Prannath Mago|Oil on canvas| National Gallery of Modern Art
A girl of twenty-two – pretty and petite
Merely was she aware how lust and love had forbidden intersections
Yet she wakes up next to a strange man-
Now a woman
Four years older, two years wiser he holds her against his bare chest
She looks him in the eye- a little afraid, a little shy
That is when he caress her hair-
There! There she witnesses the beast glide towards a sight that was forever concealed
She peeps at his hand too scared to hold and graze her fingers at the scars of long lost wounds
That! That is when he surrenders himself beneath her gentleness
She steps back shy and hesitant,
Then! Then he leaps towards her and lets her melt amidst his bewildered kindness.
Strangers tied in bonds of matrimony
Together they learn to unravel the lovers they before had never met.
A few months after with love still afresh
She returns from work to home
Leaving behind the sorrows of daylight
At dusk she waits for her eternal sunshine.
Little did she know torments and tragedies awaited on that doomed day’s sunrise.
And HE DID NOT RETURN-
She couldn’t believe what her eyes saw-
Her lover now shrunk to a silent corpse
The words she heard could never be unheard-
The whispers- they say he’ll never stop by again.
His scent was forever lost
She now had no one who’s touch would melt her soul.
Yet to know the depths of the red in her hair
Yet to adjust the clinky bangles that wouldn’t just go with her outfit
With the awkward pretentious “serene” black and gold across her neck
With a baggage of what haven’t been shared yet
The newly wed widow stood baffled and lost.
Her friends would come; his friends would go
Both their families would say everything will be alright
But all these hopes- based on false pretense
While colour leaves her clothes, her skin stains to pale
Just blotches of red mark her teary eyes and mourning heart
Education drowns in traditions-
They cut her hair- shingled
Calmly, she accepts- not tired to rebel
Just a last gesture for the love she lost
She blames herself quietly for the bad luck she brought
But the people around make it loud and clear.
Though it’s not her fault
She wish to be punished.
She does not want to die
But all of a sudden her ambitions alone are not enough for her to carry on.
Her’s is not a tale of losing feminism
It’s a grieving void that would never be filled
Which is dug deeper with his memories lingering around
The newly wed widow mistakenly looks for him in the not so endearing crowd.
All those people mentioning “TRAVELLER” and “DREAMER” with brimming pride in your tinder and Instagram bio- you need to bring it to hault! If you think that traveling is about climbing the rocks, trekking the Himalayas, diving in the ocean and being lost amidst the desert, then let me introduce you to another lesser acknowledged dimension of traveling – the journey from home to work. If you believe dreaming is being high “allegedly, on life” then your’s are in a desperate need of being shattered. The journey to the workplace may sound monotonous but it is a real kind of adventure minus all the fun. My dad just won’t agree to drop me to work (he even shouldn’t) and I fucking didn’t bother to learn to drive (I should have), so here I am stuck on a daily voyage of 2 hours all by myself but never quite left by myself (introducing the public transportation!). The schedule says- 10 minutes of walking from home to bus stop, 1 hour 15 minutes in bus, 40 minutes in autorickshaw and 15 minutes in another autorickshaw. It doesn’t even sound simple no matter how hard I wait to reveal the adversities, but it also leaves me awestruck at times.
Okay! Talking about the atrocities first- the crowd. It is impossible to board at first and once I manage to hop on I am welcomed by really irritated gaze. The reason behind this kind of acceptance is that the men might need to give away their seat, the women find a fellow competitor to get hold of a place to sit (challenges start early, don’t they?) and the crowd inside gets one more face to bare. Anyhow, ignoring the glare I push through the crowd and manage to find a place to stand. There is no space to breathe. Strangely the fresh air of early morning or the petite dusk is replaced by the stinky armpits. Buy deodorants people! I would not be making my point clear if I don’t mention the continuous gaze at boobs (by both genders) and the occasional boob grabbing (men, majorly) followed by “Oops, sorry madam. Bheed bhot hai!”. In that crowd more men have secretly grabbed my thighs than I ever plan to be with. Astonishingly, I can’t ever find out who these jerks are. I have not adapted to this yet. No woman ever can. It makes me extremely uncomfortable and figedty to an extent that now I jump a little even when someone taps my shoulder and asks me to get a little aside.
Well, it is said that when in darkness look for the stars. I think I’ve found mine! I have made a few friends. These are the people who themselves travel to work around the same time as I do. If I manage to be in time, I get to see them and these are the only faces that smile at me. Their smiles make my day. My first friend is a fifty-ish uncle who lives somewhere around my house but I had no clue. He helps me find a seat everytime he can. He has told me a lot of stories about his daughter and shares life lessons occasionally, especially the things his daughter wouldn’t listen to. Another friend of mine is a woman in her fifties (I guess). She is loud and cranky and mocks everybody on the bus occasionally, except me. I think she loves me. She is lonely. Her only son lives in US and cannot return due to certain circumstances and her husband left her long time ago. She is strong and independent. She whines about people in the bus and the conductor but never had she bickered about her life. She narrates her sad tales to her only audience but with a strange sense of pride. She never hesitates in yelling. Surprisingly, her sarcasm amuses the entire bus, except the frequently targeted conductor and driver. One conductor in particular never says anything at her face but bursts out the moment she steps off. That is when I know she is impactful. She doesn’t need her son to support her. Her persona is her rescue from oldage.
