To my unborn child

Who may never be born,

Because first of all I will need a sperm donor

Whom I could call my husband

And you could call your father

But your mother is a bit crazy 

Harbouring many popular

unpopular opinions

Like men, for example,

who she finds pretty disappointing

as prospective life partners

and she wonders why and how this tradition even lasted so long.

Out of love?

Or out of fear?

They say there’s nothing worse than dying alone

Several lifetimes might not be enough to atone

So, many of us rush to start our families,

To chase our happily ever afters 

Knowing perfectly that it’s not always that happy afterwards

How can I say stuff like this?

Questioning the fundamentals of every damn society

Me, your mother,

A privileged little 

Unapologetic

Ungrateful 

Bitch.

Perhaps I am not even qualified to be a parent

Although I know 

If you were to really exist

My child

I would love you till my last breath

My new purpose,

My new reason,

My new strength,

Oh how beautiful you would be!

Even when you frown at me

Even when you are this rebellious teenager

Who I am struggling to understand

(But conveniently stereotyping)

“Mom! You are cute but that’s so 90’s!”

“Mom! You are getting old!”

I was born with a womb

I am biologically wired to create you

To love you

To nourish you

To raise you

I was born with a womb

Like my only real purpose 

Was to bring you on this planet

And propagate my genes ahead

Like it is for most of the animals 

Most of whom we have killed already

Because we care for our children 

But other children 

And other organisms don’t matter.

That’s how my love is

Selfless for you

And selfish for the rest of the world.

How wonderful it would be to hold your tiny body

In my arms

As I marvel at your beautiful face

My heart swelling and swelling with love

How would it feel to feel you in my womb

My placenta;

Your first bed

Your first food source

Your first-ever plastic supply.

It terrifies me 

to bring you into the world 

where all I see is concrete and more concrete

where the real jungle disappears

Too bad trees don’t make money

Only oxygen,

Which is great 

but not better than the digits in my bank account

And so what if the air has less O2 

And more dust, and more CO, and SO and CO2?

And so what if the world is burning 

And burning?

And we ignore it 

Because thinking about it is depressing

Because our most pressing 

problems just magically disappear

if we just turn a blind eye.

Tell me

How do I bring you into a world

That’s dying?

where the ocean is choking with plastics

And the river is choking with chemicals

where habitats have turned into hell?

You expect me to have faith?

Where do I put my faith?

God is dead. 

Humanity is dead.

Or at least in a coma.

I am not strong enough my child,

Perhaps I could fight for you

I could give you all my love

But I would also give you my genes

With a history of cancer

Or heart disease

Or mental illness. 

And the trans fat

And the artificial hormones

And the antibiotics

And the pesticides 

and the microplastics in the food I eat

don’t help the cause.

How do I bring you into a world

where we know so much

but are still so ignorant?

Where we talk of compassion

and still be so careless?

Where the greed still wins

Despite knowing how it leads to eventual defeat?

Where people are running and escaping

To a faraway picturesque island or a continent or a fantasy

Hoping that their lives would be better there.

But would it?

Our entire home is on fire

Or submerged underwater

Maybe not yours today

Because you are wealthy

But it will be tomorrow

And I can’t blindfold myself 

And do what we have been doing for ages

Because that’s what we have been doing for ages

Without questioning.

Your mother thinks too much

Perhaps your mother is paranoid

I am sorry I am not hopeful

They tell me I don’t have to save the world

Like it’s not mine to save

Anyway it’s too huge and complicated

My only responsibility is to survive

And settle 

And bring you

In a world that I am not proud of.

It’s not that bad though,

they tell me,

There’s still some beauty

That is left for you and me to enjoy

There is still space for us all

And who knows there could be a miracle

That somehow we will get our home back

But who exactly is bringing that back?

Most of us are too busy

To loot from what’s left

Or continue hoarding and hoarding

Not caring if nothing remains.

So I have decided to be selfish too

That my life is mine

And just mine

Not yours

Not his

Not theirs

But mine

And that would be the end of it. 

