Making India Shine for the Next Five Years

When I wake up, I will remember my ancestors. The ancestors that come to me like crows. The crows in my dream peck and break through the glass every morning. Reminding me that I have a duty to the nation. I will begin the day by scrubbing every corner of the house. Swachh ghar, swachh bharat. I will brush my teeth. In up and down, sideways motions like those white lab coat doctors advice in toothbrush advertisements. Activating circulation so that my gums bleed into my shining teeth. India Shining. Blood leaks and stain the wash basin like roadkill in a national park. I will set out of the house to find the poor, the hungry and the lame. They’re not hard to find. Sleeping on the sidewalk. With spines curved like fresh dead fish with rigour mortis just setting in. I will hold my breath and push my tongue to the back of my teeth while talking to them. I will smile at them. They will find no reason to smile back.

 

When the floods have set in, I will search for food on the food delivery app. It will have a dizzying number of options. I will wish that someone could make the choice of deciding what I should eat. Once I have finally placed the order, I will track the delivery chotu using live-location technology. Digital India has allowed e-commerce platforms to flourish in our country. Unemployed youths are finding jobs and delivering smiles. I will abuse the delivery chotu for losing his way. I don’t care if he has to swim in neck-deep water. Apart from bikes, and helmets, these app companies should give them floats during monsoon. He will arrive twenty minutes back bent and almost breaking. Choking on sewage water, he will collapse near my doorstep. I will perform CPR and bring him back to life. Once he opens his eyes, it is my smiling face that he will see. I will tip him, but not too generously. He must learn how to navigate better.

 

After scrubbing my teeth clean so they shine, I will go through the papers like any good Indian citizen. Clicking my tongue at the news of suicidal farmers. Farmers have been suicidal for nearly four decades now. Isn’t it raining a lot this year? Shouldn’t that help them? But farmers and workers (and soldiers!) are the backbone of our country. As I get out on my morning walk, I will preach to the poor about non-violence or ahimsa. Farmers should take the example of Gandhiji. They should stop inflicting violence on their own bodies. I will fly the tiranaga, flapping it in the blue sky, and holding it against the sun so it doesn’t get in my eyes. Chanting Jai Hind, so they will chant it after me. 

Advertisements

Pitter Patter Poetry

Click click. Tick tock. Words drop. Tongues suture. Time flows. You try to leash it. You try to box it. You try to restrain it. You try to reverse it. You try to hold it dear, deep within the recesses of your phone’s gallery. Filled with screenshots of unfinished conversations. Vistas from untouched lands. Fragments of incomplete rants. You scroll up, and down. But the pictures never change. The conversations remain half-said, and full dead. The vistas remain immobile. And the rants still make you self-conscious. I have been in this city for nearly nine months now. Each day the city shrinks in its capacity to contain or offer. And I sit here, writing about the mundane experience there is to know. About living in a third world country. Having boys barely out of school, come and deliver drinking water to me. Other boys offering to pick up my garbage every morning. Other boys preparing tea by the sutta shop. Other boys beeping their rickshaw at me. And I sit here, soaked up in my privilege. Cocooned. Insulated. Isolated. Cordoned off. In a world of make-believe threats. A world of major digressions. A world of microaggressions. A world of inequality. A world without humour. A world without light. A world without adventures. A world with just enough to keep you alive. I sit here, pretending that I philosophise, I call myself a writer. I am deeply self-reflective, but just reflecting on the hollowness that exists is only making me hear the echoes better. Echoes of not conforming. Echoes of not living a life deeply. Echoes of the past; echoes betrayed by my memories. Memories which smoothen out the creases. Recollections which straighten up the clutter. Reminiscences of catastrophic lethargy and indifference swept out. Harking back to instances of humiliation – the first slap, the first rejection, the first inquisition – promptly expunged. Poetry brings these memories back. In fragments. In metaphors, images and epithets. Like summoning half-forgotten dreams. Distilling experiences. I attended a political meeting recently where a professor just before reading his poetry said, “Poetry is a luxury where action is necessary.” Poem implicates like news reports explicate. To survive in a world where educated children are human resources. Where wind and water are natural resources. Where all modes of kinship with objects both inanimate and animate are reduced to their material value. We need poetry. To name the nameless so it can be thought. Think the thoughtless so that one can act. Act impossible to know the constraints of possibility. To subjectify the world around us. Not to colonise.

