Friday, March 17, 2017

Zlata's Diary

Zlata’s Diary is a book by Zlata Filipović; it was written by young Filipović, during the Bosnian War. Although Zlata’s Diary is often overshadowed by The Diary of a Young Girl (by Anne Frank), I believe that it is just as powerful in conveying the horrors of war and ethnic conflict. Zlata is currently 36 years old.


innocent, a drop of water in an
ocean of tar.      ensnared, vulnerable in
fear yet powerful on parchment, ink flooding
the crevices, molecules of darkness slithering
across a page, bringing light to an era

of misery. write what scares you, goes the
old motif.

write what makes your curls stand, what makes
your eyes dilate and freckles tremble. easy for
them to say when their greatest dread isn't
being crushed under mountains of cement
and hurt, praying
that someone will find them and bring them
back to life.

innocence swirls, a drift of chocolate in
a cup of coffee. you infused so much beauty
into a world that craved it, into a society
starved of positivity and delight. an alternate,
youthful perspective glimmers in your voice, a
perspective often forgotten because bombs are
louder than the cries of children. you are too

profound, too deep for a person of your size, you
showed us that privations can destroy innocence
within minutes. how discussions of fun can morph
into contemplations of life – only by turning a few
pages, feeling the air whisper as the written words
dance to our ears, caress our eyes. your power, nestled
in your diary, will never fade.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Alive

My poem 'Alive' was featured on Voices of Youth!

galaxies swirl like oceans, a spread of
glitter, waves encrusted with diamonds. we are
enmeshed in a sphere of rock hurtling through
the cosmos, unable to escape, astrophe. bits of
debris shuttling about, enough to destroy a civilization
and annihilate what we spent our lives working towards.

we revolve around an orb of heat, one lick enough
to peel away our skin, singe our hair and rid our cells
of their complexion. the waters that keep us afloat
can deprive us of breath within minutes, cascade into
our bodies and remind us that sweets can occasionally
scorch our tongue.

and yet, there is beauty. despite the fire that can burn
houses and rid flesh of soul, it ignites a flickering amber,
bestowing dead eyes with life, melting ice and letting limbs
move. the water, which suffocated noses and entered
bloody channels, can prevent desiccated lips from becoming
more dry, can help a person awaken from fatigue.
our planet, which rotates at speeds we can’t
comprehend, is at a perfect distance from the sun.

we are so lucky to be alive,

surrounded by green, blue, yellow. alive in a place
that lets us keep relationships, that lets us swallow
food, that lets us stare at the sky and tremble at
what it must feel like to have never been born.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Illusion

A world of swimming seas, mirror images
of turquoise overlapping into an ocean of deception.
Petals folding into themselves, concealing the fruit

from rays of sin and light. Wielding an umbrella
when there's never any rain, when the ground is as arid
as the inside of her mouth. Plastic origami conflates

the stars into a single entity, the throbbing heart
of the universe. Making the clouds swirl in
marshmallows, glinting the light of a weak, soft

morning. A whirlwind upsets the calmness of the
lagoon, the mirrors and shards of blue.
But there is no whirlwind. It is prettier to see

concentric swirls dominate the monotony
of an uneventful lake, to see patterns etching
themselves into a motif of beauty. Pale, uncertain

beauty. Preventing her from seeing her true
reflection--only a warped version of youthful smiles.
The lens of our eyes is cruel; creating a new one

makes the world fold into itself, brightens the hues
to glitter and dust, reality to a snide, mocking illusion. Transforms
the truth to a sphere of lies, that sinks to the bottom,

falling, falling to the base of the lagoon, underneath
a current of fabricated beauty, an illusory
world of darkness.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How Enid Blyton Inaugurated My Reading Journey

You can read my new article at The Huffington Post here!


I picked up The Twins at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton when I was around six. I remember struggling to understand the language and expressions used in England, and reading out the book in what I thought was a British accent. Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan, the youthful protagonists of the St. Clare’s series, seemed almost elderly to me. The Twins at St. Clare’s was one of my first introductions to chapter books. Even back then, I used to write a lot (mostly poems about nature and the universe, among other topics); however, reading the words of other writers wasn’t an experience I’d indulge in often. After devouring the first book, I was satisfied—and hungry. I searched my entire house until I had uncovered the other books in the series and arranged them in order on my desk. Then I sat on my bed, and read the series intermittently over the next few weeks.

