Of Acceleration and Gravity

Mould my sighs

harden my heart

clay to porcelain

carcass of hope

 

I lay strewn, torn

back and forth

between my regrets

and your embrace

 

When I wake

I hope you leave

the door open for

another someone

 

Take me to

that somewhere

where you live

where I lose

 

Dry eyes wry smile

I will not return

to be an option

an unanswered question

 

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Second Hand Ghost

Perpetual progression is the fire

and failure is the ash that collects

at the bottom of this living vessel

It’s as if my mind has departed

and is staring at me from afar

observing me observing myself

a cycle with no wheels

and dried up flowers in the basket.

If motifs could speak

recruiting logos would be

eve-teasing me, catcalling

when I scroll past their offers.

Made-up figures in made-up time frames

telling me I need their monotony

for subsistence, existence, reassurance.

The world will not let a mind rest

but it will not allow wandering either

but what’s a girl to do

when all the minds are hand-me-downs

and all the spirits halt at traffic lights.

The ghosts of my yesterday, their contracts

I must obey,

I’m still searching for the exit clause.

 

 

 

On Water and Profit

The Gadgil Committee report in 2011, headed by the famous Indian ecologist, Madhav Gadgil, was criticized for being too environment-friendly.

In Goa, every Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by iron ore mining companies provided false information about the hydrological impact of mining.

Some people I know were stranded on rooftops during this past week’s flooding in Kerala. My friend’s grandmother, uncle and aunt went missing for a few days. My district, Idukki, was the worst hit, although for some miraculous reason, the small town where my house is situated was almost unaffected. Tourist destinations like Munnar lay in shambles. The multiple resorts, granite quarries and mines had left the mountainsides devoid of enough vegetation to retain topsoil during rains, leading to landslides that snowballed into avalanches of soil.

Most towns, cities and villages have turned into little islands, cut off from each other and from the rest of India. Although the cities of Kochi and Trivandrum are not too badly hit, water and electricity supplies have been cut. Power cables would electrocute people if they fell in the flood waters and water pipes that broke under the pressure of floodwaters could not be repaired at those depths. Airports are shut, train services halted and roads destroyed, and right now, my parents say it is like waking up from a war: the worst is yet to come.

I helped organize donation drives in my college hostel. But at the back of my mind, it keeps nagging me, the fact that we are sending them food, toiletries, essentials all packed in plastic, and then bundled together into ‘care packages’ again tied together in one plastic bag. Plastic is what we spew into the oceans. And during the flood, the rivers regurgitated all the waste that we threw at them. In areas where the water subsided, you cannot see the clay that you would normally expect after a flood, you see a carpet of waste, of plastic bottles and bags and utensils and toys; you see nature giving back what we gave it.

After the floodwaters subside, the state must deal with the spread of waterborne diseases that have already begun their advance, and the rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands of people whose homes have been destroyed, not to mention cleaning up, restarting transport operations and reorganizing agriculture.

When the cyclone Ockhi hit the coasts of Kerala last year, little press coverage was given to the lives of the fishermen it had affected. People mentioned it in passing, but fishermen are far away from the humdrum of city life, their existence was barely acknowledged, their sufferings blamed on themselves. The Syrian Catholic churches said that since the fishermen were newly converted Latin Catholics, they were not obliged to help them, it was a case that the Latin Catholic church had to deal with on their own. During last week’s flood, it was these very fishermen who have been, and still are, rescuing people, regardless of the nuances of Catholicism and religion, from places the army cannot reach with their advanced rubber boats, which are too light to withhold the force of gushing floodwater. The fishermen, used to navigating the harsh seas in their dinghy wooden boats, are skilled at maneuvering through the waters to reach those who need help. One fisherman laid in the water to act as a bridge for people to walk on from a rooftop on to his boat. To call it heroic would be an understatement.

We ignore nature in the same vein we ignored these fishermen. We talk constantly of increasing our material comfort, of buying our mothers expensive bags and our fathers expensive yachts, of one day being able to join the mile high club so that we can laud it on instagram. We fail to realize the blip that we are in this world, this universe. In the flood relief camps, both rich and poor alike live together, both rich and poor alike have only the clothes on their backs and nothing else. Maybe the rich have iPhones to call their relatives with, but what difference does it make when the telecom provider is the same, when the clarity of the call is equal. They are all eating the same rations now, suffering equally now. Would it change their minds in the future? Would they be nicer to the less fortunate once they have their wealth returned to them? Maybe, maybe not.

