December 5

//I take myself back in time because the present suffocates me//

I imagine the Sky and the Earth as lovers
When Gods ruled the world.

I imagine them
As two goddesses.
Blooming from the ashes
Of the universe’s heartbreak,
Like a sapling out of soil.

A new beginning.

I imagine them floating to each other;
Their ethereal beauty,
An immortal masterpiece.

I imagine the universe
Stopping to watch a love unfold
Into a river of light.

I wonder if one day,
The sun called the sky away.

I wonder if the Sky and the Earth
Separated
Like an ocean splitting into two-
Forever deemed incomplete.

I wonder if we are breathing
In what is left of the pain
Of the two Goddesses
Forbidden to love.

I wonder if their love was the tragic kind.

The kind Shakespeare wrote about.
The kind that transcends time,
Etched forever in history.

I wonder
If the Sky and the Earth were Goddesses
Destined to a lifetime of distance.

As I watched the sunset today,
I saw that brief mixing of the Sky and the Earth
Over the horizon,
Where it looked as if they melted into each other.

I wonder if the sunset was
the Sky’s hello,
The Earth’s goodbye,
A promise,
An apology
Before the Sun scorched the Earth
And the Sky bled in red
As she watched her lover
Burn at the hands of her kidnapper.

November 15

//A lesson in architecture//

Somedays
I think of myself as
An unwanted souvenir
Left behind by death.

Grief, an artist,
has carved holes into me
Like a sculptor chips at stone-

In hopes of sculpting an angel.

Except,
This sculpture is not an angel.

This sculpture is broken in some places,
Cracked in others;
It is dusty and stuffed in the storage room
Of some museum.

Somedays
I can feel ghosts
climbing
into the caverns in my body.

Ghosts of the people
Who died without getting to see their family
Last year.
Ghosts of the children
whose spirits will
forever mourn
for a future unseen.

Ghosts of who we are,
Ghosts of who we could have been.

This sculpture is covered in bubble wrap
Because it is fragile.
It comes in a cardboard box,
A red, ‘handle-with-care’ sticker
Stuck on the front.

The cardboard box has no return address.

It is shipped
from one museum to another.
Always to a guest-house,
Never to a home.

Somedays I close my eyes
And listen to the flames
Licking at a corpse
On a funeral pyre.

I imagine the last words,
last breath,
Last smile
Of a person who adds to
An ever-growing number of deaths.

This is what a corpse is reduced to-
A number.

Maybe
Grief is easier to measure
When the people exist as numbers
Instead of people.

This sculpture will soon be discarded.

‘Too damaged’, the museum committee will declare.

So the sculpture will finally rest
In a graveyard full of other statues.
Cracked in some places,
Broken in others.

And maybe among the faces
Carved into stone,
This sculpture will find a piece
That fits its own hole.

Maybe the sculptures deemed damaged
By history
Will trade with each other
Until they are whole.

They will take
and give
and share
Until they forge a masterpiece
from what they have left.

Maybe the discarded sculptures
Will make homes in each other’s holes.

And millenia later,
A new generation will dig them up,
Display them in museums
And call them
‘Lessons from the past.’

Maybe our past looks down upon us,
and maybe our future will look down upon us,
but we- our present-
will look up to each other.

We will call each other survivors.

November 4

//We hold on to ourselves, to each other, to hope//

After a year and a half today,
I sat in a classroom again.
A moment after classes began,
I looked at the myriad around me;
We were a wave of love and laughter.
Smiles that we traded like currency.

Our breathing was laboured
Under our masks-
Out of sync.
But we didn’t care.

Perfect in our imperfections,
We were a lost orchestra;
The art of a composer
Who did not make it
Into the pages of history.

I had imagined
Being back at school would be a reunion of sorts-
There would be apologies
And promises
And fights
And tears.

It was not a reunion.

Being back at school
was the present
Going back to the past.
We were tired kids,
Crawling back to what was before
In hopes of making it our after.

Being back at school
Felt like an embrace-
A force that transcends time.

