There are monsters under Amana’s bed. They come alive when night descends upon her world like a dark blanket studded with white pearls, emitting a soft glow. She has not seen them but on some nights she hears long nails scratching the sides of her yellow cot. The scratches always disappear by morning. On other nights, she hears coarse, throaty whispers in a tongue foreign to her.
She does not tell abba or ammi. Even when they come to kiss her chubby, little face and tuck her into bed. Every night.
Even when abba lingers around a little longer to play a game with her before she goes to sleep. Every night.
Their game has only one rule: never tell anyone what happens in the room. Not even ammi. After an hour of relentless playing, Amana is in gut wrenching pain but neither a scream escapes her lips nor a single tear falls down from her eyes. Before leaving the room, abba kisses her gently on the cheek and closes the door leaving her alone with her thoughts, radium stars and spaceships on the ceiling and three drops of blood on the sheets. Coarse whispers and the sound of long nails scratching are not heard tonight (or are they?) as Amana dozes off into a dreamless slumber. Next morning, ammi curses the mosquitoes for the stained sheets and for the disturbance they would have caused her jaan. The day rolls on lazily as Amana worries about monsters and nightly games while reciting the tables; ammi about the dinner menu and abba about the scratch marks on every part of his body excluding his face.
Abba worries of his nightmares from his previous night. Nightmares of coarse, throaty whispers. Long nails scratching his hairy chest. Coarse, throaty whispers that eerily sound like his nine year old daughter’s name. There are monsters under Amana’s bed.
What is the colour of pain?
Some say it is a searing white light
That flashes before your eyes only for a second
Before you are stripped of vision and
Numbness hits your body like a shot of vodka,
Travelling through every cell, fibre and limb
Until you are intoxicated with an amnesia
Of a previous life.
Others say it is pitch black;
The colour of night
That shrouds you and me like a deathly blanket,
Serving as a constant reminder of the pain.
The colour of the space that we withdraw into
To escape this madness.
But I feel differently.
Pain is colourful
Like a rainbow.
For some, pain is yellow;
A happy pill essential for survival.
For others, pain is blue;
Mild and soothing
Yet powerful enough to envelop them for days.
But for a few,
Though made of white light
Pain is a spectrum of different shades and hues;
And, oh so beautiful!
Why are you afraid of the dark?
It is when the creators come alive
To paint the skies in the colour of their soul
And their words in the colours of a rainbow.
It is during the dark,
Tears of unrequited love, broken dreams and lost hope
Melt away into the stars
And they shine the brightest
Maybe, because they listened to our stories.
During the dark,
People are not afraid to be themselves.
The moon does not chastise anyone
For drinking away into the night
Because she knows we intoxicate ourselves
To let go of a loved one.
The constellations do not care
About the many lips you have kissed
Because they have seen your infinite deaths
Before you found love that ignites you.
In the dark,
Conversations are the realest.
Love is the purest
And people are without inhibitions.
I still wonder
Why you are afraid of the dark.
Isn’t it the light
You are supposed to fear?
What lies in the spaces between words?
Yes, in the spaces.
Maybe, this tiny space
Contains emotions so overwhelming
That puts a writer to shame
For failing to conceive them into words.
How does something so vast
Fit into such a small entity?
They choke, stutter and gasp
And sever parts of themselves
To squeeze in.
Some of them survive,
While others ebb away slowly
And their remains are buried
Between the words.
How do I know this?
Oh, it’s no big secret!
Just like those emotions,
Sometimes people, who are pure but for a few blemishes
And cannot be defined by you and me or anybody,
Suffocate as the walls close in
And are found buried in the least cared for spaces;
And sometimes dead.
I let a wave of unsolicited emotions
Wash over me
And I cry alone.
You do not hear my violent sobs,
That usually leaves me gasping for air
Like a dying fish.
This time, it is a single teardrop
Trickling down from my swollen eyes
Onto my cheeks and pillows
As I lay down listening to Sylvia Plath read ‘Lady Lazarus’.
Would this silent torment
Come to an end
If my wrists bled
As much as my eyes cried?
Would I be fine
If I hugged you one last time?
Or should I let a rope hug my neck instead?
Would you have cared
If I enjoyed poison
The same way I enjoy my drink
– slowly and relishing every drop?
Putting my morbid thoughts aside,
I try to drift off to sleep.
