Romilla Akham

Call It What You Want.

To my aunt, who deserved a better life.

Life has not been fair to you;

It pained me to see your beauty wither away so soon.

You took your kins` burden all on your shoulders.

Owned another  mother`s children as your own, as big your heart was.

You saw the tears in our eyes as we promised you of the better days.

I couldn`t give you the mirror to let you see yourself.

Reminiscing is all we can we do now.

We blamed the doctors because we couldn`t accept the truth.

Before I saw the grey in your hair, you bid farewell.

Do not be upset for those who couldn`t come to see  you as you writhed in pain;

They were not strong enough to see you that way.

The rays of the sun couldn`t reach you because of the poorly built windows of the hospital;

The corridors caught our tears fallen.

Some betrayed you, some hurt you;

In the end, the Maker took you to give you a better place.

It was a battle to survive every day.

You deserved a better life,

Life has not been fair to you.

What if your creator was flawed? 

“You can’t go on like this doing whatever you want. No responsibility. No care about customs.. No..” 

(interrupts) “Ma, am I a puppet who has to follow what others tell us always?”This was a regular thing for me and my mother. My father tried to reconcile us but it was not enough. They get along well and look out for each other but I seemed to be a square figure trying to fit into a star shaped space. I did not want to become her despite of her sacrifice and reputation. She was the first figure I had to face for the change I wanted to bring in the society. She was the first battle. There was a void between us as much as I wanted to get close to her. I saw her in me- the vulnerability, the passion, the recurring depression and the anger. I was too wild for her and the rest of the world for conformity was difficult. Customs seemed ridiculous to me. She had to defend my outlandish nature to people while she would tell me what others were thinking and talking about. We were similar as I saw the inherent characteristics in me from her. My father and my brother tried to save us from each other but has not been successful. We wanted to love each other more but it was just impossible. There were bad fights or such retreat to silence. I wanted to remove her from me. I tried hard to trace her in me and remove it. My crippling depression started surfacing in my other relationships. There was a lack of commitment in things I did. I never saw what I really wanted. My serious take on things around me and engaging in cathartic activities repelled and attracted others simultaneously. I wanted to stay away to continue loving her. She was like the reality I wanted to avoid in this world. Womanhood seemed a not so pleasant thing as I saw more women around me. She blamed my callous nature while I blamed her imperfections. We had a love and hate relationship. I got too familiar with self pity and the misery that I did not want to let go. I counselled myself to see it as one of life’s numerous obstacles. It was hard to see the purpose of life and I tried my best to give myself a purpose. Religion had worn off and it was not convincing enough. I was trying my best at times to seem as normal and as laid back as anyone else as I tried to tame the freak inside me.

History repeats 

Two individuals R1 and R2 lead lives similarly different. 

R1: It feels like home to be with you. 

His girlfriend smiled as she read that text from him. His classes were of odd timing and they had to adjust. 

Girlfriend : I want to find my true calling. Social issues is my area of interest.

R1: You need to discern well and make the right choice. 

                                  ….. 

R2 : You are the most comforting being in this place. 

Her boyfriend smiled and hugged her. They lived in a small town and to find time for each other was difficult as there were no private spaces. 

Boyfriend : I want to be with you, always. 

R2 : Well, there are many things to figure out in life. I have  to set out my goals. 

                                   ….. 

R1 : There are many things I want to figure out in life. I do not know where I am. 

                                 ….. 

R2 : Things are going too fast. Commitment is not my cup of tea. You are amazing. 

                                ….. 

R1  : You deserve someone better. I want to be honest with myself and with you. 

                               ….. 

R2 : I don’t manipulate. I am not going for someone else. I want to be by myself. 

                               ….. 

R1 : I am not ready. 

                              ….. 

R2 : I am not ready. 

                               ….. 

She let him go as she tried to understand his pursuits. Hoped that he stayed with her longer. 

                              ….. 

He let her go cursing his fate but he wanted to understand and respect her choice. 

                             ….. 

R2 started to realise how important it was for R1 to be honest with oneself and understand the pursuits in life. How understanding each other was not enough to be together and how important solitude was to hear our own voice. R2 couldn’t continue blaming R1 for breaking up with her months ago as the reasons were uncannily similar for choosing solitude over companionship. 

