When Life Is Everything Within The Four Walls

As we are in the middle of a health crisis, this blog feels like reading a book by people who braved wars, bloodshed, deaths and so much more. The only difference is that this time, I am a part of the chaos.

May 8, 2021, two years into the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Crores of people infected with a deadly virus, lakhs in hospitals, some lost their loved ones, others fearing for their lives or their close ones.

As I write this blog at 11:56 PM, I can hear an ambulance on the road near my house. Somehow it did not block my chain of thoughts because it has become normal. 

Now when I hear an ambulance, it is not just a siren. I do a silent prayer hoping whoever is in the ambulance has the strength to fight. 

The situation right now is devastating. I have seen the most insensitive become considerate.

I am not writing this piece to give you information about the virus. You already have enough of it, or maybe more. Some on your TV screens, others on your phone.

I am penning down my thoughts only because I know that these words will not just resonate with me in future but everybody else who reads them.

Many of us have read about the ongoing crisis, others have experienced and some have been bringing us information from ground zero. But what is that one thing that binds all of us together? UNCERTAINTY.

While I do enjoy surprises and I am thrilled to see what life has in store for me, I have been extremely uncomfortable with the uncertainty of my survival or the basic things that once constituted my day in a normal world.

Last I went to see a friend was in April 2021. Didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to do that for long.

Last I saw a movie in a theatre was in 2020. Didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to do that for long.

Last I went to a restaurant to eat was when I randomly dressed up without a mask and stepped out of my house with only my wallet. Didn’t know I would be stuck to Instagram to cook all that I love to eat.

Life has become uncertain.

One day it is someone you last met in 2014 testing positive, the other day, you know someone next door passed away due to the infection.

While this may not have affected all of us, it definitely has changed the way we look at life. My 10 year plans have now been pushed 20 years ahead. I do not know when I will see my friends, family, colleagues again.

While on one hand, we are bored of the pandemic figures, the fear of losing our loved ones is grappling us everyday.

Life isn’t smooth, I was told, but watching it come to a standstill has shaken me. 

There was a time I was scared if I would be able to match the pace of my changing life. And now? I want to live two days in one. I want to do things that take me away from this world that has stopped and shut itself.

We are living in a world where we are confined within four walls for years so as to escape one day. If this is life, what would it be to not live?  

As I write down these thoughts, I hope all of us have the strength to fight this crisis and emerge stronger! Stay safe!

Can You Escape The Social Chaos?

I wake up on a sunday with my phone under my pillow. I can hear birds chirping around me but I woke up to vibrations of notifications, messages and updates. 

The next thing I know, I am scrolling through all the data, pictures, election results, political fights, breakups, memes while I am in the washroom. 

That is how my day begins.

I switch between platforms as I grab my first bite. I cannot lift my head up to see if I am eating alone or with someone. This bombardment of data does create an existential crisis.

I can see my virtual friends using more and more filters, using captions that can change the way their life is perceived or put up stories about things they had no part to play in, but definitely creating an impact on other’s minds who see them as this ‘socially acceptable person’ or someone with a complete life.

I can see how people whom I spoke to last week about their breakup were up and uploading images till 3am last night. 

What do you understand of this?

We, as humans, have started looking at social media as some sort of a pacifier. It is like a space full of self doubt, low confidence, low esteem and also the same place where you feel you will heal yourself because it has so much to offer.

The next thing I know, I am reading about elections in the United States. Donald Trump’s comments on Joe Biden. Protests, mass demonstrations, vaccines for coronavirus, wildfires. There is so much to grab at once.

All the thoughts that I should have on a day with no laptop on my lap are washed away as some companies wish to divert my mind to what is happening near the white house or maybe why my ex put up a picture with another girl.

The number of hours I am spending on my screen is helping someone in the US mint money or even win elections.

This is a trap! 

All that was created to connect us and eradicate a digital divide has created chaos! 

Our thoughts, actions, reactions and decisions, all are determined and controlled by someone who feels he has the responsibility to calm down this mess.

Someone sitting behind super computers now knows my next action, my next click and how much time will I be looking at a cute dog video on Facebook. Does this not scare you?

This space wasn’t created by those who knew about mental health, addictions and the cost of giving up everything for a shallow virtual world. It was created by people who wished to bring technology in our lives in an attempt to replace the functioning of our brains with some artificial intelligence that they thought was a better substitute.

What you saw as a well connected network is now a fight. A fight to survive amid these radiations, fake news, manipulated information and excessive data.

