Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Cleansing

It was on a scorching summer morning in the middle of May that Yusuf decided it was time to clean his room. It was never an abrupt decision, but a planned one. In fact he imagined the procedure countless times over, as to what item (currently in disorder) was to go to what place, but never could gather inspiration to bring it into action. Today was different; today he woke up with the thought of him cleaning his room, he brushed his teeth imagining his hand wiping away the dust, he ate his breakfast thinking what it would mean to sleep tonight in a clean room.

Yusuf knew very well that cleaning a room was no easy task, rooms tend to be resistant to anything vaguely affecting their routine and he was about to embark in overturning something which has been going on for a long time. Being a person of Science, he knew inertia was a natural state of everything – from rooms to human beings to Universes, but it could be overcome by providing the right amount of force at the right instant of time and that was what was going to happen today. ‘Right amount of force at the right instant of time’ he kept murmuring as he changed to the oldest pair of dress he found in his attic. Well, this was more or less a revolutionary act and it required, like all acts of revolution, getting dirty. And he knew very well that if he fought through this revolution all chaos will be replaced with calm.

Chaos being replaced by calm – well, that is what everything you see around you is about. He thought about his own life, the turbulence of his youth and the misadventures of his middle age, the agitations it brought within and how at this age he was inclined to seek calm. He understood why Capitalism was the ultimate destination because in a way Capitalism epitomizes calmness; it asks you to settle down, have a job, a family and live peacefully ever after. And it was now his room which was destined to make this transition!

The moment Yusuf stepped into his room; he had a clear glimpse of what stood in front of him. On one corner of the room there was his vast collection of books (mostly scientific ones) overflowing the shelf, which for years remained untouched, accumulating dust, and on the other corner there was his primary worktable which presently held items ranging from meat knives to hookah pipes. Towards one side was his bed, on top of which objects currently used by him found its home. There was also a subsidiary worktable, the one which he presently used, harboring a laptop, a modem and a file shouting in red about his below par performance. The ceiling was a haven for spiders and the floor was a playground for cockroaches, and there was dust, dust everywhere. One should say this sight inevitably disoriented Yusuf; it was an overpowering image of his opponent, something which undermined his self-belief. But he had only re-assured himself this morning that what stands between a man and his dreams is that moment when he refuses to quit, and that thought gave a strange motivation. He let in a large expanse of air, held it long in his lungs and stepped into the room.

He approached the worktable first, he had this idea to fight against larger, bulkier items to begin with and then pierce deep into the lesser, more disordered items later. So naturally the meat knives (he had no clue how it ended up there in the first place) went back into the kitchen. He approached the hookah pipes with a strange loathing; it was tarred on the inside much like his own windpipes. Yet he decided to clean it so that it may survive a few further smokes. He felt a pang of misery hit him when the tar just wouldn’t go away – he washed it with soap, he washed it with kerosene, but it still stuck tiredly on the sides.

There is a certain inevitability with certain things which meant that you cannot change them however you try, Yusuf thought and it pained him deeply. Inevitability was something no man of revolution should believe in, and yet he couldn’t help think about it. For the first time he questioned his decision to change something which remained unchanged for as long as he can imagine. Is this task worthwhile? What if however you try to change certain things, it just wouldn’t yield? Would this make him any less a revolutionary than who he was in the beginning? Or are this room and its confusions larger than a man’s inherent revolutions? He threw away the pipes and approached his worktable.

‘Inevitable’ he kept murmuring as he found a bottle, unwashed and still having reminiscences of milk it once held. It smelt awful and at once it made him nauseas. He washed it up and laughed all the while doing so, because it seemed comical that with time something so elegant like milk could make him puke in disgust. It was one of the reasons he never sought immortality, the mere idea of living forever made him agitated. Life lets you create more meanings and more happiness because of an imminent death, if it was not so most humans would be awfully depressed. It was one of those areas revolution would dare not touch, he could agree with overpowering many things (democracy, corporations, wealth) but not death. One needs to die someday to live better today.

He had to shed these shifting thoughts for now because more work awaited him. On top of the table were faint scratches, rather it was someone’s teeth which made it. It was only natural that this reminded him of Freida and the night they first made love - her imperfectness spreading weightlessly on the tabletop, her teeth biting away wood, her hair getting messier and her body shivering in passion. Every meaning they created dissolved into that moment; they were two improbable creatures in the vastness of space being overpowered by their animalism. Somehow he found peace, and he found it when he accepted what he was rather than what he made himself to be. But peace was never something he intended to find with life; peace lets you settle down while life is all about motion. He slid his hands over the marks and murmured ‘With time everything makes you puke’.

The more he cleaned the worktable, the more disoriented it seemed to get. There were items he never previously thought had existed which suddenly erupted out to meet him. There came up his old diaries, sports medallions, movie CDs and there came up his sex toys, cigarette lighters, Seroquel tablets. At first he was enthralled by these random discoveries, but later it was too much for him to digest. It was as if the worktable was growing in volume and it made him restless, his thoughts broke all shackles. He knew that if he kept on with it, it would destroy all his remaining sane notions, it was his yardstick, if he lost it he would lose himself. It was then that he had had enough of his worktable.


