Chipotle


Today my aunt asked me to change my home address from India to New Jersey on my resume for a job at Chipotle.

My cousin said, “My appetite after coming to USA has increased. I can finish an entire rice bowl at Chipotle.”

Assimilation has varied forms.

The fault in our wars


The fault with radical activism of any sort is that it is radical. It is fierce; it is aggressive and highly critical. Its proponents are a bulldozer, squashing you with their countless terminologies and dismissing you at the slightest hint of ignorance. It is the language of war and subdued violence, erupting like a volcano at the slightest provocation. While the use of activism to bring about social change and justice is validated, the use of aggression to make marginalized voices heard is not. Agreed, that people of queer identities or color face discrimination on a micro level—as an Indian studying in one of the finest liberal arts schools in the United States, I can safely say that the college itself is not so liberal. Despite its open dialogs and safe spaces of discussion about race, color, sexual identities, it displays ignorance at the most fundamental level. Racism, a vehemently opposed concept here, doesn’t cease to exist as my fellow classmates hesitate; trying to place my accent and nationality before answering my simple questions.  I have been the third wheel way too often during group conversations with my American friends—people forgetting to ask for my opinion on current topics or seemingly forgetting that I exist in the group eating dinner together. My conversations with the Indian diaspora in America consist of the latest Bollywood movie and reminiscences of the ways in which Indian food is more flavorful than that of America, as if the beginning and end of my knowledge spans only India. While writing and speaking about these issues deeply upsets me, I also realize that this is not a reason to lash out in anger at anyone who says, “Oh, are you from India? I know all about it, I have seen Slumdog Millionare!” or “How do you speak such good English?”

The reason why contemporary activism fails to make an impact on most occasions is because it polarizes, it strengthens the other as the activist struggling to be heard uses passion fueled hate. As an informed and educated citizen of this world, it becomes my duty as much as my audience’s to recognize the ignorance that exists in both parties. If their knowledge of India does not go beyond Slumdog Millionare, my knowledge of America does not go beyond popular TV shows such as Friends and How I Met Your Mother (this was only until I became a student in the United States). If my impatience stems from their blatant ignorance, their discrimination might stem from misinformation via film and other popular media. In order to truly connect and harmonize both worlds, I need an activism that uses the language of love and connection. One that does not divide, but one that joins. One that does not polarize but one that recognizes the other as an extension of oneself. One that does not vehemently dismiss but one that includes and gently educates. The idea of the other being separate from ourselves arises mainly from the Western individualistic society where the “I” is placed above everything and everyone else; it chooses to defend at the first signs of attack. This is where the socialistic model of society from the East can be useful.

Using this socialistic model, which stresses on the importance of connections and strength of interpersonal relations, we realize that at the end of the day we are all humans, all frail creatures looking for the same thing- love. Whether it is the queer Black activist in Boston or the white American heterosexual in New York,  both are searching for the same thing- ears that listen and hearts that understand. The term “open dialog” will only live up to its meaning when both come together from a space of curiosity, of wanting to learn and educate themselves and the other on the peculiarities of their own human existence. The “safe spaces” will only begin to take shape when there is patience, kindness and empathy in the hearts of those who watch Slumdog Millionare and Friends. When we begin to recognize that connections and the frailties that bind us, our polarities cease to exist, the You versus I and the Them versus Us crumble, giving way to We. Thus, the next time someone misreads your identity, take a step back and a deep breath; realize: I am just another You.

 

At Sea: Growing up, Seeking Home


” I have been learning the language of analysis, criticism, and theory, unraveling this incongruent world concept-by-concept, word-by-word.”

Luna Beller-Tadiar

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/05/sea-growing-seeking-home/

One of the most lyrical and beautifully written pieces I have read in a long time. It resonated with me on a deep deep level. Articulates my thoughts brilliantly. I encourage you all to give it a read.

 

The violence of strength


I want to emphasize on the violence involved in the warrior approach that most survivor tales take on, after the death of a loved one, loss, or a break up. There is often implied aggression in the survivor tales we see being portrayed time and again in the movies, songs and other popular media. In a sort of Bildungsroman, the protagonist must go through the break up/loss to come out with a cleaner character, he/she needs to take on an approach of that of a warrior where he/she is taking charge and control of his/her life. It is because our society discourages failure. The helplessness we so often seek to combat catches up with us in the end. The aggression or the hatred stemming from the break up is often channelized into a hardened personality, one that of a “tough” individual who goes about life in an almost superhero way. The portrayal of these characters, specially females, overly aggressive “radical” feminists shows the assertion of anger at a very core level; an escapist attitude from the ultimate helplessness that we all want to avoid. We don’t like being helpless, we want to be bigger than our problems, we want to tackle life, and we want to be in charge. All this war terminology creates an armor that not only hardens, but also defeats the individual. At a core level, our soul is being crushed.

