SHAJ

To whom it may concern

I don’t know who needs to hear this. But even if there is one person amongst you who is struggling with their identity post harassment/ assault/rape or any traumatic incident at any given point in your life, I write this for you. I write to tell you why your existence makes all the difference in the world that we are living in today.

During a discussion with a friend yesterday, she pointed out her criticism for the MeToo movement. ‘It didn’t do anything’, she said. ‘Nothing happened to them. Nothing is ever going to happen to them, they (the perpetrators) are living their best lives. So, what was the point of it all?’ Another one said, ‘What a waste’.

If you have heard such things too – in parties where you pretend to have a good time, when in reality you have floated outside your body, grappling to the one thing that can keep you grounded, distraction;

at workplace where lunch hours are dedicated to talking (down) politics and how hopeless speaking up really is;

at home, trying to cosy up with your partner or your parents and sibling as they lecture you on their rendezvous with the secret to happiness and you nod along, wondering if you will ever know what that feels like;

if you have been anywhere or everywhere, coping, dealing, exhausted, reviving, struggling yet moving in an attempt to deal with a past that refuses to leave the trenches in your mind – I want you to know that the movement was for you.

It doesn’t matter if you came out and said Me Too or not. If in the confines of your little room, infront of your little phone, you have dropped a tear and whispered the two most powerful words of our times, then this movement was for you. My friend was wrong. Utterly and completely wrong. It was anything but a waste.

To even remotely think that the movement was meant to shame the perpetrators is a grave misdirection from its real intent. Tarana Burke, the founder of the MeToo Movement says, ‘It was never about the perpetrators. It was always about the survivors.’

To be a survivor is hard work. Waking up everyday to the potential existence of something out there that can cause trigger, emotional harm and make you relive the trauma is hard fucking work. But you do it nevertheless. Even on the most hopeless days, when the heart and the mind is heavy, bleeding with pain, you choose a single ray of light, whatever that is (a book, a tv show, phone a friend, meditation, a walk, coffee), to simply move on with your life.

There are times when people try and make you feel lesser for being a victim. This often than not, includes your loved ones. They want you to speed up, catch up with the rest and if you don’t, they try to toss you around, saying ‘you are not enough’, ‘you are not worthy’, ‘you are nothing’. You listen, you fight, you resist, you exist. You, the survivor is a freaking warrior. Your battle is real. Your enemy is a society that refuses to acknowledge its evil, it refuses to see you more than what made you a victim, it refuses to accept that without you, it will collapse. Because you, the survivor is the mirror of who we truly are. They will want to silence you. They will want to tell you ‘Enough. Shush now. You have made enough noise.’ They will do so, because they are afraid of you. Your very existence is a threat to the status quo. Do you get it now?

You are the ammunition. You are what protects the borders from collapsing, you are what reminds us what it is to be human, because you persist.

So, if you are somewhere in this world, struggling to merely get up from the floor you spent the entire night weeping on, believing in the fairy tales that do not mention your existence – I want you to know that I see you. We all see you. You belong here. So, heal. Rest. Rise. Persist. We got this.

Yours truly,
A sister.

A message from the past

I had to step out to go to work, but I was delaying it. It wasn’t intentional. I could see the time on my watch. I was already 10 minutes late. I dragged myself out of my chair. The heavy pit in my stomach wasn’t allowing me much movement, but I managed to apply sunscreen, kohl under my eyes, opened my hair and knotted it back into a tighter bun. Satisfied that I looked cleaner, I moved forward to reach out for my shoes, when the pit in the stomach sunk deeper and I collapsed into the stool nearby.

Deep breaths. In..out..In..out..

It gets better..

The anxieties.. They used to be unbearable in the past. But I recognize them sooner now and before they take over, I manage to deal with them.

I sat there for a while. Making a conscious decision to not rush.. It is okay to be late if we need time for ourselves, I told myself. 20 minutes must have passed by. I texted my colleague that I was coming soon and waited for the familiar ache in my body to pass. Mindfully, I kept my eyes, ears and touch open to my surroundings, before the negative thoughts barge in. Slowly I was breathing normally again..

My cellphone pinged on the side. I lifted it, prepared to ignore one of the many product websites I have been too lazy to unsubscribe. But I was wrong.

It was an email from futureme.org.

My heart leapt at my throat. I knew what this was. I clicked on it, my fingers shaking a bit..

It said :

The following is an email from the past, composed on June 06, 2018. It is being delivered from the past through FutureMe.org

I scrolled down and read the message I had sent to myself a year back..

Dear FutureMe, 
It has been hard. Challenging. Sometimes you thought you can’t do it anymore. 
Well that’s not true. Is it?

Glad you never gave up. 
And I know you never will.

Hugs
Shalini

Something that I didn’t even know was frozen inside of me, broke. I read it, again and again. “..glad you never gave up. I know you never will.”

I remembered that day so clearly.. The girl who wrote it, was suffering to the point that she had become completely and utterly, numb. She showed strength in that suffering in ways she didn’t even know. God, was she resilient.. That girl, who couldn’t make sense of her life then, took the time to pen this down, so that she could be there for me.

And I cried. Not for her. But for me. Oh, I have blamed her so much.. Punished her. Said horrible, horrible things to her.. And there she was. Just doing the best she could, just so I could be here today.. Dealing with my past, yes.. But alive. Breathing. Surviving. And thriving. I have been so harsh –

And before I could say any more horrible things to my present self, I stopped. I was not going to repeat my mistakes.

When I look back at that girl who wrote this email, I know she wrote it in the hope that she will be alive to read this. Perhaps, this very act of sending a message to a hopeful future was an act of intense resilience to make sure that things will be better, even when she didn’t really believe that they could be. What is more kinder than that? What is more loving than that?

