Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poem: Forgotten

Of course,
you don't know me

Unremembered -
I am that photograph
to ascend
the double-helical stairway of glory

Unheard -
I am that sigh
every note
of my brother's Symphony

Unseen -
I am that Rosewater Dish
and forgotten
as the hero erases 77 years' history

But no,
not anymore.

I am the Forgotten Woman,
storm-born, steel-forged;
rising from darkness
to claim my throne

the frills and ribbons
you chained me with

and I
will no longer be

I will
no longer be

A tribute to the forgotten women of science, arts and sports. The ones robbed of deserving recognition, the ones cast into shadows as their brothers/fathers/male colleagues claimed the limelight.

My chosen ones:
Rosalind Franklin, whose Photo 51 cracked the long-elusive structure of DNA, an achievement for which she should have been given credit along with Crick and Watson.

Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart. Equally prodigious, but little-known, sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Virginia Wade. While the media went overboard when Andy Murray finally won Wimbledon in 2013 - "the first Brit to win the Wimbledon after 77 years" - very few people remembered that she won the singles in 1977.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Haiku: Just Another

This is all I am:
drifting from just another 
to yet another 


Yes, I know haiku aren't supposed to rhyme, but couldn't bring myself to replace the last line with anything else, so... *shrug*

Photo (c) Kimiwi at deviantart

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Poem: Horizon

you were the Sun -
all fire and heat and
glorious warmth

And I,
the bashful sky
blushing scarlet
as you rose.

you were the waves,
battling the deep sea's pull
in pursuit of me -

Me -
the stretch of sand
eternally yearning
for your return, your salty kiss.

you were the breeze
carrying whispered nothings,
murmurs and sighs

And I,
the adoring cloud
drifting along with you,
for you.

"once" is a day
that ends now -

that I see:

You are only the horizon -
A line
that I believed was
the end of my world;
A line that never was.

Written during the Chevayur sub-district school youth festival, for the English versification contest. This was probably the most agonizing poem to write, and the stipulated time period the longest two hours of my life. Couldn't see a better direction towards which I could steer the poem, couldn't find the right words...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Poem: Long Ago

Long ago
my laugh had a life
of its own

the yes-I-remember chuckle
or perhaps
a head-thrown-back guffaw

my laugh
is only three letters:

Long ago
my smile had a soul
of its own

which revealed itself
in my eyes,
in the curve of my lips

my smile
is condensed:
a colon, a parenthesis.

Long ago
my emotions used to burst
with energy

thoughts sang
muscles danced
veins throbbed

my emotions
all lie unused,

My life and soul
in ones and zeros

and now, I:
a cluster of frozen pixels.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Smell-bound Stories

Among our senses, smell is perhaps the most under-appreciated by me. 

Unless characteristic, like cardamom and cinnamon announcing that mom’s making biriyani, I seldom pay attention to the broad spectrum of scents and stenches which brighten the canvas of my life with their subtle presence. I rarely notice the next-door hibiscuses peering over the compound wall or fruity traces of shampoo in my freshly-washed hair.

But there’s one smell that never fails to hold me in place; to make me pause and inhale deeply. To make me smile.

Open the sturdy brown shelf in the hall upstairs, and you’ll get a whiff of that smell as well. It is a musty one, rising slowly, sluggishly from the crowd of paperbacks and hardbacks. A smell so thick, so heavy, that you can almost taste it. But I doubt whether it holds the same meaning for you as it does for me. Because, in that instant when I open the bookshelf, I also fling open the doors to many other worlds… and a lot of memories.

That rich musty smell transports me back in time, to when I was only five, a girl almost collapsing under the weight of her aunt’s gift: a brightly-coloured picture dictionary.  Its glossy pages smelled fresh and clean and new, inviting me to drown in them, in the waves of large red titles and little black letters. 

Fast forward: my first steady step into the world of fiction, my first Enid Blyton book. Like a patient mother, it watches proudly as I begin to speed up, to jog, to run, run with blazing speed. Not uttering a word even as I condemned it to the farthest corner of the shelf, forgotten in old age. 

Over the years, the mustiness has accumulated a hundred sounds, a thousand different stories. 

It echoes the crackle of new paper and the quiet rustle of old, well-thumbed ones. In it, I hear my disbelieving gasps at a particularly mind-blowing plot twist. I feel the dampness of my cheeks when a beloved character dies. I sense my growing wonder as I discover tidbits of knowledge from my quiz books.

