One day

A great monument of our time
pictured vague in historical texts
an obligation as a child in school
who called the third world home
a land far away from the others
living life unheard of and ignored
a curious kid in skirt and shoes
with wide eyes, wondering mind
learning from cheap illustrations
and hoping, one day, of seeing
the greatest of all architecture
towering proof of bygone culture

gushing back are those memories
as I see the tower crumble, again
its flying buttresses doubling over
losing strength of years conserved
trembling, tumbles the great spire
with it does all dreams of one day

One over the other 

When I think of layers, I think cold afternoons, coffee, and cookies. Layers always revolve around comfort and food. And no one combines them better than the Americans.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

honesty

From primary school to middle and even in high school, we’ve vouched for honesty countless times. It’s embedded in our heads even without our consent.

But we also know they’re just empty words.How honest could we sound about being honest when we know so well that it would squash us? It’s how life is. Nowadays, no one can be honest and have a peaceful life at the same time.

How honest could we sound about being honest when we know so well that it would squash us? It’s how life is. Nowadays, no one can be honest and have a peaceful life at the same time.

Because once you realise the truth leads to misery, you wouldn’t want to take that route.

It starts small, like students telling their parents they finished homework, when they hadn’t. It’s so common that it’s not even breaking the being honest rule. Besides, telling the truth is too much trouble to deal with.

Likewise, a self-respecting adult wouldn’t walk up to a cop and declare they’ve hidden a stash in their car. You can’t do that and expect the law to let you go — just because you were honest.

Or perhaps this: “Honey, you look hideous. But I love you.” That’s a good punch line. And in the current state of our society, the guy may be charged with body shaming and sexism as well.

Being truthful is painful. And as humans, we try to avoid it. So much so that we don’t even feel guilty of being dishonest anymore. Why bother? It’s not as if there’s a SWAT team outside a thirteen-year old’s door sniffing for a whiff of beer.

It’s easier to hide the wrong stuff.

And we’ve landed an intolerable society because we chose the easy way rather than the right way.

For far too long, we’ve been telling children to be honest, without teaching them how. From the small things like forgetting to get the report card signed, to bigger things like forgetting to pay the taxes, it’s all about honesty — or the lack of it.

We’ve said it too many times. As a result, we nullified the meaning of it. Like when Mark Antony called Brutus an honourable man. By the end of that speech, no one thought Brutus honourable.

It’s no different with honesty. What was once a moral became a proverb, and is now a cliché. And we avoid clichés like the plague.

The government doesn’t go through every individual’s tax payments. The police don’t scour every college dorm for narcotics. And there’s no FBI breaking down doors looking for illegal weapon holders.

We shouldn’t enforce honesty but introduce it early.

We don’t need teachers reading out to students from a book that says, “Honesty is the best policy”. What we need, instead, is for them to explain the truth and the reality of facing consequences.

It’s That Day Again

Last day of the month. And we all know what that means.

A month-long they spend toiling. Shuffling into the office each morning, hatred oozing from a not-so-cheery hello and the compulsion to work.

Every dying ember of a Friday afternoon would feel like the beginning of a carnival. And Sunday evenings, a dousing of spirits.

They bear it all because there comes a day — the last day of the month — when they would make up for all they’ve lost. A day to give money away to an unknown face behind computer screens and cash counters. A face, though smiles, relies on secret one-time passwords to check they aren’t cheats.

All that to acquire material stuff.

“A hat with a lion on it! I so need it to show off to my friends.”

“That grey converse looks good. I could alternate it with my blue and black ones.”

“Wow, I have a shirt that’d go so well with that scarf.”

“It’s almost December, shouldn’t I get a new pair of gloves? My old ones are…old.”

“He got a phone and I need to get at least a new cover for mine.”

For the next two days, shopping malls and online sites will flood with young people. They’d spend hard-earned remuneration on flip flops designed like Mickey Mouse.

red-carpet

And as they surf stall after stall, retailers stalk them with delightful deals. Buy one and get something free. Ah, yes! I’ll take a pair of designer shoes, please. And a cake of soap to go with that. It’s good it’s free. I need that soap because I can’t get it elsewhere.

And since they bought something and got something free with that, they get another offer: Shop for more than 5 percent of your income and get 2 percent off!

Well, why the hell not?

At the end of the day, spending all that money makes them feel so much secure and good about themselves. If that’s what it takes to take on Monday at the work, then so be it.

A Choice for Life

choice-for-life

Three years ago, I completed my schooling. I was ready to start spending my life writing away. I walked in to interview for an internship knowing I knew enough to crack it. And then came the question.“What do you want to do with your life?”

“What do you want to do with your life?”

It seemed obvious to me. After all, I had chosen to write and I interviewing for a writing job. Why then would they ask me what I want to do with my life? Not understanding what the world hurled at my face, I stifled my mirth at her question. But someone had to think straight and my interviewer and potential teammate worried I was throwing my life away.