The true essence of the soul is not that of enmity, struggle or combat, but that of a relaxed surrender to the realization that we are all powerless in this grand orchestra of life. It is due to my continued practice of meditation that disallows any hardening; I have come to realize that struggle is not the way to achieve personal growth and change. That we do not own the powers to overcome every situation, that things happen in their own time, that love does not disappear easily despite a bad break up, and that we will make mistakes repeatedly. The marginalization of failure, of reality is one problem that must not be undermined. You are very likely to wake up with an aching heart or worse still, a sleepless night tomorrow. You will probably be quicker in doling out “I love yous” to your lovers than to your parents. You might skip a day in your exercise regime. Life is not always rosy and successful. We are creatures of comfort and ease and are highly unlikely to go through a character arc overnight. Sitting with failure is hard, when all you want to do is to rip out someone’s head or maybe even yours. It is harder to admit that you are powerless. But it is only through surrender to this failure that we learn to recognize the true strength in ourselves and emerge as the compassionate, loving, softhearted beings that we really are.

We


Identity.

Id-entity?

I’d entity?

I had an entity?

I have an entity.

I.

You.

We.

Let’s put a sex on this I. She.

Let’s put a name on her. Rachel.

Let’s put an age on Rachel. 20.

Let’s put a nationality on 20 year old Rachel. American.

Let’s give 20 year old Rachel from America a race. White.

Voila! You have a person with an identity!

Sex, name, age, nationality, race.

I bet you have many other labels too.

We hold on to these labels: he, she, they as if they will somehow define us.

We hold debates, write angry poems, and hold protests on capitalism, nationalism, colonialism and a million other isms as if they will somehow make the pain of our human existence more interesting than “theirs”.

We. I know you don’t like this word.

It makes you uncomfortable; I can see you squirming in your seat already.

It scares you; I can see you forming arguments in your head already.

It makes you afraid, it dissolves the line between you and I, him and her, black and white, Asian and American and makes us.

Tell me friend, are your labels the same ones that weigh down your brain with their countless terminologies and divisions as you struggle to sleep at night?

Do they make you different from that Asian guy in your class when you both reach out for the glass of vodka trying to forget these same definitions?

What makes your need for validation different from those heterosexuals as you both grind against a stranger in drunker stupor?

What makes you different from me when you say water and I say water in different accents when we both sound the same underwater?

We.

I know you’re still afraid of that word.

I know you’re not willing to let go.

I know you’re still clinging to those three words you have been taught- I love you.

I know that you’re terrified that if you let you and I drop, only one word remains.

Love.

And we certainly cannot have that.

The lover’s blanket


I feel your love surrounding me like a blanket, keeping me warm. Hold me close, lover; for when the wind blows your blanket away, I do not wish to face my wounds that you keep so lovingly hidden.

I am flawed, lover. Terribly and terrifyingly. In moments of despair I see my ugliness, my extraordinary ordinariness and my darkness and I run. I run for life. I do not wish to see these monsters. I want to be hidden safe and sound in the blanket of your warmth, your touch, your taste and your smell.

Yet, despite the love, I tremble. From beneath my toes to the tip of my fingers, I feel fear, gripping and raw, tunneling into my heart. I see demons, terrible, dark and menacing, threatening to kill.

And I give in.

There is only so much time before my fault lines show again and divide the ground on which you and I stand. There is only so much time before I shiver, holding your blanket close one last time. There is only so much time before I can take solace in three words that you so incessantly utter every day and every night.  There is only so much time before the trembling begins again.

I need to let go of your blanket lover. I must go and spiral into the incoherence of my tunnel.

And so I have.

I have held my misery and let it rain stones till I sat helpless and vacant, with tears as my only companions. I have let pain claw into the crevices of my being, stretching me apart and miraculously back together again.  I have been touched by the center of my sorrow in the naked solitude of the night and have found myself still alive, breathing and clutching at the pouch of my heart.

