Phoenix.


What do you even know about me?
What have you attempted to discover?
Little snatches of broken conversation
Drifting upwards like melody
Spiraling through the tightly coiled fears I hold in my chest
Falling apart and coming together again

In a melancholic orgy of bliss merged with exquisite pain
Is it enough to let these whispers guide you?
Or would you attempt to break me further apart
Sifting for colors swirling within
Lifting my existence upwards like your own
That is what I would want.
Is that what you would grant me?

I can’t build a castle this way.
I need firm hands to steady mine
I don’t need hollow selfishness; I need so much more
I need nurturing, like a babe in his mother’s wound
Will you smother me or soothe me?
Will you coerce me or tighten your hand around my wrist
And take the tentative first steps with me
Like a toddler learning to traverse the breadth of a living room

Breath and flow away
If you have nothing better to share
Than temporary solitude and anguishing memories
I want fire.
I want to rise like a phoenix, you see
And then fall back into the darkness.

Regret


Don’t dance, let me breath.
Those words were like a melody
Ridden,  hardhearted, unbroken
And magnified by words unspoken
Spooky, haunting yet endearing
Battling scars and pain so searing
It killed me.

You deserve it; I thought.
Everything is the way it should be.
But when I saw light and found my spot
The city life left me hurting.
There was no happiness, just regret.
Like reading old verses from a favorite book
Which means nothing to you any more.

I broke into spasms of ache
Looking for the daylight, swimming in the lake
Of painful self-prophesying
Reminiscence  and admonishments.
But there was no end in sight.
Until I found my soul again

Tainted mosaic I had painted
One that I could not erase
But I could stand upon it’s surface
And it broke beneath me,
Scattered regrets.

Humble Pie

Tall Summer Dreams


Repinned via Annie Nadolny, Pinterest.

Sepia undertones orchestrated my image

As I stared longingly at the fire

Wisps of strong cinnamon flavored coffee

Hung in the air above

Midriff bare, I took easy, long, tentative steps

The daylight continued to mock me

But I laughed at my tall summer dreams

Repinned via Stephanie Gee Newton, Pinterest.

Happiness was on the cards

And so was dinner at the Cheesecake factory.

A blooming day in Manhattan

The last remnants of spring;

I passed a man crooning in pencil heels

It felt strange but magnified a hundred times over

I didn’t think I would ever have cared

About how sober, vulgar life could be

I don’t know if I would have wanted to stay here

Because the daylight would continue to mock me

But then

Then I laughed at my tall summer dreams.

Keeping up with the Jones

Behind Closed Doors


Behind closed doors

You’re mocking me

I raise my voice, you raise your hand

It’s not helping you, it’s not helping me

At an impasse we stand.

You looked ahead, I looked far back.

I cringe when I recall.

I was in a pool of pain.

And you chose to watch me fall.

Behind closed doors

You’re mocking me

I thought you were as above as I am  beyond

But you turned left and I turned right

I stood alone, you stood by

I was gathering courage from someplace far

But you were there, wishing upon a star.

Fear Factor.


Will India never respect its women?

Enough with the rapes. Enough with the murders. Women are NOT commodities, nor should we have to beg and cry at the feet of Indian men for you to stop seeing us as that.

The next time you sexual-ize/itemize a woman. Take a deep breath and stop.

Sure, women want to be admired for their looks and have the same desires that you do. But expressing/not expressing those desires does NOT mean you can do WHATEVER you want to her!

This problem cannot be addressed until the people in power and the people with any sort of influence don’t LEARN the lesson that women and men are equal. I’ve met many people around me who think women should be locked up at night, who think interactions between men and women are inappropriate unless they are married, who think that women should be fully clothed (which is ironical, seeing how revealing a sari can be. Hey, Muslim women never get raped, right? They are all covered up!), who think girls shouldn’t ride bikes or hang around with guys and look at the girls who do any of these things with contempt.

ONE  lone female voice alone can make a difference but  THREE BILLION of them together can move the world.

Remember, WE form ONE HALF of the world!

PS: On Sunday a woman was murdered in Assam. Following the joke about ‘Assam Rape  Fest’ that went viral and evoked worldwide anger a while back, it seems like a poor irony that this case would come into the limelight now.

November-Born


Don’t let this mood turn you sour

There’s so much more in your soul

Than this unbearable heat radiating from here.

It’s not the moment to live for pain, but the moment to die for glory.

Don’t let this light fizzle out your own

You have turned out to be so much more

Than what you were when you started

Let it sing for you and take you onward

On the journey living itself out in  your eyes

It’s time to turn to the sparks within you

And let them burst on out front

Remember your heritage. And everything you’ve stood for.

You’re November-born. Don’t let them break you.

And you can hold on to my hand as you move.  🙂

-To my November loves ^_^

Battle Cry


Poetry is mute music.. I realized this when I was small and I have never been able to look back. In poetry, I find something that is just mine, and nobody else’s. I find emotions hidden beneath my own surface. Things I couldn’t see before, expressions I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. But poetry exhibits a force of creation that I can reach out to, no matter what!

