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Feminist Rant #1: The Lecherous Starer


I wear my feminism proudly as a badge. It is difficult, of course. I have been told I am making a fuss about too little, I have been told I am taking myself too seriously and that I have no sense of humor. Self-doubt mars my image of myself. But you know what? Fuck that. Because so many men are skeptical of women’s abilities to achieve things and so many women, including me, are scared of getting close to the men in their lives. That is because both sides are suffering under the patriarchal grips of society. I’m not saying I am capable of changing anything. I hold my own convictions and walk down the road. But when the guys/men I know won’t even acknowledge the things I, a girl they are familiar with, faces how can they be expected to understand the problems of society at large? Feminism isn’t a dirty word. It is a word that talks about equality for the sexes. Feminism is hard because our gender-defined roles have been stagnated for so long, any change is painful and slow. For many men and women, it is hard to accept that the younger generation needs to grow outside the shadow of well-defined gender roles. Feminism becomes undermined when people use it to make unnecessary claims about the superiority of women over men. That is not what it should be about. Ideally, feminism should be an expression of exercising equality. When representatives from both genders come together in a constructive discussion, having left their former prejudices at home and having acknowledged that women are, in general, on a weaker foothold but that does not mean there are no male-centric issues to be addressed, that is when something meaningful will come out of such a discussion Many people are tired of repeating this, of course. Feminism can be confusing, even for those who try to incorporate it into their lives. It often confuses me too. But that doesn’t mean we are incapable of reading the finer print or we should use our frustration as a shield against even letting such a discussion gain momentum. Got it? Sure?Okay.

Beware of the lecherous starer. You will usually see him in crowded, public places. You will end up brushing shoulders, maybe more, against him on a train platform. He could be an executive, your dad’s age. Carrying a briefcase, with a bald spot and graying hair around the temples, this man could be on an early morning train you take. And if you’re travelling back on the same day, he can be right there on your train back as well. You will be disgusted that someone who is obviously married and may even have a daughter of his own, is staring at you in this way. You will be a little scared too because you are travelling alone and what if your destinations are the same? And this man will make the effort to stare, stare, stare until it is too blatantly obvious that he is going out of his way, bending in odd directions to look at you. You are supposed to be flattered by this disgraceful display of animist behaviour? You are supposed to think, oh well, men just have a lot of sex drive inside them. Good for him to have found a means to let it all out?

Or he could be another clearly middle-aged man on a bus. With a buttoned-up shirt, he is sitting in the area which is reserved for women. You don’t mind, him, a man, sitting there because you feel you’re young enough to stand until a seat is vacated fairly and besides, reservations should be made for elderly passengers perhaps (in addition to the physically handicapped, of course)? But he gets up to let a woman sit and then he stands facing you, squarely. There aren’t too many places you can look at and he knows that you know. But his eyes are like that of a drugged, hungry wolf. You know that look. You despise that look. If this is what just the look does to you, imagine those who suffer more at the hands of such people.

Or it could be a young man who is slyly trying to capture a photograph of you on his phone. You cannot walk to him and create a scene of course. A photograph, if taken, can be deleted at a second’s notice and claimed to never having been clicked at all.

There is one definite difference between a lecherous starer and someone who may be attracted towards you but he knows his boundaries and is respectful towards your gender: the lecherous starer’s eyes. Women have a defense mechanism that makes them intuitive when it comes to the lecherous starer. She can usually see those eyes and predict what the intention behind them is. A lecherous starer may glare at you with an unflinching, unblinking mannerism. This is because he is safe in the knowledge that things may go wrong if he tries to touch you, but inside his head he is free to roam anywhere he likes. You are out in public, he can see the shape of your body through your clothes (loose clothes leave a lot to the imagination and tighter ones, of course, mean that you want him to admire your curves) and therefore he has the right to put these things together in any combination inside the safety of his own head. Of course, we cannot block an individual’s thoughts. Which is exactly why this is a slow and painful and risky proposition: to educate and sensitize individuals regarding gender roles.

