deserts of sadness.
They are fluttering birds zapping across my brain
like an electric shock.
They are bulbous elephants stomping on my neurones
until they are fried and useless.
They are sharks with serrated blades for teeth 
bleeding my head into an ocean of seemingly 
impregnable fears.
And sometimes, they are every living creature 
one could possibly find on the face of this earth. 
And in times like these, when they are 
bigger than me,
I abandon them in a corner of my brain
they must now be familiar with,
and borrow someone else’s. 
Sometimes, I let me thoughts be engulfed by those 
that I presume the stranger who met my eyes across 
the spice aisle of the grocery store might think.
Or maybe that distant cousin who despite me being 
the youngest, didn’t make me feel small. 
or maybe when I am feeling particularly grand, 
I think I am Frida Kahlo manifesting the next
masterpiece with her pain.
and when I think of this new year, 
which inevitably makes me think of the last year,
my thoughts become stalactites poking 
at my brain.
So I try and abandon them 
only to fail, and
the shards of the frozen limestone rebuke me 
to face the truth.
A truth that tells me that there is a 
long stretch of paper torn from the prettiest 
notebook, waiting to be filled in,
and with my feet dripping in ink, 
I could either lay a path in blue on the pale paper 
of future, and move forward, forward, forward,
or I could stand right where i am and let the 
ink seep through it until my footsteps 
are too ink-soaked to hold up,
and with each rip I go, 
down, down, down.

Being a woman

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I am a girl. Maybe even a woman. It’s tough to decide, or maybe, it’s just tough to become one.

My Maa tells me that if I want to become something, I have to unravel each and every piece, of whatever it is I see myself as, and work hard, very hard, to become it. So I took her advice, and started searching for what makes a woman worthy of that title. But all I saw around me was the women in my family being forced to cut and polish their dreams to fit the plans the society had for them. I learnt that one female is raped every sixteen minutes in my country, as if we are flies that the world wants to swat down with the target that is placed on our bodies the minute we are born. I realised that, in my country, as in many others, women earn 19% lesser than men for the same work, as if being a woman somehow shrinks the value of hard work; and that son preference was as common as a kid wanting the latest toy for their birthday. I understood that gender roles are not just some optional characteristics we can choose to ignore, but a suffocating pit, with walls made out of unwanted opinions, set and ready for us to jump into. I saw that…what a woman is, or what a woman is supposed to be, is much more complicated than I thought it was going to be.

But, you see, it is unacceptable to let others choose what a woman is supposed to be, when I am the one who has to live in this world as a woman. When I am the one who has to look the world in the eyes with all its inequalities reflecting in mine. So here’s what I want.

First of all, I want being a woman to mean being able to fight. To fight for the right to stand right alongside the men who have for far too long suppressed our voices with their fingers stapled to our lips. To fight for what is ours, the right to live in a world where gender equality is no longer a pipe dream. To fight to stand together, together with all the other women who have to scrounge for choices in a world that offers them none. To fight alongside the women who have their rights stolen from them as if they were unlocked bikes left out in the streets. To fight to make sure that this fight is not against men, but only against the inequality that has forced women to blend into the background.

Secondly, I want being a woman to be free. To be free to go out alone after dark and not look over our shoulders for lurking eyes that see our body as another lifeless object. To be free to take every step with only the force of our will guiding our legs, not what people think about the clothes covering those legs. To be free to cook because we want to, not because it is an obligation. To be free of the seeming necessity to lower our voice because, apparently, only boys have the right to shout. To be free to sew together our future with the cloth of our own talent and conviction, rather than the measly rags stinking with sexism, the world throws our way. But most of all, I want being a woman to mean the freedom to choose the kind of women we want to be.

And that is not all, because ultimately, I want being a woman to be happy. Happy in the choice to be someone who builds herself up by fighting, by choosing to be free. Happy in the process of becoming a person who loves herself, unburdened with the anxieties of what people will think. Happy in the thought that even if the world can be a scary place to choose the kind of woman we want to be, we get to fight to make it safe. Happy in the realisation that we have the opportunity to create a world that values equality over anything else that a woman needs.

But it is not easy. It is not easy to be free, to fight, to be happy in a world that keeps stacking up new ways to scare us into submission. Into believing that it will never change. That everyday another girl will be raped, and underpaid and harassed and discriminated against. That everyday, we will find new reasons to hide, to shove our words down our throat with the plunger of self doubt and fear. But, you see, no fight fought for change is ever an easy one, because easy doesn’t get you freedom, easy doesn’t get you equality that is concrete enough to feel equal.

So, now, here, I declare, I declare: I am a woman. I am a woman who is still learning what it means to be one. I am a woman who has fears and doubts, but also hopes and dreams, and a lot of fight to keep her going. And, yes, I am not the only one. No woman wants to live in fear, in depenndence. And all we need, all of us, is to stand together. Because we might not know each other, we might live oceans away, but, we face the same unfair world, and in this unfairness we can find a common ground to fight on. To make the world a place where gender inequality, sexism, sexual violence, and other horrifying threats, don’t make us afraid of our womanhood.

Here’s a link to the audio version of this essay: https://youtu.be/FaXjoNA5zQI

Punishment

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Life has taken on 
a strange hue, 
as if all it’s colours  
were siphoned 
into memories of times  
we didn’t hide our 
breaths 
to be able to take 
more. 
Every heartbeat seems  
watered down, 
as if painted by an  
amateur artist  
struggling to find that 
perfect balance  
which makes colours  
seem real. 
Music has a much  
deeper hold on me 
as if the notes 
are drowning  
and have decided 
to bury their  
inhibitions  
under the ocean floor. 
My fingertips trace 
every object in 
their path 
to relish in their 
existence,  
their own stretched  
too thin. 
And my feet,  
my feet,  
they move tethered to 
a hope, 
Hope 
that the earth will 
soon decide that 
it has punished  
us 
long enough. 

