Saturday, 31 August 2013


I swam across bloody oceans
seeking that elusive shore
where dreams run free
and I am just me.
Where gentle curves and rough edges
do not determine fate
Where sacred bodies do not contain imprisoned minds.
I prayed for footprints that do not trample,
Eyes which do not degrade.
Hands outstretched, I waited for
winds which carry freedom
and my ears strained for
laughter that didn’t stifle hidden pain.
But all in vain because
Masks slipped as they
snatched the books and confiscated my pen.
Then they laughed and said
‘This, dear girl, is not your place’
So now you find me,
plucked out of the womb, or buried under the sand,
In unhappy unions with bruises as bands.
Soul shattered, body battered,
I walk over the flames of a thousand burning suns,
With nothing to show but battle scars and
faded dreams in empty eyes,
looking for that place where

I am. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A Nightmare

Sometimes you pray that dreams don’t come true. As I did today. I am usually a good-dreamer (?) and wake up mostly feeling positive. This afternoon’s nap however was the most disturbing one for me and I woke up in a cold sweat. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t real and I was safe.

What did I dream about? Child Sexual Abuse.

I wasn’t there in this nightmare. It was someone I didn’t know I knew. It was a young friendly girl who loves to talk. She laughs with abandon and is carefree. And the world exploits that.

I watch in horror as she is molested, again and again, till she loses herself. And this is done by people she knows and trusts A friend’s parent here, a teacher there….till she doesn’t know whom to trust. Life for her becomes an endless loop, each cycle bringing more pain. I was stuck in that horrible dream- watching her breaking and tearing and screaming for help. And, like in all nightmares, I was confined. I opened my mouth to tell her I am coming but no words escaped. Muted, I watched as she shattered. And then, like grains of sand, she slipped away from their hands and was lost into the wind, never to come back.

Losing her was the un-becoming of me. Why did I let it happen? Why couldn’t I say anything- not one word? But dreams aren’t democratic and you don’t get to choose what you can see, or do.
UNICEF estimates that more than 200 million (including 73 million boys) have been exploited worldwide by the age of 18. That is more than the population of Greece, Italy, France and the UK combined together. And this was statistics taken 10 years ago, now the numbers must have gone through the roof. Not only are they sexually assaulted by people they love but also degraded by institutions through forced involvement in child prostitution and pornography.

The more I read about how sick certain sections of the society has become the more grateful I am for the life I’ve been blessed with. I had a very happy and sheltered childhood. People around me gave me nothing but love, care and security. I didn’t have my innocence brutally shattered before me. I believed in good and I trusted people. But for millions,that’s not the case when they watch their childhood being brutally slaughtered in front of their eyes. We are manufacturing broken people who have unlearned how to trust.
Unfortunately, this isn't just a bad nightmare- this is reality. And we need to stop being mute spectators. It’s high time we move beyond the age old ‘good touch- bad touch’ lessons. Kids deserve to know more in order to protect themselves. If there is anything we need to be paranoid about, it is this. Our children, our brothers and sisters might be victims and we don’t even know it. Imagine the plight of their little minds when they can’t even comprehend what’s happening to them. They might be broken inside and yet blaming themselves for what is happening to them.

We need to do everything in our power to keep them safe, to protect them from the perversion out there and the rest- we leave to God. What more can we do?  

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Aromas from Home

I grew up in a Nomadic family. Well, almost. Having a parent work in the armed forces meant living out of the boxes throughout our childhood. My memories are like a huge geographical collage; a few snaps from West Bengal, some from Maharashtra, tit bits from Karnataka- you get the picture. In all these trips and stays my siblings and I subconsciously internalized a lot of what we saw, and felt. And, as I recently found out, even what we smelt.

This constant association of memories with smells has always fascinated me since then. Until I found out the psychological answer for it- we were wired to have this smell directory within us. Thus a walk down a park in a distant country, surrounded by jasmine flowers will always remind you of days spent in the aunt’s garden with cousin sisters giggling over silly crushes, the salty air at seashores will always make you smile at the memory of a family beach trip 10+ years ago. Smells hold on to you. They enter your clothes, seep into forgotten corners of your being and then cling onto you forever. Embedded memories.
Sometimes they surprise us by springing up out of nowhere. Shopping in the supermarket and going through the detergent aisle always reminds of the new terms at school. Armed with news books and stationary, and smartly dressed in starched whites, smelling of Surf detergent (daag acche hain!), we would head off to school. I have realized since that our lives have a smell- timeline of their own where different fragrances chronicle your experiences as you journey through life.

