Vampire Star

I read about a vampire star last night
And finally learnt that there exists a
term for what you are, for what you did to me

You see, a vampire star is a small tiny star
Seemingly harmless
That sucks the life out of the companion star
Slowly, hollowing the companion out

Growing, getting stronger and younger by the day,
While its companion fades and struggles to cope
With bygone days of shine and strength
Wondering what happened that the tides crashed

The vampire star sucks the energy and matter out of its companion
And the companion just feebly stands, not realizing what it’s losing

Until finally the vampire grows and grows and grows
Enveloping all that the companion was
As the companion finally collapses into stellar remains

You, were my vampire star
You came to me helpless, at the brink
Of life and an explosion
And I took you in, let you take whatever you needed

You see, I believed that I was helping you
Become the best possible version of yourself
So I didn’t mind losing pieces of me to the cosmos
After all, I knew I shined like none other

But you took and took and took
Until there was nothing left inside me
I gave up everything as you hollowed me out,
Took away my light, leaving me to explode into myself

But no more.

As I collapsed into myself
Each particle of my mass waning
Pleading to let go
Pleading to burst into stars,

I remembered.

I remembered how I was the star that shone like none other
How I had ample light within me, enough to feed several vampires like you;
How I had come back from the darkest of black holes,
And how the cosmos wrapped me in itself and taught me to be anew each time

As I burst into a cosmic explosion
Threatening to eclipse all around me
I remembered that I was a mighty star before you
And that I will be a mighty star after

And from my own remains I was reborn

I was reborn to be the brightest star
Burning through all of your remains
Burning through all that you sucked out of me
Razing all of your sins

You may have left me
at the brink of explosion
but watch as I build myself
To be the warmest star in this universe.

x

Dormant

Disastrous

Bury

Passenger

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Incongruity

He said “Life is too short to spend at war with yourself.” 

Oh, but all I am is an eternal war

Air drowning water, water suffocating air.

I am a culmination of this never ending
Conflict within myself

Selflessly caring, caringly selfish.

And in winning this war
I survive with no survivors.

Misplaced

– x – x -x –

 

So normally I don’t write an explanation to my poems/ writings, but I thought this time it’s slightly relevant.
I’m a cusp of Aquarius and Pisces, and while their elemental properties are similar (air and water), their personality characteristics are completely opposing. And as I grow up, I often find a clash between these characteristics, and so, like all other things in my life, I wrote about it.

Inaccessible India

Recently, my mother shifted to a new ministry- the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. My mother often refers to me as a rebel without a cause, but bettering society is a cause, isn’t it? So naturally, I was super excited because well, I thought this was a ministry where my mother can actually make a change, and I can finally understand the work she does etc. But it was slightly disappointing to say the least, when I learnt that such a socially important ministry was, in reality, given very little importance. Most bureaucrats consider it a downfall to be transferred to such a ministry.

Now in such a ministry, one is often invited to the launches of social welfare schemes and campaigns, which are generally invite only events. So I was ecstatic when I got invited for the launch of the Accessible India Campaign. The Accessible India Campaign aims at making India differently-abled friendly, from government institutions to transport to railway stations/airports to government websites etc.

Even though I had seen posters and ads about the campaign around the city, I didn’t know much about it, so I asked my mother about the Campaign, and she handed me a brochure. The cover looked positively attractive, and I absolutely loved the logo for the Campaign, so I eagerly flipped through it.

Now at a Model UN when we submit solutions to be implemented at a conference, 3 minimum basics need to be covered- How are we going to go about implementing it; where do we get the finances and how will we decide who will contribute; where it will happen. These are general outlines so we know the solution is well thought out, and has clarity.

And the nicest way I could describe the proposal in the brochure would be disappointing.(Classical example to learn that one must never judge a book by its cover) I’m only an adolescent, and I could figure out loopholes on literally every page of the brochure. It was as if random numbers had been thought up without a reason. For example, one goal for the campaign says that by July 2019, 50% of all railway stations in India will be converted into accessible stations. Now nowhere was it mentioned on what basis this 50% will be decided, will it be urban or rural railway stations, or even how these will be made disabled friendly.