After a year and a half,
We were each other’s routine again.
A second of not knowing what to say,
Not finding words.
The next second,
‘Do you remember that poem we planned
Two years ago?’

We slipped into each other again-
Seamlessly.

We stitched ourselves together.

Being back at school
Was muscle memory.
It was that song whose lyrics
We knew by heart.

Our feet led us back to each other
Even when it felt like we were lost.

Being back at school
Was being back at home.
After a year and half,
We greeted it anew-

A hello.

And it opened its arms to us
As if to say
‘I missed you.’
It smiled at us
As if to say
‘Welcome back.’

November 4

//an open letter to the girl I see in the mirror//

The sunset comes back,
Like it always does.
A pink sky
Sits outside your window,
And you ask yourself
If its the sun is blushing
At the sight of her lover.

What is this obsession of yours
With romanticizing
Everything?
You say that it helps
Cope with pain,
But does it really?

Your best friend
Sends you a picture
Of her sister jumping on a sofa
And you mourn
For a childhood lost too soon.
You aren’t even fifteen yet,
And death has made a place
In the cemetery of your bedroom.

I’m sorry
For the hurt you have had to see.

You’ve given up pasta
Because pasta
Was the favorite food
Of a friend who passed away
Years ago.

Everything blue
Brings with it an avalanche of emotions
Because blue was the favorite colour
Of the girl who said she liked your poetry.

Daisies
Have bloomed
In the darkest corners of your heart-
The parts you have messily stuck together
With duct tape.

You see, despite the brick walls
And wire-fences
You have put up around yourself,
There will be people
Who will be brave enough
To come near you.

I am you,
You are me,
And trust me when I say
You can be loved.

Trust me when I say
That this open letter
To you and your baggage
Is also an elegy
To all the things you have lost.
And a medal
Around the art
You have crafted from your hurt.

Trust me when I say
Things will get better.
All you need to do is hold on.

Trust me when I say
No matter what,
You are enough.
You will always be enough.

October 17

//The mortal marathon spirals into infinity, and the pain doesn’t end//

You.
If you are here.
If you are hurting
And if you have given me your time.
Listen.

By the time I was 11,
I had seen 2 suicides.
Today, there are 2 people-shaped voids
In me
That just sink deeper
When I try to fill them.
The pain
Is a constant pin
Pricking the soft skin of my heart.
I forget it for a minute
And the next,
It is back for me,
An assassin with a vengeance.

Listen.

Across the world,
There is some girl who cries herself to sleep
Because to her
the world is simply a vessel
Of insensitivity.
A boy
Who lives near me
Doesn’t know when he wakes up
And when he sleeps
Because every day
Is a purposeless blur.

Between my street
And the other other side of the world,
There are
Millions-
Yes, millions-
of other boys and girls
Who think they do not matter.
Who do not know
Their purpose.
Who are not told they are loved.
Who turn to harming themselves
In order to let out their pain.
Who take their lives
Because they are not happy.

Who take their lives
Because things aren’t working out.

I want to tell them,
You,
That this life is broken, yes,
But we
Can stitch it back together.
I
Am one person, yes,
And my hands are small
And there is only so much hurt
I can try to heal.
But we-
You and I-
Are two
And we-
together
Have bigger hands.

We, are hurting, yes
But we can heal together.

Listen.

I know
You think
There is no reason.
And no purpose
And no place
For you
On this orb of blue and green.

But if not anything else,
Know.

That you take up space.
Know
That you
Are here.
Alive.
Breathing.

Know
That if not for anyone else,
The air
That tickles your lungs
Will miss you
If you’re gone.

I
am 14, and I know that we as a society are doing something wrong. We are not talking, maybe. Or we are not talking enough. Or we are not listening enough.

We need
To change things.
We need to tell people they matter.
We need to love harder.
We need to set an example
For the generation that comes after us
Because our blunders
Will become their burdens.

We need to leave love
As our legacy, yes,
But we also need to teach them
Strength.
So that just as we have learned
From History
And Scripture
And Mythology,
They will learn too.

