#metoo

The statuses keep popping up in blue
confessing they were assaulted too.
But I can’t use my real name, they say.
My name is also my family’s.

“So are you gonna pretend that nothing happened?”
My conscience pricks with its thorny sound dagger.
“Among all these wounded women,
you once envied to be too lucky?”

“Then why do you still fear dark corners and seats?
Why do you fear crowded streets ?
Why do you rush home before it gets dark?
Why do you still shiver when people almost touch you?”

I know… I know…
You don’t have to say it out so loud.
Oh Jesus! How I wish
It never happened to me.

“Yeah… but so does she
and every other girl who wrote it on their wall.
But Alas! That ain’t possible.
Some nightmares ain’t nightmares after all.”

Guess all daddy’s princesses grow up to learn,
life is no fairy tale.
But daddy you can be proud.
I have learnt some other lessons too.

I’m my pepper spray.
I’m my night torch.
I’m my emergency number.
I’m my pink patrol police.

I’m not my ladies coaches in train.
I’m not my lowered glances and shawls.
I’m not my silence.
I’m not my submission.

I’m my voice shouting back at them.
I’m my anger fighting against them.
I’m my refusal to be a victim.
I’m my own guardian angel and super hero.

But that doesn’t make it a lie, you see,
that it happened to me too.
On a sunny bright monday morning
on my way to school.

In a crowded private bus,
I cried clutching my heavy schoolbag.
But back in class, my friends consoled me saying
it happened to “them too”.

Oh! Just so you know.
Remember the time he fought for a cycle?
Everyday for a whole week until he got one?
He was not being stubborn, it happened to him too.

 

 

The muse

I turned to poetry
to forget a voice
I once thought soothing.

I turned to imagery
to forget a face
I once thought loving.

He told me I could trust him.
He told me he loved me.
He told me he would take care of me.
He told me my secrets were safe with him.

So I bared all my pains to him,
the assaults,
childhood traumas,
my fears.

I thought he would like the story
behind the ugly cover.
I thought he would stay to protect me
like he promised.

But he crossed over to the other side of the world,
a world that judged, ridiculed and condemned
the insane. A world that tore apart
everything that stood alone and weak.

He healed all my wounds in one go
by lending the biggest stab himself.
His desertion and mockery was the best medicine,
the biggest fear,
the greatest insult.

I forgot my past before him.
I forgot the me before him.

Pain began and ended with his thoughts.
Days began and ended with his memories.

But where once he stood
emptiness lurked in.
Loneliness crept into bed with me
challenging my existence and sanity.

Fearing company, fearing sunlight
in those dark days
I turned to empty pieces of paper
trying to fill it with a pretty verse.

Slowly the words started flowing
I became an abstraction
He, just a metaphor.

Slowly I realized
-“pain does have a soothing feeling”,
like he told
but I found it in poetry.

Greatest fear

I’m scared of me,
My dreams so wild
My energy so reckless
My thirst so addictive.

I’m scared of me,
my slippery tongue,
my fuming anger,
my fidgeting hands
lest I break things
worse I break hearts
worst I break people.

I’m scared of me,
my vivid limitations,
my vague aspirations.
I want to be a Mother Theresa
But I know
There is also a Hitler in me
and he is not alone.

I’m scared of me,
my bitter jealousies,
my sugar coated possessiveness,
my spicy selfishness,
my airy ego.
What if I burn my mask of pretences?
Will I like the real rotten face?

I’m scared of me,
my love for power,
my ease with choices,
but above all
my cowardice with fears.
I’m scared of what they want me to be.
I’m scared knowing I can be anything I want to be.

But I want to be different
In this world of moulds and standards,
In this world of success and fame,
In this world of prejudice and hatred

I want to be nothing like them,
the world.
I want to be the good in me
and I want the evil in me to sleep undisturbed,
to die even,
knowing
that part of me will never be needed,
never be invited,
never be loved,
never be pampered.

I don’t want to be anything but me
‘Coz I don’t know anybody else’s moves,
dialogues or acts.
But I’m scared they might convince me
to be somebody else
and that I might fall again
like that one time I fell flat and loud, bruised myself and stood up again.

What if I fall again?
Will the good in me still survive?
Or will I become like the world
blood shot, shrewd, cunning
contemplating every move and every glance
throwing love and affection to the dice of time
as pawns in this never ending cubes of a cruel chess board,
to be and not to be?

Pale light dreams

My mamma says we are poor,
I have to pray for a meal everyday.

My paapa works on a rented field,
I have to pray for days without debts.

My sister has mehendi on her hands,
I have to pray for a groom who asks less dowry.

This is my life everyday.
These are my prayers.

I have a God who comes in different names.
But he lives somewhere the monsoons come in right times.

Because nobody hears our prayers.
Neither the Gods claiming the heavens
Nor the Gods ruling our lands.

Hopeless, I take a wick out of our holy lamp
and light another lamp in our cold balcony.