A car ride

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I have buckled my seat belt
with my closed fist conviction—
thumping against the moving metal,
The seat seems adjusted
to all the life
i have stuffed
in the backseat,
The roof handle
seems to have forged itself
to fit the deep ledges
of my bitten nails,
My feet seem to have found
just the right angle
to keep them from swelling
with the sick weight
of my mistakes,
My head is high enough
to hold itself up
and to not sway
with any bumps
the journey ahead might bring,
my eyes look straight ahead
with lucidity
I wreak my bones 
to muster,
my pores have scrounged
for every bit of courage
they could find in the dust
billowing up from the road
that I have stroked every colour on—
just the right shade
and not too much water
to keep the tar from melting—
My heart is beating for
every milestone
the dark rubber I balance on
races past,
and for the crunch of the sand
that propels me forward—
against the backdrop 
of a multicolour sky,
because my fingers 
​couldn’t settle on one.

And I cross every metre
of the road
I believe to have painted,
with only one worry
trembling on my lips:
I am not the one
on the driver’s seat.

My Heart is like

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  I know what my heart is like
  Since it begged for utter silence:
It is like a wet cheeked baby
Howling for love
     With soiled clothes
     And a dirty nose,
Left rolling by the road.

This is a poem that is inspired by “Ebb,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

I know what my heart is like 
   Since your love died: 
It is like a hollow ledge 
Holding a little pool 
   Left there by the tide, 
   A little tepid pool, 
Drying inward from the edge

My Grandfather Has Only Four Teeth

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My father once told me that when he was young, my grandmother used to ask him to bury his broken teeth in the earth of the magnificent Tulsi plant on their terrace. She said that planting them and watering them would make his new teeth stronger. He said that he had believed her, just like any kid who wants to believe every fairy tale they hear, and planted and watered all his broken teeth everyday. Looking back, he said, she had probably wanted him to water the plant without having to ask, and that it doesn’t matter because he still has the strongest teeth of us all. We had all laughed then. My grandfather hadn’t believed her. He told her that she was filling my dad’s head with fantasies he didn’t need. But the damage had already been done. There is not a single broken tooth that I haven’t planted in our Tulsi plant.

Ammaji died surrounded by mystery and shock. It was totally unexpected. A normal day with a tragic ending. She had cooked her breakfast, and then as sudden as lightning, was shrouded in a terrible fever which she succumbed to on her way to the hospital. Papa had been devastated, he had left my brother and I at a friend’s house and left for Dadaji’s. I don’t remember a lot about that time. My head was filled with fantasies that I didn’t need. But I did remember my grandfather smacking his hand against his forehead so hard, that his glasses broke and some glass hurt his eye. 

After all the funerary rites were over, my dad came and got my brother and me from his friend’s house and took us to Dadaji. The last time that I had seen him, his teeth had seemed fragile enough to break if he sneezed. Their sick, yellow pallor had gotten worse and given his aversion to toothbrushes, he brushed his teeth with his fingers using a powder called “dattun”, which he claimed cleaned teeth like nobody’s business. This custom didn’t make his teeth want to hold onto his swollen gums, that peek out from under his lips when he smiles. This time, a lot of sunset coloured teeth had given up and fallen. One even broke in front of me, and later, when he thought no one was looking, he buried the tooth under the welcoming dirt of the Tulsi plant, and watered them with his tears. 

My most recent visit told me that he was left with only four teeth, and the Tulsi plant’s earth had never looked lumpier.

Dear Eliza

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Eliza was storming through the set of drawers in my parents’ room, searching for a puncher, when she came across an austere looking envelope with no address. The empty house spurred me on to open it and when she did, she found this:

                                                                                                                             5th Oct, 2019

Dear Eliza, 

It’s Maa. You turn 16 today at exactly 10:53 a.m. The last 16 years seem to have imprinted onto each other like wet words, a blur of so many feelings and emotions, some shared, others left untouched. But I think it’s time to dust off the cobwebs of suppression off them. 

Last month, when you didn’t talk to me for a week after discovering that I never told you that I took a fashion designing course in college, I got a glimpse of what my silence about my life means to you. I have noticed how you look at me with expectant eyes, after your Papa tells you anecdotes about selling kites and comics at your Dadaji’s shop, waiting to hear something about me. But I kept the flood of memories that I had left behind, bolted tightly shut. Maybe because it is not nearly as jolly as technicolour kites flying in the blue sky, or maybe because I feared what it would mean to you, to us. 

This is the first letter in a series of letters that I wish to write to you. I will give them to you either when words have soaked up all the snippets of my life I want you to have, or when that life itself no longer survives.

Let me start by telling you about your Nani. Her name was Sharda. Her delicate cheekbones were draped with lovely brown skin and her ageless black hair would run in a plait down her back and almost touch the ground, like a mountaineer’s rope, just as strong, if not more. I wonder what she would have to say about my greying riot of a hair. Her eyes seemed to be both happy and sad, like the river Ganga that carries centuries worth of sins of penitent men and women, but still sparkles to invite more. And her smile. It was the perfect balm for every ache in the heart.

Your Nani was a remarkable woman. She would make me braid her hair so tight, I feared that one day I would find tufts of her braid in my hands, torn clear off. She would make Nan Khatai for me, just like I do for you. They used to be so delicious and would melt in our mouths as if they never held a solid shape. I wish you could taste them. We would play kanche in the afternoons in our verandah and then fall asleep, her hand on my forehead, on the threaded khats she made with her own hands. We didn’t say much. Just basked in comfort of the radiant silence that we created. But I wish that I had known more about her. So much more. 

