Poems, Thoughts

Feeling human

I feel closer
to my existence now
but I wonder how
I was last time when
I could barely
remember myself
feeling human

— Parveen Maghera

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Poems, Thoughts

An..xiety

What is going to happen, the inner voice asks, and another jumps in almost immediately and uncaringly with the message of doom. The chest feels heavy, and the throat is clogged. And when incessant biting of the lip follows, you know that only you can tell yourself that all will be fine, because only you know what anxiety feels like, when it comes to you.

– Parveen Maghera

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Poems, Thoughts

Pressing On

I’m only waiting for the moment when life gets better, back to its normalcy, but normalcy has left us long ago, buried in the past. Then, all I need is strength to bring this life out of its dark shadows, to make it work with all the irreversible changes. And I’m persisting because I choose to believe in You.

– Parveen Maghera 

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Poems, Stories, Thoughts

Pastiche of Fabrics

I had always thought this world was beautiful… wait, it has always been… but what kind of beautiful world it is when people act like they understand us when they actually don’t? What happens when this form of false understanding becomes the basis of our relationships with people, even the closest ones like our families? When we say, “I completely understand”, do we… really? Our experiences are personal and can only be understood by us. The articulation of our own experiences are just mere representations. The use of the language binds us to an arbitrary system of squiggles, strokes, marks and random sounds to explain our feelings of pain, happiness, sadness, anger, confusion, jealousy and anxiety. How can just a word like “anxiety” encapsulate the understanding of how anxious I am feeling? Even if you experienced anxiety, how can you understand my anxiety when I experience it completely different from yours? The reality we live in are like a pastiche of fabrics made up of these misunderstandings that we believe to be true. But no one complains, because they were never destructive to begin with. What is the reality of humans then? We humans yearn for companionship, love and connection. We are social beings. No matter how much we want to be left alone, our minds seek for conversations, like how we speak to ourselves when deciding on what to eat for dinner. Loneliness is hurting. You listening to my rant even when I know you don’t identify with my experiences is liberating. And I think this is what makes life beautiful because we humans try our best in our struggles, love, hate, differences, frustration and stress to sew humanity together. Our unity is never innate. We are stitched together by the threads of humanity that loop our lives into the social fabric that we react to everyday.

This effort is beautiful.

Humanity is beautiful.

– Parveen Maghera

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Poems

life imprisonment

I. 

My eyes
chilli pepper red
like the dupatta[1] above me
bordered with a line of tinkling gold bells
amplified in my mind like a wake-up call
the reality of the death of humanity
last night’s pillow-hugging
choking screams still stuck
in my throat
soft cushions beneath my lids
are filled with anguish waiting to explode
into a waterfall down the blank canvas of
my face, but I need to prepare
for today.

No concealer or foundation
to cake the pain during the tael[2]
my blurred vision dart from
one coloured chunni to the next
uncomfortable hues of
pink, green, purple, blue, red
a congregation of docile bodies
like those powders in the diamond-shaped
rangoli[3] on the floor
of inconsistent pigments
forced into a motif by women
whose creativity reeks only patriarchy
because our dignity is tied
to even the thoughts in our minds
my life is just black and white.

The aunties are inspecting
my loose Punjabi suit
akin to the concentrated turmeric paste
in that steel bowl on the thali[4]
in my mother’s hands
she fabricates a smile
oh, of course, I know
peeri ‘teh beth[5], she says
in a surprisingly peaceful tone
like a tamed lioness
a sly fox
performing a facade
waiting to roar
she says her poor girl is so sad to leave her home
while clawing at my arm
the beast unleashes again.

She pushes me down onto the stool
my feet lay calmly on the fatti[6]
a meek object of aggression
re-enacted
one by one
the aunties come forward
rubbing their yellow-stained fingers
violently on my arms, calves, neck
my body gives in
finally
to the many pairs of cold-hearted hands
who have murdered several girls
the same way
rocking in momentum
on our passage to hell.

