Wanderlust.

Thank you google images!
Thank you google images!

Let’s get wonderfully lost
Ditch the map
Forget our phones
Follow the stars
Penniless pockets
Unfamiliar tongues

Let’s catch the train
And go where it takes us
Along slopes of hills and valleys
With the smell of tea
Lingering in the air
Along the ocean
Can you feel the salt coating your lips?

Let’s eat dishes
With names we can’t pronounce
And meet people
Whose words will be etched
In our hearts forever

Let’s stop looking at the world
From our shiny tour buses
With giant binoculars in our hands
And faces pressed against tinted windows
Why not jump off the bus
And just wander?
Let’s lose the intinerary

Let’s revel
In not knowing
Where we are or
Where we’re going
Let’s get beautifully lost

Let’s fall into Wanderlust

The Siren’s Call

Courtesy- Google Images
Courtesy- Google Images

There’s something immensely beautiful about sailing alone in a vast ocean. Some may even say profound, for it reminds you of how small you are. It instills a sense of humility in you. When a storm is on the rise, this feeling grows, reminding you that you are simply a drop in the ocean.

The waters of the sea lap up against the moderately sized ship. The sailor feels dazed, as if he has just awoken from a deep, deep slumber with no sense of how or when he got there. The heavy waves are rolling against the structure, rocking the sailor and his ship left and right, side to side. He clutches onto railings and bars, in hope that he will not be overthrown due to the sheer force of it all.

“The skies and the seas are angry. They are warring with each other,” he chuckles lightly, shrugging his shoulders, as he observes the darkened sky and feels uneasy at the growing sense of unrest in his heart. The seas roar violently all around him. He makes note, with a sense of panic, that whenever he is gripped with such distinctive emotion, something always happens. It is almost like a premonition.

The warning bells are ringing.

      *****

In an old English tavern, a sailor puts down his final pint of beer and throws his arms around an unsuspecting old man. Excited, he trails off into an extensive rant about the sea, while the other patiently listens. There’s an odd glint in the old man’s eyes and his hair and beard are both long and silvery. There’s something mystical about his appearance, but the young man pays no heed.

After he has said his piece, the old gives him an amused look, and says to him, “You need only to be cautious enough not to succumb to the Siren’s call.”

****

The sailor remembers the strange conversation, and the glint in his eye. He remembers everything. He remembers that Sirens are magical creatures, beautiful and deadly, all at once. They can lure you, entice you and seduce you effortlessly through their songs. The sailor is worried.

*****

In an old house, barely big enough to fit two, the sailor packs his bags. “I’m off,” he calls with finality to no one in particular. He has recently discovered that nothing is more painful to the human soul than the sting of unwanted, agonizing words, sinking in. No feeling is harder to process than the tyranny of words meant to pierce the heart.

In the light of this discovery, he thinks about the death of his first love; a beautiful, slender woman with a stunning face. “Her laughter was like music,” he thinks sadly, feeling a shard of loss strike his heart. He understands that she is gone forever. He understands. He accepts. He cannot move on.

                  *****                                   

The sailor remembers her well. He called her Aglia, a Greek word for splendor and beauty. “She lived by her name,” he thinks sadly.  He misses her far too much.

Still tangled in thoughts of his lost love, he is unaware of the haze that shrouds the ship, obscuring his vision. From somewhere in the distance, he hears a song. An alluring melody. He has never heard anything more pleasing or beautiful. Gripped with inexplicable emotion and lust, he steers his ship towards the clear voice that cuts through the mist. The voice never leaves his head.

You need only to be cautious enough not to succumb to the Siren’s call.

The sailor spots her, poised gracefully on a rock, her fingers combing through her golden hair. Her eyes are blue; strikingly blue, like icy sapphires. When she smiles, he feels lighter, happier, more free. Neglecting the warning words of the old man at the bar, he plunges into the cool waters of the ocean and swims deftly towards the jagged rock.

But it is her voice that has captured his mind. He can think of nothing else.

He feels the echo of desire resonating throughout his body, banging against his every bone; so powerful that he forgets all else. The only thing he thinks of is how sweet her melodies sound in his ears.