Old North Indian houses used to have steel rails cut into their terrace floors so that the residents would know if monkeys had decided to raid it. One day, someone in our house forgot to lock the rails. Your Nani, who was coming back from watering her garden, stepped on it and fell straight through, onto the water bucket the maid had left there while mopping the floor. The sight of her blood had numbed my heart, and I tried to imagine a life without her, only to fail. She had so many head injuries that she didn’t discover one of them until a week after she fell, while washing her hair, and went about doing the same as if nothing out of ordinary had happened. 

Did I tell you that she used to sing? Her voice flowed as if it was being carried by a river and she would turn ordinary songs into such beautiful pieces of artistry that the original piece would fade into nothing more than whisper of her sweet voice. I still remember the feel of the coarseness that years of work had inflicted upon her hands, as she caressed my forehead and sang me to sleep whenever I was sick. But I couldn’t do the same for her. I couldn’t use my touch to make her once strong self come back from the brink of an existence that I didn’t have any access to. She died 17 years ago because of Diabetes. I still can’t believe it. How could her warrior self, who singlehandedly taught me how to fight the whole world, and fought against it herself, succumb to a disease? 

At that time, it seemed like no one could stop me from succumbing to the noose of grief that had gripped my entire body. But then, I discovered that just as I was about to lose her, I had you growing up in my belly. Before she was gone, she had placed a hand on my belly and smiled that healing smile and even in death, she blessed you with all that she had left. I am sorry I lied to you and told you that she had already passed away 2 years before you were born. I know this must make you angry, but I have carried the divine weight of that smile on my shoulders ever since that day, hoping one day to stoop it down to yours, fearing if you could carry it. Now, I know that you have grown enough to take it on yourself. And always remember, you may never have had the chance to meet her, but her luminescence will always follow you into the dark, no matter how blind you feel.

Love, 
Maa

Clutching the letter to her heart, Eliza realised that her Maa’s secrets were no longer a barrier between them, but a bridge built over her own anger and Maa’s lies and silence, that they had to cross together, to keep from falling. 

Song Recommendations

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 In these trying times, all of us have found ways to distract ourselves, and what better way of doing so than music? These songs are the ones that I hold dear, not just because they are musical masterpieces, but also because they are such instances of impeccable artistry that they leave one open-mouthed.


Blackbird by The Beatles


This song has an indescribable undertone of freedom in it. The simplicity with which John Lennon’s voice flows seems to be imploring me to discover the wonders of the world and all the things in it. It describes all that stands unlocked before us once we break those barriers which separate us from ourselves. My heart keeps on oscillating between a surprising amount of alternatives when it comes to what “the moment” is for me. When will I see “the light of the dark black night”? When will all my blemishes fade, or if they don’t, will I be able to “take these broken wings and learn to fly”. These questions remain unanswered, but hopefully, time will answer them soon enough. 


Fource  by Sorority Noise

This song. This song. I don’t really know exactly what it is about this song. But it brings that feeling of being lost in your own self right to my throat and just leaves it there to dry. The singer is not even singing. He is just reciting the lyrics—the melancholically incredible lyrics— and there is this sound of sand crunching under heavy boots that just gets your heart to slow. It is like one of those pieces of poetry that keep floating around in your head until you have no option but to take notice. His voice has a slightly drunk quality to it that reminds me so painfully of the helplessness that tugs at everyone’s hearts at least once in their lives.


River by Emeli Sande

Emeli Sande’s incredibly soulful voice, coupled with the vulnerability of the lyrics of this song, makes me so grateful for all those people who have, in any way, helped me take a step forward when I couldn’t do so on my own. But most of all, it reminds me that there are people out there ready to hold my hand when others keep breaking it. Especially when the chorus starts, her voice takes on this incredibly soft tone that reminds me that I must hold on to someone’s hand too,  just as they hold on to mine. 


Sleep on the floor by The Lumineers 

Even though this song is intended to be a love song, the richness and desperation of Wesley Schultz’s voice in this song gets to my heart as the wanderlust for the places I have yet to visit. It really makes me want to pack a “toothbrush and a favourite blouse”, and leave for unknown places that surprise and scare me. When he asks the person whom he is talking to in the song, what they will do “If the sun don’t shine on me today”, I imagine my wandering self asking my own courage the same and if it will desert me when I need it the most. When I listen to this song while in a car, every other passing vehicle makes me wonder if the people inside it know where they going or if they are just following their hearts. 

Asleep by The Smiths

Stephen Morrissey’s voice has a depth that has the power to make people feel emotions that they have never experienced before. I cannot even begin to describe how I feel about this song. I imagine this is how the dying moments of a life well-lived would feel. The hopeful yearning for “a better world” tells us that they have seen all that they wished to see in this world, and now are searching for “another world”. The tone of tiredness in his voice sounds so pleadingly expectant, especially when he says, “Well, there must be” that the song makes you live in itself even though you have never have stepped anywhere near the place that it wants to take you.

Alive by Sia

This is song starts in agony, there is no other possible way to describe it. There is so much pain in Sia’s voice that it’s difficult not to feel its palpability. But, the song is not just her pain, it’s her triumph over it. The anguish in her voice when she sings, “I’m Alive”, never fails to engender goosebumps. The song is a fight, and as it seems at first, one that she is losing: “I saw my life in a stranger’s face/ And it was mine”. But then her despair is overcome by tenacity: “But I survived/ I’m still breathing’’. This song is by no means a happy, but it is surely triumphant and not for a single moment fails to flow both the sides of life with its throbbing eloquence.

