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Try – an ode to my father

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Two days ago in 2010, Mosaic was born on a whim to put down the waves and streams and trickles of thoughts that invaded my mind; sometimes against my ability to function ‘appropriately’ in the social. I will not say that it brought me immediate relief or that, like I have heard some say that, it can help vent out. Nope, it never did that as I dealt with the trauma of my father’s death. In fact, all it did was leave me burning with desire. Desire, to reach out to him, to reconnect to him through my words. I realise that I have taken to writing through my father. I was never nurtured or conditioned into reading and writing like #parentinggoals suggest. I was just made to be and observe and find my pleasures and joys and my own goals. School rotted some of it though he was always there to ensure that it did not corrupt my heart. I am happy he did not let it do so.

I never realised that I learnt a lot from him – that was his way of parenting, leading by examples. I will not say that he was not flawed – no one is without flaws but, like he had said to me once when I was working towards an exam and was very focused on acing it stating that number 2 was not an option, he simply told my 14 years old self that no matter what I am (number one or someone who is a failure), he will always love me the same. I believe that I picked up writing from him and I am just thankful that I did. When I started Mosaic 6 years ago and whenever I would write something from the place of a daughter missing her father, grieving over his loss, I hated what I came up with because they spoke of unrestrained and unedited passion. As I grew as a writer and explored more ideas and passions through my words, somewhere at the back of mind, I decided that for me to write something as my father’s daughter would be childish or maybe a piece which is cringe worthy. I realise I am my biggest critic there which again, I was warned against by my old man.

November 30th is his birth date and he would have turned 63 years old today.🙂

Had it not been for tonight’s playlist that has Cohen’s last album, I would have cringed at myself again for writing about my father but, a conversation with a friend worried and scared and hopeless about what goes on in our world today where humanity is literally threatened in the scariest ways possible with humans against humans, I am happy to write things I have learnt from my wise, wise old man.

This world is a scary place

People have taken up arms against each other

Children cry as their mothers lie raped

And men lie in a corner drunken in their sorrows and defeats.

But, you who see this.

You, who feel the pain, why have you stopped?

Why do you believe in these

scenes of torture that you witness?

Don’t believe these to be your reality.

You are human,

you were born with courage.

Use it now and create a new reality.

You think it might not work?

Is that your fear?

But, isn’t that your job, to try that is?

Try and be your best.

Try and give it your all. 

Get up now, now is the time to rise.

You might not see anything change in a second

But then, mountains weren’t moved in a night, were they?

You know the kind of world you want.

Believe in it and build it.

All you have to do is try

 

Wajood

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I realise that as a writer I enjoy poetry the most. It’s simple, variable in the readers’ interpretation and spontaneous. So today’s poem is a Hindi / Urdu one which came to me one morning when I just could not sleep. There were just too many thoughts whirring in my brain and I had to write.

I usually do not like explaining the thought behind a poem because I feel it takes away the possibility of differing opinions and perceptions but, this ones different. This one, is about unrequited love or infatuation. Inspired by a sticky situation that a friend has been in off late and from many stories of unrequited love / feelings (maybe, including mine!), I can safely say that love is indeed a beautiful feeling / emotion, especially romantic love. However, love isn’t forced or that, it does not chain one’s heart. From what I understand now that those Bollywood flicks or old school poems were trying to convey, love is a free emotion and can be felt by anyone for anyone or thing, something that makes you become better – though love for things is greater these days! Won’t kill the read now and will stop here. Read on!


Sketch in black Indian ink on ruled paper

Hindi / Urdu

Kaun tha tu?

Kahan hai tu?

Kaun thi woh, jo padhi tere pyaar mein?

Itni besudh hui tere ishq mein

Ki bhool gayi thi apna wajood main.

Jise ishq samjha tha 

Woh to nadaani samjhi tune.

Ik pal mein mera jahan ban gaya tha tu

Arey haan! Thi to bilkul nadaan hi main.

Par tu to samajhdaar tha? 

Tujhe nahi dikh raha tha?

Kyun behlaya tune mujhe fir?

Kyun nahi apna asli chehra dikhlaya?

Khair, aaj mujhe tujhse nahi hai kuch gila 

Na ki thi tab bhi maine koi shiqayat.

