Tuesday, July 29, 2014


After a day-long discussion on race, we were asked to find a partner and write a dialogue-poem that would describe our feelings through the day at Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED).

Under the influence of Jazz and our laidback-ness, Bornunderstanding Allah, my friend from SEED, and I came up with our super short, quick, humorous-but-intense piece, “Colors”. Now, if you can’t locate either the humor or the intensity or both, you are missing the point. And you are not to be blamed. After all, race has not remained obvious and many people do miss the point, more often than not, in conversations around it. So here it goes!

Twenty Six years,
I have been a person of color.

Twenty Six hours,
I have been a person of color.

My car is white,
My T-shirt is red.
The thought of color and identity
Never came to my head.

Pink is my T-shirt,
Blue is my jeans.
Red is for some anger,
White for some peace.

Black is my color,
When I’m stripped naked.

Brown is my color,
When I’m stripped naked.

If we have all the colors,
What do you have?

Inspired by the poem coloured.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Castro

As the SEED seminar ends, I have an evening in San Francisco. What best can be done in this limited time? Friends and colleagues have many suggestions to offer. After all, San Francisco is a vibrant city.
Of many things I have heard about this city, the film ‘Milk’ have informed me this is where Harvey Milk’s campaign had started and took its form. I ask a couple of people and look up online about it. I am referred to the Castro Street. When I read about it, I’m more or less told this to be a ‘gay neighbourhood’ of the city. I wonder what it means. Like, homosexual men and women walking on the street, hitting on other men and women, respectively, all the time?

Well, anyways. I decide The Castro is the place for me this evening. As my shuttle stops at the entrance of the street, I am welcomed by a huge rainbow flying high in the sky, with a street sign that reads, “Castro”. I smile.

The Castro Street and Market Street are places that look like pride-365-days. A local person here tells me, “Probably, this is one place that exudes utmost freedom, both political and personal.” He adds jokingly, “You will see people protesting against one issue or the other all the time.” Like any other neighbourhood, this place has schools where children learn and play, a church for people of faith, shops with usual and some not-so-usual stuff to sell, restaurants that serve amazing food, theatre that would screen any movie and homes where people live like they do in any other neighbourhood. Further as I roam around the streets, I see many heterosexual couples too. I question, “What are they doing here if this is a ‘gay neighbourhood’?”

My thought is further intensified by a news paper post in the museum, “Don’t call us queer city”. Exactly my point! Do we start calling all neighbourhoods in the world where heterosexual couples live and express themselves freely as ‘straight neighbourhood’? I’m still debating with myself if such categorization helps promote the cause of equality or simply regenerates the stereotypes. However when neighbourhoods are defined and categorized as such, they lose their purpose of being ‘just a neighbourhood’ and are put under pressure to be seen from a certain lens.

In addition to everything else, The Castro offers a sense of freedom, which most other places lack. Not for any one in particular but to all – gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, queer – whatsoever you would want to identify yourself as. No, it is not some place where gay people have sex all the time. Or may be some do. But they also play, go to school, eat, laugh, dance, pray, protest and do such other things. What’s important is, whatever they - gay or straight - do, they choose without much contemplation of what others may think or do. And if their personal choices are affected by political influences, they don’t hesitate from voicing against it. Well, of course, our personal IS political and vice-versa.
If anything The Castro is, it is indeed, a neighbourhood where pride for ALL is valued and advocated for. Here, I smell freedom!

Friday, April 4, 2014

You and I

First, I loot your land,
Then, your voice.
I take away your sense of self.
I do charity.

First, I let you loot my land,
Then, my voice.
I give away my sense of self.
I receive charity.

Image source: http://merapoetics.com/tag/oppression/

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Desh Kya Hai?

देश क्या है?
कागज़ के टुकड़ो पर खिंची हुयी लकीरें ,
या उनकी चौकसी करते कुछ नौज़वान ?
तेरे -मेरे अधिकारों और जिम्मेदारियों की एक क़िताब ,
या उन अधिकारों और ज़िम्मेदारियों का आधार ?
क्या है ये चंद गिने-चुने लोगों की मिल्कियत,
या गणतंत्र के हर गण की है एक आवाज़?
देश क्या है? देश है क्या?

सिनेमाघरों में जन-गण-मन सुन,
खड़े हो जाना है ये देश?
या हर इक जन गण मन को
समझ पाना है ये देश?
तेरे-मेरे होने की वजह है ये देश?
या तेरे-मेरे होने की वजह से है ये देश?
देश है क्या? देश क्या है?

मेरे बिस्तर को सड़क पर उछाल
तमाशा करते लोग?
या मेरी मोहब्बत को अपराध
करार देता ये कानून?
मेरे होने को झुठलाता हुआ
मेरा परिवार, ये समाज़?
या आज तेरे-मेरे बीच
मेरे होने की हुंकार लगाता... मैं?
देश है क्या? देश क्या है?

Kaagaj ke tukado par khinchi huyi lakirein,
Ya unki chaukasi karte kuchh naujawaan?
Tere-mere adhikaro aur zimmedariyon ki ek kitaab,
Ya un adhikaro aur zimmedariyon ka aadhar?
Kya hai ye kuchh gine-chune logo ki ek milkiyat,
Ya gantantra ke har gan kihai ek aawaaz?
Desh kya hai? Desh hai kya?

Cinema-gharo me jan-gan-man sun
Khade ho jaana hai ye desh?
Ya har ek jan gan man ko
samajh paana hai ye desh?
Tere mere hone ki wajah hai ye desh?
Ya tere mere hone ki wajah se hai ye desh?
Desh hai kya? Desh kya hai?

Mere bistar ko sadak par uchhaal
Tamasha karte huye log?
Ya meri mohabbat ko aparadh
karaar deta ye kanoon?
Mere hone ko jhoothalata huya
Mera pariwaar, ye samaj?
Ya aaj tere-mere beech
Mere hone ki hunkaar lagata… main?
Desh hai kya? Desh kya hai?

 P.S.: A part of this poem was written to introduce The Republic Day Poetry Project for my students. While engaging with this theme, we realized how the idea of republic needs to be explored and understood better to fully realize our individual and collective potential. Often, I have found myself struggling to understand my political, social and personal spaces of freedom and this poem is a response to that struggle.