Evenings meant the smell of sandalwood incense sticks and Maa’s voice echoing through our corridors;
Muktitonispriho jitu, hei hi bhokoto ko nomu, Roxomoyi maghu, hu bhokoti, Homosto mosto, ko moni, Nijo bhokoto ro boisyo, Bhozu heno debo, Jyodumoni.
It’s 6PM and maa is serving me maalpua.
The busy for nothing lanes in Delhi somehow embedded these tunes far too deep in my memory. Evenings have started to mean the smell of chotu’s cutting chai now.
Funny how life has reached a point where I need to book tickets to go home. Days have stopped being segregated into breakfast, lunch and dinner for now meals reach the door only when the tummy roars – or if there is a budget friendly Swiggy coupon.
Funny how we spend the first two decades of our lives in the pursuit of going out of home and the rest of our lives – longing to be back.
The metro halts, I get off, take the stairs down and turn left as muscle memory. I can do this blindfolded.
The world paused for an instant as the smell of the sandalwood incense sticks reached me.
I can see a young me frolicking about watering the garden in her blue frock as Maa called me for the evening prayer.
Muktitonispriho jitu hei hi bhokoto ko nomu, Roxomoyi maghu, hu bhokoti, Homosto mosto, ko moni, Nijo bhokoto ro boisyo, Bhozu heno debo, Jyodumoni.
As reality resumed, I reached home. I ordered food as I pondered, home is seldom the four walls we grow up in, rather home is what we make of it. Somewhere in the smog of this city, I have myself gutted my roots far too deep for me to reach.
The door rings.
It’s 6PM and Chandan from Swiggy is serving me Maalpua.
“… and that’s why this city – your city – came to be called the ‘Stalingrad of the East’”, he paused to look around the class. Not much had changed in the past hour. A couple dozen dreary looking faces stared at him in equal amounts intrigue and disinterest. Prof. James Jasokie was not used to this treatment in his long years of teaching Modern History at IIM Shillong. But once a year, he was mandated to take a trip to Nagaland to deliver a Memorial lecture to Undergraduate students at Alden College in Kohima.
Prof. James (or “Jimmy Sir”, as his students liked to call him), was a man stuck between multiple cultures. Jimmy was born into a Christian family of the Angami Naga tribe in nearby Dimapur but he grew up into a man neither Christian nor satisfactorily Angami. He had barely ever been to Kohima apart from his annual visits there for work. He loved the history and culture of the city – one that he studied and cherished – but even that wasn’t enough to pull him towards it.
After finishing the lecture around dusk that day, he retired to the peace of his hotel room for the night. A few hours in, Jimmy was still unable to find any sleep. Mumbling curses at the city’s undying noise, he decided to walk down a steep road adjacent to the hotel instead. The city was still in, what one might call, a festive hangover. The Hornbill festival had culminated just a few days ago, which meant that more than half the stalls and makeshift bazaars were still active or winding up. Jimmy walked through the bazaar, glancing at the various handicrafts and condiments on sale, with absolutely no intention of buying them. As he approached the end of the main street of the bazaar, his eyes settled on a necklace made of beads and glass, tucked beside each other to give off a tribal and an austere wind to it at the same time.
He knew immediately, Priya used to wear the same. His late wife loved wearing anything that had its own character to it. Their marriage was a coming together of contradictions. He was a reserved academic man while Priya beamed of seemingly inexhaustible energy. She was from the Phek district of Nagaland but loved Kohima as if she belonged to the city. The last time he’d been here with her, he now remembered, was around 7 years ago, only months before her death to cancer.
He would tag along during her midday stroll through the city and complain about the long distances that she made him walk. There was not much of that since her passing. Jimmy bought the necklace, thanking the seller-woman in Pochuri and left the market. Still stroking the necklace with his thumb, he found himself at the gleaming public square right at the end of the market. He looked up at the huge watchtower and the bustling crowd around him, suddenly realizing that it wasn’t the city’s noise that kept him awake that night but it was Priya that did.