***

Death Anniversary

I wish you could see me growing into an adult,
And I wish I could see you growing old,
I wish we had more photos together
I wish we could go on that trip we dreamed of,
finally when the schools were over
finally when the exams were done
Even for the youngest one.
Delayed gratification
now delayed forever
Will I see you in another life?
And will you see me?
I wish I could ask for your forgiveness
I wish I could forgive you
I wish, I wish you were there
with all your glaring imperfections
that bothered me so much so long ago
But who’s perfect anyway?
Maybe we could learn together
maybe we could understand each other
maybe we could grow together.
I have borrowed so much from you
your genes
your nose
your nature
your passion
your love for words
I wish I could pay you back.
Possible that I am not the person you wished me to be
I wish I could know for sure
I wish we could argue
I wish I could know you
I wish I could know the stories that I was too young to hear
I wish I was curious
I wish I had asked
But it’s too late now
It was too late nine years ago
The void you have left
Is deeper and darker
Time doesn’t heal
Time makes it tolerable at best
And now here I am
wishing to hear your voice
to see your face
to have one last hug
one last time
once again
before I forget forever.

*

I give up

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.

Today, I give up.

How (not) to be an Engineer

To become an Engineer,
you become a rat first.

Then you become a robot
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 paradise.

Really?
No.

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
you write poetries on a breezy day
dream of love and loss and romance
and meanwhile they blame you for your “wrong” habits,
for your slipping grades,
for your stupid questions,
for your stupid silence,
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
empathy, motivation, inspiration, a dream.

No, No, No,
too easy to blame it on the system
too easy to blame it on them
so you blame it on yourself
convince yourself you are not worth it-
there’s always that one student;
who kills himself or definitely tries to,
convinced that he is not good enough,
convinced that he is not worthy to live.
You ignore all these.

There is still nothing wrong with our education system of course.
You continue mugging up theories
that you vomit later on the answer sheets,
That somehow tells you whether you are an engineer or not.
But 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.
At best.
Chasing numbers after numbers,
Chasing milestones after milestones,
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.

Two results:
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.

Really?
No, welcome to corporate slavery.

Where you would wonder why politics wasn’t taught in your foundational course,
where you would wonder why you wake up at all,
mornings after mornings,
weeks after weeks,
months after months,
for your work to be done, and your efforts to be ignored eventually.
Grey roads & grey cubicles & grey screens,
the client who doesn’t stop complaining,
and the manager who doesn’t stop explaining,
And you are surviving to save a few digits in your bank account
while the company’s soaring profits suck your soul away.
That’s what your education has come down to,
making rich people richer, and poor people poorer,
while you frantically swim somewhere in between.
Ignoring everything that is going on in the world, in your life
because who has time for that? Who has energy for that?
Keep swimming, keep running.
And don’t you forget you are still a rat.

I am not an engineer anymore,
just a degree holder
(for which I didn’t even get any graduation)
They say
‘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 to 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’d like to crush them with this symbolic representation of my education.
Just like my degree crushed me,
my confidence, my esteem, my self-worth.

‘But hey,
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 the future,
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
I agree.
But it’s not the exams I am talking about.
It’s not the grades I am talking about,
but my identity attached to these numbers,
All my milestones turned out to be mirages!
There’s no end to the race –
it’s just an ego-centric survival technique,
a sham, a delusion but very much real.
There’s always something you need to do
to keep up your status quo,
and if you try to escape,
you will question your own sanity. 
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, and role models,
not mere lecturers
or judgmental parrots asking us to repeat what they have been repeating
for ages without a single question
Maybe someday they will finally ask
What the fuck are we teaching our youth anyway?

Or maybe, most probably, they won’t.
But will you?

*

On being skinny

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?

Nature’s most common poetry

We spend our lives chasing things that only last for a short period of time. When that short period of time ends we continue chasing the same things in new forms.

But the question doesn’t vanish with your continued negligence – The most absurd question with no apparent answer – Why are you here?

These set of virtues; to be able to see, touch, feel, hear, respond, interact, understand, modify, calculate, read, write – what have we done with that? All these exceptional abilities don’t seem that exceptional among seven billion other creatures who are capable of doing it too, many of them much better. Where does 1 stand before 7,000,000,000?

Where does the drop stand before an ocean?

But maybe numbers don’t mean much. Does the drop know that it’s beautiful on its own too? Does the drop know better than to compare itself to the ocean? Does the drop know that the other drops are not competitors but collaborators?

So do it. Don’t just keep on chasing things that you know are ephemeral. Even if you didn’t score that high in SATs, even if you don’t work for Google, even if you didn’t go to Stanford, remember that these are not your standards, these are THEIR standards. They will tell you oh-so-politely that you don’t matter. You are not intelligent enough. You are not creative enough. You are not experienced enough. Don’t let that bother you. Don’t fall for fake social diagnosis. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Was your life really about all this?”

