Insomnia.

I’d like to start this by establishing the fact that I am not someone who cherishes and pines for those 3 am conversations that are so often portrayed as something magical and life changing in poetry, and love letters, and whatnot. I have learnt not to. I have come to realize that there is nothing special about relationships based on confessions made in moments of weakness and secrecy, in moments which can easily be pushed to the back of your memory- in moments that you can pretend never happened because you were the only ones who were there. I think it is better to say “Hey, come here, I love you” when you’re with them in the kitchen one afternoon, trying to make a lunch that is bound to be a failure; I also think it is better to say, “You know what? This is incredibly sad but I think that you might actually be my best friend” when you’re walking them home after a fairly ordinary day out. I think special things are better said at ordinary times, rather than through long calculated text messages in the middle of the night when you’re both waiting with bated breath for a grand gesture because otherwise, what is the point of saying, “we stayed up all night talking”? I think it is better to say things you wouldn’t be afraid to say on an ordinary day rather than whispering across the room in the middle of the night, hoping to god that they can’t see your face in the dark.

I think it’s better when we say things without the urgency of the approaching dawn forcing us to do something, anything- in a desperate attempt to make tomorrow better, or even just a little bit different.

As a generation which attaches so much meaning to anything said after the clock hits midnight, we have the collective tendency to throw the word Insomnia around at an alarming rate. We stuff it in the bottom of our bags with pages full of incomplete poems and half drawn faces, we rub it into the dark circles under our eyes, we save it on our phones along with meaningless conversations with people we no longer seem to remember, we bookmark it with the pages of the three books we are simultaneously reading because we can’t commit to one, we ignore it like the friend we can’t “connect” with anymore, and we gulp it down with another caffeine fix that makes our hands tremble for the next two hours. We accept it as our plight like we do so many other things, and like so many other things, we refuse to work our way around it.

Being unable to sleep, physically or mentally, feels more exhausting than it sounds. At times like these you realize how much effort you need to put in to just relax- and how terrifying that sounds. Insomnia is like an endless struggle of telling yourself to stop thinking- it is like dragging a drunk man from a party when he refuses to go with , it is like trying to turn off an alarm that won’t stop ringing. Insomnia makes you fidget and itch and toss and turn and pain and scratch- and think. It makes you think like that stubborn child who does exactly what he is told not to do as soon as someone suggests the possibility of something forbidden, it makes you think like thinking is the only way out- it makes you think of dreams and plans- routines, so many routines that will help you go to bed on time tomorrow night, it makes you think of all the things you could’ve done- slept earlier, skipped that last cup of coffee, apologized to your friend after that fight. It makes you look at the clock, a lot. But then you realize it’s dark and so it makes you look at your phone, at your messages, your emails, your pictures, a song, a movie- anything… to keep you from yourself.

The worst kind of insomnia makes you turn on your lights and sit up. The worst kind of insomnia raises the volume of people breathing in the next room, the sound of the clock ticking, the fan moving, the car driving past your window- raises it higher than any song you could be listening to at this hour. And the loudest is the sound of your thoughts. Sometimes you can hear yourself reading, you can see yourself looking. If the lights off insomnia is like the four walls of your room closing in on you and your thoughts running faster than you can catch up with them, and the insomnia in the moonlit balcony is like walking in an abandoned city, then the lights on insomnia is like sitting in a moonlit balcony inside your head, except that that’s the only place you can be- and the only place you can be shrinks into one sharp edged room and you’re suddenly aware of how dark everything looks under the bright artificial light.

Insomnia heightens your every sense, magnifies every detail, saturates every color until your dreams feel bigger than they ever did and the three hours until daylight seem longer than the twelve hours of any day. Because for these three hours, the world is on pause. Every minute you squeeze out is a minute more to you, alone. With red eyes and stale mouth you can live without anyone watching, you can listen to every sound you have regretted not hearing, you can go back in time and relive the memories you are ashamed of in the daylight, you can dream about things you know will never happen. Only at 3 am do you really have the time to look at the clock. Only at 3 am can you can hear yourself thinking over the sounds of everyone judging and evaluating your thoughts. And only insomnia lets you talk to yourself at 3 am, when you don’t have anything special to say.

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Romance, really?

My idea of romance, is everything I wish it wasn’t.
It is the blurred image of two pairs of feet running around on sunlit floors, on quiet winter afternoons. It is the innocent daydreams of girls in pinafores and pigtails, and giggles on the corridors. It is the fleeting moments of eye contact with a stranger, which my mind decides to remember forever. It is going through old letters, and realizing that I have been fortunate enough to see love all around me. It is hot coffee on a train, looking out the window, and seeing someone’s face light up as they find the person they were looking for. It is in the seconds of shy eye contact and the hours of useless banter. It is in that one second of shy eye contact after those hours of useless banter.
It is the loose strand of hair on a mother’s face as her baby giggles uncontrollably in her arms. It is the careless arm thrown around a friend’s shoulder. It is sharing an umbrella in the rain, or having bhutta in the cold.
It is in the moments you have thought about again, and again- in moments which you have lived a thousand times over, moments which you’ve learnt to love. But most of all, it is in moments which take you by surprise, knock you over. It is in strange people, and strange places, and strange things which you wish you could remember longer, but end up forgetting. To only have with you, a feeling of reluctant romanticism for that blurred image of two pairs of feet, running around on sunlit floors, on one quiet winter afternoon.

