Niloy

 

He sat stirring a spoon of sugar in his coffee, wishing the choice between cowardice and courage was an easy one to make. Stains of yesterday’s dinner were visible on the tablecloth, he absently scratched at them with his fingernail. He had woken up with a sudden bout of nausea and his head swimming with guilt.

Before he could sip his coffee, his phone chimed with an agitating urgency. The sound of incoming messages were syncing with that of the irregular rhythm of his anxiety, every message tipping him closer to yet another moment of weakness. Niloy told himself that he was afraid of confronting her, afraid of her words that dig their way under his skin and nest in his heart. He placed his phone face down on the table and took to pacing the room instead, the harsh light of the sun’s glare exposing the worry lines on his forehead. Nothing is real till he confronts it, and he intended to keep it that way. Downstairs, his instruments groaned in exhaustion. They knew they had another long day in front of them.

He knows he is in trouble, he is in love. He has been in love before, he was just never consumed by it. Falling in love with her took him by surprise. It swept him up in its torrent, desperate and demanding, almost infantile in nature. He didn’t know then, it crept up on him when she laughed and he felt something detach from the familiar tinkling of her laughter, and come to rest on his tongue. He crushed it gently, the sweetened nectar pouring down his throat and filling up his ribcage. That’s when he knew. He carried the secret with him everywhere he went, rolling it around on his tongue, moulding the unfamiliar shape, testing its weight, asserting its existence.

Each time they spoke, he would wait for another piece to detach and add to the shape. The first time she cried, he tasted a piece of his bruised heart. The first time she said ‘I miss you’, he tasted an unripe bittersweet nectarine. What he couldn’t swallow was her rage. Her rage was acrid, angry words laced with hurt; they stifled him with their need to grow. They would feed on his inaction, grow to consume a room, burn down curtains and beds on its way. Niloy never housed her rage, he dealt with it like most men do- by shutting the front door on it and hoping it dissipates. Men after all have grown up with the privilege of being able to ignore a woman’s anger, of never having taught to acknowledge it. When confronted with a woman’s rage, men either discard it as an unnecessary distraction or stifle it with the remnants of their bruised ego in an attempt to bury its existence.

Yet the fruit of Niloy’s love matured, he nourished it with her softness and watered it with his attention. Niloy was an artist, and as is the case with artists, he sought out vulnerability. He would coax her pain out of the phone, will her to tell him when it hurt, where it hurt and who did the hurting. He would lie down on his blue bedspread, shut the door on his life and curl the night around his body; he only ever spoke in hushed voices to keep their world a secret. Then one night, when she had made him laugh harder than anyone ever had, made his body feel lighter than air, he told her he loved her. ‘Be mine’, he said. ‘You haven’t even met me yet’, she laughed. He told her it doesn’t matter, he loves her now, in this moment. He would love her when they met, when he could stare at her face unbidden, lightly touch her cinnamon skin, and see her eyes crinkle up when she laughs. He scattered his words like flower petals, letting the wind carry them where it wishes, throwing them without real intention.

She sensed his nonchalance, she refused to answer it with intent. He tried to part the heavy fabric of her silence, his pride willing the eight letters to find their way to him, wishing and wishing she felt the same way. After she said goodbye that night, he couldn’t sleep. He stepped out of the door and into the familiar darkness broken infrequently by the glimmer of stars. His thoughts wrapped around his shoulders like an unwelcomed touch, Niloy walked and tried hard to shed them. She didn’t love him, not yet anyway. And if she did, it didn’t glow bright enough for him. When he came home, his ego had made his decision for him. He would disappear, he would dissolve into his world once again, a world where the sound of music was loud enough to drown out the fitful knocking of love.

The next morning, he woke up in his old life. The smell of breakfast greeted him at the door, his father cooking. He ate, showered, slipped into a musty grey t-shirt and jeans, and stepped out of the house. His instrument on his back, he took the metro and seamlessly traced his steps back to where he was before he met her. Back to a life of pastel colours, diluted of real meaning. She called, she left messages. But he was far away, her words funnelled down, into the life he had slipped out of, a life that held her at its centre.

