What is it about human hearts…
that make them long for the tender touch of love?
What is it about human minds…
that make them fear the very caress
the heart desires ever so much?
What is it about human hearts…
that make them long for the tender touch of love?
What is it about human minds…
that make them fear the very caress
the heart desires ever so much?
The ephemeral essence of everyday, tinged with the intoxicating vapours
of the elixir of youth.
We breathe life into the ordinary, and dismiss the bizarre…
because each day is a new adventure, and each moment.. a strange journey.
We inhale fire, exhale smoke;
and revel in the psychedelic wilderness we call life.
We are the nervous joy that infidelity brings.
Rebelling against wisdom, our youthful deviance fuels us.
There’s a certain innocence in our arrogance,
and you cannot help but admire the whimsical wings on which we fly.
Children of the moon, brethren of the wild wind.
We exist in the realm between dreams and nightmares,
We reside in the golden haze of inexperience.
Our hearts break easily, but are difficult to mend.
One stitch at a time, we patch up our broken selves…
only to wait, with baited breath, for the next thunderstorm to wreck us.
We live at the edge…
the very precipice of the world, tempting fate to thrust us into the depths of the unknown.
In our struggle to reach the top, we fall..
we break, a million times into a billion pieces…
shreds of our torn sense of idealism, spreading.. slowly… across the earth.
Ruled by chaos,
The pain of the world blurs with the joy of youth, as we, with our baffled minds and bewildered hearts..
pick our way through the maze of life.
Adolescence is transient,
The impudence shall fade,
We will become just what we hate,
as the tedious maturity of old age brings us down from the peak we currently reside upon.
As the troubles of daily life triumph over fleeting joys of the every day.
Still… in the here and now,
we are both the delicacy of blooming beauty
and the rage of a tempestuous storm.
We are the first drops of rain that rejuvenate a parched Earth.
We are the fiery breath of summer.
We are the reckless laughter…
Yet to face the impending doom of ‘Growing Up.’
Yet to lose the hope of the young
Yet to become a disbeliever.
Descending into anarchy,
we are the Youth.
Who are we?
No, this is not a momentary lapse of reason where I succumb to an existential crisis, dragging you down with me. However, I believe this is a fundamental question that determines how we, as individuals, define ourselves. Is it the name we are given at birth that decides who we are and what we will grow up to be, or is it just a means to simplify identification? This name, etched on our birth certificates and probably even on the desks at school, scratched onto the wooden surface with a compass in an effort to channel our quickly evaporating energy in pursuits of a more noble nature than listening to your History teacher drone on. The same name, that, when said aloud multiple times begins to sound foreign and twisted, making you frown as you stare at your reflection in the fogged-up bathroom mirror.
What’s in a name? It can be shortened to some ridiculous nickname, invented by your doting parents. If it’s an unfortunate name to begin with, one can be subjected to extreme torture in educational institutions where big bullies manipulate the lettering and wording to create puns of an abominable nature, to the raucous laughter of their cronies. It can even be completely done away with, with only the small print on some obscure page of the newspaper announcing it to the immediate public. So, is it this “name” by which we truly define who we are as individuals? Does an Ananya get lost in a sea of Ananya’s?
Or is it the community to which we belong, the status accorded to us by birth, the family in which we are born? Is it our economic stature in society or the esteemed opinions of our peers? Is it our religion, or some form of higher spiritual calling that shapes us? Is it the profession we choose, or our beliefs and values? Are we defined by our dreams, or our nightmares? Are the decisions we take in life to follow a path and not the other, the reason? Are we merely what we feel, here, now, in this moment? Joy, sorrow, pain… rage? Can one truly pinpoint a particular emotion at a particular point, or is it not an amalgamation of multitudinous feelings that pull at our heartstrings.
Where do we stand in this journey? Are we defined by what our friends think, or what our enemies believe us to be?
I feel like a jigsaw piece, unable to find my place in the puzzle. There are moments of sheer brilliance, when the mist lifts, and I see my position in the larger game of life. However… there is always that one edge… that ONE side that refuses to blend into the required space. I push and shove, forcing with all my might and hoping against hope that a stroke of sheer dumb luck shall suddenly make this piece a seamless fit, however my efforts are in vain.
I see you, and I wonder who I am. You differ from me, in every way.
You and I, we are not the same.
The colours of you, the shades of me… they clash, and refuse to merge. Yet, this canvas, layers upon layers of paint masking the true masterpiece beneath… this canvas of the world has unified our seemingly diverse existences in an aesthetic balance of hues. We differ, yet, on the canvas we represent the same. We are the mortal representations of HUMANITY.
