I, the privileged one,
With food to last two square meals in my stomach,
Do not understand how,
You can die of poverty.
Go find yourself some work.
Stop being the scum that is upto no good,
Always tapping at out car windows,
Asking for alms.
Toil and labour,
For the sky is the limit I heard.
Fall into the clutches of vicious moneylenders.
We’ll find you by the pavement,
Drunk in a stupor.
For the world is your oyster.
I refuse to believe you can die of poverty,
Or starve of opportunities.
I refuse to see beyond the promised land.
Hold my hand and watch this nation change.
I hold the soul of a man in my bare hands,
Cold and evanescent.
the eleventh of september.
Tell me the pictures on your mantlepieces,
still remind you of your life before it,
and that the air,
lingers around with a sense of loss.
Tell them you took those bloody bodies right across to your heart where they cannot find them,
tell them that the ones who said
I’ll be back soon tonight
you still wait for them in the dreariness of this night.
And numbers made it to the news the next day.
and the ghosts, shall forever haunt everyone else.
the26th of November,
when we watched,
in the comforts of our homes,
what an fanatic idea had done to us.
And one walked between the little spaces left between fallen bodies,
and one walked with candles in his hands,
and one walks to a stone engraved,
and lays flowers that were still fresh,
and spread their fragrance,
over the 13th of November.
all the days of the calender,
when someone feeds on the fear in the other’s eyes,
it is an act of terror.
that this war,
of us against them,
of hope against despair,
as music spreads and envelops you over,
it will spread like a forest on fire,
and we must then,
not to the flames surrender,
but rise from beneath the ashes like a phoenix.
And that is why this time,
let us not make it just a gesture,
the thirteenth of November.
I heard footsteps in my room.
Someone stood for a moment right beside the bed. That person hurriedly moved towards the bathroom to ensure there was no one hiding and shouted something in a language I had no knowledge of.
He ran outside, and they ambushed someone in the very next room.
I felt suffocated as the smell of gunpowder reached me.
Outside, sirens blared on patrol cars.
The assailants must’ve spent about five minutes in the other room.
There were two of them, talking to one another.
And then, there was silence after the last footsteps down the corridor had died down. I slid the door of my closet.
Even with all the commotion around, the cacophony dropped dead as I tried hard to strain my senses as to find out if they had really left.
Cautiously, I stepped outside and stood for a second. On tip toes, I moved towards the door.
I stood holding it, moving just my head to peek outside. To my right, I saw the couple lying in a pool of blood, still holding hands. I headed left, and reached the room of the next door. I could take deep breaths now. But for reasons beyond my comprehension, I still was breathing scantily between the gulps of air I took in to hold. I was no longer in the closet. I will never know why I did that.
Another explosion. It rocked the hotel as if there was an earthquake. I clung to the wall. My legs felt funny. They were failing to hold me up.
I heard voices, coming from the end of the corridor where the terrorists had moved to. And footsteps. This really, was the end of my life. I gathered all my strength and focused it all on my feet.
But they gave in. I fell headfirst on the creaky wooden floor, but not before catching a glimpse of armoured officers rushing towards me.
I was standing at one of the windows, watching the parade that day from the third floor.
Suddenly, amidst the noise, three explosions down the length of the road had me falling down on my knees and covering my ears. I looked up and saw people running, flesh strewn about the road and the some of the exhibitions had caught fire. There was just too much to grasp. I was in a panic, sitting there, staring immobilised.
And it was then that I saw,
A pick up van arrive and its tyres screeched as it pulled to a hault. At least ten men came scrambling out of it.
These men wore masks. They opened fire at those who were fleeing and the second a siren was discernible, they separated in groups of three and entered three buildings.
And I saw them entering the hotel I was in.
I just couldnt move. I could hear gunshots downstairs.
I rose and looked at the open door. My thoughts went to my husband who had gone down to bring breakfast.
I saw a couple run past my room and I ran straight to join them.
But I stopped midway when I heard the woman scream. And then, multiple shots.
