TRANSVESTITE

What lurks behind his eyes?

Seems to me like a woman’s pain –

The burden of carrying lifelong lies

Amid an urge to live again.

His eyes were once so full of life –

He had family, friends, a thousand dreams;

But now, in this time of strife,

Nobody seems to hear his screams.

So what if he’s a transvestite?

Why should it be so disgusting?

They seem so irked by his delight

And turn chiding eyes upon him.

Life’s been unbearable, of late –

They turn away from him in hate.

With an utterly unabashed lack of feeling,

They engage in petty mud-slinging.

No one tries to cool his sighs

Or cares enough to look into his eyes.

A long, lone path awaits him

Powdered with ashes of departed dreams.

 

BETWEEN JOBS

I’ve been meaning for some

Time to tell you this –

That I’m out of a job,

That I’ve been dismissed.

I don’t know why –

I don’t know what I did

To so much piss them off.

Do you think I should cry?

Why, oh, why? The days

Were merely crawling by.

I’d too much to do,

And nothing to heal

My wounded soul;

Felt nothing but pity

For my ill-used skills.

Now, at least, I can read up books,

Look for jobs, crack interviews,

Turn down the steam, learn driving,

Write down stuff or try new looks.

Life has been very boring –

I’m only thirty something;

Maybe I can try something new –

Adventure favours only a select few.

I don’t know what’s going on

Inside your head at all –

You’ve been still as a rag doll.

You’re staring at me, looking foolish,

You don’t look happy, but let me finish.

You think this is hard on you;

But, hey, it’s awkward for me too.

If you can’t bear to stay,

Feel free to walk away.

I can take care of my burden –

Just don’t come back all of a sudden;

And we can move on with our lives,

Even give each other high fives.

If we meet on the street,

Don’t beat a hasty retreat.

This phase isn’t here for ever.

So long, then, dear Hoover.

Fear

People, closed spaces, crowds, helplessness, losing people, losing jobs, loving too much or too little, reptiles, insects and worms – these are some of the things I’m afraid of. I’m around thirty years old, give or take a couple of years, an editor by profession and out-and-out modern in my approach to life. I’m outdoorsy, love shopping, eating out, travelling, cooking, music, books, perfumes, watches, dresses, shoes and so much more. I’m a woman, normal in every respect, who takes life, work and relationships seriously; I’m a woman who cries when hurt and bleeds when cut. I’m a theist, a believer in good and therefore, I also believe in the presence of evil and in ghosts and demons and the rest as manifestations of that evil. I realize, every moment, that I’m human and that I, therefore, have human failings – fear is one of those failings. I face as much of it as the next person and I have my own ways of dealing with it, so that I can keep moving forward, past my fears, fighting them instead of giving in to them and coming to a standstill.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, fear used to rule my every action, every thought even, until I was so deep in my own darkness that I used to contemplate about killing myself and putting an end to the suffering. This lasted until I realized that nobody could help me unless I picked myself up and out of the darkness I was in. I also realized that the more you try to shun fear, to avoid it or deny its existence, the greater is its hold over you. So I learnt to acknowledge my fears to myself and others, in spite of the fact that people have laughed at my fears, loudly and often. I realized that bravery lies, not in being unafraid and therefore, foolish, but in acknowledging fear as being real and in being wary of the object of your fear. Once I realized this, the rest wasn’t easy; but I knew that I could scale this mountain, slowly but steadily. Overcoming fear is like climbing a never-ending staircase – one step at a time, placing one foot in front of the other and climbing upwards. And fear doesn’t hamper my day-to-day life anymore.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that my greatest fear is of people – not reptiles or worms or insects or darkness, ghosts, height and so on, but people. I’ve been bullied, abused, ignored, duped, cheated, ill-treated, threatened – by people. Yet I still go out every day and socialize with people for three reasons – I need to face my fear instead of running away from it; I’ve realized that experience is a better weapon than ignorance, and that not all people are bad – if I’m alive and thriving today, it’s because I’ve been helped by a lot of good people. The scars from the past, however, are a constant reminder that not everybody can be trusted and therefore, I need to be wary at all times and never let my guard down. The most painful experiences have nearly always come from the closest quarters – people who I thought of as family or friends. And these experiences have led to  the realization that fear is closer home than we realize.

