Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Door That Caused Rape

You told me the streets weren't safe
So I stayed inside and watched
your son spread his wings and fly high
across the skies.
You told me my chest will tempt men,
and when compelled, their acts won't be their fault,
not at all,
So I crouched and folded into myself and
shrouded what was left in all layers I could get.

Born with a rulebook
chained to both legs
I followed what was said:
"Minimise yourself, erase your presence,
flatten your curves and try self defence."
I destroyed everything feminine in me
so no blame can come my way.
And yet, here I am, victim of another faultless crime.
Another statistic and a fleeting national headline. 
Now in my grave, I await,
the verdict from the moral brigade that
will find a loophole and dig till it
frees the man from culpability
and nails me instead
for being too lax about protecting
the only thing worth saving in me:
dignity and the honour of my society. 
Tell me, what was my share in this bloody fate?
What looseness in my character justifies hate that
wishes to see my body turned inside out?
Was my house too inviting of strange men?
Was my bedroom door painted the wrong shade?
Was my door latch giving the wrong signals?
Was I showing my skin while unconscious?
Was my breathing too sensual?
Or is it that two simple words: "Don't Rape"
are heavier on the tongue
than a lifetime of rules that don't make sense?
Or, maybe, is it just that nothing will ever be enough
to save me from being the victim
of the wrong chromosome?
Maybe it ends only when I cease existing.
What else explains
this perfect student
failing the final test?

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Five Ways to Improve Your Language Skills

'How do I improve my speaking/writing skills?' is a question many in my inbox have. I thought I'd write down a list of five simple steps to get started.

1)Read More, Read Diverse 
I started reading picture books then moved to comics (Tinkle and Champak FTW!) and Enid Blyton novels in primary school. In my teenage years I read a lot of YA fiction and then eventually graduated to more complex novels.
It's important that you read widely- in as many languages as you know, and from as many sources as you can. It exposes you to new and different cultures/societies/ways of thinking. Read African, Asian, non-white literature. Read writers from different centuries, belonging to different economic and social backgrounds. Read female authors. Pay attention to the way they use language, the turns of phrases, their metaphors, their allusions. 
Read newspapers, opinion pieces, infomercials, backs of cereal boxes and shampoo bottles. Just make sure that everyday you are reading something new. 

2)Talk to Others
Talk about what you read, what you know, what you'd like to know. Talk to those who have a better command over the language and it'll help you step up the ladder. This is important because the more you practise, the more articulate you will become. Often we have all the thoughts and even all the matching words in our head, but lack of practise makes us stutter and stammer when speaking in public. There's an interesting phenomenon happening in your brain though. Each time you stumble, your brain learns a new way of dealing with that failure. So the more you falter, the more the brain learns, till one day you find that you can speak effortlessly. (This is how we learn all things we know-walking, eating, riding a bike).

3)Write, Write, Write 
Make it a habit to write a little bit everyday, be it a journal entry or a Facebook status. Write about your life, your dreams, your hopes for the world. But make sure you have a locked diary if you want to write about your crush. wink emoticon
It's a wonderful time to be alive. You have so many avenues to put forward your work. It may not be very good in the beginning, but like with anything else, you will see a marked difference in the quality as time passes by. 
Experiment with different forms of writing, try poetry, satire, listicles- whatever excites you! Don't wait till you think you have mastered a language to write in it. The beauty of this process is that writing itself becomes your teacher.
Also, don't be afraid to form your own style. Everyone appreciates a new voice.

4)Use Google 
Praise the Lord for Google! The moment you come across a word or phrase that's new to you, look it up. Look at its noun and verb forms. See how it's used in a sentence. And next time, if it's appropriate, use it when you write or say something. Learn words for different emotions. Learn descriptive words that describe places and things and movement and sounds. You will be amazed at how a single word can change the image you see in your head.
'The soft caress of a feather', 'the metallic twang of a spoon on a steel plate', 'the ball swished over his head' 'the coconut tree swayed in the wind'. Could you hear or feel or see these sentences? It's because of the key words in them.
So use Google all day, everyday!

This is the key. Build castles in the air. See stars where others see lampposts. Make your life an animated movie. Just make sure you check in with real life every now and then. wink emoticon
Daydreams give the best ideas. Don't hold back from letting yourself loose in your thoughts when need be. You will be surprised by how much your dreams can teach you. Borrow ideas from your dreams and translate them on paper. Voila! You have created something new and unique. 
These are the five tips that I have. Feel free to add anything else that has worked for you.