Jis pal tune mere jazbaat ko nakara tha 

Jis pal tune apne banaye sach ko jhutlaya tha

Us pal hi maine apna wajood wapis paaya tha

Shayad us samay tabhi mere muh se sivay hasi ke kuch nahi nikla tha.

Mere mann me chhayi ik ajeeb si shanti thi

Jaise bahut ghane toofan ke beech ek chuppi 

Dabe paon meethe meethe sannate mein mujhe gholi ja rahi ho

Jaise ki wo sab aur kuch nahi has ek sapna tha

Aur ab main jag gayi hun.


English Translation 

Who were you?

Where are you?

Who was she, the one who fell for you?

Was so lost in your love 

That I had lost my self.

What I thought was love

You took it to be silly infatuation.

In a moment, you had become my world.

Oh yes, I was indeed silly.

But, weren’t you wiser?

Could you not see?

Why did you lead me on then?

Why couldn’t you say the truth?

I have nothing against you anyway, now.

Nor did I complain then.


The moment you denied my feelings

The moment you broke the truth that you had built

That moment itself, I found my self again.

Maybe that’s why in that moment, all I could respond with was a smile.


There was a strange sort of peace in my heart

As if in the midst of a terrible storm, a silence had

Creeped up and stirred up sweet silence in my heart, in my being.

As if all of it was a dream

And I am awake now.

Money, money…no money!

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In all this demonetisation hullabaloo, I have tried real hard to refrain from writing about it. Why? Because I feared feeling like a hypocrite to myself complaining about something that does not affect me much. Yes, it does not ’cause of a little salaried income that gets spent easily since I stay in the most expensive city in the country and more so, because I have the privileges of accessing net banking facilities of a highly powerful bank – even if at a small price, since I prefer that to ATM withdrawals.

I also did not want to write anything ’cause I was overwhelmed. I had had enough of the newsfeed on Facebook with opinions all kinds and people bashing each other in distress and social media egoism along with people globally mourning over Trump’s victory. Suddenly, everything turned from bad to worse and add terrible theatrics to it. But, this was until I spoke with the cleaning lady who comes to sweep, mop floors, wash utensils and hand-wash clothes to my apartment. Though she seems to have planned well in terms of cash kept at home since her husband has been falling sick often and she feels secure but, she says she does have a bundle of 500 rupee notes which will have to be exchanged. As we spoke, I developed a more practical insight into the matter.

To me at first, the demonetisation did seem like a viable step which was done towards a more progressive goal as going cashless is safer and more convenient for those like me. Unsure about the heroic ‘fighting terrorism’ claim. However, thinking more leaves me with a lot of questions.

  1. How does one define black money when calling this a surgical strike on black money? Who has this money when most of the country’s populace is an adarsh man willing to lay himself down for the nation?
  2. Where do the funders of our hero’s campaign fall? Don’t tell me they have all ‘white’ money! They do? Wow.
  3. Why can there not be more than two and a half lakhs in cash savings in someone’s house / cash register?
  4. Do they think this is the “shop floor” level developed state of roads, oops, Gujarat?
  5. Is this a democracy or a dictatorship that has to direct how I handle my money, even with the meagre salary?
  6. Why was decision taken in such sudden secrecy and announced by the hero of the Indian telly that is Indian polity now, instead of the FM?
  7. More importantly, why was this done without any appropriate survey on the daily expenses of an avg Indian. The person from that random think tank who allegedly suggested that since most of India’s population lives in rural areas, expenses there are upto INR 20 per day. I have had the opportunity to work where I have dealt with people from the informal sector – rural and urban – the same people who have been badly hit by the heroics of a certain man. They spend INR 100 on avg per day. Even if it was INR 20, what about medical expenses, any other sudden expenses? What do they pay in? Credit?
  8. What is this nation that “the poor are ready to sacrifice” for?
  9. Why do even ‘educated’ people around me not accept that nationalism is nothing but, a dated concept. We needed it (globally) when the concept was adopted. Today, with blurred borders, nationalism is limited to your passport and not to who you are. We are all global citizens, being indifferent about global issues is not a practical choice today.
  10. Why do we Indians need a hero? Why can’t we handle our shit on our own? Why do we feel so helpless? I know most people have difficulties and struggles but, the ‘poor’ cannot change their destinies till they continue to shun the responsibility of change on one central figure by quickly ducking the ball stating that they are helpless. When talking to my help (Manisha), this clearly came across. She is a super smart woman but, is limited by this very thought – I am a poor woman, what do I know? She voted for BJP and then says but, they are all thieves. What does the poor know, what change can the poor bring? She has 3 sons – all educated and looking for a better life. But, unfortunately, today a better life or standard of living is defined by what products (clothes, electronics, food) one consumes. There goes the education down the drain!
  11. Is this emotional drama (our hero has left his family for the nation) the reason why saas bahut serials are still the rage in India?
  12. Why can my fellow country people see divide and rule happening to us again? Earlier it was Hindus versus Muslims (yes, thats still there) but, now its black money hoarders versus ummm, the deshbhakt martyr poor? The funders of the fantastic hero’s PR still sleep peacefully.
  13. Lastly, does anyone – bank employees who work overtime, workers and labourers and many like Manisha who will stand in lines for over two hours for a small withdrawal in this expensive city – get compensated for the losses? A loss of 3 hours (on a work day for most people who are daily wage workers) is a loss of pay. Will they reap the benefits in this lifetime or will that be witnessed by some generation in a world that might not even exist – courtesy, climate change?