It is evening and a post that I had put up on how increasing screen time is harmful for humans has 288 likes. It was 261 at 3:35 pm and 275 at 3:38 pm.

I want acceptance for what I just preached to the world on a platform that I criticise for snatching away my quality time. This trap has no escape.

Life On First Floor

Today evening, I was on call with someone who has been a very active part of my daily schedule

We had a very random conversation, where I mentioned how I have been stuck on the first floor since last two months and how badly I miss the usual things..

Roads, traffic, trees, vehicles and so much more

That is when I realised how this life
From this elevated view has so much to offer
Things I kept neglecting
While I was waiting for normalcy to return

As i stood in the balcony,
I realised how this world had come to a standstill

My evenings are usually spent walking in the balcony,
Sipping my coffee
Talking to people who have now started to relate to how the view from my house looks like

Everyday I learn something new about humans
As i stand in the balcony and look around

I see families walking in the garden area
Strolling at a distance, people discuss issues that they usually didn’t, back when everyone was in a hurry

Today, I noticed how every household had a different story to tell
Each window had a different reality to show

Sounds of couples yelling at each other
Voices of children crying and fighting

I am sure there were happy moments too, when everyone gathered together
For meals and movies together

While I was noticing all this
I saw my aunt
Struggling to prepare snacks at a time when she usually read or watched something alone

I see how she is happy to see her kids and the family around her
And also how she misses stepping out of the kitchen at times, unlike these days when her only getaway is changing the song on carvaan in the kitchen

My uncle is working from home, like the most of us
And has been trying to recreate his office space each day

While we talk about how adjustments come with age

I see my grandfather
Hesitating to come out of his room in the evening
When he sees everyone moving around and doing their things

In the middle of all this what struck my eye was how people are not used to being around each other

It’s surprising how we commit to spend lives with others
Vow to be with them all our lives
And times like these, where we can only be around our people have become ‘difficult’ and ‘confining’ for us, in a place we call ‘home’

Does this signify that even though we call ourselves part of a ‘society’
We still haven’t learnt to live together or share spaces?

We have been so busy in our schedules
That our presence, if more than usual, in our own homes
Has made many other members uncomfortable

Post Midnight Urge To Confess My Love

This is something I had to pen down at night and not wait for the morning.

Something I strong felt at 2:44 am, everyday.

If there is anything you read today, make sure it is this. For those tiny insecurities and complexities within you, if not anything more.

It’s been a year for me in this schedule
Days turn into nights with my mug of coffee on one side and my laptop on the other
I keep writing, everyday
Sometimes politics, sometimes religion, other days about defence and economy

I read and analyse issues
Debate on those that bother me
Curse a lot when I read and report on disturbing issues that jolt me from within

This one year has been about stories
Every story, other than mine

Now when I look back and see anything apart from these news reports
I see a person who is struggling hard each day to make sure she is growing professionally

Tonight, I sit with the same mug of coffee
To write about something not related to anything ‘breaking’ now

There were nights when I was upset
Then there were nights when the smell of my tears on my pillow became normal

Maybe that is why I’ve become sleepless
This new linen doesn’t’ comfort me

Lately, I have been quite vulnerable
Cried in front of the mirror, against the wall
Pat my back and told myself that it’s all okay and maybe it’s just the hormones
I have desperately sought attention and craved for someone who could just understand and be there

Honestly, sometimes you should know when you’re demanding too much!!

In the middle of all this
I was labelled as someone who ends up introspecting only at nights and just needs sleep
Was it really just that?

I was told maybe I didn’t pamper myself enough
Didn’t take out time for myself

What I also realised was that it aint’ just me
There are so many of us
Vulnerable and breaking down at night

To me, nights have always been very comfortable to vent out everything
Be it dancing in front of the mirror with the flashlight or crying on the floor

Lately, what I have observed is that so many of us are under the pressure of ‘doing things’
Just to prove the world wrong?

Why do we forget that
Making ourself that one cup of coffee everyday at that one fixed time, leaving everything else aside
Is love

Why do we forget that listening to our favourite track on repeat
Is love

Consoling ourselves, when we break down
Listening to random TED Talks to uplift ourselves and speaking to OUR people
Is love

This is to all those who feel they’re not doing enough for themselves

Your love for yourself can never be defined by any particular activity, and definitely not by anyone else.
You can do everything in the world and still feel miserable
And you can just do just that one thing everyday and feel blessed

You do not have to pressurize or be harsh on yourself
As long as you have a handful of people and your own little things that make you who you are
You are doing absolutely fine!