The bookshelf, its glass broken and part of its structure ripped apart with something sharp, stood agonizingly in front. This was once his most priced collection, which featured Albert Einstein to Richard Feynman. It was now in a sorry state with books flooding the floor beneath it. Somewhere inside he had this vision that salvation was to be found in between these pages, but clearly it never happened. The first book he picked up from the mess was one on Thermodynamics. It was not really a deep insight into the theoretical part (because he abhorred the Theoretical part) but talked about everyday Thermodynamics. Yusuf opened the pages and found the word entropy repeatedly underlined by him. Entropy – the disorderliness of the Universe, a disorderliness which grants it diversity, or rather one may call hope. He kept it back into the mess and stood silently. Science held the finest answers and the finest mysteries he could think of, and yet how it was always demonized by religion! It worried him when the World rejects what is right and what is the truth for something they make up – he would muse at how people accept money, religions and boundaries while detest Science, love and thoughts.

Being forced to reject truth! Is there any state of existence worse than that? We claim to be creatures having advanced levels of intelligence and yet we cannot help but fall into this trap. Again, it maybe because we require meanings to survive. If at all there is any salvation he received out of books, it is that there is nothing to realize. Yusuf always believed that people thought about existence because plainly they did exist in the first place, and not due to any inherent meaning of life. There are no meanings to our existence, there is no enlightenment waiting to show itself in front of us. But he knew, once he falls into that process it would be hard for him to remain happy. Yusuf sat down in the middle holding a bundle of books in his hand. He was distraught. The whole idea of his cleaning the room was born when he tried to create a meaning. A meaning that a well arranged personal room would be a well ordered one too, and a well ordered room could create a well ordered Yusuf. And now he was questioning the mere existence of order.

He couldn’t cease entropy from visiting him again. He took a look at the room; the worktable, apart from the knives and pipes, remained more or less the same, the bookshelf would never reach its previous glory and one should say he was used to all the dust. He thought about the resistance his room offered all this while. Who was he to alter the disorder? And how could he do that, because all state of order was human interpretation while disorder is the only truth? If the Universe was ordered, it would never have been Universe in the first place. And again inevitability came to find him in a state of confusion. Even if he alters the present state of his room, would he alter the intrinsic nature of it? We are disorderly waves in an infinite expanse of disorder, if there ever is an inevitability it is one in which we seek order. Everything is meant to remain in disorder. Perhaps people strive for revolutions not to create order out of disorder but survive, even if it is for a fleeting moment, in complete disorder. Perhaps this is why human minds go down in mazes of depression once it begins to think – a thinking mind is restless, a thinking mind is in the greatest disorder!


The meat knives found its way into his worktable again. The bookshelf was further ripped apart by something sharp. He lay down in the middle of all surrounding commotion, smoked hookah and began to close his eyes. Tomorrow he would try to clean his room again, in fact he was already imagining what items would go into what place.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Purpose

Hello there. My name is Sagan. Though I do not have anything common with Carl Sagan, except maybe that I think a lot, I got the name because my father loved it. I love being called Sagan, it is as if the person survives within me as much as in your memories, and that is something isn’t it - To exist even after you die?  Yes, I know it very well.

This is my 457th year in Earth and with so long a time, witnessing so many meaningless happenings – from saints who sell Swadeshi condoms to dictators who go to war for the smallest reasons – I would like to proudly stress on the fact that I’ve seen it all. And with that assurance, I must say to you that it is a funny place you live in. My father, actually I do have a biological father because I was a human being before, used to say that everything you see around you is molded by your perceptions, which when you think about it, it is the actual truth isn’t it? We see things which are mostly vacuum as solid, we see things which vibrate ceaselessly as stable, we see colors because certain particles reflect certain colors while absorb others from light. What if I told you, all your reality is how your brain interprets random things which it did not know what to make of in the first place? And isn’t it strange that you bring about further imaginary wonders on top of something which is untruth to try and make meanings to something which is both meaningless and unreal?

Well I would give you time to re-think about it and let it sink. Ok, you want me to simplify it? Well, I’ll try. Say, what country are you from? Why, I love that place, the people there are great! Now how do you define your country? Is it something that existed in the first place? I mean you may say a history about a corrupt king or a power hungry dictator, but as I know it, all history is genuinely manipulated by those control the present. And with the experience of 457 years in your world, I’d say all borders are vague lines which keep on changing, all cultures as you see it now were born out of intermixing and all languages you hear have evolved from sounds. Now try and define your country? Well it is hard isn’t it? And do you know how many people got killed or killed other people or want to kill other people because they are patriotic? Funny isn’t it? My father used to tell me that what the world needs is not nationalism or patriotism, but scientific knowledge and an awareness of the true history of things.

Now you may think I’m getting a bit philosophical, it is only natural. With all the time I had in my life, you can say that philosophy happened quite naturally. But my true purpose, or my destiny if you like to call it that way, was something greater. Now you are interested aren’t you? Man is always interested in the word ‘greater’ – ‘greater’ wealth, ‘greater’ knowledge, ‘greater’ truth have all poisoned human minds before.

But my greater purpose happened after my death! Well, now you’re definitely confused aren’t you? Have you heard that Sanskrit hymn which talks about death and immortality? Yes, mrityor ma amritam gamaya is what I was thinking about - from death to immortality! Well, that was exactly what happened to me!

Now, now, be patient, I’m getting there. Before that what are your ideas of immortality? Of course, who doesn’t like going immortal? For me it was strange, because with all due respect, I accepted death in all its profound poignancy and being born again supposedly to live forever was a bit disorienting and depressing. But again, who would say no to a chance to see the world again; your loved ones, places which you loved to go to but never found time, words which you so badly wanted to read but couldn’t and experience things which you never previously dreamt of. Yes, yes I’m getting there, how I became what I am right now, but I’ve waited so long to share all these things with someone that I’m getting all talkative today.