Gadgil warns of the likelihood of a similar situation bound to arise in Goa, where mining and ‘development’ are paving the way for potential monsoon-related disasters. No one listened to him in 2011, no one is listening to him in 2018. Personally, I love both these states for their natural beauty and laid back way of life, and the thought of one succumbing to the other’s fate has me in a state of horror.

I talk about climate change a lot on social media. My area of research is in climate modelling. It’s for a reason. It’s because I realized, not understood but realized (and yes, there’s a difference, believe me), that we can’t take nature for granted. Capitalism is the antithesis of nature, it’s a perpetual cycle of infinite greed fueled by a conscious ignorance of real world consequences. If we don’t rethink our current system, and I mean the whole socio-economic system that praises profit, we cannot avoid digging our own grave.

For the past few years, my parents have been on a path of self-sufficiency. They are attempting to go entirely ‘off-grid’, self-reliant when it comes to food, water and energy, and for the most part, they’ve succeeded. But the years when we were transitioning from the materialist culture served to us to this path of being one with nature, we faced a lot of opposition and skepticism. I remember a younger me being occasionally angry at them for not conforming to society’s standards of what ‘wealthy’ should look like: where was the big SUV and the massive driveway? Why were we so far from shopping malls and clubs? Where were the gyms? Eventually I got used to, and began appreciating, their lifestyle and their choices. We barely depended on companies or the government to provide us with the major resources you need for life. The barren land we bought had been converted into an oasis of flora and fauna. I felt like we had built our own resort and we were, and are, truly happy thereEven now, it amazes me to think of the progress they made but on the outside, to society, their progress was next to nothing, and it is this culture of profit-mongering that irked me. And it is this culture that has been failing us time after time.

It takes a lot of courage to go against the tide, and that’s what most people lack. I think that’s what allows the tide to wash over us. Let’s hope that this is a lesson learned, and when my state has to be rebuilt, let’s hope we build around nature, instead of over it.

 

 

We are, I am

Here’s to the place that

gave me all my firsts:

my first home

my first crush

my first piano

my first heartbreak

and my first loss

It’s on your shores

where I learned

to walk, to cycle, to swim

I learned friendship

love and hatred

I learned how to fall

and get back up again

I learned who I am

because of you and

I am proud to be

the product of your

dawn and twilight.

I would return to listen

to streets singing in singlish;

yes I admit I would switch to it

in an instant if I could.

I would return to hawker

centres and nonya desserts,

to plates full of bee hoon and

brightly colored kueh

to nights brighter than days

to the early morning sounds

of aunties practicing tai chi.

I would.

Happy National Day Singapore.

Janaki

The ease with which you walk

that lazy giggle, echoing like crystals

that clink and sparkle, but only just so.

 

Your wide eyes, amused at

my every story, trashy anecdotes.

 

Janaki, you inhaled the lives

you couldn’t live

you exhaled the wishes

you couldn’t feel.

 

Now you lie in the arms

of the man they said

you must love, but only just so.

 

Janaki, do you see, touch, shake

the bars of your golden cage with regret?

By the Edges

We dance along the edges of time

I never seem to have enough

you never seem to lack.

And each train signals the end

of another beginning

cut short, drowned out

by iron wheels on rails

by blank eyes passing

by fingers clutching.

 

We dance along the edges of our feelings

I never seem to have enough

you never seem to lack.

And each lingering glance signals

the crumbling wall of your emotion

silenced, suppressed

by railway loudspeakers

by the wail of an engine

by my waving goodbye.

Questions the cat can’t answer.

What does it mean to experience? Do some live the moment better than others? What qualifies as better? Is the ability to experience well, a talent like the ability to dance or write or sing? If someone is able to feel the moment, appreciate the situation and enlighten himself through it better than another, does he deserve the circumstance more than the latter? Can he be thought of as more deserving because he is more adept at feeling, internalizing, learning? What constitutes experience? Is it measured on a scale of individual betterment? And if a person feels more than another the pain and tragedy of the situation they’re in, does he deserve it less or more? Who will award the deserving? Who has the right to? Do we have a right to claim the depth of our experiences as our accomplishments? Will they ever be understood the same way if only heard as a recount? How do we measure the depth of experience? Is there even a need to quantify it?