The Feminist

Spectacular success!

One million likes
Another million retweets
A million shares!
The self proclaimed feminist was smug.

Her movement has seen light!
Arguments on the length of skirt
And the freedom to booze.
Protests against rape
Through strip tease at the square!

She held placards,
Sitting on her leather couch.
She talked about women’s rights,
In air conditioned social clubs.
She condemned inequality,
On Facebook pages and tweets.

Killing television, where her speeches played,
She tucked herself into the comfortable bed
she slipped into her contented sleep
But outside her windows, ignorance lurked!

Outside her windows,
Somewhere in the darker corners,
a newly born was choked to death
Another’s books were burnt
A woman was raped
Another tortured!

Women stayed in darkness while
Facebook shared
Twitter tweeted
feminists talked
this poem was wrote.

But none walked in with a lit candle,
Into the murkiness of the dark world.
Unaware, the feminists went on!
Untouched, the world rolls on!

The girl with the curly dark hair

“Hello!”
Said the girl with the curly dark hair.
I nodded. Smiled.

That boy is soooooo cute!
Said the girl with the curly dark hair.
I nodded. Giggled.

Fatty patty! called she
I looked at her and her curly dark hair
I christened her – cantaloupe!

Friendship bracelets, said she
Shiny letters dangled from it
B e s t i e s !
Clinked and clankered
Through sixteen and seventeen.

Roads split.
She in love,
I in marriage.
Deep down under,
Remained friendship sombre.

Something about she said, he said
Yet for the little bracelet , this little force suffice
B e s t i e s
Clanked to the floor.
Mute.
She
I

I rang her up.
I wanted to apologize
But the girl with the curly dark hair was mute.

She doesn’t want to talk
Her mothers voice boomed
Do not bother my dark haired girl
Click!

Hurt!
insulted!
dejected!

Then I met a friend of yours
And then a friend of ours
Stumbled out your little lies
The lies that were once our honest little secrets!

I turned around
Walked back to the grey classroom
I saw the girl with the curly dark hair;
Mute.
Ask?
She looks up-
Truth?
False.
Mask?
Mute!

Yesterday she had called
Something about the long lost friendship
Said she was not in her ‘senses’
But the lies -??
“Hello”
Said the girl with the curly dark hair
I nodded.
I couldn’t smile!

The Ghost

The ghost

6 February 2014 at 16:06

Retrospection:

A ghost out of its mortal substance

Floats through the gyres of cosmic reality

Through the time machine’s telescopic view

Threading: connecting the past to present

Through each gyre, the ghost slips in and out

It sees, moves and stops.

 

Through the murky muddle of her present,

Past the coffee dripped table and plastered walls,

Past the sergeant; the rusher: the frantic clock

Past the mundane dog that curls around her feet

She saw the gyre reveal– the forgotten past sombre;

It heaved, moved and turned.

 

There the ghost caught a glimpse

A girl with broken wings.

Yet her spirit unbroken, she painted.

She dipped the brushes into pots of colour,

And traced magnificence on the canvas

She beaded words and scattered thoughts

And smiled as she weaved poetry from them.

 

There was a yank

The ghost was dragged.

It screamed as the gyre chewed and spat it back.

It stood up, shivered and stared.

 

The woman now an image sombre,

Her wings has flourished, the feathers magnificent

She drank her coffee,fixed dinner, and finished the dishes.

Saluting the master –the time, she retreated to her bed.

And that is when the ghost noticed

The dry brushes and the desolate words

The empty canvas, the monotony

And the broken spirit underneath the false wings

 

As the thread came off,

As past and present tumbled apart,

The ghost shivered,squirmed and howled.

Missing my girlfriends

 

girl-friends

Do you remember those days of adolescence?

The girls who found a cult of friendship; written and signed in blood.

The days when we wandered through the basketball courts and sat under those arches with pretty climbers on them and discussed movies, teachers, the bitches in our classes and boys? Those days when everything crumbled and hope burnt out? Do you remember how you rekindled the light of hope in my heart? When I stood wondering whether we would lose the competition, you hugged and told me that we gave our best shot and there was nothing to regret. When we finally won, I ran and hugged you and you teased me about how I cried so much for nothing. When everyone cried about leaving, we did not as we knew that the end of school life does not mark the end of our friendship. The school was a turbulent time when our innocence was not appreciated because some teachers decided to give in to the gossip some girls spread. I wouldn’t have made through if it was not for you.