“I want to write.”

And if there’s anything scarier than saying it, it’s doing what I said.

Writing, like art, is a hobby. No one believed I could do that for a living. It couldn’t be a career choice. At least not one that pays well. Most people I know who write, also have a day job that’s not writing.

They write when they can, they say. And that means they’d write something sometime in between 9 hours of work each day, 3 hours of Blacklist reruns, and a weekend filled with booze and buzz.

Still, when I said I wanted to write, I had no idea what that meant to me in the long run. And sure enough, my interviewer knew I didn’t. She tried to save me, help me see sense, and chase me off to get a degree in something I could fall back to when things turned nasty.

My family and friends couldn’t agree more. Almost everyone was certain my choice would go bad. I wasn’t too confident either. When negativity encapsulates you, knocking the breath off your ribs, you can’t help but give in. And so I told my father it would be temporary. Six to eight months — it was just an internship anyway. I’d soon know my standard and could go back to the typical career timeline of college after school.

I hated my first day at work. People were cold.

I was nineteen in a city too big for me to grasp, and worried I was too fat. My doctor had advised me to lose weight and my family to lose my job.

For my first assignment, I wrote a bunch of articles. My teammates suggested we print them out and mark the parts I should rework on. They ended up underlining almost all of my work. Except, perhaps, a few ands and ors.

I was furious. I had put my soul into words and an unknown person swept them all away as if they were flies on his cheese. He had no idea how long I sat in one place, stringing words together in proper grammar and (almost) precise punctuation.

No one had any right, whatsoever, to meddle with my writing. I had been writing personal blogs for two years before I started working. I had experience, and it annoyed me when they treated me as a novice.

According to them, everything I wrote was crap.

It took me more than 6 months to feel better about myself. They still pointed out faults in my work, but I had grown to enjoy talking about it. After I’d been around for a while, my colleagues were open to sharing their opinions, and I was open to listening. They helped me work out strategies, they gave me ideas, and I realised that no two people read a sentence the same way.

That was a revelation. I saw the marvels of varying perspectives and unintended interpretations. While some thought it was fine to end with prepositions, some people abhorred the idea. And as always, the Oxford comma sparked discussions that transitioned from face-to-face debates to chat messages well into the night. Some chose the Chicago manual style over the AP style guide. And some others just ignored everything passive.
And then I saw it: What’s crap for one person isn’t so for another.

Everything came down to perspectives. I had chosen a career that was so unstable and wavering that even industry specialists had made peace with their disagreements.
And while I sunk neck-deep in learning the nuances of a semicolon and wondering if I should use words like “nuances,” my internship ended and I became an official employee.
The city felt old now, and I no longer was nineteen or fat.

But my father remembered my promise and began nagging me. My life seemed fine at the moment but I should have something to fall back to — when things turn nasty. They wanted me to get a degree for a career I could live on.

For some weird reason, my family didn’t think I was already living. They acted as if all I had done was extend my internship. And so to please them — to get them off my back, rather — I signed up for a course in literature.

It seemed like the right thing to do. I wanted to write, and what’s more natural for a writer to study than good writing itself?

I thought myself mature, but I had been naive about the quality of our education system. It didn’t take me long to realise it was a waste of my time. My parents, however, were hell bent on getting me through the course.

As a result, my degree in literature killed my passion for conventional literary education. And in the process, it convinced me further that a piece of paper stamping me qualified for employment is just society’s way of circulating money.

It got me thinking. According to my society, a career in arts isn’t worth pursuing because there’s no future in it. As for Engineering, medicine, and now MBA — they are future-proof courses. Plus, they have a heavy “return on investment”. Nowadays people only speak in economic jargon because life’s all about what pays you well.

It’s funny because people are passionate when talking about Italian art museums and French sculptures, and how we should protect ours as well. But they also discourage any child who puts a brush or a pen to paper.

Alas, I’m not immune to the rest of the world and its changing fancies.

From my parents who think I’m in ruins and relatives who claim to love me, to people I called my closest friends, everyone’s told me I need a backup plan—any plan beyond my stigma for writing.

However, when people ask me what I want to do with my life, I still say the same thing: “I want to write”. I began as a content writer, and three years later, I’ve morphed into a content marketer. And that gives me hope. I may not become the greatest novelist the world has ever seen, but I’ve been writing.

Sure, life hasn’t been as perfumed roses. I’ve written plenty of poor prose and pathetic poems. But every time I sit down on a mission to tether words to meaning, and meaning to sentences, I feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. And I realise: There’s a good chance I’d never become a published author.

There are countless writers out there with a passion for words and parents with money. And I see myself scavenging my purse for coins at the end of every month. My family could be right, and life may turn nasty; I never can be sure it won’t.

Nevertheless, one thing I’m sure of — as long as my lungs can hold air, I will write.


Cross-posting from my Medium blog.