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Dinner Table

My dinner table is my favorite thing in my house. It’s the place where my parents and I sit down together as a family and talk about all sorts of things. From whether or not Shah Rukh Khan’s baby is cute to whether or not 6 is the most interesting number- we discuss it all. The setting for these conversations is often aligned with our stances on most of these arguments- my mom to my right, my dad to my left, and me in the middle.

With her small temple she’s made for herself behind her, my mom represents all things Hindu and essentially traditional in our house. With his library filled with Marxist literature behind him, my dad represents anything liberal in our house. And then there’s me- right in the middle of all this. I’m always picking a different side every day. When my mom speaks of omnipotent forces like God, I see why she invests her faith there. At the same time, when my dad speaks of the downfalls of religion, I can see his points. Therefore, my ideology and community arise from these two conflicting schools of thought. I’m neither conservative nor liberal; rather I’m, what I like to call, a centrist.

Centrists, to me, is a community of the new-age generation that grows up in an antithetical environment such as mine. Our opinions and actions are generally varied on different subjects. Though we have very firm views, they’re often unique and surprising. For example, even though I identify as agnostic, I make it a point to celebrate every single festival; whether it be Eid, Diwali or Christmas, it’s not about the faith for me- it’s about the festivities. Therefore, this community allows me to have sparse views instead of forcing me to subscribe to either school of thought. It gives me the tools necessary to respect any ideology and thus makes me a rather empathetic person.

I can’t imagine not belonging to this community because it’s not like I chose it; it chose me. After decades of ambivalence and confusion from conversations at my dinner table, it was this community that gave me the assurance and maturity to accept my differences. My place within this community is, therefore, that of consistency because of its inherently changeable nature. I may someday become a full-fledged Hindu with a small Ganesha idol in my bag, or I may even be an atheist teaching my kids about how ‘good religion’ is an oxymoron. Either way, I would still be a centrist because my views on other topics would be different.  

These differences are exemplified at my glorious dinner table that I now know has had such a pivotal role in helping me identify my community. My parents and their constant squabbling have given me the power to pick and choose what I believe in. The food we eat- with its mixed spices and flavors- serves as a symbolism for our family itself. And it is now that I know which community I belong to that I realize I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Morning Routine

It’s like some sort of routine
How you walk out of bed
Half asleep
Look in the mirror
And still find the consciousness
To hate yourself.

How while brushing your teeth
You see the two yellow canines
Biting into your confidence
You see one tooth over another
And curse it
Like a mother trying to resolve a fight
Between her children
But your teeth can never be your children
They’re too imperfect

How you slather on two black lines
Over your eyes
Hoping that the light in them dies
And when they’re slightly
Not aligned
You erase them again
And again
Till you get it right
But you never get it right
Your eyes are way too small

How you step in front of the full mirror
And analyze your stretch marks
The curves in those lines
Offend you
And threaten you
They remind you of the cupcake
You ate last week
The one with five sprinkles
Four of which you didn’t deserve.

How you look further down
At the way your legs stick together
And refuse to come apart
Unless you stretch them
Forcefully
You then stand there
And jump up and down
Hoping that maybe in a minute
They’ll be disjointed
And free
Like a bird learning to fly
After its mother leaves
But you could never fly
Your legs are too damn heavy.

How you try to get dressed
Based on the way your stomach looks
In that top
Or how tall you look
In those pants
So you try on everything in your closet
And spend so much time looking through it
That you subconsciously
Lock yourself in it.

How you finally decide to walk out
After applying some more fairness cream
And some final checks in the mirror
To see whether you’ve hidden
Your true reflection
Well enough.

As you walk out
You imagine the same morning
Without a mirror
How instead of depending on it
For reflecting your flaws
You could be it
To shine light on your beauty
The word beauty now echoes
Through your mind
You laugh a little openly
And continue walking
Unapologetically.

Paper Doll

This world has made me a paper doll
Easy to hold
Easy to look at
Easy to burn.

I’ve been cut out of the same paper
Used to make my 3.5 billion counterparts
We’re all cut in the same shape:
We have our heads
But no one quite knows what’s in them
Then we have our hands
That are bent to this sort of 45 degree angle
That I think makes us look like we’re welcoming someone
Or just waiting to hold someone’s hand
Then we have the ends of our dresses
Followed by our legs
But I think that’s something the world’s gotten wrong
Because God forbid we show our legs
It’s time to be crumpled.

Crumpled by those who cut us up in the first place
Those to whom we’re just pieces of paper
For them to throw their gum in
And play paper toss with later on.
Those to whom we’re begging to be ripped apart
And shredded by their machines made of ego
Those to whom our only purpose is to be scribbled on
By their pens that may not be working.

Some of us, though, are cut a bit unevenly
We have our edges and uneven sides
We’re a cut a bit out of the lines
And sometimes we’re not just plain white
But then how does the world deal with us, right?
We don’t fit into the molds
Or can’t be folded so easily
It’s quite simple, really
They approach us with their candles
With the flame that seems too cold
And we cannot run from them
Our legs would tear apart
The only way we can move is to be whisked away
By the wind’s mercy.