“How is it even possible?” I can hear myself asking, incredulous. Somewhere Nature smiles, at the ignorance of our trivial minds that are unable to grasp the deeper skein that runs through this fabric; unwilling to see the bigger picture. Or just incapable of fathoming powers beyond our reach and understanding.
Who are we? I guess, some questions are best left unanswered.
Image credit: http://www.losfelizledger.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/HiRes.jpg
The world is full of lies. In fact, it is created through the power of deceit, and stands solid on a base of delusion. Wizened faces, wrinkled with the wear and tear of time, tell you to “follow your dreams.” And so, your naive heart, dares to conjure up visions of the future, intricate in detail, glorious in their appearance. You carefully feed these dreams, like a mother its chicks, standing strong against the forces that attempt to sway you, that try to crush them.
Your rebellious soul, fights, unwavering in its stance. And so, you grow, with mansions, piles of money, a stable of horses, a husband with two kids, a career worthy of your contributions, a society free from all ills… all nestled within the serenading calm of a happy mind. Until, you wake up. You wake up from this deep slumber, only to realise the dreams you had so carefully forged, were just that. They were ‘Dreams.’ And nothing more. Your eyes open, only to be faced with the greatest force that could break your spirit. REALITY. And you wish you could fall asleep, all over again.
I woke up, at the age of 19, to a world crawling with rapists, racists, bigots, hypocrites, all congregating at the pavilion to welcome me home. A world riddled with chauvinism and patriarchy, trembling with terrorism, with a siren call wrenching through the dimensions of space and time. A call heralding the tempestuous storm of global warming.
I dreamt of a world where the melodious hymn of harmony would resonate within our very souls. Instead, I woke up to find myself in the centre of an unruly mob, with fundamentalists running amok, and children being trampled. I saw dogs, cows, horses, chickens, pigs, elephants… anything with a mind considered slightly less evolved than those of human beings, being slaughtered.
I saw death without reason, birth without respect. I saw the dying embers of the once-roaring flames of principles. Of values. I saw mountains of morals blasted open, floods of fire wreaking havoc, assuaged by the raindrops of sorrow.
I now see a world where power reigns supreme, and money defines all. I see children working hard, their calloused hands continue toiling every hour of everyday, only to feed their poverty-stricken families. I see politicians and businessmen taking advantage of the weak, only to reduce them to further destitution.
Our souls, once a beacon of light, now mirror the destruction around us and lie, dormant, stuck within the black tar of our insides.
Still, amid the misery and pain, in the depths of this deep abyss of self-pity and greed, I see HOPE.
It lies, embedded within the minds of a few, rotting in the sepulchral air of this self-created tomb.
I see Idealism, forcing men to keep on moving forward, even though their limbs had given up a long way back.
I see SURVIVAL.
Picture: Ananya Singh
There was a chill in the air, signalling the onset of autumn. The rustle of fallen leaves, stirred by the gusts of wind that blew through the park, a serenading call to its brothers still clinging to the branches, beckoning them to let go. The floor a thick carpet in varying shades of rust and burnt umber, a sharp contrast to the cerulean sky. The world seemed steeped in some thick amber liquid, as the sun’s rays dappled the leaves and set the ground aflame. It was a magnificent sight, and one could see the occasional tourist, a camera slung around their necks, gazing in amazement at a world so foreign to their eyes, attempting to eternalise this glorious display by Nature through their amateur photography.
An unsuspecting traveller, having strayed further from his group than usual, happened upon a haggard, old soul seated on a park bench. His torn, shabby clothes, all colour lost to the thick layer of dust and grime, along with his unkempt, unruly hair were enough to make one’s heart sore with conflicting emotions of disgust and compassion. The sorry sight of the miserable character pulled at this tourist’s heartstrings, whereby in a fit of overwhelming sympathy he decided to part with his half-finished roll, his hunger pangs instead satisfied by the joy of a good deed.