In the time he withdrew himself, her affection stumbled. It questioned itself before it even bloomed, it produced a half-hearted fruit, a sorry looking thing with orange flesh and splotches of brown. So when he did leap back to her, convinced he had secured her love, he plucked the fruit and tasted its over ripeness, and mistook it for love. He thought it was his for bruising, for loving, for consuming. So deep was he in his desperation for her, that he mistook her friendship for love, didn’t notice the fruit rotting. He tortured her, he demanded declarations of her need for him, of her want to be with him. He hammered down pillars and corridors, shrunk the room till all it contained was him and her.

But he didn’t foresee the other side of warmth, the flames willing to lash out and lick the remaining bare walls. She set ablaze the words she had buried deep within, which he now sits dodging. Hurt, more than anger spills out, bubbling at the cracks, frothing and flowing towards his heart. He couldn’t love her rage, couldn’t accept it, and couldn’t love all of her. So, he yearned; a pitiful whine. He yearned for the rage to subside, yearned for her to play a requiem for her harshness. Now he runs far away from her words, back into his world insulated with his narrow understanding of love, of women.

Men, brave or weak are after all cowards in the matters of heart.

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Women’s Day Apology Letter

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Artwork by www.bitesizedsanity.com

 

I see a group of people mock a beautiful fuchsia skirt, its pleats akin to an accordion. They do not mock the colour or the fall of the skirt, only the hairy legs that peek out from underneath it. Today I read nasty comments on a makeup tutorial video, they said that makeup is for girls.

I have grown up witnessing parents scold their boys for their tears.

“Boys don’t cry”

I wasn’t aware that tears too have a gender and that society is hellbent on pouring women into its role.

So, we systematically oppressed boys and men who cried, who tried to express their hurt and anguish. We took up arms against the poems that could have been, against a healthy way to grieve. We didn’t let our boys be soft, for soft is feminine.

Men are tough and made of arrogance and ego. Men open fire in public spaces when their advances are rejected, men believe a woman’s body is owed to them. Men engage in violence, men shrug off softness.

“Boys and men should be capable of beautiful things”- Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Oh but we don’t let them, do we? We tear their self-respect down, we try so hard to torch their feminine aspects. They bleed poetry but all we see is ash flying in the wind. They build walls and nest in the farthest corners of rooms. They blend with shadows and choke the throat of their opinions.

God forbid they find their voice, because when they do, we question their temerity. We ask, “how dare you stand up for your own rights?”

We reduce them to ridicule, a public object of humour meant to be pissed at whenever it pleases us. They have flowers blooming inside their lungs but all we see are 100 ways to trample them.

Women too, conditioned by patriarchy are suspicious of their femininity. Femininity, they think is something to be claimed only if you have a vagina.

No, I said no. You are a woman if you identify as a woman. Repeat that after me. You are a woman if you think you are, you are a woman if you believe yourself to be.

Nature didn’t fuck up, you weren’t born in the wrong body. You were born human before we tried to shove you into a box of gender conformity. I apologize profusely for the number of times you thought cis straight women were your allies and they spat at you, unacknowledged your femininity and mocked your softness. I am sorry they didn’t realise the toxicity of the term “man up”.

I apologise for the number of times you were told you are not enough of a woman, when they said makeup is not meant for men. I am sorry they didn’t appreciate your beauty.

I am also sorry for the times your humanness scared them. For when they thought a trans woman too should shave her legs to be more feminine. I am sorry they think they are entitled to define what ‘femininity’ means. I am so sorry that they don’t let you be, that they treat your existence as a bad joke.

I may not be able to make this all go away, but I will fight for you. I want you to know that my feminism is intersectional, that I am raging and expressing sorrow for a world that has taught itself to hate you. I will stand by you, I will support you.

The world has never known what to make of us, we weren’t born to comply. All we do is exist, on our own terms and free. The world retaliates, builds monsters who encroach on our personal spaces and question our rights to be. I want you to know that we are in this together, you and I, and this is a fight we will see through.

