Masks

Depression. A word used often, but not always as it should be. People say, “I am depressed.” They sometimes confuse it with being sad. Depression is a disease. A disease that effects every 1 out of 4 people. A disease that should be spoken about, heard, redressed. Let’s talk, trust and carry the message forward.
This piece is a poem within a poem. One thousand seventy three words, and I still think I didn’t do justice to it. I hope, this helps someone somewhere. Also, if you feel anything like this talk to someone. Talk to me, if you want. Get help. You will be fine 🙂
Here it goes.

I am a mother
I saw my daughter in a shroud.

It was just yesterday,
When I held her;
And the midget was crying,
Life filling her with every breath.

And today
She just lies there, denying to stir.

I cry out loud,
Cry her name,
Piercing the silence of the humming crowd.
I hold her like I held her for the first time.
But; she denies to stir.

It was just yesterday when
She took her first step towards me.
And another and another.
I stood there with arms wide open to catch her
If she falls.

And today,
She just lies there, denying to stir.

‘Tis was the autumn of the year 2002.
She rode a bike for the first time.
She laughed as she sped down the road, a laugh
So beautiful! Oh the autumn seemed to blossom out.

And today
She lies there, denying to stir.

“Maa..
Can I..?
Should I…?
Shall I…?
Would you…?
Could you..?
Can you…?

I..I think I said NO to half of those requests
Or probably more.
Is that where I was wrong?
Should I have said a YES to them all?
Cause may be, just may be
She would stir.
I remember when she was in 3rd grade.
Her best friend fought with her.
She cried,
Clutching on to me for
3 hours 22 minutes 13 seconds.
And I held on to her.

Why didn’t she cry this time?
Why didn’t she come running to me?
I would have caught her.
I wouldn’t have let her fall.

But she didn’t.
And just lay there, denying to stir.

The other day, I saw some videos,
Videos on the World Wide Web.
Videos that might have answers
Answers as to where did I go wrong.
It said:
“The following are the signs of depression –
Appetite change, long periods of hopelessness,
Social withdrawal, concentration problems..”

Oh! That one time she didn’t attend the neighbor’s wedding!
Was that a sign?

Or that time when her grades slipped for a month.
I remember chiding her; was that a sign?

Or when she stopped having pizzas!
I stood there, thumping her on her back
To have finally listened to me; was that a sign?

She did come to me once.
She said, she sometimes didn’t feel.
I slighted it to be one of those times
I feel aloof.
Ignored it, to be a teenage whim.
“It shall pass”, I said.
“It’s just a phase.”

Is that why she denies to stir?

Or was it because I was less of a friend and
More of a mother.
The video said, I should have talked.
Words would have helped.
Words, the never ending plethora of sounds
Imbibed with meanings
By us.
Could that be a mistake?

“Give me my space mom.
I’ll tell you if I feel like.”
I gave her, her space.
I should have pressed on
Shouldn’t have given up on our daughter
Who lies there, denying to stir.

And thence,
I played and replayed every memory
I could grasp, trying
Trying to solve the puzzle my daughter had become.
Trying to find my fault,
Right from the first cry till the last breath.

27 days 14 hours 32 minutes later,
I chanced upon a journal
And these were the last pages:

I sit.
Clothed.
Writing.
Talking, smiling a smile that never reaches my eyes.

You see,
I weigh one hundred sixty six pounds.
I am an acne clad, love tires armored
Lone battalion.

Couple of centimeters below the
Average Indian height.
Foot size – US size 9;
I could easily pass for a hobbit.

Short, overweight, myopic.
Just above average in everything.

Getting these (teeth) aligned
Required four extractions and
Metal wires strung for another four years.
Marred at places, broken too.
Striving every day,
Every day to be acceptable.

Pitted,
Torn.
Bit I denied to break.

My feeds on Instagram and Tumblr
Filled with scores of people.
People with perfection.
Tall smart hot rich beautiful witty.
And there sat a girl
Holding on to the phone
Just above average, denying to break.

Fifteen years of outstanding performance,
Reduced and shattered to mediocrity.
Some scoops of peer pressure,
A dollop of ‘society ka burden’.
Expectation.
Pitted.
Torn.
Yet, I denied to break.

Anxiety,
Raging like a storm, harbinger
Of sleepless nights.
Breakups, hair fall, a broken arm.
But I denied to break.

You see, I had ignited a fire within me.
And all I needed was a unicorn to sweep me off my feet.
And thus, I lived on a life,
Of Paradoxical sonnet.

But unicorns don’t exists.

Three rotis became one.
Social gathering, a headache.
Sunny days turned pensive.
I was draped on the outside
With yards of skin and layers of clothes,
Adorning a perfect mask
Of nonchalance.

