Letters and Letters · Letters to self · The Paths Travelled

Okay, let’s talk about this.

You don’t know what is happening inside people’s head unless you tear the head open and reach inside and analyse all of the emotions that amygdala generates, process it, observe and understand it and even then, there is a very little chance of knowing because then there is the neo-cortex, the seat of thought, that thinks and thinks and thinks and never really stops if you are anything like me. To put it in a general perspective, you don’t really know if the girl standing in front of you in the stage delivering an amazing presentation without any fear of public speaking actually has social anxiety and she deals with it by wearing glasses that has less power than she needs so as to not see people’s faces. She does it blind. She practices for hours in her head not to shake. Gives herself a time zone where she can panic in the four corners of white tiled toilet and nowhere else. You don’t know that the boy who runs out of the class pretending he has diarrhea actually goes to throw up in the bathroom because he has anxiety attacks and it makes him feel sick. You don’t know the person who is a class clown struggles to breathe when they have panic attack and keeps staring at their hands for hours before they can move. You don’t know how people cope and try so hard to look and act normal when all they want to do is shout how suffocated they feel inside their body and want to get out of it.

And once you know, the hell breaks lose. “I thought you were strong enough not to be bothered by things like that”, “You should not be weak”, “Just think positive and eat healthy”, “Exercise. You don’t exercise much”, “Don’t worry. Be happy”, “Try not to think about it”, “At least, you have *all the things that you have*”, “You are in such a good place right now. How can you feel like this?”, “It’s time to get you married”, “You are not trying hard enough to be happy”, “Happiness comes from inside. Just look within.”

Well, all that is inside is murky muddy water that bubbles and there are mosquitoes of paranoia breeding on it, ready to suck the life out of me. You want me to grow lotus in it? Fine. The seeds are not available in the market of my life even though it is amazingly busy right now. The sun is shining, the moon makes the night clear as  day but I just cannot find the seeds because I am all set to drown in this water and I don’t know how to swim! I would very much like to not worry and be happy. But my therapist says that I have run out of serotonin and I am getting some. Truly, I am. And exercise? Well, I run and I walk and I exhaust my body until it stops feeling like my body. And it’s amazing. It works. Thank you for the advice! But I am still there. Unable to move. I am still there in a place I know everything about, trying to find the way because the panic has blocked my senses and I feel lost. And yes I am strong. As strong as I ever could be. Because in spite of every thing that is happening, I haven’t stopped. I did stop for a while. For weeks, I felt immobile. I felt like dying. I cried every day. So much that I got my periods twice that month because my hormones were all over the place and the poor uterus thought it was time of the month again because her person was stressed. Oh, and I even hid in the corner of a sofa while three people who cared about me sat there all night trying to protect me from the shadow that wasn’t there. How about a dramatic pause now?

But I am strong. I am trying to be stronger. It’s just that once in a while, I don’t want to be strong. I want to break down. Once in a while, I want to be.  Without any adjectives to describe. I just want to be. Not the person I was before, or the person I am now. I just want to sit down and breathe. I want to be the air that comes out of nose and mouth when someone sits down after a hard day of work and sighs in relief.

And I know it is hard to understand. It is hard for me too. Because all my life, I studied trigonometry and tried to do best in biochemistry (even though I was shit at both). And now, I try to logically justify my condition and nothing comes out of it. There is no “why” to this. And it is frustrating as fuck because I always have answers. I am the person with notes all ready before the final hits. I am the person who is supposed to know. I am the person who prepares beforehand, collects research papers from all over the place and books from the library. I am the person who had stationary boxes, PPV folders and Facilitation folders all ready before anything started. I am the person who knew every volunteers’ names by heart on the second day. And I cannot for the life of me figure out why I cannot breathe when I am having a normal day at work, why I shake like a leaf when there is no storm, why I feel like there is nothing but darkness and hopelessness and nothing, nothing can save me. I just cannot figure it out!!

In my last session, M asked me why I had different response to sadness. Why do I treat it as a friend while I treat anger, anxiety and shame as intruding strangers? As I pondered over it I remembered my godletter book that I used to keep as a child. And a green pen. When I was sad, I used to cry copious tears and write in it, a letter to god (whoever that was). I still have that book and there are tear stains in it. And with anger, I used a red pen and scribbled furiously on every blank page that there was. Anxiety and shame came later and I treated them as anger, I guess. Right now, I am blindly scribbling in my head. All the things that could go wrong, I play it in my brain everyday and exhaust myself to the point where all I can do is cry. So I smell the jasmine oil, rub it in my hand, I pick up the phone and dial a number and ask for help. Even when I feel like they might find me tedious, irritable, paranoid, humorless, lifeless, critical and demanding, I still dial a number. And I talk about it, cry about it, shout and wail about it. They listen. And that is all it takes to calm me down.