Surely, there’s a possibility we may never find it. But the answer must be in the attempt. This experience of how you came, and how you felt and how you went again – Nature’s most common poetry – this experience of being a part of it itself is quite amazing on its own. The world is large and you are small but it doesn’t matter. What matters more is to know that the world is huge and you are tiny and it seems that it could have very well existed without you and yet you are here.

Pause, and let that sink in.

Should you get a Pixie Cut?

He held his scissors and the comb in the other hand and asked, “Are you ready?”

“Are you sure?” my hairdresser had asked me. This was five months ago. It was a different hair salon. My hairdresser was a trainee (read cheap haircut). My hair was almost waist length.
“Yes, actually, I want it shorter.”
“This much?” She held her fingers close to my neck.
Shorter, I had wanted to say. Like really short. But her fear was contagious. I dropped the idea and nodded yes.
“Are you sure?” she asked again.
“Yes,” I said calmly.

I had loved them once, my long hair. I used to try different hairstyles. I learnt many braiding techniques. I coloured my hair. My hair was a dream. I had sported a bob cut for most of my childhood. “Why wouldn’t you let me grow my hair?” I would ask my mother.
“You are too young for long hair.”
I was more feminine when I was a child. I wanted lipstick and nail polish. I wanted to wear saree and salwar-kameez with dupatta. I wanted bangles and earrings. But when I grew up puberty convinced me that I was ugly and no amount of cosmetics and elegant clothing could save me – in fact, it was probable that they might end up making me look uglier.

“Yeah, I am ready,” I told Frank. I wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

This was huge. There must be a piece of dramatic classical music in the background. They were playing Shotgun again. It takes courage to do something like this – one of my friends had later commented. It doesn’t take courage. I just had to turn up at a hair salon and say the two golden words, “Pixie Cut.”

Khach.Khach.Khach.

I wasn’t sure if short hair was going to suit me. But certainly, it was bound to make me look different.

Khach. Khach. Khach.

“SO, how long had you been planning this?” Frank tried to re-initiate our conversation.
“A year.”
“Well, that’s a long time…”

“What if it looks absolutely horrendous?” I had asked myself standing in front of the mirror a day before.
“Certainly we wouldn’t know unless we try,” the mirror replied.
“I don’t have the face or personality to carry short hair,” I argued.
“Are you sure?”

No mirror had been so encouraging before. It had taken me a year and an entirely different country to find one.

Khach.

Frank was already working on the last section at the front. Small pieces were falling on my forehead. They were itchy. I had closed my eyes, though I wanted to sneak a peek.

“Do you like it?” Frank asked me finally, holding my chair from the back.
“I love it,” I said looking at the mirror.

I didn’t know for sure if it was the best hairstyle for me. But it was so different that I didn’t care.  I wanted to stare at the mirror and part my hair in different ways – see what looked best but I felt too shy to do it. I stepped outside, felt the wind blowing my ultra short hair. I smiled appreciating the fact that they were not all over my face. Maybe I was just imagining it but more people were looking at me that day. I looked right back. So I did have a personality for a pixie cut all this while, I suppose.

It’s been three days. I have been touching my hair 72 hours straight. There’s heaven over my head. I have admired how surprised people have been. Some of them hate it but most don’t. I don’t. And my advice to you, if you want to get a pixie cut too, would be – Just do it. There might be some criticism. You might draw some attention. You might be a center for debate for a while. Tell them it’s just hair really – we ought to talk about better things than some dead cells growing on your head. Period.

*

Featured Image Courtesy: myhoustondaily.com

A late night thought

Hope is that someday it would make sense
Or maybe we’d to learn to accept the senselessness
Hope is that someday we would find order in the chaos
Or maybe we’d learn to deal with the high entropy
What, when, why, how
There’s no ignoring
There’s no escaping
Things happen;
Painful ones, joyful ones,
People happen;
Interesting ones, awful ones,
Who’s wrong?
Who’s right?
We are, in the end, just lines oriented at a random angle –
Converging, intersecting, diverging,
Maybe we make sense from a plane above,
Maybe our experiences together are infinite hues splashed over a vast canvas,
Maybe, maybe there’s a reason
Maybe, maybe there’s an answer
Hope is that someday our beautiful mind would find beauty of his own;
Hope is that till then, he wouldn’t give up hope over fears unknown.