During the initial days of traveling a guy pushed through the crowd for me when he saw how much I was on the verge of panicking. This makes me believe in kindness and look for hope. I asked for the directions so as to reach the destination when I get down and a lot of people were willing to answer my query way better than google maps. That makes me trust people. The next day, a girl who’s face was covered by a dupatta to keep away from the tan asked me if I reached the place the previous day. I couldn’t recognize her at first but then she mentioned that I was reading a novel sitting next to her and had asked for directions. This teaches me to care and also to observe.
I started writing this piece with a grumpy face and in a fuck-this-challenge mode but right now I am ending this with a smile. The journey makes me realize that I am growing up and so are the people around me. I never thought this is from where I’ll be picking up my life lessons!
Inscribed on the skin- narrates the stories of our heroism
And of failures and debt,
Your body- it tells a tale
I wish so could mine
Alas! It speaks silence-
Peeping through the plight of a blank verse.
The scars- they are intriguing
I wish so might be your charm
The ones we inherit
And the ones we create
The ones we dare to embark
We recreate and recreate untill the changed us could reconnect
Indeed, we are the pilgrims of our own scars.
Sometime back I was wondering what my playlist has to say about me. This dilemma finally made its way out of my head when I came across the song ‘Walkashame’ by Meghan Trainor whilst I was biting my nails over an embarrassing incident. It’s a song I used to listen in my late teens after being an imprudent child who now needed to make sure that no matter what her daddy is going to look at her the same way. As I lip synced the lyrics the guilt seemed to descend to a path trodden by none- not even by the darkest memories with a snooze button. This sudden realization accompanied by huge amount of relief urged me to go through my old playlists. Barely a music person but I was shocked to see the variety of artists in the list. As the song ‘Up and up’ by Coldplay started playing my face had a calm smile and singing along with Chris Martin’s voice and visualizing the creative video instilled some hope in me. Exactly the same reaction every single time! The song ‘Anna Sun’ by Walk the moon tempts me to be at that house falling apart and never return. Oh! the teenage love I had for Katy Perry now seems to be a weird phase but worshiping her back then brought a friend and me together. Every time I listen to her songs I end up in nostalgia. The entire album ‘Some Nights’ by Fun had its artistic as well as realistic quirks that made it a mandatory on my playlist back then. ‘Seasons’ by Olly Murs was added when I was caught fidgeting and I needed another chance. I started listening to James Blunt when life was mundane and I longed for the years behind me(can’t make it sound more juvenile). The song ‘Gypsy’ was heard on repeat on a trip when I was learning that everybody is a wanderer on the inside. The song ‘Rude’ by Magic was an influence from people listening to it in college. ‘Comatose’ belongs to the time when I had long talks with an EDM lover friend. His persona suits EDM well but me choosing those songs is probably an old habit of showing care by sharing music. The songs by Lorde are extremely relatable and empowering. Her song ‘Royals’ felt like she just said everything I was thinking about. George Ezra’s young face and mature voice is probably the most melodious irony I am aware of. ‘The Script’ is probably a band that is never going off my playlist. I remember listening to them and wondering how can every line leave such an impact. The recently added album ‘Cleopatra’ by Lumineers is the most beautiful ballad to me so far; may be because I admire the story as well as the protagonist behind those songs. ‘Happier’ by Ed Sheeran acknowledges a silly yet secret desire. The list is endless. I might cringe when I listen to this music yet I fail to delete these songs. May be it is hard to give up on some songs because now they are a part of me or simply a reminder of an event in past. The list will keep on adding new songs but the old ones are now imprinted on me.
Courage. Only a few are able to muster enough of it to put forward their thoughts and desires. RARE- the exact number of people who are brave enough to live their life the way they perceive it. While walking in the streets you’ll come across many aesthetes but none who choose art as a form of reality. Lili Elbe was one such exception. She chose to kill the man he/she was- Einar to be the woman she wanted to be. Probably considered schizophrenic in those days Lili had the fortitude to explore and then stick to her sexual orientation. Oh no! Lili wasn’t gay. She was a ‘she’. Nature made a mistake. Science messed up the chromosomes. Talking of science, it comes with abundant exceptions. We the humans are intersections of science and art, therefore we are supposed to be a little more empathetic and understanding. Sympathy is not needed, empathy is all people wish for.
Einar was a renowned artist who was appreciated worldwide. He had ambitions and success. Lili on the other side had ambitions and a heart along with Einar’s wife Gerda, who loved Einar so much that she let him go and who was liberal enough to support Lili to be the woman of her own dreams. A suspected homosexual, Gerda did not have a career as glorious as that of Einar until she showcased her painting flaunting a woman with the haunting almond shaped eyes as her subject. The woman was Einar dressed in an unusual and unacceptable manner. Strangely, he fell in love with the stockings, the camisole, the corset, the heels and every other bit of it. He further explored what a woman thinks, how she walks, the way she chatters and the way she spreads an aura of elegance. From that point onwards Einar decided to be Lili. The repercussions, both social and medical were hostile. But, Lili had made a choice. Her choice was not ordinary. It had infinite constraints. She was a wreck and her choice was chaotic. Yet! I admire her because we are the choices we make and let it be that way. It’s alright if we want to be whoever or whatever. All we need to do is take a stand of our own and also of people with dwindling trust in their own selves. Just push your boundaries. May be your story won’t be as interesting as Lili’s, but your life is your artwork. Paint it with the colors you choose!