Lovesick/ Sick of Love

There are no winners in love,

No losers either,

Just cliches catching you off-guard

At every street corner.

 

Love is a battlefield, of two (or more) humans

Resisting the slow invasion

Of their lover’s projected fantasies.

 

I tell myself that love can be broad, love can be narrow, love can be easy, love can be a chore, love can you give you a purpose, love can make you faithless, love can lift you up, love can make your world go around and then topple off its axis, but love won’t do the dishes.

 

I make myself believe that love is fashionable, love is a commodity marking nearly all pop culture products, love conquers all, love makes you devoted to a fallible god, but love won’t pay the taxes.

 

I convince myself that love is clever, love is slow, love is all that won’t superficially show, love is a noose, love is a leash, love is a jilted muse, love is a plea, love is the sound of two hands clapping, love is an echo in the void, but love won’t keep you safe from yourself.

 

I delude myself into thinking love is fair, love is emancipated from the past, love wasn’t taught to me by my parents, love is rebellious, stability in love is conformity, love is an itch you can’t scratch, love is comfort, love is a scab that is peeled before it heals, love is a flower whose scent makes you giddy, but love alone won’t keep lovers together.

“The Best Way up for the Hillbilly Was out”

Title of the book: Hillbilly Elegy

Author: J.D Vance

Date of Publication: June, 2016.

When you put away Hillbilly Elegy after the first read, it might appear like a brave, thoughtful and sentimental memoir about growing up in a dysfunctional Scottish-Irish immigrant family. Vance was born in Kentucky, he spent most of his formative years living in a small town called Middletown, Ohio with an “unhinged mother”, a parade of problematic father figures and his gun-brandishing Mamaw (grandmother), who loves death threats almost as much as she loves looking after neglected children.

he

Subsequently, if you revisit the book with the knowledge that the Hillbilly subculture was an essential demographic in Trump’s victory, it appears like a nuanced and heartbreaking representation of the numerous disgruntled lives of the white American working class, living in the Midwest.
The author’s life is a literal personification of the ‘American Dream,’ come true, some would say; from living in a town where poverty is the family tradition, to graduating from Yale Law School.

The broad arc of the survivor narrative traces Vance’s initial years of growing up in the Midwest, surrounded by the shutting down (and imminent collapse) of scores of manufacturing industries. To Vance’s family, this means a loss of economic security and the stability of domestic life that comes with it.

The tone of the narrative is sincere and personal, and the additional research is meant to be interpreted within the context; it isn’t exhaustive, but insightful enough to bridge the ever-widening gulf between various economic classes, in a “meritocratic society.” 

He makes the worrying yet plausible claim that poverty in America, doesn’t just plague those who live in ghetto cities.  He writes, ““The statistics tell you that kids like me face a grim future — that if they’re lucky, they’ll manage to avoid welfare; and if they’re unlucky, they’ll die of a heroin overdose.”

Fortunately for him (and for us), he manages to escape this fate by imbibing hillbilly values that Mamaw drilled into his head; loyalty towards family and self-reliance. After graduating from high school, Vance enlists in the Marines, serves in Iraq, finishes his undergraduate course at Ohio University and goes on to graduate from one of the top Ivy League schools in America, where he meets his future wife.

His transition from seeking shelter to providing it, is underlined by the pressing question of why a stagnant air of pessimism hangs around those families he left behind in Middletown. The young Silicon Valley investment manager talks about a psychological phenomenon called ‘learned helplessness,’ which manifests in the indifference towards work and dependence on welfare, among the residents of Middletown. “People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown [Ohio],” Vance writes. “You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than 20 hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.”