It is sometimes hard to get back to normal even after the trigger or object that causes fear is removed. The effect of fear might extend from a couple of hours to a couple of years, maybe even longer depending on how potent the fear is. Fear is often related to past incidents – the past, here, might refer to the recent past or a more distant past. Many of us find that we tend to forget various incidents with time. However, the memories of such incidents, especially the bad, fear-inducing ones are never entirely erased; they are hidden from sight by the gathering dust of time, but they are often awake in our sub-conscious. Therefore, we often find ourselves unreasonable fearful of certain things or even certain people. This is where the saying ‘A burnt child dreads the fire’ inevitably comes to mind.

So, the question is, how does one free oneself of the paralyzing effects of one’s fears and continue with one’s day to day life? I’ve realized from my personal experiences that we can only be truly and completely free of fear when we realize that we are trapped by our fears in a spot from where there is no going back and the only act left is to move forward, face our fears and keep moving past them. The image that can be associated with overcoming our fears would be that of a ship in a gale, the sailors trying their utmost to save the ship from being wrecked because there’s nothing else to do. Life is the ship that we try to steer in the stormy seas of time, and no matter how dark the sky, how high the waves or how strong the gale, all that we can do is to hang on and try to survive. This is fearlessness or bravery, in my opinion – the act of not giving up, no matter what; the act of realizing that if we don’t master our fears, they will master us and destroy us; and that the act of facing our fears and moving forward past them, putting one foot in front of the other and climbing from the darkness into the light is a monumental one. Once we realize these things, the rest is definitely not easy; but, the realization and acknowledgement of our fears is the first step that we need to take in order to conquer our fears and live life as it should be lived; besides, it also shows us the path out of a miserable existence. Some day we might even come to know that our constant battle against fear has helped somebody else face his or her demons. That would certainly be something to look forward to, wouldn’t it?

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A page from THE DIARY OF AN IGNORED WOMAN

 

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Dear Diary,

Today, for the n-th time I’ve felt lonely. Left alone in a wide, wide world while the rest of the world is busy shaping up, decorating and re-decorating their own tiny worlds-within-worlds. Everybody is busy; everybody is uppermost in somebody else’s thoughts; everybody has some significance; everybody but me. This has happened often enough before – when I’ve felt insignificant, hugely underrated, purposefully, mercilessly ignored; but just because something has become a habitual part of one’s life; it doesn’t become bearable or inconsequential, does it? True, I’ve stopped asking, “Why does it always have to me?”; instead, I now ask, “Why are the most sensitive, caring and loving people always left alone during their darkest, most difficult phases of loneliness?” For, let’s face it – everybody needs attention. It’s an elemental need to feel wanted and cared for. Some people – and these people are often the ones that have the most empathy – need it more than others. I, personally, find nothing criminal in somebody’s wanting to be the centre of somebody else’s attention; and who cares whether you call it self-pity or attention seeking or blah-blah, when I feel lonely and ignored? It’s hard enough to be physically distanced from your loved ones; but it becomes unbearable when emotional distance is added to it. Ask me how I feel when I’m at my loneliest? I feel as if the walls are growing larger and coming closer by the moment, intending to crush the life out of my frail frame. I feel as if I’ve entered the darkness of an endless tunnel, and no matter how much I try to find my way out of it and into the light, no matter which direction I take, I just seem to be moving around in the darkness in circles and coming into painful contact with the cold, creepy walls sometimes. I feel like the lone survivor in a post-apocalyptic sordid world, and all I want to do is kill myself, just so I wouldn’t have to keep on breathing alone.

There now, I’ve finally succeeded in putting it into words – the fact that I am afraid of being left alone, that I fear emotional distance more than the physical one. And since you and I are having a heart-to-heart tonight, let me tell you something else. Do you know why I’m extra-nice to people and treat them as if every last one of them deserves my love and attention? It’s because I’m the most selfish creature on the planet. Selfless love? I don’t know what you mean by the term. I love because I’ve a lot of love to give and a greater, never-ending need to receive love in return, so that I can give some more. I love watching romantic comedies because I love happy endings; I share in the joys and tears of those fictional characters and purge myself; and I absolutely do not like tragedies, because they make me feel helplessly and sadly lonely. But here I’ve digressed; as I was saying, I love people, because I harbour a secret hope in my heart that may be, just may be, some day, I won’t have to shed tears in secret and feel lonely and ignored any more; that some day, when I’m crying my heart out, of an evening, and somebody suddenly knocks at my door, I will no longer have to run and wash my face hurriedly and check in the mirror if my eyes look red and puffy, before pulling up a ghastly half-smile that says, “I’m cool and all’s well with the world” and opening the door; that some day, when I feel sad, I won’t have to feel lonely, because I’ll have the rare privilege of having somebody’s arm around me, dear diary.

