Unblemished.

The leaves had left the branches and the aroma of autumn lingered in the air. The tall and lean tree’s silhouette perfectly laced the dark sky, studded with silver stars. The moon blurred itself behind the grey clouds as its halo contrasted the caliginous firmament.
A robin sang itself a melancholic song in trebles, in which he seemed to outpour his deepest afflictions.

We humans believe nothing is perfect, but that night, nature had something else to provide.

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Puffs 2.0

On the occasion of Earth Day, here is an edited version of my previous post about what part of this planet I’d like to be after my death.

Most people wish to become a star once they die. But I always wanted my soul to re-emerge as a colossal cloud upon my end as a human being.

Floating freely yet slowly, taking my own sweet time. Being a spectacle for happy children and lovers who lay on meadows to decipher. Some might see a dragon and others a rollercoaster. But that won’t matter to me for I will be forever liberated of any judgement.

Dampening the parched with pearls of glass which fall from my neck. Merging those drops of rain with the tears of a happy yet anticipating farmer.

Cloaking the mighty mountains with silver snow, as though they were kings.

Dropping bellowed bolts on Zeus’s command when in rage, electrifying the sky.

Turning grey and gloomy when forlorn by witnessing the tragedies below me on land.

Befriending the sun, the moon and the stars to gain the wisdom they have acquired from the beginning of time.

Chatting with swallows and sparrows about their lives on earth, often inquiring about my loved ones with concern and nostalgia.

Posing as a muse for poets and adorning the landscapes of painters, helping the community of artists I once was a part of.

And eventually, realising that the world may go on just fine without me, but while I’m there, I do mean something.

Angry Indian Godesses

I wrote this for the Times of India Write India Contest. The author of the month gives a paragraph and you have to weave a story around it. Twinkle Khanna, a very inspirational woman, gave the paragraph (it’s in bold) around which I’ve written this.

This story is one of my first attempts at writing fiction. It is also close to my heart because the recent global wave for gender equality has provided impetus.

The painting is by A. Ramachandran. It adorns the walls of my room as a constant reminder of feminine power. The artwork made in 1995 shows Lord Vishnu, as he would carry statuesque women on his back in the reincarnation of a tortoise.

It was a Friday afternoon when Radha Patel and her husband Shankar sat on their verandah, sipping chai and reading.

“This bloody feminist movement around the world. How unnecessary. Women can do so much today. They can vote and work and wear whatever they want”, a hoarse voice grumbled from beneath the newspaper.

It was that time of the day when Mr. Patel would wear his white kurta, sit on the rocking chair and read, nay, whine about the happenings around the globe. His wife looked at him from above her glasses. She didn’t even bother to argue with him, could you possibly change a sixty-one-year man’s views? She went back to the latest book she was reading, ‘Tuesday’s with Morrie’ when her phone rang.

It was Aradhana, her beautiful young daughter. In that brief moment, when she looked at her caller screen, a little epiphany hit her. In the past few months, her relationship with her daughter had completely transformed. Before she left for college, Aru had taught her mum immense ways to keep herself occupied. She taught her how to upload blog posts so that her mother’s dying love for writing gets revived. She taught her how to order items from Amazon and pay for them online. She also made her memorise the way to her favourite bookstore in a narrow alleyway, from where she had bought the book her mother was currently reading. Aradhana had persuaded her to not be the sad bluebird that wallows after her babies leave the nest rather be the eagle who soars high above after freeing itself from restrictions.

“I guess we’re both learning to be independent in our own ways”, Radha thought.

She smiled and picked up the call, putting it on speaker (a message she read on WhatsApp last night enlightened her of the radiation mobile phones were emitting these days).

“Hi Maa!” a cheery voice from the other side chirped.

“I’m sorry I haven’t called in forever. College life is tougher than movies show it to be. The campus is really great though and my professors are pretty intellectual too. My room-mates though are all right, and the food…”

At this moment Shankar suddenly got up, shot a sharp look towards his wife and left. He preferred uninterrupted newspaper time over his daughter’s views on her new life.