Some of the lasting scents which I still hold on to are- the strong scent of the Old Spice aftershave which my father used to use generously every morning, the sweet-tangy smell  in the air when my mother made pickles and squashes out of home-grown mangoes which now belong to summers long gone,  masala chai on a rainy day,the smell of old yellowed books in our personal library which remind me of watching ‘The Mummy Returns’ for some weird reason…

There are more of these conspiring scents which grab hold of me at the most unexpected of times and take me down the nostalgia lane. For example, the scent of ink takes me back to high school days and sleepless nights spent perfecting my chemistry record book. New clothes bring to mind Eid day in all its celebration and revelry. One memory leads to another and I often end up reminiscing about Eid as a carefree child. Growing up in a Muslim household, aromas originating from the kitchen- were, and are- a central aspect of our daily lives. Hailing from Malabar, my mother is quite the cook. On Eid day she would cook up a storm for the entire defence colony we lived in. Our table would be laden with delicious chicken biriyani, deep friend meat cutlets cooked to perfection and the sweet payasam (rice pudding) to finish it all off. I remember waking up on Eid to the smell of caramelized onions courting the spicy masala from the chicken sizzling on the stove and then mingling with the sweet milky fragrance of payasam. My brothers and I would tip-toe to the kitchen to steal a few treats and have the refreshing smell of coriander and mint (being vigorously chopped by our maid to use as garnish in the dishes) wash over us.

Eid afternoons are a medley of sights, sounds and smells to this day, no matter where we go. More so when it is with the family, my grandma’s house for instance. Those few Eids we spent at her place are always accompanied with memories of great smells. Spices, sweets, melting ghee, lemon tea always brewing on the stove, the henna from the day before adorning our hands- smells on Eid day were a heightened sensation especially  when accompanied by the festive glee of children about to receive gifts from the elders. Naughty kids that we were, we spent Eid more outside the house than inside. Playing carefully in our new clothes, we made sure no adults caught hold of us. My grandmother’s yard was another symphony of smells- fragrances so calming you could lose yourself to it. As kids we would run from the fig tree to the guava tree in her garden, fighting for the last fruit and when the sun set and we ran back inside- bruised and muddy, our hands always smelt of sweet wood. Then we would we whisked into the bathroom and ordered to scrub ourselves with Dettol. Ah Dettol! Companion to all worried mothers, and enemy no.1 to bruised children- Dettol was a constant presence in all our houses. The strong astringent makes me think of a time when we were reckless being, my siblings and I, jumping from one sofa to the other, scaling cupboards like mountains, swinging from trees to land on our heads and arms and elbows. Each bruise was fervently rubbed with this stinging liquid [and obviously preceded by a smack on the head and lengthy ‘I told you so’ speech by our mother] as we kept a brave face and willed away tears. Whenever I smell Dettol-in hospitals or at a relative’s house- I am taken back to the days of cycling races and bruised knees.

Fragrances form an essential part of my life. I hold them close to me and cherish them. For me each scent signifies change and growth. They take me to times long gone and sometimes propel me to days yet to come. Scents take over when pictures can’t take you any further. Whatever it be, when things get rough or I get low, I just need to smell something-the right thing. A whiff of some hot chocolate, the familiar smell of my room or just the scent of my best friend when she hugs me- and I realize how blessed I am. 

This post is a new entry for AmbiPur 'Smelly to Smiley' contest on IndiBlogger. More details can be found at:

Friday, 16 August 2013

Enough Now

'Enough now',
said his innocent eyes,
'Hand me down grenades
which explode mid way
and bullets which shoot inwards
have scarred
and re-scarred.
And now blood runs freely
in this land of the golden dunes and the glistening Nile '

'They watch freedom bleed us dry 
and say,
Blue and red interweave to
paint your city free.
But when the cries of my mother echo
from the square,
over my sister, clutching her broken doll:
tangled limbs,
out of socket, eyes blank,
I am not so sure anymore.'

'But now bullets spoke
what text books never taught, and
I’ve learnt my lesson-
freedom isn’t free.
It stole my dreams and sold it
to monsters under my bed.
I've traded and I've lost,
So enough now.
Before the smokes settles down
and the world forgets my face,

put me out of this pain.'