The lecherous starer is capable of making you feel dirty, incapable, disgusted with yourself. He is capable of making you question your freedom and dignity. The way in which he looks at you is like you are a prey and he is the predator. The brave, defiant girl will raise her head high and pretend not to notice but she will still be shaken from the inside and vow to protect herself with every last breath. The quieter, less confident girl will feel her resolve to step out-of-doors and be ambitious slip down another notch, frayed by the efforts of society to claw at it. But for both these girls, the outdoors becomes a place where she has to be on guard. She should have her phone, she needs to keep some sort of defense mechanism ready. She has to avoid emptier streets and she has to take the precaution to be home on time.

I wonder how many people I pass by everyday have the kind of regressive thoughts I abhor, resting in the back of their heads. I wonder why I am told to give this thing a rest. Why can I not? Well, because it is an impediment to the smooth functioning of my life’s machinery. And because I have the ability to convey this message forward. And because it needs to be conveyed. And because it burns inside me that so many people will tell you to just be happy with what you have.

I wonder how many lecherous starers are capable of rape. Not all, of course. But what if they were told there would be no police to capture them if they did go ahead with whatever they were cooking up in their heads and no witnesses to tell the tale. Well, what then? How far would they go?

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Womb


Filtered sunshine
Poured in through
The netted curtains
Flaming in the summer heat; Aghast
At the horror of light
Longing for the sweet embrace
Of cold, beautiful darkness
I crawled back into the womb

Those days, it seemed
Like every dream
Was a roadkill under my wheels
The putrid air
Was choking me
And I searched frantically for peace
The littered floor, the deadly gore and
I crawled back into the womb

Fondly recalled
Those gracious calls
The demons that used to vanish in thin air
And loving arms held me tight
I was jolted back into my living nightmare
By whispers at shady corners
Seven deadly sins, my broken shins
I crawled back into the womb

Foreign words
Garbled speech
I twisted myself and everyone else
Along thin branches on crooked trees
The roots lay rotting
They tugged at me
I retched it all on the floor before
I crawled back into the womb

Your hands were rough
They hurt on touch
You pulled me to my feet
I staggered for
A mile before
Collapsing in the street
You wondered what was wrong with me and
I crawled back into the womb

The burning coal
Hot branding iron
The smell of smoke and skin
That liaison based
On lies and tricks
Could have cut me to my bone
What a dangerous game you played and
I crawled back into the womb

The future appeared
In golden arcs
And then it disappeared
In old shoes and jeans
I admired those shiny heels
And the sights and sounds
Of inebriation; but then
I crawled back into the womb

Those fairy tales
Just lie beyond
My line of sight
I sometimes scream without sound
So the darkness is sweet
And the light that peeps
It hurts my eyes because
I crawled back into the womb

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Rabbit Hole


I’m fulfilling an empty prophesy
All by myself
Counting the vacancies in the
Busy hours of every day
Wrapping my head around
Tangent puffs of thought
Whimsy wisps of desire
Just dropped down a rabbit hole

I thought I was waiting for something real
Perhaps all I saw was a dream
White bushes of clouds to walk on
Piled like mountains a mile high
Iridescent in the pink evening sky
But really just a trick of light-
Hours and hours of calculations
Just dropped down a rabbit hole

Poems

A Letter to Sylvia Plath


“I talk to God but the sky is empty”

Dear SP,

Why do you think, the written word has the power to make us feel so close to someone we never even knew? We can understand what they were thinking and feeling, who they were- at least partly. There was a magnetic pull to your poems- the agony they betray, the sheer volume of hurt they portray. There was something about you that beckoned me, like other dead people sometimes have, through the hazy frame of history.