With the smell of mustard and yoghurt
in my hair, the house stinks of the
same odour of distaste
but the tongues of women
are clasped shut
chained up by izzat[7]
but the tangles are invisible
a fancy term for surveillance
one wrong mistake
is a catastrophe
a tsunami and a hurricane
tearing down buildings
of love, emotion and dignity
because of our loss of shame.

II.

The dupatta cocoons around
my drenched hair and amber arms
I cuddle within myself
into the darkness of the overfold
baby tears flow from red eyes
but it’s the bride’s last day at home
they’ll say as they escort me
to the ritual bath
I cry like my first day in Kinder
on my last day
at home.

Water pours
and a yellow pool of innocence
washes down the drain
my face glows of despondence
fair and unlovely
the dholki[8] picks up louder
off tune boliyaan[9] ringing
blood in my ears
of old granny voices
like funeral prayers
crying happiness in the death
of the daughter.

Musky floral scent
with a tinge of earth
rise from my palms to my nose
Persian boteh, Bengali kalka, Punjabi ambi[10]
nestled in between intricacies of rosettes and palmettes
my eyes are lost in its pseudo-perfection
unreal but convincing
I bear the weight of beautiful green-brown art
as they become
strangulating webs of maroon
when night falls in dried flakes
impermanence begins to scar my life.

In her lengha[11]
she swings in circles
with the gaggar[12] above her head
candles melt in unfathomable speed
of hot wax that trickle down
smoothly against clay
unseen like the anger in me
hidden behind red eyes
wake up, it’s the night of singing and dancing
wake up, it’s the last night of lifelong misery
your burden shall be lifted soon.

III.

Weighed down by
the veil of hot rage
burning red from each piece of fabric
that shrouds my battered skin
noosed by yellow sapphire and gemstones
while diamonds dot along the red and white
shackles obscuring hesitation wounds on frail wrists
umbrella-shaped gold and rhinestones
dangle from the glass like a false hope of wealth and prosperity
the door opens with a summon
the gallows await my arrival.

I walk down
the blood-carpeted aisle
prisoned by torturing scrutiny
of surveillance
like guardians of obedience
locking me into my pace
down to the hunched man
who cares less of his crumpled
sherwani[13] but more of my virginity
a false pretense of his matching dastaar[14]
caressing his black-dyed moustache
in his pride of manhood.

Bowing down to the Holy Guru
one last wish as the gurbani[15] echoes
around the darbaar[16]
I sit cross-legged next to him
like a beautiful slave
his precious possession after
my father forces the palaa[17]
into my palm
giving consent
to our bond against
my will
again.

And it begins
Soohi Mehala Choutha[18]
my heart pierces
as we stand up for
the four laavaan[19] that chant
in the heavenly voice of
the priest that serenades
and seduces me to follow
the stranger
to the paradise
of hell.

We take the first
round of false commitment
to unify
a soul, the second
to shrink the love into
a compromise, the third
to enforce my devotion for
a stranger, the fourth
to make us
(desperate) man
and (unwilling) wife.

With five handful of rice over my head

i

surre…

surren…der

again.

– Parveen Maghera

 

Glossary:

[1] An Indian scarf. (Also same for chunni)
[2] Oil ceremony as a pre-wedding ritual
[3] Multicoloured patterned motif designed on the floor with coloured  rice, powder or flower petals
[4] Round steel platter
[5] Peeri refers to a short stool; “Sit on the stool”
[6] A rectangular piece of wood placed in between the rangoli and peeri. Bride/groom must have their feet on the wood during the ceremony. A wooden ruler, often used as an alternative, can also be used as a fatti.
[7] Loosely translated to “honour”
[8] Two-headed percussion drum
[9] Traditional Punjabi couplets
[10] Different cultural names to the English term, Paisley, which is a droplet-shape vegetable motif of Persian origin.
[11] Long flowing skirt
[12] Pot of candles carried above the head
[13] Long coat-like garment, often embroidered, worn by men
[14] Sikh turban
[15] Verses from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib
[16] Prayer hall
[17] Groom’s shawl that hangs from his right shoulder. He holds one end while the other is held by the bride.
[18] Set of wedding verses in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib
[19] Wedding rounds around the altar

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