Claiming Freedom

I would like the freedom to be considered
conventionally beautiful,
despite my color;
Or to be judged for the experiences
I have had,
not the mistakes I have made;
To be acknowledged as someone with ambitions
and not just the kind that
involve a kitchen and some kids;
To study something that is not traditional,
without being asked about grades
or why I chose this life;
And to love a book, band or boy,
without being shamed,
just because I am a teenage girl;
To be considered moody or irrational,
just because I am,
without the monthly “crimson curse” being blamed.
I would like a freedom
where I am not fit into a stereotype
the way one fits words on a paper
that is already heavy.
There is always something that is missed out.
I would like the freedom to not be trapped in a cage
wondering how to be content in a world
where I am expected to fight
for what I do not possess.


Weak Weeks

Irritating alarms,
Running into the new boy in class,
Morning blues turn into red hearts,
Seeing someone biting on the back of his pen
Has never been cuter.

Sufficient motivation to attend class,
A perfectly positioned vacant seat,
Four eyes, a million sparks,
He types, “Coffee?” on a scientific calculator.

Coffee extends to dinner,
He hums my favorite Beatles song,
This Spelling Bee champion also plays basketball,
I have a goose-bumped neck.

We are like two kites, always crossing paths,
Striking unsung chords,
Peeking between book stacks in the library,
Moonwalking arm-in-arm,
Right over a tightrope.

The scientific calculator is blank,
Journals filled with letters never sent,
Tightropes tied around goose-bumped necks,
Glances, hearts and feelings are stolen.

Waiting for stars from different constellations,
To align themselves in our name,
Singing lullabies to put love to sleep,
We’re an incomplete heart on the last page of a notebook.

I lose him once more when he fades from memory,
The last thing we do together is wound and heal,
Hearts on sleeves and covered broken bits,
Eleven times zones away,
He picks new ties while I pick new boys.

Sudoku Puzzles and Mumbai Floods

I was accustomed to travelling to school during the monsoons. The school bus screeched to a halt right outside my building gate with its thick, choking, grey smoke that reminded me of smutty ash and old newspapers. My grandfather awkwardly attempted to hold the umbrella low enough so that neither my bag nor I got drenched in the rain. I entered the bus, waved goodbye to him and got ready to face my ill fate of being the only one standing. Everyday, I was the last kid to be picked up and so there was never space for me to sit. This though, resulted in me learning how to solve Sudoku puzzles while hanging from a bus railing.

Eventually, I reached school and the bus dissolved from existence for me. The smell of fresh water laced with dust crammed into my nostrils as I walked up the stairs. I took the two familiar left turns, reached class 3-B and absorbed all the knowledge I could for the next five hours despite the unsettling resonance of raindrops hitting against the glass window.

It is 4 pm and the lights just went out. I am agitated because we were watching funny, science-related videos in class. The sound of the fan above us has died down, giving way to the grumbling and buzzing cars on the street. Clouds have disguised the entire spectrum of the sky, resulting in complete darkness. No one can see the panic in my eyes.

Classes continued as usual but with our teachers trying ten times harder to capture our attention. Ultimately, it was time to go home.

Except, the school bus never came.

The kids whose parents came to pick them up, left for home. But kids like me, stayed back. The roads were waterlogged. Buses or any other form of transport just wouldn’t work as the engines were immersed. They didn’t tell us what was happening. Eight-year-olds are too young to understand the gravity of such a natural disaster.

It was 26 July, 2005. Mumbai was flooded. We were stranded.

It is 9 pm, well past the time I usually reach home. I wonder if my parents know where I am right now, stuck in between the stink of petrichor emanating from the window, rackets of sobbing and my chattering teeth.

Our stomachs were starting to growl. The school distributed a few over-ripe bananas and some upma in our class. I never liked upma, especially one that was not made by my mother. But hunger has a tendency to turn even the most unfavorable things into something delectable. So I ate the upma like it was the last chocolate I will ever taste.

It was this yearning for good food that gave me a reality check. There were hundreds outside who didn’t get a chance to eat anything. Those people were not dry and safe in a reeking, silent classroom the way I was. Some of them were not even alive anymore.

These people were not hopeful the way I was. I knew my parents would come to rescue me, eventually; they were perhaps just walking too slowly. Maybe they were getting me some food and that is why they got late. I was sure they would reach soon. I probably thought the time was fleeting faster than it actually was.

It is 2 am and my parents are not here yet. Everyone is snoozing. But I cannot, because my mother will get upset if I sleep without brushing my teeth. I explain this to my teacher, that my mother is a dentist but she asks me to lie down on the bench anyway. I count the number of times I sneeze and suddenly I am in deep slumber.

The next morning, I woke up to the hubbub of more parents coming to pick up their children. I saw the way they shrieked with joy on seeing each other. It was exactly the way I wanted to shriek but I was starting to lose hope. What if my parents never made it here? Who would save me?

My teachers suggested that another parent who was going in the direction of my house drop me. But I refused. I knew my parents loved me. They would be here soon, no matter what. I craved to hug them and get a whiff of mother’s shampoo and father’s after-shave.

It is 7 am and my uncle is here to pick me. He says he is taking me to his house, not my own. I ask why, because my house is comparatively closer. He says, that area is completely submerged. I will be living with them for a few days. I leave my bag in the classroom lest it gets wet. The water outside reaches my eyebrows so my uncle lifts me on his shoulder. We take five hours to reach.

I never got a chance to solve Sudoku puzzles while hanging from a bus railing ever again.

Being Optimistic Versus Being Realistic

College admissions – When you decide where you want to spend the best three/four/five years of your life. Unfortunately, chances are, a thousand others want to spend those years in the same place. So, here you are, battling with students from across the country (and sometimes the world too), just for that one seat. Five thousand students and hundred seats. The odds probably are not in your favor.

