Watch

Watch your mother gaze at the ridges and bumps

On your sunshine-stained face, wondering where

she’s gone wrong in sculpting her personal

Mona Lisa. Watch your father hit ‘Love’ on your

social media profile, only to lean close to you and

whisper, “You need to get your skin fixed.” Watch

those hassled parlour attendants voice a question

that is certain to drench you in a little pool of your

melting insecurities. “Why don’t you take care

of yourself?” Watch those cucumbers on your eyes;

Watch for an entire calendar year the brownies on

someone else’s plate. Watch the scars as they jeer

at exotic creams advertised in between your mother’s

favourite daily soap- Watch the women in those same

daily soaps jeer and shame each other. Wash your face

with soap, for the fifteenth time. Watch your face

in the mirror. Remember the time you spent watching

a slideshow of old pictures of yourself. Watch that serving

of forbidden food in front of you, lest you relive the pictures.

Watch yourself, trying so hard to hide your scars. Watch me,

trying to tell you that if the Grand Canyon were unblemished

land, no one would give it a second thought. Watch yourself-

You, as magnificent as a rain-clad horizon. Don’t watch at

the window for acceptance that comes only with clear skies.

For just a moment, watch with love, and watch

your favourite constellations shine

With your light.

 

Real

The world is full of real problems. I am reminded of this every morning when I step out to go to work and I see a stray dog flinch just because a human walked too close. I sit in a taxi with the windows rolled up and earphones plugged in, trying not to look at the naked child on the opposite footpath who is eyeing the apple in my hand. There will always be more naked children than there will be apples.

I sit in a cubicle every day compiling columns of statistics on disease and hunger, reading about how a large fraction of the country’s population does not have food to eat. I tell myself that what I am doing will make a difference to that fraction one day. I ignore the fact that the fraction is made up of a multitude of wholes. For now, I ignore it in favour of staring up at the fraction of the moon as I head home. This time the naked children eye my parcel of over-priced junk food. Sometimes I buy them some too. It makes me feel good about myself.

After I eat, I sometimes have a lot of work to do. But some times I think about problems. Other kinds of problems, unreal ones, you could say. Like the kind of sadness that comes out of a neutral blankness, and reconciling the roles of living for yourself and living with other people. Like trying to figure out what certain words mean to you, and what they mean to others. Like the concept of having your heart broken, and how it is a very inane phrase because the heart is a muscle not a bone.

But then inane things hurt more than sensible ones. They always have. There is clarity when it comes to ‘real’ problems. You either have food or you do not. You either have money or you do not. You are either dead or you are not. (Unless you’re the cat)

You’re either happy or you’re not. But what is happiness?

You’re either in love. Or you are not. But what is love?

Unfinished

You are the futility of my words

And the laboured breath of my

Ragged silence; you are half

A paragraph of a

Letter I wrote,

But never

Sent

She rocks back and forth in a stationary wooden chair, teetering on the brink of a fall. Her pen is poised on a bleached piece of thick paper, an ink drop quivering, ready to blot out the word she’s just written on it: Sorry.

What does one write after an apology? An explanation, perhaps, but explanations are the most futile bits of literature that ever existed. To those that need it, an explanation will never be enough; to those that don’t, it is superfluous.

She hates using that word, the one she has just traced out on that overly white sheet. It’s been said too many times, and means too little. She has said it to people who’ve lost a parent, those she bumped accidentally in a queue, even a flower vase she once knocked over. Somehow it seems too puny to say to a man she loves as much as it is possible to love another person. Because she is about to do something she hates even more than saying sorry- she is going to lie. She is going to look him in the eye. Well, as much as one can look through a letter, and she is going to tell him, Sorry, I was wrong. Sorry, I can’t love you anymore. Sorry, I need to go. And sorry, I’ll never come back.

