I Knew

When do you know it’s love?

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I used to think I’d instantly recognize love in a crowd

I was wrong.

The first time I set my eyes on love, I got defensive.

I almost thought it was an intruder, only set on plundering the best bits of me.

I shut my windows and fortified my walls.

I held myself back. I told myself I had to “tread cautiously.”

But all love wanted, was to make me laugh and see me gleam.

Love wanted to stay awake late nights to talk politics and world peace.

I didn’t understand love.

I couldn’t comprehend why it would see the worst in me and still stay.

Love didn’t try to strip me naked of my emotions and pull the no-strings-attached move.

And I couldn’t, for the life of me understand why!

For the first time, love stayed after promising it would.

For the first time, love held me as I cried and listened to what I had to say instead of just ‘hearing.’

In all its Glory, love laid itself bare and exposed it’s vulnerability.

For the very first time, love looked at my scars and wasn’t intimidated by the past that lay behind them.

I thought the movies had it all figured out- how love ought to behave.

Turns out, love doesn’t confine within the squares of definition.

Love didn’t look like anything or anyone I thought it would resemble.

Now that I think of it, I certainly didn’t fall in love as they say;

I grew into it- one day at a time, until the day I knew we were meant to be.

Womanhood in 2018

A few days back I had started a photo-series where women spoke about what it is to be a woman in today’s day and age. Is it inconvenient as many would say? Is it empowering? Is it tiring? Is it confusing? Well, womanhood cannot be boxed into any definition because the expressions of womanhood are infinite. Through this photo-series I aim to tap into those infinite expressions and discover how a woman in 2018 perceives the idea of being a woman and womanhood as a whole.

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Part II

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Nandana James, 21.

It’s a rather strange time to be a woman. While feminist discussions and assertions are abound, instances of sexism are just as rife. Seems like the wrath of patriarchy is going to linger around, but fortunately, people are willing these days to engage in pertinent discussions.

dsc_001511388637.jpgNandana is a journalism student.

 

Shubhita Chawla, 22.

I’ve come to the realization that being a woman comes with its own set of responsibilities- To help other women grow, to be a good human first, to have the strength to follow your dreams through to name a few. There are so many facets to our being. Mothers, sisters, wives, caregivers, goddess, we can choose to be one, or choose to be all of them. But our biggest responsibility is towards ourselves. To love our flaws and overlook our insecurities. To embrace our vulnerabilities and to flaunt our scars with pride.

 Shubhita is an aspiring media professional.

 

The perception of ‘womanhood’ in today’s day and age can be different to different women. In the upcoming blogs I will bring out more such descriptions about how the woman of 2018 perceives womanhood.

What It Means To Be A Woman

On the 8th of March we celebrated International Women’s Day, like we do every year. In college, me and all the other girls in my class were given a packet of chilli power with a message that said, “Spice up the eyes of all those words dare harass you.” Looking at that packet one couldn’t help but think that we live in a society where we actually might have to use this on someone one day or another. We live in a world where some women are still not allowed to venture outside without a male companion by their side. A world that sometimes looks down on you for taking certain decisions or living a certain way of you are a woman. But on other hand, we now live in a world where women are CEOs of muti-nationals and Vice Chancellors of countries. The same world that thought women were incompetent to drive (Read UAE), now thinks we deserve the right to drive if we choose to.

Being a woman in today’s world is a complicated affair. We are constantly processing threats and looking at infinite opportunities all at the same time. It’s not all great for us out in the world, but it’s not all that bad either.

So what exactly does it mean to be a woman in 2018?

I asked a few women and this is what they had to say.

And I’d like to present it to you in a three part photo-series.

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PART I

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Zoya Mateen, 22.

For me, womanhood is simply the art of becoming. It’s an inward journey rather than an outward one. I choose to give very little, or perhaps no importance to what someone might choose to identify me as. Sometimes a Muslim, sometimes a woman, the daunting expectations that come when you combine the two. Add a dash of modernity and a spoonful of arbitrary judgements on what I wear what I eat say or think and I already feel like I’m going crazy!
So no. I refuse to listen to them. I refuse to let them choose for me. My battle is within me.