Even a dreamless slumber would do.
Maybe Plath was right!
Dying is an art,
And I might have a calling.
I sit with my pen and paper,
Conscious not to spill any tears
And blot the words
That find themselves on paper
After much struggle.
Write, they said.
It would be cathartic, they said.
Then why does it feel as if
A thousand knives
Are being plunged into my heart?
It bleeds and I writhe in pain
But I do not stop
Because my pen does not
Run in blue or black ink
But in red;
The colour of blood,
Once I am done
Emptying myself on paper,
They read what I have written
And are full of praises.
But I do not hear them
Just like how they choose not to see
That what they had merely skimmed through,
Is a part of my soul
Slowly ebbing into oblivion.
Those very words that left them in ‘raptures’
Are fragments of a dying mortal.
If a part of me dies
Every time I write,
Why do I not put my pen down?
Because every time
I do not let these words
Rip my body and make their way out,
I die a greater death
Too many cadavers inside.
While a part of me dies,
Another part of me comes alive;
A part I never knew existed.
They think I am intoxicated
To make such mad claims.
Yes, they are right!
My intoxication is not opium or vodka
But the paradox
Of living a little and dying a little at the same time.
You are weary of nursing
All the wounds on your back
From the incessant stabbing
And your own thoughts, sometimes
Renders you sleepless.
But do not give in, my girl
For you are made of sterner stuff
Like the ravaging seas;
Deep enough to swallow cities
And it’s petty mortals.
You are like the volcanoes;
That can burn not just flesh
But souls too.
You have the power to wreak havoc
But are wise to remain quiet.
The world will tie you down
With chains of self-doubt, insecurity
And most importantly, love.
Break them, darling!
They may tear your skin,
Break your bones
But your soul cannot be touched.
Because these creatures
Do not care to see
Beyond your swollen eyes
That has spilt many a tear
For the undeserving
And your cracked lips
That has not curved into a smile
For a long time now.
And the love these beings
So abundantly shower on you
Is a mere embellishment
To hide their decaying souls
Diseased with selfishness and vanity.
Do not be fooled, love!
You will find yourself
Locked up in a tower
And guarded by ferocious demons.
Do not wait for Prince Charming
To come to your rescue
Or the King
Who locked you up
To keep you safe not sane;
To free you.
Wield your own sword, my girl
And defeat the demons,
Not just the ones outside the tower
But those in your mind, too.
So when you are tired
But unable to sleep,
Do not listen to a lullaby
About mothers rocking their babies
To deep slumber,
For you are not a regular girl.
You are a warrior
Fighting battles for survival
That nobody knows about.
In the quiet of the night
Listen to your own heartbeat
And you will hear a song,
A fight song.
Your fight song.
What is your notion of a beautiful woman? Take a second, close your eyes and visualise a woman that you would consider beautiful. Okay, open your eyes now. Did you see a thin, tall, fair complexioned woman with long, wavy hair in a short black dress that accentuated her curves? Or did you imagine her in a sari because you like your women with short clothes only on screens and not in real life? Whatever the image that popped into your mind, don’t you think it is unfair to women to make them conform to rigid standards? Why is it so difficult for everybody to accept the fact that women come in different complexions, shapes and sizes? This inability to accept ourselves the way we are gave rise to an entire industry: the beauty industry.
Sorry to break it to all makeup lovers but the entire cosmetics industry is a scam. Take any of your favourite cosmetic products for instance. Do you think you can survive without that product? I mean, how hard can life be without mascara or lipstick? But it seems like the end of the world to some people. The cosmetics industry changes our ‘wants’ (something you desire) into our ‘needs’ (something that is absolutely required for survival). This industry makes us feel insecure about acne, dark skin, wrinkles, etc and manipulates us cleverly into buying their products. The advertisements show ‘models’ who have a few spots of acne being dull and not confident, but once they use their fairness cream they feel ready to take on the world. Why would a few spots on my face make me feel less worthy and become obstacles to achieving my goals? If you are making ads to sell your products, at least make them believable!