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REPUBLIC DAY

January twenty-sixteen –

And we’re busy preparing

For another Republic Day.

Tiny tricolors hang,

Jubilant, from glittering

Strings that have been

Stretched taut from pillars

To posts or even the bare

Skeletons of trees that shiver

Along the wintry road.

Festoons flutter madly

In the cut-throat wind.

Amid loud song and music

We’re quite satisfied

To join our voices in

An unanimous roar of

Raucous celebration that

Nearly hides our dismay,

While dirty politics, crime,

Dishonesty and terrorism

Still hold sway.

It’s yet another Republic Day.

 

 

 

THE SHADOW

I am the shadow

That lurks around corners,

Just out of reach,

Just beyond the range

Of your sight.

In broad daylight,

Amidst a busy, faceless crowd

Catch, you might,

A momentary glimpse

Of me flitting,

In and out

Of the crowd

Like a vision in

A spring-flavored dream,

Borne away by the milieu,

Tearfully moving on.

I am your shadow,

The one that fazes you –

Sometimes you scream

And hastily beat

A confounded retreat,

When you fall into my arms

Upon turning a dark corner.

Among the multitudes of

Noisy, well-lit streets

You won’t find me;

But in the darkest hour,

Lightless and silent,

Save for the pale glow

Of my candle and the wax

Dripping into the gloom below,

When all you grab is emptiness

And you are afraid of a fall,

I keep you company.

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HEARTBREAK- 1

I was then but a child, around 8 years old, when I had my first heartbreak. At that tender age, I came to realize, deep within, that I was unusually unlucky, when it came to relationships and love. With time, of course, this absolute absence of good fortune began to show itself in other things, as well. But that is neither here nor there. What I realized, growing up, was that life is a battle, and that I was destined only to fight and fend for myself, with no other weapon, save determination. So I started metamorphosing into a bull, so to say, both inside and out: a bull that gores its way through, trampling all that comes in its way; and like a bull facing a storm, I began to dig my feet into the ground, facing the storms, as they came, with angry eyes, waiting and watching as they tried their best to put me down, once and for all before passing over.

So at the age of eight, I’d had my first of a series of heart-breaks. It must have been love, as deep a love as one stupid kid could have for another; why else would I still feel the pain of losing and have to live for ever in fear? I used to go for drawing classes to a house across the street. One day, it was announced that the classes would thereafter be held in the house of some fellow-student, whom I had never known until then. So, from then on, I started going to the new house, half-afraid and half-diffident, as I was the youngest and newest member there. The elders had their own group and their own pranks, while the younger ones, all except me, had their own share of the fun. As I was the loner, I became the subject of the pranks, played by both the groups, with the result that, more often than not, I would be teary-eyed and red as a carrot and as impatient to get back home, as anybody can be, by the time the teacher came in. The boy of the house, A, used to take an active part in causing me trouble. In fact, he simply loved to annoy and torment me. This continued for a while, and then, one day, I mustered up enough courage to put up a physical fight. I kicked and tore at their hair, and thrashed around, and for a few moments I was a raving fury. I hurt them enough to cause them to complain to the teacher about me. Of course, my parents heard of it, and I received not a few slaps, but all in all, I felt quite proud of myself, and safe, because I was sure that I would never be troubled again. And I was happy about one other thing- A, who was my age as well, started to admire me. His interest in me grew everyday. It was as if I could actually see it happening. So the classes continued, and the admiration in his eyes turned into friendship. That summer, we spent a lot of time together, and if anything, it strengthened our bond. I came to know that he could be really nice once he got to know people and that he had no fear other than that of strangers. He was beautiful as well, and I’m not ashamed to admit that that certainly increased my interest in him. Around that time, my kid brother started going to a preparatory school, which was at a stone’s throw from my friend’s house, and it was my pleasure to drop the little guy off to school every morning and bring him back at ten, a duty which I willingly took up, because my brother meant the world to me. He still does. So then, every morning, when I went to drop my brother off, or when I went to bring him back, I used to gambol around or talk to A, and he used to play with my brother as well and offer him chocolates, so much so that my brother began to adore him. And it was around then, that I realized how beautiful men really are, when they play with children or carry them around. Of course, it was more a realization of the soul, for which I have found the right words only now. This continued, for I know not how long, though I now feel that it didn’t last long enough, not more than some months at any rate. A- was my only friend, my best man, from childhood to the very end of my school-life, long after I had lost him.