I’m proud of who I am. my gender, faith or thinking have very little role to play individually in making me feel like that. Womanhood for me is this act of faith in yourself. For whoever I am and whatever I can be. I have the strength to accept myself and in the process learn, learn and keep learning

dsc_0061228821267.jpg Zoya is an artist.

Prashasti Awasthi, 21.

Being a woman is a tiring job especially when you advocate feminism. One is always misunderstood.
Having said that I can’t trade being a woman with anything else. It is the most powerful and amazing feeling. We are endowed with the quality of a nurturer and an empath. I cherish it as much as I cherish my physical growth.
I feel fortunate to be chosen to be a woman.

dsc_0047714435329.jpg Prashasti is a war journalist in the making.

 

 

Well, one thing we can agree on is that ‘womanhood’ cannot be defined. It can be perhaps be perceived in different ways by different people. In the upcoming days I will be showcasing more such women sharing their perceptions on womanhood, and what it is to be a woman in 2018. Stay tuned!

 

Someone For Everyone

Why each of us needs friends.

Third grade can be a difficult phase. Especially for kids like me who found making friends to be a daunting task.

I grew up in a building full of old people, having to spend most of my time indoors reading books or watching the television. And being the only child of a working couple didn’t help either.

Moreover, I studied in a convent school where clans of Catholic kids who were friends since kindergarten refused to include ‘outsiders’ (like me) to be a part of their group. To top it all, I was an introvert.

Hey, I wasn’t shy alright! I attempted to mingle with my classmates and thrust myself into one clan or the other; but once I realized that none of the third graders I’d spoken to had read Alice in wonderland or the secret seven, I didn’t know how else to make conversation.

I couldn’t care less about what to wear for the annual Christmas party in school like the others did and I was always the last one in class to know of the latest piece of gossip.

I could never understand why everyone hated writing essays in the literature class and why most of my classmates preferred sitting on the last benches.

You’d think I was one of the toppers or the teachers’ pet, but I wasn’t one of those either. I was stuck somewhere in the middle trying to make sense of the world in my own pace.

Well, this continued through most of my school life and even though I’d managed to make friends, they weren’t really “Friends.”

As I grew older I wondered if this is how things would always be. Me trying to make superficial conversations with acquaintances, passing them off as friends. With no one to trust my secrets with, without being judged. With no one to talk about things that really mattered to me.

I had learnt to be my own source of happiness for so long that somewhere along the line I began to think that I didn’t really need friends.

Boy! I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. The right people were yet to find their way into my life. And one day I finally chanced upon them.

But they didn’t resemble anything I thought my friends would look like.

They didn’t like the books that I did. They liked to party. They loved to dress up (I hated to!). They believed in sharing emotions (which I thought was absurd back then). They were loud and obnoxious. And I thought they had a terrible sense in music. However, we came to befriend each other’s oddities and fall in love with our differences.

I didn’t know how much I needed them until I met them. And today, if I could go back in time and talk to my school girl self, this is what I’d say:

Dear Little Girl,

Someday, you will find people who would understand exactly what you’re trying to say. They will know what shade of blue you’re imagining while you speak of a blue ribbon. They will know how much you feel for the children affected by the war in Syria or how much you worry about climate change.

They will know your likes and dislikes.They will know that you’d never want to watch horror movies at night and that Salman Khan movies are a big no-no!

They will always be honest with you. They will tell you, you look like shit in the dress you’re wearing or that you’re looking great with the new haircut. They will argue with you and tell you you’re wrong when you are. But they will stand by you when they know you’re right and the whole world thinks you’re not.

They will pay attention to the details. They will notice and appreciate things about you, most people won’t. They will know that you’re hiding something from them without you having to say a word.

They will protect you from the glare of the world. They will know about your deepest darkest secrets and take them to their grave. They will know of your worst fears and help you overcome them. They will hold you when you cry and let you douse their shoulders with tears. They will listen patiently when you rant your heart out and lighten your burdens.

At the same time they will also help you stand on your own feet and make sure that you’re strong enough to curve the problems life throws at you. They will push you to do better and grow each day. They will point out your flaws and help you mend them.