Was I going to die?
I heard commotion in the hallway.
Mechanically, I sprung into the closet space and slid its door close.
And I held my breath.
I switched off my phone lest it started ringing.
I no longer remember, how long I was in there.
I think I spent my entire life hiding out in that closet.
Almost as if all that had transpired in my life before that was lost in a haze. There was no beginning and I saw no end to that endless wait.
I was like a bullet mid air.
Please go ahead an ban Shahrukh Khan, self proclaimed moralists.
He spoke up and is that what actors aren’t supposed to do? Oh wait, they’re just meant to mind their own business. No one’s bothering them. Why should they be getting vocal?
Oh yeah. You forget, in your misplaced enthusiasm that these are people and they can be sensible and compassionate, unlike some.
And what are they given back?
This is such a shame. Tell me, that I, by taking this action of saying something you do not like, am a traitor. That I do not love my country and I should go back to Pakistan.
But you’d rather tell me that since I am a Hindu, I have been brainwashed by secularists to air such a view. Kudos to you for having such double standards.
The list of the people you banned keeps getting longer. I think India might be racing to the top in the ease of doing business, but look at what’s at stake here. Ever heard of that story?
One day they’ll come for you, and no one will save you because you didnt bother when they took away the rest.
Why should a government, which must have a lot to do, I guess, take a stance on what kind of meat the nation was eating?
I am very sure if some of us had religious sentiments attached to chicken, we’d be banning that too.
The mob is a headless chicken anyways.
What really got me worried is the silence that prevails on part of those who are expected to speak up after any such incident takes place. Someone has got to take a stand. Why are these bigots still making outrageous statements and nobody bothers to put a check on them? Will that be stifling their freedom of expression? So be it, for the sake of national solidarity and the rosy picture our leaders are painting of this nation, in front of other nations.
Intolerance, transcends boundaries. Every country has its own share of idiots who binge on the publicity such foot in mouth comments bring to them but I can safely say, these past months, we have hardly had a debate on any matter of national importance. We are all stuck in this vortex of comment wars.
The repurcussions, are never instant. If such people like Baba Ramdev, Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi are allowed to stay put and ignored, thereby encouraging their idiocy, we are in for some Hard Times.
Here on my plate,
Remain crumbs of my faith.
And I wear it like a second skin sometimes.
And when I open my mouth,
All I ever say,
Is a reinstatement of my fickle faith.
Tell me not,
Who to worship,
And when not to speak my mind.
Tell me not,
To be blind,
To your intolerance that kills my belief when you stifle a voice.
When on this dreary road I tread on alone,
My belief is my choice.
And suddenly this place,
That I used to call home,
Lets me know today there is a price,
To what I say.
I wear my faith,
Not on my forehead or on my wrist,
Around my neck it doesn’t decay.
I wear it up my sleeve,
This little lie of morality,
That paints your faces red and your swords rise to defend it,
It numbs my reason,
Yet never moves,
When you start reading a great book, its contours start realigning themselves with your imagination.
The spaces between the pause that jumps from one chapter to the next, they are filled with your essence.
And no two people ever would imagine a book in the same way: using exact pastels and brush strokes.
And that is why when you finish a book, you are left with a loss. You know you have lost something because when you read it again, it will never be the same. The experience might be better, but you will read it in a new light altogether.
We love to cradle our books to sleep in the hope, that we’d maybe dream about it and that shall be the only manageably close encounter we could ever have with the characters, and the story.
And sometimes, we just hold a book close to our heart and cry.
Writers, have a task at hand. They definitely need to write about what they picture but there should also be a peephole into the scene the key to which is with the reader. We become, the faceless people inside.
I am that woman, who silently resigns to Kent, Baker Street or Wuthering Heights like an unacknowledged presence: an intruder.
This must be the reason why we relish looking into the ordinary lives of men and women through a tiny peephole. These people, perhaps I’d come across them at a dance or a protest, these people are dull, drab and lead non existent lives.
But the excitement of eavesdropping on their most intimate conversations, that keeps us going.