He approaches her, and without a moment’s hesitation, he lowers his head and presses his lips against her own. The tender kiss, which starts off as a breath of fresh air, progressively turns darker. It becomes more demanding. The feeble woman in his arms grows stronger. He feels giddy and weak as he inhales her brine-infused breath, while she drinks in his soul with dangerous passion.

Within moments, the sailor is a mere, lifeless form, thrown carelessly across the rocks.
The Siren sings another song.

The Funny Thing About Change

Image Courtesy- Google Images
Image Courtesy- Google Images

A few people who know me quite well will tell you that I fear change like Voldemort fears death. That I’m scared to Hell and back that something will disrupt the delicate balance that governs the present and the future. I found this idea too ridiculous to even take into consideration in the beginning, for I love spontaneity and recklessness. Unfamiliarity thrills me. I don’t like to make planned, calculated moves when it comes to many, many things, but now when I think about it properly, I guess I am afraid of change. Scared to lose whatever makes sense in a whirl of absolute unfamiliarity.

I’m not afraid of improvement, but maybe I am scared of some emotions I can’t handle too well. I can’t tell what frightens me so much, but perhaps it is the possibility that there is such a great chance of loss or rejection, and that I can’t ever be prepared to handle it. (I hate being told that I can’t do something.) It’s very visceral, yes. But such emotions always left me feeling far too lost. However, more recently I’ve grown sort-of comfortable with the idea that nothing is static and the only thing that’s constant about life is change itself. Adaptability is probably not my strongest point, but at the end of the day, maybe it’s all that counts. Because change does that. More often than not, it gives you the chance to adapt and even though I called it a ‘whirl’ before, but maybe it’s more gentle, more gradual, more like a swivel.

The thing about change, forgive my poor metaphor, is that it is like growing your hair. It happens so slowly, and you can’t make out the difference from one day to the next. You can’t feel it. It isn’t palpable enough. And day by day, it grows longer and longer, and you fail to realise it because the change is so so minute. But then, all of a sudden, someone comments on how long it has grown and you feel the full weight of the realisation that your hair has progressed from shoulder-length to mid-back and you haven’t ever felt it happening. Similarly, change happens little by little, so slowly that you sometimes mistake it for stagnancy. But it will happen and the understanding that something is different will probably only strike you once it is too late, unless you’ve paid attention to the signs.

In many ways, it’s like evolution, which is a constituted of a series of smaller mutations.  Life did not jump directly from the single-celled organism to human being. There were several stops along the way, signs that something else; something much more complex was ahead. It’s the same with degeneration as well. You will see it coming. Still, it’s funny how we sit and wait for the smaller changes to multiply, or maybe accumulate in the patterns of geometrical progression (?), before we are completely ready to open our eyes and see that it has compounded into so much more than it should have ideally been. Do we always need to sit idle till the storm strikes?

I’m not going to make sweeping generalisations and give you certainties, but there’s a great chance that change will leave breadcrumbs along the route, little signs and blinkers that it is on its way; and when it does hit, it may hit you with a pat before a blow, giving you ample time to be mentally prepared and to adapt to it. Maybe waiting for the full after-effects isn’t the wisest way of telling if something has already happened.

So, I think I do seek some amusement in how this works, because if you look at it from the ‘micro’ lens, not much has changed from yesterday to today. And not much will change from today to tomorrow, or from tomorrow to the day after. But when we look back, years from now, everything has happened. 

My Tryst With Death

Written for a college assignment.
Topic- Suicide

I wait here for you
Not a whisper escapes my mouth
For if they were to hear me
And pour black ink over our rendezvous
What would I do?

Patiently, as always
I await you
I have one candle left
Glowing brightly,
Illuminating the glum despair
That I call home

The wait has left me weary
But not for worse
I know that you will come
And take me away
And I will be better once again
Not one sharp breathe should escape my throat
For if they were to hear me
And pour black ink over our rendezvous
What would I do?