One way to tell for sure if they’re there to stay, is their ability to prioritise you. Your friends will always be there for you when you need them, no questions asked.

You will have an active role to play in this relationship too. You will be expected to be vulnerably honest, I know that’s scary, but trust me, it’s also liberating. For the first time in life your happiness will depend on others, and happiness will come to you when you least expect it. You will learn to share: things, experiences, success and your failures. You will always have someone to talk to at the end of a hard day.

But remember, for each person who fits this description, there will be ten others who won’t. So sit tight till you find the right ones and be ready to make memories to last for a lifetime. For when they do arrive, you’ll know it in your heart.

Love,

Your 23 year old self.

Cover picture credit- Haranish Mehta.

Story Of An Overthinker In Love

What goes on in the mind of an over-thinker in love

I live my life inside my head. I often want to tell you everything that goes on in it, but can’t seem to find the right words. And even if I did, I won’t possibly know where to begin!

Sometimes I wonder if you’d even understand if I told you. I wonder what you’d think of me. Would you like me more? Would you hate me for it? Would you think of me as strange? See….now I’m overthinking! This is what happens most of the time. I want to tell you one thing, and my mind spirals into something else all-together.

I get distracted very easily. I like to look at the skies while walking. I would almost ALWAYS stop to admire a little puppy or a cat on the road. I would sometimes talk to the old beggar or the kid playing on the footpath. I would look at the vendors in the market and wonder what they do once they return home at night. Oh, and it’s a different ballgame altogether when I’m by the sea.

I like to take in as much of it as I can. The smell of fish, the feel of salt on my skin, the noise of waves crashing, the sticky breeze flowing through my hair, all of it stimulates my being. I can spend hours just being there, feeling it drip in, bit by bit.

But you know what? That’s me even otherwise. I’m hardly a passive bystander in life. I’m actively processing everything that’s going on around me. It might come as a surprise to you, considering how lost I look, but inside me- I’m alive with imagination.

That’s why I like to take my time while I’m outdoors. Actually wait, not just the outdoors. I hate to rush anything. Be it eating a meal, reading a book, talking to you or simply strolling in the park by myself. I like to take things slow. Relishing each and every moment. It’s as though my mind is constantly imprinting each and every detail, trying to make sense out of it all. Continuously weaving a story.

Amidst all this, I’m contemplating life. Sometimes death. In the middle of the night I have dark thoughts of losing people I love in some freak accident. It gets my heart thumping, I wake up all sweaty, trying to catch my breath. Other times, I imagine what would happen if I died. Would it matter to people at all? Would it make you cry for days? I wonder if I have had any impact on the lives of people I’ve met in my lifetime. I wonder if they remember me fondly. Are any of them thinking about me right now? Do they recollect their time spent with me with a smile on their faces? Do I have any haters? I bet I do. All those arguments on Facebook and Whatsapp groups ought to have made me some enemies.

Well I can’t really help it. I have opinions and I feel strongly about them. It’s either yes or a no, there’s no “maybe” in my dictionary. I can be completely detached and not even blink about things or people I don’t care about. I can be distant and cold hearted. I can be cruelly unemotional at times. But mostly I’m brimming with emotions. I’m raging with anger every morning when I read of corrupt politicians, I’m filled with empathy when I find old people shivering in the cold- begging for a meal, I’m amazed to see the stars shine bright through the polluted skies on a tiring monday evening, my eyes tear up when I listen to a song that I like, my heart skips a beat when I think of you.

Talking of you; I think of you every other minute. At times I feel so happy that you exist that I start sobbing. I imagine ways in which I can show you how much I love you. I want to call you right at that moment and tell you that you’re the best thing that’s happened to me. But I know I would be dumbstruck. That’s why I write to you. It helps me align my emotions with my mind. I often picture you smiling at me, or looking at your phone with your eyebrows furrowed as you read a mail from work. Sometimes I picture you gobbling down food or staring into space as your cigarette burns itself out. Other times I imagine you gently caressing my hair as we kiss. I imagine your warm body curled up against mine. I wonder what goes on in your mind when you look at me? I wish I could get inside your head and understand what is it that you love about me. What is it that you hate. What is it that you wish you could change about me. I wonder if you look at me and think about the same things. But sometimes I have this gripping fear of losing all this happiness somehow. What if I disappointed you? What if something terrible happens to you, or me? What if you contract amnesia and forget that I ever existed! Oh God, so many things that could go wrong! Do you know what do I do when that happens? I pray.