If you
Are hurting
And if you
Are here,
I see you.
I hear you.
I feel you.
I am here for you.

Even if
You think I will not understand
And even if you are halfway across the world,
I
Am here.

I know it’s hard.
Trust me, I do.

Listen.

By the time I was 11
I had seen 2 people-
2 children-
Take their own lives.
And today,
I swear to God,
Today,
All I want
Is one more word with them.

So if not for anything else
And if not for anyone else
Know
That there are words
That you are yet to hear
And there are thank you’s
You are yet to say
And there are people
You are yet to love.

And I am sorry
Life has been hard
But if not anything else,
That
Is worth living for.

There is happiness
Over the horizon
There
Somewhere
And I promise
I promise
That
Is worth living for.

Reach out.
Talk.
Listen.
Help.
Heal.
Grow.
We have made it through
So much.
We will make it through
Once again.

October 17

//I wrap pain in three layers of metaphors and throw it into an ocean//

Yesterday,
My dad bought me earphones.
Earphones without wires.
They stay in my ears when I plug them in.
They have
Touch controls;
If I press firmly on them,
They connect automatically
To my laptop.
I am afraid
To use them
Because I do not know
How to use them yet.

Two years ago, on this day,
My friend lost her grandfather.
She tells me
That the smell of his hands
Is the inhaler
She still cannot breathe without.
She is afraid she will forget him,
Forget the crook of his nose
And the soft wrinkles on his face.

My sister
Lost her grandmother
A year ago,
And she still speaks about Aai
In present tense.
I am afraid to ask her
If grief
Has seized
The room that once had a 1900’s radio,
A broken pair of glasses held together with cello-tape
And a box of pills.

People do not understand me
When I say
My poetry stems from grief.
This, this is what I mean-

Just like my earphones,
I wished
My friend’s brother
In the hospital
Could exist without wires.

Yesterday,
I wished my hands had touch controls
So that I could grip the wrist
Of my best friend’s grandfather
And my sister’s grandmother
And my grandmother
And get the blood
To pulse through their veins again.

Today, I wondered
Whether or not I would use
The touch controls in my hands
If I had them.
I do not know
If I would be brave enough
To erase the monochrome tune
Of grief
That has now become
The soundtrack of our lives.

This, this is what I mean
When I say happy poems
Are easy on the heart.
Happy poems will give you
A smile,
A pat,
A clap
A squeeze of the hands.

My poetry,
Is not happy,
It is a broken teenager
Depending on crutches of vulnerability.
Maybe
My poetry
Will not give me a standing ovation today
But if the hair on the hands of my audience
Stands
And if my poetry
Seeps through the cracks in their heart
And builds a room for itself.
It is enough.

Just like my friend
I am afraid of forgetting and being forgotten
But if my words
Will be the only proof
Of my existence
Centuries down the line
Then I will wear
This body of survival
Like a martyr
Wears his badges;
Even in death,
With honour.
Even in death,
With pride.

October 17

//Most of the time, it hurts despite being beautiful//

I see
Autumn aesthetics,
Warm- brown sweaters,
And coffee mugs
Scattered all over the internet
In a desperate attempt to romanticize autumn.
Autumn,
A season that will leave soon.

There is no time
For aesthetics in my life today.
We don’t have autumn here-
Just a perennial gust of saturated wind.

Saturated,
With the heat
Deflected by tin roofs.

Tin roofs,
In the overcrowded slums
Near my locality
Where children play barefoot.

Children,
To whom the sky
Is the blue tarpaulin
they cover their houses with
When rain comes.

Rain,
The unwelcome guest
That comes and takes with it
A handful of lives,
A handful of cattle,
And the last essence of poetic value
Poets sought from it.

Poetic value,
Which my country has no time for,
As it whizzes past me
To save its seat
On the map of the world.
The world,
Which is busy romanticizing
Black fumes,
Into a blanket of macabre mystery
And the blood that taints its streams,
Into magenta coloured sacrifice.

The world,
Which, like all of us,
Is busy trying to romanticize its misery
Before it melts into nothingness.