Advertisements
Poems

inside a quiet room of a psychologist

they peeled me off like an onion
layers by layers
until my purple skin became white
with fear.
and deep deep red as i rubbed 
the outsides of me 
to feel my heart burn
so that i could materialize 
what i was going through
in the crevices of my mind,
so that my physical being was aware
that wrapped around my neurons were
anxiety and panic: deep deep red. 
and i was allowed to cut 
the onion, 
i was allowed to cry.
i was allowed to hide away,
shrink in the smallest places I could find. 

i told them that
i wanted to become a slow moving clock 
my battery was dying and 
i wasn’t quite ready to replace them yet.
the big mart down the road 
did not sell the same ones I had 
and I would have to adjust 
new ones into my system 
it would take time, i told them,
to tick normally again.
i am not quite sure if they got me.

because,
you see, 
metaphors are easier than
electronic neurophysics.
and i am learning to rewire my brain
i am trying to disconnect and reconnect emotions,
it is not easy. 

it feels like,
stopping a river of emotions 
to build a dam 
and using it 
as a strong hydro-electricity source. 
alone. 
no engineers.
only a Dutch voice. 

i keep trying to grow skin
around the blankets of skeleton 
but i keep forgetting 
the law of growing. 
there isn’t one, is there? 
it feels like,
my mind shrinks a little 
every time my breaths accelerate.
my body tenses like 
dead dry ligaments 
i feel like
a tree in the storm
i shake like one 
until the leaves fall down,
it takes so much strength to hold on
to leaf like hopes
it takes so much strength not to break
branches like faith
when the storm leaves you, 
you feel empty, 
exhausted,
cold. 
and it takes a while to feel green again. 
i want to feel green. again. 

Letters and Letters · Poems · The Paths Travelled

where you will find me

You will find me in places
where streets are jungles of people
that smell of old history books.

You will find me walking,
avoiding familiar eyes,
searching for strange ones
where you will find me looking
at yellow brown pupils,
holding sandpaper hands with
fingers circling the middle of my palms
with fingers filling the gaps of my hands,
feeling the woolen texture of
light green and black horizontal stripes of colors;
they speak a foreign language
but is so similar to my soul.
And when his lips brush against mine,
You will fine me in closed eye lids
where you will find me
in the pit of my diaphragm
with strange butterflies that 
do not stop tickling
with heart that stops for a while
entirely following the traffic lights of the body,
forgetting the frailness of universe, of future,
of everything scary.

You will find me in strengths of my legs when I run,
when the air holds my hair and I smile,
when the ground forgets to map out our gravity 
and she lets me float.

You will find me in gullies,
old meeting places where a jasmine tree blooms,
where poets gather and skate boards hang out with
skeleton masks, glass castles, stairs made of trees.

You will find me. 
Not where I should be found. 
But you will find me, 
Disconnected
Broken down and breathing
In key holes and red stages of dreams,
where a shadow follows me around,
showers through my thoughts,
embellishes in me, in the past,
where you will find me in 
oversize school uniforms,
mute and alone in the corner of a bench
not knowing how to end,
how to find arteries in my neck,
pills in the cabinet.
Unable to smile,
stop tears in the dingy toilet,
in a big school,
where you will find me lost,
confined in libraries,
pink books, glossy magazines,
where you will find me 
wishing to be a girl with pink rosy cheeks,
uniform that fits and 
sound that does not liquefy in big halls,
with smile that does not force itself.

You will find me in the past,
the lost hopes that were crippling,
and darkness that was blinding, maddening, 
shrilling images of green pen,
angry hand written letters to god,
burned down ashes,
candle waxes stuck in the table. 
You will find me waiting for electricity,
for energy to touch my feet in the ground,
to walk,
to live,
to leave. 

You will find me in struggles,
basic teenage years,
acidic experiences.
Never knowing who friends were,
Never knowing my insides that 
flickered, failed to light up,
tried to light up,
failed to light up,
until twenty people clicked three of their fingers together. 

