Saturday, January 19, 2019

Finally, I Have Something to Write About

I had a terrible childhood. I know "terrible" is relative, but at the time I felt like I was the only one in the world going through the sufferings I did. It didn't help that I was in a really small town with really small-minded people who were indifferent to what I went through. 
I had no role model to look up to. The majority of the people I knew were drunkards, drug-addicts, prostitutes and battered wives. Everything felt cut-off from the rest of the world and that we lived in a parallel world filled with chaos, fights and screams. Most girls I knew ended up getting married as early as in our mid-teens. 

I was desperate to grow up. I couldn't bear my mom crying at nights worrying about us. I hate to pretend to sleep knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do to comfort her. All I knew was that, if I were an adult, I could comfort her, I could stop pretending and tell her that even without dad, we would be okay, that I'd take care of her. 

So, it wasn't even an option to tell her how much I was bullied and beaten at school, at church and by other kids. She didn't need to know that nobody wanted to my friend, that I spent all my break time at the school library because that was the only safe place from bullies. 

But I had a dream. One of my favourite past-time was to browse through this one Encyclopedia about different countries, dresses and food. "One day" I'd tell myself, "one day, I'm going to travel to these countries, wear these clothes and eat these food. One day, I'm going to get out of here."
I had nothing to tell/show me that there was even a remote chance of ever realising my dream. Yet, I dared to dream even one step further. 

"I can't be the only kid suffering like this" I'd tell myself everyday, "There are millions of children around the world like me - children I don't know, but children who suffer maybe even more than I do, children who feel as lonely or maybe even lonelier than me. But one day, I will grow up. I will grow up and do something with my life. Something significant. Something worth writing about. Something that will inspire children who come after me to read about, something that tells that I have been where they are, but that I conquer. Someone who comes outside of the well. And that someday, I will become the role model that I could never find as a child."

I ended up getting a double promotion. The day before I was to join my 9th Class after finishing my 7th Class, my mom took me to our neighbour's house. "Helen's been promoted to skip one level again."
Everyone in the room laughed."You're setting up your daughter for failure," they told my mom, "she isn't qualified for such high level at her age."
My mom felt so bad she rejected the offer. But I wanted it. I desperately wanted it. 
"No," she replied, "can't you see that you're just going to fail? You're going to become the laughing stock and so will I. I can't allow that."
I was livid. "Either I sit in 9th Class or I will never step foot in school ever again!" I retorted. 
My mom knew me enough to know that I meant it. "Alright, but remember that I warned you."

My first pre-semester exam, I failed in Maths. My report card, for the first time in my life had a "Simple Pass" written on it. 
When mom came to visit me, I could see defeat in her eyes. "I told you that this is too much for you. You're not qualified for this yet, you stubborn, stubborn child."

At class, I was then relegated from the front seat to the last. They had decided that the whole thing was too complicated for me and people had made a mistake in thinking that I was good enough to be promoted well before my time. Teachers and students alike drifted away from me. 
So, I did the only thing I was good at - learned, studied even harder. 

"I'm not who people think of me. Only I decide who I am. And I am good enough!"

When the 1st semester result came, I came on the 2nd position and missed the 1st position by 4 marks. I knew then that if I wanted it enough, I would and could make it happen. By 3rd semester onwards, I held onto the 1st Position title. 

I was 15 years old when I left my town and went to Delhi alone. My brother needed an immediate surgery and Mom couldn't go with me. "Go next year" she suggested, "You're too young to go alone. Or study your UnderGrad here and then go for your Masters in Delhi." 

But I had already made up my mind. I had to go. With or without anyone. So, I took the address that Mom gave me and went. I had never even seen how a train looked like. I was so naive that I didn't even know that I shouldn't drink the tap water in the city. The first day I landed in Delhi, I went out and drank water from the tap. I immediately fell sick with typhoid. With nobody to help me, I couldn't even move out of the bed. At one point, I passed out in the toilet for hours. Somehow, after a week, I miraculously recovered. There was no cellphone then, so I never really had a chance to even call my family for help.

