September 22, 2018


The stage is ready, I play my part
Exit-stage left, I then depart 
But the show isn’t over 
Not yet; it has only begun 
For that narrow alley, I have to cross
To head home alone, an albatross
In unsafe times like these
Even for a woman with nerves of steel 
It feels no less than an ordeal
To walk the streets alone 
The moon is frightened, the path is dark
The fear in my head and heart is stark
As I clutch my bag and clench my fist
They surround me in a drunken twist
Slurred speech armed with lusty gaze
Shocked to see me still unfazed
Unaware that the beast within them 
Has provoked the Goddess inside me
With pepper spray in my stead 
And fury blazing in my head
I open fire from my veins
The curtain rises yet again
This time though of an apartment window
A little girl sees them blinded
Screaming in pain, running amok
Panic-stricken in a state of shock
By the will of Durga, the wrath of Kali
The girl smiles at me; an inspiration
The desired end to the scary tales
That her grandma would often regale
Of how girls shouldn't clothe, too short too tight
Or walk around late at night
Of how they must hang their head in shame
And when teased or bullied, take the blame
The girl, her eyes shining bright 
Smiles at me for putting up a fight
And from that highrise building, 15th floor 
Through the curtain drawn open window
I receive
My first standing ovation

~ Priyanka Naik

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September 18, 2018

#FlashFiction: 'Always'

It was a cloudy September morning. The street was full of noises; birds twittering, cars honking, hawkers trying to sell their wares.
Inside the house, Anjali had cried herself to sleep once again.
Ten years had passed but she still spent nights stark awake, yearning to hear his voice.

“September ninth will always be lucky for me,” he’d say to her, each time worded a little more lovingly.
“Why? What’s so special about it?” she’d ask in mock innocence, knowing fully well what he’d reply but wanting to hear it anyway.
“Well, the person I love most in the world was born that day.
Anjali would never tire of hearing these words.

That day too, he was on board talking to her when it happened. “Happy birthday, sweetheart. “
“How I wish you were here with me,” she’d said.
“I am always around you even when I cannot be,” he’d replied.
“That doesn’t even make sense,”  she had scowled. He had laughed, making her blush even through the miles between them.

But even before she knew it, the laugh in his voice had panic.
Then confusion.
And the phone had gone blank!

Anjali’s eyes flew open. Life had been a recurring nightmare since the 9/11 attack ten years ago.
Today, as she mindlessly checked the birthday messages and missed calls on her phone, his voice still resonated in her if it had all happened just yesterday.

Warm tears trickled down her face as she recalled his last words.
 “I am always around you, even when I cannot be.”
 His words made perfect sense now.

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September 16, 2018

On #WorldOzoneDay

You know how in those horror flicks, the protagonist thinks the monster is killed, the evil is destroyed, and just when he least expects it, it springs up, catching him unaware?

Well, a similar horror has been happening with our planet, the monster being replaced by an equally threatening but insidious hazard waiting to kill you slowly but surely...and then all at once!

Yes, I am talking about the present state of the Ozone layer, the umbrella to the earth. 
Lets dig a little deeper, shall we?

What is the Ozone layer?
The ozone layer is a region of gas, about 15-30 kms above the surface of the Earth, in the stratosphere that acts as a shield to the Earth's surface, thus protecting us from the harmful effects of the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

What causes the umbrella to tear? 
Causes of Ozone depletion
There are certain compounds called CFC's (Chloro Fluoro Carbons) that are responsible for the destruction of the Ozone layer. These are cheap, and non-inflammable compounds used mainly in refrigerators, air-conditioners, fast food packaging etc. These CFC's rise, and accumulate in the stratosphere where they are broken down by UV light, releasing free chlorine radicals which in turn destroy the Ozone layer.

In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed by leading industrial countries as an international agreement to ban the use of these CFC's.
However, some countries like China and N Korea increased the use of CFC's, thus exposing the Earth to the hazards of Ozone depletion.

