Tuesday, 18 July 2017

From the Waiting Room: The Void of Romance





For the past two years, Fatima has been through a lot – she had nights of sleeplessness, couldn’t properly or think clearly, and felt restless. It is interesting that while the therapist may, after further questions, diagnose her with an anxiety disorder, our dear old Bollywood love songs may call these the “symptoms” of a blossoming romance.
Aisa lagta hai jo na hua hone ko hai
Aisa lagta hai hosh mera khone ko hai
Warna dil kyun dhadakta, saansein kyun rukti
Neendein meri kyun ud jaati?
Fatima knows it is not a new romance, she has been in pain for a while. I ask her about her story – how she started feeling this way, what helped, and what did not. Despite all my best efforts to let the conversation flow, I have a set format for these conversations (some would call this history taking). I wonder what we would talk about if I just let the conversation be. She traces back to her life, an unconventional woman coming from an orthodox family where she would only receive hand-me-downs of her brother. She speaks of studying when it was not considered important for her to go to college, and how she nurtures the dream of working once again. She speaks of a father who never valued her or her sisters and she speaks of the dreams she had growing up.
She told me how she thought marriage would be her escape - a caring family and a loving husband. Fatima could have told me a lot about her story, but she lowers her voice and peeks at her husband who is sitting at some distance and says to me - “ye bilkul bhi romantic nahi hai”.
“But romance kitna zaruri hai!”, I can't help myself from exclaiming. After all, she says, don't we all want to feel cared for. I know I do. And then I look at her husband – they have travelled 12 kms today to meet the psychiatrist – surely, he loves her, I think. Can love exist without romance, I begin to wonder…
Idhar udhar soch sochkar I start thinking about the problem with a singular narrative of romance that is engrained in our lives. Every movie, no matter about what- action or drama or horror- comes with a story of budding love. Radio par har song is about romance, and even the bachpan ka make-believe games and conversations with aunties revolved around how we would find our partners and how lucky they would be. I, myself, grew up with ideas of partners inspired from the movies of my growing up years – kabhi Rahul from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, kabhi sometimes Raj from DDLJ, and later Aditya from Jab We Met.  I kept looking for them in every guy I met. With or without movies, romance still becomes the ultimate dream – aren’t we told that finding the right partner is what will complete us?
It is troubling to me, personally, because of how gendered it is, how it carries notions of a class where gift-giving or trip-taking become the ideal ways of presenting love, it is casteist for consciously or unconsciously we fall for the people from the same background, and it is problematic when you don't want a monogamous long-term romance to be the main representation of your life. Matlab romance toh end point hai hee, but that too of a certain type. Haaye tauba!
For now, I see the pain creeping up on Fatima and many like her who are beginning to realize that some of their dreams may never be realized – the ones they grew up with. Fatima weeps for her unfulfilled dream of romance. Somewhere, don’t we all?
With all good intentions, I ask her to build a new dream - one that is not around a knight in shining armour. She doesn’t need one, she knows that. But how do you pull out the “mere khwabon mein ho aaye” and the “ye dil na hota bechara… jo khoobsurat koi apna humsafar hota” that runs in the veins? And should we? 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

National poetry month
Day 11 – why humans speak (in 50 words)

Because all noises and any sounds are better than none
the quiet would force us to listen to the beating of our
broken hearts and to hear the screams hidden in silences that are
so much easier to ignore and because words can, often,
help hide what we really want to say.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

National poetry month

Day 8 – the last line of my favorite poem is the first line of my poem

first, here is the one favorite poem i'm using today - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cACbzanitg

When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple
People will tell you that madness has finally overcome me
This woman was showing the signs all along, a pre-disposition
In behaviours and moods and rather odd eccentricities
World knows, we all like a weirdo in every group in every place
They question the lines and boxes and somehow
All of them have a sense of humour we can appreciate
But some people are far too gone, their minds too lost
Like this one, they’ll say
What kind of an old woman wears purple, a colour of youth
She’s in denial, they’ll say, with no insight, they’ll say
Of course, we’ll have to restructure her maladaptive beliefs
Teach her how to see her own self as an old woman
The old age colours will follow
Her self-concept shows an acute absence of self-awareness
And social and cultural norms seem lost on her
Maybe a medicine will eventually show her, how purple is to bright
For her now soon-to-be failing eyes
And how else are we to distinguish between her and young children
With her tiny height?