Visions of Gideon by Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Steven’s impeccable voice seems nothing more than a whisper, and at the same time carries itself like a river. Remember that feeling of nostalgia and heartache that pervades one’s heart when they leave behind something or someone beloved and treasured? The haunting quality of his voice brings even more intensity to the enigmatic emotions that arise in me once I listen to this song. Even though I will never be able to capture the artistry of this song into words, I would like to say that it feels like the homesickness for places I’ve never even visited, inexplicable yet profound.

State of Being

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The world,
a choking hazard
tucked away from 
the eager fingers 
of a new life,
The unknown,
spills fire ants 
into my brain
bewildered as the foot 
of a blind woman
with a broken stick,
Time,
tries to catch up with 
itself
like spinning words 
in a drunkard’s mind,
My heart,
feels solid as clay
getting its fate molded 
by a novice’s fearful touch.

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Laughs and Tunes

Given the graveness of the, might I mention, insane situation, I decided that any more serious contemplation of what the future might bring was not going to help anyone. So, this time, I have created something that will let humour play its role by making some popular music more lockdown friendly. Here are some songs that I have tinkered with in the hope that they relieve some of the tension all of us are hanging on to:

Bad Guy by Billie Eilish

My lunch was ready, now it’s on the floor
Who knew you can’t flip a pan with so much force
Actin’ like it’s still edible
Man, you’re an animal
Burn marks on both my thumbs from this
Cooking sure makes me wanna hiss 
Should there be smoke coming out of that?
My hands, so confused
So you thought it would be easy
That you would be too full
But now you are wondering
If your life was a waste
I’m that hella bored type
Always dragging my feet type
Giving you bad advice type
Sleeping half the day type
I’m the bored guy, duh

You are the reason by Callum Scott (to coronavirus):

And I’d use up all the hand wash
And rub even the thumb 
Just to be thorough
And save the medical bills
Oh, ‘cause I need you to know
That you are the reason
The bakery opens no more
I don’t eat pastries no more
Go away the homemade stuff’s not the same
-You are the reason by Callum Scott

We will rock you by Queen (to lockdown violaters):

Buddy, you’re an idiot 
Call 108
Playing in the streets
Gonna be a bad patient someday
You got no mask on your face
You big disgrace 
Spreadin’ your germs all over the place
Singin’
We will, we will
Infect you
We will, we will 
Infect you.

Memories by Maroon 5

There’s a time that I remember, when I used to cuss out the sun
When I went out as cold coffee and came back as sour milk 
Now the only thing burning, is my stomach as if on a flame
‘Cause I ate so many Cheetos that my fingers look like them, yeah
Everybody’s doing the same
Everybody’s doing the same, ayy-ayy
At least that’s what I like to say
Go on raise a glass and say, ayy

Attention by Charlie Puth

You know you should fall asleep
The sun is out
But just one last episode
Is what’s on your mind. Ooh
And now you’re hungry again
What’d you expect?
But you’re not gonna get up 
From this bed
You are just too lazy
You didn’t even bathe
You’re the one who thought 
A vacation might be good for you 
Yeah. You are just too lazy
The only work out you are getting
Is from the walk to the washroom. Ooh

Faith

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 When I was a kid and had trouble sleeping, my Maa would tell me to recite Hanuman Chalisa in my head. I don’t remember ever learning the Chalisa. It was one of those things that the mind never betrays to the even sheerest ravages of time or memories, but is still unable to stop at the exact step in the walk leading us to the present, to pinpoint where it was acquired. I would recite the entire Chalisa in my head. The words made little sense to me and I would imagine myself sifting the words in my head, leaving the words that I didn’t bother learning the meanings of on the perforated floor of the sieve and the mystery of those words would weigh down on my eyes until they drooped interminably.

The simplicity of my choice to believe that the words I had inadvertently taught myself would put me sleep still astonishes me. That choice was so blissfully free from all the ties that bound the words to what the adults around me fondly call Faith. Now our little friend Faith here is highly misunderstood. Or maybe it is just poorly understood. As I see it, Faith is the product of our need to have something greater then ourselves to believe in. To know that there is something greater than our mere flesh and bone holding the lid of the jar holding our soul closed. To know that there was something greater than us holding up the sky above our heads and it didn’t have a mind of its own to decide that it didn’t want to stay up any longer.

Faith, as I understand it, has a multifaceted personality. It is like a house that has been rented out to the entire universe and everybody in the universe has their own definition of Faith living inside it. These definitions were so multifarious that even our overburdened Faith has not been able to keep track. For some it was a flickering light in an ever darkening world, or a gleam of determination in a loved one’s eye or a bond of love, of friendship or sometimes even shining pieces of colourful stones. But then somewhere in the course of the universe, it could have been the beginning, middle or end of time (Faith’s house was particularly teeming at that moment to pay attention), a wholly unique and puzzling tenant applied for space. It was unusually distinct from all the other definitions that Faith had ever let live in its house. Its name was Religion.

Religion was just as multifarious as Faith, if not more. It had so many forms that it left Faith’s mind reeling and the peculiarity of this tenant remained uncontested in Faith’s mind. So Faith, after having seen so many people occupy their space in its house with the predictable, decided that it will see what shape this takes. As Faith observed, these people grew more peaceful, kinder, however, they also grew more dependent. Dependent upon their Faith for all that they believed was out of their grasp, for all that they couldn’t find reasons for.