I made friends I still haven’t forgotten—Hilary Wentworth, Claudine, Carlotta, and so many others. I left the world behind to join midnight feasts, watch lacrosse matches, and giggle at harmless tricks played by the girls on their French teacher.  I was entranced; I had never realized that words on a blank page could transport people to a happy, fictional world. I was exposed to almost every emotion through the St. Clare’s series: happiness, grief, malice, anger, pride, disappointment. And because of this, I was able to empathize with my peers better—whether it was the jealousy of a friend or my classmate’s dejection at losing a competition. I learned how to handle disappointment—because Blyton taught me that it would eventually get better. I learned how to string simple words into coherent sentences. I learned.

Not long after, I came across The Five Find-Outers, a series of fifteen mystery books. It took me a while to acquaint myself with these new, charismatic characters—for it was also the first time boys were being featured as protagonists in Blyton’s books. But despite my initial discomfort, and my struggle to find the last few books in libraries, I completed the series before primary school ended. The plot of each book was fairly straightforward—some crime or the other would be committed in the neighborhood of the five find-outers (which included three boys, two girls… and a dog), they would investigate (with one boy, Frederick ‘Fatty’ Trotteville, being the brainiac of the group), they’d make some friends and ‘enemies’ along the way, and would ultimately solve the mystery. They’d prove disbelieving adults wrong, and would persistently show their neighborhood that children can be as perceptive as adults, if not more. Even back then, I could resonate with that sentiment.

But my relationship with Blyton’s books didn’t end there: I read the Malory Towers series, The Adventure series, and The Famous Five books. I inhaled her style of writing; in fact, my mother would even say that my writing was reminiscent of Blyton’s style. I discovered hidden waterfalls and underground cities with The Adventure series, met young girls from the Malory Towers series whom I can still relate to. The protagonist of the latter series, Darrell Rivers, became more and more relatable as I progressed into middle school—for she too had a younger sister and friends somewhat similar to mine. She also enjoyed learning. Nevertheless, when I started reading First Term at Malory Towers, I couldn’t understand how Darrell and her friends could be considered so young—since they were several years older than me.

Blyton introduced me to a genre of writing I had sparsely considered—fiction. Some time ago, I found a story I had written in second or third grade: about a penguin that goes time-travelling with her pet. Although the story was far removed from the plotlines of Blyton’s books, I could catch traces of language that were inspired by the dialogue of Pat O’Sullivan, Sally Hope, Elizabeth ‘Bets’ Hilton, and the rest. Blyton offered me a gentle transition from simple books to longer books—books with vivid descriptions, benign plots, and happy endings. It was all very idealistic, and nothing like the real world. But when you’re still in single digits, you’re in no hurry to escape the bubble you’ve conjured around yourself. You want to live in a world where problems can be resolved within a few pages, where innocent children can triumph over manipulative adults, where people don’t always have to have ulterior motives.

Blyton provided me with a safe world… a place where I could explore, question, hope.


A few weeks ago, I was looking straight ahead at the pile of papers, essays, and academic books on my desk. Glossy files leaned against each other, bursting with worksheets, randomly organized diagrams, and a few poems still in their initial stages. My laptop shined bright and demanding. But despite the enticing glint of a screen with work that needed to be completed, I found myself looking to my left. To my left, where I saw a small blue book. On its cover, a girl was riding a horse; and I could see the words ‘Third Year at Malory Towers’ etched on it. Smiling slightly, I picked up the book and reentered a world I had never really left. The word ‘Ambedo’ (a moment you experience for its own sake; Source: The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows) popped into my mind, and I realized that the future could wait for a second.  
        
Within minutes, I had reacquainted myself with friends I had made in primary school. I only read a few chapters—but that was enough to make me realize how much I had been craving the comforting tones of Blyton’s books. I wanted reality sprinkled with idealism and innocence, emotions deprived of chronic negativity, situations without sinister undercurrents. It was lovely to read about girls, whom I now find exceedingly young and precocious, with problems and concerns so divergent from those faced by today’s youth. I feel like pieces of those characters helped me grow during a period of important character development—the age when we’re trying to identify ourselves as individuals, but are unsure of how to do so.

While rummaging through old boxes and shelves, I found the rest of the St. Clare’s and Malory Towers series, as well as a few books of the Adventure and Mystery series. I doubt that I’ll find the time to read all of them. But that said, it’s comforting to know that there’ll always be a way for me to meet the person I was all those years ago.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sonder

My poem was recently published in Issue 2 of Sugar Rascals!