the other day i got a tattoo and it reminded me of you. i didn’t love you, the calculations of holding hands, the angles for the perfect kiss the equations of likes and dislikes, all of these, goes above my head. i was never good at math anyway. i didn’t like you, the oceans of your freckles the country of your fake accent the earthquakes of your temper, i never understood any of them. geography wasn’t my forte either. so you see, i don’t wish for you to be back. i don’t hate you for leaving me for the other girl. ours was a summer romance, and there i had a fling or two, and a relationship which lasted three springs long. life comes full circle, with its own adjectives: enigmatic and somewhat bemusing. it all started with my search for an escape. it all started with you. i found you, then him. and then that other guy. so when i seem desperate to you or when i call you once, twice, thrice or knock at your door a little too hard, don’t run away or don’t come too close, neither. neither. you’re not the only one i miss you’re not the only guy i kissed. my sleepless nights, my losing appetite, all of these and all of that, is part of my pursuit for happiness. contentment. you’re a part of it. all of them are. but goddamn, i don’t have explanations to this insatiable hunger to this unquenchable thirst, and answers to why my mind keeps going back to you why my body craves for yours or why ever word i utter sounds like your name. i was never good at learning or knowing things.
life comes full cirlce, and didn’t my life start with you?
Literature , since the dawn of human thought and rational understanding, has been a key to unlocking the unseen and unheard to the world that stays unbothered. It is a medium through which thoughts were put out in the openness of human understanding and left to flow from one mind to another until it attains a stage where minds with differences are connected by a single thought. The purpose of literature was and still is clearer than all other forms of art. It aims to put forward the exact idea, unfiltered and raw, to the people who are to read. Unlike other mediums of art, literature is in fact the most elaborative form wherein it serves to the reader the original thought of the thinker.
Throughout history, there has been a plethora of literary geniuses who contributed to the advancement of human thought and the ‘modernization’ of societal understanding in ways innumerable. To these geniuses we owe our greatest gratitude, for without them the ideas of love, life and soul would’ve been secrets confined to the understanding of just individual minds.
When we talk about ‘love’ and the ‘freedom’ to love according to one’s will, literature becomes the perfect medium to fan out such ideas to the world. No other form of communication can ever fully manage to grasp such concepts and ideas and help explain them to people who wish to listen and understand. Over time there have been examples of writers, ranging from the Renaissance period to the Georgian era, who spilled their ink with their emotional winds and left the world lost in dreams and fantasies. And some of them had the courage to write on themes of love that extended beyond acceptable norms and laid out boundaries of the society.
Writings on same-sex love first emerged in written form in ancient Greece and Rome, where scholars and great thinkers like Plato and Homer celebrated such diverse themes. One of the most magnificent works of human thinking are Homer’s Iliad and Plato’s Symposium, where the love between Achilles and Patroclus is portrayed as normal and acceptable, as something which is not to be disgusted of or feared from. Although this topic is still in debate, direct references to same-sex involvement in matters of love can be seen in Shakespeare’s works as well. The erotic sonnets and fluid references to gay relations in many works of his exemplify the age of Renaissance as a period of change in such matters.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the mention and reference of LGBTQ literature became more indirect and subversive. This was due to the existence of various penalties to such practices in private spheres as well as publishing such works into the mass readership. Writers like Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf and later Allen Ginsberg and James Baldwin wrote literature on LGBTQ identity and references. These works paved a way for the inclusion of this genre into one of the fastest growing genres of the age and at the same time drew the attention of critics and haters alike.
One of the best examples of LGBTQ practices can be drawn from the life of the great Irish poet and writer, Oscar Wilde. He was a homosexual in the society that deemed it as a crime. He was put on trial thrice, spent two years in prison and was later exiled from his homeland because his practices of love and sexual affairs were considered indecent and criminal. His exaggerated life was full of examples where he broke numerous taboos. This is only to begin with the many references and examples we can derive from the works of Walt Whitman and the ancient Greek poetess Sappho. While Sappho was known for her lyrical poetry, Walt Whitman was widely celebrated for his vibrant writing. Sappho celebrated lesbianism in her poems which were later destroyed completely by the 11th century, while Walt Whitman self-published a book of poems on homosexual themes with metaphors so erotic and sensual that no other publishing house agreed during his time, and which later on came out with subsequent volumes and went on to be the greatest book of American poetry ever written.