You will find me in a washing machine poem,
appreciation cards,
you will find me in a brazen millet field, under million stars,
with porridge bowls, 
with Allah’s favorite people,
smelling of polar ice cigarettes 
and dusty mud, 
plastered  cow dung and 
love that sounded like river flowing along the banana groves.

You will find me
when I smelled of molten agar, 
bacillus stained in slides,
alcohol rubs, Bunsen burners, 
And dreams. 
You will find me in dreams. 
Mostly. 
Because that is where I dwell. 
Because all the places that you will find me in are 
all the places that my dreams dream of
when I am wide awake. 
And you will find me wide awake,
dreaming. 

 

Inventory Project · Letters and Letters · Odes to people I know and don't know

27

Dear 27,

Iqra. You said. “Read. Read. Read. Because knowledge is power. Power is Knowledge.” You quoted brother Malcolm. You told me the secrets of Quran. You prayed for both of us when walking through the edge of the cliff at night. You stayed with me under the stars when I was too stressed to sleep. You played your songs for me and helped me look at the brighter sides. You became my sister and a best friend and turned those three months into a poetic pleasure. I love you 27!

Today, I am writing you a long overdue letter. It will not say what I am up to and what I have been through in the past few months because I aim to tell all of that in person when I meet you. I pray the day is coming soon. This letter is just to let you know how special you are to me. Just thinking about the moments we spent together in the village with our family makes me smile and cry, makes me miss you more. I will never forget the first time you lead me to the river and we sat on the rocks for what seemed like a minute and we had to go back to our meeting. We kept going back together and alone. Do you think we like the sound of rivers because that is the sound our blood makes when it travels through veins and it is so very prominent in the womb and because the womb is the safest place anyone has ever been in, we seek that sound and our safe place? Because I keep going back to the river. Even with so much current and speed, rivers make me feel like I am home.

And I have never stopped seeking home since I came back. For three months, you were home. Amling was home. Aama Fulmaya, our sisters and our pink pastel house was home and since I have been back, I haven’t been home at all. I dwell in the past a lot. I revisit the banana groves, walk my way through the sketchy uphill, reach the community center, buy some ‘ainthe’ in the shop, walk straight and up to the exotic house where the dog barks at us, until we reach our ‘moment of the day’ point, breathe in some air and go up the mud ladders towards the maize fields where Aama waits for lunch. And then we are in our room again talking away our worries, writing and reading. There is rain that makes the road slippery and we slip on it number of times and laugh about it. There is always rain. And the cloud surrounds the river sometimes like they are friends beyond horizon, like they just found love in their elements, like they never knew they were made up of exactly the same things and they do now.

I am really lucky to have found you 27! And I hope I will never lose you even though we are miles apart. You have courage and power to change the world and I know one of these days, you will change the world. I am looking forward to seeing you soon!

Lots of love and respect,
9.

 

Letters and Letters

Inventory of all the amazing strangers I have met

Hello everyone, 

I am at this stage where I feel like I have to think about every small and big consequences before writing/ posting anything. And writing when the mind feels caged doesn’t go well.  But, I have decided to put a stop on it. I am done overthinking…. who am I kidding? I am never done overthinking. 

Anyways, this is going to be my project for rest of this year. Until December 2018. I am going to write letters to every person who has meant something to me. I am going to be thankful for all the good things I have in life. 

Meanwhile, 
Thank you for still following this blog and still reading it. Whoever you are and wherever you are, it means a lot to me. And I know you are a stranger. But strangers are the best people in the world. I have strangers who turned out to be my best friends. And strangers who love me sometimes more than I love myself. 

So it begins! I am determined to stick to this project. Wish me luck!! 

Alles Liebe,
Pallavi. 

 

 

 

Poems

Insomnia

Late at night, when sleep won’t summon me into his arms

I think of all the people I want to talk to

And I can think of none because they are deep in slumber

Engulfed in their temporary death,

Flying in seemingly colorful dreams

So instead, I think of caffeine coated books

With the corners and nooks

Filled with these amazing beings that make me believe

Insomnia is like a knight in shining armor.

Savior and protector of realism,

Killer of nightmares,

Proprietor of unseen marks under spectacle ridden eyes.

