Old Healed Wounds That Ache In Bad Weather

At the Performance Poetry workshop I attended yesterday, we looked at some videos of performers. One of them had a few notes playing in the background and the performer speaking in a characteristic singsong, often-rhyming style. I blurted out,

“But that’s rap!”

The others smiled and told me that rap was quite close to spoken word poetry. It upset me more than I could explain, for a good while. It’s a good thing Rochelle had us do a meditation exercise after that to ground our creative thoughts, else my day might have been wiped out.

The ex is a rapper. That in itself should not change much since some of my other exes live in the same city and love reading and this hasn’t put me off either Mumbai or books. But rap is what he used as a weapon to put me down, to distance me from other parts of his life, to explain away why he didn’t need to put in an equal effort into the relationship.

I tried really hard to understand the form. I’m nothing else if not thorough. I looked it up online, I spoke to other people who might know something about it and I begged, yes begged, him to teach me. Every time I was met with responses like ‘You don’t really think it’s music anyway; why don’t you go listen to that white music shit?’ Add this to the fact that every book, movie, song, activity or event I expressed an interest in, would be heavily judged and condescended to, under the excuse that it was pretentious or capitalist or white propaganda. I learnt to fear anything that wasn’t rap.

At a rare event where I would be permitted to go along, I had to keep my mouth shut or be accused of trying to hijack attention from him/his friends/hiphop with my rock/pop/social media shit. I attended several open mics, sat through endless rehearsals, went to a concert, a cipher and everywhere I tried to be as inconscpicuous as possible. I learnt to fear everything that was rap.

It has been three years since he proposed marriage to me and after a very public announcement, threw me out without explanation. Several things happened after that, all good. Unexpected new friendships, professional metamorphosis and yes, love and support too.

Last week, a new friend asked me if I still loved him. I replied that I didn’t know how to answer that. I will never want to be a part of his life again. I have a full life, personally, professionally, socially and emotionally. A lot of the time I get by perfectly fine and even happily. But every now and then something pops up that reminds me of him, like a long-healed fracture that aches in damp weather. I’m unable to hate him intensely enough to want something bad to happen to him — this is the person I thought I would spend my life with, after all.

What I do feel is an absolute sense of despair. I could not have done anything to avoid being with him — there were no warning signs. I have changed greatly because of the relationship and its aftermath so I can’t exactly say I regret it either. I have plunged the depths of his troubled insides so I know where his negativity stems from. I still struggle with the guilt he has laid on me on walking away from a troubled person and I’m petrified that I’ll have to deal with it for the rest of my life. I feel unable to break free of the stranglehold he has over my happiness. The only thing I’ve learnt, is to ignore it as one ignores baying street dogs and walk away.

But in the past few weeks it seems like the darkness that he represents is drawing closer and closer. I’ve returned to one of the creative communities/platforms in the city that I avoided for three years. It is where I met him and it’s where I faded away because he left no room for any glory for me. I haven’t run into him there but I constantly fear that I will.

I’ve begun dating again and possibly because of the nature of my work & social life, I only meet younger men. I cannot stop myself from fearing the power they have that I don’t — the luxury of being selfish and needy without having to bear the repercussions.

Without a conscious desire to, I seem to have become more active in talking about gender issues. And there, I encounter people who know him and the work that he is doing. I come across public statements made by him, which I remember as things I told him (yes, this has happened more than once. Even when I was his girlfriend he didn’t think he should give me credit; what makes anyone think he’ll do it now?) It makes me sick, enough to feel like I will throw up, when I come across his statements about treating women right. He did not treat me right and he has shown neither remorse nor acknowledgement of this. But I also know that seeking vindication is not going to bring me any real sense of peace. My closure continues to be my own bloodied, tangled business.

I’ve ventured into what I thought was a new creative arena for me. It has demanded even more honesty and dealing with difficult stuff, than writing has. It has not been easy since the closest, most intense experience I’ve had, has been of him. And now, to realise that it’s so dangerously close to the creative world he inhabits. I’m two words short of running screaming from the planet.

I’ve been grappling with this for days now. Each time I’m propped up by a close friend or one of my Alphabet Sambar people (oh what good luck, what a blessing to have this community — I never thought it would serve as an emotional anchor). But today I was sucker-punched again by the internet. His profile came up on the QuickMatches on a dating site I’m on. It says we’re 82% compatible. I read through his profile the same way I stop and look at badly mangled victims of accidents. It made me sick to the stomach. No factual inconsistencies; and such a world of lies. This is the kind of profile I would find interesting, the kind of guy I’d find enchanting. It makes me question everyone else that I find interesting now. It makes me trust men, love and relationships less. It makes me fear Performance Poetry because of its closeness to Rap.