When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple
Come talk to me about madness and other things.


Thursday, 6 April 2017

National poetry month
Day 5: from the point of view of an object in the room

A poem by a laptop titled 'hope'

I've heard his pain and fears
In ted talks and spoken word and in half written diary entries he never saves
I've felt the smoke on my screen
The cough in his laugh and the scent of his breath
The letter R now malfunctions after that night of tears
S bore the brunt of a very stressed out day
And A got a little burnt by a poorly placed cigarette
Some days he just keeps pressing the 'ctrl' button
There were nights we stayed up, the horrible days when sleep betrayed him
Those days we even looked up astrology and palmistry to see
If the future looked any better
And some days he would shut me up
And just cry and cry
Later he would shut me up
And just smoke and smoke
Now he doesn't cry anymore

Alas, i cannot offer a hand to hold
Or a shoulder to lean
He makes me wish I could speak
To be able to offer words of comfort
But all I do is secretly give suggestions
To funny videos and articles on smoking
And then today he searched withdrawal symptoms
And though he shook and wept and hurt
And showed every sign on the list
The smell of smoke was gone
And I smelt hope

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

National poetry month

Day 4 - five things you want to say to the rain


बॉम्बे की बारिशों के लिए

एक, तुम आते हो यूँ गरजते हुए, बरसते हुए, मेरी ज़िन्दगी के कुछ महीनों को अपना बैकग्राउंड म्यूज़िक देने - कभी कभी 'तुम से ही' स्टाइल में नाच लेती हूँ मैं भी...
दो, तुम दिखाते हो लोगों की resilience जो डूबते घरो में भी, घुटनों तक भरी सड़कों में भी किसी न किसी मजबूरी या चाहत से काम पर जाना बंद नहीं करते; दिल्ली में तो बारिश का मतलब छुट्टी...
तीन, तुम गुदगुदाते हो वहाँ जहाँ कोई नही छूआ - नाक की गहराई, गले के भीतर  से चीखें आती है छिकों के भेस में और मैं फिर ग्रीन टी पकड़े तुम्हे चाह कर भी अपना नहीं पाती...
चार, तुम्हे भूलना चाहूँ तो भी बदन से लिपट जाते हो, मैं भीगी सी फिरती हूँ, कपडों में हर वक़्त तुम्हारी महक और वो कीचड़ के निशाँ जैसे कोई लिप्स्टिक लगाये चूम गया हो...
पाँच, तुम्हारी फिर भी बहुत याद आती है आज भी, हमेशा आएगी तुम्हारी याद।

Monday, 3 April 2017

National poetry month

Day 3: poem starts with the first lines of your favourite song

Using the first lines of your favourite song

कि उजला ही उजला शहर होगा जिस में हम तुम बनाएंगे घर
पेट्रोल मैं डालूंगी, इक नाज़ुक सी चिंगारी तुम देना
बीच इक बदलते शहर के, हम तुम बनाएगें घर
आग के ढाँचे में डूबा, पीली जलती रौशनी में चमकता
कि उजला ही उजला शहर होगा जिस में हम तुम बनाएंगे घर

Sunday, 2 April 2017

National poetry month

Day #2 - Letter to my twelve year old self

Over the years you will learn that the boy who annoys you
Will shut up if you call him gay
That when someone makes fun of your body which is starting to sprout hair
You can always laugh at the girl with a growing moustache to feel better
You will learn to judge girls who kiss boys and wear skirts
And you will pride in being the child your friends' parents like
I'll tell you, it's not always a good thing
So next time the whole class boos at someone
Calling them ugly or fat or stupid or gay
You find your own words
And let them be kind.