In the midst of it all, I can feel a noise: a gentle knitting, a weaving of threads that dissolve and mold into each other, a soft whispering, a reminder, that joy stands at the threshold of my door. I feel the threads taking a form, a form so utterly unique that I can call it mine.

I am building my blanket, lover. I am learning to walk. I am learning to see the beauty in your face, in your presence, in your voice and in your being. Above all that, I am learning to see the beauty in me.

A new world


The music dimmed, the streetlights brightened and out of the corner of my eye, I saw your Adam’s apple bobbing as you hummed a tune. Within the periphery of a car glass and two seats, I could see the stirrings of a new world.

That was just the beginning.

The bowl of noodles in front of me starts to turn cold as I gaze aimlessly into space. I try to segregate the noodles, thin from thick, small from big. But like my emotions, the more I try to separate, the more entangled they become.

There are times when I want to love you. I want to give you pure, unconditional love. I want to be carried away into wonderment and follow you wherever you lead. I want to love you with a love so profound that would whisper warmth to you on a dark lonely night.

Then are times when I want to scar you. Emotionally and mentally. I want to put you through suffering for reasons inexplicable. I want you to answer questions that still burn my heart. I want you with me in the deepest pits of hell. I want to be loved.

Like a lot of other things, I cannot find my way across the battle of love and hate, pride and envy. I feel lost. I feel different, I see different. The stars lose their charm and the lake its shimmers without you. I feel incomplete, as a burn simmers its way through my heart. I see lovers and I see you.

I see us huddling on a front porch on a winter night. Out of the corner of my eye, I see your Adam’s apple bobbing as you strum your guitar. I look up at the stars and find them glittering again. I feel your hand on mine, and I begin to trust life.

man-woman-park-bench-photo-420x420-ts-200430915-001

The person


The person is dead. She has built up walls to keep away people. She feels nothing, sees nothing. Occasionally she pretends to believe and see, but she finds it useless. So she retreats to her shell. It is warm and comfortable here. Nothing can touch her- no one can know her thoughts, no one can see her emotions. Sometimes she meets friends and goes out for parties and pretends to have fun. Deep down, she is lonely.

One day, someone comes along. He sits beside her beneath the stars and shows her the might of the sea. She sees the raging sea and for what feels after an eternity, she feels terror. Heart clenching, hair gripping terror. She gropes for an escape; she is unable to run away from this terror. Like a lightning bolt it strikes, and with one thunderous clash, her walls are shattered.

The person is in love. She feels things, she sees things. She feels a plethora of emotions- she feels alive. Her walls have been broken and she feels free. She is poetry- walking, breathing, dancing and loving. The person is very happy. She rejoices in the fragrance of the first blush and starts dreaming of eternity. Slowly she feels eternity slipping away. So she starts clinging. She transfers her hopes, dreams and fears onto him. Very gradually he becomes her hope, her dream and her worst fear.

He notices something is wrong. He cannot understand what has happened to her. All he knows is he is getting suffocated. So he starts moving away. But she simply cannot let that happen. She needs him for her eternity. She cries, she begs and she pleads. But he doesn’t budge. He knows he must go. Without a word, he disappears.

The person is enraged. She calls him names and destroys his memories. She drowns herself in remorse. She revels in her rage. She turns vile and mean. Her bloodshot eyes spit hatred. She loses sleep. She loses herself. The person is dead again.

After futile attempts and fruitless efforts, she begins to complain. She talks to people about how miserable she feels. People decide she cannot be sad for too long. They decide it is better for her to forget all about love. So they tell her to move on. She follows their advice, plastering smiles when her heart aches and losing herself in work when her eyes water. People are very impressed. They say her strength is commendable. The person hears this and feels very good and continues to pretend. It seems as though pretense is the way of the world.

She sees people getting up and going for work. She sees them making international phone calls and signing important documents. She sees them in absurdly tight and uncomfortable clothes. She wonders why they do so. They tell her it is to make an impression. Now the person finds this very absurd. But she doesn’t utter a word. Yet she sees hands typing away with dexterity at phones, eyes trained to avoid contact and heads filled with overflowing clutter. But the person’s eyes are not trained. She looks deep into their eyes and she sees boredom. She sees repression. And she sees fear.

So she talks to her parents and they say, “Work hard, mint money and then enjoy.” The person finds this even more absurd but again, she lets the opinions of others drown out her own voice and tries to show excitement at the ambitions others have and decide for her. But deep inside, she hates the world. She hates its people and their ways.  But she cannot show her resentment. Because the leaders say peace is the way of the world.