We were the front benchers, the five who stuck together. We knew and believed that there was no friendship like ours. We knew each other’s secrets – each and every one of them. Even roll numbers did not betray us. We were in a triangle facing each other in the chemistry lab . Boys were of course the main subject of discussion and our secret crushes were known within the girl’s club but we guarded them with life. Do you remember how we made their names by underlining letters in the biology text? And we three were always together in the computer labs as well. Remember those PE periods when we used to take the excuse of periods to stay back? And how we kept a straight face when the teacher wondered how in the world a group will have it together at the same time? And then play badminton, just for the sake of it and talk about almost everything. Do you remember how we sat at primary block having our share of fun when the arts day went on and we didn’t bother about it at all? The days when we used to hang out at one of our places, binging on something, gossiping or just sleeping.Do you remember how all of us were heartbroken at one point or the other (not because of boys but several other reasons) and how we made each other laugh no matter what!

The college where I had a brief stop blessed me with some good friends as well. Whenever I think of college, a picture reveals itself. Mar Ivanios was always windy that our duppattas seldom remained where it was supposed to. Salwar kameezes with slits were often a nuisance as they often with a good wind stuck to our faces. The road from the main gate winded up to the college gate going uphill that we often stayed at the foot waiting for someone to join in and then walk our way up. I remember the day when our lab in charge asked us to get some mud sample from the college ground. We went searching for loose mud and finally found some. Unaware of the surroundings we had sat shoveling the mud into the petridish; only to hear being laughed at. Turning, we saw that we were near the Math class in our lab coats, on our knees, shovelling dirt. :-/ There were days when we had to clean the lab and that day we got out late. We seldom went to the main gate and our favourite stop was at the back which went downhill, a steep one. There were almost 100 steps that led to the foot of the hill. We often saw the boys from St Joseph avoiding the steps and then walk down the hill that was way too steep. That day as we got to the gate at the top, it was so windy that we stood there for some time marvelling at the climate. The rain hung above us, the clouds dark and the wind damp. Three of us waited for the steps to clear and waited until all of them, the school and college had left. Obviously we did not want to fall down in front of the men. So once it cleared, we started trotting down the hill. Half way through we understood it was not easy and that the hill was too steep. Obviously inexperience showed as my dear ash fell down dragging us as well. We did a good roll, got up, looked around and laughing ran downhill. We were not scared anymore and we were still laughing when we reached the foot of the hill. Our friends who were already there wondered what was wrong. Mother earth, obviously did not appreciate the glee and decided to pour down us. But the rain was not enough to douse our spirit and happiness. We sat there drenched in rain, but happy. The people who passed that way looked at us with surprise. Why were these three sitting in the rain as if they are under the milder sun? I will never forget that day or when we went to SN College in Kollam or our international seminar. The stops at palayam, or the strikes.

B Ed was an year I will never forget.. This is where I felt the warmth of friendship in a way that cannot be explained. It was a clan that fought its way through the practicums, heavy work schedules, exams and teacher training. But it was more or less an adult group where childishness had vanished. We understood life , the bitter part of it and cynicism in all its gravity. There were problems – familial, relationship and many others. There were times when I had walked into the college with a heavy heart. Every time, there was someone who would say something right and bring about  a smile. Even when life tried me, these girls stood by me and supported me in a way no one else had. They saw to it that I smiled more. But here the friendships had changed, it was more kept in check, not like the freaky, care free days of teenage.

I miss everyone.  :(  Yesterday as I walked through the streets of Germany, I saw a bunch of girls, crazy out of their mind and enjoying their life. As they ran through the streets calling out to their buddies, I was reminded of those girl friends who form an inseparable part of my life. There is something about the gossipy, vain, flirty eyed, giggly friendship that no man can understand. And no matter the age, when the girls come together, the world still flips over to the past, where grown up women forget their mature problems and retire temporarily to some hours of childishness. Although, we don’t understand it or acknowledge it, we need girl friends because there are things that they alone can understand.Today we are scattered on this enormous globe and are separated by time, distance and work. But it’s the same. Nothing changes. As long as we are together, we remain the hormonal adolescents who do not have a care in this world.

 

 

A consolation

Last year, this month, I was happy that I was going to be a mother. I was expecting. Three months and counting. But one cruel morning stripped me of my happiness and I was rushed to the hospital. Two days and as the third day waned into the night, I was twisting in pain, tears rolling down my eyes as my body ripped off the final thread and made my body and soul empty and devoid of the life it harnessed.