So, you write a statement of purpose, appear for the entrance exam, give an interview and do what? Wait to hear if you’ve got into your dream college.

Waiting is the worst part because you want to tell yourself that you’ll get in, you have complete faith in your abilities, you deserve being in that college, you belong there, it’s everything to you. But you don’t want to raise your hopes high either, lest you don’t get in. So, you tell yourself that it’s all right if you don’t get in, there are other options, everything happens for a reason. It’s this constant struggle between being optimistic and being realistic. Striking a balance between the two is difficult but necessary.

I never thought I’d learn important lessons like this even before going to college.

PS: Typing this while sitting in my dream college. 😀

Date A Man Who Loves Chocolate

Date a man who loves chocolate for he knows what love is. He feels it when the rich, creamy, sweet taste first lands on his tongue. He knows what it’s like to give yourself away completely to someone or something and let it drive your life. This man knows the difference between love, obsession and addiction because he’s felt them all.

Date a man who loves chocolate because he knows when enough is enough. He will crave for you, just like he craves for chocolate but he knows that too many cravings are dangerous. He will keep his distance so he doesn’t suffocate you. No matter how sweet you are, he will make sure he doesn’t have too much of you. You cause diabetes.

Date a man who loves chocolate because he is never down. He knows what lifts his mood high up till the stratosphere. He knows how to feel better and knows how to need something to feel better. Maybe someday he’ll need you that way.

Date a man who loves chocolate because all he’s trying to do is find his Willy Wonka. This makes buying presents for him so much easier. You always know what he wants. But be warned, sometimes you’ll want to find presents that last longer than the time it takes for him to eat it. He loves chocolate, yes, but he loves mementos from you more.

Date a man who loves chocolate because when he shares his chocolate with you, you know he loves you too.

Violent Flower.

This poem was written as part of an exercise to explore how a single piece can have different interpretations for different people.

She had never seen a rainbow,
Except in his moods.
They oscillated from deep dark crimson,
To lighter shades of maroon.
A mind scramble of a person,
Sometimes whirlwind.
Perhaps a violent flower,
The one that imprisons.
But the boundaries suffocate,
And the door was left open on the way out.

Bursting The Bubble About Taylor Swift Songs.

Here is the thing. I love Taylor Swift. I do. With all my heart and soul and everything. And I’ve done that thing we all fans do when we try to figure out who her songs are about. We read between the lines. We analyse her songs like they are Shakespearean literature. We match timelines of the men she has dated, her interviews, his interviews, what color eyes he has, the kind of relationship/break up they had and other details which may give us a clue as to who the mystery man is. We pay attention to the song title (as in case of Dear John and Style), any hospital injuries she/her boyfriend might have had (Out Of The Woods), the countries he has traveled to (Come Back..Be Here) and sometimes merely the liner notes (Enchanted).

From Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ photo shoot

But sometimes I wonder if we over-analyse them and take everything on face value. I’m sure she must have taken some kind of dramatic license and exaggerated some facts or stated some untrue things. I know that she believes her songs are like her journal entries, but when the entire world is listening to your journal entries, you can’t be completely honest, can you? And for the sake of making a song a little more exciting than it is, she may have tweaked lines so they sound lyrically better or so more people may be able to relate to it.

As someone who also writes stuff inspired by true events, I take some dramatic licenses too. I know what the real story is and the person it was written about, but my audience doesn’t. So I make some changes here and there, so it is understood better. I still believe that it is based upon the person it was originally written about, but not every sentence in it is necessarily a fact.

We cannot bear to believe that her songs have even an ounce of fiction. As a dedicated fan, I realize what a bubble burst it is, to even consider this possibility. But maybe we should. She is a commercial writer, after all.

When You Need A Muse.

“Why write about anything else when there’s love and heartbreak?” – Wise words I once heard in a conversation with fellow writers.

There is nothing else more clichéd but beautifully fulfilling than writing about love and heartbreak. It’s personal, it oozes brutal truth and it is relatable for the audience. More often than not, it’s also a way to process feelings and situations.

This makes me wonder if we writers fall in love just to be inspired to write, to turn the plain, imperfect creatures of our fancy into Romeos and Juliets and to romanticize the whole experience. We dance over the words, ending each sentence with a semi-colon because there’s always room for more. There is always another metaphor for the way they make us feel and holding on to that sensation is important – it drives our art. We thrive in their love, pain, chase, agony, beauty and bleeding.

So, what do you do when you have a writing block? Do you force yourself to fall in love, merely to acquire a muse?

Stop Romanticizing Depression.

It’s NOT okay to not be okay.

We’re in an age where depression is extremely romanticized. Being happy and satisfied with life is no longer “in,” because depression is the new black. We’re in a culture where self-harm is idolized, suicide is the only way to end pain and mental conditions are supposed to be attractive. But just because so many celebrities are in depression, does not mean it’s cool.

At times, mere sadness is equated with depression. Depression is not sadness; it is profound sadness (along with a few other symptoms.) This is why it is not all right to be messed up. And it definitely should not be used as a way to gain sympathy.

Instead of embracing beauty in sadness, we need to find romance in empowerment. Victimization should not be a coping mechanism.

To clear out some myths, here are the facts. Depression does not imply that someone is crazy. Depression is a mood disorder. Mood disorders are usually treated by psychologists, not psychiatrists. (These are different professions.) And couch therapy (as shown in most movies and TV series) is not the only therapy employed to treat depression.

So, yes, it can be treated. If you are someone or know someone who is experiencing symptoms related to depression, please seek professional help. It’s all right if you don’t know its cause and if nobody else gets it. Your mental well-being should be your priority.

Depression does not have to be a battle you fight on your own. It does not have to be the way of your life. It does not have to be your identity.