So we stand there
And wait
For the fire to burn through those edges
For the fire to turn white to black
For them to turn us into ash.

Shrinking Circles

We all have circles around us
Circles that are so important
That they pretty much define
Who we are.
The length of the radius
Is our reach
The circumference marks
Our boundary
And the area
Is our shadow
Our shadow that so beautifully traces our outline
And yet encompasses everything within us
And everything about us.

Ask me about my circle and I’ll tell you.
I’ll try to convince you that my radius extends
In every direction
Endlessly.
I’ll tell you that the circumference
Only begins at the horizon
That the more you walk towards it
The farther it’ll appear.
I’ll confess to you that you no longer have to walk that far
Because, now, the boundaries are coming towards me
I will warn you to stay away from them
To run towards me
As fast as you can
Because once the boundaries hit you
You will no longer be in my circle.
I will tell you with a quiver in my voice
That my circle is shrinking.

It is shrinking
Every time I complain
That my grandfather and I have nothing in common
Because he does his sudoku in the newspaper
And I do it on my phone.
It is shrinking
Every time I laugh
When my male friend cracks a rape joke
And then regain myself enough to say
Rape isn’t funny .
It is shrinking
When I start to believe everything
But stop believing in anything.

Now look at your circles
You’ll see that they too
Are shrinking.

They are shrinking
Every time you feel guilty
For eating chicken biryani.
They are shrinking
Every time you paint your daughter’s room pink
Without asking her what she wants.
They are shrinking
Every time your stomach goes funny
When you sit next to a man with a beard.

Our circles are shrinking
Because we are trying to invade other circles
Solely because they are not congruent to ours.
They are shrinking
Because we glorify everything
But don’t have gratitude for anything.
They are shrinking
Because we no longer relate different
To diverse.

As a result our circles
Are becoming smaller and smaller
More distanced from each other.
We’ve all become tangential
Touching each other at only one point
Whether this is all mad symmetry
Or just by design
Is up to you to decide.

So stretch your hands out of your circles,
Prove that you are more than your radius
You will end up with gashes, no doubt
But maybe someday you will find someone
Who reaches out.

If You Ever Come Across a Monster

If you ever come across a monster
Tell him I say Hi
Tell him that I miss him
Tell him that I’m still waiting for him

If you ever come across a monster
Don’t look at him and think
That he’s ugly
Or that he’s unworthy
Or that he doesn’t deserve to exist

For he’s my friend
In fact
He’s more than my friend
He’s a part of me
That I have lost after so much pain
After so much regret
That I do not who I am
Without him

If you ever come across a monster
Don’t push him away
Chain him
And bring him to me
Because I still remember
What it was like
When he was here

It was a series of fights
Of curses and demonic chants
It was screaming
At the top of my lungs
For air
That I was wasting
It was a battle
Against what
I do not know
But it was tiring
And confusing
It was easy

If you ever come across a monster
Ask him how he is
Ask him about his latest adventures
Or conquests
About his new life
His new journey
Ask him about whether he remembers our journey
Whether he remembers all those
Long and exciting days
Filled with instability and conflict
Where everyday was a new challenge

If you ever come across a monster
Tell him how I’m doing
Tell him that I am lonely
That this is more difficult
Than having him here
Every day I wake up to sounds of aliens in my head
I hear these voices of other monsters
Trying to seep in
Tell him that I am protecting myself from them
That I am guarding myself

If you ever come across a monster
Tell him that I’m sorry
Tell him that I would give anything to have him back
Tell him that even though I am half empty
I am willing to fill myself
With all his abuse
Because then I would bleed
And I need that blood
To fill in these holes

If you ever come across a monster
Beg him to come home
To look past our history
And turn his if to a when
Because when he doesn’t return
I will not remain
For this monster
Is me
Alone.

Chopping Onions.

I remember when I was younger
I looked at my mother and asked her
“What do you do?”
She smiled at me with tears in her eyes
And said
“I do what most people overlook and undermine
I nurture, I give and I care.
I am here for you when you come home from school
And I will be here until I feed you and feel you”
Little did I know that those tears were not from chopping onions.

Then, it was different
She gave me motivation for being strong and hardworking and kind
Today, too, she is a motivation
But for what I do not want to be
See, I have dreams
And goals
Ambitions of what I must do in my life
A corner office in some fancy building
Starbucks coffee in one hand and files that seem important in the other
Today, I want to fill my hands
With things to do
And to be.

But, now that I think of it
My mother’s hands were full too
Full of all this purpose and belief
But they were full only to lose
Because they wanted to give
They didn’t want to peck at the last grain of corn
Like that alien bird after a thousand mile flight
Beating for any sign of power
Of ‘empowerment’

But I hate my mother
She was worthless and a coward
She was like a flower during spring
She was always there as one among so many
Beautiful, yes, but weak, nonetheless
Mundane and overdone
Just because she stayed at home.

But now I know that I don’t hate my mother by choice
I hate her because that is what this rat race taught me
That if you want to make a mark for yourself
You must go out
You must exude
All this energy that you can’t muster up
Only to be exhausted
By something you don’t know why you’re doing.

