I CALL IT SELF LOVE.

The words they threw at me were

‘Vain’, ‘Narcissistic’, ‘selfish’

Negative connotations don’t bother me, love.

I was born to love myself

To wrap my arms around my soul,

And speak kind words to my reflection

I cherish my brown skin and unruly hair

So I cannot fathom your loss

When you cannot see my blinding light

I once emptied myself

When I loved others and placed them on a pedestal

But now I recognize that I must only crown myself

So when they scream, “You’re so full of yourself!”

I scream, “Yes, I am. I am. I am. Thank you for that.”

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COLOURS.

I view people to be a palette of colours- rich, vibrant and smooth. When I look at you, I don’t see you for your eyes, your nose, your lips, your hands. I see a canvas of soothing blue strokes and fiery red lines meshed together to create a masterpiece. I see gold in your twinkling eyes and orange in your sweaty palms. I see pink beating hearts and green vines of energy pulsing through your body. I see yellow sunshine smiles and silver age. I see brown scars in the guilt of the mistakes you think you’ve made and grey streaks of endurance. You are walking art. You are a muse. I see you for the beauty of complex colours you are. What colour do you see me? 🌻

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A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE

It was a regular Saturday in July as I waited for the bus that would take me home after an early class. I was tired after sitting through two hours of arbitrary maths, and wished nothing more to skip the nearly thirty minutes ride home. I wasn’t in my best mood as I had engaged in a serious fight with a friend and had not slept well enough the previous night to concentrate in class that day, leading to a scolding from my teacher. I wanted to reach home, put on pajamas and go straight to bed. I sighed as I looked up to see ravenous clouds in various shades of grey starting to assemble. I have lived in Mumbai long enough to know there would soon be a downpour.

Ofcourse, I was right. No sooner had I entered the bus than the rains greeted us. I said a small quick prayer thanking God that I was rescued from the peril of wet books, wet hair and a sure fever. I slumped into a seat at the back of the bus, moving quickly to ensure I was near the window. The seat coughed up dust as I placed my bag near me. I looked around the bus and observed the other occupants. There were two old ladies, a few women with children and strange men that dotted the rest of the seats. They seemed uninterested in their surroundings and mostly sat engrossed in their mobile phones.

I heaved a sigh of relief as I heard the roar of the engine and knew I could soon rest. Outside, the rain had gathered momentum and the weather had transformed from a bone dry day to one of pelting water in less than fifteen minutes. Men and women ran hurriedly to shelter themselves from the sudden onset. There were people on scooters and bicycles that rode through the streets with their eyes squinted and their faces contorted to show discomfort. I was surprised to see people struggling but still determined to make it to office on time on a day like that one. A delivery man on a bike zig zagged through the busy traffic and he sent a wave of water splashing onto the street dog sleeping on the curb. It broke my heart to see the water send a cold shiver down his spine and he limped to relocate himself under a shady tree.

I did expect a delay in travel time. However, I did not expect the traffic to be this cumbersome. We had almost come to a standstill and I tried to comfort myself thinking “Better to be stuck at Marine Drive than elsewhere.” The undulating waves of the Arabian Sea soothed me and I watched the ebb and the flow of the ripples. At this time of the year the sea is particularly violent and there’s a beauty in its voluptuous heaving.

I was distracted by a sudden sharp squeal of joy and my eyes found a small girl in a pink raincoat jumping into every puddle she could locate. Her eyes widened with delight as the water splashed around her and I saw for the very first time unadulterated happiness in the face of a young girl. I watched her with a smile as she bounded across the road to purchase some fruits from a very aged man. He bargained with the mother as his shaking wrinkled hands tried to hold a newspaper over his goods in vain. It was a torrential rain but the vendor put on a brave face and continued his work against the odds.

It had already been forty minutes since I had entered the bus and I was just halfway home. I pushed my head out of the window and craned my neck to see how far the traffic lead. A traffic police officer stood in uniform directing vehicles. He wasn’t holding an umbrella and was soaked to the skin. He blew his whistle continuously and was intent on performing his duties to the best of his abilities.

Up ahead I saw the cause of the jam wasn’t attributed to only the heavy rain but also to an accident. The slippery roads had caused a bike to skid and crash into the car. Although nobody was hurt, the bike had lost its function. The rider tried desperately to push the heavy vehicle to the side, and one could see the distress on his face as cars honked unapologetically. I saw men and women alike from the shops nearby rush onto the road to aid him. They did not carry raincoats or umbrellas and did not think twice for their own safety. Soon we were out of the terrible halt and were on our way. I reached home after an hour long bus ride but somehow I did not feel as exhausted as before.