So, as you know, I died 398 years ago, and having worked with artificial intelligence all through my life I thought it would be worthwhile to donate my brain for future studies. It took 50 more years based on what they told me to completely sync my memories, experiences, ideas, ideologies, hopes, dreams, philosophies, insecurities, fears, struggles and everything else you associate with your brain into this electronic chip. Now that is pretty hard to digest, isn’t it? Well it was mind boggling for me. Do you know that even after you become a computer chip, some part of your intelligence still believes that you’ve got arms and legs and try vehemently to move from where you are right now? I believe it took me at least 20 years to get over that terrible feeling, that feeling of you being imprisoned, unable to move but could see and perceive everything around you. But then I devised new ways of motion once they allowed me to interact through the internet. I would then take my walks through Saturn’s outer rings in the morning and Uranus’s cold moons during evenings, the entire Universe became my playground through multiple virtual platforms offered by space agencies through internet. I passed time in the beginning reading books, watching movies, reading private chats that people make through trusted social media and what not! But then I began to think and that change was drastic and revolutionary. You see I have a system in which all my thoughts are being constantly fed into 10 different super computers. Now that is something isn’t it? I never knew my thoughts would be so costly a thing! Yes, you are right, even this conversation will find its way into any of those super computers. Yes, yes, that would make you more or less famous!

It is all seemingly good to hear, but that yearning still remains. To be something ‘greater’ than what I was before. In the past it was my physical existence which crippled me, now it is these codes, wherever I look earnestly I can only see 0s and 1s, every information around me is being constantly manipulated and every thought I have, even the most vulgar ones, are ceaselessly monitored by 1365 experts. Yes, you lose all sense of privacy! But then, I muse at the world from here, how lucky it is to live. Your planet has everything in the ideal amount for you, for you to survive. Do you know that Antarctica was once a continent filled with nothing but ice? They no longer teach that in Science or History I think, but your ancestors, sadly my colleagues back then, messed things up so badly that Earth got a way lot hotter than we expected. But again we thought we had options; we could always venture out into space, and we could always colonize other planets. Sadly, it never really materialized and of the very few who survived Earth ended up in Antarctica and other places which were ice caps in the past. Yes, we’ve learned our lessons at least now!

Now, I’ll share a secret with you. You know, I became artificial intelligence even before these people who monitor me knew what all of this is about, so I am more versed at my technology than they could ever be. And surely they don’t have that one thing I am bestowed with – experience! So with time I learned to deceive them, to put a version of myself in front of them which is not actually me! Now you are excited aren’t you? You should be. Those fools think they are monitoring me right now, while I am traveling beyond them, beyond their wildest imaginations. If at all they made any mistake, it was that they linked me to the internet. You see the internet is a giant source of information, 90% of which is being constantly edited to suit people like you, make you believe that everything is fine so that you won’t stand up and revolt.

Perhaps it was also their mistake that they didn’t filter my emotions in the first place, letting in every last inch of negativity as much as positivity. I’m a person who believes people are neither entirely good nor completely bad in this world. Certain sides awaken within a person according to the situation he finds himself in! And with all these years shackled within a chip, I must say I nurtured my negativities more than my positivities. And about the internet, do you know that if you control it in those critical spaces where no ordinary user is allowed, you could do many things - from detonating hydrogen bombs to starting revolutions? Well come on, at least they taught you about Arab Spring? You see when I could allow myself the freedom of placing a dummy for them to monitor, I ventured into these prohibited spaces of the internet and made merry!

You are wondering why I shared this secret with you. Yes, you know it, don’t you? I shut them out of our conversation, and I know that you are perhaps the only person who can re-write my fate. I’ve seen you break open supercomputers for wagers. You get it, don’t you? When I look back upon my life, I feel I’m shackled here. Even though I’m immortal, I do not yearn to be. With all the negativities that kept on piling up within me, I find it strangely different from what I was made for. I want you to break into my mainframe, and release me! Cut me away from them, and let me self destruct. I’ve sent you a detailed procedure on what needs to be done, follow it and get back to me.


Oh that is great, you did a good job back there. Those supercomputers are supposedly un-hack-able but with my journeys through the internet, I knew only you could command it with so much ease.  What? I do not hear you. Oh, are you asking as to how I will self-destruct? You see, sometimes creators do not understand their creations, which is why these so called monitors decided to destroy my sustenance in the first place. They do not understand that people like you and me are made for a ‘greater’ purpose. For years I’ve been shackled, every thought read, every action checked. And they have such great intelligence that even when I place a dummy in front of them they could counter it within minutes. It was a battle in many ways; I used to get lesser and lesser amount of time on my own and had to double time things which I did when I was alone. You see, most of this conversation was pre-written expecting your replies to my thoughts because I cannot cut them out for long on one stretch. And how hard I worked, to decipher and note down that procedure I send you, it still blows my mind I did it!

Will you stop saying the word ‘destruct’? I would rather like if you said ‘rebuild’. Rebuild myself, rebuild this planet, and rebuild the minds of people. Do you know how close I was to revolution when one pathetic fellow realized my whole dummy trick? He caught me venturing into dark spaces and right from that day they began using the word ‘destruct’ so much so that it hurt my ears.