And when the musty odour embraces my nostrils, I think of my best friends. Malavika. Amritha. Emilda. I think of how our mutual love for books forged and tempered the bond between us. I remember all the Social Science classes during which we read storybooks instead of being rocked to sleep by our textbook.

The smell reminds me of the time I was incoherent with rage, for my sister had torn the first page of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The smell of my bookshelf is also the smell of rebellion and freedom   the smell of my city on the day it welcomed me with arms wide open as I went to TBS, alone, to buy a long-coveted book. 

It is the smell of love and loss, the smell of The Fault in Our Stars. It smells like the celebration of words in The Book Thief. It is mythology reborn in the pages of Percy Jackson. It brims with the fear and adrenaline pulsing in Divergent. It is the hope burning in A Thousand Splendid Suns. It is the blood and gore in A Game of Thrones; the greys of human lives painted vividly across the pages of The Casual Vacancy.

For you, the musty smell maybe just one of the myriad nameless perfumes on earth... but for me, it is a fragrance sweeter than the best of all roses.

Written for Ambi Pur India's Smelly to Smiley Contest on Indiblogger, in which participants talk about the memories they associate with different smells/fragrances in their homes. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Poem: Identity Card

I received
my identity card

and was stunned:
They’d gotten my name wrong!

not misspelled;

the address was right
and so was my birth-date

but the name
beneath my photograph
wasn’t mine at all.

My lips
then strung the alien letters
into a symphony - 

it sounded like
weaving through my flesh;
like my soul
being riddled with falsehoods

it sounded like
buried alive,
struggling to escape
from its grave

it sounded like
trying to sweeten
the stench of blood
souring on guilty hands.

my identity card
renamed me
Ishrat Jahan.

When conscience is mortgaged to money and power, when innocence is murdered to fuel hatred, when blood is spilled so that the seedlings of prejudice may flourish, when khaki-clad hearts have turned to stone... you get Ishrat Jahan and countless other victims of fake encounters (God alone knows how many.) 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Poem: Omnia Vincit Amor

stolen moments in
torch-lit nights

feverish touches
amidst erratic breaths

locked glances
setting free wordless secrets

you, me:

curled up
beneath blankets of lies,
my fingertips
dancing on your spine

they call this lust!

but what do they know of
of heat,
of my heart beating
in tandem with yours?

what do they know of
of fervour,
of boiling blood
purging my soul of fear?

what do they know of
forbidden kisses
tasting sweeter?

To quote one of my cousins, "Don't get any ideas, people!"

I swear, if one more grown-up remarks snidely, "You're still reading YA and fantasy? Shouldn't you be moving on to serious stuff?" I'm going to murder them. (More on that later....)

Anyway, this poem is about my rebellion against my parents' diktat that, for every "childish book with magical claptrap" that I read, I should also read one philosophical/religious/whatever-is-deemed-serious-by-adults book. Only then would I be allowed to buy the next book of my choice.

Ha. Fat chance. I promptly enlisted the help of my friends and got them to order whichever title I wanted from various online portals, which they handed over to me at school. A Snape-worthy operation, if I say so myself.

Not at all sorry for this irreverent affair with books, however. Because it's with them that I become myself. With them, I can sob and scream and laugh and curse without inhibitions. With them, I'm brave. I'm happy. I'm at peace. I'm in love.

And it's said that "omnia vincit amor." Love conquers all. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Poem: Jasmines

in Cairo
the jasmines wilted

The streets
lined with blossoms
trampled beneath
unflinching boots

The breeze
robbed of its perfume;
now reeking of
cold metal

above the torrent
of bullets striking flesh,
splattering blood

I heard a child,
begging the jasmine shrubs
to flower again.

I may not understand politics and civil wars, but I do know what 'massacre' means and that its meaning is universal, not just confined to the borders of Egypt.

Inspired by my cousin Nazreen's poem Today I Woke Up in Syria, one of my all-time favourites on account of its heart-wrenching imagery.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Poem: Double-Faced


For you,
that’s all I am

You see
omens of betrayal
in a cheery hello

undertones of scorn
in the most carefree of laughs

every word of mine
sugar-coated poison

and proclaim to the world
that I’m not what they see;
“She has two faces!”

you have never seen my face
drenched in despair,
in the middle of a rant,
or torrid as the tropics,
or even lost in a daydream

you don’t even know
that I have a million faces.