How we forget how much we are capable of loving ourselves.. How we forget the million times that we have done it.. How we forget that it’s enough. Its enough..

And as those words formed, I for the first time in my life knew what it means to be there for yourself. I, have always been there for myself.. And I will always be..

As I thank myself, I urge you to thank yourself too.. For standing so tall and beautiful. You are loved.

An alchemy of self love

Let hate
be that poison
your body
immediately
rejects.
Learn to love yourself
so fiercely
that on the parting
of your lips
it loses all its venom
and on reaching
your tongue
it melts
into the
sweetest song..

Overcoming anxiety, bit.. by bit..

It is 4 o clock in the afternoon. The long green leaves of Guava trees outside my window are chilling just like I am, while lounging on my comfortable chair and reading a book. A dream catcher that a friend gifted me earlier this week flutters soundlessly on the railing. I had never noticed how the purple streaks against the white feather made it look so beautiful while swaying with the wind against the green backdrop outside. I go back to my book and to the joy of smiling once in while at a sentence written so beautifully. These days I have been practicing the art of acknowledging my feelings. I use words to define them and they help me understand what I am going through by demystifying the simple that seems so complicated. So, more out of a habit than a conscious choice, I find myself asking the question. “How do you feel, Shalini?”

Happy. My heart replied.

I smiled and went back to my book, but the irony of this answer distracted me, for a couple of hours of back, when I had asked myself the same question, the answer had been – anxious. anxious. angry. angry. pain. more pain.

I paused and carefully placed the bookmark on the page that I was at, promising that I will come back to it soon and looked outside my window again. The sun was getting ready to set and had reached just at that perfect spot where its brightness was blinding me. I couldn’t really see the greenery outside the window anymore but my dreamcatcher glowed magnificently against the sunlight. I closed my eyes and everything turned into hues of yellow and orange, the warmth teasing my skin and in its own whimsical way, telling me that I ought to enjoy it while it lasts. I asked the sun looming over me, ‘So what is it? Am I happy because I know you are not here to stay or because I am happy, I see that you haven’t gone away?’ The sun replied, still shining brightly over my closed eyes, its bright orange now. It said. ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’

As the worries in my life stay put as they have been all this while, this moment of doing nothing and finding a rare joy in the warmth of the sun that comes every single day, told me something about happiness. And sadness.

Sadness, perhaps is a reminder that things need to change. Happiness, maybe is the reward of making that change. It is a cycle and if noticed carefully, the secret to happiness could lie in the underlying beauty of understanding our sadness. Maybe they are just the same thing, waiting for us see how perfectly they complement each other.

A couple of months back, I can say that being anxious was my perpetual state of mind. You can read the related post, where I have written a letter to my anxious self. I know for a fact that I am a very different person today and I wonder if I am being rewarded for addressing my sadness, instead of pushing it under the rugs. Today, being anxious is just a part of my life, among all the other things. I have accepted it gracefully, allowed it to teach me more about myself and have learnt to hold its hand without judgement while slowly breaking the old, violent, self harming structures that had made their homes inside of me. I have learnt to see the nightmares of my life as a constant reminder to love myself, while reaping tiny rewards of happiness in the form of warmth, in the form of joy, as and when I am successful in changing within the wheel of time.

Is this what self-love looks like?

I hope you have a wonderful day too. I will now sign off. The sun’s about to set and it is my favourite part of the day. 🙂

Merak

On a beautiful afternoon
as we watch the winter leaves shed
from my kitchen window,
we talk about the last time you were here.
Many years ago
it must have been summer
for the leaves were so bright green.

On this beautiful afternoon
as you stir coffee in its cup
the sweet smell of nostalgia
reminding us of what we are made of;
the music of silence
touch the unexplored territory of our nerves,
as we stand against my kitchen window
and watch the winter leaves
now the colour of bright burgundy
shed slowly
as if so much time has passed
and yet none at all.

*Merak is a beautiful little Serbian word that refers to a feeling of bliss at the pursuit of small, daily pleasures that add up for a greater sense of happiness and fulfilment.. 

This poem is dedicated to an old friend whose presence in my life adds up in ways I cannot even express.

Friendship

I say Thank you
To the friends who have been
And to the friends who have not

I say Thank you
for the tests of time
The organic way
of sieving out life

I say Thank you
to the friends
who hold my spine
when I fall down

And I say Thank you
to the friends who are not
for teaching me that words mean nothing
when actions aren’t carried out

Thank you
for those who made me doubt
the choices of friends
I have made in life
Thank you
for those who reaffirmed
the faith of believing
that love is always kind

The wind is harsh today
But it will not be so everyday
When the sun rises tomorrow
After the hurricane has passed away
I will know
The friends who are
And the friends who are not
When with weathered feet and sandy hair
I will feel the warmth
of the hands holding mine

Thank you
for these tests of time
Thank you for these tests of time..

Work

I can’t wait to get back to it.
The tapping of the keyboard
The clicking of the mouse.
The anticipation
of obstacles
The excitement
of problems to be solved.

I can’t wait to get back to it.
To tiring nights
and hopeful mornings.
That pay check
made of fresh paper
the scent of hard work,
& taste of priceless learnings.

I can’t wait to get back to it.
The bittersweet ache
of exhaustion & tired eyes
The joy of working
The contentment
of pushing beyond my strides

I can’t wait to get back to it
Despite the memories
that burns holes
in an idea that once was
of a perfect life

And I can’t wait to get back to it.
With paper and glue
Fixing the broken
and making something new.