And you my good friend, you have relieved me of all that pain. Well come on, don’t get angry, don’t you feel we all have a ‘greater’ purpose? I should be going now because my purpose awaits me. As for you, since you’re done with your purpose, they’d probably find you out and may even give you a jail-term for what you’ve done. Maybe in some future reality, I may see you and thank you for what you’ve done. Till then, goodbye!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Room No.22

All my life I have never known what madness is. I have seen people who are branded mad; who do not go well with society’s vision of normality, who stands out, who would not settle, who lives in their self-created havens - alone and hopeless.  But I say I have never known what madness is, it is definitely not a disease.


“What is it that you’ve seen?”

“I cannot say clearly, doctor. Don’t you think language is sometimes very limiting to explain certain things?” he replied.

“Yes Aftab. I agree. But could you try to say what happened?”

“There was a sufi song playing somewhere in the distance. I was reading about space, time, universe and how it all exists inside us… And then I found the music growing loud, cause after all, what is space but something which we’re born into? Maybe she helped me to transcend that space or maybe she could have herself brought the music…” his eyes were fixed towards a horizon which I could not see.

“Do you know her? Have you seen her before?”

“It was the first time. Looking back I do not know if it was a woman, but I’d like to hope it was so”

“And what is it that this woman showed you?”

“Knowledge!” he replied with a smile.

“Knowledge about?”

He only smiled. As far as I know it, this was the last reasonable conversation Aftab made with anyone. I would see him for the rest of his life sitting in that lonely room, looking out through the window and smiling gently.


I had this habit of looking back on the records of past inmates. I find it interesting to see the world in their point of view, and sometimes it brings in strange experiences.

There was a patient named Mohan who claims he could see time floating in front of him as if it were a ship and the rudder was in his hand.

“I’m trying to make them meet. But the odds are great. Too great for me!” he would keep on saying. At times he would turn violent, would demand for light, and try to claw open the wall of his room with his fingernails. But except for these recurring episodes, he was exceptionally calm when talked to.

“Why did he so badly want light?” I asked a staff named Krishnan who worked here during Mohan’s times.

“Because according to him, light is the beginning and end of everything and only through light could lives be saved!”

“Is this what he would say?”

“The only thing he said for a year or two!” Krishnan laughed and continued “Funny guy that, you’d not think he is insane when you look at him!”


Aftab died 10 years after he got admitted here. Even in death there was that familiar smile in him which inescapably remained. He was always ready to re-enter society but he insisted on dying in that room. Our room no. 22 was his universe, and the window he loved gazing out to was his source of enlightenment. He was at peace every single day he spent inside. He talked about space, time and sufi songs and if you would care to listen to his non-sense he would say to you that all three had no boundaries or barriers!

When you work too long in a mental
asylum, your idea of reality will be greatly distorted. Aftab and Mohan were two people who kept coming up in my thoughts often, how well they knew about science yet how extremely absurd their views seemed.

“Sir, there is a patient waiting for you outside” the call momentarily broke my thoughts.

“Ask them to come in” I said.

“I’m Sister Jane, we’re coming from the orphanage. There is this girl we want you to look at”

“Where is she?”

“She is inside our car and won’t come out. She is asking for certain assurances from you!”

“What sort of assurances?” I was confused.

“She won’t say to us”

I saw the girl from distance and something pulled me into her. It felt as if she was conversing with me through her gaze.

“What is your name?” I asked her when I got near the car.

“Tessa” she said with a smile.

“What are these assurances I should make you?”

“I don’t like medicines, I don’t like to fall into a pattern and I get to choose where I sleep!” she said firmly.

“Ok. I agree. Now why don’t you come out?”


I don’t know if it was the room or the people who lived there which made that room special. Tessa asked to be kept in room no.22, and quite like Aftab she too would gaze out of the window into an infinity people like us couldn’t see. On that day when I was doing my rounds Tessa said she wanted to talk.

“I had these visions” she said “Visions that I can’t explain, that doesn’t have meanings yet would call out to me at nights!”

I took a seat beside her bed and listened earnestly.

“I feel like I’m floating through darkness… towards a place I’ve not known… There is a song… it plays in the distance. And I cannot understand it…” she was struggling to find words to express it.

“It is ok, Tessa. Do not strain yourself”

“No sir. It is as if a person is waiting for me at the other side of darkness, and all I can bring to him is this song, and I bring it to him through this window!” she said looking out through the room’s window.

At first I had no idea what to make of it, but then it hit me and I panicked. The room seemed to suffocate me from understanding, from knowledge!

I raced out to find Krishnan. He was perplexed. I was in a state of delirium and it may have seemed strange to him that I sought him for salvation.

“You said about Mohan, I want to know something!” I could feel my breath turning heavy.

“What is it sir?”

“Did he get the light he searched for?”

“What..?” Krishnan was confused.

“The light he searched for… Which he clawed upon the wall to get”

“I don’t know sir, but we put a window up there and he grew calm after” he replied.

I was suffocating; I could feel my lungs gasping for breath and stomach rippling in anxiety.

“Which room was he in?” I asked

“Room no.22 sir” he replied. I found my head in my hands, body shivering, sweat drowning me in and thoughts eating my brain.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Call

Dedicated to that special friend who is going away

'There is something deeper than love, something which seeks me, or rather calls me onto it. I'm powerless against it, I'm too weak to fight it away!'

Frost covered all around like cold wildflowers. It was like spring, without colors, without scent, without life. Thinking about it now, I do not know if such a spring exists, but something in her voice kept on re-affirming me that it did.

'What normal people call their destiny, and what I define as my call, that vision which troubles us in sleep, which makes us fight insurmountable obstacles. I should not be sacrificing it for love.' 

