Because of course you gotta have skin that’s fair, smooth and glowing better teeth, better nose, hair that’s long, dense, shiny, body that’s not fat, that’s not thin- that’s just perfect like your flawless heart for you as a woman can repress that tempting voice for you by default know what’s the right choice, and your love and love alone can heal the entire world how virgin! so pure so beautiful when you walk in, the winds blow when you walk in, animals talk pumpkins turn into carriages- people fall in love with you over one glass shoe oh but you must run before midnight to do all the chores which they’ll ensure that you always have more be pretty, be smart, be rich, and finally, be a mother of four and oh be soft-spoken and oh be tolerant yes, some sacrifices and compromises would deem necessary; the cost you bear to be able to bear a child how you bleed to hold a life inside you safe and secure now you gotta stay safe and secure under the protection that you don’t necessarily require but they will ensure that you do.
Lately, words have been failing me. Lately, it doesn’t seem like there was or is or will be any point in anything that I have ever done or would like to do. Lately, the world has been failing me. And even when it wasn’t I feel like it always was – more lost than ever before because even the dream’s been temporary lived and gone. And there isn’t a new one that could replace and stay. And the old one doesn’t go away, like a ghost haunting an old house wanting something and yet it’s just too late; Echoes of a dying wish, the life is gone brother! And you don’t matter, you don’t have any matter in the first place. Lately, I can’t speak. Because I don’t really think I have anything to say. I feel old in my youth as if I have already lived way beyond I was supposed to. Lately, I have discovered a bit of joy in being at an utter unease with everything perfect or could have been perfect. Here I am with the evening breeze romanticizing the distant chaos again. Lately, I have been feeling weak – A familiar face, hanging around with a dictionary definition ensuring that any sort of hope doesn’t escape and corrupts me all over again. Caution: Don’t fly. Because you are not a bird. Hues of the autumn amber, orange, brown like leaves you fall to the ground. Dissolving, take away this pen take away my immortality I don’t want to be remembered. I don’t even know what I am. So why should you?
Yes #blacklivesmatter, and brown lives matter too. All shades of it. All languages of it. All religions. Women matter, equality matter, migrants matter, farmers matter, healthcare matters, hygiene matters, air quality matters, drinkable water matters, education matters, elephants matter, animals matter, sparrows matter, birds matter, trees matter, forests matter, rivers matter, oceans matter.
But what doesn’t matter and end up mattering a lot? Caste, class, ranks and mindless consumption False promises, and poor execution Plastic character, and useless designations Violence, hatred and discrimination, Greed, stupidity, and chaotic administration, Fake news & misinterpreted data, Endless blame game and misleading media.
I dream of a better world. And when I look back, I do see progress – it’s more of a zigzag curve than a linear graph. But it gives me hope that people have stood up against injustice in the past and changed the world. For the better. Yes, often the world requires a brutal wake-up call. Often that means millions die for no reason. Is it necessary that we repeat that pattern yet again?
But who am I? I don’t have the voice that can influence people with power. Sometimes and these days more often, I don’t even have the energy or the motivation to speak. I am not alone, I know that. I know people who care, I know people who care much more than I do. I know who are taking actions believing that even small ones matter. I was a believer too.
But the mess is too huge, this mess is too complex.
I know way too many people who don’t and won’t, for some reason or the other, beyond or in their control, knowingly or unknowingly, won’t give a fuck. And there are some people, like me, with their deep but more often superficial understanding of the problem may continue to learn and be better and someday hopefully be powerful enough to be heard. But today I am not one of those people.
To become an Engineer
you become a rat first
then you become a hard drive
you try to learn from the great minds of the past
Newton, Einstein, Maxwell, Heisenberg
you try to learn all the fancy concepts
chemical Bonds, optics, mechanics, electricity
theories after theories,
equations after equations,
if you are lucky,
if you are the selected few,
who instinctively knew,
you may dream of being a human again.
Two years of struggle;
They will lie it’s the hardest you will ever go through
no TV, no cable, no internet
your friends – your books, your pens,
your daily practice sheets
then the D day comes
with its gigantic stamp
You, to score 130 are smart
you, to score 129 are dumb
unless you have a quota,
in that case, you will do just fine.
Congratulations, you’ve somehow made it.