I did not go for work. I was at home. I was depressed. I didn’t want to talk. My spirit had vanished and nothing remained. I was angry. After some days, I went back to work. I was working at another school then, teaching fourth and second grade students. I couldn’t drive the dark clouds away. I didn’t talk much. I broke out into sobs now and then. Sometimes, seeing those second grade children, I broke down. I had to try hard not to cry and push down the lump in my throat.

At that time, there was this seven year old boy who was autistic. I used to handle his special education needs. He would never look at anyone. He was always lost in his world. He will not talk to us as well. It took so much effort to make him speak. He muttered to himself but never replied to our questions. He hated anyone touching him and would shrink away as we tried to touch him.

The day, I went back to work, we had some practice in the school courtyard and the students were standing in a line. I was standing behind the boy. He suddenly turned and tugged me. As I stooped down, he touched my cheeks and silently looked into my eyes and smiled. After a few seconds, he turned and went back into his own world. I felt my eyes burn. That was the most beautiful “It is ok. Smile” I had received. Unspoken, unheard, yet felt. I will never forget him

Label jars, not people.


Image

This photo had gone viral on Facebook a few months back and chances are that you have already seen it. When I saw it for the first time, my interpretation was that a girl’s attitude always matched with her skirt’s length or rather in general terms. – what she wore.

But  later, I found an article on the real story behind this photograph.

Rosea Lake, who studies graphic design and illustration at Capilano University in Vancouver had posted this picture to lay bare the judgemental disposition of the society around us. She had sarcastically pointed out that we judge people irrationally on some set notions of our mind.

Quoting Lake,

“[I wanted to] take the idea of impersonal, supposedly objective, measurement of things and put it on something that we do measure, but we don’t talk about. We measure women the same way we measure water in cylinders, but no one says it because it’s mean.” Lake goes on to say that the photo had made her reassess her on judgements of other women. As she puts it”I used to assume that all women who wore Hijabs were being oppressed … and look down on and judge any woman who didn’t express her sexuality in a way that I found appropriate.I’d like to think I’m more open now.”

In India, you never see a consistency throughout the landscape, people, tradition or culture. You see that in the way of dressing or progress as well. While some cities and towns have rather started to accept the Western way of dressing, a good majority of the people still find them indecent. I was born and brought up in a conservative society where even wearing a pair of jeans and t shirt was a taboo. The elderly generation still find it intimidating and ‘vulgar’ if they see you in a jeans and a tee – not to mention anything that is figure hugging or above the knees.

I had a friend who had something about girls wearing jeans. He associated western wear with immodesty and poor character. But as he came to our college, the view started to change.He saw the irrationality behind an idea that he was fed and was made to believe in. With his friends donning Western wear or what is called as modern dress (I dont know why) in India being absolutely normal and respectable, he began to burn his idea of attire linked morality.

This is true. We have a way of life that we all are accustomed to. We hate any deviations from it. Even when we proclaim ourselves to be broad minded, its just broad mindedness within the set limits of our own mind. The only narrow mindedness we are superior to, is those who think narrower than us. My accepted length of skirts are knee length.  I was once hanging out with my husband at the mall and I saw a woman in a very short flowy skirt. I made a face and criticized her when my husband pointed to the burkha clad women near me. He reminded me that the woman in hijab might think the same way about my knee length skirts and tight jeans. There – that made me rethink. I don’t even know that woman. How in the world can I judge her then? There are women with long skirts and no self respect and women with short skirts who know what modesty is.

Growing up in India, I was taught to associate liquor, cigarettes, short skirts, having friends of opposite sex and tight dresses with indecency and immodesty,  and those who keep up to date with fashion and use make up with snobbery and arrogance. But as I grew up and was enriched by experience, I learnt that character cannot be equated to What I see. However the debates on modesty of women always reminds me of Pope’s rape of lock.

Some Nymphs there are, too conscious of their Face,
For Life predestin’d to the Gnomes Embrace.These swell their Prospects and exalt their Pride,

When Offers are disdain’d, and Love deny’d.
Then gay Ideas crowd the vacant Brain;
While Peers and Dukes, and all their sweeping Train,
And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear,
And in soft Sounds, Your Grace salutes their Ear.
‘Tis these that early taint the Female Soul,
Instruct the Eyes of young Coquettes to roll,
Teach Infants Cheeks a bidden Blush to know,
And little Hearts to flutter at a Beau.

