Monday, 19 March 2018

An Ode to the Women in Mumbai Locals

To the women with stiff spines, unblinking eyes, unsmiling lips,
hands curled into fists,
counting shadows at night.
Who have been told,
stay at home”,
public spaces aren't meant for you.

This is an ode to the women
who took the most public space in Mumbai and made it their home.

The first compartment is the kitchen.
A woman has a peeler in one hand and a potato in another;
with every jerk of the train,
she juggles between the two.
Between work and home,
between work that pays and work that doesn't.

Three seats away is a woman with her make up bag spilled open.
You don't need mirrors for the perfect winged liner.
you just need steady hands.

In the next compartment,
a woman sleeps by the window.
The sunlight reflects off of her perfect face.
She is radiant.
Yet, she sleeps the way all women do -
with one ear perked up.
Half conscious, vigilant. Listening.
Next station: Dadar. Aglaa station: Dadar. Pudheel station: Dadar.

This is an ode to the women,
Who, when told to be quiet,
be soft,
be ladylike,
will scream bloody murder in defiance.
and "aatmadhe chala,
pura train khaali hai,
fir bhi sabko bahar khada rehna hai."
Who will trade your approval for that fourth seat.

This is an ode to the women in Mumbai locals,
who will fight and scratch to get where they want,
which is usually,
a safezone.
But if you have unsteady feet,
and are hanging on for dear life,
they will scoop you up and hold you,
like family.

This is an ode to the women in Mumbai locals,
to the women who breathe life into these death traps of metal
that breathe life into the city.
Mumbai locals can chew you up and spit you out.
This is an ode to the women who will spit right back.

Friday, 2 February 2018

How To: Antagonist

Before we get to the crux of this post, it is important to define the term, Antagonist. Simply put, an antagonist acts in opposition to the protagonist. An antagonist need not be evil or even villainous, as long as they pose as an obstacle in the protagonist’s journey. Snoke, for example in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, is the ‘Supreme Leader’ of the First Order and by all means the villain. And yet he isn’t the antagonist because he doesn’t play a role in the plot, something The Last Jedi is aware of. The same can be said about other negative characters like Crabbe and Goyle (from Harry Potter), Cato (from The Hunger Games) or even Caroline Bingley (from Pride and Prejudice). In contrast, when Irene Adler outwits Sherlock Holmes in the canonical text by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, she has the moral high ground and yet she is an antagonist to his protagonist. However, given that most heroes tend to be on the right side of the moral scale, the antagonists do tend to be villainous even when they aren’t the ‘main villain’. Saruman from Lord of the Rings falls well within this category.

This distinction is important to make because it is necessary to realize a great antagonist is an element of the story and exists to further the plot or the character arc of the protagonist. An antagonist thus needs to engage with the protagonist, forcing him/her to reevaluate and grow. This means you can throw out any Iron Man antagonist that isn’t Jeff Bridges out the window.  

My problem with antagonists that don’t personally interact with the protagonist is simple – they’re not interesting. The first Iron Man movie had two significant antagonists and each of them served a purpose. The first forced Tony Stark to change the direction his company was headed in and the other made his fight personal as it became the betrayal of a friend/a business partner. Iron Man 3 doesn’t force Tony Stark to hesitate; to reevaluate or even care. Even worse are the antagonists who ask the hero to save – not someone they care about, like Iron Man 3 does with Gwyneth Paltrow – but the whole world. Think Man of Steel and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Inertia (using bad metaphors)

Imagine a hiccup. Slow it down, a little more. Feel the inward curve, riddled with tension and the wait. Oh, the waiting - the tapping of feet, rocking your body into motion; your body moves practising for when it can move. The quick glances at the watch on your wrist that you don’t wear anymore but can feel the ghost of. The waiting is excruciating. 

The last week of an old year is waiting. Each day etches like a wrinkle on the face of a year – worry lines and crow’s feet and traces of laughter. But as the year comes to a close, the days run out of space. The days don’t fit anywhere. One day it is Christmas, and you’re rejoicing in a festival you don’t celebrate, and then there’s New Year's Eve, a day you hop over in your eagerness to start fresh. And between the two are the days of waiting. They feel timeless; not as in ‘for eternity’ but as in ‘they have no concept of time’. They sneak past your closed eyelids as you blink. You do nothing for hours, and the hours add up to nothing, and yet they weigh heavy. 