The industry alone is not at blame. I never was a big fan of makeup because I believed that my looks would not matter over my education, talent or my individual self. Nobody forced me to wear makeup, directly at least. But I could hear stray voices suggesting how I would be prettier if I applied some foundation and compact powder or how my eyes would pop out if I wore some eyeliner and mascara and got my eyebrows done. I took those voices to my head and started believing that I was not perfect until I looked like the women in magazines and advertisements. To be honest, I am still having troubles accepting some of my quirks thanks to ‘stray aunts’ (no offence, I am just quoting my favourite professor!) who could not stop commenting on my hair, skin, nails and what not! After starting college, most of our mothers start showing more concern in our appearances and start providing us with homemade face packs and scrubs to make our skin ‘light’ and ‘blemish free’. That is step one in preparing us for the shark tank (read, marriage) because prospective grooms and mother-in-laws want ‘fair and lovely’ brides not smart, well-educated women who can earn for themselves.
I know how makeup serves as a security blanket for some women and if that makes you more confident, put on that gloss and mascara, girl! But there are some of us who can manage pretty well without applying layers on our face. Honestly, makeup is the last thing on our minds because we have other things to worry about. Since you are able to read my blog, I assume that you are smart and well educated. Do you think you can let people dictate how you feel when they comment on your looks? Do you think you need people to tell you that you are beautiful? Shouldn’t you know that yourself? Yes, you. You are beautiful and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Spread the positive vibes and call somebody beautiful today because a compliment can save a life and is there anything more beautiful than that?
I have been trying to answer that question for almost half a decade and finally found some answers which make sense, at least to me. Am I the only girl here who is not obsessed with gold and wishes that her family would rather spend money on other investments? I absolutely do not understand why a girl’s family would rather save up and buy gold rather than giving her things that she really wants like good education, a DSLR camera or permission for a road trip to Goa with her gang. Here are some reasons that I thought that might make you rethink before you decide to adorn your daughter with gold whether she likes it or not.
‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friends’ is a popular saying. Well whoever framed that saying sadly did not have many friends. Do you think a girl or a lady would choose shiny metal and sparkling stones over her fierce tribe of friends who have got her back at all times? Let alone friends, I would not even trade my least favourite book for a gold necklace or any piece of jewellery! Bibliophiles would agree with me when I say that the best investment a person can make is in books because they are a powerhouse of knowledge and help escaping the monotony of this world. Yes, gold has monetary value but reading can take you to places that gold and diamonds and silver and platinum cannot.
I read an article online which said that Indian home makers owned more gold than the Swiss Bank and that is not something to be very proud of. India imports a lot of gold from foreign countries due to its high domestic demand and this causes a negative trade balance, leaving our country in debt. I have seen my mom saving up money and buying gold with it despite knowing that I am not a big fan. When I ask her why, she says that it is an investment and secures my future. Well, your investment just adds on to the debt of the country so why not invest in shares, debentures or other financial instruments so that capital flows into the market and boosts economic development thereby creating jobs and increasing the standard of living of the people? Funny that I still remember twelfth grade Economics lessons!
One of the most common reasons why people buy gold is for their daughters’ wedding. Again, people like me do not prefer wearing gold or any jewellery, for that matter so why spend money on what I am not going to use? My parents look at the gold saved up for my wedding as a ‘security’ for my future because my jewellery is going to be my knight in shining armour if my marriage comes crashing down. (That is a hypothetical statement so believers of ‘traditional marriages’ and marriage counsellors can calm down!) There is a common belief among Indian parents that the amount of gold given to their daughters is directly proportional to the respect they receive at their in-laws’ place. Can we just take a moment to realise how nonsensical that is? Why would my education, job and my individual self matter lesser than the only metal that has not been used in any scientific experiment so far? Parents of daughters work really hard and sacrifice the simplest things in life just so that their can daughter can look like the brand ambassador of GRT Jewellers on her wedding day. Is it really worth it? I do not think so.
I have nothing against buying gold and wearing them. This is just my opinion and we can all agree to disagree. I personally find wearing jewellery the most troublesome thing on earth because I simply do not like it and so do many other women. I feel like it restricts me from complete freedom (literally and figuratively). If you like gold and want to save up to buy it, nobody is stopping you from doing so. But never force anyone to wear gold or any jewellery just because ‘girls are not supposed to be seen with empty hands, neck or fingers’. All I am against is hoarding up of gold and treating it as the ultimate treasure that will possibly save lives. There are other things to life apart from this shiny, polished metal found in cold, grimy and dark mines.