Posted in Poem

Silence Of The Skin

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.

Artworks by Smriti Gautam

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.

Posted in Article, Experience, People, Photography

“Toffee Tureshi” Taufiq Qureshi Mohammad

Taufiq Qureshi. Have you heard about him? Well, I was fortunate enough to meet him in person very recently. No, I don’t talk of the Indian classical musician Taufiq Qureshi. Instead, I am talking about Taufiq Qureshi Mohammad- a ten year old guide. This little boy in pink shirt and green sweater has a lisp and I almost mistook his name for “toffee” but that is worth the sweetness in his story. Taufiq means the ability or opportunity to achieve success and this comes handy with education, knowledge and passion. Knowledge and education are yet to embrace him, but passion is what he beholds.

As I stand with my family in front of the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri he approaches us and asks us if we need a guide. We stood there half astonished, half doubtedly. Astonished about a child his age being confident about showing us around while my nine year old cousin is still being taught the basic manners and he still got nothing! Well, being a resident at Delhi and facing and hearing about crimes such as pick pocketing each day- the doubt part is obvious. Anyhow, the child urges us to take him along and says he would charge whatever we feel like giving him- rupees 10, 50- whatever! Does he really need the money or is it something else? I ask him if he goes to school. He does. He studied in 5th standard during the day and comes at the Buland Darwaza around 3pm everyday after school. He spend weekends there itself. “But why?” I ask him. To which he replies ‘Bas ese he madam ji, mujhe acha lagta hai yaha, muje acha guide banna hai ek din ( no reason mam, I like it here, I want to be a good guide one day)’. His dreams are different from the ones the kids in metro cities babble about. Astronaut, pilot, engineer, doctor, artist, scientist, model, designer or guide- I don’t know which are realistic or unrealistic, which are better which are worse. All I know is that these are innocent and tender dreams influenced by a difference of situations off course.

As we move forward he brings the horse shoes adorned on the massive gate to our notice which were otherwise being ignored by the designer’s mind. ‘These are for good luck, madam ji’ he educates me. The monument itself is magnificent and has a story of its own, but somehow it is Taufiq whose story tickles not just my brain but also my heart. As we move forward we come across a wall pointing at which Taufiq remarks that Anarkali was punished there. It is a plain grey wall in front of the graves that belong to Akbar’s descendants. Taufiq elucidates that Akbar’s family members rest in peace beneath those graves. Listening to this my 9 year old cousin asks, ‘Are they all dead? All of them?’. He goes through this bewilderment at the thought of loss of an entire family. He is too young to know about adversities that life has knocking on its door but he isn’t naive enough to be unaware of emotions and belonging. Anyhow, the guide replies with a sense of wisdom and a bit of indifference in his tone, ‘ Nahi. Abhi kuch zinda hai (No. A few are still alive)’.

Taufiq further leads us to the mosque. He ushers all of us inside but remains outside himself. Doesn’t this little fellow has prayers to offer? Doesn’t he wish for fancy toys? Inside the mosque a man continuously asks people to leave offerings (materialistic) for baba. Religious places- they all are the same! We return our white caps as we step out of the mosque and find my 19 year old brother cherishing the Sufi music being played right in front of the mosque. He chose to stay outside and listen to serenity over the shenanigans of worshipping and all the unwanted squalor religions invite. Meanwhile, Taufiq was joined by his little friend Faisal who was 9 years old. I asked the same question to Faisal that did he go to school and with great pride and confidence he replied, ‘Everyday, madam ji’. The two boys are friends but competitors too. Competition does start early in life! Taufiq tells us that there are 84 doors and 200 minars. As my 19 year old brother asks him what comes next Taufiq fails to count and I am obliged to ponder if the lessons at his school are being taught well? Does Taufiq prefer learning in the open neglecting what books and institutions have to offer him?

Taufiq draws our attention towards a chandelier which looked familiar. He then adds that this is the larger version of the one at the Taj Mahal. At one of the gates with honeycomb my father questions Taufiq about the bees frivolously. He fails to answer. My father remarks how will you become a good guide Taufiq if you won’t be able to answer what people ask you! This rings a bell in his head. He digs deeper, applies logic and unknowingly knows it all.

As we reach the central face Taufiq points at the religious harmony appreciated by Akbar and my father elaborates about Hinduism, Islam and Din-i Ilahi. A professional guide dealing with a group of foreigners stood beside us. Glancing at him Taufiq got on his feet in an envious manner and he took cues from his senior. He taught us to take a selfie that could include all the family members along with the dome at the central face. Now Taufiq sounded a bit different- professional to be specific. The tour to Buland Darwaza ended and Taufiq took us down the flight of steps after we collected our shoes from the shoe counter run by his colleagues. Our next destination was the Jodha Bai’s Palace which was adjacent to the Victory Gate. Impressed by the little guide we asked him to accompany us to the next destination but he refused due to the fear of police. The policemen often harass these children at such monuments. Anyhow, he dropped us till the entrance of the palace. My father tipped him and my brother handed him a pen from the set of embellished pens he had just bought from another child outside. I hope that someday education helps Taufiq and he could focus on his childhood lessons and not just the survival necessasities. Several thousands of children redeem with their mirth everyday in unusual ways in order to let the ends meet. The sight is always heart touching and beautiful, but do they provoke any thoughts in your mind?

Posted in Artwork, Doodles, Poem

WORDS

Words, if they had a name
I’ll call them agony
For every minute of pain they welcomed.
Words, if they had a name
I’ll call them misery
For every tear a poet could shed.
Words if they could scar
I’ll silently let them mark every inch of my skin-
Beneath and beyond- untill the sadist dies a learned death.
Words- I’ll let them pour
Untill and unless the fear is drenched-
And now has a cure.
Words, I’ll let them bruise
Because violet purple red and blue-
They come with avid hues.
Words, if and only if they had a name-
I’ll call them illusion
Because in the end did we really understand?

Posted in Doodles, Experience, Poem

I Like Winters At My Home

The sun rises early
When my dad forges it upon
I wish to dream a bit more; but-
I like winters at my home.
His fear scattered across the rooms
On roof top sits his little garden
He nurtures the creepers and reckons the roses
He says things that:- I know he’s right
But no, I won’t listen.
I stand pompous and proud
I’ll fall and choose to rise on my own
That is when he looks at the creepers
And glances at the thorns
They say I resemble him-
Two egos too big and strong
But no- My father forgives me each noon.
I like winters at my home-
More cozy and less alone.

Posted in Article, Artwork

Man Into Woman Or The Other Way Round

We are the choices we make. Let it be that way.

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!