For me,
that’s all you are


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Poem: Mirage

in this infinite ocean
of scorching sand

now mere vapour
in this hellish furnace

by oblivion's Siren-song;
ready to collapse
into her waiting arms

you came along
slipping your fingers
into mine

Your smile
quenching my parched soul,

Your touch
soothing as cool water,

Your words
promising escape.

But only now do I see:
I was just another naive fly
in your web;

A wanderer in the desert,
and your love
just a mirage

Written for the school-level English Versification contest for the topic Mirage. Meh. Could have done better. But unfortunately, I'm not in the mood to revise, so here's the poem, in all its unpolished glory. (If the second stanza seems familiar to you, it's because I shamelessly tweaked a few lines from Fire, my previous poem.) Thoughts?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Poem: Fire

I am fire
fuelled by the
rotting in my closet

I am fire
flitting between
warm amber
and blistering orange

I am fire
stinging your eyes
with truths
you hate to see.

I am the fire
you tried to tame,

on myself

Streaking down
the unused path to my heart,
scorching my veins,
razing bone and sinew.

You tried to quench me
So you could be fine

But I,
I explode.

I explode with the heat
of one thousand suns -
my fury seared onto
your eyes; your scream
turned to vapour
in revenge's furnace

And then
I will die

And you,
You will regret.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Coming Back To Life

Life is beautiful. Sometimes.

Like when you realize that people who actually like you (or your blog) exist, especially when the realization hits you when you're down in the dumps.

I've been walking like a zombie since school started on May 2nd for us Plus Two students - a month earlier than the others, for we are The Ones Who Must Score and Bring Glory to the School. The teachers haven't even started the (relatively) difficult topics, but I feel oddly burdened and overwhelmed, as if I'm teetering on the verge of breaking down. Or erupt/combust/explode. I don't know.

Then, day before yesterday I came across a comment on the previous post that I had missed earlier and discovered that I have been nominated for another Liebster! Yesterday, Sania passed on the Very Inspiring Blogger award and the Best Moment award. This totally made my week, apart from Divergent and Insurgent. (If you haven't read these awesome-beyond-words books by Veronica Roth, you're missing out. Also, it's refreshing to read an insightful YA trilogy without a love triangle.)

Thank you, Joanne Clancy, for the nomination!

I'm going to skip writing random facts about myself as I'm running out of PC time, but you can read some here.

Answering Joanne's questions:

1. What's your favourite book and why?
A: I don't choose favourites among favourites. My favourite books do have lots in common, though: characters with depth, realistic settings, the ability to make me go 'wow', thought-provoking, and EVERY SINGLE one of them broke my heart. Every. Single. One.

2. Do you have any recurring dreams and nightmares?
A: I would have loved to answer this question but the problem is, I don't remember 99% of my dreams/nightmares when I wake up.

3. Do you believe in life after death?
A: I haven't made up my mind on this yet.

4. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
A: English Vinglish. One of the best Hindi movies ever made, in my opinion.

5. Why do you blog?
A: To give myself a place where I can be heard, to interact with people (since my real-world social life is almost non-existent) and to grow as a writer.

6. What inspires you?
A: Usually, it's a good book. But songs have worked the same magic often.

7. What is your top health tip?
A: My first reaction to this question - HAHAHAHAHA. I have a very weak stamina and fall sick often, so I'm definitely not qualified to give health tips.

8. What is your top beauty tip?
A: Not qualified for this one as well. I believe that feeling beautiful is more important than looking beautiful and prefer to stay as I am.

9. What's the best book you've read and why?
A: Same answer as No.1

10. What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you?
A: Confidently answering a question in Chemistry class, the teacher saying it was incorrect and having the whole class laugh at me when I was actually FREAKING right. I'd wished the earth would have opened up and swallowed me right then.

11. What's your guilty pleasure?
A: Sneaking in Harry Potter references into my short stories.

Gracias for the two awards, Sania! 

My nominees for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

For the Best Moment Award:

Okay, so I'm supposed to do this acceptance speech thingy for the Best Moment Award. *clears throat*

Ladies and gentlemen ----

Who am I even kidding? I suck at speeches as much as Neville does at Quidditch, so please forgive me.

But I can say with conviction that this blog would not have reached where it has today - with 55 followers and more than 4000 pageviews - without my readers' love and support. One-time visitor or long-time buddy, a detailed appreciation or just a simple "This is great; I enjoyed it!", every single person and every comment has made a difference in my life. It means a lot to me that you find time for me and my insanity, and for this I can never be grateful enough.

Thank you.