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Young With Scabby Knees

Whether we be old or bald.

Nine yards of silk.

I see in the tall buildings the world wears, a dystopia rising out of the smoke and fog to reach for the sky. I see in the tall buildings the world wears, a permeating coldness filling the spaces between one another.

The world sees in the saree I wear, a certification for marriageability. The world sees in the saree I wear, an invitation for a matrimonial melee. How do I tell them what I see in the saree that I wear?

A 9-year old playing with her mother’s make-up and jewellery. I see a 9-year old draping a bedspread around her puny waist in vain, standing before a mirror, aping her mother’s practised motions. A 24-year old thinking if she would ever wear a saree as elegantly as the woman who birthed her. I see a 24-year old musing if, draped in the nine yards of silk, she would look at least a fraction like her mother, the person she knows to be the most beautiful on earth and in Neverland.

I don’t tell the world anything at all. The world tells me a fair few things. It has taken me a fair few years to transcend the opinions of a world I do not care for nor belong to. I do as I want. I want as I do, as I live, as I breathe, as I exist. It seems unnecessary to explain or conform.

Ma

Red.

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It was neither the vermilion of temples nor the crimson of blood yet it was bleeding all the same – the sky.

It would neither be explained in words nor captured in photographs – the sky.

It conspired to reveal its true form to only those who held canvas, brush and paint, those abundant with patience, those anachronistic to the Age of Instant Gratification – the sky.

It bled out the extinguished yesterdays, harbinger of a new dawn, menstruating away that which I do not need anymore – the sky.

It was magic in motions graceful, uncovering every colour unknown to me, one by one – the sky.

It was red, a new red – the sky: the motive power of my being, and my life began again.

It was nearly Christmas Day.

December 24, 2017
Darjeeling, India

Mark Twain said

‘The fear of death follows from the fear of life.’

 

Page 18, Times of India
October 12, 2017

Shards.

The noise of the rattling window panes keeps me awake at night. The winds are howling outside like the sound of an engine revving, and the rain is pounding away relentlessly like it is the last time water meets earth from above. The sun will soon rise and, I wonder whether the fragile window panes will survive and how in the morning their shards will lie.

Don DeLillo said

‘There is a deep narrative structure to terrorist acts, and they infiltrate and alter consciousness in ways that writers used to aspire to.’

 

Page 12, Times of India
September 2, 2017

Durga.

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Atheist or not, I can never shake off the feeling of reverence towards the sky that invariably creeps in at 4am on Mahalaya. As a child, I used to think Durga rode across the sky with her children to return home. A part of me still thinks so. A part of me still wishes that she’d slay the devil and fix all that is wrong with the world.

.

.

|| রূপং দেহি জয়ং দেহি যশো দেহি দ্বিষো জহি ||

Much ado.

Stop.

Think.

Why is there much ado about almost nothing?

Why are you sparing so many fucks for the inconsequential?

Stop.

Think.

When did you start giving so many fucks? Sigh. I started giving a fuck when I started accumulating hate. I let hate fester in my heart, poison it. I only noticed it last night for the first time, when reading.

The book’s called The Five People You Meet In Heaven. It isn’t much by way of a book but I connected with it immediately because the character’s stuck up too. The story is about the five lessons he learns after he dies and has the chance in heaven to revisit five events from his life.

We keep all this hate inside us, often without realising it: hate towards the universe, hate towards what’s unfair; hate towards the unfulfilled, the unrequited and the unnoticed; hate towards ourselves and our choices – and to what end?

I found the piece that was missing from the jigsaw puzzle story that is my life. I never learnt to let go of things, only learnt to let them be. In a way, I’ve become the very things I detest so much. I wrap my head around the image of who I think I am so tight that I don’t realise the extent to which what I do is different from what I think.

