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Brown men in Barcelona (extended version)

In 2017, I was on a Youth Exchange in Barcelona for about 2 months after which I travelled around Europe for a month. One of my first friends in Barcelona was a girl from Zimbabwe who was also on the exchange. We met very often and walked around the city, talking about our lives back home and how it was so very different from lives with our host families. One of our shared learning moments was possibly one of the most beautiful intercultural exchanges I’ve had – she didn’t know it was possible for Indian people to have skin as “fair” as mine or that my veins were visible to the naked eye on every part of my body. In return, I had no clue that it takes between six to eight hours to weave her hair and then she didn’t touch it for three to four months straights before re-weaving it. This could’ve been a sensitive situation but it came from mutual fascination about each other’s physical attributes and respect in their difference.
Not all my experiences were good, of course. I consistently faced the most curious phenomenon of what I call ‘weird reverse racism’. The first incident was on the beach of Barcelona right after clubbing and I was walking home. The beach was littered with tons of people, all chilling after a night of partying. In a city like Barcelona where I hadn’t felt unsafe, I felt unsafe for the first time and through the actions of brown men. There are lots of Indian and Pakistani men in Barcelona selling samosas or drinks in the parks or on the beach. I had even had decent conversations with one or two in Hindi or Punjabi. But this night, some of them followed me a few metres and sang lewd Bollywood songs. I ignored them and hurried home. Later, I spoke to some of my local friends, and they too had noticed these men lingering around the beaches but never had they ever harassed them. It sparked the most disgusting emotion in me – why did brown men, even in a foreign country, respect “foreign” women with distance and respect, but if they saw a brown woman they immediately thought it was okay to harass them? Where did the sense of entitlement to brown women come from?
Another similar night, a few weeks after, a brown man followed me home – continuously trying to talk to me in Hindi/Punjabi – and I panicked. I stopped near my apartment, tried to call a friend in India hoping the time difference would be in my favour. Luckily, another group of party people from my building arrived then and I entered the building with them. The man left. I shared this incident too with my friends, and they had never experienced or even heard of something like that happen. WHY? Why then did it happen to me? What about my apparently brown skin made it okay for brown men to heckle at me, something they never would do to a “foreign” woman? What crappy version of racism was this that we directed at ourselves as a race? This horrendous pedestal we put fair skin at and degraded our own natural – and beautiful – brown skin.
I was later in a tiny beach town that didn’t have much tourist traffic. I was, in comparison, quite a novelty. A lot of people in this town stared at me or turned their heads to look at me – I had tanned quite a lot by then and was even “browner”. But not once did I feel uncomfortable or attacked because there was no malice that I sensed. It was simple fascination at someone ‘different’, and I was quite okay with that. And let me just put it out there – most Indians neither burn nor tan badly. Do you know what a genetic benefit that is considering how much we’re fucking up our planet?

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I stand still in the chaos

It’s hard to paint a picture.

I’m at the eye of the storm, but I’m just tired of trying to hold my ground. I don’t know what the storm will rip away.

Around me, my thoughts slip away sometimes and tornado around me. I know my feelings are in that whirlpool too, but it all moves too fast for me to grasp at.

There’s a white noise. A little stillness inside. Sometimes, voices from the outside make it through but they don’t stay very long. How could they? They have a tornado around them too.

Some of the other storms are smaller and lighter than mine. Some have a storm denser than any I have ever seen. Sometimes our storms entangle. Sometimes the winds blow in the opposite direction. Sometimes, the clouds lift for a little while and I can see clearly. Then they come crashing.

Storms aren’t supposed to stay, are they? Eventually, they must subside. I wonder if mine will. I wonder if it’ll feel loud or lonely when it’s over. I wonder what would be the extent of the destruction wrecked.

Will I breathe panic or sigh relief?
Will I know whether to be still or move?
Fight or flight?
Stay or hide?
Will another storm replace this one?
Will there be enough of me left behind to start again?
Will I even be me?
I wonder what I should name my storm.

In frame: @artisinner

Posted in poems, Uncategorized

TW: eating disorders, suicide and death.

Note: I don’t propogate or support or have any of the ideas mentioned in the piece below. They passed through my mind one day and I thought I’d pen them down. If you need help, please seek help. Taboo is nonsense. Mental health is everything.


I wonder.

If I had an eating disorder, which would it be? Would I have the will power it takes to stay away from chocolate and cheesecake? I hate math too much to be counting the calories in my meals.

I love food too much to be anorexic.

I can imagine myself bulimic though. I could drink lots of water, shove a finger down my throat and vomit the fries I ate earlier. When I felt hungry, I could eat my next meal. Eat whatever I wanted, really. Then vomit it out. I imagine my purse would be full of mints. I’d suck on one for days.

I wonder if it’s worth it. I wonder if psychiatrists can fix someone who knows exactly what they’re doing to themselves.

Which is a worse way to die? Burn, fall or drown?

I’ve always been a little afraid of lighting a stove. I only learnt enough swimming to not drown, but I don’t think I’d survive over a few minutes. I was never afraid of heights though.

Maybe that’s why that’s how I’ll go. Watching the ground rush at me, forceful like the hug of a friend you haven’t met for ages. Just a split second before impact, would I want to live?

If I was reborn as an animal, which would I be? An ant, because I need to learn team work. An elephant for sensitivity. A lizard, for I am far too proud.

A human, for I must suffer. Are humans the only animals who bring suffering upon themselves?

I wonder which is easier – to live or to die? They say those who kill themselves are cowards. But those who struggle to live are afraid of dying.

Maybe they’re both cowards. Afraid of what’s next.