I don’t know even how to end this. So I’m going to go eat lunch and try and forget today happened. Maybe when I finish the meal, I’ll realise it was all a terrible dream and that I’m not really a writer and there’s nothing called Performance Poetry and that he’s just a figment of my tired imagination.

Thank you Ronaan for holding my hand and keeping me from bursting into tears yesterday. Thank you Adi, Reema, Rochelle, Shaunak, you keep me going.

I Wear: Goth Metal

This was back in December, of course. That’s the only time Mumbai lets you even hint at winter wear. So a smart Mumbaikar makes full use of the days that are. This was a dreary day that was set to begin with a sleep backlog, high pressure and crunched deadlines. I had to bring out the big guns. Black, red, spikes and attitude.

I Wear:

  • Faux leather sleeveless jacket with metal rivets: Forever New
  • worn over generic black turtleneck
  • with Navy jeans (not seen)
  • and Grey snakeskin boots (not seen)
  • topped up with blazing red lip colour and stark black eye pencil (no glitter, no shading, no wingtips).

It was a good day.

How To Go Viral Effectively — Ask Rega Jha

#RegaJha trended on Twitter yesterday. Here is what caused it.

A tweet that:
– appeared right after a high-emotion, visible match
– had nothing to do with cricket
– contained the keywords ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’
– had a view that is scientifically unverifiable & subjective
– did not touch on any actual political or religious sensitivities
– was posted by a woman

So viral content that provoked attention, instigated response and sharing, sparked off conversations and loyalty-battles threading along unrelated issues (politics, beauty norms, gender dynamics) but did not get into trouble for anything.

I would expect nothing less from a Buzzfeed editor.

You can continue outraging and getting played now.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -— — — — -— — — — -

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Everything Matches The Headscarf

Punekars and Chennaiites have known this for years. Mumbai is not new to dust, pollution and heat but well, some things just take time to catch on, okay? And Andheri, home to the worst traffic snarls and construction sites in the city has taken to this with gusto. Well, this Andherigirl certainly has.

My daily survival kit when I leave home includes mobile phone, wallet, keys, handkerchief, water bottle and sunglasses. Only one item changes in this otherwise staple collection – the headscarf. I now have a neat collection of headscarves of various colours, patterns and shapes. Their sole purpose it to protect face, hair and throat from the rigours of Andheri.

I’ve now taken to matching my make-up and other garments to the headscarf and why not? It’s a trend I first saw in Istanbul in 2008 and I was intrigued by the oomph of fully covered women in scarves, brooches and full sleeves, all matched. So here are two of my recent forays:

I Wear:

  • LEFT – Orange, yellow, purple & blue silk rectangular striped scarf with blue eyeliner & blouse and pink lipstick
  • RIGHT – Brown, cream & blue silk rectangular abstract scarf with teal eyeliner, red lipstick and sky blue jacket

#SixWordStories: February 13th

Happy anniversary, lover.
Happy anniversary, liar.

roses

I Wear: Pencil, Pen, Paintbrush

I’ve rediscovered colour in my personal style. I’ve always loved bright colours and my wardrobe of reds, electrics, neons and the like reflects that. But perhaps cowed by my environment that tells me that my skin is an ugly colour and should be hidden if at all, instead of highlighted (“It makes you look so dark!”), I’ve been colour-free. Here’s throwing all that away!

I began with these nail shades that reminded me of a time in my adolescence when I had enough pain to need colour and enough rebellion to indulge it. They remind me of pencil (toes) and fountain pen (fingers).

And now look at how much fun I’ve been having around the eyes! I went blue, I went green, I went gel pencil, I went liquid liner, I went shimmer, I went wingtips, I went all the way! And when I was done, I had peacock eyes.

I Wear:

  • Nailpolish hands: Maybelline Colorama 006 Ladies Night
  • Nailpolish toes: Maybelline Colorama 701 Spark of Steel
  • Eye pencil: Faces Canada dark blue, dark green
  • Eye liner: Lakme Absolute Shine Olive

The Music Of An Ex

Your voice still terrifies me. If anger were energy, you’re a nuclear reactor. But I only saw the gravity, I only heard the pain, I only felt your fear. And inside your head, for you, I became everything I could see. No wonder you hate me.

Now, every now and then, I listen to you, I watch you from afar. And what’s visible now is enough to scare me away. The trouble is memory is so weak at repelling. The minute I’m beyond the bounds of remembering, I come back to listen, to hear, to watch and to fear.

You wear the face of the unfamiliar, the strange, the uncomfortable. But your anger is known, like a well-remembered accident, a bone that never really healed and aches up every time it rains. It’s only ever raining when I think of you.