I draw attention to the flame alight
My only source of warmth in this life of blackness
The wind is violent, The flame flickers
I encase my hands around the burning wax
As I watch it shrink, melting away, consuming itself
Much like my time here
Yet, I cannot let the flame die out
Not till you get here
I have but one candle left
I have lost a thousand, waiting for you

How will I spot you?
Your coat is black, they say
As black as this poisonous night
Like gums stained with cigarette ash
Like dark Roses playing with my eyes

Inviting me
Deceiving me
Is this deceit again, I wonder
Will you even come…

I hear the whooshing sound of your cloak
And smile to myself
You came after all
‘I never doubted you,’ I say.
My give will be your take
As will yours be mine
I’ll trade my life for your freedom

As we walk out hand in hand
I think, that our rendezvous has been black
A momentary pang of regret strikes me
The last shard of pain that I will ever feel
I look at my candle
All that remains
Is a puddle of waning wax

 

Find My Presence

Look for me in the trees
Midst the lush green foliage
I promise you will find more memories than one
Of times when we would go there, and sit in nature’s lap
Or pretend to be lost adventurers, seeking concealed muddy paths

Look for me in the fall
When the leaves have turned amber
They drop like the rain, covering your path
See these leaves, and think of love
Think of sunshine, and happiness
And of the months gone by, devoid.

Look for me in the trails that we once left behind
On those sandy lands, lined with cobbled webs
They are worn out and dusty, but here, answers you will find
Hidden under those golden grains
Lie the solutions to all your darkest troubles
Hear them in my silenced voice

Look for me where the ocean clears
Where blue meets white, and white meets yellow
Build your sandcastles
But forget me not, for the stories we have made on these salty shores
Are the ones you will remember forever more

Look for me when the snowflakes fall
As you shovel this white beautiful mess
In these intricate designs, you will feel my call
Reminding you of heart-breaking has-beens
Think of me, each time you see this shimmering sheet
And shed those silent tears for those Christmases gone by,
With no presents from me.

Look for me in the pages of an old diary
Cry, as you feel my fingertips, brush across the paper
For a mere second, let go of what is lost
And hold me in your embrace as if I were there
In flesh and blood

Look for me in the years gone by
You have aged, as time has worked on you
But I, rest as I always was
Kept alive by your memory
Still young, and fresh. Smiling.
In those dog-eared photographs

Look for me in every corner
Of this ghostly land
Green and gray, stones everywhere
And corpses lie below your feet, rotting.
Run your fingers over those letters and say them out loud
Let the wind catch your words and float them my way
For nostalgia will strike even those who wish to forget

Look for me, and you will find
My lingering presence.

I Woke Up

While you were asleep,
I woke up.

I woke up
To a world of tales,
A mosaic of lovely stories,
Woven together by me.

I woke up
To a life of happiness.
Of  joyous colours.
Stunning alchemies
Endless hopes.
Held together only by my fantasies

I woke up
To a world of dreams
More vivid than any you have ever seen.
More real than the ones you currently dream.
I woke up to bridge the gap
Between my dreams and realities

I woke up
To see the white in the black
The beauty in the plain
The laughter in the happiness
And the joy in the pain.

I woke up
To the wonders of  a smile
And to the excitement of  a surprise

I woke up
While you were asleep.

Women’s Safety- A possibility or mere hope?

In war torn Afghanistan, a journalist observed that women were walking ahead of men. Assuming this to be a symbol of women’s empowerment, he asked one of the men if this was a step towards equality. The man replied, “No. Landmines.”

This small incident is a very realistic representation of the bigger picture. Women, even today, are often viewed as disposable commodities. We believe that we live in an era of equality, where men and women are equal in all walks of life, be it employment, education, lifestyle or financial independence. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Even today, the levels of discrimination are shamefully high.

Historically, the idea of ‘The Woman’ was used to symbolize strength, justice and independence. A popular example of this would be the French revolution where ‘Marianne’ was introduced into the freedom struggle as an allegory of liberty. Closer to home, people like ‘Mirabhai’and ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’ have assumed a similar role.

The idea of equating women to ideals like liberty and strength is quite ironic, simply because, in reality, women are related to qualities like dependence and servility. This representation has dominated the mentality of people everywhere and as a result, women have assumed the tag of being ‘the weaker sex’. Most men believe that women are weak and cannot take care of themselves, or fight when necessary. Men regard themselves with power and authority and often believe that women can’t or are in no position to stand up to them.

