Cotton Candy

Abstract, by Linda Woods

Some days, I feel like the apartment is incredibly suffocating. I stretch and hit a wall; my head slams against the window that is much too old to be opened and I find a tornado within my chest. Some days, the room is an entire ocean and I feel like a bird that cannot swim. I hate Brooklyn, I think. I hate its narrow alleys, the fire escapes, the possibility of the fire. I already smell the smoke. Continue reading “Cotton Candy”

Kinder Joy and Roller Coasters

Yellow Tree by @ariyathe

The boy in this park and the boy at my hostel are both called Bittu. I know because everyone is always screaming the name- the mother at the park and the five adults in the hostel. Two kinds of screaming for the same two syllables. This Bittu is running around in circles while his mother playfully waddles behind him, pretending to fail to reach his bony arms each time she stretches out her arms. Bittu, Bittu, Bittu- she sings in a rhythm as he laughs and runs. He runs and laughs and runs in circles around trees and shrubs and little birds, until he stumbles over his own feet and falls. In a second, his mother swoops him into her arms. His little face freezes into a smile-frown, as he considers crying but realizes he doesn’t need to anymore. Continue reading “Kinder Joy and Roller Coasters”

Ugly and Somewhat Unapologetic

On Being an American Bitch – 3 (Part 1, Part 2)

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I feel ugly in India.

It’s not that I’m entirely lacking in self-esteem. While I’ve never been comfortable stepping out of my house without eyeliner, I never actually craved a mask either. I am only as insecure as the next person. I had never feared mirrors or hated photographs. But I feel ugly in India, in the last few months and the winter before and the summers before that. I hunch more. I avoid more. I don’t even have the motivation to wear eyeliner. I rarely seek reflections along the roads I walk through. Continue reading “Ugly and Somewhat Unapologetic”

Roots and their Contradictions

On Being an American Bitch – 2 (Part 1 here)

“But it is important to know this, to know your roots. To know where you started as a person. If not, your own life seems unreal to you. Like a puzzle… Like you have missed the beginning of a story and now you are in the middle of it, trying to understand.”
– Pari, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Home.

In Papa’s village, people like me. They take both my hands and press it to their cheeks. They want me to eat more, smile less, learn more. They want to see three degrees at the end of my name. They never call me by name. They have called me doctor since my first summer out of high school. In this Kerala I half-know, I bear my name as a crown.

In this landscape I find myself in the middle of, remnants of a feudal structure tower over me, extending its shadow into every aspect of this unfamiliar story. Though the distinctive clothes and vocabularies of a forgone era have given way to more subtle methods of differentiating class and caste – and accordingly, breadth of smiles and politeness required – the inheritors of the legacy are easy to spot.

The city priest smirks as the woman bends over backwards serving him breakfast after mass. He nods me off as I make a joke about my almost-Hindu-sounding name. There is no laughter. The city doctor smirks as she tells me she is a professional. When I tell her that I find her methods of diagnosis offensive, she tells me she has seen hundreds of me. I’m a replaceable part of her structure. In my village, I’m not. Continue reading “Roots and their Contradictions”

First Impressions and their Corrections

On Being an American Bitch – 1


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The good thing about a room with no shelves is that there was no need to unpack– I could simply feel at home, even without my normal rituals of sorting, hanging and color coordinating. Though it was a scarce hour since I had reached the rural health center, I was restless enough to crave a walk. I had just ended an argument before the car had pulled out of my grandparents’ house, the journey required tiring conversations of a forcibly positive tone, and the room smelled like wet, dead rats. I opened all the windows, prayed for some air circulation and left the clinic with no sense of direction. I was perhaps hoping for the sort of self-analysis that long, solo walks in the kind of nature people write poetry about would bring and yet, wasn’t entirely disappointed when my phone rang and a cousin’s name flashed on the screen. We were the same age and for the most part, along similar wavelengths, and unlike the vast majority of my relatives, it never took us forced effort to make conversation – not even in our shyness-suffused childhoods. I talked to her as I walked, taking in all the landmarks I could. Continue reading “First Impressions and their Corrections”

On Impossibilities.

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It’s either LKG or UKG. I can’t tell the two years apart in my barrel of fragmented memories. Ironed-white shirts and muleta-red skirts; the autorickshaw driver lifts us up and gently drives us into the spaces in between the blue seat’s torn edges and the ashy knees that are already in front of them as if we are fluid lego pieces. Brown arms with half a dozen holy threads and the scent of Cuticura layered over that of the sambars and rasams in metal tiffins that dangle from one hand while the other balances water bottles hanging around feeble necks- the driver must be good at tetris. When the auto reaches the school gates, a miss in a cotton sari runs up to our side. Dots of sweat decorate the arm that reaches out to grab me. At Assembly, as we claim all those around us – those we intend to steal chocolate from, copy off of, gossip about, play with and intentionally not play with, unintentionally forget about, learn from and about, grow up with and leave behind – as brothers and sisters, simply by virtue of the label on our application-pending passports, I feel the sweat on my forehead running down the sides of my face. Water and sodium, urea and fear; the little fingers on my non-pledging left hand restlessly pound my thigh. Today, I might have to read it aloud. The fear manifests in tears that, for now, are not marked by mascara streaks. Continue reading “On Impossibilities.”

The Dancer and her Muse.

