Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year in Calgary downtown

The town is blinking. Tonight all her crooked alleys are brightly shining.
They glimmer like a newly wed bride gilded in gold.
I don't know the name of the place but it's anonymity comforts me, she doesn't know me either.

The new year party is on
The sky is dressed in the shimmer of fireworks. Her eyes painted as intricately as that of a dancer.
She's welcoming her new lover. Today is the day when she'll meet him.
I remember the connaught circle
It's nook and cranny thronged with people on new year's eve
reminds you of a swarm of bees, ready for attack.
I didn't know the names of the lifeless bodies swaying on the streets, poisoned with alcohol
I didn't know if they'd make it home after the celebrations
Or will wander on roads named after dead people.
One thing is common. Between how the new year arrives. There and here.
Every person pins their hope on tomorrow's sun.
They anticipate it's arrival like a mother expecting her first child.
Somewhere the bells ring. The sky is lit up. The people cheer.
Here comes another year. In a land I didn't know about.
Last year at this time I was welcoming possibilities.
This year I usher in nothingness.
Nothingness weighed down by doubts.
Doubts about how will I survive, this strange city's scary gaze.
He suddenly seems like the intimidating ruffian I used to meet on delhi streets.
Each day. Every other day.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Anna Chandy- The first Indian woman to become a Judge

Anna Chandy has the rare distinction of being the first Indian woman to become a judge not only in India, but in the entire British commonwealth. She was also one of the earliest feminists in Kerala. She was the first woman in the state of Kerala to earn a post graduate degree in law.
Her publication "Shrimati" was the first women's magazine in malayalam in which the issues of women and widow marriage were widely discussed.
It is also said that she was the second woman in the world after USA's Florence Allen to have been appointed a high court judge.

Picture credit: 

Early life and education 
Anna was born on 4th May 1904 in Trivandrum, the then capital of Travancore in a Syrian Christian family. Her father passed away soon after her birth after which her mother took great pains to bring her up along with her sister, by working in a local school. 
Anna enrolled herself for a post-graduate degree in law in 1927 when the Government Law college opened admissions to women despite scathing opposition. She got her post-graduate degree in law in 1929 with a distinction and was subsequently appointed to the bar and became famous as a criminal lawyer braving the snide remarks of her male colleagues.

Starting the publication Shrimati
She took her activism outside the courtroom by starting the magazine "Shrimati" which was the first women's magazine in Malayalam. Along with articles on home management, health and household industries, it became an independent voice for women's rights and the question of widow remarriage. Through her writing in Shrimati she also tried to focus on the issues faced by women workers in farms who weren't paid reasonable wages by their landlords and were harassed. 

Entry into politics
She made an entry into active politics in 1930 when she decided to contest for the Shree Moolam popular assembly, an elected representative body for Travancore state. Her opponents carried a malicious slander campaign against her accusing her of having relationships with the Dewan of Travancore and important government officials. This worked against her and she lost the elections.  Despite protests and hostility from both her competitors and media she was successful in winning the Shree Moolam popular assembly seat serving from 1932-1934. 
As a prominent activist and speaker, she passionately fought for women's rights and especially for the rights of daily wage laborers. In 1937, she was appointed the first lady munsif or the lowest level judicial officer by the then Dewan of the Travancore state, which paved the way for her rise up the ranks. In a speech she described her ordeal and how all the peering eyes were waiting for an opportunity to pin the blame on women and how the future of women lawyers would be determined by her performance in her chair.

“I must admit that I was not free from trepidation when I first stepped up to the Bench. However, what was foremost in my mind was a fierce determination to make a success of this experiment. I knew I was a test case… If I faltered or failed, I would not just be damaging my own career, but would be doing a great disservice to the cause of women.”

She was later appointed the district court judge after India gained independence and in 1959 she became the high court judge, becoming the first woman to hold this position among all commonwealth nations.
After a career full of controversial and courageous moments, she retired in 1967 and became the member of the National Law Commission where she keen on bringing substantial changes.

Her fight for women's rights

In an era when women were forced to spend their times in the four walls of their house and not allowed to step out  to work, she fought against a fellow legislator who was opposing the appointment of women in government jobs. She used the law brilliantly against her opponent and said

"‘From the elaborate petition, it is clear that the plaintiff's immediate demand is to ban all efforts by women to gain employment, on the grounds that they are a bunch of creatures created for domestic pleasures of men, and that their lives outside the hallowed kitchen temples will harm familial happiness."

Her daunting fight did away with the rule that prevented women from holding government posts. She was one of the first women in the country to demand women's reservation. However she was also a firm advocate of equal rights which is why argued against the law that exempted women from death penalty. She believed in the free and fair justice.

She also passionately fought for reproductive rights of women challenging the Travancore law which gave men the power to exercise conjugal rights without the consent of their wife. In a speech she gave in 1935, she argued 

"Many of our sister-Malayalees have property rights, voting rights, employment and honours, financial independence. But how many have control over their own bodies? How many women have been condemned to depths of feelings of inferiority because of the foolish idea that women's body is an instrument for pleasure for men"?