With her lovely daughter telling her stories about the cute guy she met in History class, she couldn’t think of a single reason to stay with her husband anymore. Radha had finally untied the blindfold of denial which had stopped her from seeing the truth. But isn’t that the biggest tragedy of an Indian housewife? Even if she wanted to leave him, she couldn’t. Shankar had made them dependent on him from the very start. From bills to insurances and student or home loans. Radha had not a shade of a clue how any of them functioned. A divorce was such a long and tedious procedure, her society would outcast the couple on their separation. Thinking about it made her very anxious.

After about half an hour, Aradhana hung up.

Radha kept her cup of chai down, which had now turned lukewarm due to her daughter’s chattering. But she didn’t mind. Guess one of the parents had their priorities set right. She fed the cat, which was now growing quite plump with old age and tuna-dinners. She watered the tulsi in the verandah and called the plumber for repairs.

She went to have a bath at 2 in the afternoon. Before slipping out of her light-pink nighty, she took a long look at herself in the full-view mirror. She was a fifty-eight-year-old woman now, rolls of fat for a waist, wrinkles creased on her forehead and at the end of her eyes, grey hair sprouting from her scalp and a big ‘aunty’ bum. But you know what the worst part was? Radha didn’t care about any of this. More than any of these superficial flaws, she looked deep into her own eyes and earnestly asked in her mind,

“Is this what you’d imagined being at fifty-eight? A housewife to a man who probably never loved you and a degree in English which never really came to any use? Talk to your young self. I’m sure she didn’t have any of this in her mind when she thought of the future.

But why? Why can’t I just let go? How do I cut off from this string of insecurities which have chained me? What am I so afraid of?”

By this time, tears had welled up her eyes, so she had a long hot water bath and washed away the agony.


It was a Saturday evening; Radha and Shankar were having a silent dinner when the doorbell rang. Of course he wouldn’t open the door. Of course he’d think that he’s the on with higher stature.

Of course.

Radha left her seat, opened the door, went out and didn’t come back for a long long time. But when she did, she came with bloodshot eyes and a nuance of madness in them. With her was a young girl, probably in her twenties, looking slightly afraid.

She rushed into Shankar’s room, where he lay asleep, the television still had the match on. Highlights from the previous day. Pakistan was losing.

“SHANKAR! Wake up, you bastard”, she bellowed, vehemently snatching his blanket away.

He woke up in a second, trying to comprehend this form of his wife he’d never witnessed before. A hint of fear grabbed his nape. His eyes then fell on the girl behind Radha. The fog of sleep began to fade away as he tried to place her. He had seen her before, but when… and where?

In return to his inquiring gaze, the girl flinched but never lost eye contact.

“Remember her, you disgusting asshole? You put your hand up her skirt like a crass animal when she was a little girl. She was eight, Shankar. EIGHT! Imagine someone doing this to Aru-”

The first punch landed on her right cheek. It came simultaneously with an escaped scream from the girl’s mouth. He didn’t even bother verbally reacting or defending himself. The first defense mechanism was to shut the source of the truth up. Nobody likes to read the book of their dark, revolting misdoings now, do they?

Radha fell back, drifting into unconsciousness. But as she fell, she realized that for the first time in her life, she stood up. Not only for herself but for the young girl too.

Shankar rushed out of the house immediately after, as the girl’s cell phone was dialing 102.

The owls on a nearby tree hooted loudly with disapproval and agitation.

In the M.I. room, she got to know that a molar had been broken and the blue of the bruise would take time to vanish.

But the fact that her daughter was coming to meet her and that a lawyer had already been called to file the divorce, mitigated the pain. Even though the toughest moments of her life were about to begin from that one punch, there was an extraordinary zeal in her all of a sudden. Being alone, struggling to earn money and learning to link Aadhaar cards seemed so much better than living with a child molester.

The young girl was called Isha. She held Radha’s hand throughout the doctor’s treatment.

“I am so sorry that this happened to you because of me”. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“I wanted to forget it. I really did. But that incident has left me with such bitterness. I used to play in the park with your daughter. Aradhana was always so sweet. But one day when she hadn’t come to the park because of a fever, he was there. He wanted to take me for ice-cream and I trusted him and… well, I just thought the woman who takes care of every need of this man should know of his misdoings. I just feel so terrible that it had to happen so violently”.

