I can’t breathe

Imagine your child saying that. Or your mother. Or the sibling you used to hate every day of your childhood. Imagine… that loved one, the one you care most about, the one who cares about you even more than their declining health, the one that stood beside you during the toughest of times, holding your hand. Imagine watching them struggle to breathe.

It’s torture, even to imagine it.

And yet, again and again, our world watches on, blind to everything but their own matters, as so many loved ones fight to breathe. 

Police kills black man, the news reads. Instantly, a nation rises, machetes and sign boards in hand, taking to the streets, furious yet cautious—standing a feet from each other with masks intact, their voices loud nevertheless. America is used to black protestors, and the rest of the world is used to dropping jaws as the massive nation that parades itself as great and democratic, brings to its knees, any violence not instigated from within its safe harbour of authority.

This week, once again, we witness the nation that can’t stop talking about itself, the nation that forever holds the top spot in global news, grapple with the hard reality of its citizens chocking in its own hypocrisy. And once again, we slap our hands on our foreheads, shaking heads, covering our mouths in horror as we watch cars running people over, rubber bullets piercing eyeballs, and Starbucks outlets swallowing flames. 

Despite all of this, though, somehow, we know that this isn’t the first or last time we’ll see devastation at such a large scale. Everywhere on this great floating earth is the same challenge as in America. In different levels under different names, yes, but there’s almost no one country that’s treating its diversity with the respect it deserves. 

After all, if there’s one thing that all of humankind does best, it’s to pretend that colonisation never happened. I mean, it’s not just the people who can’t breathe—it’s also our earth and the hundreds of species on the brink of extinction.

Nightwalkers

I was awake all night
comforter failing to deliver
air streams crashing 
bashing on my window
forcing theirselves upon it
as lawmakers, 
shoving on cars
petty thieves—only harsher.

Resilient stood the glass
barring entry, the faithful dog
shielding striking shards
from breaking 
entering, shattering
life, like a terrorist mob
while I crumbled
cold feet, in fear.

Unforgiving, it knocked on
knocking down swaying barks
snapping lives like beans
stranger in the night
estranged from the soul
in menacing hatred
blowing out hope
guns bellow in the street.

I protest

Nowadays, it’s ever so common to see crowds gathering in front of government houses, with upheld banners and raised voices, protesting. It doesn’t matter what for—policies, opinions, misspoken words, misspellings on social media—why, some people even oppose the existence of other people. Regardless of the “why” of these protests, almost every rally I’ve seen and heard of has a similar streak: violence. In its core, whenever anyone disagrees or rebels, they use harsh and violent behaviour to make themselves seen and heard.

Of course, in recent years, silent, un-violent, and fasting protests are becoming more desirable. But even today, all the marches and show of disagreement contain angry outbursts, name-calling, and plain spite. What’s sad, though, is that just as a self-fulfilling prophecy, these violent protests get more attention than the others. Even though our generation understands and even professes the effectiveness of the pen over the sword, the influence of weapons in conflicting opinions is far too significant to ignore.

That’s why it feels amazing to come across a different form of protest. Both in movies and real life, we’ve seen governments cutting off funds to public welfare systems like health care programmes, transport services, and university courses. Each time it happens, the government—factual or fictional—faces large mobs of angry citizens, swearing through megaphones and wasting fuel on stick figures and flags.

But then I saw this:

Canberra Museum and Gallery - 1

It’s a necklace. It’s also a sign of protest. When the state government of Canberra (Australian Capital Territory) cut off funds to the National Institute of Arts, teachers and Canberra sponsors together presented this necklace to the Chief Minister at the time, Kate Carnell, as a sign of their protest. What’s unique about it though is that each metal link in the necklace has a tag with the name of a sponsor. So each piece resembles a protestor, and together it makes a neckband for the chief minister of the then ACT.

No hate speech, no blood, an no fasting to death. What a daring rebellion! And what a beautiful necklace it is too—when you take away the historical value, that is one marvellous piece of accessory, won’t you say?

Canberra Museum and Gallery - 2

It made me stop and think about how much has changed in the way we fight for our convictions. Of course, we should stand up for what we believe in, but when our fight costs innocent people their peace, patience, or worse, life, then what good does our conviction do?

The necklace is on display at the Canberra Museum and Gallery. If you’re in the area, stop by and pay a visit—it sure is worth looking at.

What if—?

Institutions and rules keep us in check, and tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. Without a religious belief watching over us we’d run amok with madness.

But what if we wake up one day having no memory of a god or religion? What if they never existed?

Well, we won’t have violence in the name of god, for sure. People will be fighting because they’re hungry.

We won’t have loud bells claiming to wake the lord, and waking up the whole street instead.

Men won’t need wear saffron dhotis for three months in the year. Imagine not living in a neighbourhood where the men are all clad in eye-numbing orange every day.

And women won’t have to cover their heads every time they go out. Hats will become a lifestyle choice. And I can wear a scarf to without being called out.

Oh, and we won’t have discrimination in the name of godmen. Sadthus and gurus will be out of business. Holiness would mean… nothing.

Footwear will become comfort, and people won’t torture themselves in the name of devotion.

Flowers will bloom and fade away, intact in plants. Slaughtered meat and alcohol won’t be part of a traditional offering—just Thanksgiving dinners. Or brunch.

Piercings will be a hippie thing—not a god thing.

What if we told the whole world that god and religion don’t exist?

Well, people just might go crazy.

Beware

Her first day of school—

of bearing books, pencils, hopes

and premonition