Aren’t Ordure and Odour the Same?

They cover their noses as I walk by
As if my very stench is polluting
One whiff and they bring out the gangajal
But do I not smell exactly like them?

They complain about my impurity
Yet ,they don’t let me even touch the tap
Tell me, how then am I
Supposed to become pure like them?

My child is not allowed to sit on the desk
They say she’ll contaminate the others
How is she supposed to learn
Through closed blinds and latched doors?

Or are her textbooks
The broom and dirt underneath
Their feet? Teaching her that
Her worth is all that she can clean?

I can’t use the same teacup as them
The cracked mould is all that I have
Broken like my unbending spine
Are my coins worth less than theirs?

My shadow, oh what tales they spin.
Its crimes are worth too many
A broom hence is tied to my back
To pay for the sins that my body lacks.

They say I am impure
My very existence a blight on their souls
But aren’t ordure and odour the same?
For me they are.

Who am I, you ask?
My name is one they use often
“Ai municipality, come clean this!”
They shout as they walk out of thatched doors
“Ai municipality, come clean this!”
Is what I’m forever christened.

Wind
Punishment
Unstoppable
Dramatic

Children of Men?

When the country’s first child sex ratio (the number of girls per 1000 boys below the age of six) was taken in 1961, it was a staggering 976. When it was last taken in 2011, it was at a frightening 914.

According to the 2011 Census, as many as 6 states and union territories in India have a child sex ratio of less than 900. Punjab, being the lowest has 793, followed by Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are all under 925, while Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha are above the national average of 914. Even in Kerala, the state with the best sex ratio, the child sex ratio is at 963. Sikkim boasts the highest child sex ratio of only 986.

And all of this, despite the fact that, scientifically, it has been proven that the immune system of female babies is much stronger than their male counterparts’. The child sex ratio of this country is the only demographic that should have seen a positive trend, but has consistently fallen.

Sociology tries to give explanations to this phenomenon. It argues that there is a trend of male preference in this nation, there is lack of literacy and awareness, there have been social customs that have been against the girl child, and there is lack of effectiveness and implementation of government schemes.

But tell me, when is all that supposed to end? We call ourselves a developed nation, yet we still see thousands of cases of female foeticide and infanticide. We call ourselves an educated people, boast of being intellectually ahead of the West, yet, we see cases of girl children blatantly being denied education. We call ourselves forward on one hand and disrespect women who fail to comply with demands of dowry on the other hand. We say the government is trying its best, developing the nation, yet, our child sex ratio remains at a horrendous 914.

This is not development- it is silent, unhindered genocide.

And it will continue, until we as a people, together, decide to stop it. It can be done through simple ways- choose not to know the sex of your unborn child (which, by the way, is illegal under the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques- Regulation and Prevention of Misuse- Act of 1996). When it comes to a child’s nutrition, if you see a family discriminating between the male and female child, explain to them what is wrong with this situation. Speak up against the ill-treatment of the girl child. Actively try to curb prejudices against the girl child in your daily life, like those of the girl child being a ‘burden’ on the family etc. Don’t participate in practices that directly affect the societal mindset towards the value of the girl child. Yes, I am talking about dowry, Female Genital Mutilation, honour killings, the taboo of periods being ‘impure’ and so on.

It took us 50 years to bring the numbers down from 976 to 914. We cannot to afford to waste the next 50 years and see the number fall to 0.

A Response to My Brother’s Anger At My Never-ending Feminism

My brother asks, annoyed “What then, is your ideal of equality between the sexes?!”

I take a deep breath and reply:

“It is a world where Eve isn’t villianised,
And banished
For simply being curious
And wanting to know what was out of her reach

A world where Sita isn’t made to walk through burning flames,
Twice
To prove that she’s untouched;
But Ram’s purity remains unquestioned

Where Paanchali-
Who wasn’t even Yudhistar’s to stake-
Isn’t pawned off in an attempt to humiliate her husbands

But not a single person considers it wrong,
Because it’s written down in texts age old
That it is but right.

Where Malala isn’t shot by the Taliban
At 15 for demanding
And standing up for her rights
Rights that she shouldn’t have to die for

Where foetuses aren’t killed by the millions
For having two X chromosomes
And female infants aren’t drowned
In boiling liquids as hot as their perpetrator’s anger

A world that doesn’t protect an acclaimed boy
Who is a sexual offender
And a world that doesn’t ask
But what was she wearing?

A world where if my son shall
Like another boy
He is not a criminal
Because love knows no gender, race, creed or religion

It is a world where my father’s ‘honour’ does not lie in my actions

A world where you aren’t actively taught to be afraid of crying
And to constantly wear the face of ‘masculine power’
Where you aren’t pressurised
To be something you don’t want to be

A world which does not celebrate and congratulate you
If your 8th grade teacher took advantage of you
Instead, feels ashamed
And rages and outcries at the injustice

A world that doesn’t treat a man’s depression
Like a joke- like something malfunctioned
And unnatural like it isn’t real
But acknowledges his right to feel something
And validates his meek emotions

A world where both sons and daughters
Are taught to
Be careful as they leave the house
And to behave themselves

It is a world that does not value you more than me
Or me more than you
But both of us equally.”

Punishment
Admire
Dramatic
Unstoppable

Nostalgia

“/nɒˈstaldʒə/
noun
a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.”

It sounds like Taylor Swift’s Love Story
And Linkin Park’s In The End

Tastes like pancakes with maple syrup
And warm sambar rice

Feels like sunsets on a Hawaiian Beach
And dinner table conversations filled with breathless laughter

Smells like Poison and Hugo Boss
And chlorine mixed with dew

It looks like 3 friends on bean bags making
Promises for a future they know nothing about

Most of all, it’s that memory at the
Back of your mind
You fleetingly experience
When everything is falling

It’s that feeling of right

Giving you hope for
All the wrongs

It’s that feeling of home.

Suitcase
Bedtime

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.

The Beach

90
She felt the wind brush against her hair

100
She was getting closer
The incessant chatter in her brain like swarming bees

110
She needed to get to the beach, faster
Redemption awaited

120
She felt it gnawing at her skin
The melancholy voices urging- faster, faster

140
2 yellow squares- fast approaching

She closed her eyes

0
She finally woke up at the beach. 

Karma Chameleon

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??