I figuratively froze for a few minutes with the half read book between my fingers, realising that I’ve to forgive to forget, that I’m too hard on some things and some people, invariably making a hot mess of something perfectly simple. Over-thinking transforms into hateful behaviour fairly quickly if you aren’t aware of where to pull the brakes.

Words can only be benefitted from, when what you mean is what you say. If I’ve been wrong all along in choosing the meaning of my words, what the hell have I even been saying?

Quartered.

I wonder if, sometimes, we’re too early in assigning a work of fiction to the children’s section. We tag it as a Timeless Classic, nevertheless it remains a Timeless Children’s Classic.

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Upon a friend’s insistence, I read a colourfully illustrated Charlotte’s Web and by the end of it, I realised that the book could very well be for adults too. It led me to think that Charlotte’s Web and all such works of fiction are only masquerading as books for the young.

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Charlotte’s Web finishes on a deeply meaningful sentence: It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. 

I’m willing to bet that the line would not have had any major impact on me if I had read it at a pre-pubescent age but now, endowed with the experience that a decade of life brings, this sentence strongly resonates with me. There are many such wise sentences scattered throughout the text that the young would not pay attention to, but the adults – the adults would be forced to survey its deeper meaning.

It is in the nature of fiction to be interpreted differently by its reader (let alone all readers – each with a varied life experience) depending on the point in her life that she reads it. Every time I read Harry Potter, I learn something new, I understanding something that until then was unknown to me.

The larger point that I wish to make, however, is do books really need to be quartered and classified? 

Neil Gaiman summarises my feelings perfectly in his introduction to his book Trigger Warning. An excerpt is as follows:

There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.

And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.

The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mould beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.

What do we need to be warned about? We each have our little triggers.

I first encountered the phrase “trigger warning on the Internet, where it existed primarily to warn people of links to images or ideas that could upset them and trigger flashbacks or anxiety or terror, in order that the images or ideas could be filtered out of a feed, or that the person reading could be mentally prepared before encountering them.

I was fascinated when I learned that trigger warnings had crossed the divide from the Internet to the world of things you could touch. Several colleges, it was announced, were considering putting trigger warnings on works of literature, art or film, to warn students of what was waiting for them, an idea that I found myself simultaneously warming to (of course you want to let people who may be distressed that this might distress them) while at the same time being deeply troubled by it: when I wrote Sandman and it was being published as a monthly comic, it had a warning on each issue, telling the world it was Suggested for Mature Readers, which I thought was wise. It told potential readers that this was not a children’s comic and it might contain images or ideas that could be troubling, and also suggests that if you are mature (whatever that happens to means) you are on your own. As for what they would find that might disturb them, or shake them, or make them think something they had never thought before, I felt that that was their own look out. We are mature, we decide what we read or do not read.

But so much of what we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: we need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.

We build the stories in our heads. We take words, and we give them power, and we look out through other eyes, and we see, and experience, what they see. I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places? There are stories I read as a child I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them and they upset me: stories which contained helplessness, in which people were embarrassed, or mutilated, in which adults were made vulnerable and parents could be of no assistance. They troubled me and haunted my nightmares and my daydreams, worried and upset me on profound levels, but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.

There are still things that profoundly upset me when I encounter them, whether it’s on the Web or the word or in the world. They never get easier, never stop my heart from trip-trapping, never let me escape, this time, unscathed. But they teach me things, and they open my eyes, and if they hurt, they hurt in ways that make me think and grow and change.

kith + kin.

They broke your heart, I think.
Mine too, I know.
I saw it coming and yet, I let it shatter, my heart.

Perhaps I was hopeful, or was it masochism?

I wonder if you did too: see it coming.
I’m healing.
I pray you have too.
I don’t know if happy endings exist,
if a place where I can go exists,
but I pray I never stop to find out.

No matter the wreckage they left behind for you to heal, and to make art out of.

“It is not your fault that you don’t assume the worst in people. People are at fault when they let you down; you are not at fault for not anticipating that they will let you down,” as a wise friend tells me often.

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