I started reading about you, your journals and your poems, hoping to find a bit of myself in there. Don’t you think I know that girl? The one who hates the monotony of existence, longs to have all the time in the world to study and create? She is never happy with herself, she can’t crawl out of bed everyday. Sometimes the mornings feel bright and sunny, full of hopeful possibilities and she knows she can reach the sky. Sometimes it is all so bleak and grey, she want to make a hidey-hole in the blankets and stay there, perhaps forever. She wants men and then she pushes them away because they are not exhilarating. Then she wants to hate men because they can walk around, go anywhere, do anything- they have all the freedom in the world while she is bound to her chastity, her rebellion too is a sour grape. They will find it, rip it out, crush it and destroy it forever. If they knew it bloomed in her heart, she would be compelled to destroy herself because the field is too colossal for her to seek all the weeds it possesses. She struggles to be found, sees the talent buried within her but is unable to release it. While everyone else wears sparkly dresses, gets tipsy and has a fun time, she tries her hardest to make something meaningful out of a world she had known was senseless from the moment she had first laid her eyes on it. She lies intimidated and hating, seeing how deep hatred could be and how destructive. Deep down, she wonders how much of a misanthrope she really is, how much of her bitterness and jealousy is directed at herself and how much of it reserved for other people. She loves one person with her whole heart and gives herself up to him, puts him on a pedestal and watches him falling slowly. But she keeps up her illusion. She thinks cynically about everyone else and when she realizes what she is doing she turns it all onto herself with full, brutal force.

I, too, know what it feels like to want to write, to be possessed by the longing to create something on paper that is so magical, so revolutionary that it will sweep everyone away- most of all, myself. I, too, know what the desire for perfection is like and how it translates into frustration if unreleased, deep inside my blood stream. I, too, feel the heat in the pit of my stomach- asking me to spend time trying to learn and not peacefully accepting anything else at all and the intense self-loathing that comes afterwards.

Oh but SP, of course you knew that the red hot dagger in your hand could be your undoing at any minute. You were carrying it, after all. You were the one who wielded it. You mother and husband and the lines of former men, they had been mere excuses. Your head was the place these cancerous cells started calling home. That poison spread out of you.

With my objectivity, I love you, I pity you, I feel you. I understand you. Every bit of you, including the bits I do not see in me and the bits I can’t stand. You’re not perfect, not perfect at all. You are damaged and bitter and full of hatred. I watch you morph out of your book. You would not have wanted these diaries out in the open. I know it. You would have shirked away from it in horror. All your vulnerabilities lie exposed; all your errors, every spelling mistake and missing punctuation. Even the half phrases are unaltered! This was not what you wanted the world to see. Perhaps Bell Jar, but I know you wouldn’t have been happy with even that. You would have wanted a stupendous work to pour out into the world from your typewriter. Or perhaps you would have been happy at the venomous spewing of shocking hate and disgust that was directed at your husband. He destroyed you, even though you did have the seeds of destruction lying latent in your stomach. And you fed them with fumes of gas.

I do not know, nor can I predict where you would have found your satisfaction when you destroyed yourself, SP. For me, you are a beautiful tragedy and I see it as an innate part of you. To understand you, I go back to what you put out into the world. Why must I understand you SP? There is no real reason except the fact that so many of your revelations grip me tightly. I feel myself turn into a small ball at the centre of this universe. The difference is, you saw everything through hate and I constantly try to see everything through love. But essentially, we see many of the same things.

If you hadn’t ended up dead at thirty, there would have been years of contemplative and confessional writing coming out of you. You were walking on a thin line and you toppled off. That was the only difference between you and other people, SP. It can happen to anyone, though of course, you were more prone to it from the start. You were meant to go down the way you did. You predicted it. You knew the violence that was inside you. And you gave in to it so that it wouldn’t come out on someone else instead.

But your last poems are exquisite. The ones you wrote months before you succumbed to the demons. They are the legacy you passed on to the world and the reason you are remembered. You wanted to live on through prose but ironically, poems were what you did best and you knew it. And they were worth it. And that is all I would want you to know.

Love,

S.

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My Unborn- A Letter


http://www.apogeephoto.com/sept2010/Monica_photos/DSC_1294.jpg

My unborn child,

I know, even as you grow bigger and bigger inside  me, that one day you will be bigger than me. A bigger person in front of a shrivelled old woman bent under the load of years of realizations, heartbreaks, heartburns, sagging skin and snowed hair that were once ebony. You will be everything and nothing I have ever dreamt of, all at once. But I will love you.

I will love you with every single cell of my body. As your own cells multiply and the atoms within you become more and more crowded, the grey cells of my head will become less and less competent in knowing the best ways to take care of you. From your first ear-splitting cry in my arms to your nappy days, your first crawl, your first school day, your ever-changing demands and screams for attention, your always morphing ambitions, your flitting desires, your longings for love and the vacancy in your heart, your need to prove yourself in a competitive world, I’ll watch all of it, trying to cover my eyes every time you falter and hoping I could be a shield between you and the rest of the universe.