When he wasn’t there anymore, the memory of his friendship was still there to guide me through many a rough patch. He went away as suddenly as he had come, for one evening, when I went for my drawing class, I found the house dark and locked up, and a note from the teacher, saying that that day there would be no class, and that from the next week, we would return to our earlier haunt. Soon as I had finished reading the note, my eyes were flooded with tears- I still don’t know why. He might have gone away with his family for a vacation, and one of these days, he would soon be back again- I tried to reason with myself, but still my tears wouldn’t stop, probably because, somewhere deep inside, I realized that my worst fear, of losing him, had come true. I have never, ever, been as afraid in my entire life – never as afraid to lose, as I then was. I came back home in a trance; for the rest of that week, I cried frequently and, apparently, without any reason; and next week when I went to class, I was thoroughly attentive to all that was being said, in the hope of learning something about his whereabouts. But nothing was said about him, and I was more than disappointed: I was afraid. And I couldn’t ask about him, for what would I have said, had anybody asked for a reason for my interest in him? Days passed, and weeks, and then, months, and still nothing was heard of him. I began to lose hope and at the same time started to pray more diligently, for who knows what; but all the while, I felt as if I was dying inside, that I was falling into the darkness of a chasm, from where there was no way out. Daily I felt more and more lost, I stopped playing or even going out, and then I stopped talking, even at home. My parents started getting worried, upon repeated reports from school, regarding the sudden change in my behaviour; and I saw all that, but failed to resurrect myself. Then my results for the class 3 finals came, and I was thrashed to nearly within an inch of my life by dad; but, after he had gone out, amidst all my tears and pain, I blurted out the reason to mom. I think she understood much more than she let on, and she started doing all that was in her power, to help me live again. I still often wonder what might have become of me, if I hadn’t had her.

It took me a long while to return to normal, though I am not really sure that I did, because for years afterwards, during my evening rambles, I used to stop in front of the house and search for any sign of his having returned. And even now, when I am past 30, and no more fit to behave like a young, sighing lover, I still do it. I have watched new people come to live in the house, I have watched them leave and others come and then leave, as well, while I have continued my vigils, but I’ve never thought of giving up, because in my clouded reason, I have somehow felt that, for as long as I continue to visit his place, he’ll be alive and well, maybe even happy, wherever he may be. Perhaps it’s nothing but some sort of superstition, but I can’t take chances – not when it comes to him.

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An Essay On Achievement – II

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Until recently, many people used to see me as an under-achiever. I am a slow-learner when it comes to learning about life and its battles. As a result, I was late in realizing my dreams. In fact, I have only just started. As I realize each dream, I set new standards for myself, because I have finally realized that no matter how high the standards that I set for myself, I will be able to reach them and keep reaching beyond. It is my goal in life to keep moving forward because moving forward means being alive and useful, while staying behind means the death of one’s dreams. Being alive is not an easy task; one has to fight every inch of one’s way to get where one wants to be. I am no different. I have had my fair share of problems, the chief among them being my own naivety. Four years ago, I was a young girl brimming with ideas and dreams but lacking in the resolution to put them into effect. I wanted to do so much and I couldn’t find ways to do so. I had nobody to share my hopes and fears with and nobody to turn to for advice. The lack of mentors and of advice are things that have cost me much valuable time and caused me much trouble. It was only when I started working as a teacher that I started to find ways to help myself while figuring out how to help my students. I started reading more of self-help books and books on meditation and these helped me to be optimistic, to channelize my energy in the right direction and to pursue my dreams with renewed vigour. I also started reaching out to people to give as well as to receive help because I realized that by giving away help, I was, in fact, gaining much more in the form of friends and acquaintances. While I continued to try and figure out ways to work more actively towards the realisation of my goals, I also started to try and improve my talents as a writer and a musician. Music and writing helped me come to terms with myself, my fears, my failures, in addition to helping me to express myself with clarity and honesty. Music and writing has helped me bear disillusionment and to forgive myself for all my wrong decisions. All the challenges that I had to face, I later realized, had been partly my own creation. However, they had also helped me emerge from my comfort-zone as a warrior and eventually, as a winner. Had it not been for the challenges that I had to face and the steps I had to take in order to get out of my comfort-zone, which had, in fact, become a burden that I had to carry around everywhere, I might never have connected with the amazing people who have believed in me and helped me with their insights and advice. Now, I am much more aware of my strengths and weaknesses and making a steady progress in my life. I believe that I have been able to make quite a few people, including my parents, proud.