This notion transitions itself as well to the woman’s mentality and this in turn resonates a feeling of inferiority which translates into an insecure environment for women caused by both a mindset that’s submissive amongst women and a thirst for power in men.

Women’s safety is an issue of major concern, all across the world. Cases of rape, domestic abuse, abduction, murder, etc are countless. Women are viewed as powerless beings and are seen to be dependent on men.

In a country like India, women’s safety has become a raging problem. It isn’t just rape, abduction or murder. The root of the problem lies in something as mild as eve-teasing or hooting. It is sad that our country has come to such a state that these things seem mild to us, however that is the status quo.
Eve-teasing has seeped into our mindsets to such an extent that it seems quite normal when it happens. It has become ingrained in our minds that it is not ‘wrong’ or ‘unjust’. The most common reaction being, “It happens to everyone” or “He stared at me, he didn’t actually touch me”. And thus, we end up looking at the matter in a purely physical sense. We tend to think that some wrong or injustice has been done only when the woman’s body has been violated. Nobody treats a woman’s dignity or self-respect as a part of her that also requires protection.

Women’s safety is a broad term that refers to the security of women in general. The term covers both physical and mental aspects of safety. It is not just the woman’s body that requires protection, but also her personality and mind. Experiences like rape or physical abuse, not only violate a woman’s body, but may also cause mental trauma and may result in psychological or mental disorders. At the same time, it also taints her image in the eyes of society. It becomes hard for her to lead a normal life, or to be accepted as a normal human being in the eyes of society. She is shunned for no fault of hers. She loses her dignity.

We see that, in recent times, there has been a hike in the number of cases of rape, domestic violence and physical abuse towards women. To add to this, there are many cases that go unreported. The current situation is ruefully dismal.

To understand the gravity of the situation, we can look into the rape case that took place in Delhi on December 16th 2012. Two people, a girl and boy, boarded what was believed to be a public bus, only to find that the bus already contained six men, who were not afraid of getting on the wrong side of the law. The boy was beaten up brutally and thrown aside, after which they took turns and raped the girl. They did not stop there. As if that wasn’t enough, they physically abused her. They broke her, made her bleed and left her, with her guts spilling out. She and her friend were then hauled out of the bus and left on the roadside, naked and bruised. Nobody came forward and offered them any assistance. All the passers-by just went by them without being bothered enough to stop for a second, even if it was just to contact the police authorities and medical facilitators. The police men themselves, when they finally got there, had an argument about jurisdiction.

This incident unified the people of India in a manner like never before. Protests took place all over the country. People went on strikes, made demands and fought for the rights of their sisters, wives and mothers. The battle raged on for several days, with support from all corners of the country. Soon, the matter went international, with protests taking place in London, Melbourne, Toronto, etc. It was the first time that the matter of women’s safety was being taken this seriously.

The girl, who battled for her life for nearly two weeks, could not make it. However, her struggle became a personal matter for every Indian. She was given the name ‘Nirbhaya’ for her fearless attitude and for the bravery that she displayed till the very end. As mentioned in the examples before, once again it was a woman who was given the role of representing the struggle for safety and freedom.

It was this wave of much-needed anger that pushed people forward to make themselves heard. It was the wave of change that India needed.

A woman’s attire, conduct or company cannot be blamed for the injustice that is inflicted upon her by the doings of such men who turn to rape and murder as a manifestation of their power over the weaker sex. A woman’s behaviour or choice of whereabouts cannot be questioned. Her rights are equal to that of a man’s. A woman has as much freedom of choice as her counterpart.

What must be done to ensure women’s safety? Who is to be blamed? How can this issue be solved?

Just as you cannot kill a plant, unless you cut off its roots; to solve this problem, we must take a look at its basics or ‘roots’. The basics of the problem, in this case, refer to the mindset and attitude of the entire population. How can we expect to stop graver violations of justice like rape, if we continue to let the smaller ones like eve-teasing prevail?