Without understanding a word of Hindi, I went alone to apply to colleges. For 3 days, I ran around trying to find my way around different campus. I had never seen so many people in my life. On the 3rd day, I found myself stood in a line only to find out that I had stood in the wrong line for Science students. The irate guard scolded me in Hindi, took my papers and threw them in the air. I didn't even know if I should feel humiliated nor sad. I was just too shocked. As I went down to pick up my papers, a stranger came and helped me. As I thanked him for his kindness, he smiled and told me to follow him. I obediently followed him and he took me to the right person. 

The stranger went and said something to the man at the counter. The man motioned and asked me to give him my application papers. 

After he browsed through, he looked up and told me, "I'm sorry. I can't accept your college application. You are not qualified."
I was shocked. Why?!!
"You're below the age criteria. You need to be at least 17, 18 years old to be admitted to a university. You're 15 years old."
"So what do you want to me to do?!!"
He looked at me and sighed, "Go back home. Come back and apply in another 2 years or so. Study something else. You're not qualified. I'm sorry."

I stood there and looked at the man. 
"No Sir," I replied, "I spent my last Rupee coming here. I can't go back home. There is no next year or the next. This is my only chance."
"I'm sorry." He returned my papers and asked me to leave. 

But I couldn't. I won't. Not right now. Not when I was that close. So I stood right next to his counter. I'd made up my mind that I'd stand and follow him everywhere until he accepted my application. After several minutes, the stranger who'd help me earlier came back. 
"What happened?" 
"He didn't want to accept my application. He said I was not qualified and asked me to go home."
"Why?"
"He said that I was too young."
"So what are you doing here?" He looked at me with a strange expression on his face.
"I can't go home Sir. I gave up everything to be here. I'm going to stand in front of him until I am admitted."

The stranger went inside and in a few minutes, the man at the counter called me, "Okay, I will admit you. But remember, you're not doing yourself any favour. You're too young for this."
I completed my Bachelors at 18. Yes, I was young. But he didn't know how much I wanted it, how much I needed it. If I fail, I won't just fail myself - I'd fail every other children who might hear my story. 

So, why am I telling this story right now? 

Because, One - I know that if I want it badly enough, the universe always gives me an angel to help me. So I am not alone in here. 
Two - after more than 15 years - I am told yet again that I am not qualified enough, that I just don't have enough experience, that I am not good enough. They look at my face, my "childish" happy-go-lucky nature and writes me off. For them, I am that unqualified child all over again. They don't know how I've been written off all my life. They don't know how many times I've been told that I'm just not good enough. How many times I've been here - the one doomed to fail, the one who's just too immature, too kiddish, too lost, the one with clouds in her head. 

To the outside world, I've failed. I've been humiliated. I've been shifted to the last row of the seat yet again. Hello, last row. Nice to see you yet again. But you see, no man decides for me who I am, what I am capable of, what I can do. I do.

I am not defined by the image that others have of me. I decide who and what I am. And I am not a failure. I have never been and never will be. 

Do I feel hurt? You bet I am. 
Does it feel unfair? Yes, it does. 

But I am wise enough to accept that this world is unfair and the only thing I can control in this world is my action. So, I control my action. I change. I adapt. I evolve. 

They say that I am unqualified for the job. Good. So now, I go back to doing the one thing I'm good at - redirect and focus all my pain, tears and emotions on work and bettering myself. Everything else is secondary. Everything else is blurred, nothing exists for me, nothing else matters save for pushing myself until I reach my top. And I will get there. Finally, after a lull, I find that match that lights my fire again. I find something that I want to actually write and record about again. 

This isn't about an ego, pride or anger.  This is about me reminding myself of my story and where I come from, where I am, where I'm going and in which direction. This is me telling myself why. Why this is bigger than me. Because, one day, I'm going to tell this success story. I'm going to inspire that little girl/boy sitting alone in the corner, with no friends, from a shitty broken family, in a shitty place, among bad, hurtful people, with zero role model to look upto. That little girl/boy is going to know that there's actually someone like her/him and that someone has been as alone and lonely, has gone through shitty things like her/him but that, unlike all the people she/he sees around, has won. So, I have to do this. I cannot absolutely fail in my story, can I? 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Vampire Love

You make it so easy
To fall in love with you
Make it so natural
To give you all of me
Make it feel so right
To stay in this moment

So why can't this be right?
Why can't we just be?
How long should we hide?
How long should we pretend?
I'm tired of waiting
For you to tell the world

Like creatures hiding
Away from the sun
You force our love to hide
Yet come to me in darkness
If this love is so doomed
Then why are we still here?