I do hope that this gets resolved soon and there is a compensation mechanism or at least a better execution of policies designed. And more importantly, that people now start questioning, understanding, taking charge and that we get better and more options to vote for in the next general elections.

Little

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Inktober 2016 day 22’s prompt was little. Like always, an image is formed in the mind and this time it was the pinky finger, the little finger. Why I did not draw that is because not only the time spent on it would be too short but, more importantly, the intention with Inktober is to push the wheels of my brain a little to resonate within the mind, what each prompt would mean.

I started off with the traces of a discussion I had had with a friend of mine. We spoke of how the grandness of nature, Athirapally in particular here, makes one feel so insignificant, so little that all one feels is the power of nature and surrenders to it. The last time I had felt like that was when spending time in the Himalayan mountains. The image that flashed in the head was that of the grandness of the snow clad peaks where everything else seemed too small, too little to think about.

But, it has been some time that I have gone back to those places of wonder and sitting afar in this part of the country all that comes to mind when thinking about it is the LOC, the attacks, terrorism, fear, crisis and war. I had, as a kid, honestly assumed that post the second world war, there would be no war at all. I know that was naive and we can safely say that peace and harmony are far away for a LOT of our “brothers and sisters”. I remember in the innocence of childhood when we would sing the national anthem and read about Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Tagore and Bose, I would be in awe of these figures who contributed to the nationalist movement back in time. But, the reason that I was in awe of them all was not for defending a certain bordered geography against another country. No, that was never it. I respected, honoured and treasured what I read about them, these heroes and heroines, because of their courage to stand up against inhuman treatments meted out to people of this land who were being tortured and made to feel less human owing to their colour and race. These people stood up for their people who were suffering due to racism. If you look at it objectively, like now back then too, the reason for those acts of cruelty were economic and political power and the subsequent tussle.

But, I wonder today, what is this power that still does not seem to let peace prevail in this land. I am an Indian and I see it just as a part of my identity. When I see fellow Indians walking on the streets, I do not think of them as Bengalis or South Indians or Punjabis – honestly, I am pathetic at guessing people’s “native” and also their age – but, I see them just as Indians. So, what is nationalism today? Why is it being looked at as a necessary “Hindu pride” and why is it also being looked at as “something I don’t wish to associate with” on the other hand? Isn’t Indian pride about not being divided based on principles and beliefs and just accepting the differences? When songs of Indian past and pride on it are sung, why do we forget that all nationalist movement happened to defend humanity and not anyone’s ego or greed?

I think I will leave this unfinished at this point and share the poem that I wrote for this doodle:

Little by little

I see it change, this land 

that I call my home.

Little by little,

the snow melts, not into

waters gleaming but, pools of red.

Little by little,

the cracks in doors 

shut in my face as I peer in to say hello.

Little by little,

the cracks in my heart

widen as smiles grow taut.