In these lines Pope mocks the women who flirts with men and let their hearts flutter from man to another while they wear the veil of modesty. There is nothing called love involved in it, its ‘coquetry’ as pope puts it, and the women are looking towards a better marriage prospect without their chastity being questioned. Men, as well, are shown as vain creatures who try to win over the woman’s heart and fight and die for that. Pope blames the society that has shaped the women and men this way which strikes a chord with me as well.

Modesty is not something that you can measure by the length of the skirt. But I do not support walking around in scoop neck t shirts that show off  and skirts that is barely a piece of scarf. But then again, that could be my narrow mindedness. It also brings me to the other extreme. All women who cover up aren’t exactly suppressed or unhappy.Way of dressing is a choice a person makes. Its not always that short equates to immodest or covered equates to suppressed. We need to see beyond that. Vulgarity is not something that can be written and expressed. A woman can wear a short skirt and look modest. Well, she can cover her up and be immodest as well. Its  the way a person projects herself with her body language and character as well.

Lake’s photograph does not just relate to the way of dressing.It is also about those labels that we apply to people.

Nerdy because someone wears glasses? Good in math just because he is Asian?? People think all Indians live in slums and travel by bullock carts and is not disgusted by shit because slum dog millionaire says so. Sorry, but your generalizations are wrong. Slums are there.But its not like the entire map is filled with them. bullock carts have practically vanished from city roads. Its not like you have several cows and calves waiting at the red signal.

Even when we don’t know a person, we jump to conclusions based on certain visible characters or on what we have heard. It might not always be true. Although its impossible to control our judgmental mind that is always quick to act, I hope we would start to tell ourselves that appearances can be deceiving every time we label someone. Just remember to keep the labels for the jars, not for people.

The judges of happiness

42262There has always been a love story that has passed around; mouth to ear and from there to another ear in my husband’s family. The story, not a rather pretty one features an uncle of his, who is in his fifties now. Although he is now happily married: a third time without any particular reason, he blames his first wife for triggering off what he calls as a series of rather unfortunate events. That first wife who, one fine day ran off with this uncle’s sister in law’s brother as his then lushly haired head sweated under the heartless sun of the Emirates. Although the heartless sun and his toil in a strange city abroad makes him look like the victim, the fact that the eloped first wife is still with his brother while he has jumped twice and my personal experiences with him made me rethink my sympathy which pointed to certain other traits of this protagonist which makes him appear not so innocent after all. Whatever it be, what I am concerned about is a comment I have often heard of the first wife:

“(a very disrespectful salutation to the so called woman) she suffers with that poor(very disrespectful salutation to the man she eloped with). Serves her right. How he treated her – like a rajkumari and now she lives like a tramp…. Poverty and suffering’ and the usual tsk tsking follows.

Which set me thinking. How do these people assess happiness? Is it through the number of zeroes on the right side of the salary? Or is it by assessing the square feet of a house? Or is it by checking the flooring of the house or depending upon the car someone has? Do they mean that the rate of happiness is directly proportional to the number of diamonds, or tolas of gold in the locker or the stacks of fresh currency in the bank accounts? May be it’s their concept of happiness. Are we all so materialistic and disillusioned by the status symbols that we do not see the happiness in the small things of life? Is it tough for them to realize that prosperity in marriage cannot be equated to all of this but to the bond shared by two people and it doesn’t matter how poor they are or how rich they are. Are they so blind to the fact that love makes someone happy even when they are immersed in poverty? And don’t they see that this ‘uncle’ is not superior to her just because he has got a bulky Wallet.

I remember a Syrian friend of my husband who worked for a top of the class company with a fat paycheck. She quit this dream job(of others) and went after ‘her’ dream to become a makeup artist. We made small circles with our pointers at our temples and called her a perfect ‘nut case’. However it turns out that she never really regretted her decision. She went on to work with even Tom Cruise it seems.That brings me to the second question – What about success?

Years later, I knew why she did that crazy thing. For me, it took several years to realize myself or my career goals. I want to work as a professor or a publisher. I know how these professionals are paid. I know for a fact that they are not exactly glamorous. But it makes me happy.

Today I know that being happy with a job doesn’t mean the salary or the perks but being in love with that job. I know that a happy married life means not how well off that couple is but how much they hold on to each other and how they stand by each other even through the darkest hours of life and I sincerely hope people would stop judging how happy others are and stop looking down on others with their imaginary scales of happiness. It just shows how these judges are feeling sorry for their own lives. Really!