Turn on the light

The lead vocalist asks us to raise our hands if we’re proud of who we are, as people and as artists.

And something suddenly unravels inside me, a tightness that’s been there for a while. And with a few other wavering hands, I raise mine up in the air and smile.

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There’s a gentle drizzle. The accompanying breeze makes the yellow paper lanterns sway, as if in rhythm with the light strumming of the guitar and banjo down below. The drums weave a comfortable,solid presence as fifty-odd people, friends and strangers hum along. Music does this to people- it makes one body out of individuals, a body moving in seemingly eccentric patterns but with a wonderful coherence.

There is silence towards the end of the show as the performers play the opening bars to a song they have dedicated to survivors of depression. What amazes me is that it isn’t an awkward pause. In this audience, there are people who, in some odd way, understand, either first-hand or through their loved ones, what it is like to not want to get up at all, to not eat or bathe or write or paint for days, or to just do all of it in a frenzy until you’re not sure what you’re doing anymore. There are people for whom turning up to a live show like this is one of their greatest achievements this month- they might not have stepped out of home for weeks. There are also people who are lucky enough to be mostly non-depressed, even happy, and who take this moment to understand how that isn’t necessarily a “normal” every one is used to.

As I raise my hand, standing here in this city that I’ve been both non-depressed and depressed in before, it is because I am proud today- of myself, of being able to sing along, of showing up alone, of continuing to write even if it seems to be most ordinary on some days. It’s because I can now raise my hand without feeling weird about being happy about my own existence. And because I have done a lot of things in the past year, good, fun, somewhat crazy, mundane, only for myself, and have loved doing it. It’s because the rain, and the lights, and the songs have the ability to make the darkness beautiful and bearable. And so does my writing, and your art, and someone else’s strumming, or playing or mere existence.

There will be bad days. But try and hold on long enough, and there will be good ones.

Listen to these guys (When Chai Met Toast) here:

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Father

Father-
When you ask me
to decipher jumbled-up words
From the day’s newspaper,
I take a moment,
To memorize the half-smile
On your face as you take
the black-and-white sheet back.
I keep looking for that smile
In the arms of lovers and
the eyes of friends,
and only sometimes
do I discover it,
in the bathroom mirror.

Father-
I write about everyone
except us, lest you should
One day find it and say,
like always, that you
do not understand,
even without reaching
the end.
Each line that you don’t read
Sets us back,
A little more,smothered
by layers of conversations
About lunches and dinners
And the weather.

Father-
I have dozens of
shushed stories stashed away
with my childhood, enough to last
the rest of your days; and still,
every time you read someone else,
I abandon mine and wish to be
them, instead.
But,Father,
My writing and I
are not quite the puzzles
you imagine-
I think
we could still figure out
all the garbled sentences
that have been scratching
our silences for too long,
if only we take
one jumbled-up word
at a time. You could still be
the best story I ever live.

Ode to consent

*Written in response to Nandini Varma (Airplane Poetry Movement)’s prompt “Shall I compare thee…”*

Shall I compare you
To a cup of tea?
And wait for his reply,
“But I only drink whiskey”
Or shall I liken you
To a monosyllable “No”
To be called arrogant or
Plain old boring, just so.

Shall I signal with my frantic eyes
Until he blindfolds himself between tries?
Or shall I scream, and shout, and claw my way,
Losing a familiar ally in an unlikely fray?

Shall I tell you
What you have sometimes meant?
I lie against his body bent,
And after a while, he does relent.
Then I get up to make a cup of tea,
And pen down clever thoughts of consent.

My Grandmother is still not dead

In my dream,

We’re still in the hospital.

There are more people coming,

To pay their respects to the last

Of my grandmother’s shallow breaths

They have enough of their own

To waste in platitudes

They insist that saying goodbye

Is the only proper thing to do,

(for closure)

I tremble as I touch a hand

That raised me to know sunlight

A touch I can remember now

When I hold snow for too long

In my dream,

She’s always alive as my hand meets

Her oxygen mask

And because I know how it has to end

I do it.

In my dream,

She dies.

Is it because I killed her?

 

It’s been seven years since she last breathed

And my grandmother is still not dead.