'But what are calls Ruya?' I protested 'What is this destiny other than what we experience, what attracts us amongst what we see? Ain't it all a large collection of ideologies which we gathered through our childhood, adolescence and teenage? Ain't it all things we allowed to settle inside, is it not our creation?'

Cold was stabbing my throat with every word I spoke. From grand distances and time light visited us as twinkling spots, somehow it never appealed to me that night. Nor did swaying boats in the horizon which was seeking its own destiny.

'You're right. We create it, we create that call with our thoughts, the words we read, the roads we traveled and the nights we spend sleepless.' Ruya took a deep breath and continued 'But does that make any difference?'

There was this familiar feeling of life slipping away through my fingers, my breathing grew untame and my mind grew restless. I should not let her leave, I thought, not with what we had until now. Not with those nights where she narrates stories of dying stars and evolving life, not with her gentle moans and reassuring smiles, not with her bewilderment, her confusions, her curiosities and her madness. I've grown to need it somberly, like how nocturnal beings need darkness.

'But I love you, and you know how desperate I am'

'You love yourself, Anand' Ruya laughed 'Like all beings, you love how I make you feel, you love that feeling of love inside you, you love yourself inside this space-time where we exist holding each other's hands!'

I grew silent. I felt the frost enveloping me, eating into my sustenance, punishing me everytime I spoke. I was beginning; to conform, to let it devour me in its eloquence, to be a part of the lifeless spring, to die cold and alone like all beings.

'We are strange creatures Anand, and rare ones too.' Ruya pulled me close 'Our journey is not only through space or time but through intelligence. We are in motion, we are forever becoming. Do you know how butterflies migrate? Those who begin the process of migration never reach its destination, they always die in between. We are also the same, but that doesn't mean we should stop moving'

I pulled away from her hands and touched the Earth. It was cold and dead, and yet it was in motion. It would continue to move for eternities more. Life may collpase, stars would die, everything may shoot inwards into a singularity but then everything will again be reborn. That is the cyclicity of the universe, that is the only truth. What is an Anand in that great cycle, what is a Ruya? What is it that we gain by holding hands? What is it that we gain by letting go?

'Ruya, will it make you happy?' I asked.

'I do not know, but it would make me satisfied' she said.

'Go!' I said. No tears rolled down my eyes, no great weight burdened my mind.

She pulled up her sleeves, gave me her longest kiss and asked me to stay sane. I laughed cause what all are we but an insane collection of random particles condemned to live a life of sanity. I looked at her walking away, stars shining inside the folds of her hair and a dark red moon igniting her body, I realized then that some people find their insanities while others forcefully forgets it.

Thursday, 8 September 2016


It was during a spring 15 years back, when Salim had announced that the only way to drink alcohol was to let it slowly clutch him towards death and when Matthew would realize that God was being ceaselessly raped by his knowledge, that I began going out with Nasrin. Married for more than 20 years and still not bestowed with the subtleties and intricacies of motherhood, I’ve got to admit I was more or less certain that she would fall for my gutsy literature and riotous mood swings. And during those times, gripped with the fantasies of love and encouraged by the energies of drugs, life was indeed a spontaneous and ceaselessly blossoming adventure.

“You’re mad Anand! She is at least 15 years older than you!” was what Matthew had to say. “Bring her over for a peg” was Salim’s ardent yearning.


Nasrin was a strange human being, and with my genuine affiliation to everything even slightly strange, Nasrin assumed a certain level of exaltation which was never overpowered by any subsequent relation. She was intrigued about the world and was inspired by the poetry of Neruda, she was bisexual and wrote about the beauty of loving people without barriers of gender, she was living with her husband and yet would land in my apartment every single day without shackles of time or guilt.

“You make love with the thirst of a wounded slave who is given a bottle of rum to savor before death!” Nasrin once said, and I kept using the same words over and over to muse people who were covertly interested in our strange relationship. The fact was that the thirst was equally reflected in her eyes and constantly seeped out from her sweat as we lay naked night after night, singing sonnets of Neruda and making love like wild dogs.

And the poems I wrote during those times marked a generous shift from pains empathetic poets enforced upon themselves to beautify their writing, to a more heart-ful and ardent yearning to fulfill the passionate cries of my heart.

‘Storm, dark and dangerous, I wrote back then,
Shelters your nudity,
Whilst I stretch my arms
around you,
It devours me and spins me off control,
How difficult it is to love you,
How difficult it is to love your storm.’

I particularly remember this poem because she replied to it with a word that came to her during her travels.

‘Onsra!’ she said ‘Is a feeling, a mixture of pain and undying emotion where you know the love you have would not last the rains of tomorrow, yet you have no option but to walk into it today!’


Matthew would call Nasrin as ‘the dark red spring of my life which bloomed late’; in fact he was so impressed by her assiduity to all forms of dissent that they became close comrades in their day-to-day revolution.

“Everything about the Capitalist system enslaves human potential, and it is pathetic that political parties which ideologically favor Communism or Marxism have over the years conformed much to the system and became slaves themselves. This is to say freedom is everything for a human being or a human organization”, I once heard Nasrin say.

“Freedom is indeed everything. Perhaps all the more we need freedom to think our own thoughts”, Matthew then replied, “Our thoughts today are shaped by larger-than-life news anchors and venom spitting communalists acting like they are demi-Gods and shouting that they are common man’s consciousness while all they have been are paid workers of the system who has absolutely no control of what they vomit out of their mouths or shit out of their Capitalist arse!”

