death is not a song/ 91

Death is not a song.
There is no orchestra,
no crescendo,
no post production magic
to fix your wrinkles,
or cover up the blood,
there is no harmony.
Death is not a dance.
There is no grace
in finding your
father face down,
no flowing movements
when you load a body
into an ambulance;
hands lie on the side
like they’re made of cloth,
they droop and do not flutter.
There is no coordination.
Death is not an art.
You cannot cover up
the stench of a dead body,
cannot mask the severed head,
the bullet wounds;
You cannot move on
to another exhibition, to
another performance,
because no matter where you go,
the starring role will
always be played by your grief,
and the number of supporting
characters will rise every time you
go to the hospital- until you
have an auditorium full of
memories you did not get to
live, because everyone was
dead before you knew it.
Death is not an art,
it’s just science.
Just an end with an explanation
for your mind but
not one for your heart;
whether it’s your muscles seizing,
or your lungs failing,
at the end of the day,
death is still not beautiful,
even if you tried your hardest
to convince yourself it was.



This was written a year ago, in response to certain controversial comments made by Justin Humphrey, an Oklahoma state legislator.

He says we’re hosts, like the body I’ve lived in my entire life was a rented room, one I must vacate for whomever he likes.

He says we’re hosts, as if I haven’t already been told my entire life that I must please everyone around me, that what I want is secondary to what people may think, that being good and pretty is not an added bonus but a requirement to being a woman, to taking up space on this planet, and he says he “understands” why I would feel like my body is my body, but does he really? Does he really expect me to believe a word he says, after he tells me being pregnant makes me irresponsible, that I should give up my rights because I “invited that in”?

He says we’re hosts like the person I am doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things, like the sole reason for my existence is so that my body can be used to house a future citizen, I mean I should’ve known my personal choices were something I would have to sacrifice as rent for just living, for just breathing, for just surviving.

He says we’re hosts and I barely flinch; being a girl is about learning to cling on to your humanity when every word you hear is a scalpel dissecting your personality, and if it were up to everyone else, all that would be left would be a cookie cutter daughter, a perfectly crafted woman, someone who never disagrees, someone so soft and docile, she rivals a lamb. If it were up to everyone else, I would participate in my own slaughter.

He says we’re hosts and I continue living. I continue being my own person, continue taking out my own trash, continue making my own decisions, whether irresponsible or not, I continue living. I continue living and trying to make a difference, I continue living and with every breath I take, every word I say, I prove him wrong.

better than this/89

They tell you to shut up.
They tell you to sit down, to
do their bidding, they tell
you to twist your soul until
it fits into their cookie cutter
perception of the world, they
tell you you’re worthless- beat
you until you can’t help but cower,
shame you into silence until
you’ve forgotten how to speak,
hurt you until there’s nothing left
but a hollow shell- they tell you
you’re worthless. That you’re
not good enough, that you never
will be, but does it matter?
You’re the flickering fire, the
shimmering night sky, you’re the
echo of a thousand voices, the
highlight of someone’s day, you’re
you, and that’s more than they’ll
ever be, more than they ever can,
so the next time they try to
silence you, the next time they
try to dim your light, look at them.
Look at their faces, look at their
sunken eyes and smile.
You will always be better than this.


I want to thank my imperfections.
I used to see you as flaws, but
I’ve learnt that every blemish,
every scar, every astray hair
makes me who I am. Thank you
for making me look at myself
and see a distinct person, not
a copy. Thank you for showing me
that beauty, beauty is not about
being perfect. It’s about being me.

the beach/ 87

At the beach, even the air is different. You can taste the sea- the salt hangs in the air, and as you walk, you walk through every particle, every molecule of the sea. The breeze doesn’t feel harsh. Instead, it brushes past your face as if to welcome you, to tell you: this is a place for you. This is a place for everyone.

The first time I saw the sea, I was twelve. I was on holiday in South India, living in a quaint little town called Tranquebar, and I still remember my first reaction to the sea. It was nothing like I had ever expected, and nothing like I had ever experienced. Having grown up in North India, in a city that specialized in having small streets and a large population, I had never witnessed anything so big. Where I was from, the city was like a blanket around a body; it was all encompassing. There had never been any way to leave the city behind because no matter where I was, the crowd didn’t diminish. Even outdoors, skyscrapers towered on either side of me, like giants. The city always felt cramped, and harsh. I had always known, almost by instinct, that the city I lived in was unyielding. It didn’t make a difference whether I was there or not, it would continue to thrive.