Zurich 2013, from Gudy @EclecticTrends, Instagram.

Don’t you be afraid to tell me

I’m standing on the cradle of a revolution

You see those birthmarks down below?

They are writing another history.

Mine and yours.

We’re brothers and sisters in arms.

Silent product of the stars

Wouldn’t you want to know me?

Why would you try to hate me?

We were born on the same page.

We were born through tumult

I was still a non-thing and yet

Wasn’t I a ‘something’?

I feel so ancient only because I was born on the summer wind.

Don’t you dare turn your back on me

I’m urging you to pick the battle cry.

Where were you last winter? I was holding up the fort alone.

Maybe you thought tears were just little diamonds

Something that needed to be felt.

So I bathed myself in them

Until I was afraid no more.

This revolt is just a whisper

Of the things that are yet to come.

Don’t hold back, breath them in

Let them shower you in emotion

This battle cry isn’t mine alone

Help me build an army.

Pick Your Poison


I didn’t think.

I couldn’t believe when I heard it

Hey guys, everything we hold sacred is up for sale.

Tie a price tag around  your neck. Slap one onto your forehead

Choose a sidewalk you like and just wait.

Someone will come along. Someone will like what they see.

You can name your price.

You can negotiate. You can bargain.

But in the very end, you’ll sell.

Isn’t it exciting to know?

There’s a market for emotions, feelings, memories?

Hell there’s a market for your morals and ethics.

Pick your buyer, name your price.

Put it up on Craigslist or eBay.

The Internet is big and booming now.

The sky is the limit.

Do you know?

You can get rid of things you don’t need.

Like love and lust and happiness and integrity

Trade it all off.

Buy a big house! Move to LA. To London?

It’s okay.

Everyone’s doing it.

It’s okay. Everything sells.

It’s okay. Pick your poison.

The Sweet Name of Innocence


No, breaking the silence wasn’t hard.

It was easy to move beyond the point where I didn’t want to talk

To the point where I couldn’t stop revealing everything

It was a disease really

But one I bore well. I think.

I wasn’t born yesterday, after all.

Forever peachy, I was starting to think

Youth and beauty would last forever

Who would deny exquisiteness

When your hair looked like that?

And your skin glowed.

But the single point where it got too hard

Was when I realized the sweet name of innocence

Was less of a war path, more of a peace drive

Just staying stagnant.

Could never be enough

Even for me with my raw heart

The game was turning sour

And the points were piling up against me

But I thought I could hide behind

The sweet name of innocence

I thought wrong.

The Serpent’s Tooth by Alex Rutherford


Alex Rutherford’s The Mughul Empire series is a wonderful chronicle of the Mughul dynasty in India, starting with Babur and all the way to Aurangzeb. Although I haven’t reviewed the other books in this series, I recently read The Serpant’s Tooth, which follows Shah Jahan’s story.

Warning: Contains spoilers if you’re not familiar with the Mughul empire’s history. But you can read this for a summarized version of Shah Jahan’s life as an emperor.

The Mughul emperors never had it easy; despite a vast treasury and lavish tastes, they were forever plagued with rivalries, both within and without their kingdom. Shah Jahan’s rule was no different. Favoured greatly by his grandfather Akbar, Shah Jahan or Khusrau had sour relations with his father Jahangir. When finally Shah Jahan did ascend the throne after dealing with a series of bitter setbacks, it seemed as though the Mughul empire was set for a period of magnificence. Shah Jahan had an eye for beauty and a great love for grandiose. He loved architecture and was a generous and open-hearted ruler who enjoyed spending.

The Love Story and Taj Mahal

Shah Jahan’s rule was meant to run into chaos however, with the death of his wife Mumtaz.  Although Shah Jahan had other wives, he had sworn to Mumtaz that he would never have any children with any of them. Shah Jahan had fathered fourteen children with Mumtaz, seven of whom survived to adulthood. Mumtaz died during the birth of her youngest daughter, in a pool of unending blood that consumed her. Her death unhinged Shah Jahan, driving him to the edge of insanity. It is said that he never truly recovered from Mumtaz’s death, choosing instead to dedicate a large part of his life to creating an edifice with which to honour her.

The Shah Jahan-Mumtaz love story is an epic tale of endless proportions, etched forever in our memories by Shah Jahan’s magnificent tribute to his wife  through the Taj Mahal. In a time when polygamy was the norm, especially for Islamic emperors who kept huge harams, Shah Jahan’s relationship with Mumtaz Mahal was progressively monogamous and they shared a deep love which was spiritual and emotional as well as physical. The brilliance of Taj Mahal stands tall as a symbol of love even today.

Shah Jahan’s grief overwhelmed him but his love for Mumtaz overpowered his drive for existence. He lost all the ambitions he had acquired during his happy reign with Mumtaz at his side. He continued to satiate his physical hunger with a series of concubines but nothing ever replaced the hollowness Mumtaz’s death left in his heart. Shah Jahan’s life became a shadow of his love for Mumtaz.