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ON BULLYING

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Time and again I wish that I’d been an animal – any animal – instead of a human being. Life would not have been such a bad experience then, because I wouldn’t have had to feel so helpless upon hearing of the cruel things that people do to other people. There is so much cruelty in this world and so little love; yet, everywhere, love is the most talked about subject. Should I, then, believe that what we always preach and talk about, what we most dread losing, should not rule our actions? That love is important only with respect to ourselves, not with respect to others? That only the ones who have the means to make the weak suffer, can enjoy love and associated feelings as some kind of a prerogative?

I’ve been a victim of bullying myself, for years; so I know how painful it can be when you are at the receiving end of it. I’d been bullied in school when I was a kid and as a teenager in college. And the greatest lesson I learnt was that there’s no one beside you, no family, no friends who are willing to pluck the thorns out of your body.You are alone in your suffering and unless you fight back, nobody else is going to fight your battles for you. I will always remember with regret that whenever I complained to elders at home or in school, it was always I who got the scoldings and the beatings, accompanied by some ‘sound advice’ on learning to tolerate. I’ve even been called a liar; that I was a jealous attention-seeker who wanted to make her more intelligent and academically-advanced friends suffer. That really hurt me, because back then, I used to care about what people thought of me. During my long fight against being bullied, the one thing I missed most was a support-system. So when I got an opportunity to become a support-system to somebody else who was a victim of bullying, I didn’t let it go waste. I used both my voice and my hands to fight back, for my sake and for the sake of others, and I will always be glad of the fact that, though I bear the scars myself, I’ve been able to shield at least a few other children from being scarred. And I like to think of those scars as the necessary price that I gladly paid to save somebody else’s innocence, maybe even life. The people around me, who know me well, can count on me, because they know that I’m a fighter, if not a winner, and that if ever they are in need of support, I’m always there for them. Because all it needs to prevent bullying, more often than not, is raising your voice in support of the victim, because bullies are, after all, perverts who enjoy torturing lonely souls and fall back when strongly opposed – just like wild animals who are afraid of fire.

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CHASING DREAMS

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She is one of our own, just another face in the crowd. She’s as simple in all her complexity as any of us, for the art of being simple is a complicated one. Most nights, she screams in her sleep until she wakes up, bathed in cold sweat. She lies awake in her bed, planning and re-planning and fearing for the safety of her dreams, until sleep steals across her tired eyes. During the day, she goes around cooking, cleaning, arranging, working, busy as a bee, going through the same mechanical motions, catering to the needs of others, while her heart keeps dwelling on her dreams. For she’s somebody’s mother, sister, wife and daughter and she has to shoulder responsibilities and meet expectations that often require the sacrifice of her dreams. Therefore she has to fight tooth and nail to keep her dreams alive, to keep them from being sacrificed. So while her hands keep working and her feet scurrying to and fro, her eyes sometimes wear a lost look, as if she’s trying hard to catch hold of a thought that’s eluding her.

For chasing dreams is a lonesome, one-way journey over a rough, rocky, windswept path, with deep, dark chasms on either side of it, that are always ready to mete out a slow, painful death to dreamers and dreams alike. Many of her friends have never embarked upon such a journey and never plan to do that, ever. For we, humans, are much more a slave to comfort than we might care to accept. These friends are the ones that try to hold her back, recounting to her, often and again, the frightening tales of the dangers that lurk along the way. They are also the ones that try to persuade her to stay back, flooding her with suggestions of safer, surer, less dangerous options. There are others who give her a gentle push on her way forward, from time to time, because they have had to abandon their journey, often without having started it at all, and it gives them some peace of mind to support someone who’s still trying. Then there are those who are indifferent, like they are to most things.

She knows that, for her, chasing dreams comes at a price, a dearer one than most people would care to pay for anything, least of all for chasing dreams. Therefore, with each passing day, she makes her preparations to leave behind all that is familiar to her, the usual comfort, the old familiar faces, the little nook she has carved out for herself, when she goes off  in search of the unknown, along unfriendly ways. When doubts crowd in to seize the territory that her dreams hold – and this is not an infrequent occurrence – she steels herself with the thought that this is just a necessary precaution, so that she doesn’t end up dangling in mid-air, held back by the shackles of familiarity, when she takes the final plunge.