This rat race has taught me
That as a woman, empowerment is that corner office
Or that starbucks coffee
It has taught me that I am equal to man
Only if I make as much as him
That I am empowered
Not by respect or dignity
But by a grey suit and a briefcase.

But now I know
That empowerment is my mother
It is a winter’s flower
Growing among all this snow
Making the best use of everything around it.
Empowerment is having so much in your hands
That you do not know what to do with it
Other than to give
It is being able to speak without fear
To be a candle in the dark
It is to make your own choices.

It is my choice whether I want to sit
In a kitchen
Or a corner office
Or both

It is my choice if I want to give
Or take
Or both

It is my choice if I want to be a spring flower
Or a winter flower
Or both

But it is not your choice
To deny me
My empowerment

And as I say this I know my mother is watching
With tears in her eyes
But this time
I know for sure
It’s not from chopping onions.

 

Don’t Ask an Anxious Mind Why it’s Anxious.

It’s the same old thing every single day
You wake up to screams in your head
Flashes of car crashes and blinking lights
A pulse rate going down
But your heart beat going up
You feel it in your chest
You feel it in your bones
You feel it bursting through your soul
It’s like you’re thinking about things unforeseen
Things that don’t matter, things that don’t make sense
Still you see that body bag: black, grey, red
And you wonder how did you end up here
How did you make this mess

A pool of sweat wakes you up
And you check your phone to see if everything’s okay
How do you trust that piece of metal
When you can’t trust your own subconscious
It’s 3 a.m. now so go back to sleep
Forget about these voices that beg for your help
But you know you can’t do that
You know you’re going to stay up
Worrying, over-thinking, crying
About things that are so trivial, so shallow
But you can’t help it
Don’t ask an anxious mind why it’s anxious

You’re transported to that day so long ago
When someone called you a name
A name that took over your identity
You fought the pain, you laughed it away
Why
Why didn’t you stand up and say you’re better than this
Why didn’t you tell yourself not to move on
To stay put and make a scene
Instead, you’re making a scene now
So you wipe away the tears and go back to sleep

Don’t worry about that other day when you felt so lonely
When all the demons in your head warred against the angels
And won
And you let them win
You rooted for them
Why
Why did you tell yourself that it was okay to be the only one there for you
Why did you find happiness in being alone
To see it as a sign of strength
To be proud of yourself for surviving
Survival, huh
That thing that everyone seems to do so effortlessly
That same thing that everyone does without sleepless nights
And countless self-induced heartbreaks
By holding candles as sources of hope
Not as heat that burns your soul
Melts it
And turns it into a mould of wax
Because that’s what you are
A moulded figure that only fits
Always brimming but never overflowing
Always there but somehow invisible
Like your mind right now
That’s getting so fogged and translucent

You stop thinking because you can’t breathe
You feel your body squeezed by your thoughts
As you try to think about happy things
It doesn’t help
You close your eyes because you know that’s the only escape
The darkness gives you solace
You’re tired now so you shut your mind down
As you ask it “Why me?”
And it slyly replies
Don’t ask an anxious mind why it’s anxious.

Undone

If I could be the ocean,
I don’t think I would be blue.
And if I could be a fragment of soil,
I probably wouldn’t produce.

If the sun didn’t rise
Or the flowers didn’t bloom
I would say “Oh, well”
For now I’ve summoned
A gush of remorse
Which I don’t think can be undone.

I’ve tried to give in
Or rather, give up
But this darkness clings to me.
For now I’ve blown out
A Candle
And my skin burns with wax.

On and on,
Like tides high and low
I feel the rise and fall.
For I can only recount
The illusion behind it all
And it cannot be
Undone.

 

I Weigh You.

She came to me day after day
And showed me her two bare feet
She searched for validation
And blamed me for her flaws.

Her time with me was absurd
As she cried and yelled vehemently
She sucked her stomach and turned her back
All until the next day.

My saying was her cyanideWeigh
She swallowed it outright and veritable
It burnt her vacant frame
But she craved this distinct pain.

To her, it was all a number game
A series of substandard loss and gain
She found the loss enthralling
But the gain highly unworthy.

I could tell she was restricted
She was chained by her own image
She was forced to swallow her imperfection
In this world where zero means infinite.

She was constantly pressurized
To make me point left at all times
Her hunger for my approval
Turned into her very own suicide note.

I don’t see her anymore
I fail to understand what happened
She’s probably afraid of me now
Or her chains tightened even more.

If only she knew that her tears weighed the most.

The Senses of Nature

I feel the kiss of mist
Seeping through my skindownload
Bringing out the believer in me
Knowing not what it did.

I hear the swishing crash of a wave
Alarming every corner of me
Taking me away with it
Knowing not what it did. images

I smell the perfume of a gentle rose
Numbing my heart
Filling me with a sense of ecstasy
Knowing not what it did.

I taste a syrupy toothsome honey
Stinging my tongue
Making me sway with joyimages (1)
Knowing not what it did.

I envy nature
For its transcendent aura
For its unparalleled power
To create and destroy.

I look around me images (2)
And I know for sure
That everything is nature’s gift
That everything is for rapture.