It’s essential to keep in mind that Vance’s observations about the white working class in the Rust Belt isn’t an indictment or disloyalty in the form of class betrayal. It is a sympathetic effort to nudge the hillbilly subculture out of the path of self-sabotage through its own agency and enterprise.

Place: In a feedback circle

The women here are

unbelievably vibrant and profusely silent.

 

They tell tales of a unique moral geography;

where gods and ghosts

birds and animals

death and love

live together in a strange amity.

 

They trample on notions of

‘dignified suffering’ and ‘respectability.’

Their muses are queens who lust after their gods

(first a Lover then a god)

shamelessly.

 

Their anecdotes are dotted with

characters who are by now

permanent citizens of my imagination;

the spineless father, the clueless boyfriend, (the secret girlfriend)

and the overbearing mother.

 

They stress and fret and giggle until

they create their elliptical language

for defining meaning without confining it,

for expressing what is possible before realising it.

 

They speak in tongues thick

with their language

and cut with the questions.

Place: between the lines of The Hindu

‘Impossibly thin
Enviably engineered’
declares a Hewlett Packard
laptop advertisement
Deepika Padukone;
Carmelite Alumnus
Sweetheart of India
gazes seductively at me
with her impossibly thin arm placed
on her enviably engineered butt.

Warren Buffet
smug as ever
is quoted
in a real estate ad —
“Never depend on a single income
make an investment
to create a second source”
the ambassador of the entrepreneurial spirit,
espousing propaganda of greed.

Darshan,
(Sandalwood actor)
son of Kannadarashtra
has a public feud
with his wife on Television.
‘He is news again
for his offscreen performance,’
A versatile actor
switches and shows seamlessly
his virility
in all media.

The tiny articles
are packed with information
to churn your intestines
(and your conscience)—

A lov(n)ely lady
(recently separated from her husband)
“falls off” her hostel terrace–
the sound of a bag of meat and bones
(and hopes and desperation);
recognised by it’s dull thud
against the concrete pavement.

A bag stuffed
with the mutilated lower half
of a human body
is discovered near Hebbal
recognisable only
by the male genitalia

(Hon’ble Chief Minister —
Siddarmiah reminds all the readers
“A responsible citizen
always segregates his waste)

I flip the flyaway pages shut
& ask you why
a newspaper is the only piece of literature
consumed so devotedly;
it’s unfolding, a ritual for so many

You reply,
the holy light of the smartphone screen
lighting up your smirk
“It makes you feel like could (have) be(en)
Buffet, Padukone or
(gods forbid)
Darshan.”

The human desire for
escape and tragedy
all compressed
in 24 sheets.

Leaving a Lover

You treat him like a mother would a child. Press him close to your chest, clutch his hair and brush your lips across his cheeks.
He is especially silent tonight?

You push his blonde fringe out of the way & lick his lips. He bites you back, half-heartedly. His kisses are lazy. They are no longer curious; tongues press but don’t probe.
He holds your hair back but doesn’t tangle his fingers in them or push a curl aside to bite your neck.
His sleep is heavy; he is especially silent tonight?

His silence interrupted only by snorting.
His body has been still for the past 2 hours the only movement — his small chest heaving.
The back of your head hurts, the nape of your neck is stiff, your nose is stuffed and hair is greasy.
You pick up a pen because She listens.
The silence spins louder than the ceiling fan.
He leaves you feeling empty like a bad habit.
He is especially silent tonight?

Morning comes around, a pink faced child runs up to us —
“Hi Aunty! Hi Uncle!”
“Hi Cuteness!”
“She just called you Aunty”

He skips down the stairs, happy to hear the morning birds.
You skip, miss a step and tumble down to a silence.
A silence that lasts the auto-ride-of-shame.
You feel like a wife; the disagreeable half in a relationship that leaves a lot unsaid.
You catch his eye as he looks at himself in the rearview mirror.
You give him a small embarrassed smile.
He smiles back, you look away.
He is especially silent.