Saturday, 1 April 2017



National poetry month
Day 1 
Prompt - Write a poem from the point of view of your favourite fictional villain

count Olaf



The name of the Count has been ruined by those wretched orphans and that annoying Snicket
The one sided tale on this unibrowed man who at one did impressions with his babbles and boobles
Twice I was approached to be the lead in a movie/tv ("unfortunate" events), alas, twas not too good for me
And before that came the annoying crowd of three - the Baudelaires whose fortune I had to steal
I set fourth with a map of secretly stained locations, one my home not far from here
Where poisoned darts punctured my dear parents bodies, "I'll be five", I said heavily
Then was born Al Funcoot and his theatre troupe of six
Several times seven days of the week I chewed on rasberries and planned
I ate them and eight them and ate them and planned
Sometimes I even schemed all day and nine
In thirteen books that took me a decade to read, I had ten flawless disguises that noone could see
And all the evil that I did or didn't do, I was compelled to repeat
And though eleven twelve or thirteen books may soothe your soul
It takes infinite courage to take on this character that fits my villainous role
Once upon a child, but never just an Olaf
I'm the handsome Count who can count, the great Count Olaf.



Sunday, 5 March 2017

I have unconsciously written a series of poems on love -
unloving and being unloved
loving someone without them loving you back
falling in love with someone who is not thinking of you
the kind of person you should fall in love with
falling in love with someone else

and here's another one now. Clearly this woman comes from a lot of experience!

wanting to fall in love

for three years I have barfed at the L word and
apologized to lovers whose holding hands I’ve wanted to puke on
i’ve read literature that invalidates romance and
fallen deeply in love with the gifts of friendship
i’ve deconstructed the L word and said to myself
how gendered it is, how limiting, how suffocating
i’ve spoken quite fluently about the ills of monogamy
the internalization of a romance from movies and fairytales
and unapologetically refused to give in
but now there is a voice behind my chest
a bluebird that had been tucked away, who sings again
i cannot decide if her voice soothes or scares me away
but she sings of love again
and wanting to fall in love
is a very heart-numbingly, gut-wretchingly, brain-lessly
scary feeling, because it’s just easier not to.


Monday, 23 January 2017

on my fingertips I can count the number of friends
i've had since ten, twelve, nine years, and in between
but there's one i can't forget
i met Aloneness (A) in school, she was the dark mysterious girl in the backseat
who everybody wanted to know
but I liked colors and company and cold drinks, A and I only crossed paths
she would watch me take friends to the bathroom and back
she saw me skip lunch when by myself
I would run into her dining at restaurants, she needed no company
I thought she must have never skipped a meal

we stayed apart, A and I, our worlds were different, too different
but in college it got harder to find people to go the bathroom with me
they told me I could do it alone – travel from point A to B and B to E
those were the days when I saw A again
this time an old woman, she looked so free
while I missed talks and lectures because my friends were on leave
A was there learning about the Mahabharata and existential psychology
then one day I gave it a chance, told them I would go for the talk no matter what
stumbled up to the room, the lecture on the geography of time
the only empty seat right next to A
we didn’t say a word but we were friends
A would be there for bathroom trips and class to class expeditions
A filled in all the gaps that were killing me

as I grew older, A came and went
she changed faces too – next year she came in the face of a bearded man
we loved each other’s company
we’d sit and talk, we’d sit and stay quiet
we could be together but not quite so
A taught me to eat by myself, A embraced zoning out
A also sometimes laughed at my neediness
how I wanted to be around people
A believed in self-sufficiency

and now I’m here, A my best friend
but this time A is the face of a baby looking for someone who cares
this time A is shriveled and weak and bitter
this time there are birthdays with A and happiness with A and sadness with A
this time A has taken over my face
and I move and talk and speak to people
but A stays inside somewhere
A scolds me for eating lunch with people
A tells me to watch movies only with her
A says people will leave you
A cuddles me when they do
A tells me it’s alright, A tells me it’s fine
I tell A to quit for a bit
I beg A to let me fall in love again
but A is now my best friend
Aloneness refuses to leave me alone.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

We are fragile humans with a survival instinct
We die without morning coffees and outlive abuse
We giggle in terror, laughter is our reaction to fear
I have a friend with broken bones who will cycle uphill
They’ll peddle and sweat and peddle and sweat
Who hurts bad at each beautiful song
We are walking jars of shards of glass
And warmest cushions for those we love
We are the birds who fly with broken wings
The fragile humans with a survival instinct
poetry is back after months (what felt like years) of silence :')