Recently I had a chance to collaborate with Smriti Gautam on a project with subject that we share a mutual interest for- women and the overpowering emotions.
Here is a glimpse of a very strong emotion- insecurity, that women face often and how they deal with it or choose to live with it.
A birth mark that looks a lil’ uncanny A beauty spot in place revealing which feels funny Scars from the everyday battle called life Etched on my skin is my story. Gazing at the color- The pensive pigments and frivolous freckles I see myself from a stranger’s eyes The eyes with a shattering voice caging me in notions of beauty Peeping at the mirror- I stand, I quiver, I introspect A narrative of glory was written only to be trapped in qualms of unfortunate desire Alas! I cover most of it- Forging a smile attempting to embrace silence of my skin.
Days, weeks, months and years pass I question who am I- I discover many talents and some experiences worth tooting Only. If only, I had the courage to stand tall with no fear of those wretched eyes and unkind voices Alas! I stand covering myself in a piece of cloth constantly feeling naked. The day I break away from the chains of being wanted The moment I learn to savour my unconventional beauty That day shall my skin recite the glorious tale of “becoming” Till then I’ll stumble upon zones beyond comfort wishing to nurture who I am.
A big thanks to Smriti Gautam and all the lovely ladies who shared a piece of themselves and their stories with us.
It is not every day that you are summoned to court as a witness for a six-year-old case but there is always a first time, and this was mine. I opened the door to a policeman amidst my work-from-home task, baffled to see him, shocked to realize why he was there, irritated to know that the summon was for the very next day, and reluctant to go because I had work to do. All these feelings were transient until he said I’d be handed over a warrant if I did not show up; that turned me into a quick decision-maker I never knew I was capable of being. I informed my friends- the complainant and witness 2 (me being the witness 1 living in Delhi) who live in Himachal and both were as unbothered as I could empathize with. My dear complainant even suggested that she will say she can’t make it because she lives in another state and I should say that I am currently out of the country. We laughed at her naivety but it was my blank passport that truly mocked me. It was then decided that I will go and test the waters, and figure out if it was time for the friends’ reunion just at an unusual place.
Six years ago while we were in Delhi during our college days, the three of us were on our way to visit some art fair or museum or crafts market, the complainant’s mobile phone was snatched by someone on a motorbike. We filed an FIR, the device was found, identified, and returned. That’s most of what I can recall from my hazy memory. Cut to 2022, I find my mother guiding me to not speak too much, be wise with my words, stick to the court decorum and I wonder how difficult a mere conversation with a judge could even be. I look around the courtroom trying really hard to relate it to the ones shown in movies and on television. From the Trial of the Chicago 7 on Netflix to FIR on Sab TV, I run it all in my head. With simpler furniture and less dramatic witness box, a scratchy glass wall to protect the judge, the public prosecutor and the stenographer from covid, the advocates with their cases waiting in the room instead of a supportive public as the audience, the judge simply shutting the over-smart advocate instead of the audience cheering the heroic one up, the court was different from the ones shown in movies but not any less interesting. In an attempt to compare the characters I realized that the young advocates are handsome, and the old ones are purely grumpy. This was a State vs Accused case. I got my attendance marked at the court and waited for my turn. The petitioner and the defense counsel had agreed to compound the case, but this could be done only in presence of the complainant. To compound is the equivalent of ‘fitoos’ in Hindi slang(IYKYK). However, my statement as a witness was needed. I went through my previous statement from six long years ago, memorized all I could, and was constantly reminded by my mom don’t overact up there and talk as less as possible. The accused and the defense counsel tried to be friendly with me for their benefit but I was taught well by the petitioner. However, I found my mother sympathizing with the accused and listening to his side of the story. I mean.. What! Every single person stood up when the judge left the room for a 5 minutes break. Everyone stood up when she came back. I mean.. Why! From having zero knowledge about the Indian judicial system to a little something from a real hands-on experience is what I achieved this day.
I was called to the witness stand. While waiting to be attended to I started jotting down pointers for my new blog post on my phone that is when the public prosecutor yelled that I should put my phone away or it shall be seized. Wow! Nobody had handed me a ‘courtroom for dummies’ handbook. The public prosecutor asked me relevant questions and the stenographer typed my statements with incorrect spellings probably thanking the grammar check. As I contemplated the depth of questions she was putting up, she asked if I was upset about the yelling. I giggled and said no. She suddenly shushed me for giggling and said this could upset the judge. No wonder everyone else (my deemed audience) was sitting with cold expressions. The defending counsel was allowed to cross-question me once the public prosecutor made me understand that I am supposed to listen carefully, understand, and only then reply. He smashed me with questions and concluded that my friends and I never met during the stated date of the incident, in fact, according to him none of us were in Delhi. I stood there shocked and the defense counsel reminded me of men on the planet I had dated and got gaslighted by. Congratulations! Here’s a job for you unemployed fucks. Thankfully, the public prosecutor and petitioner were there to break things down to me. My job as the witness is done. The case shall be compounded only when the complainant shows up on receiving the summon or worse- warrant.
After ages of tossing and turning on wrong side of an empty bed Asking myself questions about the world, the crises and vividly my own existence I lay awake- no more; battling the torments of purposelessness I lay naked with a blanket of thoughts keeping me warm to spend a peaceful night No man beside- just tomorrow’s ordeals to make me feel alive.
As the sun rise- I shall embrace new beginnings with dawn I shall set foot for my journey- I know of directions, destination yet being anticipated. After a day’s hardwork- I’ll smile for trying The food will taste sweeter with flavors of progress I shall then sleep well- visited by dreams brimming with meaning Might be nightmares; just a little kind- For my body shall lay too dog-tired to pay any heed.