But what about the inside
The part that lay bare, naked.
Naked; to be trampled.
Naked; to be whipped.
Naked; to be touched, stabbed once twice,
A hundred times?
“Get a grip of yourself.
Take deep breathes.
Count forward, count backward – 1.. 2.. 3..”

There were nights in my room
Days in the bathroom; lights on, lights off- it didn’t matter.
And I cried.
Cried behind doors, cried myself to sleep.
Sleep that stopped coming.

My BMI screaked at me to stop!
I couldn’t.

Friends became people.
People became crowd.
Crowd became beings with two arms and two legs.

Moving a foot felt like moving boulders.
I didn’t know what was happening to me!

Maa told me to talk.
But words;
They failed.
Failed to express, failed to know,
Failed to come out of the bourgeois.
Failed to form, failed to articulate.
Letters became mere arrays of – A B G P X Y Z.
No switched to turn off, no anchors
To hold on to.

Till,
I had no choice but to silence
The disarrayed words, figures, body, mind
Heart and soul.

Thus, I write one last time.
The last time ink shall ever leave
The tips of my nib.
The last time I shall ever
Struggle to breathe.

Let me sleep.
Good night.

I sat there holding on to it.
Stunned and lamented.
Lamented for reasons I didn’t understand; but would have.
Lamented for reasons I couldn’t wrap my head around; but would have.
Reasons, I knew I would have solved
If only, if only she would have
Let me catch her
Before she fell.

I sat,
Holding on to the non-existing body
That denied to stir.

 

(29.04.2017)

Chimera

“Top your class Beta. Why did you score less than XYZ?”
“Put in your cent percent and ace 12th grade; your life is set.”
“Get good pointers in college, will you? Companies won’t recruit you.
Do your PG and you will get an amazing job.”
Get married, have kids and settle down now.
Welcome to the world
of worrying about them topping, acing, getting a job
and settling in life – And the pattern goes on.

STOP.
Before it’s too late. They are talking about paper wings and castles
of sand.

I got a pair of paper wings that
Will take me to Brobdingnagian heights.
They have speckles of gold over blotches of rainbow.
Oh! Such a beautiful sight.

‘Fly my girl! To the mountains.
Move boulders with all your might.
Then come to rest in the Shore Castle
And have a beautiful night.’

Patience and perseverance
Clouded my mind.
The shroud of happy times kept me
Awake all night.

Today was the day when I shall finally give
Wings to my dreams that I
Saw perpetually every night.
I wore them with pride
And carried a small smile.
Nor rain nor hail could falter
My vow to rise.

Grey clouds announced their approach.
They lurked their way through
And caged the sun from all sides.
Rain and wind gashed the earth
Quavering my stout resolve.

I looked hopefully at
My harnessed wings.
Alas! The colours were oozing their way
Towards the brown terrain.
They were nothing but a pair of muck
That mocked me.

I tore them away from my body.
It wasn’t the cold but
The Hope
Which crumbled before my eyes
That made me tremble.

‘It’s ok.
Get yourself together. I still have the
Shore Castle waiting for me
To have a beautiful night.’

I reached the shore.
The sea was high and uncouth,
Lashing the shores with
All it’s puissance.

I searched frantically for the Shore Castle.
They had promised
It shall shelter me from rage and snow
That danced
Among the mortals and bones.

I tripped and fell
Face down on the shore.
Salt and grit hit me hard;
Supervened by the ugly truth.

They lied to me and fed me
With desires, hopes and delusions.
‘You are doing all this for a beautiful tomorrow.
Envisage a happy face.’
It took me apart – One pearl at a time
From the necklace I had woven every day and every night.

They gave me wings
To fly to soaring heights.
And built castles made of sand and bright.
I didn’t know that wings of paper
Would decimate when I try
To let my dreams fly.
Nor did I realize that
Castles of sand shall disappear
When the Sea will rise
To erase the prints of yesternight.


 

She matters.

v

This is a short play on gender stereotype. The protagonist of the play is Sameer. The words of his Alter Ego (S)Ameer (or Ameer) are written in bold, the thoughts of his inner voice SAMEER are written in Italics and the rest is written using the normal font.

-The Beginning-

I am Sameer. Oops! (S)Ameer.

No no ; not the guy who cries watching Taare Zameen Par.

Neither the one who cannot stop thinking about the new neighbor who smiled at him yesterday. Yes, he thinks she is pretty but I think she is out of his league. Well, we will see about that later.

You must be wondering – What the hell is he talking about? Let me elucidate.

Sameer calls me his alter ego. I prefer to call myself the real him. Not the guy who touches his parent’s feet in the morning (They make him do that!). But the guy who smirks at the passer buys when they ogle at him. Well, he is kind of good looking . I am the badass, nonchalant and the aloof part of him. And come what may, I don’t let the sheer prattle get to him.