The present age is filled with diversities and extensive opinions. What we witness are two key factors, first being the diversity of gender and sexual orientation and the second being the humongous increase in writers and readers alike. Today, one cannot stick to the opinions of a single writer where there exists an ocean of bloggers and activists to voice out opinions in a million different ways. And that defines the power of literature, of reaching out to the depths of the heart and of instigating emotions to bring about a solid change in the society.
No doubt, that over the past few years the writings on LGBTQ characters have increased greatly, but what really needs to be done is normalizing their presence in stories and not revolving the whole plot around their sexual orientation. Also, it is not justified to claim that the writings of today are doing absolute justice to the LGBTQ community at large. There surely have been an increase in awareness but these writings are still not inclusive of all issues and all groups of people that belong to the LGBTQ community. But as they say and the whole world believes, all great changes take time and patience and maybe with the whirlpool of revolution that literature has brought to us, someday a new dawn with a new world would become a reality.
don’t take his name, or name him something pretty, like the poets in love do. don’t dictate stories about your love, or make poetry out of your love for him. don’t gulp down some cheap whiskey or smoke up weed in his remembrance. don’t ask the waiter to put two cubes of sugar in your coffee, because that’s how he liked his. don’t spend another of your nights trying to find ways to help someone who is broken. don’t make his bed, if he doesn’t let your love rest. his arrival, unannounced like november rain, unwanted like unplanned pregnancy. he got you caught up in a tornado. he showered on your life, so harshly, so mercilessly, with repercussions so many that you must’ve lost count now. don’t let him win. close your doors today, bolt it proper. tomorrow, don’t let your pen write another word for him, about him. mend your own skin. fix your own heart before trying to save him from drowning. write poetry about your breasts, or your kindness that knows no bound. drink wine to celebrate victories, more so to acknowledge failures. drink your coffee exactly how you like it. two cubes of sugar hurts your teeth anyway. make your own bed, let your love rest. fill up your own body, here’s a gentle reminder that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
I am an Assimilated Effort, Of Twenty Bloody Years, Of- Sweat & Blood, Smiles & Toil. And So is my Persona. I Am Not Picture Perfect- Far From It Rather. My Nature, Nothing Close To Noble, My Blood, Far From The Dynastic Blue. But That’s Alright, Because I’m Not Trying- To Compete with You.
Maybe I Hardly Have a Social Standing. If I Count my Friends, I Reckon- It’ll Barely Amount to Two. My Marks Mar My Life, Like Tragedies In Plath Poetics. My Thirst of Companionship, Beats that of Adam’s Ale, Sometimes; As My Anxiety Numbs My Judgements, With Over Thought Instances of Fabricated Truth, And Well, That’s Alright too.
I’m Sure the Lover After Me, Has Helped You Achieve- The Contours Of Pleasure, I Never Could, Or The Friend, I Was Replaced With, Leaves You Shook, In Peels of Laughter, In The Same Humour, That I once, Misunderstood. And That’s Alright, For Change is Always for the Good.
I am Happy for You. Yet, Before I Depart, There is Something I’d Like to Do. Something, Which Bugs Me, Far More Often, Than I’d Like It To. It’s that Frustrating Realisation, Of Never Being Able to Live Upto You.
And For It I’d Like To Offer My Explanation. You See, I Tried. Tried To Live Up To- That Flawless Fantasy, You Picked Straight Out Of a Hollywood Rom-Com, But You Can Only Chisel Me So Far, Before I Am Another Fatal Mistake, None Can Undo; And Like Every Other Piece of Trash, I’m Discarded Too. Well, Do I Look Like An Expendable To You?
But If It Is So, I’m Afraid, That’s Not Alright. For, Maybe, I have Let You Bend- Me, Like One of Your Rubber Toys, You Don’t Play With Anymore. Once Your Favourite Thing, It Lies Untouched, For Far Too Long Now. And I Know You’d Outgrow me Too, Like That; Like Your Rhyme- That Used To Be Your Jam. Heard, You Only Listen to Pop Now, So Here’s a Few Lines Off JB’s Song for You: ‘Cause life’s not easy, I’m not made out of steel; Don’t forget that I’m human, don’t forget that I’m real.’ And I hope It Sticks the Same Way, All Your Favourite Tracks Do. I Hope You Remember, That my Kindness was for Love And Not A Perpetual Virtue. For- I’m Human Too.
