Deceptive

Tiny though a cat—
shocks the unwitting stroker,
as does mustard seed.

Says a box of instant coffee

Delicious.
Made in Australia
with ingredients from multiple origins.
Low fat,
with Australian oats;
stabiliser—
cappuccino.
We appreciate your comments,
freecall,
Enjoy!
Serving,
empty contents into your favourite cup,
pour in hot, but not boiling water,
stir well.
Please dispose of thoughtfully—
not for individual sale.
Please recycle—
see bottom of pack:
plant based cafe classics—
this packaging is not recyclable.
May be, present,
for lovers of coffee.

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.

Let's just get out of the way

At least ninety percent of the people I interact with daily involve themselves—and boast about it—in some sort of activism against governments’ inaction on climate change. Until as recently as a couple of months ago, people rallied in closed spaces, furiously discussing the endless possibilities of rallying outdoors, with cheeky signboards and stern yells at authority. It feeds their ego—makes them feel like angry mothers, with a hand on the hip, waving a finger at their uncontrollable toddler.

Now though, with the world gradually going into an impending lockdown, I haven’t seen any of these cluster bombs around me. 

Instead of halting traffic and playing their own part in increasing the excess gas pumped into the air as drivers clutched their gears, revving engines, instead of yelling at the top of their voices, as if that’d make global leaders care more, and introducing unnecessary noise pollution in otherwise, quiet streets, instead of wasting everyone’s time just to make themselves feel better as if they’ve achieved something, these non-violent protestors are now in their homes.

Socially distancing themselves from each other, but still unsure what that means, some gather in smaller groups, in each others’ living rooms, to chat about the world and despair at having to cancel protests.

In the meantime, though, the earth has just woken up. 

Remember, the first time you let an ant crawl on your hand, how mesmerised you were at its tinyness? How you allowed it to wander up and down from your elbow and knuckles, smiling at its worthless, feeble life at how easily you could crush it? It’s a wonderful experience—to watch an ant strut. Until—it starts to tingle your arm hair, and you feel the ant moving, you sense it more acutely, and soon, you can’t help yourself but smack it or slash it away. The fascinating creature becomes a pest, and like a dog ridding itself of a flea around its ear, you shake it off. 

We’re the earth’s ants. We’ve scratched her too long—and now she’s shaking us away.

As we crouch away from all contact, hide in the confines of our own couches, life as we’ve never known it, is returning to its original state. Look at Italy, for instance. 

Venice, a travel destination for many, was always too small to treat all the greedy tourists of the world. As a result, it’s faltered under the weight of human pollution. With the country in lockdown, however, because of you-know-what, the waters of Venice are clearer than ever before. Without any humans around, swans and fish rejoice because they can finally breathe the oxygen in those waters.

How sad is that?

The planet’s fine, mate. It’s the people who’re fucked.

Of women’s safety

The 4th of March is national safety day in India, and my concerned Indian employer emailed all employees about being safe in the workplace and society in general. It’s a tradition. Every day for an entire week, we get an email discussing a specific theme.

To commemorate International women’s day a couple of days ago, the email that day spoke about women’s safety and best practices.

Of the many bullet points, one stuck out weird, like a sore thumb, reminding me of the sore safety situation that’s an issue across the world, and specifically rampant in certain places like India.

“Don’t get into a vehicle that has more than one man seated in it.”

Not obeying that piece of advice is a recipe for disaster. Or so people think. Hence the warning. 

However, heeding that warning is an even even bigger problem.

Telling a woman to stay away from an enclosed space that has two or more men is stupid. The world is half men. At any given time and place, there’re more than a handful of men in a gathering. If women avoid being in the vicinity of men just because they’re men, that only shows how poorly we think of our men.

And when we think poorly of men, we, in turn, think poorly of the women who raised and influenced those men.

In a convoluted, indirect way, telling a woman to stay away from menfolk’s presence is like asking a woman to lock herself in her room. That’s limiting a woman’s ability to be herself, to be an active participant in society’s everyday activities.

Coming from an Indian background, I’ve seen and, more often, heard about women bartered off in the name of marriage. As if they’re incapable of thinking and speaking for themselves. When fathers and husbands, concerned about the safety of “their” women, tell—or even subject—them to stay at home thinking that it’s best for them, those men miss the whole point about equality and freedom for all. Sure, they’re worried about safety in the streets after hours. They’re terrified of what’ll happen if their daughter’s the only passenger on a bus at 11 pm. They’re so focussed on preventing bad things from happening that they often overlook the cause of that in the first place. 

You see, we always insist on avoiding trouble, but in the process, we avoid identifying the real trouble.

A woman sharing a cab with three other male colleagues isn’t a problem. The problem is our mindset that men are so low that they only need a small chance to become violent towards women. In a way, we’ve created a culture that treats men not as fully-functioning, even wise, humans, but as mindless animals that’ll attack the moment their prey slacks. 

The saddest part? Most people don’t look twice at these warnings. Or even spend a minute to wonder how it impacts the minds of our future generations. Tell a young mother she should avoid densely populated male areas, and she’ll automatically transfer that fear onto her daughter. As for her son? He’ll grow up forever terrified of the women who treat men as aliens.

It’s such a vicious cycle.