The other day, Sameer heard some crap about Feminism.

Yeah, that word is being used more times than Indian soap actresses cry. Most women are like, “I need feminism because I want justice”.

And they are the ones who expect men to open the car door for them. Now THAT is a gentleman’s gesture. Have you ever seen a woman doing that for a man? Or do we have a separate line at the security check? Or reserved seats in the bus?

No. And the ladies will elegantly claim those advantages and still want ‘equality’. Don’t listen to that bullshit Sameer.

Shushhh! Stop Ameer. Enough is enough. If you can’t help, at least don’t poison Sameer’s mind with your witless words. You all! Don’t mind him. Ameer is a spoilt brat who thinks he can have the best of all the worlds without moving his butt from the sofa.

I am SAMEER.

This world is consumed by so much of negativity that Sameer sometimes finds it difficult to tune it out. That’s when my voice (kind of distant) keeps him sane.

I am the one he comes to when he feels guilty, sad or frightened. He almost lost his best friend because his ego had gotten the better of him.

My voice helps him get up every day with a smile on his face.

Scene I

(Enters Mother. She finds Sameer watching Suits.)

Mother: I am making dinner Sameer. Make the salad, will you?

Ignore her Sameer. Your mother sits home every day. If you help her cook and clean, she will be dead bored in her own home because she will not have anything else to do.

Go Sameer. You are done with this episode anyway. She looks tired.

Sameer: I just came home Mother. Ask Ashna to help you.

(Sameer’s father is watching the cricket match)

Father: Ashna is working on her project Sameer. Your Mother needs your help.

Him too? Tell him to switch off his match and help Mother. And Ashna is the one who needs to learn all this.

For once, I agree. He should be helping too. Mother is cooking for the guests.

And no Sameer. Ashna has a company of her own to run. She doesn’t NEED to learn anything. She already knows it all. I am sure she can afford a maid when she has a house of her own.

Sameer: There you go. I have closed my laptop. I have a submission too. Mother I don’t even know how to cut the vegetables. Ashna can do her presentation tomorrow. It’s a Sunday anyway. It won’t be due till Monday.

Good. Now we get some much needed silence. It’s the season finale for god’s sake!

SAMEER silent.

(Ashna enters the drawing room.)

Ashna: I’ll help Mother.

Scene II

(Two years have passed and Ashna is married to a successful businessman. Mother, Father and Sameer have reached Ashna’s home for dinner. Ashna’s husband opens the door. He is wearing an apron.)

Husband : Hello Aunty. Hello Uncle. Hi Sameer. Ashna is working late today. Come on in. Make yourself comfortable.

Wow. Ashna seems to have married a lady. *sniggers*

(Ashna’s Mother-in-law enters.)

Mother-in-law: Welcome. Please come in.

Husband (smiling): I am making spaghetti for dinner. I hope you all don’t mind. The maid is on leave and Ashna had an important meeting. So I have the kitchen all to myself.

Mother-in-law: I told him to let me cook. But he won’t let me enter the kitchen.

(Ashna’s family is confused)

Mother-in-law: We have  divided the household duties among us as the maid is out of town. Mondays and Tuesdays are mine, my son manages the house on the next three day. Ashna takes care of the chores on the weekends.

Mother: I am sorry. I’ll talk to Ashna. She seems to be so engrossed in her business that she is ignoring her duties as your daughter-in-law. You shouldn’t be working at this age.

Mother-in-law: Oh you are taking me all wrong. This was my Son’s idea. Your daughter was completely against me or him working. Like always, she wanted to take all the responsibility on her shoulder. 

I was telling you. Ashna has married a wack job.

SAMEER perks up.

Husband (to Sameer) : You look perplexed. What happened?

Sameer: You know how to cook? All I can make is Maggi when Mother’s out of town.

Husband: No offence but what will you do once you move out of the house? Or get married and have your own house?

Sameer: What do you mean? I will have a maid of course. And I am positive my wife will know how to cook and clean for sure.

Husband: Do you want a woman who you respect and love or a cleaning lady to do your daily chores?

Sameer: Ummm…

Husband (continues): I and Ashna, we both have a job. And frankly, she is so much better at it than I am. I make sure none of these trivial issues come between her and her success. After Father passed away, Mother took amazing care of me and the house. She used to go to work, come home, cook, clean, help me with my studies. It used to drain her out. Yet, she never lost that beautiful smile of hers.

Mother-in-law (smiling): I remember one of the days when work kept me at the office till late. I rushed home thinking that my son must be hungry. I was surprised to find salad, curry and half burnt rotis ready at the dinner table. He asked me to sit down, gave me a glass of water. I had the most satiating dinner that night.

