Ways to make them smile

  1. Leave notes for them
  2. Cook them their favorite food
  3. Cuddle
  4. Plan to binge watch their favorite movies
  5. Plan a night out
  6. Build a fort together
  7. Go on a long drive
  8. Stargaze
  9. Take a trip to the beach
  10. Pick up a flower that reminds you of them
  11. Kiss their forehead
  12. Just, kiss them
  13. Try singing them their favorite song
  14. Set them a warm bath
  15. Click candid photos of them
  16. Run an errand for them
  17. Listen to them
  18. Hug them a little longer, a little tigher
  19. Gift them a good book
  20. Compliment their outfit
  21. Tickle them
  22. Have a breakfast date
  23. Call them and let them know you’re thinking of them
  24. Laugh at things together
  25. Ask them about their childhood
  26. Light up some candles
  27. Hold their hand
  28. Surprise them with ice cream
  29. Share poems
  30. Remember to cherish them

 

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Little things

I am not here to write about Trump. Or about India’s demonitisation. About the war raging in Mosul. The terror attacks in Pakistan and Iraq. The Phillipino president. The death of Leonard Cohen.

Here I am, a girl of 20, trying to navigate through the prediction of world destruction and chaos. It’s scary, it’s intimidating. If you’re anything like me, you do recognise the anxiety inside you. I am not well-read or qualified enough to preach about how to stop our doom. But I believe in certain things that add sparkle to my life. As I write this, I hope they work the same for you.

Buy yourself a flower

Give someone else a flower

Stare at the moon at midnight

Remember your first kiss

Have mint green tea

Read a worn out book

Go play with some puppies

Remember to get yourself some sleep

Youtube videos of kittens and babies

Buy a homeless person a meal

Work out, go swim, take that cycle out for a ride

Eat that brownie

Plan a trip to Seychelles

Doodle your heart out

Cuddle with a stuffed animal

Run yourself a hot bath with rose petals

Light those candles tonight

Listen to your favorite music from the 80’s

Spoil yourself and get that item on your wishlist

Message an old friend

Strike a conversation with a stranger about clocks

Do your hair up like Cinderella

Cook yourself a good meal

Smile at the little amusing moments on the train

Give your sibling a hug

Make some bracelets with your friends

Go for a late night drive

Camp up in the moutains

Or, build a fort in your living room

Share stories of personal adventure

Try your hand at origami

Write down your dreams on a post it

Love – yourself and others

 

 

Parallels

Looking at every inch of my body, I stood in front of the mirror. My hair dripping wet, I criticised my uneven tan, my arms, and I almost smirked at the scar on my waist. There it was, refusing to fade away. Everyone who knows me knows the story of the cheetah hurting me and the aftermath of it all. I am convinced it was one of those stories people end up narrating to their grandchildren. I, for one, am debating if it’s worthwhile to include it in my resume.

I turn, and there it is. Another scar, the one I avoid looking at. Even after all these years, I’d rather not acknowledge it. In all fairness, though, the scar I refer to are two marks from a man, one who felt entitled to my body. My physical pain, my helpless dissent, nothing was enough to stop him. And although I recovered well, better than I expected, I can’t deny the influence those moments had on my life.

But today, on the day where Hindus celebrate the defeat of evil (my darling firangs, it’s the festival of Dusshera), I celebrated my personal win over evil. However, the irony of the scars struck me. One scar I have  been showing off – guilty of basking in the attention, I admit. I have posted, talked, and talked some more about the cheetah. The other scar, though, I am not so confident about. I haven’t pointed out to it, haven’t talked about that experience, which was arguably equally terrifying as the former. I have been unable to publicly post my experience, to let comments in, uncensored. Because I have internalised the stigma. I know I will be blamed for what happened. Why would I wear a skirt, why couldn’t I fight it off? Not one, not a single soul questioned me when I told them I went up to a wild animal rather carelessly. The same naive trust would be the reason for my scrutiny when it comes to a man, a human, hurting me.

When the cheetah hurt me, it was shooed away, far away from where I was. Three handlers and a friend all rushed to my aid. There were calls made, I was taken to a doctor, I received free medical care. People offered to help me carry a camera bag, asked me if I was okay, ensured I had everything in place. Friends asked if I needed to talk, and made sure I wasn’t traumatised or shaken up. They ensured I had enough dinner for the strong antibiotics I was on, that I was hydrated enough and could go about my life without risking my health. I didn’t have to fight for some basic care and attention. I received all of it, and I deeply appreciated it. But when I’ve tried to talk about my experience with sexual assault, it hasn’t been the same. The focus shifts from care to question. I am grateful I wasn’t gravely hurt because I know medical care would be a struggle to have access to. Emotional care was far fetched. Because let’s not forget, my own mother assumes it’s the clothes that cause the men to lose control.