Nothingness,
Which maybe,
Is all that we’re destined for.

August 22

And yet another letter.

Before we begin, a note: This blog is special for a number of reasons. One, because I wrote it when all hope was slipping away from me. Quarantine had left me emotionally and mentally exhausted, and writing this really helped. Second, because with this, we reach a 100 posts. Though the 100th post is just as important as my 72nd or 54th, I cannot help but be proud of myself; even if its a little bit. I know I have miles to go before I sleep, but for now, I rest at this milestone.

I keep seeing people trying to get things back to normal. Moving around a few blocks in slippers and light masks, getting ice-cream from street-side shops, meeting up with a close group of friends; doing everything we can to momentarily ignore the plague that has consumed our entire lives.
What do I make of this? Do I try to hold on to hopes that everything will go back to normal again, or do I accept the fact that nothing can ever be the same? What do I tell the little cousin who tugs at the hem of my shirt and asks me to take her out to the park? Do I tell her that the life she has seen before this, is forever going to be a reminder to everything we have lost? Or do I hug her and tell her that it’s going to be okay again?

Being a teenager has never been easy, even without the question of a life-threatening virus roaming the streets of our world. Today, we are faced with a hurdle that our young and angry minds cannot untangle. We try to walk past it but fall back. We stumble across unknown territory, cry and shout because we didn’t sign up for any of this. All we wanted was a normal life and the permission to be a normal teenager in normal times.
And yet here we are, missing graduations and high-school parties, missing orientations, missing opportunities to make memories with our friends. Here we are, reaching out for help, laughing through tears, singing songs to each other across balconies, watching the sunset from our terraces while people die in hospitals. Here we stand, in the epicentre of a pandemic, armed with masks and sanitizers and the last bits of strength we have left.

Even through all of this, though, look at our audacity.

Instead of crumbling to defeat at the hands of a virus, we stand tall, look it in the eye, and tell it ‘We are humans. We come from centuries of evolution. Watch us get through this too.’

Some days, I wonder what the next generations will be able to call relics from their past. Ideally, I would want to say ‘survival’, but here is the truth stripped bare: survival has, and will always be, the first instinct of any living thing. Let your muscles loosen in a pool of water, and you will find yourself floating- even though you are not trying to. Survival has guided generations of human beings through political polarisation, genocide, hatred, defeat, war and death, and everything that has tried to kill us. It cannot be held as a memento, when it is always going to be relevant.

Other days, I wonder what our generation is going to look back upon when we are old and in rocking chairs. Will we be able to catch a glimpse of what was before? Or will we move forward, chase the rest of our insane science-fiction dreams without a second glance? Will we be in history books by the time all of this ends? Or will we be making history, reaching out for Pulitzers and Nobel Prizes, smiling for cameras as we fumble for words?

I don’t know. I have more questions than I know the answers to. And I will probably never know all the answers either. I guess that’s okay too. But in these trying times, all we can do is hope. Someone told me that hope will always prevail over fear, and that in a battle between death and life, life works harder to win. Though it is not easy to hope when it feels as if everything is crumbling, we’ll still try; with poetry, with music, with art. With video calls, with collaborative playlists, with letters, with isolation and distancing. We will try, we will try even when we don’t want to.

So before I end, I will say something to the universe:

Maybe our children and grandchildren will inherit bundles of masks and will be told ‘You ancestors did not die because of these; they lived because of the masks.’ Maybe they will inherit the flame we have set light to- a burning desire to forge a world from the ashes of its remains.
One that is better and brighter than the last.
May they take from our battle wounds, every lesson they can possibly learn about survival. May they see the good from our protests and our struggles. May they see the hopes we have left for them. May they see our efforts and our blood, may they see what we turned from dreams to reality.

May they see in us, the beauty that we have tried to see in ourselves.

To the generations that come after us, to the generation that will hopefully breathe in safer air, we leave a message; we leave a time capsule wrapped in hope, and we tell them this- You are stronger than us. May you do right what we have done wrong.