As Faith followed its course, it saw Religion evolve. More accurately, it saw people’s dependence on Religion evolve. Faith saw no wrong in believing in Religion, what felt wrong to it was the fact that in doing so, they had forgotten what standing on their own feet and believing in themselves felt like. Faith found out that the people had made Religion out to be synonymous with operating theatre as if it was an impenetrable surgery room. Even more disturbing was the fact that these people knew nothing outside of those rooms, and what they knew, they considered diabolic. The heart of a person was thought to hold nothing but their Religion and what was unfortunate was that it was true at times. And when their hearts were so full of their own Religion, how could they make space for another? Hate brewed among the various Religions, the type of hate that takes birth from ignorance. Faith followed these events with growing sadness and saw what an innocent attempt to have something to rely on had contorted into something that at times could be so merciless that it would allow innocents to be killed if it was in the name of religion. It saw how people had trapped themselves inside a cage and greedily waited for more to join them. How they couldn’t see past the blindfold of bigotry they had created on their own.

Before Faith knew it, hate had given way to violence and the colourful painting that was Religion had been so covered with red that not even the brightest and the most vibrant colours could repaint it. Faith felt that Religion had turned into a family heirloom that had been passed down so many generations with such varying intentions that it’s true meaning had blurred out of existence—just like the photograph of the ancestor who originally brought it into the family. As it watched these events unfold, it had a myriad of thoughts. But the one that it couldn’t pack away under the weight of its memories is: when did people stop remembering that no matter what they put their Faith in, they were still that, people.

It doesn’t matter whom we devote our worship to, what matters is that all us are all worshiping for the same reason: to have faith. In the end, when we are ready to leave behind this world and descend into the unknown, the only fact that differentiates us from each other is not the God who receives our prayers but what the people that we have left behind will feel when look upon the life that we lived.

The Spilled Peas

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Inspiration can arise from odd places. One might find it hiding in a dark corner of a street they walk through every day, or shining in a child’s smile hoping that its light can reach to us, or waving from the eyes of a stranger in the grocery store, one peeked at stealthily. Sometimes, as I have recently learnt, it also gives rise to odd creations. I found it concealed inside a bowl of peas and disguised as the words of this beautiful poem by Langston Hughes:

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Here is a piece of prose inspired (more or less) by this poem, called “The Spilled Peas”:

That day the peas spilled. Tumbled right out of the big green bowl and scattered all over the floor like hailstones during a storm. Produced tiny thuds that echoed through my body as if from rocks spilling out of the back of a truck. Went under the fridge. Got crushed under my feet. But the bowl didn’t break. The bowl didn’t break. So I picked up all the spilled peas. One by one. With care. 217 peas. Put them back in the bowl that didn’t break and filled it with water. Placed it near the sink. Let the water drown the dust of the kitchen floor. Bathed the peas and washed my hands. But my head was full of tomatoes and rice. I forgot about the peas. And with my fingers I uprooted their home. The green bowl fell once again and so did its resident peas. The spilled peas spilled again. I spilled the spilled peas. And broke the big green bowl. Broke the big green bowl.                          


 

The Edge of a Cliff

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 I am dangling on the edge of a cliff,
Its cruel laugh, a subversive,
Even to the malevolent tick of time,
The devious rocks whisper ploys,
Right beneath my fingers,
Determined to slacken their feeble grip,
 
I chance a look at the fate awaiting me with darkness cupped in its palms,
And find the cusp of adulthood staring back at me,
I hunt my mind,
To find any evidence to the journey made up that steep slope,
Only to find laughter,
Unburdened with the stifling anxieties ushered in by expectations,
Into a party hosted by my foes,
With the dance floor enlivened by all my eclectic fears.
 
I desperately hang on to that last tinkle of laughter,
Only to find it sounding the knell for my childhood,
Hidden in its cadence is the happiness I haven’t stretched my mouth to,
Since that clifftop tempted me with its fallacious promises,
Contorting all the aspirations of a young heart into preposterous whims.
 
All this desperation causes my fingers to bleed a crimson sign,
Warning me to stop rebelling and give in to the inevitable,
My body is stretched like a worn-out trampoline,
Only, it won’t bounce anything, neither would it cushion the fall,
For it is so heavy with its desire,
To cup the grains of time in its hollow,
And send them back to the place where they learnt to steal their own life,
That it can barely hold itself up.
 
But, it is not the body I agonize over, it is the heart,
For the heart has taken the brunt of it,
Its vibrant beats have been smothered by constant reprimands,
To disguise them under a veil of assiduously practiced indifference,
For lord knows what a little happiness may be deduced as,
By the vile eyes that don’t care for its thumps.
 
But the heart continues to beat,
Despite the hound sitting in its chamber,
With its innocence as a chew toy,
And flows its desires through the eyes,
As clear as the sky on a scorching summer afternoon,
Imploring the world to see,
All the wonders it scorns to believe.
 
 
 
              










































One day

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One day, 
I let tattooed palms veil my eyes, 
In the haze of daydreams,
I sat on the moon,
And dangled my legs,
Like the swinging braids of a giggling schoolgirl.
I pilfered a little starlight,
From the stars hanging in the sky,
And gave it away,
To all the dark corners of the round world.
The dreams stamped themselves on the back of my eyelids,
But the seconds sulked away.

One day,
I lashed my multicolored skipping rope,
Right across the minute hand,
And the tied it to the key of my blue music box,
But the key didn’t feel like stopping,
So the music took all the minutes away.

One day, 
I started writing my mind,
In these clumsy and dreary checklists,
With the least possible words,
And kept ticking life off (pun intended),
I covered my ears,
Against the mockery spewed,
By the unchecked boxes,
And the ticks took all the hours away.