Why let this love grow
In the pit of darkness
When all it need is light?
This vampire love of yours
Drains me of all my blood
So here I am dying
In your arms

I beg you to release me
Of this slow death
Yet you compelled me
And I can't even move
But if you love me
Bring me to the sun
Tell the world
Of my existence
Or let me go....




Saturday, December 15, 2018

Look at the Trees

I've read once about a tribe in Africa who has an unique practice. Whenever someone in their tribe commits a crime, the entire tribe will come together, surround the man and one by one, come and tell the man what he's done good in his life, how he has changed life for the better for someone. Each person, from the oldest to the youngest will continue telling him of the positive he has brought to his tribe. They do this so that the man REMEMBERS who he is, that he is more than his one, single wrong mistake, that he is capable of so much more good in his life, that his mistake doesn't define him but that he has and can do so much better.

I can never forget this story for it really resonates with me. Many say that we humans are essentially evil. But we are essentially good too. Its when we forget who we are, what we really are that we lose ourselves to doubts, self-criticism, fear.

So remember.

If you can't remember, then open your eyes. Look. See.

See what is right there in front of you. What has been there all along. Look at the trees.

Look how different each tree is from the other. Yet, you will find that each one of them is beautiful, unique and strong in its own way. And as you look at it closely, you will see how trees teach us about real strength, endurance, patience.

Trees aren’t strong just because of their ability to stand against strong winds. No. Even the strongest tree will be uprooted, broken by harsher winds, storms. They are strong because of their ability to come back even against the harshest environment. It is the very essence of nature to never accept defeat, never give up. It is the very essence of nature to rise. Every. Single.Time.

A tree may lose all its leaves, become bare in the winter, shrivelled to such an extent that anyone won’t find it surprising if it dies. It may turn to nothing more than a mere log, with nothing to look at, nothing of usefulness. But that is not the end of a tree.

Winter may laugh and believe that it has defeated the ever green, strong tree in that moment. It may cover its branches with the coldest snow, bury half of its height, ridiculing the once powerful tree. Throughout that period, nobody will help the shrivelled, silent suffering tree. And if it had died, the world would just shrug its shoulders and continue on its way. But then again, that is not the end of a tree.

You see, a tree is better than that. For she has been raised in the lap of her mother, Nature itself. And, she is her mother’s daughter. The very essence of Mother Nature runs through all her roots, trunk and branches. Even when the harsh winter nights embrace her. Hurt her. Push her to the limit. Even when she is reduced to nothing but an ugly, barren log looking tree. Even when the world has forgotten about her.

Because she is made of tougher substances. When the earth finally tilts and the sun grows in strength again, the haughty winter will find itself slowly stripped off its power. For winter’s biggest ally – darkness is now slowly replaced by day.

Slowly but surely, she will build herself up again. Leaf by Leaf. Bark by Bark. Until she turns herself once more from a bare trunk that nobody cared about to that of a tree that is filled with the birds, animals and people. She will bear flowers and fruits. Her shade will be what every creature sought when summer comes again.

She will become so full of life that everyone won't even comprehend that she is once a bare, looking trunk. She will rebuild herself until all traces of her tormenters is gone. She will become her own epitome of victory, the very image of success.

Now, look at yourself. If a tree could go through all those tough times and make it, why can't you? You've ran too fast, too hard, too much that you've forgotten why you're running in the first place. Where you're running to. You've focused so much on speed, agility that you've forgotten the most important thing that matters to you --remember, what is that single most important factor to you?
What is that thing that makes you smile, makes your heart warm in your chest? What is that thing that you want most in the world?

Running is the process, the method to get you there. But where is that? What is there? Who is waiting for you there? Why are you running?

Pause. Breathe.

Why are you running? Stop. Just for a few minutes, stop. Go and look at the trees.

Remember. Who. You. Are.




  

Let Go

Do you know that an eagle lives up to around 80 years, pretty much the same age as human beings? But there is something really fascinating about them. You see, a young eagle will grow up, hunt and be the king of birds for many years. But, as it approaches its 40th year - it will do something unprecedented in its life.