Happy Women’s Day to anyone and everyone who identifies with feminism. May we drag patriarchy out the door and torch it, together.

Indian Goddesses

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset
Sketch by @bitesizedsanity on Instagram 

In India,

our women are wrapped ever so delicately

layers of white tissue paper enfolded over their bodies

like dolls, they are stored away in boxes

only to be brought out when they pretend play goddesses

or when dusk falls and the men come home

when they take off their inhibitions and rip off their skin

the dolls come out, but ssh they mustn’t let their desires show

tuck them away like a stray strand of hair

lie still, bite down on your body’s needs, let the man do his work

making love, you say? Does love not ask for consent?

Is love aggression, thrusting into an unyielding fruit, in and out?

wounded ego and years of fractured patriarchy

trying to fit into the mould of a man by inseminating the fruit

our women are fierce in folklore

our women are allowed their own history inside temples

but don’t talk to them about desires and dreams

they keep their bodies insulated with rage

desire, a deep gushing tide they allow to flow in their minds

a soft touch and a parting kiss, phantoms take over their dreams

we have been muffling our women

under the weight of boundaries and expectations

refusing their existence

allowing them survival, but not living

why did we bait them with wings, if we never meant for them to fly?

 

  • Shiuli

 

 

 

 

Fire and Blood

I may not have been forged from fire but I rise, I eat air and I spread out my arms of flames. Warmth and annihilation are two sides of the same coin; touch me and you shall know. I am the destroyer, I walk on a ground of your supercilious bodies and bruised pride. My feet dressed in soot; hands gloved in the coarseness of your disbelief. Your hate feeds me with its coarse hands and boy, do I grow. Watch me, I light up the sky; shatter your glass ceiling to the ground. My fierceness and I, we run amok.

My Foolish Lonely Girls

 

Do you ever get so lonely that you can hear the emptiness rattling inside your ribcage. That you can feel the black bile your mind churns? The suffocating quality of your thoughts?
And you will do anything, anyone to not feel like you are building an echo chamber right there in your heart. Anything to not hear the sound of emptiness, its screeching tone of voice and sandpaper like hands rubbing against your back.
Have you ever felt so lonely that you let someone warm you with their body? Unfamiliar lips snaking up your body, hands without a destination, hands without a map, their unsynchronised breath trying to make you feel, trying to open up your heart, trying to tear the steel like stitches apart?
Does your loneliness crystallise in the morning again? Sunlight glittering off of your icy heart, vulnerability laid bare. Do their arms feel like home? Their body entangled with yours, do you find your refuge? Does your loneliness believe their promises, oh how well these lovers weave words. Silken threads of brilliant colours, blinding and hiding.
My foolish lonely girls.

Build Me A Woman

Your fingers will never be enough,

To count the number of times

They called you a slut.

But your soul, your soul is armoured enough,

Their grenades are the seeds you were born from.

 

They have built a warzone out of your body,

You’re the nation they fight over.

But you never asked to be a nation,

You only ever asked to be a mountain,

The bosom of a valley where the sun comes to rest.

 

They have romanticised your flesh,

Burnt skin like sizzling butter.

Nobody ever wrote odes to the bones that held you up,

To the ribcage that could barely contain your heart.

 

No, you; You’re the earth, the soil,

You aren’t the roses and tulips they decorated you with.

You’re the moist coarseness that giveth birth,

Everything is, because you are.

 

 

 

Vehemence

 

Painting by Anna Borowy
Painting by Anna Borowy

 

Tell me I am a storm,

Powerful and unrelenting.

 

Tell me I am the wilderness,

Beautiful and precarious.

 

Don’t you dare whisper meekness in my ears,

Don’t you dare diminish me into a docile breeze.

 

Nobody has ever told a storm to submit,

Nobody has ever asked the sea to stop raging.

 

Tooth and nail, Tooth and nail,

I will claw my way out of the burial grounds.

 

If you call me your goddess,

Know that I am stronger than you.

 

If you worship my strength,

Know that I will never need you.

 

For then you will know darling,

That when I open my heart to you, it will be wet and waiting for you to slip through.