One day, 
I replaced the numbers on my clock,
With words,
I let them be the gears in my head,
Fitting the ‘a’ in the curve of ‘c’,
And the ‘p’ in the crevice of ‘t’,
A little imperfectly.
The words found a home, 
But the days stormed off.

And one day,
Went away the months,
The starry ones and the stormy ones, 
The blurry ones and the lucid ones,
Like they were being chased by rabid dogs,
Off to the Universal Cemetery of Time,
Where all the old days are buried, 
In shared tombs, 
With rapturous laughter and heart-wrenching tears.
And the months took with them,
The year that was my 15th.

 

Don’t even look alike

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I love maa’s hands.
They are not pretty,
They are not perfect,
They don’t even look alike.

They are so callused, it makes a sandpaper seem softer;
They have sewn together my bursted seams, as well as hers, you see.
They have nails so chipped, they make a baby’s nails seem longer;
They have borne my pain, as though it was hers, you see.
They are so strong, they make daddy’s hands seem frail;
They have fought away my monsters with me, you see.

I love maa’s hands.
Because, they have accomplished moulding imperfection into a flair.
Because, they have manifested the transience of beauty, for the whole world to see.
Because, they have proficiently held my hand, everytime I stumbled, or let me fall, if need be.
Because, they might not be soft, but feel velvety when rested on my forehead.
Because, they have just not wiped my tears, but taught me to wipe them myself.
Because, they have never ceased to wrap me in their warmth, when the world seems too cold.
Beacuse, holding them feels like holding my whole life in the palm of my hand.
Because, they don’t hide mysteries in their hollows, but the key to the quest of discovering them.

I love maa’s hands.
They are not pretty,
They are not perfect,
They don’t even look alike.

Flash fiction

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“Flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity that still offers character and plot development.” – Wikipedia

Flash fiction is to readers, what a candy bar is, to a starved urchin. Though small in quantity, it is uninhibitedly savoured. The main idea of flash fiction is to present a story in the least possible words. There is power in words. Words can have an irrevocable effect, and it is based on this principle that flash fiction works. It conveys the action of a story in the compression of poetry, and the overall effect that is thus created is so heartbreakingly poignant that it inspires one more than any elaborate eloquence ever could

Here’s a piece of flash fiction that I’d like to share today:

THE SMOKE

The smoke billows up from the burning pyre, chasing the murky clouds. My cheeks feel wet. My small hand holds daddy’s larger one.
“That’s the spirit of your nani,” maa says, pointing at the smoke. Her brown cheeks are wet too.
Looking at the smoke, I imagine nani’s wrinkled face, her kind eyes. Till there’s none of it left.

Years later, I run and run, chasing the smoke as it chases the clouds, floating above the pyre. Someone’s holding me. Not letting me move. Letting maa’s twinkling eyes and comforting smile fade away. Till there’s none of it left.

Memories

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 Little snippets of life,
Saved from the ravages of time,
Preserved in a cozy corner of the heart,
Snuggled with nostalgia and joy,
My precious memories.

The connecting dots of a life in fragments,
The most untouchable possession,
New ones coveted every day,
To reminiscence, to mourn, to cherish,
My enchanting memories.

The tears that pour down my cheeks,
In recollection, in grief,
The laughter of a person long since gone,
The inheritance most worthy of all,
My bittersweet memories.

The scribbles that scar the walls,
The stains that spoil my clothes,
The scars that mar my skin,
Each has a tale to tell,
My persistent memories.

Snapshots stolen from a speedy existence,
Souvenirs from a time irrevocably gone,
A wireless time machine,
To travel back to love, to warmth, to hope,
My hallowed memories.


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Flat earth

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In ancient times, people used to believe that the earth was flat, like a disk, and that if one travelled too far from land then that person would fall off the edge, like in case of a waterfall. When I first assimilated this fact, it reminded me of a coin. It still does. The only difference being, I wasn’t aware of the concept of suicide back then, I mean, I knew what it meant, however, the reasons behind the aforementioned activities were beyond my eleven-year-old grasp. They still are, but I understand, or at least I think I understand where the reasons are coming from, but I don’t think that they justify suicide. 
Now you must be wondering what a coin has to do with suicide. Well, a coin has two sides. When a coin is kept on a flat surface, one of its sides is in the light and the other in the dark, making one bright side and a dark one. Life too is the same. It has a bright side and a dark one. Needless to mention the bright side is one of happiness and the dark one of difficulties. 
Owing to the unpredictability of life there’s no guarantee that one will always remain on the bright side. At times a person is so far into the dark side, that just like in the ancient belief about flat earth, they fall off the edge and into the unknown. Now, these people can be classified into, those who set foot into the dark side willingly and those who have no choice and are pushed into it by the circumstances. No matter what the reason, if these people are not pulled out or if they do not pull themselves out of the darkness, it eats at their insides, hence the person becomes dead inside. All this might seem to be fancy talk, but by dark side I don’t just mean drugs, smuggling, black marketing, and other out of bounds stuff, I mean atrocious stuff like ragging, harassment of all sorts, blackmail, et cetera, that pushes people to take such drastic actions that they wouldn’t have dreamt of in normal circumstances.
It is when the dark becomes so overwhelming and stifling that everything seems dead and lifeless to a person and he has no apparent attachment to the bright side, that he takes the saddening decision of ending his own life. To him, everything is so bleak and spiritless that the light just loses its significance. But, the fact that they forget or the reason for the darkness in their life makes them overlook is that there is still light in the world, it may be far away, but it is there. One just needs to find the rope that will tether them to the bright side and use it to reach it the other side. And that rope is the people who care about us. One forgets that there are people that care about their lives, even if they don’t do that themselves. After all, our heart is part of those we love, and hence, when one chooses to terminate its beating, he chooses to reduce the beats from the hearts of his loved ones as well.
Just imagine, the condition of a single mother when she realizes that her son was being bullied, but cannot do anything, because it’s too late. The plight of a father when he is informed that her daughter was being blackmailed, and instead of embracing him, embraced death. The horror of a little girl when she finds out that she is now an orphan because her mother chose to give in to the pressure of life rather than fight with it. Wouldn’t it be easier to talk about the problem, to ask for help? And if one thinks that they are doing a favour to those around them by ending their own life, let me make it clear, their magnanimity is totally uncalled for. The people who love them would very much prefer that they talk to them and ask for their help. 
I am in no way trying to undermine anyone’s difficulties. No one knows what lies after death and if one is still ready to take that risk and hope that life is better there, then the problem must be excruciating. My point is, why take the risk at all? Why not be a little brave and courageous and find the rope to the bright side? Why not be a survivor and not a victim? 
I hope that everyone finds their rope, stays connected to the bright side and remembers that suicide is not an escape but a tragedy.

