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.
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”.
Oh no! This isn’t a sight the artists would paint pretty But the one the poets would run away from in search of peace Yet the writers would love to stumble upon the chaos- For the “rush” that inspires an early mid-life crisis or a moral turmoil once in a while. I might speak otherwise, but the city- it has my heart; Born here- you’ll never realise the difference Travel a step or two: within this city you’ll come across abundant hues. The roads here are always rushing The streets crave for pin drop silence- Alas! All they accomplish is pitch dark corners; Harbouring a new crime or conning a judge for an event soon to be deemed “historic”. History here once was a matter of gallantry and pride- Memoirs of war heroes; battles- now merely “narrated scars”, Monuments standing tall and wide; Crossroads named after idols who once had a future bright But how come the present is dusted with a “phenomenon” called smog? Is it a roof over head for those who are “forced” to sleep beneath the stars on the umpteen footpaths? Men and women torturing each other inside homes, keeping themselves vocal But no one to raise a voice against the unjust! Oh yes! Communities for festivities and fancy parties But in times of hardship are we all alone? I might speak otherwise, but does the city have my heart?
Did a few words ever brought you close to someone? Did they make you feel understood enough to communicate your feelings one more time and then another till it finally became a common abode for the both of you? Do you remember mumbling those few words (most of which were mere sounds) only your mother could make sense out of until you gradually learnt to form nonsensical sentences which were a cluster of random words? This was all happening in your mother tongue and slightly in English if you hail from an “educated” Indian family. As you grew up you still were struggling to pronounce your words right and absorbing more of those in your evolving memory so that you could communicate with clarity. With time, experience and adequate nutrition develops mind, physique and personality. This also leads to emotional and perceptive growth in turn enabling you to express your individual self as well as identification within a social group. Does language play an eminent role throughout? Remember entering teenage and creating your own jargon with a bunch of friends while the teacher emphasized on “minding your language”? Also, the schools made an attempt that you developed an extensive vocabulary and got the “English” grammar just right. We were told to speak in English, watch English movies and develop a habit of reading English books while the mother tongue was a havoc and led to “fine” or even deduction of a few marks/ credits here and there. Subconsciously, we were taught that English was a superior language. But what was determining this hierarchy? Who were the people influencing our mindset even with the presence of abundant diversity in the Indian heritage? Being a British colony did hit us hard but after that we had enough time to embrace our own culture! Yet we are awed by the Western lifestyle. The need for globalisation has made it necessary to share information via a mutual medium but that never meant for us to start demeaning our own regional ethnicity.
The early men started communicating using gestures which were accompanied with the sounds they made. It was slowly and gradually that the words were formulated. Scripts and grammar were created much later. Languages continue to evolve even today especially its vernacular attributes. This was happening simultaneously all across the world amidst the primitive civilizations. Now the modern man can easily learn languages that belong to a different country while sitting at home itself. He can improve his skills by talking to the native speakers who volunteer online or wish to exchange knowledge about each other’s language. The media now is easier to access. It is appreciated to be multilingual. It opens up our mind and broadens are learning abilities further. It allows us to empathise with different cultures with regional literature as a powerful tool. But again, hierarchy and popularity of languages is extensively analyzed and understood before taking up a new one. Every time we visit a new place, especially the ethnographic researchers, the natives share more of their lives with us if we speak their tongue. This hints at the sudden sense of belonging that a mutual language generates. Also, have you ever grooved to the tunes of a song that wasn’t in a familiar language but still felt relatable? It shows that language is aided with expressions and emotions that need to be conveyed. A language may not be that easy to decipher and would require linguistic professionals, however it is an extremely powerful tool to share all those beautiful thoughts in our head using the innumerable precious words.
Been stuck in a room; now for a while? The windows are at a stand still, The curtains flutter towards the familiar edges, The walls- they wouldn’t move The fan hums in an absurd harmony while the roof reeks of monotony- Truth be told, the time has come Try and take heed beyond that stubborn door.
Been trapped in a city full of lights; now feels like a lifetime? The road is drenched with noise The flicker of the red light glitters; Yet it doesn’t appease the one in your eyes The sky is dawned with dusk The pace now depraves the lust for the details- Truth be heard, the time has come Try and find peace in a lover’s arms.
Been loved like never before, now for an eternity? The walk- the talk- the fears- the tears- Lived through them all The fun and games have been left behind Curiosity now pays the debt of adapting; The stories aren’t wicked anymore, Just crooked with yet another encore Truth be felt, the time has come Try and stop being a slave to your inner boredom.
You came across these words Glad, probably intrigued Hence, here I assume you have a shelter to retreat I know you can read; I wish you understand.
The world has come to a standstill; even though for a brief timid while- It had been all over the headlines But there’s a mother in a village who knows not why- The world is shutting down While her’s isn’t even around. What went wrong? Why was the voice trembling in those last few calls? A wife cooks that humble delicacy now reduced to two or even one meal She might not understand the written- But deciphers the silent cries in those last few calls. The little children roaming around had been asked to stay home While their mother struggles to get their lessons right They wish their father’s stories were a little more convincing over those last few calls.