Parshuram grabbed the roll with eager hands. While the tourist expected a smile of gratitude in return for his kindness, he was instead greeted by a scowling visage, already halfway through the leftovers. Parshuram, brushing the crumbs off his tattered clothes, ruminated at the sorrowful condition of the world today. ‘Look at him, walking away with a skip in his step and a smile on his lips. The good deed for the day is done. His heart leapt at the chance as soon as he saw me, I could see it in his eyes. Oh! The pitiful glances they give me, those privileged sons of millionaires, born in luxury and bred with care. They will die surrounded by loved ones, dressed in all their finery. What a waste! What a waste of wealth. Compassion and sympathy are the two greatest lies this world teaches its young. “You must learn to share, and be kind to those who possess less than you.” What utter filth! They traipse about, bestowing gifts and good deeds to make their wretched hearts joyous at the prospect of making another’s day. Well, have they done a hard day’s work in their life? But surely no, born with silver spoons in their mouths and mothers racing behind them, ensuring their precious skin does not get burnt under the harsh rays of the afternoon sun or, god forbid, they cut their knees or scrape their elbows while making a nuisance of themselves…
These are the kinds of people who believe they are the sons of power and a kind word here or a contemptuous smile there will make their hearts brim with the ecstasy of scorning the unfortunate. These are the hearts that soar like birds, reaching the zenith of happiness and pleasure at pawning off a discarded roll on a poor soul like me. That man, intoxicated with the satisfaction his compassion brings him, had surely not parted with the roll for mere sympathy. In all probability, he saw me before he saw a garbage can!’
Parshuram, spiteful of people and the morals they claimed to possess, growled in frustration and anger. ‘Look at that woman, the embodiment of elegance and beauty. That pearl-white dress, the string of emeralds round her pale neck, what a farce! People see a vision of splendour seated opposite a deprived old man like myself and wonder at the paradox that is our society. I.. I instead see the invisible stains of crimson on her dress, the marks symbolising the condescension and contempt she breeds in her heart, masked by a facade of exquisite empathy. She is probably waiting for her wet nurse and child to finish their game of hide-and-seek so they could return to their mansion for a sumptuous meal, their liveried servants silently waiting upon their masters.’
Pritha noticed the old man staring at her, the gnarled fingers of fear clutching her heart as she observed the wrinkled visage glower and grimace from across the park. ‘What does he see? Does he see the pain I carry with me, each and everyday? Would he stare at me if he could perceive the miserable condition I find myself in today? Has he ever felt the throbbing pain of losing a child, that has transformed me into a walking corpse, devoid of all feeling except regret and sorrow? I see no joy, I see no pleasure. How can I, when every tendril in my body can only experience distress? When my veins no longer carry the life-giving blood, but instead flow with misery and pain.
It took a single night for the life I once knew and loved, to come crashing around me, splintering and flinging shards of broken beauty far and wide. I have attempted to harden my heart, make it coarse so as not to feel… not to experience the darkness that threatens to descend upon me. I have tried, tried and failed to pick up the infinite pieces and stitch them together again… but the thread seems unable to hold the flood of tormenting pain that reduces my handiwork to a mess of tears, every single time. The stitches come undone… and I start again. Oh, but how long can I go on like this? How do I learn to be happy again, when the only source of joy has been snatched from me by the demonic hands of fate? “Stand strong against the ill tidings of destiny, all will be well again.” Would her husband have uttered these meaningless words if he had felt the tormenting embrace of Death as she did? The merciless fingers that crushed every drop of the happy elixir from her heart, to the extent that it lay now, a shriveled mass, beating feebly, barely keeping her alive. This world had become her tomb, and she a spectre of her former self. The sepulchral tones of darkness seemed to filter all the beauty and splendour from the Earth, replacing it with an unending deluge of grief.
Oh, how happy they look! That mother and child over there. That could have been me, and my son would have been the center of attention as he played in the sand, making heads turn as the sweet music of his laughter would reach their ears, forcing a smile to caress their worn faces. He would have been a success in life, with love and kisses showered on him by every person he encountered. He would have been the most charming angel, and I… I would have been the happiest mother. That woman has it all, though she might not realise it. How I wish I could be like her… be her.’
Nandita sat on the grass, the early morning dew still glistening like minute crystals, flickering, sparkling as they caught the ocher beams. The air was heavy with the earthy scent of purity- a mixture of sweet roses that flowered nearby, crushed grass and petrichor. She gazed abstractly as her son knelt on the ground, an unwary insect having caught his attention. Her brows knitted together, she smiled as she watched him dance and skip in his fervent chase of invisible butterflies. He tripped, he fell, he brushed himself off and ran after the flitting phantoms in hot pursuit, once again. ‘I wish I could be like him. I wish I could pick myself up and dust myself off and continue travelling the path destined for me to the very end. I was tough once, though the forces of divine power have chipped away at my strength, reducing it to a mere pile of rubble. How do I find myself in the debris and build myself up again?’