Define Winning – Kolkata Bloggers Workshop Entry

She fights a thousand battles
Every single day.
With all the courage and strength
In her veins.
And you ask again and again
If she has the won the war yet.

We try to justify the world
That we live in.
We think hard and find examples
Of women who made it.
But ask yourself again
Why do you need to think so hard?

I wrote a poem once,
When I was six, about my mother.
I called it ‘A Lovely Lady’.
No one told me then how she
Was more than just that.
She made the conscious decision
To give life to another human being,
To let it live inside herself.
And to give endless time, and love, and care
To someone, to get possibly nothing in return.
She fought a battle then,
And she fights a battle now.

I distinctly remember my aunt
Bringing me chocolates every day.
She didn’t have a child of her own.
She was happy, like my mother.
And she had made the conscious decision
To be happy.
She worked hard, worked her magic
On hundreds of children,
In a tiny little school.
She worked hard,
With all the courage
And all the strength she could muster
Answering hundreds of people
Justifying her decisions to all of them.
She fought a battle then.
And she fights a battle now.

My niece was sixteen
When one evening
She didn’t know what was happening anymore.
She said she wanted to go to work.
She wanted to fend for herself.
She fought a battle then,
And she fights a battle now.

When every day,
And every decision is a battle in itself,
Every woman wins.
She won then, when
We tried to kill her as a child.
She won then, when
We tried to burn her alive.
She fights everyday.
In our homes, in our streets, our schools, our worlds.
She fights everyday
And she wins.
Not as your mother, your sister,
Your aunt or your wife.
She wins as a person.
And as everything she stands for.

She won then, and she wins now.
And as we speak, she is winning the war.

Circles

For the first decade
Of my short, insignificant life,
I have run up to microphones,
Singing songs while I ran,
And I have smiled at strangers.
I have let my uncombed hair
Fly around in the summer air.
I have laughed unguardedly
And been unafraid of touch.
I have been in the centre of circles
And not. tried. to. come. out.
I have tripped on my own feet.
And that never mattered.
But then one day,
People stopped smiling back,
And I didn’t get a chance
To trip on my own feet anymore.
Because it was much easier
To get pushed.
Pushed down and pushed around,
Pushed into, and pushed out.
My messy uncombed hair
Turned heads, and I was asked
To tame myself,
And to not run around
If I didn’t want to get hurt.
My laughter was too loud,
And my voice too shrill,
My hair too long,
My eyes too bright.
And as I stopped running,
And started walking down the streets,
I learnt to be afraid of touch.
And to tame myself,
To never have eyes so bright,
That they get noticed in the dark.

I don’t run up to microphones any more. My voice is too shrill, too shaky.
I am pushed to the centre of circles, and all I want to do is to
just. get. out.

A Reply to Lauren Southern’s “Why I’m Not a Feminist”

I just think this is very, very important for everyone to read. Especially anyone who has watched that video and agreed with what it says. I thought this was brilliantly written, and needs to go around.

Everyday Geopolitics Houston

Dear Lauren,

In the last couple days, I have seen your video “Why I’m Not a Feminist” pop up a few times. In the video, you describe why you are not a feminist. At the heart of your message is the assertion, “I am not a feminist because I believe both genders should be treated equally.” Setting aside for a moment the problems with your assumption that gender can be reduced to a binary of male/female (here’s a decent introduction to that if you want), I want to talk about the misinformation you offer in your video: misinformation about feminist activism and scholarship, and misinformation about domestic violence and rape. I don’t often find engaging in these types debates online to be the most fruitful use of my energies, since people that produce anti-feminist content generally are not very open to meaningful engagement with feminist thought, however I’ve been stewing over your…

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Noises.

I won’t ever cut my hand
Over the rough edges of your soul.
I won’t ever be repulsed
By the twisted corners of your mind.
I won’t ever look
At your body before I look at your eyes.
But I will listen to your voice,
And measure you against
A scale of lifts and falls
And riffs and chords.
Because I have spent half of my life
Trying to make music out of the noise
Which never leaves me alone;
Trying to find the rhythm in the
Howls of the tormented dogs,
And the sirens of the cars
As I saw their blurred headlights
Through my window panes,
And the raindrops trickled down the glass.
The thunder and the lightning
Never sounded out of place to me,
Because I have taught myself to
Make sense of the noise
Which never leaves me alone,
Which makes me fear the unknown silence.
But I will listen to your voice,
And when it doesn’t fall in place
With the music in my head,
I will never listen to what you have to say.
Because I have taught myself to
Get used to the noise which never leaves me alone.
And yet I am so used to being on my own,
That the noise is the only thing I want to hear.
Not your voice, I’m sorry, not your voice; but
The sound of the flickering street lights
When I walk down a lonely road,
And the cars screeching as they rush past me.
The distant screams of children.
Voices, which don’t say anything.
The scratch of pen on paper,
When I try to write something and fail,
And the sound of the paper
Hitting the dustbin, and missing.
The sound of the cold harsh wind
Rushing through my hair,
The sound of thunder,
The sound of rain.
But don’t worry, I’m sorry, don’t worry.
I will shut off
These noises someday,
And listen to the sound I have fallen asleep to
On countless summer nights.
The sound of beautiful voices and rainstorms
Shutting off, the noisy summer nights.

