Brevity

BLISS

For a moment you pause, in the middle of the road, silent, ignorant, calm, the small drops of rain splash across your face, a cool breeze engulfs you, your mind nudges your arms to spread out, as the air seems to give you the illusion of flying, you lift your face up, close your eyes, with the pitter-patter of rain, playing in a loop, a rhythm refusing to leave you. Forgetting the honking car behind you, or the people staring and sneering at you, floating in a reverie, the world and its shackles don’t bind you. Eyes are not needed to see the beauty of these colours swirling in your head, patterns, designs, folding, unfolding.

At this moment, you are alone, yet strong, asleep, yet awake, with the zephyr holding you in a tight embrace. For a few seconds, it seems that you have opened the door to freedom, unconscious of society and its norms.

For a few seconds, you smile, unabashedly.

Brevity

Pappa

I have always seen you standing tall, strong and brave. Be it while facing the policeman, issuing a challan or watching me participate in a competition. Most of the times, you say next to nothing, absorbing in the conversations, hiding from us your observations and judgments. But you are always there, behind our every step, alert, ready to catch us if we fall. You portray yourself as an unemotional man, unmoved by sentimentality, but cry whenever you see us flying high. You don’t know how to express yourself, but your rare smile says it all, that you are proud of us, whatever we may do. You don’t know how to comfort me when I cry, but lend your shoulder, lest I feel alone. You crack jokes about scary accidents and those days when you had no work, no money. But never make us feel the pain and agony you have been through. Building yourself up from scratch is by no means an easy task, but you did that so that we could have a better life. You live for us it seems, fulfilling our every demand, never realizing how tired you are when we tell you about the last-minute project to be submitted the next day, getting the print outs and files.

You love us, and you make us happy. I am proud of you Pappa, for how amazing you are and how you have changed to be warm, considerate and sincere. You may shut me up or shoo me away when I say this, but I know, that it always manages to make you smile.

Happy Fathers’ Day

Brevity

BLACKOUT

1,2,3,4,5,6

tHE WORLD seems so Strange at times, i look at it from dIFFerent angles, i notice that the sky is mostly the WRong COlour, humAns with mostly wrOng emotions, plANTS with mostly doomed futures

7,8,9,10,11,12

mum must be waiting, or is she, or she is, food, food, clean this, clean this, clean this, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, the ticks start now, enter the ODDBALL, gloom, gloom, gloom, it is a gloomy day, it hurts, my back, HURTS, stop it, stop it, stop

13, 14, 15, 16

what comes next, hello Cheshire, how are you? kill, kill, kill, stupid cat, they are taking me to the detention centre, my parents are spies, help me, help, help, die, die, die, die

“He will be alright. Another of his attacks, I suppose. Is he taking his pills?”, says the doctor, bollocks, nonsense, die, you filthy animal, fee fie foe fum, i smell the blood of an abnormal one, abnormal, maladaptive, insensitive pigs, die, die, die, die

It hurts, my head hurts, can’t breathe, air, air, air, what happened, can’t remember, remember, touch, smell, hear, see, mother looks so pretty in her grave, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead

This is one of many stories of children with mental health issues, schizophrenia, OCD, bipolar disorder etc. It illustrates the thoughts that go on in the mind of a child with no mother, often bullied in school for his OCD. Lonely, hurt and misunderstood, this child has no place to go to and no happiness to look forward to, trapped in his mind. It is a must for our society to give mental health its due importance.

Brevity

ACCEPTANCE

As soon as I said that, the world seemed to change, my world, rocked to and fro, trying to maintain its balance. You gasped, the lines on your face, hardening into a scowl. Suddenly, you looked so old and fragile, that I wanted to hold you in my arms and console you. But I was frozen, numb, saying those words out loud, had drained me of all courage I had mustered over the weeks.

I looked into your eyes for comfort, but they were scrutinizing me, from head to toe, flabbergasted, wounded, cold.

The bruises on my back and hands, frantic attempts to change me, my fate, the lines on my palm, so that I could be born again, normal, ordinary, average, the loving and doting daughter you had always known. Or had you?