History repeats itself 

I did not see convincing reasons as to why conformity is the best for me. There were things I wanted to learn and explore. There was a higher validation waiting for these endeavours, I believed. Friction and threats were obvious outcome besides the expected emancipation. To be frail and soft spoken was not my trait. To be the damsel in distress was a lazy thing. To wait for a rich husband was not justified. To make an effort to be pretty was not an obligation. Social issues concerned me as  I wanted to do my part to make lives better. It was cathartic. At least my organs could be donated and put to use if not my intellect I thought. I was a rebel to some. To lead a fulfilling and a useful life was my attempt. Many a times, I felt the women in my life did not understand me. If only they understood, I would have aimed for other goals. At least that was what I thought. The men were supportive and gave me the intellectual stimuli I needed. As I complained to myself and sometimes to others about how my mother could have been more supportive and understanding, the reply was – you are just like your mother. The cause that we stood for, the commitment and straightforward nature were similar. My voice and my courage were giveaways. I could not agree because we were like chalk and cheese. Maybe our differences were what that made us alike.

Mine

I don’t want to stop exploring myself. I can’t merge my identity with someone else in the name of anything. The part of the world I live in, makes me work harder to live a fulfilling life. Often times, an outcast but I revel in this freakish self that I am. No promises can keep this soul for nothing is to be possessed but cherished. 

For your eyes only 

Some want to see me pretty by dolling up rather than seeing me plain. It is demanded to look my best self where I thought my tidiness and good hygiene was enough. I did not think of covering up my moles,  scars and spots on my face. My eyes looked tired and “had melancholy” (according to a friend).I was told how beautiful they will look with kohl. Some days I wore but most days I choose not to. Some days I paint my lips with colour to do some talking with out words. But most days, I don’t, for I wanted to  be beautiful to a blind person also. I wanted to make the effort to touch people without a pleasant face with kohl and tinted lips. 

Some days, I want to play with colors and adorn myself like I am more than ordinary. I would be caring less about what others would assume. I wanted  to give time to look better and sophisticated. 

But, in the end, I don’t want to be told to be pretty. I can only feel pretty when I am accepted in whoever and however I want to be. To see gladness in your eyes that I am there, is pretty,  with or without colour on my lips and eyes. 

Free

I see shackles, 

On my wrists 

And ankles. 

Most  importantly 

On my heart. 

There is beauty

And pain 

Yet to be felt. 

More follies

And revelry

Yet to be had. 

Those heavy words

Made trite 

In movies, 

In stories 

And in songs. 

Don’t bind me

With the invisible 

And yet strong string. 

Melancholy seems like

A better company. 

For baby, 

I see shackles 

In those three words. 

Do not find it yet;

Do not let it shatter you yet;

For youth is made for madness 

And lessons to learn. 

To trade my freedom, 

For love seems costly. 

Lost

Therapists might give this a name;

And to the well wishers, a thing lame.

Have me confirm that my mind is still sound;

When I tell that I don’t want to be found.

The thrill was and is in the search,

And with no foretelling as such.

Find pieces of the self in things old and new;

Because this life, frankly, I am not yet through.

4am

Love is overrated. This is something which I would not have said but with time and experience made me say it. Seems like it looks rosy in works of art but in reality,  a complicated set of emotions surface when the significant other enters. Ursula was moving out of the city she spent for 4 years. She left with a heavy heart and was feeling free at the same time. She walked out of a 2 years relationship. Life seemed perfect with him but somewhere things didn’t seem right. He was from an orthodox family and his love didn’t assure her of her post marriage freedom. Maybe it was boredom or taking things for granted as he was the “husband material” she was advised about and she did not have to struggle to look for the right person which left her purposeless. She wanted to be at peace but at the same time she wanted to fight. 

It was a 7 am flight she had to catch. Her yearly vacation started. She lived far from the airport so she had to leave early. She got up at 3 am and spoke to the guards of her hostel that she got the permission to leave. A black car was parked in the neighbouring lane right outside her friend’s flat. A tall and built guy got out of the car and hugged her as soon as they got out of sight of the guard. He helped her with the bags and took inside the house. He offered her a ride till the airport but she insisted she went on her own. They spent time watching the stars. She was touched by the fact that he got up that early for her. 4 am was next to impossible considering the kind of life they had. Night outs were often for the city boys. She was moved by his efforts to get up that early for her. She did not expect him to so. She somehow felt that he might be a keeper. 