The last week of an old year is like that one scene from Thor: The Dark World wherein everything falls into sync just to open up a portal that disturbs the laws of reality. Like a black hole, it saps you of your mental health, productivity, motivation, energy and renders you into your most passive version.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Realistic Character Development

Act 1 Scene 1

When your story begins,
you don't remember how old you are.
But you are big;
Big eyes filled with big dreams;
Standing on the precipice of youth,
And you’ve already envisioned yourself halfway down.

Act 1 Scene 2

You have magic powers;
You can feel things that aren’t there.
Example: When he looks at you,
The room grows warmer,
And you swear to god you can feel fire.

Act 1 Scene 3

He makes you wonder -
About the endlessness of the universe,
about the purpose you serve,
about the crinkles near his eyes and stories tucked in their folds.

Act 1 Scene 4

He makes you question -
the size of the universe,
the pointlessness of your existence,
the way his eyebrows form a frown when you put on your favourite dress.

Act 1 Scene 5

You choose your clothes with care;
You frame your hair exactly the right way;
You even dare at makeup.

When he looks at you,
You don’t want to die.
You simply want to breathe in
And never breathe out again.

Act 2 Scene 1

He tells you that the world is cruel,
That he wants what is best for you.
He tells you they don’t like your youth,
That they don’t like people with possibilities
But all you can hear is -
They don’t like you.

Act 2 Scene 2

When you stood at the edge and peered,
You imagined you would float downwards.
But you are burdened by your body.
This feeling isn’t floating, it’s falling.
You feel heavy; ready to sink.

Act 2 Scene 3

When you look at him,
You feel ants crawling up your body.
You are drowning in a swarm of tiny insects,
And you can’t remember the last time you believed in magic.

Act 2 Scene 4

It happens over a slice of pizza
Shared with an old friend,
Someone you knew before you knew him.
And you realize that this is your story, not his.

Act 2 Scene 5

You feel your fingertips sparking,
Your eyes contain a multitude of possibilities,
And then you stop free falling.
Instead, you rise.
And as you rise, the curtain falls.  

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson | Spoiler Free

*All book reviews on this blog are spoiler free.*

“18% of the women in Sweden have at one time been threatened by a man.”

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo contains many stories, as far as books go, but perhaps at its core, it tells the tale of the horrors of women in the Sweden of Larsson’s narrative. And so the book begins, with a new statistic introducing each of the four parts it is split into. 

The story is told through the eyes of Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist, who is hired to solve the mysterious events from nearly half a century ago – the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. Blomkvist has a singular motive – to restore his credibility and that of his publication, Millennium - and confining himself to an island and uncovering the truth from 46 years ago seems the way to achieve it. Surprisingly, the girl in 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' – Lisbeth Salander, enters the main conflict of the plot much later in the story.

Friday, 14 April 2017

How It Ended, From the Beginning

When asked later, by her own damned self, what possessed to her to willing crawl under the figurative bus, Yashika would blame the narrow corridor. That, combined with the rose-scent of Apoorvi’s hair oil induced self-destructive tendencies in her. 

It began when she was summoned to the school counsellor’s office with Yashika. Or perhaps, it truly began two weeks prior to that, over a school project. In many ways, Yashika insisted all her life had been leading up to that moment. But truthfully, how it began wasn’t as important as how it ended. 

The walk to Shilpa ma’am’s office was an awkward one. Neither girl said a word; each musing over why were asked to visit the counsellor. Worry had taken the shape of lines on Apoorvi’s forehead as she recalled the events of last week. Yashika felt her heart hammering in her chest as she replayed the events from a fortnight back.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Indian Economics: An Ode to Failure

When I open my Indian Economics textbook, 
The numbers leap out,
The government expenditure, the foreign direct investment, the tax revenue, 
All rising higher and higher
I can feel them with my entire body
Till they settle at the base of my throat
Like dust in the wake of dry wind.
They barricade the fear inside my chest
And I wonder - Is it possible to breathe again.

My brain is a swirling mess of statistics,
Interspersed with self-doubt, 
Till it drips onto my soul
And no matter how hard I scrub, 
There is a spot on the inside of my wrists,
And the back of my earlobe, 
Where the humiliation won’t wash off
Instead, it grows stronger 
With every beat of my heart 
And I wonder – Is it possible to go on from here.

It drips out onto my soul, 
Something sticky and hateful that covers me whole
Till I forget where I end 
And where the disillusion begins
And I wonder – Is it possible to find myself again. 
It is. It is. It is.