Everywhere you looked, people were smiling. Beach blankets were spread over the sand and little children ran around. Your feet sank into the ground whenever you took a step. Despite the crowd, the noise wasn’t unbearable. Instead, it faded into the background as you looked at the sea, which stretched as far as you could see. Everything faded into the background- when you looked at the sea; it felt like you were the only person there- miniscule in the grander scheme of things, and yet the most important.

Ironically, Tranquebar seemed vast. Much smaller in size than the city I grew up in, it nevertheless felt bigger. I had driven down from Pondicherry, and on entering the town, it felt like I was entering a different era. The houses were built in typical colonial fashion, with slanting roofs and decorative pillars. The streets were lined with bricks, and were broad. There was no traffic to speak of. For a girl who had lived her entire life in a city with another 800,000 people, a town with 20,000 people felt like a neighborhood. My mother decided that we should take a round of the town before we reached our hotel. Thus, my first glimpse of the sea was literally that- a fleeting glance through an open window at the largest blue thing I had ever seen. We must’ve driven next to the sea for around five minutes, but to me, time had slowed down. I had fallen in love with something I had only read about before, with something that I had imagined a million times, but never quite realized the magnitude of.

You climbed over the rocks that led to the sea, and kicked off your shoes before you waded in. The water came up to your ankles at first, and then till your knees. You stopped walking forward and just stood there. You could feel the small pebbles below your toes, smooth from the centuries of water that had run over them. You had never realized how alive the water would feel. Unlike a swimming pool, the water didn’t stand still. It rocked gently as waves rolled in to the shore. The sea and air moved in tandem, like they were perfecting a delicate dance which relied on balance and coordination. The water flowed around your legs, and that’s when you realized, it wasn’t just the sea that felt alive. You did too.

We reached the hotel about ten minutes later, and almost immediately, I was begging my mother to let me go explore. An hour or so later, I convinced my family that a walk on the beach while the sun was setting was the perfect way to end our first day in Tranquebar. Coming from a city with clearly defined areas and sectors, I had assumed the beach would be the same- a small section of the town that had been clearly demarcated. I hadn’t expected what I saw- the beach was not a small section, or area of town. Instead, it ran at the edge of the entire town. From far away it just looked like a strip of sand before a larger strip of blue. From far way, it didn’t look like anything special.

When you looked back at the land behind you, it looked special. The people were inconsequential figures in the larger picture of the sky and land- the way both met through the buildings that occupied a section of both, and the way the color of the soil and buildings stood out starkly in contrast to the soft hues of the evening sky, a mix of red, orange and purple.

By the time I reached the beach itself, the sun had already begun to set. But it didn’t matter. Though the light was fading, I could still see the sea, slowly heaving up and down with each wave it sent to the shore. What I couldn’t see was made up for by my other senses- at the beach, even the air is different. I don’t know how long I stood there for. I remember looking at other people enjoying themselves, and I remember what the water felt like. But mostly, whenever I think about the first time I went to the beach, I remember how it filled me with an unexplainable joy, but also with an understanding of the world that I had lacked before. Mostly, whenever I think of the beach, I think of how in that first instance, I knew that this is where I belonged. In that first instance, I know now that what I felt wasn’t just awe. It was an aching familiarity. It felt like the sea was welcoming me. It felt like the beach was telling me that it was a place I could be myself. When I think of that first visit, I think about how, even then, I knew the truth: I was home.

At the beach, everything seemed different. Everything was different. You realized that the world did not revolve around you, that it didn’t need to revolve around you. There were better and bigger things out there, and that was alright. It was alright, because there was a place for you, because this is where you belonged. This is where you felt like yourself and that’s when you knew, you were home.

2017/ 86

This year, you stopped running. Went from the flight risk to the anchor; you stopped hiding. For as long as you could remember, you controlled yourself through the food you ate and the words you said, you were always just a little bit too high strung. You were stretched thin, a taut string just waiting to break.

But this year? This year you stopped running. Started breathing. Started doing the things you love, stopped hiding the person you were. This year, you broke free.