Exhausted by one, traumatized by another People are fickle yet they love each other Are we desperate, needy and alone? Wait, let’s not set that undertone.
We act fierce; irony- in the interest of life so farce But isn’t it healing when a friend sees your scars? People are annoying- with those quarrels and bickering But isn’t it cozy when a parent listens to your qualms?
People bring drama- chaos muddled in heaps But why does it hurt when a beloved weeps? We wish we had never known someone But why do we tear up to see them leave for a distant land?
Happy curious excited astonished envious, wrath fear sadness confusion jealousy Emotions too twisted to decipher Not as layered as a person Yet here we attempt to unravel each other.
In times of uncertainty My thoughts being naive- they brim with curiosity Maybe, maybe I feel and might I even understand Still- can someone answer my question in words that are clear Here again I ask- ‘ why is it that we love’?
Not one not two- there stood a queue never-ending Each one splendid with joy Holding a spot for the friend beloved- For a gathering dressed down- a little too rugged Ushering the loved ones gleaming with joy What was the occasion! I could only wonder as a passerby.
Curiosity led me to the front of the line Whilst I heard the intense remarks of a day being gracious Oh to my surprise! It was a celebration Oh to my dismay! An ill served meal was the occasion . Hungry stomachs and tired hearts were being fed But what happens to the day that comes next?
Coins scarcely managed for a day of survival Shall now be kept aside for a daughter’s dowry dragged till the law-approved age Or even better saved for a son’s education Empowering him to work at a humble position in an office barely fancy- An upgrade worth aspiring from the startling slums! With dreams being fuelled- indeed, the meal was scrumptious.
The roses on earth are colored pink, yellow and white Somehow it is always the red that them people crave- Layered and beautiful, tender yet fierce Erotically scarlet- so has he been told The cupid struck the arrow But he understands not Not blind, but colorblind- The rose he sees is not red.
Two people meeting together, At times even ‘some’ becoming one The usuals, straights, queer, extraterrestrial what not- All the glitters, butterflies, drama and hate The cupid knows what did he create But he feels not.
The magic in the air, a spell hard to get rid of Red flags decorated as dainty- A little too in love to ignore A sweet disaster worth the taste, a tempting high worth the chase The cupid sees the forbidden fruit But he desires not.
Flip flip flop flop, flip and a flop- The flip-flops on the floor went on quite a toss Nothing unusual just a pair lying upside down on the floor As I stare at them trying to decode where all have they been Appears a friend rushing, she slaps her own face- A reflex to deviate the quarrel that shall follow I smirk at the peace bearer for missing out on her lessons in science.
The diva in me stood awake one night Before dinner I proceed to paint my nails pretty from pale Cutting them in the right shape- I dare not compromise on the tiny streak of glamour Click! I cut them off- Appears my mother horrified, she banters about the disrespect- A fear masked in the name of disobedience I pity the tradition for not evolving with time.
Are you afraid of them too? I asked my grandmother looking at the cat that just passed by She stood in silence for a while As I noticed the color black Appear her words calling the creature demonic- Waiting to escape the years of bad luck I sympathize with the feline for the misconstructed symbolism.
I share the day’s details with a man of wisdom Seeking logic behind actions Too proud as the one being rational Bragging about the mind boggling progressions Appears the thought I shouldn’t have let out- “I am not superstitious, touchwood”.
Can I call it art- If the thoughts were too muddled Leaving the canvas with blotches of chaos Not draining the colour alone, Not exhausting time alone, But also the artist?
Can I call it art- If the painter was looking for peace, Wondering if her brushes had some skills bequeathed Only to realize that more was required- May be a deeper thought, an assertive reflection A master stroke that might evoke a loud reaction?
Can I call it art- If the existential crisis daunted upon the artist? With all those ifs, whys and buts- A gesture to move on and never return to the exacerbated canvas Alas! That painting- that could not be completed. Will it still be called- A R T- If I am the artist?
Alas! I can’t paint a soiree With Victorian costumes and gestures that speak of grandiose The year being twenty-twenty-one, It’s just four people; and three screens. Living in time zones with different days and nights Measuring distance in kilometers- and also miles Each day they try to stay together Haha- to no surprise failing miserably. But tonight it is special The siblings laugh at their usual banters- For they have learnt to put away the dullness quite adroitly, The mother asks them to come back home just like each day- Not for too long; may be just a visit till new memories are created for her to hold on But tonight it’s the father who imparts new and the unknown He sheds a tear of joy And reveals that he stands tall with pride, acknowledging the two kids who try to now be adults May be, it is the empty glass of whiskey beside the vacant dinner table The two children: unaware, awkward and shy- Gleam for a moment with joy- untill they return to their usual banters and frivolous complaints The year being twenty-twenty-one It’s just four people; and three screens- And a million emotions that timidly scream.
He is handsome, Just a little worn out and tired Each morning; early- even before the sun rises He stands amidst the streets with a wish to finally be admired. He dresses up worthy- Adorned in his rusty tools and rugged clothes Soaked in the ambition to go to a new a home this morning- Hoping to work himself up for the next few days With someone needy of his skills With someone willing to put a price on his advice Or merely a meal or two for his loved ones in return of his patience to accept himself as a fool.
But sadly, it’s an auction- Rather a sale with offers and discounts! Where he competes to showcase his best- The catch- at bare minimum to make the ends meet Tomorrow he might cause ruckus, Day after- a havoc, But it is today that he must act like a gentleman, or a sheep with a worth Else, he might have to go back to his own abode- To empty stomachs and eyes with disappointment.