Watercolour and Acrylic on Posterboard: 2011.

nrttanrttyanaattya.
stomp, step, feel

naattya.
– you lie beautifully. the lamp shines liquid gold on your
skin as smooth as brass-perhaps,
which they rub and rub and rub to clean you, to purify
the soul in your eyes which roll up and down and side
to side as if they see through me and behind me, tracing over my
clavicle, your eyelashes flicker on me, around the edges
of my lips into my flesh. you lie beautifully;
rasas line your face, each wrinkle bordered in bhayanaka-black
a threatening green and krodha-red, widening
your eyes, the purity they created reflects me
instead- eyeliner lashes up and out in
vengeance ready to stab my
heart over and over in return for ruining you. Continue reading “The Dancer and her Muse.”

On Falling Out of Love.

It’s easy to fall in love. It happens quickly, almost unnaturally. That’s why we call it “falling” to begin with, right? It has gravity on its side. One day, you’re not in love and the next day, you are. The world changes abruptly. The same mundane sights you pass day after day suddenly seem to compete for attention. Everything is worth your touch and everything receives it. Continue reading “On Falling Out of Love.”

An Open Letter to the Brotherly “Activists” Who Protect My Uterus

Background to those who’ve been living under a rock: A scholar named Dr. Rejith Kumar, as part of a series of “moral consciousness” lectures, made quite a few patronizing comments against women. Only one girl walked out. The media blew it up. People blew up. There was outrage against this guy, but more so against the media. Below are screenshots of some amazing comments on just one video of his speech. Look around Facebook for more. Or Twitter. Or other videos on Youtube. These activists are everywhere. Hey human beings with uteruses, hold on tight. 

Disclaimer: I’m not witty, and wasn’t trying to be. Any accidental sarcasm is purely a shield for anger. 

Youtube Comments from Just One Video

Dear lovely brothers of mine,
Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Brotherly “Activists” Who Protect My Uterus”

How to Survive Winter.

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Layer up, they say. So wear four of them, at least.

A top with lace that makes you feel pretty and reminds you of summer nights you spent lying on a rough terrace watching the moon move through the stars while an old Malayalam song played from someone’s grainy cellphone speaker. Occasionally, there’d be autorickshaws arriving below with patients for the residents sitting up there with you, and as the duty doctor heads downstairs, you’d think of how different life can be even when it’s lived out of similar sorts of textbooks. Continue reading “How to Survive Winter.”

Instructions on Falling in Love.

ariyathe

Love in secret, quietly, with an overlay of silence over the violin dub.  Hell, don’t even voice the word until it’s dark enough to see your shadow. Even then, whisper it. Cup your fingers over your lips, breathe in deeply and slowly let it go; let it flow into the insides your lungs, allow it to linger in your mouth like minty cigarette smoke on cold winter evenings. Continue reading “Instructions on Falling in Love.”

Canvas: Painted with Acrylic, Dented with a Butter Knife.

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Nothing New.

I will cut my daughter’s hair
dress her in beige and black and brown,
preferably in shirts with denim collars
and large knit sweaters and pants
with triple layers. Continue reading “Canvas: Painted with Acrylic, Dented with a Butter Knife.”

കൊടികള്‍ക്ക് വേണ്ടി.

Flickr by mattlogelin

ഒന്ന്.

ശ്യാമ സുന്ദര കോടി കൊടികളുടെ നാട്.
പച്ചയില്‍ കുതിര്‍ത്ത- ദൈവം, മഞ്ഞയില്‍ കവിഞ്ഞ- പുനിതന്‍, കടും നീലയിലും കാവിയിലും സാരംഗവരകളിലും പണിത- സാമുഹ അവബോധം, ചോരചുവപ്പില്‍ – വിയര്‍പ്പ്, അരിവാള്‍, മറ്റേതോ നാട്ടില്‍ കുഴിച്ചു മൂടിയ ഒരപ്പൂപ്പന്‍ (മാര്‍ക്സ്).
അങ്ങനെ അങ്ങനെ എത്രയെത്ര നിറങ്ങള്‍. Continue reading “കൊടികള്‍ക്ക് വേണ്ടി.”

My Mother’s Story

Found this a random flash drive. I think she wrote this for some kind of project a church friend was doing. 

My Story

I was born in a middle class Orthodox Christian family in Central Travancore. My grandfather, a very religious person, used to pray seven times in a day and he inculcated in us a strong faith in God since childhood. My parents worked hard to raise their four children. I grew up watching the hard work of my father, a gazetted officer for the state government and the diligence with which my mother, a housewife, took care of the household. She took great interest in making sure that we did well in school. Continue reading “My Mother’s Story”

Fenced, Locked and Trapped Outside.

It was supposed to be about going back and trying to understand this city again. But for some reason, everything seemed different and less… colorful. This city has become strange. All of a sudden, it’s full of boundaries and locks, and I am a trespasser in a stranger’s home.

But the thing about colors, I’ve learned, is that they come and go. And for every utterance of never and forever, the punishment comes with another stroke of gray. And as that paintbrush pushes you forward, your back bleeding against the rough canvas, maybe- just maybe- you’ll be the one adding that bit of color.
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Continue reading “Fenced, Locked and Trapped Outside.”

Said Without A Tear.

Eulogy: November 5, 2011
Because power’s in my blood. 

I never ever thought I’d have to be up here, in just my final rung as a teenager- having to be grown up, speaking adult thoughts from an adult head with a child’s heart in tow. But then again, this isn’t something that can be thought about or be prepared for. The sun still rises and sets, leaves continue to fall, the winds get stronger, daylight is saved tonight and the traffic on I-95 is probably just the same, and things.. keep going- in this circle. Nothing stops to let us catch our breath and decide who is what and when is meant to be right and when is meant to be wrong or how things would have been. Continue reading “Said Without A Tear.”