*

The Movie Premier

We were walking through the streets of London again, still thinking about Mochi. Our tongues craved for more but we were determined not to succumb to our perverse insatiable greed for this Japanese dessert.

“Is today 12th?” Lee asked.

“Yes,” I said checking my phone.

“I am not sure, I need to check, but if I think what’s tonight is really happening tonight, it might just turn out to be the best night of our lives.”

“Oh, nice!” I said pretending I understood what she said.

“Yes! I know where we need to go!”

I followed Lee blindly. Wherever she would take me, I would happily go. No, I wasn’t in love, we just didn’t have any other plan.

We talked, walking on the pavements, crossing the roads, watching people around us.

“Look at that lady,” I mumbled to Lee. “Yes, I saw,” she nodded.

“I want to be like her when I am old.”

“Me too,” I thought. Who wouldn’t? How could one care to be so well dressed even at eighty? I didn’t intend to be offensive if that thought is offensive in any way. I was just shocked because I am twenty-four and I have given up on life already. I don’t even bother to comb my hair sometimes. I wear the same canvas every day. I wear the same jumper. I wear the same jacket. I don’t bother wearing contact lens, I prefer saving two minutes over doing nothing and looking weird in specs instead. This lady, on the other hand, was a model. How does she have so much life? Bottle green stylish hat, velvet dress, shiny pearls, red but not too loud lipstick, white gloves – Posh and graceful – this is what I would like to be. How do I end up being messy and loud instead?

Later, we started coming across even more fashionably dressed people. Silk gowns and gloves. Crisp and handsome tuxedos. The shiny sparkly queue of glamorous rich people was boisterous and long. Everyone seemed happy. Why wouldn’t they be? They were going to watch Star Wars with people who had starred in that movie themselves.

Lee was brimming with excitement. We walked till the very end of the queue, at the entrance of the Royal Theater. Actors were stepping out of the Limousine, posing in front of the camera, stopping by to say a word or few to the anchor, waving to the crowd, signing some autographs, smiling at the camera again and then going inside the theater.

We could have tried asking for an autograph or a selfie too, but we were on the sadder side of the barricade. The free side. I stared at the huge LED screen while Lee tried clicking some photos by going closer to the barricade hoping for better angles and views.

Star War premier, who would have thought?

A part of me was excited. I wanted to post photos on facebook, send snaps to my friends in India. “STAR WAR PREMIER! WOW!” #London #IloveLondon #RoyalTheater #soexcited #unbelievable #likereallyunbelievable #Pleasetellmeyouarejealous

But I didn’t.

Wish I had watched even a single Star War movie. Wish I had given a fuck.

*

I am offended.

If you tell me that I am beautiful, I will be offended.
If you tell me that I am ugly, I will be offended.
Don’t waste that cheesiness on me –
If you do, I will be offended.
If you don’t ever, however, I will be offended.

Tell me I am too tall, I will be offended,
Tell me I am not tall enough, I will be offended.
Tell me I am pretty,
I will say you don’t mean it.
Tell me that I am not,
I will say you are mean.
Tell me I am too thin,
that you are almost almost jealous,
I will say I badly need the gym,
And wonder how you’ve been callous.
“Your teeth are like pearls”
“Your teeth are like cat’s”
Whatever be the case,
I will try to conceal them while I chat.
Tell me to lose those specs –
So much better I might look without them,
Have you seen the dark coffins of my eyes?
What will I do about them?
A major concern as it seems –
My smartphone beaming with an awkward photo,
Snap a couple more sefies,
A game similar to ‘Lotto’,
A jolie, filter dipped face now finally bears my name,
And I will still be offended,
How I don’t actually look the same.
Tell me I look tired,
Had the previous night been rough?
Tell me I look sick,
Did I not sleep enough?
Why do I look so stoned?
Why do I look so drunk?
I guess my face carries a mystery,
A lot of myths to debunk.
Tell me I am smart,
I will judge you for being dumb,
Tell me I am a fool,
I will say you are an arrogant scum.
Use all the beautiful adjectives,
And I will ask, “What do you want?”
Use nothing, nothing at all,
And still that shall haunt.

Maybe, there doesn’t exist a compliment
That could bring a genuine smile,
So, I guess my offense isn’t your fault –
I am just stupidly vile.
Tell me it’s not the case, I will say you pretended.
If you don’t, however, I will still be offended.