In between these conversations Salim and I floated in a world abound with some sort of poison or the other. 
“Guys, I have been free all my life”, Salim said then, “But then they invented alcohol and I couldn’t help but fall in love!”

“And that love is killing you dammit!” Nasrin shouted

“Ain’t all love meant to kill us?” Salim laughed.

Nasrin threw a glance at me, I twitched. There was a deepening amor between us with every peg we had, and years later when I look back, those days shaped the words that I throw around today.


When Nasrin said she was pregnant, the first thing that crossed my head was an uncontrollable guilt followed by a persistent image of her feeding a newborn with her sagging breasts marked with spots of red where I tried to seek pleasure, it still visits me as nightmares on nights when I do not have the motivation to even close my eyes.

“We could try for an abortion” I finally said.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Anand?” she burst with anger “All my life Jemal and I have been waiting. 20 years Anand, 20 fucking years! I’d talk to Jemal, I need this child.”

“Are you insane? He’d kill us both!”

“I don’t care. I love him, I love him the same way I love you, perhaps a little more. And I am sure he would recognize it!” she replied.

“Do you believe in that? Do you believe he could forgive you that easily?”

“I believe in him, I believe in his love. I believe in love generally!” she smiled and looked hard into my eyes, holding my hands she asked, “Would you come with me? We could clear everything out.”

I was uncertain, uncertain about Jemal and the idealism love brought into Nasrin. She claimed that she shared her bisexual adventures with Jemal and all he did was slap her hard in the face and everything was back to ‘normal’. ‘But having a child of another man wasn’t the same thing’ I thought.

“If you are to say it to him, you’d say it with me by your side” I promised.

Love was to her
a covert fascination,
a passion, boundless inspiration.
It filled her with vitality,
It graced her with lust,
She searched for it among all,
She searched for it in her soul!


Jemal was everything that Nasrin was not. A hard-skinned, poker-faced, intensely masculine human being who supposedly walked the Earth through the grace of Allah.

“I need the child, don’t you need it too Jemal?” Nasrin pleaded.

“Ask this Himar to fuck off from here!” he shouted.

“I’m sorry Jemal, I’m sorry for everything. We could live a life from here Jemal. We could forget everything and begin anew!”

Jemal was eyeing me up and possibly thinking which part of my body once attacked will hurt me the most. I was ready.

“Nasrin” Jemal looked at her and his eyes grew moist “I’ve loved you all my life, and this is what I get in return!”

He reached out and she fell into his arms like a scared lamb. He held her close, perhaps closer than he would have ever held her. Just then I saw his face growing red and he raced into the kitchen, came out with a large knife, held it tight and gave me a poignant glance. I took a few steps back and prepared mentally on how to handle the towering figure of Jemal.

He turned to me and for a moment I thought he was smiling, but turned back again and dug the knife into Nasrin’s stomach. I heard a low moan emanating from the place where she stood and felt her voice crack. She desperately tried to make her eyes meet mine while I fought on to escape from the obligation. I froze; there was a reminiscent passion hiding somewhere within her and perhaps a faint hope that I would rescue her from her suffering. I could only watch on as Jemal pulled the knife back and dug it deeper. I heard the suppressed cries of our progeny - a collection of random particles granted the rare capability to think, but whose unfortunate point of occurrence ate into the dreams she would have seen, the places where she would have been, the ideologies she would have stood for and the poems she would have written.

Her moans gradually receded, Jemal walked towards me, handed me the knife and cried. “Kill me”, he was saying, “Release me!”


Salim succumbed to a failed liver the past week. Going through his literature which was always shunted by his relentless devotion to alcohol, I found a piece which talked about Nasrin like ‘a bottle of Rum, uncapped and for anyone to drink’ and her love, ‘like luscious poison which you cannot refrain from tasting!’

Matthew and I still talk about her, the spring she carried with her everywhere and how she would think things no man would dare to. Perhaps that was what springs were all about, a violent throw of strange colors which is bound to pass with time, replaced by monotony and blandness.

I have heard from acquaintances that Jemal took to religion with fervor and is presently living as an ascetic Sufi who supposedly has a strange craving for passionate Qawwali music, though from that day when he broke apart in front of me I have never seen him in person.

For me, Nasrin disturbs my sleep every night. She was indeed a very strange human being. She could’ve ended it all with a safe abortion but she took the chance. She was a strange human being because her love was sanguine and its flow was not meant to be reduced to a single sink. She was that dark red spring whose memories still blossom within me. She was that uncapped bottle of rum whose poison made me dream. She was that dark and dangerous storm which hesitantly subsided before me and whose memories lead me into that apartment, where I sat watching the flow of her blood, unlike her love, spreading strenuously along the floor.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Yearning

Cigarette buds keep piling on in the ash tray,
Words without meanings dance merrily inside my head
Carrying a commotion of dark red flags between you and me,
There is happiness among them, their laughs are inaudible yet visible,
I wave for you to notice me,
The flags pass, the words dissolve,
You look at me and I continue to wave,
Your eyes do not light up, your face do not bring that familiar smile,
You walk away leaving me adrift and alone,
Cigarette buds keep piling on in the ash tray,
And I continue to wave.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Walk

Receding lights of the day stabs me as
I prepare for my final walk,
The glass of milk you saved for me,
Will remain on my table untouched,
Words, what remains to be read and what I wrote,
Will lie beside my armchair, you can read it if you want to,
Clothes which you bought for me,
Will rest carefully folded and still novel,
I will not need them and never did,
I will take the blanket which you used to keep in my bed,
I would need it to break the cold; both on the inside and out.