In its pale yellow glow
I open the torn book
My teacher lent me
and starts reading:

“I have a dream…”

From above, the real God smiles
and lets the first drop of rain to fall.

 

 

For so long

For so long
The politicians in my country
Have been dressing up in white.
Some even in saffron, green and blue.
But peace, sadly, is not in their agenda.
Tolerance, outdated, is not in their principles.

Do you know how easily they trade
My nation’s pride and honor
For pleasing their vote banks?
Do you know how loosely they spend
My fellow men’s hard earned money
On party campaigning and advertisements?

They change the denominations of our currency.
They change the color of our currency, our passports.
But they cannot curb black money.
They cannot stop terrorism.

They link our neck ties to aadhaar
But there is no clue in mass murders
No link to police custody deaths
No trail to the missing youngsters everyday.

The people who have binami land deals
Walk around in bright sunlight.
People who owe my country in crores
Roam carefree in London bridges.

But the farmer who fed me yesterday
Is long dead.
So is his family, his cattle and his dreams.
But there is no death to his sufferings, his misfortunes, his debts.

They make us stand in attention for the national anthem
Before every movie in theatre
But do they know what my country stands for?
Do they know the India Tagore dreamed in Jana gana mana?

They safeguard cows
I wish I was one.
But I’m a woman.
I’m educated.
I’m employed.
I’m a tax payer.
I’m the common man
Who gets angry and sad and desperate.

You told me to stand in queues
I did.
You told me to pay GST
I payed CGST and SGST.
You told me to suffer for a better India
I did.
You told me to remember the soldiers in Siachen
I did.
Now tell me
Where is the Acche Din?

Modi sir.
Yeh hai mera Mann ki baat.
When India wipes out every fanatic
Who adulters her history and science,
When India wipes out every leader
Who pre censors and make cuts in movies
Than worry about real people and real problems
Only then my India will be swacch Bharth.

For so long
The politicians in my country
Have been dressing up in white.
Some even in saffron, green and blue.
But they don’t know
What my country stands for.
They don’t know the value and color of my country men’s blood.
They don’t know our dreams, our sorrows.
They don’t know what it feels to be an Indian
To embrace blood and flesh
Torn for the kiss of justice.

They don’t know what it feels to hear a mother cry
“Amn’t I a mother? ”
They don’t know what it feels like, to watch a brother every day
For 775 days waiting for his brother’s murderers to be punished.
They don’t know what it feels to lose a loved one
Or all the savings of a lifetime in a calamity,
That could have been avoided,
Yet to wait patiently for the democracy in my country to take a step.
To punish or cure or support at least half of what our law promises.

For so long
The politicians in my country
Have been dressing up in white.
Some even in saffron, green and blue.
But my flag is still the same old triranga.
My truth my light.
My struggle my noncooperation.
But don’t count on my silences anymore
They are gone, long gone.
Even when we wish each other
“Happy Republic day” or
“Independence day” or
“Gandhi Jayanthi”
We know that the work is not done yet.
The work done is not enough yet.

Till every Indian can walk out of poverty
Till every child can dream big
Till every human is equal and feels equal
Till every citizen and leader is held responsible

India’s struggle for Freedom continues.

Freedom from injustice
Freedom from corruption
Freedom from inequality
Freedom from terrorism
Freedom from hatred

Freedom to love
Freedom to embrace
Freedom to learn
Freedom to dare
Freedom to do

Don’t forget we are still fighting
Till the last man wins
Till justice prevails
Till every law is made just and truth faced.

Home

The plain glass windows
I washed with soap and sponge.

The long balconies
I scrubbed for a day’s meal as wage.

The warm roof tops
I sat down to write my poems.

The old gulmohar
Who greeted me with a mother’s love.

The cold cement steps
Where I lay down to see my biggest dreams.

The broken bits of a home
I sketch everyday on my soiled plate.

Tonight

I wonder if he ate dinner.
I skipped mine just in case.

I wonder if he had fallen asleep already.
I’m still wide awake and stirring.

He makes me so sad to sit alone in the kitchen tonight.
I can’t hear him doing his laundry next door.

I read a book on a father and son.
I realized I don’t have company to stay up late tonight.

Did he play chess today?
How many did he win?
How many did he lose?

I stay up late in his room all alone.
Half of his hangers hanging empty like me.

He said he won’t come back again.
Was that an easy decision to make?

Obama just spent one month with his dad.
Should I be happy I had more?

Did he feel as lonely as me ?
Did he feel unloved, unwanted?

Are you awake in your bed?
Am I the only one crying tonight?

Was it so easy for you to leave ?
Don’t you love us anymore?

Is this the story of our lives forever ?
Will people only love us for short whiles?

My book journal – ‘The ministry of utmost happiness by Arundhati Roy’

A personal note on the book – The ministry of utmost happiness by Arundhati Roy

All throughout the last-week preparations for my UPSC exams, I day dreamed about this book and its author. I wondered how it would be to meet Anjum and Aftab, Tilo and her lovers, and the little kid who would bind all their lives together. I re-read the articles and reviews about the book. I took screenshots of the book’s product detail page in amazon. I downloaded the authors pics and showed it to my mom, introducing her as “one of my favorite writers in the world”. “She is really beautiful, even at this age”, my mom declared. I decided I would make my mom to read the book, when it arrives, so that she could see this writer’s beauty from within as well.