Her autobiography titled "Atmakatha" was published in 1973.

She died at the ripe old age of 91 in 1996.

Anna Chandy was often described as one of the earliest feminists of Kerala and one of the first torch bearers of women's rights in India. She was way ahead of her times which is why she was one of the first women to openly and fearlessly fight for the autonomy of women on their bodies. Her invaluable contribution paved the way for women judges and lawyers which had largely been a male dominated field.


1) Navrang India

2) Anna Chandy-Wikipedia


Monday, November 12, 2018

History Lesson

She is sitting with her husband  on a narrow bench
perhaps, they borrowed it from a school
dressed in starched cotton like the mothers
in those days, her eyes stretched wide open
as butterfly wings before a flight
her right shoulder gingerly grazing his.
Her children hover above her
as chicks around their mother
battling for food,
standing straight
with no bend in the body
hair immersed in coconut oil
neatly parted to the right, or in the middle.

The two girls have worn frocks
that rest below the knees
with black socks pulled up
to camouflage the legs.
Boys dressed in shorts and shirts
have been buttoned up
till their Adam’s apple hurts.

All of them smile in unison
as if the person behind
the camera tempted
them with sweets.
Black and white portrait of a family
that came into being, forty years ago
one of the boys is missing
so is the father, the mother still wears
stiff clothes, her eyes flicker
like an old tube light
Second from the right, was my mother
who now looks like the
woman in the photograph.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Melpadom, Kuttanad,Kerala, 12th January 2016

On the gilded dome of another dawn, strange shapes
of different sizes are being made
sometimes it looks like an orange
being peeled, sometimes like tender mango skin
then it changes colours, like a chameleon
behind villas getting eaten up
by dust, a slow fire burns
in a shanty.

Riding on the lacy blue winds
birds return home, to a place
where eyes will be heavy with sleep
earthworms wriggle back into tiny holes
as coconut trees let their hair loose to dry.

The murky owls will take refuge
in the chimney of the house
before which I steal a glimpse
of shadows growing paler
of hens getting into their coop
and the servant scuttling into her
one room house
the sky will rub off the red vermilion
from her forehead
and will soon wear a black veil.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Last Supper

In the name of the Father, Son and of the Holy Spirit
the Red Sea parted and enemies counted their footfalls
on the graves of our forefathers.
Since then, milk and honey haven't flowed
only bombs have made music
as we walk on egg shells.
We preserve the locks of hair our daughters left,
and remember our sons by their pictures
we waited for their burial, drunk by the unholy passion of pain
their tiny bodies we held, close to our chest, all night
to not let the maggots feed on them,
their graves do not know their names
as the apricot trees that gave them shade, have wilted
at the enemy's commands,
for a few pieces of silver, they have plotted against
our husbands, who will be nailed
to their crosses soon.

The full moon bleaches the blood
on the battlefields
as their cup runs over,
they dip their pens in it, everyday
and write deadlier decrees of death
while we fatten ourselves, innocent lambs,
to fall prey to a landmine or a bomb
Please do not betray us with a kiss of peace
that was promised to us at birth,
the sheep of our flock have been scattered
as our shepherd won't come to lead us
Death is our final Resurrection.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

27th September 2017, Marine Drive,Mumbai

This city never changes colors
unlike humans and chameleons,
the queen watches the sky pour ashes on her head
as the prostitutes teething pain behind their painted lips
offer themselves to the heat of hunger.
Dancing to the garish tunes of this concrete jungle
mountains rise from molehills
as I look for you like a helpless child
who's lost her way back home.

This morning I had my breakfast at Theobroma

as the cold coffee cut through my parched throat
I saw the smiles you lent me 
melt on the brown velvet cake
chewing vegetables sandwiched between frail breads
I ate fear
fear of a rendezvous someday over an English breakfast
my eyes riveting in circles
trying to thaw cold feet stuck in my shoes
circling dates on a calendar
skinning nail biting moments from dead carcasses of air.

It's a long lustrous night before the day spills gold

on the feet of trees
Here in my room coiled under a blanket
I wish you would blow gently over the clouds
that embower your city, sending rain to me
I've always loved walking in the rain.
Tomorrow these messengers of yours will wake me up
their winter melting on my palms
Don't know if this is how it would feel?
Your first touch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Daughter not in Law

In this month
and in December
five years ago,
I had to be stranded
in the land of Pambayar
the land of three rivers
that clings to paddy plantations
in a winding wisteria
My grandpas' land.

Daughters are sent
to an alien burial ground here
tied to a man
with a golden garland
like cattle roped on
positioned poles.

Grandma came from another country
where the earth was petrified of coughing clouds
my eldest cousin went to a land
where trees touch the sobbing sky
another went to a place
where the mollified mud
crashed and churned houses
youngest went to a state
with slanting roofs
that sleeps by eighteen hours
for heat retention,
my elder one would go to a city
melting with economic elegies
Ma came to the heart of India
Aunt went to the hills
where rubber is as precious as milk
every time I visit grandma's grave
the wind blows towards the west
as if she is asking me
with advisory authority
When will it be time for me to go?