Effects of Ozone depletion

  1. Climate changes: Accumulation of tropospheric ozone and acid aerosols worsens the air pollution and causes acid rain. As a consequence, crops and forests are damaged. Depletion of the ozone layer may also cause temperature alteration and bring about changes in climate.
  2. Depletion of the Ozone layer means that this will cause increased UV-B radiation to reach the Earth's surface. This can result in direct effects on human and other forms of life.
  3. In humans, it can cause suppression of immunity, thus leading to increase in infectious diseases and less effective vaccination.
  4. Direct exposure to UV radiation can cause skin burns in under ten minutes of exposure  and may also increase the incidence of skin cancers.
  5. Eye damage: Higher incidence of cataracts and other types of blindness.
  6. Ozone depletion may also cause damage to biological links in the food chain. There would be reduced crop yield and stunted plant growth, thus affecting the food chain. Also lesser ocean planktons may result in lower fish harvest.
How can we prevent Ozone depletion?
A few measures at the individual level can help in reducing the Ozone depletion and thus saving our planet. These include:
  • Reduction in consumption of electricity - Do not forget to switch off the electrical appliances in your house after use. Avoid unnecessary wastage of electricity during festivals, parties, social gatherings etc
  • Drive less : Car pooling or using public transport whenever possible will also help to reduce the pollution caused due to vehicular exhaust and thus reduce the emission of toxic pollutants in the air.
  • Do not buy aerosol products containing CFC's Check the labels of your hair sprays, and deodorants. Avoid buying products dispensed in pressurized cans to reduce the use of these CFC's.
  • Do not use fire extinguishers that have 'halon' as the active ingredient. This chemical is responsible for ozone depletion. 
  • Choose organic farming over the use of harmful pesticides. 
  • Plant more trees. Tree planting reduces the Ozone layer damage. Trees give out oxygen and sequester carbon, thereby helping to reduce the content of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases from the air, thus causing the climate to cool (the 'greenhouse effect').
Last but not the least, spread awareness about this global problem. Promote the 'Reduce, reuse, and recycle' mantra among all those you know. Saving the planet is a combined effort. Lets do this together.

Today, on World Ozone Day, lets work towards patching that hole in our umbrella. 

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September 15, 2018

#MicroFiction: New girl in town

One small gesture was all it took to make her feel like a princess again, even in this strange new place.
Bent on one knee, he flashed her a charming dimpled smile. With a gossamer touch, he slipped the sandal onto her foot, his attention unwavering, making her feel like she was the only one in the room.

She recalled that day when a similar charmer had stirred a similar feeling inside her. But she had left that all behind. The past felt like another life...another world.
Was she falling in love all over again? Hadn’t the journey through the rabbit hole taught her anything at all? She found herself dreaming once again. This time she’d got it right.

The bubble popped only when the sales man in the shoe store scurried off to attend to another customer.
Cinderella sighed. She needed to snap out of her fairy tale hangover.

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September 10, 2018


Light a candle near the window
In memory of a life interrupted
A tear unshod, a word unspoken
For there was no one then
To understand and ask
Light a candle near the window
So history does not repeat itself
Save a life, lend a ear
Help someone overcome their fear
Extend your hand, try to reach
The tired warrior battling the darkness
inside his mind
Searching for a beam of sunshine
he cannot find
Light a candle near the window
And let your light spread out

Every forty seconds, there is a suicide happening in the world. This year, the theme for 'World Suicide Prevention Day' is 'Working together to prevent suicide'. 
Human emotions are extremely fragile and need to be handled delicately. We never know who is fighting a battle on the inside, who is struggling to survive. The signs of long term depression are not always evident and hence a more sensitized approach to the world becomes the need of the hour. Depression can hit anyone at any time. And it is only when we eliminate bias against it, that we will be able to fight this demon. 
Today, lets all promise to be more sensitive and open towards mental health and depression. 
Lets work together to prevent suicide!

Linking this post to #FridayReflections by Shalini and Corinne here , hoping that this pertinent message reaches a wider readership. We need to spread suicide awareness and prevention as far and wide as possible.

Also for the same reason, I am linking this post to the #MyFriendAlexa campaign. 
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September 09, 2018

One people, one love

I recall a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. It was somewhere in 2013, when the repeal about Section 377 was brutally rejected by the Supreme Court. As someone who had long since come out, my friend was distraught at the tyrannical nature the law had reassumed.

“It is as if we were granted a morsel of food, which was then snatched from right beneath our nose,“ he complained. “What kind of mockery is this?!”

“I understand,” I said. I wanted him to know I was empathetic about the situation.

But the moment, I said that, he turned livid.

“No, you don’t. How can you even say that?" he cried. "You’re straight. You will never understand.”
I was taken aback by the sudden outburst. I had not expected that response from him.
How dare he, I thought! I wanted to tell him it wasn’t fair, painting everybody with the same brush.
I wanted to tell him that just because some people choose to be ignorant idiots about the consensual feelings of others (which is not even their business in the first place), it did not give him the right to assume everyone had the same shitty attitude.
I wanted to yell at him for being an asshole and for insulting me, for making me feel I belong to that intellectually backward section of society, that thinks they can tell someone how to love and who to love. But I kept mum. I knew he was hurting.

I kept silent and bore the brunt of his anger. I was mad at myself for being part of a society that is ineffective in protecting someone’s constitutional rights.
I heard him fume and ramble against the injustice, all the while not daring to offer consolation of any sort because anything said at that time would seem like empty words used to placate. Why? Because like he said, I "wouldn't understand."

Cut to present day, and the Supreme Court has finally passed its verdict. Section 377 has been scraped off. And homosexuality has been decriminalized.
After 157 years.