As I think of you tonight, getting ready to leave me bit by bit, I know that one day it won’t just be the physical leaving but the mental and spiritual too. It will haunt me. But I have seen birds leave their nests and fly into the unknown dawn and I know you will too. I have seen chicks fall out of their nests and never wake up again. It scares me. No. It terrifies me.

You see, I’ve known for all these years, much before you became a reality that this world is the cruelest, most unforgiving place imaginable. I will leave you to form your own opinions of it (as I indeed, must) and try not to force my own down your throat. I will try to be the perfect mother. But all these years of knowing what my own vulnerabilities are makes me feel that the first person you must be protected from in this world is me. I will smother you with love, I will fill you with hope and joy and happiness. And then one day you’ll see that I too, was only human. Just another woman. You will know how I imprinted my own fears, some justified and others irrational, onto your soul. You will quantify the flaws that grew in you out of me. You will break apart your DNA strands and count the ones you inherited from my body. You will question, question, question.

I only hope you will forgive me that day. I only hope you will know that I have loved you more than anything or anyone else in this universe. I only hope you will understand that no matter how wonderful and pure love is, it is subjective and open to cracks. I only hope you will know that I never wanted to hurt you.

You might even wonder if it was worth it, falling out of the skies into a world that is so despicable. You’ll wonder why, if I loved you, did I let you come into this world at all? The answer to this is a selfish one. I have been programmed to not want barrenness to haunt me. I have been conditioned to want to give my human body and soul to a being I generate inside me and then present to the world.

Are you a scapegoat then? I hope you never come to this realization but as your mother, my unborn child, I must be honest with you. We are all nature’s scapegoats. Caught in an experiment we did not begin, we are destined to wander alone and helpless, clinging to desperate solutions. I can only give you this. This and my body and soul. It will not be enough to keep you from collapse, my love. Like me, you too will succumb one day, to all the miseries and the painfully short nature of life.

You will wonder now, how, if I knew all this, did I have the audacity to let the only thing I care for in the universe, be exposed to it. How could my human weakness have let me come this far? I will let you form your own conclusions.

My dear, as you explore the answers for life, you will find your own weaknesses and even if there is no one else to embrace them, I will. That is the best I can promise you. I will be the sponge that will absorb every shock, every single one of the pains that shake your world. I will be there for you.

In the end, I hope you will find a reason to belong here for a while, even if it is with the realization that there is nothing here for any of us. Not really. In the end, whatever choices you make, I hope you will feel that your time here was worthwhile. In that moment when I’m long gone and you yourself are living in the fringes of life, I hope everything that will flash before your eyes will be beautiful and free from negative emotions, not clouded by bitterness and disappointment. Like every other mother of the world, I too will wish you all the good things in life. Even if they do not deliver, I’ll keep wishing them with every last breath.

But for now, my love, you are at peace. You are swimming in an ocean of unconsciousness, picking up speed as you prepare to enter the racecourse. Everything will feel colossal at first. It will be new and exciting. You will get distracted with the sensations that  run down your finger, the hunger that crawls across your stomach, the softness of your new bones, the sounds that fill your ears, the sights and smells that overwhelm you. It will be a shock of colours. It will be a medley of tunes. It will be a rollercoaster. And right there, in the very corner, you will find me with a box of tissues and a heart laden with mingled sadness and joy. Don’t worry because you will know me when you hear my heartbeat. You and I, sweetheart, are connected in this lifetime by bonds stronger than this utterly contemptible world can break.

And so I will end this letter at the very beginning.