You have officially entered the paradise.
The two years you spent preparing for a “good ” engineering college,
they forgot to tell you what an engineer is
four years you are going to learn engineering
they will again forget to tell you what an engineer is.
Semesters after semesters,
as you get introduced to new theories, new formulae, and new ways of life
there is Laplace transformation,
and there is your transformation too-
a drastic one
red eyes, and long hair,
you listen to Pink Floyd now
they will blame you for your “wrong” habits,
for you slipping grades,
for your lack of respect,
for everything that is wrong with your life,
and everything that is wrong with their lives too.
But they can’t be blamed for the most important thing they forgot to teach
the most important thing that the internet and books can’t teach you
Character, motivation, inspiration, a dream.
No, No, No,
too easy to blame it on the system
so blame it on yourself
convince yourself you are not worth it-
there’s always that one student,
who kills himself or definitely tries to,
there is still nothing wrong with our education of course.
You continue mugging up theories
that you vomit later on the answer sheets,
After all those grades tell you if you are an engineer or not.
They mostly tell you how well you cheated.
Or in case, you are one of those good ones,
they tell you how well you licked a book.
Was it not about understanding how nature works?
Was it not about building cool creative stuff?
Was it not about being an artist of machines?
We were supposed to help humanity
and all we learnt was
to make money the fastest way.
Chasing numbers after numbers.
Chasing meaningless milestones after another.
Where was love?
I only saw desperation
I only saw insecurity.
And next thing you know
is that there are some lame ass people
from some lame ass companies judging you
whether you are good enough to be exploited.
some people see through your bullshit and tell you to fuck off right away
some people see through your bullshit and tell you to fuck off after you are hired.
It’s a cause for celebration
Welcome to paradise.
No, welcome to corporate slavery.
I am not an engineer anymore,
just a degree holder
(for which I didn’t even get any graduation)
‘God! you are such a cliche.’
The best you can do with your degree now is
to cut them into small pieces
and make roaches out of them.
Actually that’s not the best thing I can do,
the best thing I can do is it roll the whole thing and kill cockroaches
and say that I use my degree to kill cockroaches.
‘Is that a metaphor?’ you ask. ‘You obviously mean the cockroaches of the society, right?’
No, cockroaches. Actual cockroaches.
I like to crush them with my degree.
Just like my degree crushed me,
my confidence, my esteem, my self-worth.
By the way,
Why did you want to be an Engineer anyway?’
I don’t know my friends thought it was cool,
my parents thought that it was cool too,
it wasn’t though
it was their convenience
and mine too.
I became an engineer
because there was nothing else I could do
too smart to be an artist
too impatient to be a doctor
too ignorant to be a lawyer
And then I failed.
They tell me it’s because I didn’t study
But it’s not the exams I am talking about.
All my milestones were mirages.
My ego-centric survival technique, a sham
Maybe I will move on.
Maybe I won’t.
Maybe all the stupid conditioning will wear off.
Maybe it won’t.
And maybe they will realise-
that they are educators, mentors, role models,
not mere lecturers
or a malfunctioning judgmental Google.
Maybe someday they will ask
What the fuck are we teaching our youth anyway?
Or maybe, most probably, they won’t.
But will you?
In a world without you
we find new meaning
we find new ways
we find new freedom.
it still seeks you sometimes
in a blue moon dream
in the forgotten corners of the room
your name on the first page
now on my lips.
A world without you sometimes comes close
to being a world with you
if I could just extend my arms a little bit longer
maybe we can still touch
maybe we can still talk
a world without you is entangled with your memories
heavier with new perspectives
maybe you are actually disappearing
the way I am slowly appearing
the sunset and the moonrise
a world without you
is an end and a new beginning
fearsome, fearful, and fearless
brutal and yet kind
a world without you runs
exactly like the world with you,
I need a man
Not a disappointment.