It will go to the highest mountain it can find, and there it will pluck out all its feathers. Then will gnaw at the harsh rocks until all its claws fell off and beat its beak against the rock until it breaks. It will put itself through this harsh pain, make itself vulnerable and stay in that harsh, cold environment with cold winds/snow for months.

Has that eagle suddenly lose its mind to let itself be that way when everything seems to be going perfectly well in its life?

No.

To the outside world, the eagle is agile, strong and swift. But the eagle knows that its claws aren't as strong as they used to be, its beak isn't as sharp it as it used to be and its wings have grown heavier, duller over the years. It has grown comfortable, it has grown old. It can continue to hunt and live that way, but it will never be the same as it once used to be. So, it has 2 choices - to accept as things are or to change things. Even if it hurts. Even if it bleeds. Even if it starve. Cold. Vulnerable. On the brink of death.

For months, it puts itself through the harshest conditions - bleeding, hungry, vulnerable, afraid, in constant pain. But it doesn't give up. It waits. Waits to be healed, renewed, reborn.

Slowly but surely, the eagle starts growing its feathers again, its claws come back, its beak healing and regrowing - fragile, weak, timid at first. Still so very vulnerable, still so very raw but getting there.

Then one day, the day finally arrives! The eagle's transformation is complete. Up stand an ever stronger eagle, with brand new magnificent wings - oh so lighter, faster, bigger, stronger. And its claws!! Look at its claws --longer, sharper, so ready for actions! And its beak - so strong now that it can easily break hard shells of any kind. One look and its preys run for cover, other birds give way to the return of the king. Its enemies hide and run. For this one has been to hell, go straight through it and come back reborn.

With its life experience and newer artilleries, the eagle then go forward to defeat once and for all and rule until the end of its life.

Strength is not the ability to resist any and all kinds of resistances. But to allow resistances to pull you down at times, hit you hard, make you fall. But to use that very energies to your advantage, to learn to control and make you stronger.

Its okay to get hurt. Cry.

Its okay to be angry. Be vulnerable. Be weak. Hit the bottom. Ignored. Humiliated. Broken. Alone.

A diamond is once just a normal rock. But under pressure, it turns into a diamond.

Not all pains are out to kill you. Not all terrible, hurtful things are meant to really hurt you.

Sometimes, they are there to remind you of who you really are, what you are made of. Sometimes they are there to replace your blunt weapon with a sharper, newer version. Upgrade you by removing your old, no longer useful tool off you.

Like stale tea in a teacup. You gotta throw out the old tea first before you can pour in the new, fresh one. Sometimes you gotta let go. So, let go of that part of you.

Even if it hurts. Remember why you're here. Remember the lesson. Let go.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My Unconventional Friend

I was a real Daddy's Girl. I thought the world of him. I loved his blond curly hairs and how his blue eyes gleamed when he looked at me. He was perfect in every way. I adored him. I was his little tail, followed him everywhere. In fact, he could never take a single photo because I always wanted to be in the same frame with him. Even if my face didn't show, one could still always see my foot or hand in the background. I had to be there - I had to be a part of him. I was the princess and he helped me make my own armies of all the boys in my areas. 

And then, just like that, I lost him. No warnings. No preparation. In the morning, he kissed me goodbye on my forehead as he dropped me to school. By evening, he was gone. Forever. 

My 6 years old heart couldn't understand or process the pain. Suddenly, everyone was sad, everyone was crying. And everyone suddenly kept patting my head. Or kept taking me away to different rooms and outside. 

Have you ever lost someone who meant the world to you? Watched as their body went down the ground, listened to that first splash of mud fell on your heart until they completely buried your whole soul? Ever walked back feeling like a zombie - your body continued to function, everything continued mechanically but you were no longer there - you were buried deep into the ground, your soul rotting where the world had forgotten. 

In one day, I changed overnight. I suddenly grew up. I had to be the strong one. 

My grades excelled. I won all awards. I was the perfect student. The perfect daughter. I was the model student. I became the pride of mom. 

But through it all - nobody saw me. 

Nobody knew what I hid in plain sight. 