Her son ran up to her, the sudden impulses of a three-year old urging him to shower his mother with vigorous affection. Nandita held her son in a tight embrace, a certain irritation bubbling inside her. The once longed for attention from her son had been disturbed by the swirling eddies of a broken heart, so much so that now he wasn’t the apple of her eye, but a mere remnant of the sour relationship with her unfaithful husband. She muttered into the soft, raven-black hair that attempted to suffocate her. “I had such dreams for you. I saw you seated on a throne of power and success. You would have had it all… but your father went and submerged your future under tepid waters of immorality. How am I supposed to provide you, my son, with the education you deserve? How am I supposed to clothe you and feed you on the salary of a saleswoman in a tiny, decrepit shop where no one ever ventures beyond the first shelf of useless goods? How, oh how am I to give you the life you are worthy of with no money and no hope?”
“Why is that woman staring at me… at us? Who does she think she is? Sitting there, I can see the aura of privilege and luxury emanating from her. She refuses to avert her gaze! How insolent these young girls are… believing they own the world. Your father has left us and gone to just such a woman. Oh! that old fool, tricked by the facade of beauty, and forcing his family to walk the plank on his behalf. Here we lie, in the abyss of dissolution, whereas he enjoys worldly pleasures with his new wife.”
Nandita’s thoughts flitted from one instance to another, spinning a web of intricate pain and misery. Suddenly, her roving eyes fell upon a man walking through the park, about to exit the gate into the world beyond. “That’s Mr. Joshi!” she exclaimed. ‘What is he doing here? Surely he does not frequent this park when he can take his private plane for a sojourn into the Swiss alps or the waters of Greece? The eminent businessman, Mr. Joshi, with piles of wealth and reams of influence walking among the common, the downtrodden, the morose? Now there is a man who needs nobody. He can do anything… absolutely anything with a bank balance like his,’ Nandita mused. A sarcastic grin etched on her face, she observed the man featured in newspapers and business magazines, at a stone’s throw from her. ‘He can cater to every whim and fancy, without human emotions of worry and fear troubling the serenity and calm of his conscience. For what does a man like that have to fear? He is a man who looks truly content, in this world of hardships. And why wouldn’t he be, with the power and influence he possesses? His fine-cut expensive suit, his walking stick (crafted from mahogany and polished till it gleamed), his visage of composure that exuded a certain charm, all spoke of a stateliness that is embodied by the rich and powerful. If only I had one-tenth of the green he lines his pockets with, I could ensure my son of a future that would place him among the great minds of our country. If only…’
Mr. Joshi walked on, seemingly content in his oblivion of the venerating, and slightly avaricious eyes that followed his every move. Whispering to himself, one could scarcely see his lips move. “A beautiful day… yes… the most beautiful. The trees stand guard, against what? Who can tell… Their gnarled trunks an ode to the tempestuous winds that threatened to uproot them. No… that would not be possible… the trees shall never fall to a storm, instead they wage a constant battle to establish supremacy. But the leaves… yes the leaves do just that, falling prey to the slightest breeze, abandoning their posts. They turn a shade of pure gold and break off, almost willingly, at the call of the North Wind. Why North? Who knows.
“I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand, shadowless like Silence, listening
A quote by Thomas Hood emerged like a spark of hope from the dusty corners of his mind. He smiled. He would do it. There could be no day more beautiful than this and no joy greater than that of determining your own fate.
Walking out the gate of the park, Mr. Joshi threw the walking stick away. He wouldn’t need it anymore. A blur of an expensive suit and a sad smile, Mr. Joshi threw himself before the wheels of a speeding bus. A loud screech, a dull thud and the scream of a woman.
We all know that one couple who have that immense power to make any situation as awkward as they can for you, all in the flash of a second. Always clinging to each other’s side, refusing to let go; their arms linked because, god forbid they step away from each other and they may be struck down by lightning. These two individuals are the epitome of a messy relationship. They are the ones who believe in “love at first sight” and proudly announce the fact that they have found “the one.” You know them, right? They live next-door to you, and their voices carry over the still night air, refusing to let you catch a wink of goddamn sleep.
I really wonder how their saccharine sweet relationship hasn’t given them diabetes yet. Seemingly joint at the hip, their constant public display of affection embarrasses you to no end, making you flinch every time they whisper sweet nothings in the other’s ear. Well, the sad part to this tale is that I do have such a couple in my life (don’t we all…) However, what’s worse is that I seem to be their third-wheel, awkward and mortified, yet unable to get away. I may sip my drink, avert my gaze, try to smile through the pain of watching them canoodle with each other in public, but I just can’t get up and leave. Why, you ask? The answer to that lies in the fact that this is not your average love story between the hopeless romantics that you call your friends. This… this is the love story between Anxiety and Depression.