She squeezed Radha’s hand gently and averted her gaze to the floor. Isha felt almost delirious about the thought that she had broken up a family just to unburden herself of some dark memories.

Radha gave her a sad smile and replied,

“Thank you, my child. Shankar was the biggest mistake in my life. A mistake I blame myself for because I could’ve taken action way before. I should’ve learned how to do taxes, gotten a job and left the first time the belt hit by back. But like a lifeless fish floating on water, I simply went with the current. I let life happen to me. But tonight when you came along, you were my sign. No, you were my billboard! If I would’ve simply shut the door and gone back to sleep next to a monster like him, I would’ve certainly died. So thank you.”

It was 3:47 a.m. when both of them sat in the hallway of the clinic. Teleshopping was on. An over-enthusiastic couple were almost screaming about how good this instant-thinning pill was. The bills and paperwork was getting finalized. Isha was kind enough to pay.

“What does your name mean?” Radha asked her.

“Well, I guess it’s one of Ma Durga’s names”, she replied.

“Ahh”, smiled Radha, “you do know the story behind our legendary goddess don’t you?”

“Yes, my grandmother used to tell it to me. A demon performed penance in the form of deep devotion for Lord Brahma. When he was granted a wish, he chose immortality. Since that was not possible, he altered it to- I should only be able to die by the hands of a woman. Overcome with invincibility, he terrorised the world. All the gods helplessly approached Lord Vishnu for help. Here, they created Ma Durga with all their energies. Sitting atop a lion and a trishul in her hand, she killed the asura. When men couldn’t save the world, a woman did.”

By the end of her narration, her voice was powerful and determined.

“Indian goddesses were always always epitomes of rage and indignation. Look at Ma Kali too. I love that”, she continued.

“Me too. Me too.”


It was a Sunday morning when she woke up to an empty bed.

She opened her bleary eyes when the cat, all seven pounds of squirming flesh, climbed onto her belly. Squinting into the sunlight streaming in from the open window, she discovered that she was now the weary possessor of a pounding headache, and at some point, had managed to lose both a tooth and a spouse.

“Feeling better, Ma?” Aradhana had walked into the room with a plate of omlette and bread in one hand and a glass of water in the other for the medicines. Uncertainty masked her eyes. Isha had spoken to her and told her the entire story.

“Here are your pills”, she nervously handed over the breakfast and water.

There was a thick tension in the air, screaming ‘what now’?

“Yes, beta”, she said. “Listen, I am sorry, Aru. I am so sorry that you had to grow under such a parent. I cannot even comprehend how ashamed you must be feeling, having a man like that as your father. The way he spoke about women all these years, I always knew he disrespected them. But this was a… Anyway, now you better know that we aren’t going to live under his shadows anymore, alright? I am going to get a steady job, you are in college on scholarship so you don’t need to worry about that, till then we’ll live here with Uma Aunty. I’m sure she needs company after her husband passed away last month. We’re going to take baby steps and work everything out. It is going to be the bumpiest ride of our lives, but I swear, when we come out of it, we’re going to be the strongest versions of ourselves.”

This little monologue had pumped up some optimism into Aradhana. She nodded with her lips pursed and gave the tightest hug to her mum.

“Thank you for your strength, Ma. You finally did it. For all of us.”

They sat all evening in the verandah, talking and talking and talking. Uma joined in. Plans were made, laughs were exchanged, grief was shared. The full moon came over behind the stupendous peepal tree. And the light it emitted only reflected the one thing in all the women’s eyes. Hope.

catharsis

happiness is important. it is what memories should be made of. but our personalities are built by pain. it makes us who we are and defines the strength we have today. as artists, we tend to transform torment into words to soften the blow. from heartbreaks to angst to indignation and loneliness. all of these emotions bleed though our pens, splattering themselves onto our pages. it is pure catharsis. 
i absolutely adore doodling on my arms and legs. and again in the middle of the night, as i had decorated my body with ink, inspiration struck like electricity and this piece was born. 