Love you to the moon and back,

Your already-mother

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Ruined


My suffering narrowed the breadth
Of expectation. Of experimentation
Like a child needs her mother; too afraid
To venture into the world of bullies
The world of giant rides
I too need those swinging, protective arms
While my independence lies locked up
In a little box in the basement. You see
You’ve ruined me for all men

I thought I saw the world with the wonderment
Of ebony-eyed possibilities
But you throw shards of glass at me
And they sting my skin like bees
Incapacitating me; my various possibilities
Die like a bundle of netted fireflies
Black turns to red around my irises
And I become partially blind. You see
You’ve ruined me for all men

I question the bloating of my body
I follow the bumps along my skin
I journey with the deepest fears in me
I turn towards the sunlight, accepting
Of everything it throws at me
But my foundation is eaten by termites
It wobbles on the verge of collapse
I believe in its triumphant ending. You see
You’ve ruined me for all men

I must carry this in my leaden chest
Because blood rings true and I love you
I run at signs of affection
I run with the waves of conflict
I curse your past for bringing me here
Every time I try to rise I’m pushed off my feet
Because in this terribly exquisite world
Where all I want is a sliver to call my own
You’ve ruined me for all men

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You Made Me Run


You made me run
To my past and my future
To the imperfect, rounding arc-
The convergence of my
Rotten, rotten, meaningless life

You made me run
To the center of my body
To this sticky sweetness I despise
While the edges roughen darkly
The truth wrapped between the lies

You made me run, my dear
Unsure and feeling wickedly sublime
To that happily hurtful place
To the quietly haunting face
To the core of unspoken horror

You made me run into the arms
Of demonizing memories, terrorizing expectations
Caving in for the sake of that last sunrise
Overtaken by my inescapable misery
Determined to seek something bright

You made me run, love
Into the wilderness
Knowing I’ll chase pain by its tail
And love every second of the mutual torture I create
And crave the salt of tears

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Paper-thin Memory


Started with a bonfire
On a lonely November night
Walking over barbwire
Without any end in sight

I sang in a sandpaper voice
And read aloud prose at midnight
We started our own little town
Smiled when the rain poured down
And there we were
Alone again

It is just a paper-thin memory
Like notes blasted into oblivion
We were meant to collapse
Into a pile of dark, meaningless ash

And now the day is back
It’s snaking its way through the abandoned town
Flooding moss-covered, moth-laid homes
Like a river off-track

It is just a paper-thin memory
Of everything we’ll ever be
It will go down like a train-wreck
And people will say, ‘Who was that?

So now I stand stoically
Watching time pass by in chunks
Just a vivid image stuck in my mind
Of how beautiful it can all be

It is just a paper-thin memory
Like an ancient painting in a gilded frame
Of a utopia that will never be
Because anonymity is our final destination

I take snapshots and hang them
In a dark room, watching them fade
I won’t go down that road ever again
Of thinking this is more than an illusion

Because it is just a paper-thin memory
A dying weight across my shoulders
When the stars die and the rocks fly
We’ll be gone before the next dawn

Poems

Battered Larynx


Ablaze with the victory dance
Of what they call our
‘Repetitive, linear platitudes’
These wires buzz with electric energy
Passing liberal songs like waves of steel
Down crooked lines of monstrous sodomy

Why then, does the silence hold?
Drunken, brazen teeth on breast
Wolfish howling, animal shrieks
Quietly creeping in when you’re asleep
A sip of wine and a vase of flowers
And it’s just a smoothened-over pink scar

Under darkened veil and smudged kohl eyes
The heart remains shrill, the face cool ice
And mockery slides down that raw pink throat
Like a hooked rope meant to hold on tight
Broken straps, shorn hair, torn skirt-
But the battered larynx just won’t form words

Confessions under the hazy freedom
Of courtroom circles, judging eyes, diluted esteem
Are juggled with groping hands on hips and waist
Nipples pressed flat under a deep-cut dress
Turtleneck, flat slippers, nude lips, loose denim
Behind the gloss of midriff-bared virtual uncut dreams

And every single night from that same bedroom floor
There is the sound of lilting melody, its roots sunk in
Under unfulfilled, undeclared, heated crimes of passion
And momentary flicks of gazing, wild ownership
And cheeky comebacks about sexy buttocks and backs
And unflattering undertones echoing, ‘I want some of that’

All of this yelled out on a bright sunny street
And on the other side- just a battered larynx

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Philosophizing beyond Interstellar


*Spoiler Alert*

(Preferably read after watching the movie)

A hot and dusty bowl of corn-begetting famers (corn is all that is left in this world of fires and intense cough-inducing dust-laced storms. Okra, wheat…it’s all replaced by the sickly American corn. A safe bet, dying a slow and steady death)- the last generation of humans that our world could sustain after six billion (its seven billion really!) people all wanted the same thing and refused to listen to the bugle of Nature, are on their road to a miserable end.