Since this was just a brochure, I decided not to judge too prematurely, and waited curiously for the actual launch, hoping that I will get answers to some of my questions.

To begin with, during the presentation they basically repeated exactly what was in the brochure- word to word.
Moreover, the launch was one to facilitate and award the most distinguished differently-abled persons in Indian Society. The list of awardees ranged from Academy winning screenplay writers on crutches to 3 year old kids who sang beautifully. And one thing almost all of the awardees had in common was that they had difficulty moving around. Now while the organizers at Vigyan Bhawan had provided one ramp for the awardees to move up to the stage, the ramp was extremely steep and most wheels had excessive difficulty moving up. Moreover, once they received their awards, the awardees had to circle around the auditorium, through a multitude of not so small steps and crowds to reach their original seats. Can you imagine climbing steep steps on crutches or some other kind of support?? Now add to that hundreds of people crowding around the steps. While each awardee had a personal individual escort, even the escort could only do so much.

How does the government plan on implementing the Campaign across the country, if it can’t make the launch site itself accessible??

Moreover, after the launch, I asked a few bureaucrats who had worked on the nitty-gritties of the campaign, the details about the campaign (like those I had mentioned above, about the criteria etc).
Thankfully, they were all blatantly honest. They said that the numbers had literally been decided randomly, they were far fetched and that absolutely no thought had been put into implementation. When I gave an expression of what my mother later described as a mix of shock and confusion, they decided to further clarify.
Their department heads asked them to project some numbers that would look good, so they did. Nobody knew how the government plans on implementing and achieving the listed goals. Literally. And nobody asks too many questions as it might affect their ACR , if they disagree with their boss. (ACR: Annual Confidential Review- at the end of the year, an officers boss[es] writes a review about how the officer works throughout the year, and gives a score out of 10.  8 and above is Outstanding. 6-8 is Very Good. ACR is what is looked at when considering an officer for promotions). After all, they just have to get through about a year or so, before they get transferred. And a bad ACR would negatively affect their future prospects in the office. So any problems relating to the campaign that arise can be handled by the person who succeeds them.

Now I don’t believe for a second that when these officers joined the services, they went in with such an attitude. But don’t you think it speaks a lot about our administration, when honest and hardworking officers are left with no option but to simply not care enough?? If our permanent executive, the backbone of the Indian administration has its hands tied by scores on a paper, is measured by that sheet of paper, then tell me, how is it any different from measuring all kids based on 1 marksheet?? How are we to bring about an actual change in the workings of the country if the people wanting to bring about a change simple cannot?? Where does this country go, when essentially no action can be taken to ameliorate the conditions??

 

Family Across the Border

Every time I told people that I was going to Lahore, Pakistan, I was met by one of two reactions. Either they showed utter shock and disbelief and turned to my mother and went all “how can you let her do this?!” or they called me brave for attempting this journey. (Must be noted here, I was going on a school trip, to visit another school.)

I’d been told to be wary of the people on the other side of the border- how  they’d be apprehensive if they learnt that I’m Indian, how I should not publicize the fact that I’m Indian, how I should watch my back etc etc.

And I believed all that… Until the moment I actually met the people on the other side of the border.

The people on the other side of the border are till date, some of the warmest and fun loving people I’ve ever met. I’ve traveled across the length and breadth of India, but the kind of heartfelt welcome we received in Pakistan, still has no match. The hospitality can only be described in a hindi phrase: “Dil Khush Ho Gaya”. After 5 days of meeting the most amazing people, I couldn’t find it in my heart to want to leave.