Yes, there was shock, overshadowed by disappointment, your trophy, your pride, had fallen to the ground and broken into shards of glass, that hurt your being. After all, your every action, every ambition was because of me.

You came towards me and held my hands, wanting to caress, but hesitating to touch, lest you also get it. “Beta, chodd de yeh sab, kyun tang kar rahi hai, bol de na ki yeh sab jhooth h.”

Oh, how I wish Mumma, that this reality was a lie, for I have never wanted to stand out, just be with you, sharing secrets, laughter and love. But at that moment, words refused to come out, my mouth was zipped, tears sprang from my eyes, as I left you, setting out to search for acceptance elsewhere.

My body, being, sexuality, has built this wall between us, strengthened by phobia and hatred. I simply wish to send you a message, from a crevice in there, as I know that you still love me, but fail to see me for who I am, waiting for the day, when you would hold me as you always did.

Brevity

WORTH

What is the worth of your life?

Because, I can measure it, so less is its value, that I can trample it, but I must not, for your stench will continue to linger, your dirt will continue to blemish the floor, I have put in place with care.

You are worth nothing in this country of riches and prosperity, only a reminder of inequality, which I choose to ignore, for it is a ruse, to prevent progress, to stop the flourishing cities, from spreading their wings

And so, I ask myself when I look at the chapattis and a suitcase, strewn on a railway track in Aurangabad, as your dead bodies, send shivers down the spine of your family, but fail to rouse me, what was the worth of your life? For you were nothing but poor migrants, inconsequential to my life, my country

16 of you died, a million more await doles from the charitable, it doesn’t make any difference, for the country depends on the strong, not the weak, on the rich, not the destitute, on the minority, not the majority, doesn’t it?

Your life can never equal mine, this wall, this gap, this chasm, is here to stay.

Brevity

WIPEOUT

But in all probability, we all will survive, unlike the components of nature we damaged.

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In the blink of your eyes, it will vanish, the world you had built with so much love, the garbage you had strewn around with so much care will engulf you, till its hold starts to choke, just like that little bird on a barren island pecking on plastic, who suddenly found herself upside down with no life within.

The trails and tracks you left behind in the forest, blood flowing from the fresh carcass of the cheetah you shot, the sound of the bullet lulled the planet into a deafening silence.

In a moment, you find yourself locked up at home, unable to go out, unworthy of co-existence, this is your banishment and a moment of peace for the lives you wreaked throughout your existence.

Now, you realize that you wish to live, as you sit, tense, afraid and chaotic, probably like the baby elephant separated from his mother, waiting with raw fear, immobile, as its ivory tusks are taken out and it is left to die.

But in all probability, we all will survive, unlike the components of nature we damaged. And such is destiny that bad times will recede and good times will arrive, that we will once again forget this wipeout, embedded in the memories of only those who looked death in the eyes.

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NOSTALGIA

It comes like a huge wave of salty ocean water, drowning me, embracing me, making me remember, for I must not forget

The wonder with which I looked at them, in their new and crisp uniforms, looking at different components of the class, thinking which spot would be theirs’ when they won’t be able to fit in, a space, where they could curl up and watch the strangers go about their work, while they would wish they had never left. Here was the bunch of girls, who set out to chart their paths and define their two years in a place which was alien, cold and impersonal

Even though they had a little help from a bubbly ray of sunshine (forced inclusion of the desperate author), they took their time, to feel home. And home it became, gradually, beautifully, like the scroll of our stories unravelling at different stages, knitting us together with memories of a lifetime

We became friends, over gossips, MUN, talent hunt, freshers, farewell and boards. We could fall back on each other, take that leap of faith, share secrets (mostly superficial), and bring the house down with our laughter.

We perfected our stalking skills, staring and following techniques, gushing and blushing tactics, and above all our common hatred for a group of repulsive people

This time refuses to leave me, as each face appears in my head, like a movie playing on a projector, Kriti, Tanvi, Sehaj, Harshita, Himanshi, Agrita, Vrinda, Prerna, Ritika, Raiza and many more…..