the blue and black you have punctured on my skin

i will take the pen i write this with
and draw circles bordering my bruises

and then i will turn these bruises into magnificent masterpieces

add a few petals around one
a sunflower

make two dots, one line and a curve
a child’s face

swish few luscious lashes on another
a glittering eye

elongate strings and fill in colours
a bunch of balloons

no, i am not trying to hide my wounds 

i’m just trying to trace the silver lining
on this dark cloudy body of mine. 

finger bowl

i began reading rupi kaur’s work last year and instantly fell in love with her way with words. her lowercase writing somehow calmed me. the best part was, each piece meant something new whenever i read it again. the words and illustrations flowed like thick golden honey. 

child molestation and abuse is repulsive and sickening beyond expression. it is the darkest and evilest sin. to take advantage of a child’s obliviousness and rob them of the purity of their childhood. 

ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way. the monsters are always right around the corner, ready to pounce. to all the parents out there, please teach your kids about ‘bad’ touch as early as possible. it’s never too early. 

this piece is inspired by rupi kaur, who hauntingly pens the agony of this crime. she’s my powerwoman. 

thank you, rupi. you are my sun, and i, your flower. 

throughout the dinner
i never once meet his eye
peas, bread, juice, butter, peas
anywhere and everywhere
but those eyes
for his
have the glimpse of a tiger
right before it’s kill
a lethal blend of
bloodthirst and lust

family dinners are already difficult
grandparents discussing the government
and the subtle comparisons with cousins
but with him around
they seem impossible

bottles of wine emptied
plates wiped clean
the waiters now place
the finger bowls
in front of us

i wince as i see him
pulp the juice
out of the lemon slice
just as he had
squeezed the innocence
out of me
at seven

nothing
could wash off
the filth from those hands
which had dared to pluck
to unripe fruit
from the forbidden forest of my body
which was supposed to
be savoured by
my lover from the future

but sadly
even though he had
swallowed the fruit
it is i
who remains wordless
with a lump in my throat
and the secret
buried somewhere below it.

Bite

We are all
pear hearted
shaped like russian dolls
juicy with passion
and as green as emeralds
are our hearts

They usually remain unaffected
but every once in a while
there is someone
who takes a bite
a sliver or a chunk
and steals a part of us

They get a taste of our
real self
and after that
whether they wish to
spit
or
swallow
is upon them
but the fact that
they’ve bitten
and stolen
a fraction of us
cannot be controlled
by us

They will still
occasionally linger
in our thoughts
and simple everyday things
will act as a reminder
for them

There are also times when
another being will
dig their vicious teeth
into our pears
but are unable to
take a bite
since our hearts
forbid it
so they leave their marks
deep into our cores
like scars
sometimes indelible
sometimes ephemeral

But by the time
our pears
beat for one last time
our pear
isn’t ours anymore
with others taking
parts of us
and we too
borrowing parts
of others
it doesn’t belong to us
anymore

it belongs to the world
and we
become a part of
everywhere.

Let Them In

THE OTHER SIDE

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

-Jimi Hendrix

It has always seemed bizarre to me, how we human beings, share the same sun, the same moon and the same sky, but struggle to share our land. This earth does not belong to us, we belong to it.  But unfortunately, it looks like we’re all oblivious to this, leading to its gradual and eventual destruction.

The dictionary would define humanity as the quality of being humane or benevolent. But after recent events taking place across the globe, I think it’s time for some amendments.

Some parts of the world are on the pinnacle of chaos and disaster, in the depths of riots and bloodshed, as terrorism engulfs them. The worst part being the fact that their innocent residents are left homeless and hopeless. They’re either stranded on lifeboats or despairingly finding a roof above their heads. Whereas we, on the safe and invulnerable side of the same world, sit on our comfortable couches and thumb our remotes, only to surf through this nightmarish news.

As we tuck ourselves to sleep, we listen to the crickets chirping merrily. But on that side, the exploding of grenades and rain of gunshots is their midnight song. As we quarrel upon the restaurant of our choice with our sibling, on the other side another sister walks five miles for a pile of water and some bread for her little brother. As we look up to see the halo of the moon painted over the dark firmament at night, the other side’s sky seems to be clogged with smoke and dust, which swivel into vehement hands around émigrés necks, as well as establishing an inconspicuous atmosphere of haze. As we face the calm sea and the saline water caresses our faces, a river of guiltless and innocent blood flows on the other side. The missiles dropped on their homes, shattered it into a million fragments, and these fragments etched indelible scars on their souls.