And it wasn’t just the hosts of the conference. The average Pakistani seemed nicer than the average Indian. (Also, more good looking, it’s like during the partition all the good looking people decided to migrate to the Pak side-very unfair if you ask me)

But here, I’d like to talk about one particular dost I made: Fiza Shahzad. The first time I met her, it was very formal- she was officially on a panel, judging me after all. But as the conference drew to a close, Fiza and I developed a strong kinship. We talked a lot and bonded over many things, and the only thing going through my mind was how nice (and incredibly smart and gorgeous) she is. And I felt like smacking all those people who’d told me negative things about Pakistan on the head with a danda.
A year has passed since I visited Pakistan. And the tensions between the two nations are still growing. But even after a year and even through all the nuke threats and distrust between the states, Fiza is one of the most loving and supportive people in my life.
A year has passed and even now I message my friends on the other side of the border to Fangirl over SRK’s DDLJ or Kaju barfi or the latest musical numbers doing the rounds.

And to those who say that the two countries are grossly different, here’s an opinion from someone who’s actually been there. The entire time I was in Pakistan, I felt like I was visiting different parts of India. The Badshahi Kinara looked like one of my favorite shopping places in Delhi, Cannought Place. The Badshahi Mosque reminded me of the Jamia Masjid in Agra. The heavenly Food Street reminded me of a Hyderabadi Restaurant I’d visited as a kid. Looking out a bus window during the journeys felt like being on one of the National Highways back home. Except for maybe when I had to buy something, I never once felt like I was in a different country- a country that the media and politicians portray to be evil incarnate at that! Every nook and corner reminded me of home and the people of family. And the best part?? I now have a family on both sides of the border.

So here’s what I have to say to the ‘secular’ politicians and ‘netizens’ who are against peace between India and Pakistan, to the people who harbor such inhibitions and deep rooted mistrust that even the mention of the other nation sends their blood boiling, to the generations who’ve seen a united land and the generations who’ve seen the land torn up in savage wars: Forget the hate. Let go of the mistrust. Open your heart to new friendships and embrace peace, once and for all.

These two lands were once one. And just because there’s now barbed wire and huge gates separating the two, doesn’t mean that the people need to be separated too. It’s been nearly 70 years since the Partition and countless years after the wars that followed. It’s time to bury the hatchet.

I’m an Indian. And (as shocking as this may sound) I have Pakistani friends. I’ve spent 6 days in Pakistan of my own will, and loved every minute of it. I’ve made unforgettable memories and friendships. And I still love my own country too.

Is aman ki aasha ko marne mat do saathiyon! Ab humare hawale hai aman saathiyon!
(Don’t let this wish for peace die friends, this peace is now in our hands friends.)

Broken Nails

Gone are the days when I used to tell you the minutest of details

When you were the closest person to me
Even though you were on the other side of the land

Now I try to send awkward messages to keep in touch
And with every enter I press I watch our friendship wither away.

Because I’m no longer the first person you call to complain about broken nails;
And I’m not sure if you want to know about my broken nails anymore.

Because every time I want to, I feel this wall between us.
Pushing harder and harder against me, suffocating me in all that’s left unsaid.

But you forgot about my claustrophobia, didn’t you?

It’s okay, because even if you’re not there, I’ll always be here, waiting
At the point where broken nails and triple sundaes meet.

You may have left the shore, but I was always too fond of the beach to leave.

Friend

Because Being an Open-Minded Woman Does Not Mean I’m Blindly Following the West.

Let me start by clarifying one thing: Feminism is the fight for equal opportunities for both women and men.
Since time immemorial, the problem with society has been that it has given more privileges and importance to men. This is known as a patriarchal society where men are considered to be more dominant and women inferior. Perhaps the only exception to this would be the Amazonian society, but that disregarded men completely, so let’s not discuss that right now.

Now what outrages me is that when people say feminism is a bad thing and are anti-feminists. I mean do they not understand that feminism is something that will benefit society as a whole?

