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Study life, study literature. Eat food. Lots of it.
Also, I use a lot of adjectives- working on that, so bear with me.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Development in Sherisa

Development in Sherisa  
[I work with Sauhard, an NGO that runs an education centre in Sherisa, a small village about 30 kms from Ahmedabad. The centre works with students who have dropped out of school, to ensure that they get the life skills they deserve, along with a chance to appear for their board exams through NIOS. The centre is a remarkable place to see how far the will for acquiring education can take you.To know more about how you might be able to help, or contribute to this project, feel free to contact me!

This write-up came about as a result of a special visit to Sherisa. We took a group of our students from Ahmedabad to conduct a social mapping exercise, and open dialogues with the residents of the village to understand their life better. It was during this dialogue that the idea of the write-up emerged, from a chance interaction with a child in the village. He had a burn on his foot, which had festered into a boil. I spent about half an hour speaking with his family, and throughout that time, he wailed about how he was in pain and did not want to go to school. When we sat down to speak about our day, those screams about the pain and not wanting to go to school stayed in my head, and this piece resulted from the same interaction, from the idea that schools and education are scant, but pain isn't.]

It has a boil on its feet, the development in Sherisa.
It wept for an hour, not wanting to go to school, because it has a boil on its feet.
Fitting, that it burst, the boil.
The feet hurt now, they need to be carried.

It has an open lake full of our trash.
Of everything we do not need.
Of every letter we did not read, and of every word we could have written but did not write.
It has a lake full of garbage we did not care to throw.

It has a house which is a compound wall, a house which is the safety and isolation of my people.
Development in Sherisa is development of communities by themselves.
Of ‘our people’ and ‘them’.
Development in Sherisa has concrete toilets for the rich and sand for the poor.
It has a pile of dung- human and otherwise.

Development in Sherisa is Farzana’s smile as she looks me in the eyes when she asks her questions,
But development in Sherisa has a boil on its feet.
Development in Sherisa has stunted feet that long to jump, but they have been burnt by your response.
They smile, will you smile with them?

Development in Sherisa has a boil on its feet, it doesn’t want to go to school today
So it cried for an hour.
It will learn though, I hope, and its feet will heal.
The boil will burst, and it will heal, the feet will fly.
They will lead to newer steps, newer letters, and newer words.
Its feet will ask you new questions, and if these questions still your feet in discomfort, don’t worry.
At least, they aren’t burnt with a boil.
Walk. Run. Learn. Walk.

27th December, 2017.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

I Dared to Disturb the Universe. Yes, #MeToo

Tolerance is a virtue, as is grace and the ability to take the high road and let things go. Letting anger fester leads to knots of it forming in the pit of your stomach, and that doesn't go well with our disposition. Or so I've been told. You know what? At this point, I couldn't care less. Conquer the world, I'm told, but stay safe, I'm told. Push the boundary, but don't invite trouble. Dress as you'd like, but stay decent. Be a feminist, but don't let feminism typecast you, I'm told. Don't be cheesy, but be cute. Write about strong women, but also about the stronger men who helped them. Be like a bro to the boys, but don't brozone them. Write what you feel, but why are you so angry yaaa?
I'm not usually an angry person. But I am angry right now. 
I don't usually do Facebook, I'm a Twitter person- because fewer people on Twitter. Turns out, a lot of people use Twitter for the same reason. For the last week, my Twitter timeline has been filled with heartbreak, fear, outrage and shame- the seeds of a revolution. Harvey Weinstein's truths slipped out from under his sheets, High Spirits now has a call for sobriety. A hashtag that Alyssa Milano spoke about, broke through a glass ceiling painted in silence. This week, people from all over the world used #MeToo to come out- to share stories of pain, but more importantly stories of strength and survival. People from every gender, people of all ages, people of all nationalities, religions, economic brackets- people from every label and box that we know of, made this cut. People spoke about their scars- that stemmed from sexual harassment, abuse and assault. Things that people have been through, and emerged from- whole or otherwise. The hashtag was meant to highlight the frightening commonality of such behavior. Unless you've been living under a rock, there is no way that your timelines were not inundated with these posts. Stamps, battle scars, so to say, because lets not deny it, it is a battle.
 Ironically, the hashtag also served to highlight bigotry among so many around me. People opened up about experiences that broke them, and how they put themselves back together, and learned trolls on the internet gave out pearls of skepticism that are best left in dustbins. I've realised this, Feminism trends. It brings your views, hits, reads and additionally, good karma. I think the whole world has learnt from Gujaratis now- go where the faayda is. Might even be a good thing, sometimes, until it is time for it to actually count. That's when so many stakeholders of "progressive thought" begin to question the legitimacy of a movement and change the conversation from the intended impact to a detour of tribulation. With #MeToo, in stead of acceptance, change or shock, trolls (I refuse to use a more polite term that leaves space for remorse) either dismissed it as a "social media fad" or they went into overdrive, questioning every account, finding ways to justify such systemic violence. "yeh sab toh hota hi hai na yaar". "It is a part of growing up, such incidents". "At least you didn't get raped". "so funny that such ugly girls are claiming to have been molested often". "men will now be scared of professing their love to women because they will be blamed as abusers". "koi aurat mujhe bhi ched de yaar". Also, the age old classic "arre even the victim isn't completely blameless yaar". I kid you not, each and every one of these is an actual response, not things that I made up or even extrapolated from different comments. I would attach screenshots, but my phone gallery would throw up if I subjected it to such company. When a marginalised community's voice doesn't echo your gain, you don't just ignore it, you actively try to shut it down. I'm sorry Sir, not this time. I'm going to say this, because it needs to be said- again and again and again, till it will no longer need to be said. If this makes you uncomfortable, fasten that seat-belt tight. 
Abuse does not "happen". Someone perpetrates it- an active voice, not a passive one. We live in a world where we'd have to worry about complaining to an authority about being harassed rather than worrying about whether the perpetrator will get caught. We live in a world where it is "only natural" if a stranger's erection digs into your hip in a crowded bus, because too much stimulus, right? We live in a world where it is totally cool for a man to lean over and look into your phone sneakily in a local train. We live in a world unsafe enough that your government has to create special ladies' compartments in local trains, but if in a hurry I do get into the general compartment, I sometimes hear a snigger and a whispered "inko toh accha hai. khudka alag dabba bhi aur hamara wala bhi". We live in a world where I have to whisper when I'm talking about blood flowing out of my own body through a natural process, because other people may not be comfortable hearing about it. We live in a world where the makers and upholders of the law promote a sense of fear, not of safety. We also live in a world when there are no safe spaces for us- not our workplaces, not public spaces, more often than not, not even our homes. I live in a world where my own body is not my safe space, and if to reclaim that I have to append a hashtag to the conversation, why not? In stead of overlaying unjust stereotypes on someone who goes through abuse, how about we acknowledge that the people who do this are real people? We are "required" to hide the identity of the victim, but we question their character. We should, ideally, punish the guilty, but we go out of our way to reduce the perception of their crime. How many of you have rubbished the idea of an attack when you hear about it without any proof? How many of you wonder what the 'victim' was wearing, whom were they with, what had they eaten or drank or said before or after, what their profession is, whether they asked for it or just dismissed it altogether- "acche gharon mein nahi hota" or "no but this wouldnt happen in such a well reputed hotel/restaurant/office" or "these things dont happen to people like us!" or "just forget it and move on". A hashtag, a first-person account, an anonymous complaint, or a hushed confession- we need to realise that the first, sadly instinctual response, to these cannot be to question its legitimacy over anything else. You cannot help in the fight to bring a monster to justice, I hope you figure out how to, but at least, do not be a skeptic in the path. Ask the valid questions, for sure, hear out every person that you need to, but do not rubbish an incident or series of incidents that could very well define someone's entire life- they did not consent to it. 
It is time for Prufrock to knock at the Universe's door, to rock the apple cart, because what I enlisted above is not even the tip of the ice-berg: not for me, definitely not for countless others. 
Men, women, and every other one of us whom this has happened to, we believe you. The onus of guilt is not on us. Yes, everyone is allowed a voice, but your silence is telling as well. The burden of patriarchy falls on every gender, but so does the burden of humanity. There is no possible excuse in the world for such behavior, or for anyone who supports it or does not speak up against it.
In this day and age, your silence is no longer just your silence, it is your active denial. Dare to disturb the universe, will you? I will not be silent- I will speak up, be it about my private trauma, be it about awareness, be it about asking the right questions. I am tired of being scared. I am tired of clutching onto my pepper spray all the time, I am tired of your rape jokes. I am willing to answer your questions, but not your accusations. You should be too. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Shaking A Few Words Out of a Toybox