You also were broken, people tossed your heart around like a football, and you were torn, each word he didn’t say made another part of you harden, but at the end? At the end, it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because you were alive. You are alive. You are alive and wild and vibrant- a summer breeze, a bird soaring through the sky, a flowing river- you are free.

Free from the expectations, from the self hatred, free from the worry, the panic, you’re free, because this year, this year you stopped running.

Running from yourself, from your obligations, running from your friends, your family, your enemies; you stopped running.

This year, you started living.

River pt. 2/ 85

You are not a river. 

You don’t trickle down softly, 

you don’t sit still and look pretty, no,

you are the tide. 

You are the ocean and I,

I am the beach, ready to receive 

you with open arms, you are fierce.

You are not whipped cream, nor

a piece of cake, no, you are fire,

opinionated and strong, you are

smart, compassionate and kind,

you don’t just flow. 

You don’t just exist. 

You are more, more than a river,

more that a singular entity,

Beverywhere you go, you will

light up someone’s life, because

you, you are the universe. 

The thunder and the lighting, 

The birch tree, the city streets, 

you are everything, a trench, 

a star, a happy coincidence- yes, 

you are the universe. 

My universe.

Muse Striketh Back pt. 2/ 84

See, I never really understood you.

I loved you like a distant thing,

like a constant thing, like

something that would figure

itself out, so I guess I shouldn’t

be surprised that this decision

doesn’t make any sense.

I wish I could say I’m angry, and

I am, but more than that I’m torn.

More than that I feel like

everything I wished for is

slipping through my fingers, and

everything I hoped for is leaving;

More than that I just don’t

understand what changed.

I don’t understand where the

silence turned uncomfortable,

where the quirks became extra

work, where your life diverged

from mine so far that you

decided I wasn’t worth it.

I guess I’m a bit angry, I mean,

don’t I deserve an explanation?

Don’t I deserve something more

than this, I mean, couldn’t you

have done this any other way?

Any other place? Any other time?

Did you really need to leave so

abruptly? Did you really need to

leave at all?

reminder/ 83

Before it begins, hear me out:

I am not the sun, or the stars.

I am not the girl who stands out

in a room full of strangers, I am

not the girl who you’ll gravitate

towards- my magnetic field

doesn’t attract much- I am not

the girl that people orbit. But,

but I have never wanted to be,

I have always known I can’t

conquer the world, so i instead

tried to illuminate the small corner

I call home. I have always known

I’m not good at much, so I tried

to find something I could call

my own, and I found it, nestled

between two books in a shelf in

my grandmother’s room, I found it

waiting for someone to grab

and cherish it, and now that I found

it, now that I found myself,

I don’t need your validation.

I don’t need your badge, your

placebo recognition- nothing you

give me will change my life.

I chart my own route, and I’ll

survive without you. I always have.

I always will.

new girl/ 82

I’m not the same girl I used to be. 

I’m no longer the butter, melting

on command, no longer the 

sweet lullaby, the rain, the moon,

the stars, the cliche- I’m no longer

the girl I used to be.

I used to shrink, used to wrap my

thoughts in cling film, used to 

deep frost my bravery, used to

cut away the parts of me

that I thought were too harsh. 

too loud. Too unabashedly myself.

I used to use you as an excuse,

used to look for love in every 

crevice I could- other people 

were rooms for me to ransack,

I stripped them bare looking 

for things I could only find

in myself, and I asked them to

define me- the quiet girl, the reader,

the slut, the drinker, the debater,

the smart one, the dumb one,

the lost one.

Labels were slapped on me

with the casual callousness 

youth displays, and I let them be-

I used to be malleable. 

I was the clay, waiting to be

moulded, the water, flowing freely

in a stream, the sun, cutting 

an arc across the sky- I used 

to be nothing. 

I used to be everything. 

And now, now I am the blade,

a scythe in the night, the fierce 

roar of a wild animal, I am the

ruler of my own planet. The sun 

of my own skies, not yours. 

Not theirs. 

I am brutal and brash- a battle cry 

echoing in the sky, I am 

loud, the cacophony of a city 

melding into a sweet harmony, I am

what I want to be, when I want to

be- and yes, I am no longer 

the girl I used to be,

because now,

now I know how to live for myself.