The first step towards ensuring women’s safety is a complete change in the mentality of the people. Actions like eve-teasing, verbal abuse, hooting, wolf-whistling and the likes must be taken seriously. Incidents of rape, domestic abuse, physical violence, etcshould not go unreported. Sensitization, education and exposure will mark the way ahead. Boys must be taught to respect women from a young age. All women should make it a point to learn some basic self-defense techniques. The situation must not be downplayed. The law should ensure that offenders are heavily punished for their wrong doings.The mentality of the mass needs to be altered, with time. These are just a few of the many measures that can be taken to ensure the safety of women in future. This is just the first step, over time, we must look into the workings of all sectors and see to it that necessary policy changes are implemented to pave the way ahead for a safer country, and eventually world, for women.

As Alice Sebold said, “You save yourself or you remain unsaved.”

It is in our hands now. We must keep the momentum going and ensure that WE bring about the change that we need. Only we can save ourselves.

(Written for an assignment on Women’s Safety)

Beauty

They walked on the mud road.

Their sandals, slapping against the wet red clay, made soft by the rains.

The girl, on one side. The boy, on the other.

They maintained this distance, of an arm’s length, throughout their walk.

A minute…

Two minutes…

Thirty minutes…

An hour…

And then two…

The boy couldn’t break through the wall of her musings.

Her concentration was impenetrable.

He finally asked her that, which had been on his mind for far too long.

“Are you beautiful?”

She looked up. For the first time, he had managed to break that barrier.

She did not meet his eyes.

When she spoke, her voice flowed out, musical and soft. So soft that had it not been quiet enough to hear the crickets chirp, he might have never caught her words.

“I’m as beautiful as you want me to be.”

He looked at her.

He really looked at her.

He looked at her dark eyes.

Her luscious black hair, braided into one thick plait.

Her face, dabbed unevenly with talcum powder.

The gap between her two front teeth.

Those golden hoops, dangling from her small ears.

Her wrists, lined with glass bangles that shone in the light.

The saree, that was draped around her.

The smell of jasmine, that he knew only as her own.

The sound of her laughter, echoing through the air, resonating with unfathomable happiness.

He smiled.

Her’s was a simple life.

The pleasures that gave her those moments of happiness, too were as simple.

The sweetness of a mango, as she squeezed its flesh, while biting into its pulp, juice dribbling down the corner of her chin.

The laughter when she saw the children play on the street.

The innocence with which she looked at men.

The honesty in her eyes when she spoke to him.

The trust which she had sold to him, at the price of her life.

The reverence that she associated with only family.

The fear of loss. And, of regret.

The wonder when she looked at the stars, scattered across the night sky.

The playfulness with which she gathered the cool water in the palms of her hands and splashed his face.

The naughtiness with which she climbed trees.

The awe with which she spoke of her big city dreams.

The care with which she added spices in the food she cooked.

The love in her eyes when she smiled.

The childishness that she embodied.

The unadulterated glee that he heard in her voice, whenever she spoke.

And how he wished that she would speak more often.

The musicality of her voice, and in her words.

The colours that burst out of her, more colourful than the brightest hues of any Holi celebration.

The bravery, coupled with kindness.

The lives she inspired.

The pale shadow of the moonlight, on her face, when she snuck out on full moon nights.

The sunlight that illuminated her face in the early mornings.

The life in her when she danced under the crying skies, during the first rains of the monsoons.

“They are only tears of joy”, she would say.

The little quirks that defined her.

Her spirit that said nothing would stop her.

Her ideas that were far beyond her age.

The simplicity that underlined her upbringing.

The determination that she would be someone.

The ethereal sight that she was in the depths of darkness.

The lessons that he had learnt from her.

The friendship he had found in her.

The need that she had instilled in him.

She looked at him, and smiled, barely.

But that alone was enough for him.

“How beautiful am I?” She whispered.

“As beautiful as beauty can be.” He breathed.

What am I?

 What am I?

 

What am I, but a gentle whisper?

 A lone tree, in a rain forest.

A star, hidden by the glow of the moon.

 

What am I, but a humble servant?

A tiny drop in the ocean.

The dot on the ‘I’.

 

What am I, in this sea of souls?

A tiny toe on the footprint of mankind.

A single page in the book of eternity.

 

What am I, in this universe?

But a single speck on the expanse of nothingness.

 An action. A choice. A decision.

Can they really change my place?

 Will I make my mark in history?

Or will I fade away like words written on sand?

Words can change the World

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