After my first successful failed attempt in UPSC, where I was asked:
“Democracy’s superior virtue lies in the fact that it calls into activity
a)the intelligence and character of ordinary men
b)the methods for strengthening executive leadership
c)a superior individual with dynamism and vision
d)a band of dedicated party workers”

After 70 years of trial and error methods we used to cast our votes and the corrupted, misogynistic and misleading leaders we have repeatedly reelected, my conscience coughed when my head decided to mark the answer as option ‘a’. “We do have a charismatic leader”, my mind tried to gully me. One, after the exams, I discovered was hailed as “the most prominent and important prime ministers in the world today” even by Israeli newspapers and whom Arundhati Roy seems to hate to the core. I went ahead and darkened the bubble that read ‘a’. The author’s famous dialogue from the screenplay of ‘In which Annie gives it to those ones’ tormented my thoughts : “First you do it for the marks, then you do it for the money”. It is this dilemma and quirkiness I was greeted with on reading ‘the readers digest book of English grammar and comprehension for very young children by S.Tilottama’. She asks:
Why did the wreck shamble?
Why did the cattle cross the LoC?
How do you establish a man’s virginity?
What is the acceptable amount of blood for good literature?

Two weeks down the lane, spilling an earned leave for buying some lone time to rearrange my thoughts, on my best friend’s birthday, I laid my hands on the book for the first time. A loner’s gift to herself, ordered through the once photographed pages of Amazon. I marveled at the beauty of its cover page, a little piece of graveyard to wear around my neck, like a lover’s photo in a pendant or a dream catcher – a marble slab and the wilted red roses. I plunged into the depths of Anjum’s broken life first. The one who is the kichdi(mix) of Romeo and Juliet, the one with two voices and body tied to one soul. ‘I was born to be a mother’, she proclaims to the world that tags her as a Hijra(transgender), a ‘fiery beautiful’ hijra. How could she wage war to a Dhuniya(world) where even words where classified into two genders?

I read an opinion that Arundhati Roy should have stuck to the story of Anjum but I felt this couldn’t be one story, even if she tried to make it as one. This is not the story of Anjum or Tilo or Musa or Saddam Hussain. This is the story of people who refuses to be part of a system that has no regard for them. These are the unconsoled, the outcasts coming together, not to form their own political party with hidden agendas but to build a home in a graveyard where the living and the dead, women-men-hijras-kids-and-animals form their own kingdom because after all ‘only the dead are living and free. The living are dead people pretending.’

Through Tilo and her lovers, we catch a glimpse of Asli(real) Kashmir and the Asli boots of Indian government. It also gives us a glimpse of the life Arundhati Roy must have lived for 20 years amidst insults and charges of sedition. But nothing pulls us, our hearts like the red rose flower of blood in the ears of Miss Jeneeb the first, or the kittens in Gulrez’s hands who like ‘Sultan’ dies the death of a bewakoof(idiot). ‘If that fool didn’t know how to live here with the military, why did he have to come into this world in the first place’?

Critics also tells us that this story is a mosaic of too many lives and the details of too many characters drowns down the emotional attachment of readers to Tilo or Anjuman. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more because I yearned to know more about the characters. Why is the Imam a lonely man? What happens to Garson Hobart, will he be tormented just like Amrik Singh or will music rescue him from the lure of death? Will Dr Azad Bharathiya ever finish his PHD, how long will he survive on de-worming pills? Will Miss Udaya Jenebb grow up to love Anjum and Tilo equally, or will she betray Anjum just like Zainab?

All I want to add to the possible future readers is.. Read this book not because the author is world famous. Read this book not with the weights of Ammu or Velutha or the estranged twins or their memories that ‘God of small things’ gifted us. Read this book to meet the ghosts Arundhati Roy sets free to her living room when the reporters, activists and bureaucrats leave her alone for a good night’s sleep. Read the book to ponder why the graveyard was named ‘Jannat house’ when India, Pakistan and Kashmiri militants cut each others throats to claim a land that was once called ‘Jannat’ by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan. Read this book to never forget what we have deliberately and conveniently forgotten already like the Kashmiri youth blinded by pellets or school girls in white uniform hurling stones at the army or the civilian tied to the army jeep to safeguard our soldiers from bullets.

When I was reading the ending pages, my sister called on my mobile phone. Out of usual habit and tamed courtesy to superiors, I greeted her ‘good morning’. She laughed at the stupidity and awkwardness of the statement passed between two sisters who have bathed each other in childhood, have seen and nursed each other’s broken hearts. She laughs that familiar laugh and I can’t help but remember what Khadija says to Tilo – “In Kashmir when we wake up and say ‘Good Morning’ what we really mean is ‘Good Mourning’ “.