Delhi Riots: How Did All The Hatred Go Unnoticed?

Amid burnt vehicles and smouldering houses, the Indian national capital witnessed a nightmare so horrifying that it compelled people to flee their homes and all that they earned and lived for throughout lives. As we read this, the death toll in the national capital is still rising as more people succumb to their injuries.

As per the official data available, as many as 47 people lost their lives and more than 200 were injured during the violence and unrest that shook the national capital. The maelstrom in Delhi ravaged the livelihoods of those who were targeted.

What we saw as an opposition to the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, soon turned into a harrowing communal clash between people from two religions.

People took to streets in large numbers, burnt houses, torched vehicles, attacked places of worship mercilessly took away innocent lives. While all this was happening, fingers were pointed at those who failed to control the situation and the communal hatred. The police, the leaders and the authorities were called inefficient for their inability to take control of the situation.

Amid all this blame game, what we missed out was, how was this hatred allowed to spew? Where did all this begin from? How did this spiral up and turn into an attack on the existence of certain sections of people?

What we failed to ignore was the source of this hatred and all the times this venom was allowed to spread from one to another and every time Muslims were painted as ‘traitors’.

As the opposition to the CAA and the NRC grew, the fear in every person’s mind also multiplied. What did we do to prevent the polarization?

Every time the police forced Muslims to sing Vande Matram and threatened them to demand freedom,every Muslim feared his existence in a country where he was born and so was his upcoming generations.

Every time every liberal openly fanned hatred on social media, attacking one particular religion, shamed them and demonised them, we failed to stop that communal attack.

Every time political leaders, our so-called ‘representatives’ proudly made provocative statements and instigated violence against one community, we failed to stop their flames of hatred and hold them accountable.

Every time a Muslim was forced to chant Jai Shri Ram and lynched to death, we remained silent and let them openly preach hatred against one particular religion.

Every time a soldier or a jawan’s house was targetted because he was a Muslim, people were afraid as they saw the blindness in the hatred that failed to spare those who served the nation.

 

These instances slowly added to the larger hatred and eventually to the violence that claimed human lives and created a divide where one dominates the other.

Amid the violence, several people have fled their homes in the national capital, unsure if they would ever feel safe to return.

When a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Kapil Mishra, after giving an ultimatum and threatening the people to hit the streets in Delhi, offered compensation only for Hindus, it spoke volumes about the divide that has spread and will harm the existence of many.

Several Muslims claim that an atmosphere of fear is being created around them. Do we deny this?

While we proudly claim that peace and harmony are central to the ethos of our nation, we failed to stop the violence perpetrated against Muslims and let the narrative of hate spread on an alarming scale.

Stories from across the country have proved how Muslims were told that they will soon be stripped of their rights to stay in this country and what most of them witnessed in the national capital was much worse.

While the police were mute spectators of all this violence, people fearlessly attacked Muslims, thrashed them and killed them. Stories of atrocities kept increasing as the hatred spread across Delhi.

A project taken up as an attempt to stop illegal immigration turned out to be an attack on our own people. As more and more people lost their lives, the grieving families mourned the loss of their loved ones and feared what was next for them in this “secular” country.

As the dust and the fire settle in Delhi’s warzone and the images and disturbing videos of the attacks fade away, the questions remains, will the fear also disappear? Don’t forget, Delhi is still counting the dead.

MANUAL SCAVENGING OR SCAVENGING MANHOOD?

At present, across much of India, carrying the legacy forward of caste-based custom, people from communities that traditionally worked as “manual scavengers,” still collect human waste everyday and carry it away for disposal at the outskirts of the cities or towns. For some, manual scavenging is not a form of employment but an injustice to slavery and discrimination. This tumultuous dehumanizing process has its roots in the past and has victimized ever person associated or belonging to the Dalit or lower caste groups out of societal pressure and obligations. When parents are ill, children take up the responsibility of cleaning the waste, sewage and so much more in the worst of conditions. It is a legacy that somewhere runs in the family and pressurizes the future generations, irrespective of gender of that particular caste to suffocate and their contributions remain neglected and conditions continue to deteriorate. For many of us, who cannot clean our own washrooms, this anathema of cleaning every sewage tank, septic tanks, railway tracks, etc are ways to make a living for some, out of compulsion, if not by choice.