And oh, how to I forget about justice and the aftermath? That when a cheetah ended up hurting me in her playfulness, an entire organisation was on its toes. I could effectively ask for the cheetah to be caged up for her entire life, and my wish would be granted. I could claim to be traumatised and scared of cheetahs, and people would be understanding enough to shield me from all kinds of cats, big and small. That the legitimacy of my phobia wouldn’t be questioned, oh no. Perhaps I would be suggested therapy to better adjust in the cat-obsessed-internet-world, but my trauma wouldn’t be reduced to something you “get over”. On the other hand, I would have to prove a sexual assault with medical tests and witness testimony. I would have to file a case, find a lawyer, fight my case in the court and possibly in the society and media, and the best I would get is that man going to jail for 6 months and being released in 3 for “good behaviour”. If I had the audacity to claim that I don’t enjoy a man’s touch without consent, that it’s a legitimate fear of mine to be stuck in an awful situation again, people would chuckle. Because it can’t happen that often, that I’m just blowing things out of proportion. He just wanted an innocent hug, he’s a nice man and wouldn’t harm you, they would claim. The world would immediately try to argue back with rationale and statistics, forgetting that my thoughts and emotions don’t need justification.

Yes, the parallels I have run seem ridiculous. Maybe they are. But so is how sexual assault is treated in this world. No, Donald Trump, it is not just a minor distraction. It is a violation of my basic human rights, and I refuse to let you or anyone else treat this as a minor issue. You know when a freak animal attack is handled better than a persistent problem most women face in some form or the other, it is a shame for humanity as a whole. It is high time that we reevaluate the way we handle sexual violence – the way we educate children, the way we prevent it, the way we punish for it, the way we help people cope with it.

But until we address these issues, millions like me will continue to hide their scars in shame. And that is not okay.

No

‘No’ isn’t a mere word…it’s an entire sentence on its own. It doesn’t require any enquiry, justification, explanation or interpretation.

These boys must realise, ‘No’ means ‘No’, regardless of whether the girl is an acquaintance, a friend, your girlfriend, a sex worker or even your wife. ‘No’ means ‘No’. And when someone says so, you STOP.

-Amitabh Bachchan in Pink

And here I am again. This time, with a quote by a legend in the film industry. Hoping, praying, that maybe someone so prominent might manage to bring about a small change. That after decades of movies revolving around a guy harassing a girl he “loves” – and ending up marrying her instead of ending up in jail – it might be time for change.

After months and months of debate over consent and sexual harassment, I’ve had enough. I’ve seen enough people claiming that by drinking, the girl was basically asking for sex. I’m done with people calling Brock Turner innocent. I cannot deal with the kind of brutal victimisation that goes around. Be it to the rape survivor at Stanford, or be it my friends and I. Because we shouldn’t be wearing sleeveless or skirts, we shouldn’t be out late at night, we shouldn’t laugh out loud or talk to men. Then, consent is assumed. You are a promiscuous bitch, and that’s what you want. That’s what you deserve.

Because you know what? I am tired. I am tired of going drinking and having men turn aggressive, so much so that I have to leave. I am tired of getting spammed with texts asking for, no wait, demanding for my love and my body. I am tired of being stared at when I walk to college. I am tired of having to use my hair as a shield from your gazes, you pervert, dressed as a businessman or a student. I am tired of having to take extra precautions so the food delivery guy doesn’t enter my house, that he tirelessly insists upon.

Realise that a no is a no. And to add to this phenomenal dialogue, here is a tip. Don’t assume consent, simple as that. Don’t assume you have the right to stare, make gestures, click my photos or touch me. And when I very clearly, explicitly say “No”, fucking stop.

Two breasts and a vagina

I know what I am to you – a piece of meat, with two breasts and a vagina. Small, but you can make do with it, since all I am to use is an object of pleasure. My worth comes from what gratifies you. Half of the society expects me to do what the other half bans me from doing.

Did you ever wonder who I am beyond my two breasts and my vagina? Beyond my lips that you crave to kiss, beyond my waist that you don’t let go of, beyond my legs that you stroke? What makes me who I am, what I am? What defines me or makes me average?What do I think of at 3 am, and who do I wish to become?

Only if you knew about me a little more. That I study what I do because inside I’m only a curious little child. The stars make me feel at home. Bikes scare me, only because I once had an accident and there was a little scratch but I thought I would die in that moment. I hate having to choose seats on a plane. I love travelling, and I want to travel to parts of the world that aren’t part of google search. I am very scared on centipedes, I call them Satan’s little spawns. I believe in human rights, and I try my best to fight for them. I once tried to write a book. I appreciate small gifts. I wish I read as much as I once did, but I’m trying my hardest. I still don’t know how to make a winged eyeliner. I hate tea, I’m fine with coffee, but chocolate shakes are my favourites. I want to go skydiving. I have heard a bomb explode and was trapped in a building until my mom could come get me. Candles make me happy. Fairy lights make me happier. I’ve had my trust broken, but perhaps I still trust easily. There are days I do nothing. I feel fat. I miss Africa. A girl with cognitive impairment changed my entire life. I still have Hannah Montana songs on my phone. I wish I could sing. Fireworks are the prettiest but I haven’t bought one for almost 10 years because I feel obliged to not pollute. I want a dog. I think capital punishment is unacceptable. I hate when people don’t drive well. I injured my spine. I want to decorate my cute little apartment one day. My sense of smell is the worst. Sunsets make me feel fuzzy and warm. I don’t really like Nutella. I haven’t had an authentic taco in my entire life. I am an atheist. I have toys from my childhood that I cherish. I would like to believe I’ve changed a lot over the years.