I was a gravestone coated in fresh paint. I developed my lifelong obsession with cleanliness. 

But then she saw me - in the most unlikely places. 

She was caught yet again for prostitution and was behind bar. I was a kid visiting my mom at work. I strayed and walked to where they held her. I stood there watching her in her seat. She looked up from her seat and stared at me. I stared back. 

We just watched each other in silence for a long time. Then, without a word, I went closer and held out my hand to her. She didn't move immediately. And then, she gave me her hand and we shook/held(?) hands. 

She was everything the world warned me about. She was an alcoholic and had too many men abusing her for their pleasure. She was in too deep, she could never get out. Every time she tried to get out, she failed. Over and over. Again and Again. 

She got herself beaten so many times she lost her teeth, her nose broken so many times, she had problem breathing. She was so desperate for drinks that she couldn't even be discreet in her trade. She got herself arrested so many times, I lost count. Had her head shaved, shamed, ridiculed. She got men used her in all sorts of ways. 

She always chose the wrong men for her, always going for the bad boys. It was like she had a magnet to pick up the shittiest douchebags in the room who would treat her worse than her last lovers. It was like she was addicted to getting her heart broken. It was like she enjoyed starving herself, changing herself to please the men who never treasured nor respected her. 

And through these all - I was there. I was her witness. As she was mine. 

Through it all, she would tell me the same thing over and over again, "I make these mistakes for the both of us. Watch me carefully. I am never going to get out. I am going to die in here. But you are never to going to get in here. You are going to succeed for the both of us. I am the black. You are the white. I am the failure. You are the success. Go and fulfil your destiny."

In the end, she drank herself to death. She was hospitalised and the doctor warned her that if she had even a drop of alcohol, she would die. She headed straight for the liquor store after the hospital and drank alcohol until she coughed up blood, fell unconscious and died few days later. 

I couldn't save her and it wasn't because of my lack of trying. In the end, she only wanted me to watch her. To witness her life. So, I learn the cause, action and result. 

She was hellbent on killing herself and making sure I never follow suit. She did all the bad things and let me sit on the passenger seat as she drove herself to death. 

Now that I am adult, why did she pick me? Why did I pick her? Why did I gave her my hand, stretch it out to her as she sat in the prison cell? Why did I have to touch her? And why did she have to touch me?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Women!

A friend's call woke me up this early.

Just before I woke up, I had this dream of an evil snake-woman had swallowed up all the men in town and proudly declared that there was just one man left. She thought she had won. Then we all found ourselves at this election campaign filled with men in Delhi. She gave me the funniest look ever - hordes of thousands of men, who'd want to eat all that up? And how?

I couldn't help laughing as I opened my eyes. Poor snake-woman. Evil aside. That's gonna take her a long, long time.

"Hey, morning!" I half-laughed into the phone, "Why so early?"

And then I heard her. Same story. "So, what should I do?" she asked as she did a hundred times before. "Get out. Fast." I replied, as I've always replied. But we both knew that she was never going to listen. It was just going to go over her head as always. She was in love. And that just meant trouble.

As I went into the taxi, I couldn't help but wonder - why are we women so stupid? Why do we fall for someone who we can see from a mile away, is nothing but trouble? This must be the one flaw that God has given us, so we never reach our true potential. We are such a sucker for the wrong kind of love.

Is it the drama? Is it the challenge? Is it the excitement? Why do we always want to do the exact same thing we forbidden to do?

Most of my body scars are caused exactly by that - doing exactly something I was forbidden to do. Be it climbing the cliff I was told not to, standing too close to our gardener while he cut the grasses, throwing stones at the large beehive I was told to avoid, plucking flowers behind the barbed wires although we had the same flowers at home. The forbidden. The untouchables. The out-of-bounds.

Were my actions some sort of rebellion against authority? Was it because I hate taking orders?

And then, there's the matter of hearts. Aah, the mother of stupidity.

We all think that we could control our hearts. Theoretically, we should, right?

But the dang whispers and whining are always just there below the surface. We make up our minds to close our hearts, to not let them get through. And we walk out the door feeling powerful and strong. As if we have locked our hearts away inside a metre thick iron wall.

And then they smile at you, or say something nice or do something as simple as looking at you in the eye. Just like that, all the walls melt away. Back to square one.