 

Late at night, when I keep staring at the ceiling

With nothing but thoughts popping out

Like bubbles in murky muddy puddle

I think of time as a domestic abuser who

Drags me faint through corridors and stairs

Kicks me in the ribs till I scream in pain

So I pretend that night never happened

Darkness is just a state of mind

There is still sun in the sky

And I wake up, brush my teeth, and write a poem

About a girl who died in library and woke up in the book she was holding,

Where there was a person who listened,

To things she whispered about the dreams she never had.

 

Late at night, I try real hard

Not to give in to my demons,

Not to walk in to the ghosts of my past

But I still do sometimes

I stumble into the thorns of uneven future

That stares at me through walls which were supposed to be doors

I stare right back at it,

Eyes fixed on it

I try hard to summon sleep,

Just few hours of thoughtlessness,

Where the mind won’t whisper my cause of death

Where I am free of me and everything I see

Whoosh of the wind or smell of the sea

It’s unreal as myths can sometimes be

Because the sleep won’t come to me

No the sleep won’t come to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places · Prose · Stories · The Paths Travelled

Tugging in the Threads

There is a person standing in the door in surfing shorts. In the land without sea, he is full of ocean who carries secrets and cigarettes in his back pockets.  The door leads to a garden. There is a swing and there are trees cut in the shape of triangles. There is one big tree with a pocket made of clay fish. It serves both as ash-tray and bug-house. Dry leaves keep falling in the ground and the ground is stammeringly beautiful with them. They cover up for the unkempt grasses: brownish yellow from the sun. The evening breeze has just started playing through my hair. They hide within the layers of clothes I am wearing and touch the skin where my leggings are torn from carrying the bag with knitting needles poking out. I try to make sense of the touch; connection nature so easily makes with us.

Yesterday, I came back from the hills of Gorkha ruled by mountain winds and thunder. There is something about the mountains that make me feel like fiction. They are unreal. Large. They lift my spirits. I met a mountain person too. We talked through the storm and lightening while Juno the dog curled himself in a nearby tree. We breathed through the cold, challenging the heavens that threatened rain. It rained. We ran inside and said our good byes and the clouds swept away. Next day, mountains showed up in their grandeur and the mountain person was different. He had sky to look up to and ground to hold on to. So, did I.

The winding roads that brought me back to Kathmandu had a different story to tell. They smelled of cucumber-y vomit and dried river insects. They felt like skin bumps, bum sores and back aches. I rushed into a few angry birthday messages. Angry because I had not replied for six days due to the lack of a well-functioning internet.  In the verge of making connection with nature, had I severed it with the humans I loved? I still feel the strings of thread bound in my fingers that hold the other end. I am afraid to tug in and realize the absence of a similar tug.

1:12 AM. And I am still wide awake in the TV room. A soft cylindrical pillow holds my head against the couch. I missed calls and messages because my phone was on silent and I was too busy watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I tried to make sense of future in the run this evening and did not come up with anything. I miss him who despite being so distant, listens; who smells like home. He must be busy dreaming now. I don’t know what he dreams about. I am in front of a yellow wall with mismatched mirrors dreaming widely of sleep and shutting off the noise in my head. I wish I wasn’t afraid to tug the threads on the other side.

Poems

Rubber Legs

Rubber legs run through the paved streets,

Joints crack in response,

Heart beats faster,

Skin reddens like the setting sun,

Lungs keep breathing.

As hands stop writing,

The legs compensate the ink,

Roads become papers,

Gridded in the edges but otherwise plain,

Letter sized roads re-write and un-write,

Sweat strikes through,

Muscles fold and unfold,

Body crumbles and

Throws itself into the shower,

Writing is undecipherable now,

Ink washes away.

Rubber legs.

Don’t stop running.

 

Letters to self · Places · The Paths Travelled

On Bubbles and Bubble Breaking

There is a thing about the working world that puts you into a bubble. There is nothing bad about it (as long as it helps you pay the bills) but sometimes I find it scary. The closed eyed commitment to emails and to-do lists, training and workshops, it is like falling in love. More like ‘falling in work’. The routine is attractive. It pulls with high gravitational force. Maybe it is because there are protocols to follow and you know exactly what you are supposed to do. People have thought about it. People have worked on it for years. They have hand-over documents and millions of other documents that tell you how to solve a problem. And there are higher authorities above who have answers to your questions. Everything is not just on you. That is why it’s called an organization, a team, a unit.