What we flush down our toilets, have to be cleaned, carried and disposed manually by many in the society without any proper equipment or technology and removing all the filth and dirt with their bare hands. A lot of sewage tanks and drains require humans to clean it manually and not using machines but no efforts have been made to take care of those who are willing to clean it for which they are paid like peanuts and given no respect. A lot of people take up this job as they are unaware of the consequences and health hazards to these practices. Such people and their lives remain unaccounted and the brutal atrocity that they face in every way remains ignored. Issues like safety for women, need for better technology, better wages, health awareness etc, continue to be of immense concern and require urgent intervention of the government.

Many acts have been passed, for example, Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act(1993), Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act(2013), etc but lack proper implementation and the correct people who are willing to take it forward for better results. Many NGOs, like, Safai Karamchari Andolan, continue to provide a helping hand to these practices and aim to eradicate this injustice from the society. Adopting effective and efficient technology can help eradicate manual scavenging and provide better working environment for them. For any country to be developed and protected, ethical behavior is more powerful than the use of arms. Manual scavenging requires reforms in policy implementations, sustainable freedom to workers and public participation more than any sympathy or a politicized narrative. Despite these arguments, manual scavenging continues to be forced upon on the lives of many.

DO WE NEED TO GET RID OF THE INHERENT CASTE SYSTEM?

The issue of caste system that needs to be focused upon is way beyond the political parties backed by castes, the divide in the society on the basis of caste and the discrimination. Caste system has its roots back in the 1500BC when the Aryans arrived in India, and dictated people’s occupation, living, food habits and interaction with other people in the society on the basis of caste divisions. A person was known by his caste group and not his knowledge and capacity or conduct. One of the major objectives of the Constitution of India was to create a homogeneous society irrespective of any fragmentation on any lines, and give equal opportunities to all.

 As a progressive youth, I believe that giving up my surname would take my privilege and lessen the persistent caste discrimination in the nation. Caste system with time has given birth to stereotypes, prejudice and biases. Lack of opportunities in terms of education, employment and others sources to earn a living have been major concerns for the people belonging to the lower and discriminated castes and is disintegrating the society at every level. Instead of dividing the opportunities accessible to everyone on the basis of their caste, their capacity to learn, work and earn should be taken into consideration.

There is an urgent need to eradicate the caste system and not fix it as it is creating a major divide in the society.  Giving up on our surnames can help us get rid of this system that is decaying the society’s coexistence and also affecting something as important as interaction and living with each other. The myths and stigma surrounding the caste system need to be abolished and the system needs to end to provide the present and future generations with a life full of freedom, equality, equity and holistic development. Even in the 21st century, we see people struggling to find a job or even go to school because they are looked down upon on the basis of their castes. The caste system fails to sync with the present society and curbs the rights and opportunities of all. The entire debate on the reservation system shall come to an end with abolishing the caste system as everybody has the right to study, work and travel anywhere irrespective of their last names.

I strongly believe that one’s occupation should not become hereditary in any social system and restrict their social mobility, choices, and freedom. Hence, to get rid of any such obstructions, nobody should encourage the birth of such systems and create hierarchies. Many millennial progressives fail to understand the consequences of this system and continue to carry it forward. Caste system continues to dominate even in the most educated circles and create oppression on many. To become the liberals that we portray ourselves to be on social media, it is important for us to discourage this system and end these privileges based on our caste.

RELIGION: A POLITICAL INSTRUMENT?

In the preamble of our constitution, we emphasize a lot on ‘Secularism’ and we believe that everyone is free to follow the religion of their choice. The state also mentions that it shall not promote any one religion and shall not involve them in any political or social activities. However, reality is far different from theory. Religion, something so sacred and a reflection of our beliefs unites as well as separates people, and this is being taken advantage of by many in this country. Today, political parties make sure they mention minority groups in their speeches and what each one of them have been struggling with, but never address them with solutions.

 Instead of the constitution and its privileges, what decides the future of people following their particular religion are the election manifestos and how each religion benefits the candidates of political parties. Getting votes by manipulating voters on the basis of their beliefs or targeting their position or dignity in the society have been advantageous for many political parties. Elections bring along an attitudinal change and give sudden importance on construction of places of worship in areas with less religious compatibility and get votes on the basis of temporary promises made by each party. This opportunistic behavior is bringing down the faith of people in the political system as their representatives no longer fight for the issues that are important rather, disturb and take advantage of the peaceful coexistence of all.