For the uninitiated (although if you are, shame on you, but read on anyway), this law was first established during the British rule in 1931 as a law to protect against sodomy. However, slowly and gradually, everything and anything other than procreative peno-vaginal sex was considered 'against the law of nature' and started being included under this law, thereby applying a ban on freedom of expression for consensual love as well.

In 2009, however, the Delhi high court had scraped off portions of the section as constitutional with respect to gay sex. However, this was not to last. In December 2013, the case was repealed to the Supreme Court and the judgement was overturned, stating that repealing section 377 should be left to the Parliament and not the judiciary. In 2016, a petition was submitted by the Naz foundation and others to be reviewed by a five member constitutional bench.
The struggle was on. The stakes were high. The result was unpredictable.

Finally, after a a tortuous civil struggle of seven years and a social struggle of 157 years, the Supreme Court has finally passed its verdict in favor of the ban. Much fanfare and a lot of atrocities later, Section 377 was finally struck down (in the context of consensual homosexual relationships). This meant that sex between two consenting adults of the same sex will no longer be a crime. It also meant that the LGBTQ community would no longer have to be embarrassed of their identity or fear that they'd be considered a threat to society. They would now be able to enjoy an 'unbiased' health care, employment, even basic facilities like housing etc that they they had been previously denied.

(Below is a video from 'The Quint', explaining the judgement)

It was not just a win for the LGBTQ community, but a victory for every Indian who had ever dreamt of a free important step towards a truly liberated nation, free of oppression, where nobody could tell us what to eat, how to dress, or who to love.

However, for every humanist who celebrated the decision, there were three bigots who turned their noses and frowned at the idea of two people being able to express consensual love regardless of gender. While some passed preposterous comments, some transformed into the harbingers of procreation. But who cared?!! This was a massive win, a well deserved victory. And no amount of bigotry or pig-headedness could rain over the rainbow parade.

I called the same friend again yesterday, the one who said I couldn’t understand. We were in touch of course, but after that one discussion way back in 2013, there was some tension looming between us
(perhaps because he was angry at the system, and I was angry at the fact that I couldn't do much but write articles citing logical reasons to scrape off a draconian law, knowing fully well it was futile, that hate, like love, understands no logic)

Yesterday, after what felt like ages, I picked up the phone and called him. We spoke about the journey. He was elated with the verdict. I was happy for him.
And that was enough to clear the air between us. Still, I confessed that his remark had offended me and that it was not fair to make such generalized sweeping statements.

“I know, silly," he said. "You really think I would rant to you if I thought you judged me from being different,” he said.
After a second's pause, he said, "But being non-judgemental is also like being in the minority, no? Soon we might have a law against it. And it will take more than 157 years to pull that one down."

We both giggled. But I could feel the bitterness in his voice. He was right.  A constitutional change was not enough. Our society needed to change (its mindset) too.

“Change is on the way," I said. "There is hope now."
“Yes.” he sighed. "We live in hope."

We spoke for a little more, and then ended the conversation promising to keep in touch. It was only later that I noticed my cell phone was flooded with constant messages from groups that I, due to some bad karma, were still a part of despite exiting a few times. (They keep adding me back, and I keep playing dead there)
There was a hustle of activity on some otherwise dormant groups as well. Every group had one or other meme about the verdict being circulated. Most of them were in poor taste and reflected how mulish the society still was towards welcoming a constitutional change, leave alone a social one.

Would Section 377 in the minds of the public ever be scraped off?

Words of a nihilist friend from long ago crossed my mind.
"We live in hope, and die in fact."

Nevertheless, a small beam of sunlight is sometimes enough to light a room.
So here's to the eternal optimist in us. Here's to the fighter, the dreamer, the lover. Here's to the one that wishes and dreams and more importantly, believes, that  'One people, one love' will become a reality very soon...

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September 05, 2018

#MicroFiction - 'Besotted'

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

“She’s the most selfish creature I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why you love her so much.”

He laughed. His friend was trying to stuff sense into him again.

But that’s not the way love functioned. What he felt for her was unconditional.

“If I were you, I’d have thrown her out of the house already,” his friend frowned. “She does a fine job keeping you on your toes. And for what?” he paused for effect. “Does she even acknowledge the attention? No! Always acting high and mighty, the queen that she is.”

It was true. She literally owned him and there were times he felt she didn’t care at all.

“But just because they don’t love you the way you want, doesn’t mean it’s not love, no?” he reminded himself.

Even now he could feel her eyes on him from the other side of the room.  The expression on her face was smug, reserved only for those who had the liberty of living life, nine times over.

Stretching on the davenport, she stifled a bored yawn and resumed to lick her majestic Persian fur.

“Quit trying,” she hissed at the friend. “He is not going anywhere.”

Then meowing sweetly at her besotted human, she jumped in his lap for her daily dose of belly rubs, and purred authoritatively.
“Not without my permission.”