The scars on my arms have healed. And the lines on my face turned to pretty poetry, gritty poetry. But in the murky whirlpool of emotion, you still linger. How do you paper plane music? Because, yes, you were right, it is music.

The Dragon And The Paper Plane

I got my second tattoo yesterday. It is a paper plane, embellished in the watercolour style and is etched flying off my right wrist. This is a depiction of what I’m calling my Paper Plane Philosophy, which formed the basis of my first ever performance piece last month.

To explain this fully, I need to introduce you to my relationship with tattoos.

I have been interested in tattoos since I first heard about them as a kid. I read about sailors and criminals and other ‘bad boy’ elements flaunting designs over their body. Closer home, maids sometimes carried a ubiquitious blue etching on their arms, usually a name or a religious reference. And an occasional classmate had a cross (in the same blue) imprinted under their thumb. Tattoos spoke of low education, a life of physical labour and a high degree of religious faith/blind belief. The life I was being raised to live, was a confusing clash of the attitudes of this section but with the expectations of a more rational, successful, ‘respectable’ segment of society.

I can see the dysfunctional, conflicting sources of India’s urban ethos more clearly today. It took me several years of adulthood to be able to detach from these oppressive, tangled notions and fully embrace an art form that I liked because of how it spoke to me. A tattoo was for life. A tattoo was personal. A tattoo would always be my own. At a more granular level, I was 26 by the time I felt able mentally and financially to stand by what I knew would be a solitary decision to get a tattoo.

Tattoos were not common back in 2005. They were not the urban fad that they are today. I didn’t know anyone in my social circle or my family who had ever had a tattoo. Google was still building on a sparsely populated internet, Mark Zuckerberg was an unknown college kid and tweets were the sound Tweety bird made. All I had to go by was my own mind.

Even back then, I was wary of comitting to a symbol that had specific, widespread signficance. I didn’t want any religious motifs, well-known images like the peace symbol or flowers or even for that matter, words. Yes, words are symbols too and comittments to a certain idea and a certain language. I know now that I’ve always been a free spirit inside my mind, the only place I experience total freedom. I was not going to let a permanent tattoo tie me down to a particular way of thinking.

The dragon was an image I had liked ever since I read ‘The Hobbitt’ as a kid. I had also seen images of Chinese dragons in folk and popular culture. The dragon was a symbol that was not highly common, slightly recognisable and which meant vastly different things to different people. I chose to pick the fire-breathing element and impose the value of fearlessness on it.

All of this sounds very grandiose and well-structured now. But back then it was just a collection of various senses and lingering notions. And getting up one day and saying,

“I’m going to get a dragon tattoo.”

I’ve written about the experience of getting my first tattoo. In the years that followed, this image brought the power that I assigned to it, into every aspect of my life. Isn’t that what every kind of belief system is? Giving power to an idea with your belief and letting that power flow through your life, in an unadulterated, pure manner. It has been ten years since that that tattoo came into my skin and they have been ten years of big gestures, dramatic highs (and lows). My life from 26 to 35 has been about blazing my way through career, love life, religion, family, health and hobbies with passion, focus, individuality and burning ambition. I have grown to love who I became and the tattoo that symbolised my becoming this.

Now, it’s time to add another idea to my belief pantheon. My dragon years have accumulated a lot of things — achievements and admiration in equal measure to heartbreak, disappointment and confusion. There are a lot of jagged edges inside me, fractured expectations, frayed relationships and the like. I have also emerged as a writer. And one of the truest truths I’ve heard since I became one, is the idea that,

“To become a writer, just hold a pen to a nerve and bleed.”

But in my writing and bleeding, there is now an excess of fire. It’s time to rise up to the higher wisdom, the more superior power of knowing I can but not needing to. I know now that words, passionate words, are my strength. I know I can do battle, charm someone and cut down those I don’t like, using words. I think what I need now is to learn the lessons of letting go, of flight, of whimsy, of lightness and light. A paper plane symbolises all of that to me.

I am still powered my dragon philosophy of burning passion unsullied by social expectations or lies. But I’m now adding the ability to fly, to these. I have been a raging dragon for ten years. It’s now time to board a paper plane and fly.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Medium feed. I’m Ramya (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tiny Tales: Luka

I wrote this for an Alphabet Sambar prompt. Several members of the group said they did not get it. But two others did and liked it. Tell me what you think. Also, to keep from biasing you, I’ve posted the prompt at the bottom of the story and not here.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Luka

The man clutches the bottle to him, his spirit hungrier than his stomach, for succor. The glass is warm, from hours of holding and caressing. But it stays unyielding. He clutches it closer. The drink is long gone and he has no money for more. But he is convinced that the magical respite it brings, has seeped through to the bottle. He will take the bottle with him. He has paid for it, fair and square.