She gets up from the chair, turns up the speakers. Strands of music emanate, settling into a familiar rhythm, like the bus conductor on your daily commute, who knows exactly where you want to go. The song, it takes her places she doesn’t really want to go. The places that have been left hastily, before the mess could be tidied up. There’s a lot of dirty laundry. Not all of it is hers. His voice resonates in her mind, you don’t always have to do everything alone.

Somehow she’s never really believed him; in this moment, she desperately wants to. She picks up the pen again, after shaking off the drop of ink elsewhere.
Sorry, she writes, let’s give this another shot.

The forty-second draft lands up in the bin along with its predecessors.

Why I will say a Hi to ‘Dear Zindagi’

images-8*Don’t read if you are spoiler-averse*

I’m not a person who posts reviews on Facebook for every movie that I go and watch. I have a simple rule- people do not need to know what I’m doing, where I’m doing, how I’m feeling, etc at all times.

And having watched Dear Zindagi a week ago, I was planning to continue this streak. Until I happened to refresh my newsfeed on that omniscient social app, Facebook and came across several people writing about how this particular movie was atrocious in indescribable ways. I know it possibly doesn’t matter, but I beg to differ.

I went to watch this movie with an open mind and zero expectations, despite hearing things such as “it talks about mental health” and “the director is the same lady who made English Vinglish“.  Deviating for a moment here, the latter movie, Director Gauri Shinde’s debut, revolved around a phenomenon that seems simple but is deeply entrenched in our society, what one could call a mix of ‘language shaming’ and ‘housewife shaming’. Shashi wasn’t abused, or molested, or cheated on- she possibly didn’t have any so-called ‘major problems’, but the character struck a chord with the audiences.

Moving on to Dear Zindagi, Alia’s Kaira doesn’t have ‘major problems’ either. She is not schizophrenic or bipolar, she doesn’t have a medical condition per se, she hasn’t been sexually abused as a child. She has a job. She has a family and friends. She has several attractive men in her life. So much so, that it might have you screaming, there is nothing wrong with her at all! She even has a dimpled therapist, played by SRK, who gives her weird stories and analogies by the second, that make her feel enlightened in life.

Why then am I saying that this movie deserves a “Hi”and not a “Bye”to quote a particularly inane song from the movie (which by the way is amazing if you want to walk/jog) ?

  1. It highlights something we often forget- every one of us is insane. Never apologize for your particular brand of it. (If it gets out of hand, please go to a qualified (not SRK) therapist though)
  2. It shows you that there are a lot of things adults can do to children that is not abuse but messes them up nonetheless. Please have children at your own risk.
  3.  It tells you that when you’re listening to someone, you must listen to them, without blabbering suggestions and delivering judgements by the minute.
  4. The most honest thing that the therapist says in the entire movie (albeit in a rather SRK fashion)- You need to take care of yourself. Everyone else can only help you along.
  5. Last but not the least, it talks about things. Normal ordinary things. Like parents thinking you’re homosexual if you don’t want to get married. Like you yourself, gazing into the mirror, defiantly saying “I’m a slut, and proud of it”. Like that childhood doll they didn’t keep safely- it seems stupid to get annoyed about that 20 years later but you still do.

Yes, it doesn’t reflect the depths of mental health issues or the realities of therapy. It makes typical Bollywood style jokes at times (that I am not excusing at all). But you can’t ignore the fact that from movies where the only task of the actress was to wait for the hero to dance around a tree with her, we’ve come a long way. Middle-class people, people who still think being lesbian is a “phase” and that seeing a therapist means you’re “mad”, people who think “parents know best”, people like that are going to see a movie like this.And amidst all the song and dance, and a simplistic two hour resolution of a problem, if amidst all of that, Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt tell people that it is okay to be single, poly-amorous, straight, lesbian or anything at all, and even if 50% of the people think about it for a while, well I’m okay with that.

If people go and see this movie and if they come back and spend an hour with their kids instead of an hour on their smartphones or talking about work, I’m okay with that. Among other things, cinema exists to reflect the dimensions of reality, yes, but it also exists to communicate to the masses. And if this is the language the masses understand, I’m okay with that, as long as they get the message.