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The serene side #WordlessWednesday

Now don't you just want to jump right into this picture?
Flanked by palm trees and bathed in sun and sand, this is a slice of India's very own paradise, Goa.

Need I say any more? :)


Linking up with Esha and Natasha on #WordlessWednesday. You can check the other submissions here.

September 03, 2018

All for the best (a microstory)

Only a fool would offer a gypsy a home to live, expecting him to never leave.
And she was one!

He was always the wandering kind. Fickle as a cloud. And she, sturdy as a tree stood tall, gripping the soil below her firmly planted feet.
When she met him, her roots only grew stronger. She bloomed with self-confidence in his presence, showering him with her fragrant flowers every now and then, thinking that would make him stay.

But soon enough, she realized he wasn’t happy. The far-away look in his eyes made her sad. He wasn’t looking for safety. He wanted to walk on the edge. He didn’t care about her flowers. He was born to chase the wind.
Because gypsies did not need firmly rooted trees for company. They needed caravans that would move with them on all their adventures.

She, who always took pride in her stability, realized that sometimes consistency was not enough. Change was the only thing that could make him hers. And she was incapable of change. For what was a tree if not strong and sturdy. If it changed, it would be a tree no more.

She knew she had to let him go. They weren’t meant for each other.
He was meant to travel.
She, to stand her ground...

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Also, linking this blog post to #MondayMusings by Corinne Rodrigues of Everyday Gyaan

September 02, 2018

Blood justice (A microstory)

“This doesn’t seem like the work of a human," commented the investigating officer, wiping the beads of perspiration from his forehead.

“Haven’t heard of any wild animals in the area,” said his mate.
Both exchanged a silent stare.

They were at the scene of the crime. The victim, a seventeen year old boy, had been discharged that very evening from a remand home for juvenile delinquents. Within a couple of hours, his mangled body had been discovered in the woods behind his house, stark naked, eyeballs upturned, entrails out.

A few blocks away, a paraplegic Mrs D’Souza chortled...for the first time since her daughter had been raped to death seven months ago, in the same woods.
Justice had been finally served!

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The secret power of a wallflower #MyFriendAlexa

I have often found myself grappling with self doubt and confusion of whether I can be labelled as an extrovert or an introvert.
As much I'd like to choose the best of both worlds and call myself an ambivert, I am aware that it would be choosing this would be a safe strategy of not taking any side--the fence sitter's solution, the diplomat's trick, the escapist's attitude to evade confrontation with the truth.

So what is the truth exactly? Well, it's not always black and white you see. There is this collosal mix-up of traits within me that make it difficult to choose one side. Before you ask, let me admit. I am a Gemini. Now does that make you understand me any better? Sigh!

While I'd talk my head off on most days, there would be times when I';d want to just crawl inside my shell and hibernate for as long as I want without being questioned or disturbed. Unfortunately, those unaware of the dual nature of a typical Gemini fail to understand this extremism. Those who know I like cheese cannot understand my attraction for chalk. And hence, I am the reason of mass hysteria and confusion amongst most of my friend groups.
But as much as I'd love to make this post all about me, I won't. Well, at least I won't make it all about me.

I have observed behavioral patterns for a while now, and have made some observations, based on which I am forced to conclude that introverts have it easier than extroverts.

Surprised? Here are the reasons why I think so...
1) Once identified and acknowledged, an introvert can slip in his/her comfort zone, and sit quietly judging people all he/she wants. As opposed to the extrovert who cannot enjoy the luxury of solitude without people wondering why he/she is behaving so abnormally silent?

2) When it comes to introverts, brevity of words is taken for introspection, retrospection, gyaan-yoga, meditation etc. He is labelled 'thinker' without even needing to be one. An extrovert however needs to be constantly on his toes, generating new ideas and thoughts. All this for the price of being called an 'entertainer'.

3) An introvert can say 'No' to parties, coffee conversation, dates, dinners, without upsetting anyone or hurting their feelings (because c'mon, that is what introverts are expected to do). An extrovert, on the other hand, on saying no is bound to have all ties broken for the next seven lives (because then it's not about them, it's about you.)

4) It is common myth and a popular assumption that introverts tend to be better listeners. (But I think this is an extremely unfair bias.)

5) An introvert changing into an extrovert is usually taken as a pleasant surprise, while an extrovert turning into an introvert, as a rude shock.

6) Introverts generally tend to be more self-reliant. As a consequence, they are exceptionally good at DIY skills due to their aversion towards group interaction.

So the nest time you think you are better than that person sitting quietly in a corner, nursing a coffee or reading a book (basically minding his/her own business), don't allow yourself, not even for a second, to feel all socially superior.
Sometimes the soul shattering silence of an introvert is much more eloquent than the blood curdling scream of an extrovert.

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