Heart and head

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“There is a wisdom of the heart and a wisdom of the head.” -Charles Dickens

Wise, intelligent, sagacious, prudent, judicious, are some titles chosen out of the profusion of names designated to a person who is extraordinary, a person who possesses that knowledge and experience which the ordinary and humdrum crowd lacks. These people are recognised for their skill and talent, for their exceptional qualities that distinguish them from the crowd, those qualities that make them who they are. Compassionate, benevolent, sympathetic, kind-hearted, are the adjectives attributed to those persons who place other people before themselves. These people are renowned for their kindness, for the concern and sympathy they hold for their less fortunate brethren. This classification implicitly shows that the wisdom of the first group of men resides in their head, whereas for the second group, wisdom has its abode in the heart. The first lot of people are rational, practical and logical, whereas the other one is contingent on instinct and intuition for their decisions. The first group applies logic while devising their plans, whereas for the second group following their heart is their commander.

If we contemplate the matter further, it becomes obvious that neither of the two groups can survive independently. Both of them need the other to survive in today’s world that, in the progressive process of becoming modern and advanced, has simultaneously become treacherous.This new world demands people whose manoeuvre is characterised by both logic and intuition. It requires people who can take decisions by balancing reasoning with instinct, letting neither of the two overpower the other. Let us think of it this way, an infant or a kid never thinks what he is doing, he just follows his heart’s orders. He becomes completely oblivious to what is happening around him, or what might happen, once he sees his mother and without any mediation runs straight into her arms. This is what makes them kids and this why they have to be kept under constant supervision, this why they need someone who can assist their heart with mind, and prevent them from hurting themselves.Whereas, on the other hand a   scientist, for whom a new invention is at the door listening to his heart is not an option, but this does not mean that he can abuse the people around him and make them efficacious for himself, that he has a right to overlook the roles the people who have advantageously helped him throughout his journey have played.   This is where heart steps in, it reminds those entangled helplessly in the web of selfishness and ephemeral fame, that there is something greater than their own self, that it’s time for them to rethink and assess their past actions and question themselves whether what they are doing is correct or not.

These examples make us realise explicitly that, mind and heart together make a flawless human being, a human being, who is a perfect blend of intelligence and humility, a person who is brilliant yet modest, a person who remains unimpressed by momentary happiness and is conscious of the joy that the collaboration of heart and mind can culminate into. 

The world we live in today we have started using our mind more than our heart, which has eventually resulted in people thinking twice before entrusting their faith in someone. It has resulted in people getting deceived and exploited. There is no longer room left for the people who are honest and trustworthy, people who expect to receive what they bestow. So, it’s time for us to wake up, to free ourselves from the grip of our ego and selfishness, and by asking the wisdom of our head togive way to the wisdom of our heart, make both of them walk hand in hand.

15 years

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 She stares in wonder and awe,
At the red mess of chubby hands and cheeks,
Eyes mirroring hers,
Fists shut tight,
To keep the love tucked in them from spilling out.
 
She places a hand on his tiny chest,
And listens to the infinitesimal thud,
Fueling both of their lives,
And wonders how something so tiny,
Could make her heart feel like a parachute.
 
She opens the door their home,
“This is your home, baby boy”, she says,
And shows him the place,
That would always shine,
With their love for each other.
 
“I am a mother”, she thinks,
Placing him in his cradle,
And is overcome with the giddiness,
And the trepidation,
That motherhood is bundled with.
 
It has been eight months since,
He became her world,
Eight months since,
She loved him,
With every glance and every touch.
                              
“Mama”, he garbles, in his sweet voice,                        
She stills, her hand freezes,                                                                        
She reaches the floor,
Where he sits unaware of the invaluable gift,
He just bestowed.
 
She encircles him,
In the heady circle of her arms,
Pleading for him to speak again,
And relishes in the euphoria,
Of his first words.
 
It has been a whole year since,
He lit up the dark caverns of her heart,
A whole year.
Since his cries became,
Her morning alarm.
 
His face lights up,
With a blinding smile,
When he sees his birthday cake,
Her heart dances,
With the music of glee in his face.
 
It has been five years since,
He filled the dreary chambers of her heart,
With the warmth of his smile,
Five years since, his laughs,
Dissipated her loneliness like an ice cube left in the sun.
 
Her eyes go misty as she stares,
At the colorful picture of herself on the paper,
“That’s you. Because you are my favorite person”, he says,
The straggling beauty of every stroke,
Belied the love in his voice.
 