Sometimes her heart aches for love. She longs to be held. So she latches onto a stranger and makes mechanical love to him. She allows him to deduce her to a thing. She secretly wishes that he might look past her layers and love her. She doesn’t know the stranger wishes for that too. But the stranger is more adept at the ways of the world than her and he knows that he has to act grown up. He cannot show his emotions. He simply cannot be vulnerable. And when he sees the person breaking down and exposing her broken state, he gets angry. He very gets angry because he hates her for being weak. But deep down, he envies her. She can be something he would dare not. So he gives her a sermon on being strong and walks away.

The person is broken. On a rainy day she stands and watches him fade. She allows the rainwater to seep into her cracks. But she doesn’t want pain. It is too strong, too devastating for her. It is just too much. So she finds another stranger. And then another. By this time, she knows what to do. She parts ways with firm nonchalance and poise. She stops complaining about heartbreaks and stops dreaming about forever. Forever seems to be a faraway reality. Loneliness is the only reality she knows.

She moves along life until one day, she feels like writing. The words leap at her out of the page, constantly streaming across her eyes. The person knows only too well that she cannot let this voice subside. So she writes. She writes about love and hate, sorrow and loss, envy and lust. She starts complaining about the state of affairs again. She shows her hatred openly.

One dark night, she lets her monster surface. The monster claws in on her heart and shrivels her insides. It threatens to take over. Its flames rise slowly, licking her feet and torso. But she patiently waits. She resists the comfort of prayer and help. She lets it overwhelm her.  For the first time, she lets herself be utterly and terribly alone. In that one waking moment, she is surrounded by her hate, her lust, her envy, her greed and her revenge. She is surrounded by her demons. They take over, consuming her like a fire. And out of that fire, the person is born again.

Tell me your dreams


Tell me your dreams and I will tell you mine.

If only you could see the moths and their netted wings glowing in the rays of the streetlamp as they fly aimless and lost, the sheer wonder and inquiry in the eyes of a child as he looks, I would share the joy of seeing with you.

If only you could smell the earthy aroma as I walk placing one foot in front of the other in the forest breathing in scents, I would share the joy of fragrance with you.

If only you could hear the music of the birds and cars as they traverse along their respective paths, I would share the joy of listening with you.

If only you could walk with me through this conflict I face as I struggle and flit between dreams and reality, magic and illusion, silence and words, I would share the joy of mutual evolution with you.

If only you could feel my energy rising to the surface and coursing through my veins as I touch you, I would share the joy of passionate embrace with you.

If only you could show me your glee and wonder, the places that made you cry, the people that made you laugh, the things that inspired you to write, I would share the joy of companionship with you.

If only you could turn towards me and tell me your dreams, I would know the joy of sharing with you.

Tell me you dreams, stranger. I want to know you, feel you, taste you, and experience every bit of you. I want to know the thoughts that plague your mind, the layers beneath those brown eyes and the secrets that keep you up on nights. Show me your surprise, your turbulence  as I hear your breath hitch while I entangle myself in you.

Tell me your dreams and I will treasure them all, unlocking them in the deepest recesses of my heart when beauty turns into a thing too scarce and the nights stretch endlessly into the heavens and beyond and the lines between you and I blur and we become one.

A silent spectator


He was just like any other person I had met. I thought he had more to him – maybe his silences held some deep secrets, maybe his stoic countenance held some repressed emotions. The more I tried to dig, the more disappointed I got. It was then I realized that his silences held no hidden meaning, and his expressions were simple portrayals of his true nature. It was his nothingness, his ordinariness that made him extraordinary. His unwillingness to stand out made him special.

Sometimes in the evening, his friends immersed themselves in various sports, forgetting themselves and the world for a few hours. And in those few hours, he sat in the stands, taking it all in with a smile.

He rose in the early hours of dawn, saw the sunlight shining through the leaves and breathed in the fresh morning air. I could picture him sitting in meditation, basking in the glory of the ‘superiority’ he felt at rising before the world. As humanity made its first stirrings of the day, he sat watching his thoughts in silent harmony with nature.

He was like the characters in a R.K. Narayan novel – simple, with a pleasant disposition and a few wants. Often times, I try to picture him. What must he be like in person? And often times, the playground of life comes to my mind. I see people running about, going to office, attending college, doing their chores and buying big buildings. And in the background I see him, a silent spectator, viewing the world passing by.