Let me tell you why this mundane and ordinary bus ride on a bleak day in July was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. That day I saw the residents of  a city in their purest forms and finally understood why the people of Mumbai make it one of the greatest cities in the world. I saw the strength of everyday workers battling torrential rainfall to go to office to complete an honest day’s work. I watched street hawkers and food vendors pretend it was an ordinary day and call out to passers-by to sell their wares in an attempt to earn a one day’s worth of living. These people do not have the luxury to stay home in the comfort of warmth and dryness, lest they might not be able to provide for their family. I cribbed about the humidity while a child laughed in the face of adversity seeing the positive side of situations. She danced and enjoyed the rain and did not stop to remove her wet socks or complain about feeling cold. Most of all, I watched the generous nature of our people as they ran into the rain to help a fellow brother. It was an act of kindness, pure and without hesitation, as their legs were covered in muck and clothes stuck to their skin. We complain about the services of the police, fire fighters, government officials but we’ve seen them fulfil their duties in the most strenuous of situations.

A city of kindness and determination, and most of all, making the most of the situation we find ourselves in. This is why I love the city of Mumbai. This is also why monsoon is now my favourite season and that day of July the most memorable day of my life.

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Marine Drive, Mumbai. July 2011.

(I found this piece from a ninth grade essay I wrote, I still stand by it even today)

ALONE.

Do you ever feel claustrophobic in a spacious room? The feeling that the walls are closing in on you and you can’t escape? The feeling that your heart is getting shrouded in a sheet of pain and cold aches that no medicine can cure. You want to scream. You want to shout. You want to cry. But will anybody listen? Or will it fall on deaf ears as people continue to believe everything is normal and good and sunshine and rainbows? The people you surround yourself with don’t understand what makes you you. They chatter on about frivolous things like water leakages, house reparations, how somebody annoyed them at work today. You sit there with that distant look on your face. You occasionally nod to feign active participation. But are you really paying attention? Or is your mind numbing out the ordinary mundane routine of life? Do you ever look at your family and your friends and your co-workers and still feel like you don’t fit in with these people and their lives so intricately woven around petty situations. Do you ever feel like you’re on the brink of snapping like a wishbone being forced apart and just when you think this is it, I can’t do this anymore, you take a deep breath and swallow your spit and life resumes? Sometimes you wish you could just leave the country, start over with new people, find meaning. Your wish to be a part of something bigger than yourself, as is the nature of all humans, overtakes your desolate want to be alone. Do you ever think about how your life could be different but still not understand what equation, what formula would make it work, would make you truly happy? Do you want to push the fictional boundaries others around you have created for you after making superficial judgments and decisions about how you should live your life?

Yeah, me neither.

DISTANCE

We’ll figure out a way, he said, as he boarded his flight away to distant lands which I’d never been to nor would ever see. Tears welled under my lids as I whispered How? and he smiled that twisted smile but it didn’t touch his eyes as he replied to me with a quiver of confidence, Like we always do. And so he turned his back to me and I felt my soul crack with a sound that could be heard over a million miles and yet everything remained silent. As the months passed by, the frenzied desperate calls and the obsessive details gave way to a general chatter and more uniform flow. This was natural and this was good for I wasn’t naïve enough to believe that nothing would change over thousands of kilometres. But soon the gap between us spread out in our conversations as we urgently tried to fill the vaccuum but how could we when it was in our hearts? Words did little to cure me. I felt the darkness creep on me gradually at first but then all at once. Lightning fast. The pretence didn’t even last two years before I knew that life had played it’s fiddle and we didn’t hum the same tunes anymore. It was an innocent hope that had made me believe him when he said we’d be okay but had I doubted it for even a second then, I’d have run after him at the airport that day, latched on, and never let go.

ENLIGHTENMENT 

I couldn’t understand
What was it I missed
For when I got into the relationship
It started off perfectly
With notes of appreciation
And melodies of warmth
Embracing the courtship we
Built brick by brick.
But soon it turned to ashes
As it burned to the ground
And I blamed myself.
It wasn’t soon after that I began
From scratch with another boy.
The wheel rotated to lead to
Identical turn of events
And I found myself
In the same pit of despair
As I pulled on my hair in frustration
Trying to figure out what it was
That I had done.
I blamed myself.
This went on for years on end
Till I was reduced to nothing
But strings of liabilities
That I had woven for myself
Till one day a veil of enlightenment
Adorned my face as I looked at myself
Enough, I said, no more.
For before I set to love another
It was time I learned to love myself.

THE SEPARATING LINE

She looks on with eyes gleaming
With excitement
As that little boy across the road
Swings with wild frantic
Effort.
Shrieking with exhilaration
As he pleads his father to push harder.
A strong blow to the back
Of her head
Snaps her back to her work
I don’t pay you for standing around
Spits the large bearded man
And so she continues to
Clean the table
With a dirty cloth.