Husband: And the curry tasted like sea water. She still scraped the bowl and had it all. From that day, I resolved to keep her and my future wife happy. By happy, I don’t mean I will work hours to feed them and buy them stuff. I will be their equal and share every responsibility. I wanted to build a home that had equal amount of sweat and money from both of us.

Blah blah blah. I think he watches the saas bahu dramas too. Ignore him Sameer. Aren’t you hungry?

(Ashna enters the home. She hugs her parents. Pleasantries are exchanged. The spaghetti turn out to be perfect. Mother, Father and Sameer leave.)

Scene III

(Father is driving the car. Mother and Sameer sit silently. But Sameer’s mind is in turbulence. Ashna’s husband’s words have left a deep impact on him.)

Seriously dude? You are worrying about what he had to say. I mean, ok you have to respect him and everything. But cooking in an apron is just so weird. You just relax man.

Do you see my point? All those years passed when your mother managed the house. You disapproved of Father sitting and not lending a helping hand. But you never took it upon yourself to change it. You ignored me for so long that my voice was becoming nothing but a distant memory.

We were all born equals. We don’t have a ‘To-do list’ branded on our bodies.

Exactly. We were born equals. But woman expect you to make a move.

She will flirt with you but expect you to ask her out. She wants you to pay for dinners and movies. She wants all the perks of being a girl. On the top of that, you have to do the household chores too? If you cry, people are like, ‘Be a man. Don’t cry.’

And now they talk about equality? Nayy. Don’t listen to him.

First of all, not everyone is like that. Most of the girls you dated have spent equal amount of money, time and tears as you have.

You should talk to her about this. Tell her what you feel. You will be surprised to see her agreeing to almost every word you utter.

I am sure you want a woman who is independent, confident and respects you and not a woman who is bound by duties to the extend where she is frustrated. It will ruin your relationship.

What’s the joy in walking all alone when you can walk hand-in-hand together?

(Car comes to a halt. All of them enter the house. Sameer hugs his mother.)

Sameer: I have never acknowledged you Mother. Years have passed and there hasn’t been a day when you have put your needs before mine. I am sorry. You have put in your everything to make this house a home. Teach me how to cook will you? *grins* Father, lets will be students together, shall we?

Father (tears in his eyes): Mother! Will you take me as a student too?

Mother (teary eyed, smiling at Father): Of course. (to Sameer) I am so proud of Ashna and you. You both have grown to be such beautiful souls. I am blessed.

SAMEER : Ata boy!

Ameer is silent.

-The End-

Gender prejudices are seen everyday. A woman is supposed to know and do the chores , even if she is studying or working. This is so deeply rooted in our minds that we tend to ignore it most of the times.

It starts when a  three year old child is asked not to cry because it is something that girls do. And the process continues. Most of us see our mothers cooking, doing laundry or getting up early and seeing us off to school. We think, it is how it is supposed to be and go with the flow.

Not anymore. Lets #ShareTheLoad .

Let us start from our homes. The problem has to be annihilated from the root. Help your mothers and wives with the daily chores. Teach the art of homemaking to your sons as well as your daughters. Don’t let this issue be ephemeral.

Let us all raise our voices and ask #IsLaundryOnlyAWomansJob?

Why just HER?
Why NOT HIM too?

This beautiful video will throw some light on the issue.

I am joining the Ariel #ShareTheLoad campaign at BlogAdda and blogging about the prejudice related to household chores being passed on to the next generation.

 

Frère

FUNDAMENTAL (2)

 

I always wanted a baby brother or sister to play with when I was a kid. And when I got to know that my dream will actually come true, my joy knew no bound 😛 I had promised all my friends that I will bring him in my yellow school bag for them to see.We all share a love-hate relationship with our siblings. They know us so well that their taunts get to us the most. At times we hate them from the bottom of out hearts. But by the end of the day, we just can’t do without them 🙂 I wrote this poem way back in 11th grade.

That dream of a hatchling,
Beaming at me.
His five fingers clutching one of mine,
Lively as it should be.

The only thought that flooded my mind,
Again and again questioned me,
“They all have one-two-three-four people in their houses!
Why is it just one-two-three for me?”

And then they announced,
The influx of a blooming tree.
My joy knew no bound.
I was eager and glee.

I promised my friends and teachers,
Told my school ‘Bais’ too,
That I will bring my baby brother,
In my bag to school .

Leaner than a stick,
Frailer than the petals,
There! I saw him: Wrapped in white, serene eyes.
My angel was with me.

The foreign feeling of trust and affection,
Were so unprompted and brimming.
The strings bound us tight.
Eccentric, isn’t it?

We fight for an éclairs and lie together.
We hide each other’s stuff,
But also untold secrets from the world .
The cat fights and the bull-kicks,
The inside jokes and malice.
Love never shown , feelings so alien and unknown.
Our blind trust, like none
Just merriment and fun!

Je t’aime mon frère.