 

Elixir

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I have taken up the Inktober challenge this year. It is a first for me and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Today’s theme or prompt was wet and this is what I came up with. I call this, ‘The elixir of life’.

It was a mere bud, closed shut against the light,
As I walked past on that warm summer‘s evening.

Rain arrived.
She poured it’s entirety into each crevice
Transforming every nook of the #landscape.

But, I couldn’t see all that.
I grumbled at the dampness that the rain left in my clothes
Then the splash of water from the puddle, 
As I walked #home one evening, did not help my #spirits either.
I could not bear the #sight and #sounds of the downpour now.

And then, 
I saw her. 
The closed little bud had blossomed.
The incessant raindrops didn’t seem to disturb me now 
‘Cause the beauty of the bloom enraptured me.

The same water drops that drove me mad were the same 
Drops that had made the flower wet and transformed her.
The same drops of water now seemed like, the elixir of life

Now trending: Feminism

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It is indeed a mystic thing that around the time that the movie Pink came out, I got to experience what is called the inability to comprehend the meaning of consent, body space and respect when it comes to sex even in the minds of those who seem well educated and believers in equal rights for all sexes.

I’ve known someone (male) who has been very vocal about respect and body rights of women and also those who from the sexual minorities – sometimes voicing a hatred for men. This particular dynamic of social development is of interest to me as well. However, I haven’t been as vocal or as expressive about knowing stuff as him. I assumed that’s just difference in personality.

Now, being a woman, one easy thing that comes due to our social conditioning which eventually gets passed on genetically as well, is the sixth sense; the gut feeling of knowing when someone can be a potential sexual threat.

I do not say I thought he was coming on to women or being lecherous. For most women who know him – and a lot of the people that surround him are women – he’s a gentle and nice guy who has his head on his shoulders when talking about gender politics. However, there was always this gnawing feeling I had – which I articulate today – that something wasn’t right about him. Somewhere his alleged beliefs weren’t what they were projected as. I let go of this feeling since we have two very good common friends.

Time went by, we all grew up and went our separate ways. He met someone and got into a relationship and constantly asked about my story or why do I not find someone. Then, I took it as a friendly concern and didn’t feel that it was totally against his ‘women are awesome and equal and don’t need anyone to be happy’ claims.

We have spoken twice in 6 months with him asking about who I am with as the central part of the conversation each time; more focused on my virginity. Now, virginity for me isn’t a coconut to be cracked before something new has to be begun nor is it a gold coin (biscuit, if you may please) that should never be lost. Virginity is just a secondary part of me. It is not something I think about day in day out, nor do I plan any milestones around it. It is simply something which isn’t a consideration in my mind in the daily life. So when he first asked me this, I assumed that this was again a friendly question, that he was just trying to be ‘Gossip Girl’.

Six months later, the poor soul is still battling with this existential question.  I again did not mind ’cause it’s not a hush hush conversation for me. However, what came next told me that putting a foot in my mouth and a slap on his face were the two best things to do.

He asked me if I needed his help to loose my virginity, in case I am still one. Now, I don’t want to call him a predator since he did voice his apprehension that he didn’t know whether this was a bad question or a friendly question but, just thought that loosing my virginity was of utmost importance and he would sacrifice himself to help me do that, even if it involved lying on top of me.

Anyway, me being me, I gave him the benefit of doubt still and explained to him how his girlfriend’s female friends who sought their male friends’ help to loose that “ugly” and questionable piece of skin in between their legs is not something that has to apply to every woman. Each woman is different like each leaf of the same plant or each cookie from the same tin. Just because we have a vagina, we aren’t identical. However, this effort was in vain since he felt that his benevolence was met with unnecessary aggression. I couldn’t help but, laugh at this. Women who voice discomfort and an opinion on any sort of sexual advance are always brash and aggressive. Even if, one talks only about one’s own choice when it comes to one’s own body. Typical.

When this happened, I was saddened and angered both by the fact that this guy was plain stupid pretending to be sly and more so, that feminism is becoming a fad now. I remember a filmmaker called Stalin coming to university and stating that he was a feminist but, was told by someone who has been fighting for women’s rights in Gujarat that he cannot be feminist. Why? Because he was a man.