We're just so useless. Of all the things in the world, we only want that single thing we shouldn't. The very thing we knew, is just going to create chaos and pain. Yet, we still go for it. It always start with a simple, "I wish he acknowledge me" and then when he does, we want more. "I wish he smiles at me."

And then he smiles. For a few hours or a day, our hearts soar up. We float on air, walking on clouds. Then we come back wanting more. "I wish he talks to me" and then when he does it all, we even want more, "I wish he loves me".

That's the trouble isn't it? Wishing for someone to love you. Love you enough to give up everything for you. Want you enough to risk it all for you.  Wishing for him to want you as much as you do. Because by then, you know in your heart, that you will walk to the ends of the earth for this man. If only he asks you to. If only he gives you half as much.

But he won't. You see, men drew their line sharp right at the beginning of the marathon. They have told you what they would do and won't. And you, you still went ahead because you so desperately wanted him to be a part of you. You settled. You convinced yourself that even if you got a piece of him, you'd be satisfied. It would do.

No, the heart is never satisfied with just a piece. No matter what, if you really, really love someone, you want it all. Every bit of the man. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of him.

But, he won't give you that. Coz he's not as stupid as you are - wearing your entire heart on your sleeves. Is it really his fault? He did warn you, didn't he not? So, why should you cry? Why should your heart break now?

So you want to get out. But by then, you have invested so much of yourself, you don't know who you'll be without him. You've already learnt seeing yourself through his eyes that you feel like you're not good enough. You're afraid to put yourself out there again, risk it once more with a stranger who could be worse than this man you love but only knows how to break your heart.

You're filled with insecurities. Filled with guilt. You don't want to give up because you've fought so hard for this. You don't want that energy to go to waste. What if you could salvage just a bit of it? What if you could rebuild this? You know it in your head that there only leads to one destination. But you refuse to accept. You are afraid to jump out of this train because everything else looks alien to you from the inside. Maybe you could convince the driver. Maybe the track might change ahead.

Women and wishful thinking. We are the masters of it, aren't we?





Sunday, November 25, 2018

Insomnia Thoughts

I keep waking up in the night.

For some strange unknown reason, my body decides to wake me up in this ungodly hour. Hour when even the street dogs no longer care what goes around, curse whatever spirits loom large and shut their eyes and ears. That weird hour when it almost feel like daylight is approaching yet darkness still stay put like a stubborn, drunk party reveller. Where characters from the dream and reality blend in together, fluid like inks of different colours on a white, clean paper.

And, it is in this hour, that you always come to me. So quiet at first that I never notice your arrival. For your arrival is always at the exact same time as when I find myself confused in this half-dream world, filled with thousand voices, sounds, characters and faces, as if I were on a peak-hour train platform in Delhi.

You always observe me first from a distance. Follow me out until I go to a quieter place. Wait until I catch my breath. Let my heartbeat returns to normal at rest. Let me feel comfortable enough to be. And look around me. At this point, you're already at my side. Watching the world with me. Lying beside me as if we've done this together our whole lives. As if you were always a part of me. Even before I knew you.

It is in this hour that I dare look into your eyes. And let you look into mine. I let you face me. Put my hand in front of your face. Run my fingers down from your forehead to your nose, always holding my breath a bit too long as I go down your lips and to your chin. I let my palm feels you before I let it glide through your hairs. Always gentle, always slow. Remembering every curve, every shape. Reliving every single step, every single movement. Over. And Over.

Sometimes I talk to you. Tell you things I wish to say. Of so many stories. Of so many songs. But most times, I just stay in the silence with you. In this hour that nobody knows.

Here, we make our garden. Filled with beautiful things that will never see the light of the day. Hand-in-hand. Laughing at times. Maybe crying occasionally too. But most times, just oblivious to the world turning to end this hour. And bring us back to the world where you and I could never be.

Here, I leave my guard by the gate. And meet you as I wish you to see me. My heart is laid bare and my eyes are only on you. Here, there are no whispers, no gossip-mongers and no rules that bind me with no room to stray.

Here, I can love you like you deserve to be loved. Take care of you like I wish I could. And explore you like a hidden jewel meant only for me. Let you discover me. The sights I keep only for you.