I need a man who, for starters, reads
I need someone who listens
I need a man who understands
Who is looking for something beyond superficial connections
a bit of humbleness
a bit of modesty
a bit of depth
a bit of stability
I need a man
who is thankful
I need a man
I can be thankful for
I need a man
who is not stupid
I need a man who thinks
Or at least someone who has a high probability of thinking
I need a man
Who speaks what he means
Who means what he speaks
I need a man
Not another humanoid pendulum
Or an ill-researched thesis on his ex
Or a tasteless stew of delusion and arrogance
I need a man
Not a leaking faucet of insecurity
Or a stale cocktail of toxic narcissism
I need a man
And multiple orgasms
And someone who’s capable of giving those
someone who’s more functional than my two fingers
I need a man
And a bit of love
And a chance to give that love back
I need a man
Not someone who suspects
I need a man
Not a predator
Not a ghost
I need someone who really exists.
Alright. I need to come straight out and tell you – Boyfriends are overrated.
I know you know that and you still want them but chill a bit. You have infinite expectations from yourself and zero ideas about how a man’s brain works. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. But smile more. It’s okay if your braces show. It’s okay if you aren’t on top of the class. It’s okay if JEE is frustrating. Your life is not a disaster. Please don’t sell yourself short. It’s going to be okay. Not just okay, it’s going to be genuinely good.
I know this concept is alien to you. But don’t take things too seriously all right? You don’t know what you want. And they don’t either. So grow some spine. Grow some spine to make mistakes. Because mistakes teach you.
I know how sad, guilty, angry and frustrated you feel. 12th grade; the gateway to your career, the gateway to your life – Ooh! So fucking important. Better not screw it up. But you are screwing it up every single day.
And I want you to know that it’s okay. You think self rebuke might work but it doesn’t. You think you have messed it up but you haven’t. You think there’s no point to your life but even if it’s true it doesn’t matter.
Expectations are killing you. You are facing failures for the first time. Your limitations are naked and ugly. Oh, how much you hate yourself for not being smart enough, for not being diligent enough, for not being determined enough!
Don’t. You deserve to be loved, my love. You deserve to be loved.
Maybe you already know that but you can’t help it. And in that case, I want to tell you – Don’t take those emotions too seriously. Don’t let your feelings judge your character. Bad feelings are not exactly bad. Good feelings are not exactly good. Remember -They are not you. They are just emotions.
Don’t hold things too close. Walking away is sometimes necessary. When you stand too close to it, you don’t understand what you are looking at. You require distance to really know yourself. You require time. So be patient. Be kind. Be forgiving. Most of all to your own self.
You have always pushed yourself harder and I get why you do it. But sometimes it’s important to look back and see what you have achieved. Sometimes it’s important to let yourself fly, break every constraint, run free and wonder – what is your life about, what would you do if you could do anything?
Dream of dreams! Not careers! Careers are boring. You don’t believe me? You want to be rich, I remember. Well a decade later, we are nowhere close. But life ain’t bad. I am not perfect but I love what I do. I love how I dream. I love this imperfect life.
I know you think a lot about what other people think about you. Your image matters. But is that image really you? They are thinking about a thousand other stupid useless things. You are not here to prove anything to anyone. And how does their opinion matter anyway? They think you are a geek? They think you are weird? So what? Accept it and it’s not your weakness anymore.
And you know what – you are lovely! You are kind. You are brilliant. You are beautiful. Don’t believe your deceptive mind telling you that no one would ever love you. Lots of people will. Lots of people do.
It’s the heart that matters. Let it guide you. It will take you to absurd weird-ass places but you will fucking enjoy it.
Yes, I swear a lot. I know you are judging me. But I also know you don’t exactly mind.
I know life is a struggle right now. But try to be happy. By that, I don’t mean that you force happiness on yourself when you actually feel sad and end up feeling guilty that you don’t feel what you are supposed to feel. By being happy, I mean when your life is going smoothly cherish it. When you face any challenge turn it into an opportunity to grow. You may not always succeed in doing this but pat yourself on the back every time you try. That’s the real victory. And love! Love, love, love, give it away as much as you can. To people, to places, to yourself. When you go through pain, which inevitably one day you will, remember it’s the most profound experience you are ever going to have. It will hurt but it will teach you the most. It will hurt but it will make you a kinder, more compassionate person. When you are wrong, accept that with grace because there’s nothing wrong with being wrong. Don’t be ashamed. Take that as a lesson and move on. And yes move on! Use memories as a guide, nostalgia, as that light-hearted, feel-good movie. Be hopeful, always be hopeful for the future – as Queenie, a movie character you are going to come across soon, says, “You never know what’s coming for ya.”