I don't know about writer's block, but frozen fingers, hovering just above a keyboard are very real. It has been a long while since I wrote. At this point, I've lost count of the number of unfinished blog-posts I have, and the number of incomplete breaths in my phone notes. I have always taken a lot of pride in my words, and so to find them lost at shore like this shakes me more than most things can. One of my earliest posts on this blog was some of my poetry.
I don't like it when my hands are so clean and ink-free, so for the last few days, I decided to force myself to write every day. Such an alien feeling, that I wrote in a format that I hadn't particularly dabbled with much; micro-fiction. Without any more preamble, I'd like to share the tiniest pieces of fiction I've ever written.  They're mostly unconnected, things that I've seen or felt and regurgitated on paper over the last few days. (Yes, I am worried that trying to fix my stalled writing by writing things that end faster than a tweet does can be counter-productive, but I'm playing this on the fly. Hoping that small stories will break open the bigger sentences too. Yes, some of them are cheesier than I anticipated, some scary, but extremes work when normalcy deserts you).


She found the number written on a tissue paper.
A broken voice picked up the call.
That night, two fortunes were reversed, all thanks to someone who didn't follow the 'Do Not Litter' sign.


Two single tickets for one horror film.
Shaking hands found each other across the seat-handle.
The story on the screen wasn't the only one in the auditorium that night.

When he broke my bangles, it was abuse.

When the elder women broke my bangles, 

It was widowhood. 

No one knew it was murder.


Every single mirror in the house was broken.
The supermodel met herself that night.


They passed the book between themselves at the library, smirking as their eyes met over scribbled words.
What grew in the margins could not be tamed by the dog-ears.


"I need a size M, this is size L, dude", he said.
"Sometimes, that's even better", he replied.
The Men's fitting room holds more joy than the Closet store ever will.


Each touch of his ignited fire in her. 

The acid was quite potent. 


He can't father a child. He fathers thoughts instead.

She is a mother. To his words.
They conceive everyday.



Two languages, one word.
In 1947, it meant the same.


She smiled every time she came to the girls' hostel. Love is a rainbow flag on her door.


Power windows, rough hands.
Expensive sunglasses, ambitious eyes.

Both the car and the beggar had a long way to go.


Each bindi stuck on the mirror.
One dot. One thousand memories.

She wailed as amma's hands picked out the lice in her hair.
Today as she cleans amma's hair one last time, she wails again.


Time waited for tide that evening.
Idioms were a common enemy.


His eyes were glued to the meter of the auto. As each glowing red digit moved to the next, his hand ghosted over his pocket. Phantoms pains were applicable to wallets too.