August 17

//She is the prayer I have scratched onto the walls of my throat //

Yesterday,
I watched my grandmother teach my younger sister
The same prayers she taught me when I was three.
I watched her laugh
As she listened to a child praying
And I thought about how
My Grandmother doesn’t talk-.
She doesn’t have an accent
To guard her.
My Grandmother sings.
Her tongue
Slips between what she says,
Fabricates alphabets out of thin air.
When she prays,
She makes homes
in the curves and bends of her words,
And then weaves them
Into the string of prayer beads
At the tips of her fingers.
She sings her own hymns,
Writes her own prayers.

She is the theme song
Of the cassette of my life.
She is the concert
I was born to translate.
My Grandmother is the only Home I know.
She is a Magician
Whose tricks
People will spend their entire lives decoding.

But this poem
Is not about my grandmother
Or the millions of memories
I have with her.
It is about how
She was my first teacher;
How she taught me to roll my tongue just right
So that my speech doesn’t come out foggy.

This is a poem
About the languages
I taught myself
To play hopscotch with.
It is about the words
I have spent years
Trying to make sense of.
‘Don’t let Odia slip into English,’
I was told;
‘People will laugh.’
So I trained myself
To know alphabets
Like I know the gravel-sunken roads
Of my city.
I saw how my Grandmother
Turned language into her playground.
And I wanted to be just like her.

So I did.

Years later,
I watch myself spend hours over books and speeches
And poetry
That have survived
Centuries of wear-and-tear.
I play hide and seek with ghosts
In old libraries
And corners of the Internet
People don’t even know exist.
I recite quotes
Like scripture,
Like they are the only holy I know.
When people ask me how I write my poetry
I tell them
That inspiration
Just hits me on some days.

And through all of this,
I tell myself
That I am preparing
For a future of literature.

None of that is true.
The truth is, there is no easy way to Literature.
Or books.
Or speeches
Or poetry.
The truth is,
That every piece I write
Comes from a place of hurt
And anger
And broken things I cannot mend.

The truth is,
I spend hours
Tending to cracks in my heart.
I pick up the pieces
Of whats left
And put them on paper.

The truth is,
I found words
Wrapped
In silken clothing.
I picked them up
And they shape-sifted
Into crutches
I reached for
As grief body-slammed me
Into a wrestling ring.

The truth is,
I found a home in words
Just like I found a home in my Grandmother.

As I come to the end of this poem,
I don’t know if I like it or not.
So I will spend hours
Perfecting it,
Even after it is published and performed.
And when it is done,
I will fold it
Into the pocket of my jeans
And pick up the phone
To thank my Grandmother
For teaching me
How to write;
Without knowing
She is healing
everything in me.

July 24

//I am a paradox, piecing together a purpose from the remnants of what was//

I say I find it hard to care anymore
And yet,
Every time someone in my family
Falls sick,
I am inches away
From falling apart.

I say something is wrong with me
And yet
On the days I wake up without purpose,
I learn to love myself
All over again.

Today is yet another day
When I am left questioning
The point of it all.
I stage an existential crisis
For myself,
Dig hollows in my body
And shrink back
From everything around me.

Poetry rings in my ears,
The same lines,
Remind me, over and over again,
that I am still breathing.
The soft light from the bulbs in my room
Bounce off the walls
And bind me
In a steadfast act of rebellion.

The poetry
Has now turned itself
Into incessant buzzing,
And the words push against each other
In an attempt to establish
Superiority.

I rip my earphones
Out of my ears,
And they lie discarded
On my bed.

My bed,
Which is messy
No matter what I do with it,
Perhaps,
Expressing its disapproval
At my indifference.

I am trying to figure myself out,
Trying to convince my shadow
That I am still worth following.

Random lines I read on social media
Sneak themselves
Into my art,
Onto my door,
And in this moment,
I am convinced,
That there is probably nothing
That I can call my own.

This poem
Is a nomad
On the streets of a country
It does not know anymore.
It stumbles
With bloody knees
And blistered feet,
Tries to find a home
Inside the hollows
It has dug in its body.

It forgets
That it doesn’t belong.