And we might come off as a stock character, after reading a book, we grow, like the protagonist in it grows out of the mould he was cast in and becomes someone else. It is more like the writer, took me up as a character to influence by the force of the story she weaves.
He waited with a bated breath for her to betray a glimpse of that unflinching storehouse of utmost affection that she had once showered on him. His condition, he felt, was like a moth ready to char itself to death in the devastating flame of the candle. He loved the heartburn more than ever. Inside him, his heart was creating a deafening ruckus. To his surprise, he realised that the lively Ananya had lost the spark she carried effortlessly as a young undergraduate in Delhi University. Prominent dark circles showed beneath bewitchingly demure eyes which had perhaps, in the last couple of years known a lot more pain than a tender soul as hers could carry. She looked so fragile and helpless. Ishaan felt dizzy, as if an ocean of emotions wrecked havoc within him. It ran in his veins with terrifying ferocity. He felt a sudden desrire to take her in his arms and let the expressive eyes tell him her story.
Ananya’s thoughts, on the other hand, were going through a turbulent storm in which incessant memories hurled themselves against her calm demeanor. They threw in front of her whatever had, at one time, passed between her and Ishaan. They had once again ignited the desire to be loved. She regretted having stopped.
But as destiny would have it, distrust and agony reigned supreme in the end, thus taming the wild turbulence her mind was racing through.
‘You must restrain yourself from trying to make amends now, Ishaan. You know that once anyone loses my trust, I’d rather not have anything to do with that person if I can help it. I’m surprised, though, that you even dared to shamelessly ask for an apology for an act that has, lets say, deleted you from my mind.’
Ishaan looked on listlessly.
‘Is it not enough, Anu, that I’ve come home to you? Now I know that it’s not Riddhi but you that I want to be with in the end. Does it matter so much that this realisation comes a bit later?’ He looked at her squarely.
Ananya shook her head in desperation, concealing the disappointment that he wasn’t able to see how much his actions had hurt him. How he had said things that would stay with her throughout life, pinching her conscience. She stood up, pushing the chair behind her with such a noise that Mrs. Rosy, the assistant librarian, looked up, eyeing her sternly. ‘Silence please!’
Embarrassed, Ananya apologised and turned to Ishaan, leaning forward and said, ‘Considering how tactless you can be at times, Ishaan Sharma, let me get my point straight. I’m just sick of your trial and error method of finding out which lucky girl takes you home. Do you think I even give a damn about who you’ve zeroed in upon? You should’ve known better than sleeping with her.’
Ishaan was too shocked to react against her tirade. Ananya softened a bit. She was struggling hard to gulp down a lump that was weighing down on her and tried to keep herself from clying. She must be strong.
‘This is my life, for God’s sake! It isn’t a fucking TV show! You are never to contact me again. I’m going back home next week…
…and that ends it.’
She stormed towards the checking out counter. Ishaan rallied behind, trying to talk to her.
‘Anu, please listen to me once naa.’
He overtook her and fixed himself between her and the exit. ‘Lets talk things out. Give me a chance to explain.’
Anu lost her temper and glanced around. Quite a number of heads had turned towards the two. She almost found herself shouting.
Get out of my way.’
Mr. Shantanu Ghosh, the History Professor noticed the commotion and stepped in, throwing an inquisitive glance at Ishaan. ‘Is there a problem here?’ Ananya shook her head and answered in a composed tone.
‘Still, would you two consider taking your personal issues outside the library?’ Ishaan walked out and stood in the corridor, leaning against a wall.
Ananya walked past him and stopped short. She turned to face him.
‘I hope I never see you again.’
Ishaan pursed his lips and nodded.
‘As you wish, Ananya.’
Back, in the market, Ananya didn’t let even a hint of her emotions show on her face. She gave a cursory glance with no approval of recognition, turned, and walked away.
Loud whispers and mute shrieks,
our lives caught up in maiden paychecks and troubled royalty,
for we walk,
wearing an invisible tiara,
in utmost formalities.