People never stop reminding me how skinny I am. Often it’s the first thing they say when they meet me. That’s brand new information ma’am, thank you. People often assume that I don’t eat and offer me to stay and eat with them for a month or two in the name of goodwill. They sound very concerned as if making me fat is the only way to stop global warming. They sound very confident as if eating with them is miraculously going to change the way my body functions. I hesitate to go for lunch/dinner with such people because they are quick to point out – Look how little you eat! That’s why you are so thin! Here have some more. And more. And more. Because this one gigantic hugely uncomfortable dinner can obviously do what 9125 dinners in my life so far couldn’t.
Some people go on to suggest that I would look so much better if I just start eating bananas and milk every morning. Thank you for pointing out I am ugly. Some people ask me if I go to the gym. Some people ask why I should go to the gym at all (as I obviously don’t need to do). Some people say that they are jealous of how I don’t ever have to worry about my weight. Such a blessing, they are quick to add, you can eat whatever you want and still not gain a gram? Wish I was like you! Being like me means being called a skeleton, a coat hanger, a feather, and a stick figure. Some people also like to call me two dimensional. Some people assume I am sick and weak. I have grown up with these wonderful tags. Not just random strangers, my own family has used them for me.
But skinny girls don’t talk about being skinny because if they do, they are a bitch.
People with an average sense of humour remind me that I might disappear soon. People who once aspired to be doctors but ended up being dentists call me ‘malnourished’. Some people defend me by throwing terms like ‘high metabolism’. I don’t quite understand that and I am sure neither do they. Some people recommend I should take protein. I recommend they should fuck off. Some people think I should be a model. I think they should not be career counsellors. People who want to show off their above-average vocabulary call me ‘anorexic’. I want to show off my creative vocabulary and call them dumbtards.
For twenty five years, I have listened to the same shit wondering what the hell is wrong with my body. And God knows how long this is going to continue.
Listen buddy, I have tried eating more. It doesn’t work. Bananas give me headaches. Artificial protein is exactly what it is – artificial. Being skinny is not a blessing. And yes, I am underweight. I KNOW THAT. But did you notice that I am functioning fine? Hey! I am happy. I don’t get why you are so bothered. So instead of criticizing me why don’t you appreciate your own beautiful three-dimensional body, and get a fucking life. Comprenez?
It will take some time to carry out the social un-conditioning. The layers run deep. The more you explore, the more you would realize how prejudiced you are. It won’t be easy, to discover contradictory things about yourself. It may shake your confidence. It may rob you of your faith. Your insecurity may grow.
You are allowed to take a call. Mission abort! Mission abort!
But I hope you will keep going.
Remind yourself again and again – why you are doing this. You will have to. It’s medicine – you need to take it every day before breakfast and after dinner. And even then, all kinds of what-ifs will crop up each day. There is no guarantee. The roads are hazy, and from time to time, you would wonder if you took a wrong turn. Don’t worry about the wrong and the right turns. What’s done has been done. Just trust your voice and keep on going.
Sometimes you won’t hear that voice. There may be too much noise inside your head. Clear that traffic. Sit down. Relax. Breathe. Introspect. Your ego might not like it – the rejections, the un-replied mails, the criticism, the other people, the could have beens. You would be scared. Be courageous. Look up and face your fears. When you do, you would realize it’s not that dreadful after all.
Of course, your Plan A won’t work. Many times your Plan B might not either. Allow yourself to be creative. You will conceive a new plan. Remember, there is always something you can do. The idea may not hit you right away, but it will. Tell yourself it will.
If you were your actual manager you would hate yourself. It’s hard to satisfy yourself, harder than your ex-boss because you know what you are capable of doing. And this is something you love to do – of course, it can be so much better! God, it will be hard. Your inner boss is a demon. But hear, hear, be assured that when he is pacified, he has brought the best out of you. He won’t let you rest for long though. Next day there would be a new project, with even higher standards. And no, he would never approve your leaves. And criticism is the only language he speaks.