Surprised? Well, it’s because now I have so much at hand that I might lose! I pray that I always find my way to you, and you to me. I pray that we rise above our differences and remember what we love about each other when times get tough. I pray that we strive to understand each other. I pray that you’re always happy. I pray that you’re always surrounded by family and loved ones who genuinely care about you. But mostly, I ask the universe/God to help us grow with each other every day. I have only you to thank for all this praying and talking to the universe!

You’d say I worry too much. I’d say, yes, “I worry, I worry”, but that’s just how I am! But it’s not all that bad always. It’s just that my mind just works overtime. Imagining the infinite possibilities of life. Perpetually finding my space in each moment. Finding my purpose in the universal story. Collecting moments & memories from my everyday life in my head. And as an over-thinker I pride myself for it. For if not an over-thinker, I can’t possibly imagine what else I’d be. Or, can I?

What’s Freedom To You?

I N D E P E N D E N C E

Liberty & Freedom were the words that came up when I looked for synonyms of ‘Independence’. I think it’s safe to say that an Independent country is also a ‘Free’ one. But considering a country as diverse as India, where people worship Rajnikanth in temples, cricket is a religion in itself and over a thousand dialects of hundreds of languages are spoken: ‘Freedom’ can be subjective.

To my mom, women being able to choose their own husbands nowadays is Freedom. To my grandfather, easy access to education and free information is Freedom. On the other hand, it’s us. The millenials. We were born into an Independent India. We didn’t have to struggle for our basic rights like our elders did, and somewhere along the line we began taking these rights for granted. Nowadays, the trend is to rant about how restricted India is, ON Independence day. As a friend of mine put it, “It’s like complaining to your parents on your birthday!”

The spirit of Independence day is to remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors for our generation to live in a free India. We need to show gratitude for the fights, revolutions and bloodshed that went behind the liberties that we inherited by birth. The Freedom, we think we are entitled to.

Well, are we grateful? I don’t know about you, I sure am. But…. Yes, there’s a but.

…But does that mean, we shouldn’t strive for more? 70 years post Independence, we should have definitely crossed some mile-stones. We should have had a constitution that progressed with time and accommodated the changing needs of its people. But sadly, we are stuck somewhere in the past, with laws that still don’t consider marital rape a crime and consider same-sex marriages one!

Instead of progressing we have regressed on many fronts, putting our forefathers’ fight for freedom to shame. Today, we censor public opinion according to the ruling leaders (sacking pahlaj nihalani), we ban things as and when we please (Beef, ripped jeans or sleeveless clothes in colleges), we lynch people who might follow a certain way of life or belong to certain minorities (Gowrakshaks), we collectively pass judgments as we see fit (arushi murder case, salman khan runover case), we don’t value human life (’82 Sino-Indian war: Deoliwallahs), we monetize on religious sentiments, we categorize emotions as right or wrong and punish people who work against these set categories, we repress dreams and kill aspirations when they aren’t in tandem with the norms. This is what we’ve become merely 70 years after we won “FREEDOM”.

Should we be thankful for the rights and liberties we inherited? Yes.

Are we entitled for more rights and liberties? Also Yes.

Speaking of Freedom, here’s what my friends thought we need freedom from:

  • Freedom from Chauvinism
  • Freedom from an unhealthy lifestyle
  • Freedom from feeling unsafe
  • Freedom to eat beef
  • Freedom from Patriarchy
  • Freedom from moral policing
  • Freedom from gender bias
  • Freedom from Intolerance
  • Freedom from the past mistakes
  • Freedom from State capitalism
  • Freedom from too much freedom
  • Freedom from weak and incompetent administration and management by our leaders
  • Freedom from wanna be activist who don’t fully have the grasp of the case they are fighting for.
  • Freedom from your own insecurities
  • Freedom from financial debts
  • Freedom from racism and regionalism
  • Freedom from curfew at home
  • Freedom from my husband’s tantrums (Not sure if this applies to everyone!)