   Catering to the beliefs of any one specific religion that was otherwise harassed and claiming to work towards only their interests creates differences that are well planned and results that are well predicted and beneficial to the parties. Suppressing the minorities and later promising for their betterment is a vicious circle that people get trapped into and remains unchanged. In a country full of diversity, no efforts are made to bring people together irrespective of multiple differences, rather, points of differences are carefully looked at and used to widen the gap. With these differences growing, the entire meaning of ‘Equality’ is disappearing and that is surely dangerous in a country like India. It is easy to target religion and caste as issues important to politics instead of other social issues that are extremely important and need to be addressed with a lot of seriousness. Debating over ban on Burqa and religious beliefs is an issue but not taking about women safety. Who will build Ram Mandir becomes an issue but not setting up educational institutions.  People will keep falling for these dirty traps and end up being disappointed.

Turning to religion in times of need and uncertainty has been a common practice in politics and religion cannot be used as vote banks and people cannot be fooled and misled for believing in what they think is right and gives them strength. One should not begin to associate any religion with any political party’s color, flag and their ideologies. Faith in god, for many, protects them and keeps them safe and something so pure and sacred should not be mixed with politics for someone’s political gains.

Religion and politics can never be cozy together, especially in a country like India. Your vote decides the person who deserves to be in power and this right should come to you irrespective of your religious beliefs, ideologies and food habits. The entire concept of voting for candidates who will keep you safe if you belong to a minority religion is wrong and needs to change. Don’t let these candidates decide your future based on your faith and beliefs. The power that they practice comes from you. Choose the candidates wisely. Vote wisely. The represent you, make sure they do it correctly. What this nation lacks and needs is not safety for all religions but to stop making them feel unsafe on the basis of their faiths when there are so many other reasons for them to unite. Don’t let these differences weaken and bring down the beauty of this country, which is diversity itself.

MEASURE BEAUTY IN BEING, NOT INCHES OR COLORS

We want to write about who we love, who we hate, what we do, what we want and so much more. Why not about our body? More than our choices, our actions and everything around us, our bodies are a reflection of who we are. It is important to respect our body and give it the love that it demands and also deserves. What we put our body through is what it reflects and shows. What you believe about your body, your organs, your scars, your beauty, everything is what it shows on the outside.
Don’t hate those stretch marks because someone pointed them out to you.
Don’t force yourself to lose that belly fat because someone said it looks ugly.
Don’t scrub those acne everyday because someone said they shouldn’t be there.
Don’t use fairness creams because being fair is equivalent to being beautiful.
Love your body. Love every inch of it. It is who you are and it is BEAUTIFUL!
All this while, you’ve worked hard and tried to become someone who is acceptable by everyone. This time,try loving yourself for how you are once and see how your body reciprocates with all the love. What you feel about yourself is what you make it feel.
Take care of your body because you want to. Try fitting into different sizes because you want to. Beauty is all about feeling comfortable in your skin and your body. The day you love and respect it for what it is, no external factor shall ever be able to make you feel bad about it. Listen to your body. Pay attention to its WANTS and DESIRES. It will always guide you in the right direction.
What you want to eat should not be decided by the scales.
What you want to wear should not be decided by your inches.
We have hated our bodies all this while because we were taught to. What needs to change is not our bodies but thoughts. Before giving that unconditional love to someone else, give it to yourself and your body. Let your beautiful thoughts build and nurture your body, not your complexities and negative beliefs. After all, only you can design yourself, because only you have that power to give yourself that love.

A GUIDE TO KNOW YOUR LONGEST COMMITMENT: YOU

With time, I’ve realized, not every experience adds to our resume and not every skill adds to our achievements.

In these 20 years, if there is one thing I have slowly begun to achieve is to be able to equip myself with things I need the most, to survive and prosper.

Equip myself not to be emotionally strong but to be able to wipe my tears before expecting anyone else to.

Equip myself to be able to take responsibility for all my mistakes and also be there for myself when the world isn’t.

I haven’t taught myself that it is important to be aware of monsters who want to break you down.

I have trained myself to be able to pick pieces of me when they’re broken and also join them back stronger and better.

I have not told myself that it is difficult to keep pace with the world and that I should work hard.

I have nurtured myself in a way that I never feel unworthy even if the world wants me to.

What I have taught myself is not to stay strong but to know my weaknesses with great strength.

How I have equipped myself is not to be a perfect or a complete human in this competitive society but one full of flaws and with a vision to see them perfectly.

Vision matters. What you teach yourself matters. You matter.

Things will change. People will change. But what’s constant never changes. It remains unalterable to external factors.

Somewhere in my mind, I have starred these lines. They empower me.