These people, who are survivors, heroes, and most of all, believers, have walked straight through hell.

We live in this place, where a soft zephyr blows lightly on the green trees, where the streets are lively and the people are amiable. But most of all, a place where we don’t fear to step out of our own homes. This description is synonymous to what these refugees may look at, as paradise. Now, when our fellow brothers and sisters are in need of a fraction of this paradise, which we are fortunate enough to call our humble abode, why do we hesitate? Why can’t we keep the matter of conflict and rivalry aside for a moment and just save these incorrupt and helpless citizens? Help them get back on their feet and brush off the agonizing dust of the past.

Yes, like all adults that one thing comes to our minds… it’s not that simple. But I fail to understand why we have to barricade this spacious and utilizable land with walls made of insecurity and reluctance. Recent events have made us question the meaning of humanity, but I say, let’s prove ourselves wrong. We can help these people, who are tired of war and conflict, to build new homes with a bagful of memories awaiting them. We should instill some empathy and simply give them something which everyone deserves… a chance for a better future.

WRITTEN IN 2015.

The Dying Art of Reading

“In the previous month, I solved a mind-boggling murder with Agatha, had my soul stirred by Hosseini, flew on magical brooms with Rowling and peeked into the future with Orwell. How have you been?” I asked my now bored looking friend.

“Well, just tuitions and homework, I guess”, a monotonous voice shot back.

George R.R. Martin, the iconic author of the ‘Song of Fire and Ice’ series, once said that a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, while the man who never reads, lives only one. Whenever I enter my classroom with a novel in my hand, my classmates watch me like I’m some sort of an insect.

“Is that in our course?”

“Why are you wasting your time?”

“Have you finished that math exercise?”

And I? I just smile sadly, wishing that the bookworm had bit them too.

I visit empty libraries, only to see dusty books gasping for breath as their tragic end seems near. I agree, we teenagers have a web of responsibilities in which we seem to be entangled, but what we cease to realize, is that books hold a whole new meaning for us. With all the ‘NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME’ phase, it the first time we find someone we relate to, fall in love, or let something brush so nearly with our soul.

I believe that stacking books upon books will truly build the stairway to our imagination. It kindles our curiosity and ignites the mind.

But unfortunately, our priorities seem to have drastically changed now. Reading is now synonymous to an instant sleeping pill or a pastime while waiting for a haircut appointment. When was the last time we bothered to switch off all out blinding gadgets, sit cross-legged on our balcony with a cup of coffee in one hand and a brilliant book in another? These beautifully woven words will eventually cease to exist if nobody reads them. Little blobs of ink splashed across pages. They will be sucked into a black hole of ignorance, without creating the puissant impact they were capable of. It lies on our shoulders to keep this ever glowing art alive.

One exceptional observation made by both Carl Sagan and William Shakespeare was that Time is a terribly treacherous thing. It flows dispassionately, taking along each and everything with it, whether it be stone or man, celestials or beasts.

It is all an ephemeral enchantment.

But the only force overcoming this tyrannous trap is the indomitable power of books. In Shakespeare’s fifty-fifth sonnet, ‘Not Marble, nor the Gilded Monuments’ he writes about how all shall pass, but his rhyme shall stay on forevermore.

“Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.”

In his widely acclaimed television series, Sagan said that;

“Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

Here’s an amazing illustration of Sagan’s words by Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils (which is, by the way, my favorite website on the internet).

2012-07-12-books

These great men soaked in the indispensability of what lies between the covers. A whole new world, much more interesting, venturesome and beautiful than the one we live in.

There is an undiscovered mine of great books out there, and one of my greatest fears was voiced by my brother when he said,

“Out of the million masterpieces out there, doesn’t it make you sad that you will never be able to read all of them?”

So read, my friend. If you say you do, then do it even more.

Read for the joy. Read for the sorrow. Read for a good today and an even better tomorrow.