His Children

Shah Jahan’s ascent to the king’s seat had cost his half-brothers their lives but Shah Jahan believed this could never happen between his sons since they had all been borne by the same mother. However, in a kingdom where any son could be the king, even the smallest of differences between siblings could flare up into matters of life and death.

Shah Jahan openly preferred his eldest son Dara, who was kind, scholarly and tolerant. Drawn towards Sufism and open to all faiths, Dara was Shah Jahan’s clear favourite. Shah Jahan’s eldest daughter Jahanara shared her idealogies with Dara and thus had his support as well. Unbeknownst  to them however, clear differences were starting to emerge amidst the younger sons, most noticeably Aurangzeb.

Shah Jahan liked to keep his eldest son close to him in the capital, preferring to hand over his districts to the younger sons to settle disputes, lead battles and sate riots. As a result, Aurangzeb had plenty of chances to gain good military insight and openly win favours and form allegiances and alliances. Aurangzeb was a stringent follower of Islam with little scope for mercy or tolerance towards other religions. He clearly despised his elder brother’s idealogies and the special place he held in their father’s heart. Aurangzeb was also scheming and intelligent enough to keep his ambitions close. In contrast, Dara was unassuming and took hi heritage for granted since he knew he was more or less destined for the throne.

With these seeds sown, Shah Jahan could not have foreseen that when he would take  ill his younger sons would rise in united mutiny against Dara and him. Claiming that the emperor was too ill to handle matters and was clearly being misled by Dara, Aurangzeb drew his battle sword out in open revolt. He wanted to be ruler and enlisted the help of his young brothers with promises of prizes after winning.

Enraged and recovering, Shah Jahan dispatched his massive armies with Dara to fight the brothers. Dara had the advantage in numbers but his lack of military experience proved to make the battle against Aurangzeb one of equal footing. Apparently during their biggest and most decisive battle of Samugarh, thirteen kilometers from Agra, Dara got down from his elephant at a very important moment when the tide was in his favour. Seeing the empty hawda, his army panicked and began to retreat which was the chink in the armor that Aurangzeb needed. Dara was forced to flee the battle and Agra. Armed with his father’s sealed letter he decided to seek help elsewhere.

While Aurangzeb amassed armies and formed alliances, Dara met betrayal at every end. Finally he ended up in Aurangzeb’s custody, along with his sons. Aurangzeb disposed off his younger brothers and imprisoned his father and sister Jahanara, refusing them even the smallest of luxuries. However, Dara’s charities and liberal views had made him very famous with the common men of the capital. Giving way to his deep-seated insecurities, Aurangzeb finally had Dara executed after greatly humiliating him.

Last Days

His father Shah Jahan spent his last days in a prison in the Agra Fort overlooking the Taj Mahal. Aurangzeb sent Dara’s severed head to Shah Jahan and expressed his embittered and suppressed emotions through a series of harsh actions against his father. Denied his wish of being allowed to roam in the gardens of Taj Mahal and feel close to his wife, he chose instead to longingly admire the structure that was his tribute toh Mumtaz from afar. Shah Jahan, it is said, had a desire to create a structure complimenting the Taj Mahal but in black marble on the river bank opposite it but it was not to be. When he finally passed away, Aurangzeb had him buried in the Taj Mahal next to his wife. Regardless of what Shah Jahan had intended his own tomb to be, he had never wanted to be laid in the Taj Mahal, which had been meant for Mumtaz alone. His grave is the only unsymmetrical part of an otherwise perfected structure; which I think is sadly ironical.

Additional Notes: 

Although most of what I’ve written above brings characters out as either entirely black or entirely white, it will do well to remember that real people are grey. Shah Jahan and Dara had their shortcomings and Aurangzeb had his strong points. However, I do agree with the worldview that had Dara ascended the throne, India’s history could have been very different. Despite his leadership and mobilizing qualities, Aurangzeb was strongly Islamic and intolerant in a lot of ways. Dara’s military hold may have been weak, but given good governors and a strong empire with the many alliances he had formed with the Rajputs, Dara may have easily managed to keep the kingdom intact. Perhaps beyond Dara, the Mughul empire would have integrated anyway, made up as it was of the weakest fabric. Or maybe the dynasty would have strengthened and integrated under a series of strong rulers, becoming uniform and cohesive. Either way, the end of Shah Jahan’s rule was meant to be a turning point for the Mughul empire. With Aurangzeb’s accession and an ever-increasing European presence, Hindustan continued to collapse. The Mughul empire remains a rich, insightful and memorable experience interspersed with twists and plots, bringing contrasting stories ranging from an endless love story that gave rise to a splendid monument, right down to the cruelest deaths and sibling wars. But it’s not going to fade from our collective history. Read this series if you want to know more!

More reads:  Dara Shikoh, the forgotten Prince of Islam

Who was more cruel- Aurangzeb or Shah Jahan?

Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb misunderstood