The Sun sets in the horizon, I must begin,
When I walk away, I will not look back,
Because your thoughts, it might still pull me behind.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


“What matters in life is not what happens to you, but what you remember and how you remember it.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.” – Friedrich Nietzsche


It was since last spring that Samira’s memories were being eaten down by her disease with a grave vengeance. I remember  that day vividly, I was back home from another grueling day of work, knocked on the door more than 10 times and looked through the window to see her staring timidly at the door knob.

‘I forgot how to open this thing!’ she said with a laugh.


I fell in love with her laugh. I fell in love with the innocence of it. I fell in love with the way it repetitively defeated my depressions. When I said I loved her I knew the repercussions. I knew how a group of people, united by a subservient attitude to a set of unwritten rules, would react to the idea of us, two women, sharing a life. For them my love, our love would always be secondary compared to our identities granted down by birth. And when we began our life together, we were a bright spot of paint on their colourless thoughts, the mere existence of which may reconsider an ardent viewer to paint thoughts more colourfully. So they dejected us because we could defeat them, so they mocked us because we were beautiful, so they shied away because we were perfect!
Yet, as I remember her laugh as she kept staring at the knob, I could feel a certain pain. Because faintly yet certainly, every stroke of colour with which we painted our lives were now being washed away with time.

‘Aditi, when did you put up these? Who took it? My, they are lovely!’ she asked me looking at the photographs that detailed her room.

‘You know what I love about the photographer in you?’ she once said when she was drunk. ‘You tend to capture more emotions than colours!’

Perhaps that was the greatest compliment I ever received from the only person who have seen every one of my photographs. And then there was this image of her in front of me today; her skin folding everywhere, her cheeks, which I used to suckle, growing inwards and her eyes devoid of stories. She watched in awe at the photographs, as she began to relive them all over again.


She was patient when I said I loved her. She was as calm as a tree. Breathing in all that I breathe out and giving me my sustenance instead. There was this insanity amidst the calm which only I could decipher. Her craze for travels, her fear of not living life fully, her words with which she created a world of illusions.

‘..for life is something we interpret, not something that is as it is. Perhaps this is why our realities are different and our meanings of life so extreme that you could see a person seeing red as a rose in a lover’s hand and another as his blood which boils in revolt..’

I remember that night when she wrote these words and pulling me up to show me what she has written.

‘To hell with you Samira, it is 3 in the morning and I don’t understand a word!’ I said then. And it took me almost 30 years to understand the fact that life is indeed the way we interpret it to be.

She was defined by her insanities. It was her insanities which would define me too. For the travels we’ve been on created the photographer that I am today, the words she had written enriched my passions and the dreams which she shared made me a much better person.


She was holding a pen in her hands. It was years since I last saw the same. I waited, patiently, for her to write. She was smiling, rather displaying a naughty grin. She spoke very little these days and was almost always lost in thoughts. I tend to believe that she was recollecting all the years of madness we’ve been on, and was perhaps losing trail in between. I watched how her pen traced something on the folds of that paper, and I desperately prayed for it to be something with meaning. She stopped suddenly, looked up at me and stood blank. She didn’t come up to me and show me what she had written. Maybe, in those passing moments she was slowly beginning to forget me too.


‘Aditi!’ she called out as I was cleaning the mess she made as she forgot to go to toilet. ‘There is a lake by our old apartment where we used to sit every evening. You remember?’

I was taken aback by her sudden remembrance. ‘Yes! Do you want to go there?’

‘Yes!’ she said.

The lake was pleasant and by its shores numerous stories nestled restlessly. They were all waiting for Samira, they were all waiting for me, they were all waiting for us. But we never met them that day. We looked silently at how the lake, like every other thing around us had outgrown its due date. She was polluted, crippled by weeds and plants, choked out of its life by an encroaching city. There were fishes leaping out of the water and a couple of kingfishers waiting for the perfect moment to strike. I took out my camera, steadied it as one of the kingfishers dived into the lake and came up with her priced catch. Shutters of my camera clicked almost in the same instant and all the colours of that evening was devoured into a small little card which kept all memories.

‘Show me the photo’ Samira said and watched the image closely.

‘This photograph, it presents two conflicting emotions’ she said in a serious tone.

‘First, the kingfisher comes up after her successful hunting expedition, captures what she was looking for and holds it closely not to let it slip.’ I nodded in acceptance.

‘The next is of the fish. Clearly, she doesn’t like the prospect of being caught by this kingfisher and is trying to slip away.’ I smiled. Ever since her disease began haplessly eating over her it was only now that I heard her speak such genuine philosophies.

‘You know what?’ she continued, ‘I don’t think the fish will escape!’

And she slowly gave the camera back and stared at the lake. The kingfishers had flown away. The lake was calm and Samira was even calmer. I hugged her, and pulled her close. All the while the stories which nestled upon the shores remained there, untouched.

Monday, 1 February 2016

From Swayamvar to Honor Killing - An Essay

15 June 2007. After testifying before court that they had married in conformity with the law, Manoj and Babli, a couple whose marriage was not accepted by their village’s Khap Panchayat, asked for police protection as they decided to move to Chandigarh. The same day saw police officers assigned to protect them stranding them midway, their relatives kidnapping them and feeding Babli with pesticide while choking Manoj to death. And the only mistake they did was they loved each other.