I still find it scary because the bubble provides a distorted image of the reality. Or rather we construct our reality bubble and lock ourselves in it. According to an article:

When we do include everything that is not based on a direct observation of reality and experience of it, our perception becomes clouded with opinions, assumptions and various beliefs. By this process, we create our own reality bubble. We might be either entirely separated from other people, or we can share such bubbles with other individuals.

If that is the case, are we limiting our brain cells to perceive knowledge? What exactly is reality and what is our relationship with it? Are we totally unaware of it or do we choose to ignore it based on the reality we create? How important is it to ask these questions? How important is it to not ask at all?

I don’t have any answers. I am not even sure if I am asking the right questions or just fooling my mind, procrastinating until I dive into another financial aid essay and other hundred things on my list. But what I know is that the possibility of comfort makes me want to run away. It doesn’t mean I don’t want a comfortable sofa to sit, or a warm hand to hold. I am as materialistic as a human being can be. I am concerned about what happens when the bubble bursts. The possibility of reality tide drowning me in. What is the worst thing that can happen? I could either swim and adapt or construct another bubble to live in. I want to swim and adapt but that requires lots of  shark attacks or falling into a whirlpool and possible case of hypothermia and madness. How am I going to survive all that?

Only once have I experienced the realms of a battered bubble. The mayhem of the soul and emotions that came with it for two weeks of extreme detachment when I came out of the village I lived in and teams I worked with. The reality slapped me hard in the face as soon as I reached Kathmandu. Heavy bags and heavy heart, I entered with my room with excitement of seeing my colored walls. It was only short lived because my reality was real no longer and what was real was that I was months behind in applications and I had to start from scratch. There was no way around it. And that reality did not match with anyone around me. Hence, I felt extremely lonely. I felt like I had failed. But was there a reason to feel like that? I was not doing anything wrong. I had an awesome experience. I worked hard. I achieved my goals. And still, the two weeks of swimming alone made me feel no less than a wounded soldier in the lost battle. All of that because I did not have anyone to share my reality with. I was searching for ‘homophily’. A similar bubble.

Now that I have come to realize it, I am in some sort of bubble again. What is different now, is that I am aware of what is beyond it. And I am trying my best to compile resources to face the reality once it is broken. Because the bubble will break. And if it doesn’t, I will be the one breaking it. There is no other way around it. I am not sure if this will make me stronger or push me into another vortex. I am not sure if anyone is.

Odes to people I know and don't know · Stories · The Paths Travelled

H for Here

There was a strange gathering in the TV room last night: the silent meeting of four unconnected worlds, whispers of books and words oozing out of fingers in the keyboard followed by sleepy eyes, goodbyes and retiring to the bunk beds through winding corridors and wooden staircases.

I have been here for a month living in a desk beside a door opposite the fish tank with people with different background music who dance and sing in a mother tongue that sounds like a story from distant lands; is a story from distant lands. There is a weird home like feeling that is comfortable and warm. The definition of what we are, would be: Family that works together, lives together and eats together. Work is a never ending aspect of our relationship. We work hard, day and night. Paper cuts greet us unexpectedly, and phone calls are unceasing even in the alleyways of department stores where we buy our supplies.

Yesterday was the first day when there was very little work to do. The lights were out and there was no wifi; no shared drives working, no batteries and hence a “pen down” day. So we enjoyed the very little sun we had, ate ice-cream and cheesecakes that our bosses bought. Today, I am sitting in a chair that is not mine, trying to update the blog that I have been ignoring. I miss writing aimlessly sometimes. Here, everything has a goal. And after a long time, I can see my goals in full clarity  too. I can see my steps in sands that belong to the ocean. I feel free. However, I can also feel the cultural responsibilities pulling me in. The consistent debates whether I should give in to the customs that have been instilled on me from when I was a child or I should journey into the roads I have waited all my life  to walk in, keeps me thinking in bus rides. It makes me wish I had a different background music. However, the history of my music is too interesting to give up. It is what connects me to the world, writes my story in a comprehensible way when ‘I’ is sometimes too hard to explain.

The best thing about being here is the independence of connections. We are not obligated to stay forever; moving on is always the best option if you are scared of being caged in; you realize what impermanence is. And the worst thing about being here is that you sometimes tend to crave permanence and mom’s fish curry. What I have learned so far is the ease of human relationships. People, entropy of atoms, profession and nationality in a same room, without speaking can make you feel connected to the universe.