Friday, 13 May 2016


The other day I was stirring in some sugar into my chai and thinking about life, as you do. As I looked at the swirls the spoon made in the cup, it struck me that someone was probably doing the exact same thing, at this very moment, somewhere else in the world. I don't know why that thought overwhelmed me. Maybe because Life (with a capital L) has a way of making you believe that your life is the only one that is moving (or propelling, or stalling, or jogging, or crashing, or burning) and others are just extras who come to life in the brief moment their life intersects with yours. Then they fade away the moment they step out of your frame. 
Think about it. At this very moment, as you are reading this, a baby has just entered the world, a child is high in the air on a swing set, a boy feels his heart thudding loud as his crush walks by, a bunch of classmates are graduating college, a woman just said yes to her boyfriend's proposal, a couple just exchanged their vows, a twenty something is gushing about her first job offer, someone has had a heart shattering break up, someone lost his faith, someone else is discovering God, a child has lost their parent, a husband is by his wife's death bed as she breathes her last. 
We think about our singular experience a lot, but what about the experience of Life in a moment? In one second, as the Earth flings itself around by 460 meters, 7.125 BILLION people are immersed in their lives- being born and giving birth, conceiving and abandoning, falling in and out of love, finding and losing hope, picking their nose, loving their kids, paying their debts, drinking their woes, doubting themselves, surging ahead, dying, mourning, finding meaning again. It's breathtaking. This mind boggling range of human experiences that a single moment goes thorough. 
So the next time you find yourself in the extremes of any emotion, be it happiness or sorrow, excitement or boredom, dread or anticipation, remember that there is atleast one person out there who is going through the same right now with you and there are probably many more who are in the other end of the spectrum. Either you find hope in this or you become grateful. It's a win either way. Right?

Thursday, 12 May 2016


is not a woman
let alone a benevolent mother
draped in the tricolour,
head crowned,
Palm stretched to bless
those who shun her femininity
in all other forms.
India is dark and dusty,
It exists, at once,
In squalor and poverty and
glass towers and gated communities.
India subsists on a meagre meal
eaten out in the field or
thrives in the vicinity of air-conditioned malls
with gourmet deals.
India floats around
occupying empty stomachs and
lynched bodies with drooping hands,
hanging from peepul trees
over parched lands, or
in bodies running on treadmill belts
shedding stubborn fat
a desperate mother dreams to see
on her child's sunken face one day.
India could be covered from head to toe
or in a T-shirt and jeans for all you know.
India could sport a beard or
wrap a lungi like a pro.
But no,
India is just a land
of a billion people with
more ideas than can be enforced.
So don't you go
claiming India
as just your own
Don't just say you stand
for the 'idea of India'
and watch as unadulterated hate
intimidates and
paints all other thoughts black.
India is not one person
not my mother, my sister
or even the next door neighbour.
India refuses to be a woman
you revere as you rape
her daughters and sisters.
India does not rest at the
tips of your trishul or the
hem of your khaki shorts.
India will not be contained
in the notes of a single song
that only some can hum.
India is so much more than
the single thread you hold.
India is an experiment
in weaving a thousand threads
till you create the most dazzling fabric
that ever existed.
India is a painting in process,
A canvas with one billion strokes
of red, blue, green, and
every other shade you can imagine.
India is not saffron and
saffron is not India.
So please,
cease shoving your
idea of India
down our collective throats;
Let India be and
just be

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


For someone who aspires to be a writer, the worst thing that can happen is to run out of words. To have unruly thoughts bounce off the walls of your mind, unable to find a single word that can articulate it and let it out. It's even more distressing when you want to articulate oppression, be it your own or someone else's, and you find yourself short of words. What is the word for when your rage doesn't yield any words, when it doesn't translate into meaning, when you are exhausted of saying the same thing over and over and over, in different words, dressed in different phrases, compressed into different sentences?
What's the word for when you have reached the end of the tightrope but realise you have to walk back and forth a million times more before you can step down?
I find it happening more and more these days. Not just with me, but with the world in general.I see an unshakeable exhaustion creep in, brought forth by the increasing violence of everyday life. Hopelessness that settles like dust into your pores. Another attack, another rape, more bloodshed. We crack, we break, we think we can move on.
But we can't.
Racism, sexism, misogyny, bigotry wear us thin in more ways than we can comprehend. It dilutes our empathy. It chips away at the edge of our sanity.
We lose more words. We lose more meaning. We lose a little more of ourselves each day.
And one fine day, when a dead child is washed ashore, or an entire tribe is burnt alive, or a woman's body is turned inside out, we pause. We mourn. But there is no meaning to our mourning anymore.

Monday, 9 May 2016

For Umma

To the mothers,
And daughters who became mothers
To the girls who
Grow up and
Go on to say to their own minions
"I said so" a million times in a million tones
becoming shadows of their mothers,
(who they SWORE they won't be like)
Whispering sincere apologies into the past
for the eyes rolled and the doors banged
And the ugly teenage angst
That now stares right back at them
From fresh faces
that look much like their own and
Finally realizing what mother meant
When she said
"Wait Till You Have Your Own Lil' Ones"
To all the Ummas, ammis, ammas,
Maas, moms, and mammas,
For the mothers by blood, and for the mothers by bond,
Thank you.
There are not enough days and not enough nights
to let you know how great you are
and repay you for the endless sacrifice. 
We love you!

Friday, 6 May 2016


The girl looks out at 
rain, straining to hear
the pitter patter as it hits 
the window sill,
anything to quit the
cries of the bitter battle
as father batters mother
for a mere tea spill or
a word deemed ill
She forgets and it doesn't matter,
because mother says
in topsy turvy worlds
this is just background score
you mute, and bruises are
where you blend make-up more
So the girl looks out at
birds, escaping rainy blows,
and wonders whether
baby birds fly lower and
cower in front of daddy birds too,
Till mother walks in and
yanks her out the dream
with a smack across the cheek
and yells
"Make tea before
bhai loses it too."