My life is not a tragedy.

When I was 13, I sat down one night on the dinner table with red eyes and a fallen face and ate slowly with no interest, and my father screamed at me asking me if I don’t feel like eating and proceeded to tell me how many children were starving at that very moment all over the country.

That was the day I realized, that in this world, you are not allowed to be sad about your own life, because there are people at that very moment who are in a worse position than you are. Your feelings are not credible because someone else might be dying at that very moment. So today, when I am fifteen years and nine months old, I wonder how I will make it in this world, and how any of my petty struggles today will matter tomorrow when I am standing in a room full of people who have overcome much worse.

So now I am left wondering, about how I will make it out there without a story to tell. My life is not a tragedy. There have been no major ups and downs. Only minute details which only I will notice because of how bad my day is. I always had a plate of food to eat whenever I wanted to, I always had a bed to sleep on, I always had my father or my mother to help me with my problems, even though those conversations were not always pleasant. I have always had my friends and family to ask me repeatedly if I was okay, even though I never really did say anything. I do not have any stories of my own to tell. But the stories I can tell you – about how my three-legged cat climbed a tree so fast, she forgot her way back, and how my niece wanted a job at sixteen to fend for herself,  how my best friend managed to laugh and smile everyday with her mother in rehab and my mother grew up sharing a room with her seven siblings – are stories of strength told over and over again on the dinner table. Until they became standing jokes. Because of course, the world has seen things far worse.

So I stand here today to say, that I do not have any stories of my own to tell. But I know by now that after everything I try to do, and everything I fail at, every person I meet and every place I visit, everything that I ever make myself to be, will be the story that I weave out of the ordinary.

The Shades of Her.

The madness in her
Is a riot of colours.
Her eyes reflect her soul-
Black, and grey, and dark blue,
The colour of storms and impending doom.
Her mind is blue,
Like the ocean and skies,
Different each day
And hard to come by.
Her voice and her
silent laughter and smiles
Are like the quiet of snow,
Of pure and innocent white.
The madness in her
Is a riot of colours,
Purple and pink,
And yellow and green,
Like the leaves
In autumn and the
dry flowers between
The pages of a book.
Like sunlight streaming in
Through a stained glass,
And like the glare
Of the yellow street lights
Shining on her
On a lonely night.
The madness in her
Is a riot of colours.
And the fire that burns
Within her veins,
Is the color of blood.
A terrible, terrible, red.

She.

Perhaps she has conversations
With herself in her head
And laughs at the jokes
She tells herself,
Perhaps she likes to dance
But never moves her arms,
Perhaps her hands are only meant for
Writing to the ones she loves.
Maybe she loves talking about herself
Maybe she won’t unless you ask her to.
Maybe there are days when she
Laughs at everything
And nights when she cries
At every word you say.
She is what she is,
A person with shades of
Anger, and hurt,
And strength and love.
But none of that matters
At the end of the day.
Isn’t that what you’ve been
Trying to say?

She is a she.

She is what you won,
By being the mightiest of them all,
She is what you get,
At the end of the day.
A pretty face for you to look at.
She is the sum total
Of her arms and legs and
Other such parts of her body
You don’t mind buying,
But are offended by.
She is the amount of
Clothes she adorns herself with.
She is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’
But who said, she has the right to choose?
A ‘no’ might be a ‘yes’, when it comes to you.
She is a trophy made of skin and bones,
She is the result that your expensive
Car and perfumes promise.
She is the sum of the stereotypes
You have framed for her.
Or the number of expectations
She doesn’t fulfill.

She is not a person,
With nuances in her thought,
With a desire to be better
For her own self, perhaps?

She is, of course, a she.
And you, get to decide
What she is, or not, meant to be.

On the beauty in all of us.

Everything about you
Is not beautiful
In its own way
(Or in the way hundred other
People around you are).
Every hurtful thing you’ve said
Is not because you’ve had a
Difficult childhood.
And very wrong deed you’ve done
Is not the fault
Of your teachers, or of your
Faulty upbringing.
Every crack in your soul
Is not meant to be filled with love
And every scar on your body
Is not meant to be kissed away.
Some mistakes,
Are not beautiful.
They are your responsibility
And yours to amend.
The way you face
your faults fearlessly
And try to better yourself,
And accept your mistakes
Even when your pride
And ego sting,
Is, however, the most beautiful thing.
For we are not beautiful
in every way that we are.
We are as beautiful,
As we make ourselves to be.