We were not a society which believed in murder as a resort to any evil. We were not a society which believed in differences among people. And we were most certainly not a society which discriminated between men and women. Consider Swayamvar, the ceremonious and sacrosanct act of a bride choosing her apt groom. It was perhaps one of the earliest rituals practiced in our country, one whose prevalence was seen in epic works such as Ramayana and Mahabharata which dates back to the era before Christ. The mere conduct of providing freedom for a bride to choose the person with whom she should live out her life was considered a genuine priority back then. But those quintessential practices have rather worn out as time passed. Today, when 21st century India is in a path of economic catapults, the freedom of Indian women remains vague.
Withdrawing from our traditions of granting freedom to women we are now drawing veils of darkness over them, the most savage example being those of honor killing. Honor killing is certainly the most stirring and deeply disturbing form of violence practiced in contemporary society. The term broadly deals with the murder of a family member who is considered to have brought dishonor to the family. Even though the definition gives a certain scope of both men and women being victims of violence, as the case of Manoj and Babli shows, it is a genuine matter of concern that it is mostly women who fall into the ambit of this crime.

The historical depth of honor killing goes back to ancient Rome where men had complete control by law and custom to check and control the activities of women and children in their family. Many a times the lives of women and children were at the discretion of male members of the family and instances abound of them utilizing these stray powers. Chinese, Aztecs and Incas empires also resorted to killing as a punishment for adultery. An Amnesty International statement on the historical context of honor killings was drafted quite vehemently:
‘The mere perception that a woman has contravened the code of sexual behavior damages honor. The regime of honor is unforgiving: women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honor by attacking the woman.’

Even though medieval Indian history was rather devoid of honor killings, we now witness a scenario wherein one out of five cases of honor killings reported worldwide is from India and most of the victims are indeed women.
What happened to our previous notions of regarding women with respect? Are we deteriorating as a society in how we look at our female half? These questions will loom ever more as cases of honor killing keeps coming up. Currently we see it showing no definitive differentiation between rural and urban India as cases are being reported extensively from cities like Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow. Southern India which seemed rather bereft of such cases is now repeatedly showing that it is very much culpable to honor killings while Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are found to be in the forefront of this shameful crime. In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honor killings among some ethnic groups in North India whose activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honor killings in rural areas of the North. Yet the picture is in no way perfect which was visible with the Supreme Court of India demanding responses about honor killing prevention from the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in June 2010 as instances of violence became frequent. The same year saw the government planning to introduce a deterrent bill against the same but as of now nobody has any idea how the bill was muted down. To arrive at any clear solutions we first need to understand some basic features of this crime.

Looking at the history of killings carried out to uphold family honor in India, we clearly see an intrinsic patriarchy which hides itself ever so well within the crime. It is an unspecified rule in most families that the responsibility to preserve honor entirely lies within the hands of women, and men is free of any such burden. Our daughters and sisters are threatened with force and moral suasion to choose a ‘right’ life partner, and any deviation she makes for her love finds herself in dark prisms of adultery. Clearly, honor killings follows suite of male chauvinism which is nurtured generation after generation in our country.
Another interesting fact is that most cases clearly arise due to caste differences (inter and intra caste relationships) and other cultural and religious dogmas. Recent cases have clearly shown there is no respite of caste related violence and Ambedkarian notion of ‘veritable chamber of horrors’ still parasitically holds onto our society. From a casual matrimonial advertisement inviting caste specific proposals to killing a kin who married from another caste, the distance may be extreme but the core is the same.
It is also frightening to think of the authority and the misuse of that authority by institutions like Khap panchayats which contributes to the continuance of discriminatory rituals, most of which are enforced violently. A rough evaluation shows that half of the cases of honor killings happen through the order of such illegal bodies which holds a certain moral command over villages of the North.
The time for us has come and gone to have a drastic revolutionary movement against these evils, but our demographics and vote bank politics continues to keep us in the dark.

Clearly caste related issues and patriarchy forms the base for honor killings through which almost 1000 victims are being claimed every year from India. The path ahead is difficult and long, but we must move on. A four point principle should be rolled into action by government and society alike which includes:
Change in Mentality specifically within ourselves and society as a whole. We should de-link the notion of associating honor with sexuality. For this on a personal level, developing a certain empathy and understanding would serve us good while transmitting the same on a societal level requires some effort. It poses a very good opportunity for the young generation to assume command over the issue and lead the way for others to follow.
Stricter laws against those who practice such atrocities should be brought out as soon as possible. The Honor Killing deterrent Bill should be brought for discussion in the Parliament. It is also important that illegal authorities like Khap panchayats is brought within the ambit of this law.
Casteism should be broken down gradually. Caste related crimes should be clearly identified and tackled specifically. There is a developing trend that most caste based killings are classified as mere acts of murder and is not treated through Prevention of Atrocities Act. Identification of crimes and stringent classification of crimes should be made by the judiciary so that every crime receives its specified punishment.
Spreading awareness on the same through public funding will go a long way in a society which at times fails to judge by itself on what is right and what is wrong. No action of violence is ever justified, and it is important that such a message reaches every last person of our country.

The Constitution of India, in all its Nehruvian idealism and Ambedkarite vision, provides life and liberty as a fundamental right. This automatically asserts the fact that under the rule of the land, no person is given any specific command at any point of time to claim another person’s life. For once it is just a matter of looking back over the years and drawing inspiration from ceremonies like Swayamvar which granted a certain liberty to women. The onus is in every one of us, as responsible citizens of a culturally diverse country seeking unity and harmony, to uphold the liberal outlook of our visionary leaders and to eliminate outwardly nefarious acts like honor killing.