And yet, which is braver- to die having lived or to live only to die?

I wonder.

In frame: @electriclangoor

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Rant 3 of 3

Thoughts. Probably some of the scariest things in this world. In a world full of screens and continuous content bombarding, our brains are either overwhelmed with the amount of information they have to process or accept ready-made external opinions. It’s not their fault. They just don’t have the time to actually think enough to process incoming information and form their own opinions.

Only a few years ago, most thinking used to happen while bathing, taking a dump or lying in bed staring at the monotonous loop of the wobbly ceiling fan. It is now replaced with watching IG stories the entire time. By the time you fall asleep, your brain is too tired to even dream, let alone process information. Resulting in a considerable population that doesn’t think for themselves and are too afraid to be left alone with nothing to do. A population that’s afraid of their own thoughts. Because left alone, they don’t know the things that will pop into their mind or how to deal with them. What are their greatest fears? Biggest failures? Proudest moments? A population lacking introspection and self-awareness.

Of course, there are people who do think all these things. But they are belittled by being called over-thinkers and are laughed at for doing an absolutely mundane act. And belittled by whom? People who don’t even think. People who don’t stop to stare at a painting. People who don’t wonder why the villain turned out this way. People who aren’t curious about the origins of the phrase ‘Curiosity killed the cat’. I’m here to say that if you think, you’re not an over-thinker. If you think you’re an over-thinker, you’re not. Because if you don’t think, how will you identify faulty thought patterns, work on your shortcomings and learn despite your failures? How will you accept yourself?

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Trigger Warning: Anxiety
Rant 2 of 3

Anxiety: a new mental state that has been heralded into the younger generation by the onset of psychological awareness. Suddenly, humanity is plagued by a generation of anxious youth.
How we are dealing with anxiety –
1) We discuss it. Every time someone says I’m anxious, ten people jump on the bandwagon – seven will recount their own stories and three will try to calm the person down. Once everyone’s inner attention whore has been satiated, they will feel better. Until anxiety hits again.
2) We capitalize it. We lace romantic words with it and place anxiety in the spaces between our WhatsApp messages and Facebook posts. Next, we tell people what a huge journey it was overcoming anxiety. Lastly, we package ourselves as the strongest sad poet or writer in the community. Oh, you should read her writing. She has been through so much. She started this hashtag and champions a movement of self-love.

Someone asked me – did our parents’ generation go through lesser psychological problems? No. No, they didn’t. Life happened to them too. Their parents fucked them over too. They had as many reasons to be depressed, anxious or stressed as us. They just didn’t know the psychological terms for what they were feeling. It was considered a part of life – shit happens, deal with it and move on.

You know the biggest difference between both generations? They took their emotions, found the root cause and dealt with it head on instead of talking about it to people and feeling sorry for themselves.

My dad was poor. He decided not to be and over the years, he wasn’t. My mom’s problems were rooted in the thought that she wasn’t doing something worthwhile. Now, she teaches the underprivileged.

What’s the root cause of your shit? Don’t keep talking about how you feel fucked up. Collect those fucks, and do something with them.

P.S. – I’m not talking about people who have real anxiety – people who led fucked up lives, had real trauma and deep set causes feeding their anxiety. I’m talking about people who romanticize and capitalize it i.e. people who think anxious is the new cool.

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Rant 1 of 3.

Screens. I have come to develop a love-hate relationship with them. Everything broadcasted on screens demands your attention far too much.

Movies, TV shows, advertisements, and even the news pieces all have background music, jingles, people talking, good looking people, transition graphics, display graphics, and extra videos to supplement the topic being addressed. If the could you spray you with cologne through the screen or waft some fragrances over, they would. Because more than one of your senses must be utilized to make the experience more “fulfilling”. As a result, all the senses are overburdened.

I’m so SICK of multitasking and people heroing multitasking. All it really means, even in Psychology, is that your attention is divided and not a single thing you’re doing is being done fruitfully.

What happened to simply reading or listening? I’ve spent days doing nothing but read. Or lay in bed listening to podcasts. Look out of the car window and actually notice the colours of the sky, clothes of the people and even the shapes of tree trunks. Or wake p and lie staring at the cracks in the ceilings. My drawings in school were always different because they stemmed from real memories, not a book. My essays were different because I used anecdotes from books I’d read.

Music? You can listen to in the background, drive AND hold proper conversations with co-passengers. Or do Math. Reading or Podcasts occupy only one sense and all of your mind, but completely. You literally CANNOT multitask. Bring back single-tasking. Give yourself a break.

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Hiravati – the end.

This one’s for my aaji (grandmother). May she rest in peace, at least in death.

Prompt 13: write a poem in ABCB rhyme scheme.

Nath: nose ring made of pearls, traditional to Maharashtra region of India.
Kumkum: a red powder or paste applied on the foreheard at the hairline of a woman as an indication of marriage.

~Hiravati – the end~

Her feet were more beautiful than I remembered.
Pale, white, glowing
against the dark sombre moods around her.
A light wind blowing.
Only a few hairs on her forehead parted limply.
The bright green of her saree,
the fragrant yellow of the lowers around her neck
the nath, the kumkum: a bride to marry.
Except her husband stumbled around her,
his useless eyes shedding tears,
his wrinkled fingers caressing her lifeless eyes and blue lips.
A cascade of fears.
The howls of her sister fell deaf on her ears,
the muted whimpers of her daughters-in-law,
the stone facade of her sons.
I wonder if she saw;
hovering over us
just making sure we’re okay
whispering last words, instructions
before being carried away
by the four sons she had borne strong:
her children in sweat and blood,
in the village which she called home.
Surrounded by all the people she ever loved.