I am No Expendable, Easily Fitting In, Into- One of Your Social Moulds, Casted of High School Romantics. I Wonder- If You Really Did Love Me For Me? Am I Even in Trend Anymore, Or Do You Call Me A Bore? Was I Another Failed Loser, You Thought You Could Change? Is My Dressing Sense Too Drab? Are My Insecurities Too Feminist-ically Misplaced? Do The Reasons For My Fears, Sound Too Fake? And The Questions Go On……. Like a Symphony Sans an Ending, Till I Question, If My Entire Existence Was Wrong? Can I Put a Bullet To My Head, Like Another Eminem Song? That We Stan On, Only This Time- It’s Real. But No. The Worth Of My Existence, Is Not Simply To Fit Into A Socially Normed Box. I am No Expendable, And I Refuse To Believe So.
So Go Right On, My Love. Tell The World, Of My Obnoxious Fears, My Skewed Insecurities, And Faux Trauma. But Leave Out My Reasons, Just To Make Sure, The Mockery Is On Point. Go Right Ahead, For- I am not scared of your Social Antics, And Late Night Gossips, Anymore. The World Wasn’t Around When I Fell, And The Ones Who Helped Me Up, Are Far Too Busy With My Dramatics, To Give a Social Damn To Yours.
You know, It Takes Only Four, To Carry The Palled Box, Down The Last Walk of Life, As The Curtains Of Existence are Drawn; Well, I Have Mine Counted, I Hope You Have Yours.
o brother! i know the news of our nation, makes you anxious. watching- the land you graced as your own, maligned by majoritarian testaments; or your own kin, slain- for their choice of- taqiyah, turban or vestaments, unnerves you. as you offer, your prayers today, i hope- you pray for them, and- silently remember, to raise your brethren better!
o sister! as you walk down the aisle, adorning a grand dress- a salwar, gown or lehenga, i hope you remember, of so many others, like you- who met a very different fate. dragged- though the same aisle, that you today tread on, and put through a forced ringed ordeal, i shall not be afraid to call- ‘RAPE.’ simply because her social groom was- cast out of the same caste dye, as her own consanguine race. as you take your vows today, i hope you avow to sire the next generation better, no, you don’t have to say it aloud. merely abide by it, for your conscience’s sake.
and all the privileged members, of the majority masses! i hope you remember, that- rama is the hero of his epic, because he stood for his ideals, not because he demolished, some demon king. so- every time you chant his name, I hope you take it to make peace, not prejudice. for- nothing shall elate a king better, than to see his subjects break bread, as brothers.
you see, the change starts with you, and it shall never start, until you do. for- if little drops of water, can make the mighty ocean; we are a collective of 1.38 billion, empowered individuals. it’ll surprise you- what a little effort from each one, could do.
Hold A Knife To My Wrist, And Slice Right Through. I Know, Occassionally- You Do Too. Some Nights, It’s The Betrayals and Heartaches. Others, Worse Weekday Blues. I Know You Have Your Reasons, I Assure You, We All Do. But, Don’t. If Not For Yourself, Then For The Toil Of The Ones, Who Raised You. If Not Them, Then- The Millions, Whose Death Dawned On Them, Before Maturity Did. Who, Never Had The Choice Of Life, Like You Do. Who, Would Sell Their Souls, To Salvage The Light Of Another Day. The Same Life, You Choose To Erase, In an Unceremonious Way, Just Because, Someone- Did What They Did, While Others- Ignored Your Cry For Help. But, Don’t You Believe, It’s A Victory Of Those Turncoats, If You Chose To Recede, Into An Eternal Stupor, Six Feet Underneath? I Promise You, There’s More To Life, Than This.
So- On A Sorrow’d Night, When The Devil Knocks, Beckoning Your Soul, Steep’d In Tragedy, To Grace His Feast Of The Fallen. I Hope You Find The Courage, To Tell Him, That You Shall Live, To Die Another Day.
For- The Goal of Life, Is Never To Simply Cease To Exist. We’re Not Poultry, Friend. Our Value Doesn’t Begin, At Death. If You Think, You Could Do No Good Living, I Assure You, You’d Just Be Worse Off, Dead.
Now, Calm Your Heart, Know Your Worth, Cherish Your Survival, And Go Right Back To Bed.