I have come across articles which are against feminism and feature women holding placards stating why they don’t need feminism, or why they feel feminism is sexist. These placards usually have signs like “I don’t need feminism because I am not oppressed.”
And the only thing going through my mind at that time is what does this first world woman even know about oppression?? Does she know that there are women around the world who are fighting for one chance to get an education? That many women are blatantly denied what she takes for granted, just because they belong to the female gender. What does this woman know about not being able to rise in her firm or earn the same salary as a male co-worker, even though she is working equally as hard as him, because she is a woman? What does this woman sitting in her air conditioned three storied house know about the woman somewhere in the world who has to walk miles to fetch a bucket of water? What does this woman know about that single mother, who never got an education, but is working tooth and nail to ensure that her daughter or son never has to work that hard in life?
Granted, I am judging this woman based on a photo that I saw on the internet, but if she has the resources to sit in front of a computer and upload a photo like that, I’d say she is better off than most of the women I talked about above.

Many say that feminism is bad as it creates a divide in society and fights for a privileged treatment of women.
But here’s the shocker: Feminism is the fight for equal opportunities, for both women and men. It is the fight to bridge the divide in society, which is caused because of society’s patriarchal nature. It’s not asking for better treatment of women, it is only asking that women get the same, equal rights and privileges as men, in all fields.
Yes, there are women out there who are making it on their own, but not all women are equipped enough to make it on their own. For example, a girl child in a village in any south Asian or African country might be expected to work at home rather than go to school, as according to the sexual division of labor the patriarchal society has established, she is supposed to stay at home and take care of the house, and education would ‘do her no good’. Hence, she is not sent to school, and so is not equipped with the basic thing she needs to make it on her own: education.

Feminism aims at bringing education to that little girl, who longs to grow up and change the world (come on cynics, every child wants to change the world at some point or another!).

And that is why India needs feminism. India needs feminism as that little girl, if given the right opportunities, may one day become the Prime Minister, and actually make a change. India needs feminism because I should not be the only one who is told to be safe when I go out of the house, but my brother should be told the same and both of us should be taught to behave ourselves. India needs feminism because people need to understand that just because I am wearing certain kinds of clothes, I am not ‘asking for it’. India needs feminism because the housework my mother or didi does needs to be valued as much as the work my father or didi’s husband does outside the house. India needs feminism because that little baby girl who just got aborted or burned alive for being a girl deserves a chance at life. India needs feminism as people need to understand that the woman who just got appointed as a minister might only be a college graduate or less, but she is certainly more qualified to run the ministry than that man sitting next to her who can’t even talk to save his life and only cares about the money that will go into his Swiss Bank Account. India needs feminism because when my friend wants to pursue fashion designing instead of engineering he should not be called names and poked fun at for choosing a ‘girly’ job. India needs feminism because I am not the devil incarnate for believing that a woman should think for herself. India needs feminism because I should not be taught from an early age to be embarrassed about being loud and tom boyish-that I should be quiet and delicate- unlike my brother who is taught to be loud and aggressive. India needs feminism because people need to understand that I am just as capable of getting the job done as my male counterpart, even if it requires lifting a load. India needs feminism because it can no longer be a patriarchal society: it has to be an equal society.  The world needs feminism because at the end of the day, it did not start with just Adam or just Eve, but with both of them. Because this world needs equality between the two sexes for development and progress.
Yes, there are many men also who are not given opportunities, feminism aims at bringing equality to all. If both girls and boys are not getting an education in a village, then feminism will ensure that both of them get an equal opportunity and chance at education. Think about all the problems that men face, because they aren’t ‘macho’ enough. Feminism aims at eradicating those problems. It aims at blaming the rapist for a rape, and not the victim, regardless of the gender of either. It aims at all humans being able to express emotions and feelings, even themselves, regardless of their gender. It aims for a world where if my son wants to be a nurse and my daughter a WWE fighter, I won’t have to tell them to ignore the jokes: because there would be no jokes. People would accept it as normal and move on!

Feminism is not that I don’t want a guy to carry my grocery bags (if I’m tired, then why not?). But it is the fact that more often than not, I am capable enough, strong enough, to carry them myself.