This makes me question what makes a feminist? Whether the lady was right that a man can never be a feminist? Isn’t feminism equal to humanism since all it demands is to look at women as equal humans since they have always been treated as second class citizens? Dalit movements are called so because of a reason as well. Men shouldn’t cry here though – yes, patriarchy has been a bitch to them too but, they have had better advantage plus, feminism is against the system and not their sex so, calm down there.

Coming back to my point, my worry has been the lack of serious brain usage today when feminism is becoming a fad, a Facebook or Twitter hashtag. People don’t know what they’re talking about but, will use #saveourgirls frequently. It’s the same as Taylor’s factory view – herd mentality.

This experience has however, given me hope in retrospect. I think there’s still hope ’cause I called him out on this. I believe that’s what’s needed – one needs to call out an abuser when it happens without fearing the consequences. It might not even be sexual bias – it can be sexism of any kind, in any setting. It might boil down badly at first but, the next time they do it, your words will come back to them. Slowly but steadily they might learn. This much is enough for you to do your bit and speak out. I have learnt. You can too.

This is exactly where the crass and pop way the film portrays the different issues of consent, patriarchy, regional biases etc. movie comes in. I hated the way the stereotype has been put together and also the PR way that so many different topics have been dealt with but, in a society like ours such blatant street play type conversations are needed for people to wake up and understand, for people to not forget Nirbhaya and countless others who have been victims and / or survivors of this societal mental ailment of pride, honour and fear of sex. More on the film in another post then.

Culture 

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 Lalbaug cha Raja, Mumbai, 2014.

What is religion and what is culture? Our understanding and opinion of the same is changing everyday and will continue to do so as time passes. As I write this today, I am witnessing, for the third time, the phenomenon of Ganapati in Mumbai, India. Anyone who has grown up in the country and watched a little bit of Bollywood would know the importance and charm that the festival of Ganapati’s birth (marked by Ganesh Chaturthi) and eventual immersion holds. Having lived in two other parts and three other cities of the country, I can say that there is no other place in the country that celebrates the festival with such oomph.

Before moving here and watching a Bollywood flick called Agneepath roughly four years back, I remember making a mental note to be in the city during Ganapati at least once in my life. Lo and behold, it has become three but, now during the third time the charm seems to be slowly wearing off. I am trying to retrieve it from the recesses of my heart hoping that it might be hidden somewhere underneath the pressures of daily life but, all I see is a momentary thump and tap on the beats of the drums and songs followed by a swift running away with hands on my ears the very next minute.

“Have I become and intolerant waysider?”, I ask myself, scared of receiving an answer in the affirmative.

But, the answer comes in an elaborate questioning of culture and religion and the precarious religious influence on culture. This time around the pandal of Ganesha statues was right next to the building where I stay. Since I am on the first floor, sight and sound came with full intensity. At the start of the festival, what started off as excitement of the upcoming festival turned into a daily nightmare. When done with the day’s work, I longed to be home but, also resented being home since the productive hours of the evening and night would go into dealing with thumping bass from DJ sets, loud breathless singing of aartis, and then even louder music.

Disclaimer – I have lived near Parel before this, close to the home of Siddhivinayak, so not that I did not expect this but, yes, experienced it at a much closer hand this time since the earlier building was a tall tower where my room was conveniently tucked on a higher floor.

Anyway, cutting on my rant, what I am left with at the end of the festival is a question around boundaries between culture, religion and blind following of rituals. I personally do not believe in praying to some external entity and hoping for things to move but, I also understand and respect when others have belief in a God. I also believe that such festivals are also an integral part of our culture – Mumbai wouldn’t be Mumbai without Ganpati madness and Kolkata wouldn’t be so without the gorgeousness of Pujo. However, my question here is – how do we justify following what a god says and believe that we are truly following his / her belief systems, if we fail to take responsibility for the impact that our actions might create on people and other beings in our surroundings. Question is, when someone points out the unnecessary pollution – both water and noise – that these events create, will we harass and bully the, saying the are eco-friendly idols as well and that the questioner is just another adarsh liberal talking about unIndian ideas; or will we pause, think and rework our celebration activities starting next year? I see the youth handling things for the celebrations in most societies. If the youth cannot believe that they can change things or that the way things have to be done culturally has to be adapted to the changes of times, then we better dread what our future would look like.