It has been ten years since,
He rekindled the fire in her eyes,
Ten years since,
He brought back the lost euphoria,
In her effortlessly desolate laugh.
 
“Good night, baby boy”, she says,
Placing the storybook by the bed,
She kisses his forehead,
“I love you, mama”, he says,
And her heart marvels at the chest of exultation,
Those words covet.
 
It has been twelve years,
Since he was welcomed into the world,
By the most loving mother,
Twelve years,
Since making her smile became his favorite game.
 
His face is red with anger,
As potent as a rainstorm that leaves destruction in its wake,
“Those mean boys made fun of you”, he says,
She smiles and asks, “Did it make you think any less of me?”
And sees him shake his head,
“Then, what is there to be angry about?”
 
It has been fifteen years,
Since “family” became synonyms with “Maa”,
Fifteen years since,
Her arms became,
The warmest shelter of all.
 
Every day in this household,
Resembles a kaleidoscope,
Of memories, of love, of reverence,
Of lives lived so heartily,
That they amaze those around them.
 
It’s her birthday,
She peers out the window,
And sees him running,
Carrying a gift box in his hands,
And feels her eyes well up.
 
She is about to turn around,
When the sight of a speeding car stops her,
A scream builds up in her throat,
And she wishes that it could stop everything,
And prevent the impending disaster.
 
But, all the might of her heart,
Doesn’t stop the wretched car.
It hits him,
And it’s like a wrecking ball hits,
Right at her heart.
 
The scream pushes out of her throat,
And pulls at the,
Barbed wire, the sight before her,
Seems to have tied around her heart,
Letting all of it bleed out from her eyes, onto her cheeks.
 
Paying no heed to her heaving chest,
She runs towards him,
Pushing through the gathering crowd,
She reaches him,
Her screams excruciating enough to break the wire,
As well as her heart.
 
Her gift lies crushed by him,
Like a lugubrious reminder,
Of life’s fickleness.
 
His is a red mess,
Just like at the time of his birth,
But, this time, when she places a hand on his chest,
His heart no longer beats.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
         

                                  
                          
 
 
 
   




Something common amongst humankind

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The title is peculiar, isn’t it? We humans might possess drastically distinct personality traits as well as physical attributes , but there is something we all have in common. Dreams . We are all dreamers. From a kid, who wants to become everything he finds fascinating, to an old man, who dreams of a peaceful and happy life for his children. Others’ opinions stop fazing a person, if all that is important to him is what his dreams think about him. No matter how rich a person, no matter how poor, everyone is a dreamer. Dreams don’t take the nationality, skin colour, gender, race, caste, or any such thing over which we humans don’t have control, into consideration. What matters to them is passion and determination. Dreams are the force that drives life forward. Dreams might be different for everyone, but the path to their fulfilment is  marked by the same obstacles and crossed with ardour and fervour, that every human can employ. Dreams thus, are that wall which prevents a person from becoming listless and keeps the fire of passion in us, alive. 

Here is what dreams might to a person and for them and something we can all relate to: 

 Dreams  are the voice of our soul,
Aspirations of the mind that unroll,
In the most beautiful attire, 
Things that our heart desires.

Dreams are the purpose of our life,
They act as a knife against all our strife,
Things that we want to achieve, 
No matter how hard we have to conceive.

Dreams are the reason for our existence, 
The cause of our persistence,
Things we want to pursue, 
Ingredient of our life we can’t eschew.

Dreams are the reason for our journey,
Which when fulfilled amuse us utterly, 
They persuade us to keep going,
Against all odds that life keeps bestowing.

A modern girl — defined.

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Who is a modern girl?

How many times do we use the term “modern girl” in today’s world? How many times have we employed this term to justify our actions to the society? Or, better yet, do we really comprehend the term as it should be comprehended? Though, we can all have distinct and varied interpretations of the term, here are the thoughts the term , “modern girl” provokes in my mind:

“That is a tough job for a girl. Girls don’t argue. Don’t cry like a girl. Boys are not afraid of anything, etc. etc.” These are some of the examples chosen out of the profusion offered by the patriarchal disposition of our society, by which they undermine the worth of females . A modern girl, thus, is someone who defies these presumptuous declarations and fights to show that her position in the society is a crucial one . She is someone who goes the extra mile to pursue her dreams. She is no longer a timid lady who is content in remaining in a veil of underestimation, instead, she is someone who wants to break free of the vicious grip of the decrepit social norms. She intends to prove her purpose in this world and prove that she is righteously worthy of more than just housewifery. 

She resembles a bird who has, not long ago, escaped the cage that bound her and now wants to take in every shred of her newfound freedom and wants to soar high availing all  that the unfathomable sky has to offer . 

A modern girl is or at least wants to be, someone whom the restrictions which she is furnished with at every corner of her life cannot faze. Though, so driven and passionate , she tries not to be self-centred and to be a blend of warmth for her loved ones and perseverance for her dreams thereby resulting in two contrasting personalities coalesced into one. She is not perfect, but possesses flaws like everyone else and that is why the distinction lies in the fact that she tries to be better and to not let those flaws affect her, or those around her. 

A modern girl is someone who refuses to be ruled by “what people will think”, on the contrary, her driving force is what she herself thinks. She knows now that, how she wants to dress, how she wants to spend her life, when she wants to marry, where she wants to live, etc. are her choices in all entirety. She is someone who refuses to be suppressed and to be subjugated by the rickety boundations imposed on them . A modern girl is someone who wants to widen the conventional horizons of her freedom with the power of her personality and opinions.

“She will not be simple and sweet .

She will not be who people tell her she should be”

― E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks