Saturday, 30 April 2016


My skin is a wheatish brown
my grandmother tried to make pale
with talcum powder-white face.
An in-between shade
that couldn’t escape skin trade 
which placed your worth
on a quantified colour scale.
My body is Disrupted
By defiant curves, inappropriate
till appropriated by white girls
in short shorts and tank tops,
becoming hot shots while
we mourn childhoods lost.
The smiles erased by roving hands.
and hunched shoulders
hiding bosoms from leering eyes.
My faith is a Peace
that is personal,
held ransom by a mere piece
of cloth that agitates the viewer
not the wearer.
So they gather in their panels of
chat show channels
minimize my voice and dismiss my choice,
Throw what I know out the window because
‘Freedom is measured by what you show’
I’m a body coerced to
accept the constant viewing and
be spectacle to the relentless gaze and
surrender the rest of my days to
proclaim I am human
in more than one way.
A pursuit in vain because
I’m the disjointed product of
labels that never expire.
Frankenstein's new monster in
an experiment gone haywire.
But before you take your
predetermined talking points and
attempt to micromanage my life,
Ask me what I am.
I’m a collage of
super-imposed identities.
Let me show you,
gaze into my soul,
not through, Not over-
look into me and
allow yourself to see
that this entity is
A kaleidoscope of realities
straddling parallel histories.
I'm a shooting star in a distant galaxy
of dreams and unrealised fantasies
that just because you don’t perceive
doesn't cease to exist.
Accommodate this truth and
chant it till you understand:
You can't tether me to one world because I,
I orbit the universe.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Why Bookstores and Restaurants are Basically the Same

Bookstores and restaurants evoke the same emotions in me. Well, more like feeeeelingsss. It's a bewildering concoction of excitement, dread, anticipation, guilt, joy, and sorrow. 
Imagine walking into one of the best restaurants in town. It offers an all you can eat buffet and you have skipped breakfast and lunch in anticipation of the upcoming forgy (food orgy). You walk in and are immediately seduced by the heavenly smell of sweet and spice and everything nice. You see tables bending under the weight of all your favourite cuisines. There's Indian, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Mediterranean. And now you are confused. There are so many choices that you choke on the drool accumulated in your mouth and your brain fuses, unable to process anything. Once you regain your consciousness you begin sweating. 'What. Do. I. Eat'. While the buffet is 'all you can eat', your stomach is definitely not 'all you can dump'. You wince at the memory of the last time you tried to make it happen and had liquid oozing out of all the orifices (some even unknown) of your body for the next few days. 
You strategise. 
Round 1: A spoonful of butter chicken (no chicken. Fried chicken is always better than curry chicken), one butter naan, two pieces of chicken 65. 
Round 2: Quarter plate Chowmein, two chicken dumplings, two spring rolls. 
Round 3: A portion of lasagna, some spaghetti with meatballs.
Round 4: Enchiladas, one taco, a handful of nachos.
By now you can't physically move. But an all you can eat buffet is a test of your endurance. So you unbuckle your pants, call for a wheelchair and ask the waiter to wheel you to the dessert section. 
Round 5: A slice of black forest cake. Half a bowl of trifle pudding. 2 gulab jamuns with ice cream.
When you force the last spoon of ice-cream into your mouth, you realize that there are 3 more tables you did not even have a look at. So you slide down from your wheelchair, try to curl into the fetal position (but can't because of your food baby), and cry until they throw you out.
Same with bookstore. You walk in. The smell of new books charms the pants off you. The thick spines of hardcover books call unto you, asking to be caressed. Yet you remain, rooted to the spot, not knowing which aisle to explore- Mystery? Fantasy? Crime-Fiction? Horror? Romance? Your eyes dart from book to book, from blurb to blurb. You are frantic now. Running across the length of the store, touching as many books as you can, opening them all and reading random passages, frantically seeking that one book you can take home tonight. But it's too late. You have been seduced by way too many books. You want to spend the night with all of them, at once. It makes you feel dirty and leaves you breathless at the same time. So you throw all the books you want in a pile and collapse on it crying. Let them have all your tears if you can't have all their words.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Why We Write

Time and again I find myself wondering why writers write. What is it that makes us gather words and attempt to weave them into coherence, sometimes even against their will?I can't speak for all writers, but for me three words come to mind- To make sense. Of things/people/events/the world. Not to others, but to myself. 
When in confusion, writing for me is a journey I need to undertake to arrive at understanding, to chance upon an emotion that might help, to slowly dust away what's unnecessary and view the skeleton of the answers I seek. 
On some days it's a way to reel in my thoughts before they swim away so I can make a meal out of it and share it with those I love. However, on most days it's a struggle to keep the light burning, it's an antidote to the fear of not feeling anything anymore. It forces me to scoop out unspoken memories from the crevices of my mind and then pluck words to weave into a bouquet for them as I send them out. At the end of the day it's making sure that the world doesn't see my real thoughts naked. It is allowing myself to confront and choose the beautiful and the ugly within me which I can then dress in words, groom with metaphors, and present to the world with no shame or remorse.
This journey might be smooth or perilous. On the way I might chance upon emotions within I was unaware of. I might accidentally trip on parts of myself that I realise I don't like very much. Or worse, I could lose myself to the journey and never make it out. But on other days, the better ones, I might arrive, weary and worn, but victorious; having battled my inner demons, knowing something I didn't know before.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

You've Got (Hate) Mail

Allow me to explain 
the politics of hate.
Let me give you a taste 
of what it means to be
in the wrong lane.
It entails being lodged
between a rock and a hard place,
and asked to make cloaks
out of doled out despair,
for sons and daughters
born into blankets of second-hand hate.
It's deciding to be walled in
or out, in times when fear trumps all else
and you lose either way.
It means being uprooted from home
and planted a thousand miles away
to be then told you are a parasite that needs to
go back home anyway.
It's blinking back tears as you try to explain
that when they'd severed your roots
and left with gathered goods,
the dust had settled down and
home was no longer there.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Celebrating Love

Trigger Warning: Extreme Cheesiness. 
Passionate, blood spilling, soul spinning, mind boggling love has been celebrated since the beginning of time. Sonnets and plays and films and verses abound praising and pursuing this love. But what of the other kind of love?
Of the quiet kind
which doesn't rage
and burn
everything in its wake. 
Soft Love
like footprints on snow
Love like rain that showers on your soul. 
How do you describe it? This feeling of falling to being to rising in love.
I speak of the quiet peace that two people nurture between them over tea. Of tranquility that envelopes you even in the middle of stormy seas. Of what transforms two separate beings into one. So close, so tight, no one knows where onebeginsandtheotherends. 
Love that develops, like camera film, on intimate exposure to another bare soul. Love that grows on you, ever so slowly, through habits and annoying quirks. Love that exists between intertwined fingers, in that small space between warm palms. Love that is a secret smile or a mere glance. Love that doesn't fear silences. Love that punctuates the spaces between words. Love that curls up in bed between two sleepy heads, four criss-crossed arms and legs.
Love that ages like wine. 
There is so much to be said about this kind of love. But all I can say is, I wish for everyone this love that expands in your chest, courses through your bones, reaches your fingertips and toes, and settles in the corners of your smiles. 
"And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought." [Qur'an, 30:21]

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Asian Remedies

The best thing about being born into an Asian household is that you can actually live your life without ever seeing a doctor. No, not because you never fall sick, it's because there is no bacteria, virus, or cell mutation that can escape the healing hands of the Asian mom, aunt, and grandmom. 
The kitchen is her laboratory, and the spice box her medicine chest. Various permutations and combinations of turmeric, black seed oil, basil leaves, honey, lemon, ginger, garlic, cloves, gooseberry, and milk are used as a cure for virtually anything, from the common cold to cancer. 
Another thing to be noted- you are always responsible for any disease you contract. Cold? Probably because you don't dry your hair properly after showering. Headache? It's obviously excessive time in front of the TV/mobile/laptop. Back pain? Probably because you don't help out at home (true story).
Some of the medicinal combos that have kept me alive so far- turmeric and milk before sleep, honey and lemon in the morning, onions in honey for sore throat, and concentrated gooseberry juice that reaches your toes. 
One time I woke up from sleep and my mother was hovering over my head with a spoon in her hand. As soon as I opened my eyes she said open your mouth and dumped something in and asked me to gulp it down. Honey and blackseed oil. And then I went back to sleep. 
All said, I am grateful for this. It's when you fall sick that you realize how much you need your mother and how much she does for you. 
Thank you moms! Please know that even though we roll our eyes when you tell us about the latest home remedy to boost our immunity or cure cancer, we love the Love which makes you do this for us. heart emoticon
What are some of the home remedies used to (torture) treat you?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Letters Written Never Sent

A year has gone by without you by my side. After 35 years of being one with you, I spent the last one year collecting the stray pieces of my soul you left in your wake. I haven't finished yet.
Losing you was getting my skin peeled, breathing smoke, and falling into a dark, endless pit. All at once.
People come and try to console. They tell me 'time will heal everything', 'he is in a better place', and 'you should move on...'
So easy to say. Move on. Like 35 years of my life never happened. Like a life time of memories can be erased with a few tears. Like your death was just limited to a body turning to dust. How do I tell them it wasn't only you that died? That there are some kinds of pain that time cannot heal. That some deaths lodge themselves like blunt knives in your ribs, right below your heart. That moving causes pain but staying still hurts more. Waking, walking, laughing, eating, looking out the window, watching tv, sitting still and breathing....the pain is ever present. You just to learn to contort your mind and body till you find the spot that hurts the least.
But it's still there. It's there when I wake up and open my eyes to an empty pillow where your head should have been resting, your mouth slightly open till I gently close it. It's there when I see a single coffee mug in the sink. Or in the supermarket when I push my trolley alone. It's there when I come across an inside joke and remember there is no 'inside' anymore. When there is no one to lean on or into. When I am curled up in bed, crying into your shirts, thinking what I wouldn't do for one more hug and another kiss....but letting myself dwell on that is to push the knife further in, till I risk losing myself to the never-ending, soul-crushing cycle of what ifs and if onlys.
Dearest, my grief is without recourse or relief.
Your scent was mixed with mine, my habits were yours, our quirks had become one. And then you were gone. In that instant I regretted each fight, forgot each difference, yearned for a little more time so I could disentangle myself from you before it was too late. So it would hurt a little less when the time finally came. But, too late.
Beloved, I am learning to live again as our grandson takes his first step. We walk together. We fall, we cry, we rise. Hopefully, I will arrive. Soon.
All my love, now and always.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Muslims Get Depressed

'True Muslims don't get depressed' he thundered off the mimbar. "If you really believe in Allah you will not get sad. Ever."
With that the imam sealed Her a weak Muslim, or worse, a disbeliever. The voices in Her head laugh gleefully. 'You never belonged'. One cackles and says 'You are insane.' and another one, most solemn of all, announces 'Maybe it's time to put an end to this.' 'Maybe you don't deserve to live. 
As though reading Her mind the imam screams into the mike "Suicide is haraaam. It's a grave sin. Lost are those who take their lives."
And now He, sitting in the first row, is shaken. Is He hell-bound too? What can He do when the only thought that comes to mind when crushed under crippling anxiety is to Escape? To Leave. To End. 
What must He do when everything else is dimmed out by the screaming inside, like a soundtrack made just of finger-nails scratching chalk boards. And all He can think of is that grating and the nails cracking and the fingers bleeding. What must He do when the only people He trusts tell him it's all just in His head. That He just needs to cheer up and smile and it will get better. What must He do to make them see that He smiles so much that His cheeks hurt, that the sides of Hjs lips crack and bleed. But it doesn't lift the heavy darkness that colours all of His days. 
What must She do when the one She loves tells Her to stop making excuses and just 'move on' with life like a responsible adult? What must She do when they ask Her where it hurts and She can't rip Her insides to show the scars.
What must They do when Their pain is not seen. And when seen not acknowledged. What must They do with a community that recognises only physical ailments and condemns those whose symptoms don't manifest as bruises or tumours. What must They do with a society that labels Them cowards when living is the bravest thing They have done.
What must Those souls do, pushed to hang from ceilings or bleed out from the wrists, because no one would pause, not even for a second, to say 'I see you. I see your pain. I hear you. I hear your cries for help. I am with you. And you are not broken. Together we will seek help. And we will make it okay.'
Maybe, just maybe, if They had not been shamed, there would have been fewer premature graves.