The fingers of his left hand close over its neck and he picks it up. His right hand supporting its base, he curls it up inside him, warm from the weather outside.

“Mine.” he croons.

On the street, an old woman stares at him. Her hair turns to hissing snakes as he passes, but he knows she is harmless. Medusa fallen from the grace of a Greek god. She told him her story once, how her lover had cut her and dropped her like garbage, because his mother didn’t approve. She was a kindred soul in agony. She frowns at him now.

“What you got there?”

“A handful of wishes.” He replies, allowing her a peek at the lovely succor his coat has been hiding. But only a peek. Kindred or not, he won’t share.

“Mine.” he mutters.

“Won’t bring her back, you know.”

He gives her a gentle smile. He knows, of course. It’s the first rule. Or maybe it’s the second. No wishing for love, no wishing to bring back the dead. But she’s looking at the bottle so hungrily now that he moves away. No one must know what he has.

He reaches his building door and looks up. He strokes the bottle but nothing happens.

“LUKA!!” he says.

The noise in his right ear gets louder and he stumbles. Then, two small hands reach around his waist and start to pull him up the staircase. He reminds himself to recast the wishes better in the morning. He doesn’t like being kept waiting at his own door.

“You’re late, Luka.”

“I fell asleep.” says the little voice, slightly muffled in his jacket.

“Djinns don’t sleep.”

The man smiles. He remembers his training. Djinns are very sly creatures but they are pure magic. This one has an angelic face. He looks exactly like a nine year old. Luka. But Luka is magic. He can make wishes come true, provided those wishes are correctly framed. Mostly he is really very good. But with djinns you never know. He has to keep an eye on the bottle at all times.

“Mine.” he whispers again. His elbow knocks against the djinn’s head, as his grasp tightens around the bottle and he hears a little cry. The djinn looks up at him, eyes filling with tears. He puts his left hand on the little head and strokes the hair. Such a guileless face. The eyes just like hers.

They reach the door and Luka lets him go. Immediately the man crumples, his knees buckling. The bottle falls out of his hand and rolls away. He lunges after it in panic and grabs hold of it, before it hurtles over the staircase. Luka is still standing at the doorway frozen.

“You little shit. You made me fall. Trying to break the bottle, are you?”

He gets to his feet, not unsteady anymore. The bottle has given him some of its power, from four hours of holding.

Only the old woman on the street hears Luka scream.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

The prompt was:  Dijnns are cursed malevolent entities known to twist innocent wishes. Dijnns are like temptations; fulfilling wishes without hard work. Dijnns represent the ‘easy way’ to get our wants. So this prompt is to write about the wishes that Dijnns can fulfil or can’t fulfil. You can write about Djinns and or wishes, together or individually. Write about you as a Djinn and the interesting journey you have had. Or write about a conversation that you may have with a Djinn. Or go personal and write about personal wishes. How your wishes make you different from others, and how much you are willing to risk to fulfil your wishes. Or go all psychological, ‘Why do you wish what you wish?’ Also remember, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” Couldn’t resist the song, from pussy cat dolls :).

*If you’re a lover of words and like the idea of prompts, join Alphabet Sambar. We’re always happy to meet new members. Alphabet Sambar is on Facebook and Twitter. To attend a meet, shoot me an email at ideasmithy[at]gmail[dot]com.

I Wear: How I Began Winter

Winter has left Mumbai and I’ve neglected to put up these pictures. So here goes a quicks-quick before it gets too hot to upload winter wear pictures. :-)

It was just beginning on cool. I was due at a Caferati read-meet. In my experience, most people in Mumbai like running their fans on full blast, something that hits my throat immediately, even if it is warm weather. So I wanted something to wrap around my neck without being too wooly. This dupatta is one that I picked up nearly a year ago and haven’t actually used with a salwar-kameez outfit ever. It wrapped up nicely as decorative/protective scarf.

I Wear:

  • Green three-quarter sleeves top: Cotton World, Pune
  • Pink-and-green dupatta with hand prints: Manish Market
  • Green and silver enamel/silver jewellery: Anamika by FabIndia
  • Eyemakeup: I drew a thin line of green eye pencil on the upper lid and lower inner lash line. This was followed by a line of blue eye pencil on the upper lid (above the green) and lower outer lash line. I joined the eyes at the outer corners of the eye in a point each, stopping just short of wingtips. (In the later weeks, I went to much more experimentation with eye makeup, posts of which will appear soon).
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