In other words, it’s time for an UPGRADE. An upgrade in ideals, norms and laws. An upgrade in the way we function as a society. An upgrade to become a better people. The one that our forefathers aspired for.

You could either accept the reality of today as your fate, or raise your voice and ask for what you feel is Freedom. You could comfortably sing “Saare Jahaan Se Accha Hindustaan Humaara” today, without meaning a single word of it; Or, you could free yourselves and India from the prejudices, injustice, corruption and hypocrisies.

The question remains, “What’s freedom to you?”, and more importantly, will you work for it like your forefathers did?

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How It Felt To Be Bride’s Maid To A Blind Girl

This blog is about my experience at a Blind girl’s wedding. Both emotional & inspirational this story is close to my heart!

Calm and unfazed, Premala sits smiling even as others frantically move about running last minute errands. Premala is getting married today! She says that in her 23 years of life, this is her happiest day.

She pouts & holds, as I line her lips with the deep red shade of lipstick that her guardian selected. Why her guardian you ask? Well, ever since Premala lost her sight when she was 10, her parents kept her at a distance. Too poor to look after a blind child who was also happened to be a girl, her parents dropped her at a school for the visually challenged children & never really intended to look back & take her home again.

I look at her dimpled smile as she chatters with the guests. The way she blushes when someone mentions the name of the groom. And emotions flood my brain.  I’m at loss of words as to how someone who is missing such an important aspect of life is so positive. I am at awe of her nonchalant grace.

She suddenly bursts into a song in Marathi & sings a couple of verses in her beautiful voice. Her voice so confident & clear, stuns everyone in the room.  Her voice managed to silence an entire room of cackling relatives and friends, at a wedding house! And then, she abruptly stops and asks me if her lipstick has smudged because of the singing. The women giggle as they hear her naive questions & tell her not to worry too much about the lipstick, to which she stubbornly replies that she wants another coat of lipstick! “It’s my wedding and I want to look the prettiest in the room.”, she says pouting again.

For some reason Premala had taken an instant liking to me ever since I first met her. Even at her wedding I was her maid-of-honor of sorts.

As I head towards her she asks me what I’m wearing. After all, she wouldn’t want her “didi” (sister) to look under-dressed at her wedding. I tell her I’m wearing a floral dress. I see her face light up! She asks to me come closer so she can feel the dress with her hands to know what a dress feels like, “I’ve never worn one didi, come closer, I want to SEE how your dress looks.” She runs her fingers through the creases of my dress and then looks at me with a smile and says something I will never be able to forget, “You look Beautiful didi.”

That one statement had tears flowing down my cheeks. I told her that she looks beautiful and all the guests were in love with her saree and her radiant smile returned!

This was followed by the wedding ceremony that was held in a church. I bore the bride’s trail. I was by her side until she was finally united with her husband, Sharad Patil who is a visually challenged person himself.

It was so beautiful to see how these two souls found each other. Their blinded vision didn’t stop them from finding love. Just because Premala didn’t see colours didn’t stop her from dreaming of rainbows and chasing behind them. At 23 she has a college degree in biblical studies and aims at reaching out to young girls like her.

If this isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is!

Many of us complain about things that don’t even matter. We are never satisfied and crib about everything that comes our way. Inspite of having the best education, best parents & friends to love us we point out to that one thing that we might NOT have. That one dress that you can’t afford or maybe that bike that your dad refused to buy.

One failed relationship and we give up on life, one test gone bad and we are ready to jump off the 17th floor of a building.

Sometimes all we need to do is look around us and absorb the strength and determination to keep going. Hey, no one said it’s going to be an easy ride. Take Premala for instance, she’s got it the worst way possible. An abandoned blind girl child, who had to fend for herself. But instead of letting all of this hurt and disappointment take a hold over her, she decided to give life a second chance, then a third & a fourth! Until she finally found what she was looking for. Purpose in life & someone to love. And that’s amazing!

Hopefully someday there will be more of Premalas in this world that gives up so easily. A world that fails to see the beauty in the little things. A world that has forgotten to be grateful.

Hopefully, Someday.