The most difficult appraisals happen before the mirror. Tell the mirror about the things you did right. The journal you wrote, the little Haiku at the back of your diary, the book you read and what you learnt from it, the interesting thing you got to know from the internet, the way you helped a friend in need, the way you spent time with your family, how delicious your lunch was, how you went for a nice walk, how new ideas struck you and how you took note of them, how you worked on them, talk about your new strategies, how you searched for new opportunities and dared to apply, how the small event you organized went well, how you inspired the people you met and how you got inspired by them, how you discovered that old book in library which you wouldn’t find anywhere else, how you meditated, how you sang and learnt something new, how you enjoyed the rain, remind yourself that all of these count as valid building blocks. All of this is work. Value-added work.
Your inner boss might just scoff, but don’t take him too seriously. Don’t take any of those things seriously that discourage you. Don’t let other men and the man in the mirror validate you. You might not know the whole map, but trust yourself and keep on going the road you are on.
Yes, it’s not going to be easy. Definitely. SO think twice before quitting that job. And if you decide not to, then dedicate yourself to the job you do. Eventually, you will learn to love it. You may feel you have lost something. But remind yourself you have gained something too. And if you do quit your job and decide to follow your heart – Don’t look back. You are doing just fine. Remind yourself of the good things. Work on those good things. And just keep swimming.
Going upstairs to Sacré-Cœur, I see a man selling bracelets and keychains. I look at him, he looks at me, he is already holding my arm.
I am clueless but fortunately, S knows better, she shouts and pulls my hand away. I can still feel his grip on my wrists. ‘That was close,’ she says. ‘Yeah, what was that?’ I ask. ‘They will tie the bracelet to your wrist and ask you to pay for it,’ she replies and continues, ‘Absurd amounts – 10, 20 Euros. And they just won’t let you go.’
Isn’t that a form of attempted robbery?
I am reminded of the time I was in London. A middle aged man approached me, smiled and gave me a rose, ‘This is for you, pretty lady.’ I took the rose, blood pumping to my cheeks.Wow, London is nice. Meanwhile, the man asked my friend to pay for it. Okay, maybe not. I tried returning the rose to the man. ‘No, just give me 10 pounds!’ He demanded. ‘No,’ we said. Ultimately, the man had to take the rose back. My friend is from Delhi after all.
Enjoying the view from Sacré-Cœur, S and I are talking about things. We always do, it can range anything from woman centric porn to democracy. Most of the times, our discussion don’t have any conclusions. I think the answer to most abstract questions is the same – Moderation.
Sun is shining and Paris has treated us well, mostly. We have enjoyed eating macaroons, and also talking to the guy who sold those macaroons, had the best cheese sandwich, worst Beef Bourguignon , enjoyed the theatrics of crème brûlée, fell in love with soufflé, saw the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night, witnessed a boy proposing to his girlfriend at the Montparnasse Tower and experienced jealousy like never before and photobombed a random family at Notre Dame – S pretended she didn’t know me while I continued making faces. People actually laughed it off. Later, S took to photography and I took to modelling. Paris had inspired me to dress well and put on a face.
‘You look nice with makeup. You should do it more often,’S told me.
Thanks but no thanks. I want people to be used to my ugliness so that whenever I look nice, they will appreciate it more.
We need to leave now. We are searching for the nearest metro station. Google maps is fucking with us. According to it, we are already AT the station. Station for wizards, google? There’s a young man sitting at the stairs smoking a cigarette. S says, ‘Go, ask him.’
Neurons in my head are running with their arms in the air, screaming, ‘WE NEED TO SPEAK FRENCH! WE WILL HAVE TO SPEAK FRENCH! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! M’AIDEZ!’
I try to calm myself, ‘This is our moment to shine.’ All those hours I had spent practicing (which aren’t many), it’s time they are used, it’s time I carpediem the fuck out of this.
Tentatively, I approach him. ‘Excusez moi!’ I say, incredibly conscious of my accent.
He looks at me, it seems that he understood and is willing to listen to me further.
In my head, I am forming sentences, ‘Ou est..Tu connais?…’
And then it strikes me. I knew what to say.
S is standing a bit far away. I return to her smiling, ‘So we need to go straight and then turn left.’
‘Nice! What did you say?’ she asks me.
‘Oh well, you know, stuff in French.’
‘Yeah, what stuff? I want to learn too!’
I smile, look around thinking of a way to change the topic but I know she will bring it back.