But how would you know? All you do is stare at my cleavage, try to get into my pants. How would you know, if you don’t want to know? When everything you want from me is just my body, the one you think you are entitled to. And so, all you want to know is my bra size and my fantasies in bed. Suddenly, my passionate talking doesn’t matter, because I have a drink in my hand, and you have sex on your mind.

That’s what I am to you – two breasts and a vagina.

Midnight thoughts

It’s past midnight and I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep because I feel personally guilty about everything happening in the world, and I am well aware that this is the highway to self-destruction. It doesn’t stop me, no. Maybe it would be easier to just not be.

I feel terribly guilty about all the kids who don’t get to go to school because their city or country is under attack, only so we get to keep our pride intact and oil prices low. Because it is in the end from the money I give to the government that they buy the bullets from. I am directly funding multiple genocides, just by buying chocolates.

I feel awful because women around the world face assaults and abuse and terror inside the four walls of their home, the place that should be a safe haven for them. There is so much I could do about it – call the cops when I see a man raising his voice against a woman, make sure that drunken girl gets home safe, enquire if the bruises on the hand of my friend are a result of violence. But I choose to stay silent, and it eats me up.

I feel disgusted that love is a crime in my country and around the world. That a primal need is considered to be an unnatural act to be jailed for. Because social constructs of gender now override people’s right to just be, and so many are forced to hide their identities for the fear of being imprisoned or worse, be stigmatised and boycotted from society. And what do I do for their rights? Nothing. I just sit on my privileged ass and tweet hashtags about it.

I feel ashamed looking at the environment. I live in a city where the pollution levels often give me headaches, the lack of trees is proportionate to the lack to clear skies or stars. The summer kills people, and the rains kill people, and the winters kill people. And yet I choose to run the air conditioner and use a power hungry computer to print assignments.

And it’s such a pity, because when I finally do sleep, none of it will matter to be anymore. As someone else falls victim to the sins that I contribute to, I will dream of my next vacation. I will wake up in the morning and find myself unperturbed by the consequences of my action, or lack thereof. I will feel no guilt, I will have no thought for the victims I could have, should have helped.

It terrifies me.

Moving on

It was about this time, last year, that I broke up with my first love. Two years and more of a relationship, of talking almost every single day, until one of us fell asleep. That was what we had, and it was gone, instantly. Looking back, maybe it was inevitable.

Both him and I know the reasons for the breakup, and both of us have slightly different versions. Today, I’m not here to prove myself right. Because what happened, happened. What was said and done, is exactly that, in the past. We both broke down and cried, drowned our sorrows in alcohol and woke up in utter misery. We both wondered what would come next, how we would survive it.

He was my person. He was the person I told about my dreams and my lectures, how a teacher was completely unfair and how the taxi driver was such a humble human being. He told me about football, and I barely ever understood anything. But I saw the passion, and I enjoyed hearing him get excited about a match. Before going to sleep, I wished his team won. And sometimes we would text in the middle of the night or early in the morning about how the clouds were so fluffy. That was my life, and it was suddenly gone.

It hurt, God it hurt. I cried myself to sleep for weeks and almost diagnosed myself with clinical depression (note to self: only because you study psychology and know the DSM criteria doesn’t mean you get to label anyone, even yourself, with a disorder.) I didn’t think I would ever be just as happy again, or even look at someone the way I looked at him. I didn’t think there would be a person I cared about as much as I cared about him, or talk to the way I talked to him. I didn’t think I could be myself without him.

Some words were exchanged over the months. Some good, some brutal. Most of all, though, they got me closer to closure every single time. Because every single time a call went bad, ended up in yelling and accusations, I knew it was better for the both of us to go our separate ways. And so I booked my flight all the way to Zambia, just a country below his, using up the money I wanted to spend to see him. Because I wanted to get away and experience life for myself, for once, be free.

It might have been the best thing I ever did. Because I flew over his country, and I gazed down from my flight. I was the closest to him, but I didn’t end up crying. I did want to see him, in some corner of my heart, I was hoping we get to keep atleast one promise. But the thing is, It only bothered me for two days and then I let go.

And I met this guy, this amazing guy who was nothing like him. He wasn’t into football but he was into mainstream music. He had tattoos and barely ate. But he was also the kind who would wrap his arms around my waist when a drunkard made me uncomfortable while trying to flirt his way into my pants. He would make sure a car doesn’t hit me as I tried to navigate the roads of Livingstone. He was the kind of guy who would kiss me on the street and drop me home, and wait until I was safely inside the gate. He would splash water all over me and try to startle me, and fail every single time. I met him. I may have fallen in love. I don’t even know.

But now, one year from my first breakup, I know I can make it through. I would never want to live alone, but I can. I know I am strong enough to face my biggest demons all by myself. I also know it’s okay to be a little scared. It’s okay to ask for help from friends, and even family if need be. It’s okay to lose sight and have a bad week, wanting to spend all my days in bed. Because I know, I can always get back up.