Is it nostalgia that I feel today? That emptiness you feel sometimes, where you just wanted someone to crack a weird joke, or comfort you when you wished to disappear, give you strength and be ready to fight for you. Because I was loved and cared for by people, whose happiness would make me go bazinga!

It strikes, in the middle of a lockdown, that you miss your friends, and wish to see them, knowing that this dream is too farfetched to be true

Nostalgia is one wicked twit.

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NEW NORMAL

I have become used to listening, to the birds chirping incessantly day in, day out. I spend hours gazing at the night sky, so bright, full of stars, wondering how their light escaped my eyes

I wake up to the call of peacocks, persuading light showers to grace their humble tree. The air has never felt fresher, the cool morning breeze flitting in and out of my dishevelled hair, which I don’t feel like perfecting for the wandering gaze of strangers

I was afraid at the beginning of having to spend time with a dark reservoir of dreams and desires, scared of looking at my inner self, frightened to unravel memories I had buried deep in my head. But now my being seems so much at ease, with itself and with nature, with the warm sunlight and the fragrant blossoms gone with the wind

I feel lighter and happier, loved and cared for, with no honking cars to remind of evening rush or vulgar music from the community complex

It seems I have comfortably nestled in the new normal of contemplation and optimism, though diseases lurk around in hidden corners.

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POWER

It took you courage to stand up, the floor beneath your feet held you for long, you forgot what it meant to be free, you forgot what it meant to be strong

The floor caressed you in its cold and indifferent embrace when you fell down, that slap was too sudden wasn’t it? Or maybe you just felt weak because you had bled that morning? But you deserved it, right? You got a reality check

Aukat, which has never been a part of your vocabulary, because you were meant to be subservient, with no rights, no choices

A Puppet, in the hands of the men in your life, dancing to their tune, afraid of being lost in your own rhythm, nothing should alert them, those who should not be named, because they might tighten their grasp on you, forcing you to measure every move.

But now you stand up, with your bruised body giving you strength, helping you to face him in the eye and push him aside. Today, you scream, as loud as you can, because it is exhilarating, isn’t it?

You have acquired it, something denied to you for centuries

Today, you became powerful, with the ability to pass it on to your daughter, and as this chain becomes a million-strong bond amongst all women of the world, standing in solidarity, arm in arm, your eyes are full of light, that shine beyond this day and transcend all barriers of race, caste, religion, language and time.

Balance is restored.

Happy Doyenne Day!

Quill

VERSIONS

So, how did it happen?

From where do I start? The part where I ran into the street as they came after me, with stones and sticks? Or the time when they doused kerosene on my house and I watched as it caught fire? Or should I stick to the story of the police, calling it a sudden, spontaneous event? Would my sister’s tale be more authentic, she is an amazing orator, she will tell it better, the manner in which the money for her wedding was burnt, Rs 10 lakh, our entire savings and as acid was poured on her as she came out of the mosque? Wait, the mosque has an even intriguing account, it was that silent spectator, watching the city he had been in for decades, engulfed by flames. It tried to stand its ground but the smoke in the air was too suffocating, it crumbled under the frenzy, heated passions, mindless chanting and chest-beating. It was buried under the love for its country, too big a price to pay.

Come, let me take you through these narrow alleys where I played as a child. This shop has, sorry, had, the best paani puri in entire Seemapuri, this store, the best cotton candy. But I think you won’t be able to make out their differences. After all, they are painted in the same colour of hatred.

The colour of hatred, ashen and charred, displayed in every nook and cranny, on hoardings and podiums.

But the riots were because of Anti-CAA protests, Shaheen Bagh precisely, they blocked the roads, should have seen it coming, these traitors.

We were there, doing our duty, we called in additional forces, but the crowd overpowered us. We were stranded.

In the backdrop of sooty scooters, black houses, homes destroyed, lives lost, fingers pointed and tears that refuse to come out.

Versions that numb.

Versions that sting.