The following semester was not a smooth one for them. It was the final semester and there were mixed emotions. She wasn’t ready to settle in the first city she lived outside her home town. She bid farewell to him and the city she as she watched the stars from the car windows. 

Therapy was something she wanted to go for but she wanted to fight her demons before resorting to help. This was something she always did. She believed that she shouldn’t pray otherwise it is like doubting the creator’s ability and faith in us that we were created well.Why should we pray if the gods loved us? Why would not he make us able? Or is it a reminder to love us and be there ? Her arguments went on. Time did help her in forgetting the details of him and the parts of the city. What seemed trivial when she left was a long process to accept and move on.

There was a film festival in the new location she moved in. Being an art enthusiast she booked the 5 days event passes. There was no one to accompany her but she didn’t mind. 

There was long queue. A young man stood in front of her. She carried a shawl to use in case it got cold as the movies were to be screened in the open. The shawl got stuck in the guys jacket. She pulled the shawl to put it inside her bag without realising that it got stuck. The man was holding Pepsi and it spilled on the person who was standing in front of him. It was an embarrassment. She expected a fight but the person standing in front of them scolded and cursed him. All this while he did not mention her. She tried telling it was her but the old man must have assumed they were a couple and he said,”Couples now days! ”

“I am really sorry.  Why did not you let me say anything? “she asked. 

“It’s alright. You look new here. Assam?  Sikkim?” he smiled and asked. 

“Burmese and Pahari. But from Manipur”, she said.

“Watching all five days? ” he asked. 

“Today and the last day. Not interesting line up the days in between”, she said.

“I will see you lady on 5th day then in case we stand in the same queue”.

She never thought she would see him again. He had the most honest smile she felt. She ran to him in a local grocery store. He was a philosophy student and lived nearby. He was an author too. He was a very calm person. He asked her if she wanted to come for a poetry session the weekend.  She agreed. 

He turned out to be a baller. There were elderly people in his group of friends. He did not drink or smoke with them but had a lot of Pepsi. He came and sat next to her after the recitals as they were handing out some pamphlets. 

“You can speak next time. Anything you want”, he said.

“Sure”.

It was the fifth day. He waited for her outside her house. She was glad to see him. 

“You smell nice”, he said as he hugged her. 

She prepared for that compliment with a Nina Ricci. 

Weeks passed. They frequented the parks nearby and heard each other’s poems under the trees and street lamps. 

She was not sure if he took her seriously. She had to leave for home and she did not know what was the best thing to say or do. Was he meant for her? She just wanted to know if he cared for her for real. 

It was time for her to leave. Taxi was arriving in an hour. 7 am flight she had to board. It was 3:30 am and she was all ready. After 45 minutes she got a call from him.

“Come to the bench under the street lamp in your lane”, he said.

She was elated and forgot all the questions she had for him. She rushed and hugged him. He held her cold hands. 

She asked,”What time did you get up? It is so early! ”

“4 am.”

Memento

Gifts created memories.

It took me an eternity to erase traces,

Of untold happiness and sadness

When together we were.

Stopped taking anything tangible.

For I looked gullible,

Each time in the name of love I fumble,

When together we were.

But who left me nothing,

To have me missing

The days I am vividly remembering

When together we were.

Easier erasing it was

When I could dispose of the gifts

Clearing memories of the times

When together we were

New Age

What is friendship without WhatsApp? 

What is friendship without a WhatsApp group?

What is relationship without WhatsApp? 

What is anything at all without the blue ticks? 

What is relationship without status change on FB? 

What is a relationship without romantic posts on FB? 

What is travelling if you have not ‘checked in’?

What is social media without a selfie upload? 

It is a new age.

There is no room for the heart to grow fonder. 

Wifi bonds people.

Internet data will determine your intimacy or how close you are.

If you miss this out,  you have failed the litmus test of today my dear friend.