Sonder (n). the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own

a crowded, rambling street, beggars with
blood-stained beards and trembling children
with snot-encrusted fingers reaching
out for ten rupees. heart blooming with pity,
i plunge my fingers into my back pockets, hoping
that i just bought them a meal. a girl
with gleaming hair and a car bends over
the steering wheel, while girls with babies slung
over their necks peer in, tapping
the tinted windows. showing a malnourished baby
barely conscious, puckered lips and bones poking out
of scabbing skin. they curse when the window doesn’t
open, when a manicured knuckle doesn’t reach out,
resist the temptation to pelt that sleazy vehicle with rocks
and watch bits fall off in a bloody skirmish.
Earlier that week, she had watched her father lose
his lifelong battle, her sister run out of tears and be left
with nothing more than a weary sigh. but they didn’t
know, to them she was an overfed, slinky brat enmeshed in the
trappings of luxury. she steps out of the car five hours later,
sees yolk trickling down its sides, the back window
smashed into splinters, silver scratches against the
vibrant pink backdrop. she knows that the universe
is conspiring against her, tries to kill herself. the
atmosphere is infused with hate. sonder is a
beautiful word.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Anthology

i. Four Years Old

she rides a bicycle, the strange whirring
of wheels a premonition. bits of stone
flicker off the pavement, sounding like the
tapping of wicked fingers on a window. afraid
that if she rides too fast, she’ll never be able
to      stop. the chain may snap, glide through
the air, the wheels may unhinge and tumble
down a slope that doesn’t exist. she speaks in

‘what if’, of criminals that may pillage through
her house or rotten grapes that fall down the
wrong canal. of a car whose driver suffused his
blood with  liquor, who may drive at the
intersection where someone she loves drinks
coffee and checks her phone. walks slowly,
cautiously, avoids         corners that could
puncture her skin, make a viscous red liquid

ooze out. has to be told that jellyfish don’t
sting every baby splashing at the edge of a sea,
that restaurants do not sprinkle hate on her
spaghetti, that although the world is a perilous
place — maybe people die of old    age.


ii.  Eight Years Old

friends who go on stage and read out poems
to an audience of people who don’t care. her
poems still confined to a diary wrapped in black
paper, that she can scarcely      whisper about.
poems about brackish water, sickly incantations,
the definition of friction. is it wrong that she
hates poems about the vicissitudes of life? or is
it just because she knows       and fears them?


iii. Twelve Years Old

lacquered light spills through the windows, a
tight cage of sunshine. schoolbus wheels follow a
specific rhythm, soft curtains waver every now
and then, welcome soft slivers of golden glow. she
peeks out from the gap, sees a girl her age holding
a wailing baby against her      chest. rags that adorn
her skinny frame, bones of matchsticks and eyes of
hunger. watches a driver slap her away, hears the

baby’s moans         amplify. the red light shifts
colors, the wheels turn and crunch the gravel. goes
home, refuses cake and swallows   week-old
bread. refuses the pitcher of orange juice,
forces down half a tumbler of water. wears torn
clothes to a party where other girls don sequined
heels and fluorescent        headbands. closes her
eyes, prays that the baby is alive. that she has a

mother she can lean on.
that the world is nicer to people who don’t have the
luxury of controlling their      lives.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ambedo

Ambedo (n). a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details (Source: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)


it is early morning, the sky
is a mild pink, infused with trickles
of gold that crawl from the horizon. 
wispy clouds consume the sky,
like feathers of silvery cotton. the streets
are empty, the silence paves way 
for the music of the birds. the air smells fresh, 
free of the columns of smoke that sully 
it during the day. the breeze is gentle,
invigorating on my waking skin, ushering me 
into the realm of full consciousness. 
it is going to be a beautiful day.

it is nearing midnight. stars are sprinkled 
across the sky, easily ignored in the 
presence of the full moon. my ears catch 
the hooting of a concealed owl and the 
muffled voices of neighbors. I smell the 
remnants of smoke. The air is still 
and warm on my features, slowly 
lulling me into sleep.

at least these sensory feasts are noticed from
time to time; especially when ensnared in
melancholic ruminations. a lack of momentary
happiness can lead to beautiful
sensations.