Adapt! That’s all we can do in the face of the things that can happen. 

In his Southern drawl, Cooper embodies one of mankind’s last explorers- a lost farmer who was supposed to be on NASA missions but failed. He is, quite simply, one of the few remaining people who remember where humans came from. Rising from pools of organic matter coming together in a marriage and giving rise to life which reached out for the stars. Only to give up?

Interstellar raises intense questions about life and the future of earth. We’re on a warpath. It can get as bad as the dystopia that tears through the first minutes of Interstellar, when you feel yourself choking in an AC movie hall with the imagined dust particles filling up your lungs and the heat searing through your skin.

We think of answers that space will bring us. A universe full of planets to explore, some of them with the ability to sustain life the same way that earth does. A barren landscape where we drop a hoard of fertilized human eggs and hope they will grow out of the nothingness. But what will the eat? Where are the genetically modified grain seeds (and is corn the only thing we can bring up?)? Are they expected to raise themselves on their own or with the help of four scientists manning a thousand babies? Don’t they know that diapers and Cerelac isn’t easy, least of all on a harsh alien planet?

What we discount is the human factor. It’s always there, just like Dr. Mann’s slowly crazed, absolutely dingo character proves to us. The crazy bastard with the same objectives as everyone else who is laying his eyes on the first human faces in decades will rather trade his new-found companionship for the lonely vacancy of a spacecraft which he cannot even maneuver well-enough to know the difference between docked and un-docked depressurization.

What I am trying to say is simply this- unguided, unprincipled and catastrophically prone to self-destruction, humans let emotions control them. And emotions have no rationale. Even Amelia Brand concedes that the power of love is a force so overcoming that she would choose to follow it over the odds of scientific probabilities. As it turned out however, following her gut might have been a better idea but a shorter cut-through for the movie. And there would be no ghost, which means there would be no Plan A. So TARS is right in keeping his honesty to 90% with sentient beings. The gist is: our calculations, our science itself will fail because we are broken down by our subjective interpretations, the movies playing inside our heads. The only ways we perceive reality is through a shadow of smoke, a soundtrack underlining every experience. And this is the only way for the universe to be observed. Which means the only way we can participate in anything is through the broken lens of our  mind. Which is one of the least reliable source of information out there.

Perhaps as a team we can have breakthroughs. But the single-handed onus of propagating humanity falls into the hands of the few in power, the few with the means to influence the rest. And the moment that happens, we are governed by experience and evolution alone. We cannot know if we will make it out of this mess alive and for how long.

If we are our own creators, destroyers and saviors, that means we are our own Gods. Perhaps the hastily put together manuscript they call the Bible has some truth to it. Time travel is a favourite science fiction game to play and coming back to resurrect your own self is a twisted retelling of God descending through Jesus to get resurrected. The ultimate survival of the human species can come down to two alphabets (A and B) someday. It would be quite something to see a fable come to life in that manner. In the movie, Cooper becomes his daughter’s doom as well as the reason for the success of Noah’s Ark- the safe swimming upwards of whatever is left of humanity on a dying planet. He is an oddly illogical ghost but like I concluded above- his actions are dictated, at least partly by emotions and that is what makes it so hard for human beings to find a way out. We value ourselves. Even the most selfless of us can only endure so much of one thing before we snap.

With the loop within the loop, Cooper is guided by the odd hands of creatures beyond our imagination who are actually us, way into the future. Through the entangled spaces of a continuum where time is as linear as our coordinates, the practicality of saving your own selves from the future becomes distorted. How can you do that and why would you even need to do that at all?

Icy cold worlds, desert landscapes and oceanic waves- the planets that await us can be alive with the most fascinating and the cruelest truths. As explorers far, far from solving any of the mysteries of the world, we can only imagine and enact role-playing theatrics to keep our heads down and humbled in the face of the vast expanse of a universe where the only help we can expect would be from someone better placed to guide but still NOT God.

Whatever question-answer chase will make these things quantifiable to us, one thing is for certain. Humanity as a species will not go gentle into the good night.