Saturday, April 13, 2019

A Pinch of Salt

She ambled towards the kitchen sheepishly. It was their first morning together after a lavish and loud wedding. They didn't have sex but to sleep in the same room with a stranger was an uncomfortable experience. They said that he was her husband but then he hardly knew her except for the fact that he loved to go for plays and took a keen interest in writing.
To cook for a stranger was an uphill task but this was the moment that could break the ice between them. 
The kitchen was neat and everything was placed in order with clear labels pasted on the jars. She smiled happily at the thought of having accidentally married a guy who was spick and span and knew how to take care of his belongings. 
The space was stacked with all the latest home appliances that were invented to make cooking an effortless and painless experience. She was in awe of the man she had married after having a glance of his scullery. He had indeed been brought up with a sense and value for responsibility. 
She wondered as to what was the first dish that she should make for her beloved husband that would make him fall head over heels in love with her. She didn't want the first meal of their life to leave a distaste in their mouths.
The window threw the warmth of the sun on her face.The bright red flowers in the garden were gleefully basking in the aubade aura of the yellow star. 
She decided to make chole (chickpeas) and puri (wheat bread fried in oil). She remembered that on their first date in a sparsely lit restaurant in south Bombay he had joked about craving for chole bhature after having moved away from home. Struggling to knead the dough to perfection she had to make sure that the surprise she had planned for her husband  remained behind the closed doors. After battling with the hissing sounds of the fried oil and getting incinerated in the heat she hurriedly rushed to the bathroom to wash herself. She didn't want to stink like a pig and waste the moment she was looking forward to.

The ceramic tray was brimming with utensils. The pots made a loud clinging noise that woke him up. With half open eyes and a shy smile he looked at her from the comfort of the couch that was his resting place for the night. He moved quickly to the bathroom and returned in a jiffy, quickly positioning himself on the wooden chair of the study table placed in the corner of the room. She couldn't look at him with confidence or for that matter with ardor as he was this stranger turned acquaintance who had posed with her on a gilded stage for the frenzied photographers last night.
As they sat down to have the first meal of their life together as husband and wife, he gingerly touched her for the first time moving the bunch of wet dripping hair away from her face. She was taken aback by the gentle grazing of his skin on hers. They said that a way to a man's heart was through his stomach, perhaps they were right.
As he broke a piece of the puri and dipped it in chole, biting into it like a gluttonous dog, the expression on his face suddenly changed. As she bent over him to inquire as to what was wrong with the food, he grinned and inquired as to whether she could find the jar of salt or not.She tasted the food, smiling back in hesitation intently looking at a man who had no qualms in forgiving her for being stupid, or perhaps unmindful.

Forgetfulnes and a pinch of salt gave them their first sweet moment.

'This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.'

Thursday, January 31, 2019

To the guy I started knowing on Ash Wednesday, last year

In the end what really matters
is this ache, strong and unavoidable
the longing that stays limp on crumpled bed sheets
on mirrors covered with steam 
where I trace his name and watch it melt
in the picture that makes me realise
how thick his  stubble is.

On some days the fear gallops
like a sick horse tied in a stable
thoughts meander and don't stay still
worrying about his dinner, the insomnia that is  a habit, the countless moments when he stares into his computer screen like a hungry child
His favourite lullaby, the sounds of the phone. 

On long walks to the church 
I remember the day we first spoke 
after being smeared with ash
On valentine's day last year
sitting on one of the lonely pews
of the church I made promises 
to myself to stay hungry. To grow thin.
To give a portion of the food I won't eat.
On the ride back  home on the metro 
I was content. Sitting alone on one of the seats I felt someday I'd find someone to sit by my side. To walk with me to the church. Someone who'd watch me pray and won't shy away from the colour of the ash.

I have watched the year pass by
like a carefree  childhood summer
I've seen the flowers wilt
wear new clothes and bathe in the bright yellow sun
I've travelled across the seas, eaten stale food, watched snow cripple the grass
for the first time, written goodbye messages, worn a thick skin over my favourite red sweater.

It'll be another ash Wednesday soon
when in a winter land I'll breathe through the thick fog, telling myself
that he is right beside me melded in my shadow
till I hear him again
my heart making a muted confession
during a long distance call
and another night we would spend
bearing the weight of bedridden arms
that have searched for each other, since a hundred Wednesdays.

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.