Anxiety met Depression on the evening of 28th January, 2016. At least, that is the official version. However, truth be told, their past was rife with accidental meetings and secret courtship. However, it was on this particularly fine Saturday night that they declared their love for each other, openly… right on the main road of one of the busiest streets in the city. Wipe away those tears you sentimental believers of love-and-all-the-happiness-it-brings (eye roll), there’s more to come!
So, the next eight months were.. what we define as the “puppy love” stage. Shy rendezvous blossomed into “true love” and the two soon became inseparable. But, of course, they couldn’t go anywhere without their faithful companion tagging along. You see, they had met each other through a mutual friend (who regrets, till date, allowing such a situation to develop that led to their first meeting). This friend was…. (drum roll)… ME.
I don’t believe any two beings have ever been so grateful for the existence of their friend as they were for me. As a gesture of their gratitude, they believed it would be best if I were to attend their secret trysts, where they would put on a grand show, to prove how well they were suited for each other, all for my benefit. What’s more, they were the parasites that drained me of all happiness, their jealous nature restricting me from liaising with any other acquaintances. Initially, it was awkward to watch these two, oblivious of my presence in their heavenly devotion to each other. Soon, my mortification turned to sheer horror. If an old man had walked up to me and offered to make me the richest woman alive as long as I willingly let these two express their fidelity, the alternative being I must stick pins in my eyes, I would not hesitate to choose the latter. I hope this portrays the depth of my revulsion to these two ignorant individuals.
Getting back to the story, as my disgust began to peak, I tried desperately to convince them to… in layman’s terms, “Get a room!” But how could they deny their most precious friend the opportunity to see just how happy they were together? I tried to walk away. I tried to reason with them, attempting to knock some sense into their love-addled brains, all in vain. Hell, I even tried to disown them! Somehow, though, I could not flee this fearsome couple. Soon, my desperate attempts at escape transformed to dismayed acceptance.
I seemed to be fettered and chained to the corner booth in the dingy bar, with a bottle of whisky by my side, raising a toast for the hopeful dissolution of the relationship that had distressed me greatly. With my glass always full, I would distract my inebriated mind by watching the light dance about the crevices, the sparkling nooks and corners of the cut-glass tumbler, a delightful performance as compared to the one currently on stage. However, even this did not completely free me of my misery as their hazy reflections still caught my eye from time to time, their sickly sweet voices playing in my head like a stuck record.
Gradually, I decided this must end some day. I devised methods and elaborate strategies to break the two up. They parted ways for a short while, a VERY short while. As I heaved a sigh of relief, settling down by the fire with a well-thumbed edition of Wuthering Heights (I thought I deserved a treat, after all) there they were, knocking on my front door. Now you could turn around and tell me that I could have resisted the urge to cease the incessant knocking by completely ignoring my two very good friends and letting them suffer in the cold night air. However, you, in all your pomposity and haughtiness, do not realise one extremely important detail. My two friends were the most conniving, manipulative and shrewd individuals you could ever have the (dis)pleasure to meet. In fact I would term them as EVIL. No door, however strongly built, was enough to discourage the determined attempts of the two. If they wanted to enter and begin their ritualistic act in my presence, well not even the Devil’s-two-tailed-fork-horned-attendant-spirit could stop them.
And so, they entered, seemingly having made up despite my firm steps to prevent the same, and now sit before me, their act even more glorious in order to make up for lost time. There’s no hope anymore, no rays of sunshine glistening in the horizon. They are my shadow. They are me.
The tale ends, therefore, with the third-wheeling, dismal fellow perched on this armchair, uncomfortable in her own home, the forceful scratching of pen on paper a bleak attempt at drowning out the voices of her two best friends.
Your sorrows sing a forgotten tune.
The bottle by your side a liquid lamentation
to the past.
Wreathed in vapours of nostalgia and nicotine,
You fail to see the melody in your mistakes.
The lyrical poetry in your veins
seems to have dulled its throbbing pace
and now signifies its presence
by merely keeping you alive.
You have a life, yes;
But you do not live.
The wildfire that raged
seems to have been reduced
to nothing more
than a pile of
Ash and Dust.
You fail to notice the ray of hope,
that attempts to penetrate the permanent shroud
of melancholia and misery
that surrounds you.
every day regrets,
Your path lies hurdled
by self-made obstructions,
And you, you decide to flee your fears.
But know this: the things you run away from
The Symphony of You.
Picture: Ananya Singh