Once you accept the overwhelming heat, humidity, smells of all kinds, and just simple randomness – like a religiously-clad man leading an even more religiously-clad bull down a city thoroughfare, asking people for money – there is something divine about India.
There is something very erotic about India. Once you get past the unhygienic nature of urinating in public – hundreds of thousands of Indian men very proudly unzip and relief their bladders everywhere and anywhere. Just as many walk around without underwear, wearing only a piece of cloth or a lungi.
There is something oxymoronic about India. In the same communities where the Mother Goddess reigns religiously supreme, women are subjected to subservience – female infanticide and various assaults on the blatantly feminine occur every day and receive impunity.
There is something incredibly real about India. Here poverty means living on the streets with your family, fetching food from dumpsters and begging for change from passersby. And prosperity can be found right next to it in the Rolex shop – their customers do not carry change.
I am strangely familiar with these social discrepancies, yet find them so alien. I am not rejecting as I would have been had I always existed in a sterile environment of the ‘First-World.’ But I am constantly flabbergasted by these reminders of being from a place as dichotomously cohesive as the Cosmic Dance.
I am from earth.
I was born to India and raised by America.
I was born in India and raised in America.
I am from earth.
I live and breathe.
Sometimes I think – most times I don’t.
Other times my pendulum mid-swings.
In a place between time and space.
I live and breathe.
Some same mistakes I repeat.
From others I learn something new.
How to be, not to be; want more or need few.
Here on earth, on my two feet.
I live and breathe.
When I wash my body, I am praying; when I clean, it is prayer. My writing is my prayer – and so are my gives and takes.
I pray when I sleep; when I talk, walk or do nothing at all – I pray when I breathe.
I pray every time I am part of something bigger than myself.
It cannot be that the very institution founded for the general welfare and safety of society turns out to be the oppressive baton slamming down upon innocent students exercising their right of expression. It cannot be that the police oppress the very tenets they were created to protect. This simply cannot be.
But it has become so – because we have allowed it to be. And it has happened over and over again, in shantytowns and school buildings, in Jadavpur University and the Colony Arms Building. An epidemic of institutional abuse has transcended borders and oceans, continents and governmental paradigms.
A police force must only operate to protect the rights of citizens. Any police action that inhibits, suppresses and abuses citizens’ rights and dignities violates that very purpose. And in that instant it loses its credibility, its moral, populace-based authority. And it must be upended and recalibrated.
I asked a friend why and how this can be; he aptly said, ‘because they can.’ The responsibility falls upon each of us to say, ‘no, they cannot.’ No, they must not – because if they do, the society we faithfully call civilized will be humanity’s biggest fallacy. No, they cannot stampede our God-given right to be free.
Death is easier than life – but easy things bring less satisfaction. I welcome death; I am burdened by life – but I keep living, I keep trying. Every breath I take may be labored, in lament I may soak my entire life. But even this – as hard as it is – life I cherish, I nourish, I fill to the fullest with my dreams and hopes.
Yes, death is easier than life – but I refuse to be easy.
If I could lay outstretched, my every atom laid side by side, from Kashba to the doorstep of the Carbide Building – if I could only, it would be my most glorious existence. But I can only imagine and dream of that time and space. So, unsettled, my heart string rings – my mind wanders from place to place.
My body is my prison. My happiness I carry within me, I use this ration sparingly – in momentary bliss I thrive, revive my dichotomous identity. I belong neither here nor there; I am an outsider everywhere. I am familiar and a stranger all at once. But this, my omnipresent discontent, is my singular solace.
Between two worlds, engrained with myriad forms and functions, I am the rainbow – and the rain.
A physical propulsion
A chemical emulsion
Subliminal adrenaline rush
With radical eruption
A magical reduction
Tomorrow’s foddering lush
A farmer beckons
The morning’s sun
His bread and butter
On eve, becomes
From grain to grain
To stomach and brain
A subliminal magical foddering rush.
The Bengal sun shines and hides through gray monsoon clouds. A damp air surrounds me – enveloping my senses, it sticks to my nose a faint smell of wild jasmine. Plants bloom from cracks of old walls, or wherever seeds find silt. And here I sit in this garden, drenched in a yearning for its rise.
This will be my first post-2001 September 11th outside America. A few days ago I came across an article about this solemn American day – and the floodgates to my memories rushed open. When it happened, I was not officially American; but we loved one another just the same. We had adopted each other. So the fact that that Tuesday still makes me indescribably sad comes as no surprise.
When it happened all Americans felt a moment’s pause. Everything stopped. For days following the massacre a certain numbness descended into every walk of life. A somberness overcame classrooms; a concoction of melancholy and rage infused into bars and restaurants. Few could see beyond vengeance.
Thirteen years later, through memory lanes of retributions and mistakes, America continues to rebuild its pursuit of happiness. Each year it mourns the murder of innocence; it remembers the fragility of life and the strength of conviction – and then it picks itself up by its bootstraps and goes back to work.
For this, with each passing year, with each memorial and life-story, I become a prouder American. 9-11 did not keep us down; it saddened us beyond repair and enraged us beyond justifiability – but it did not keep us down. We find strength in the memories of those we lost; we find reason to better ourselves.
Sitting beneath the roots of trees, it occurred to me: I am never who I used to be. I cannot be defined as the boy I once was – I am a whole new me. Only memories connect me to my former selves – and in that capacity memories prick like a crown of thorns.
This illusory life I left behind years ago has come back to haunt my solitary peace. To those around me I am nothing more than that selfish creature who bore my name, my skin. They see me purely as the boy who incessantly abused and desired, who knew little but created mountains out of his molehill.
I am not him.