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


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,


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. 

Odes to people I know and don't know · Poems · Volunteering Diaries

Monkey Nose

This was our first prompt. On 17th November, right after the phase review we decided to have daily poetry prompts. There was going to be a training session on Natural Resource Management and Climate Change. The villagers were gathering and we were waiting for the trainer to arrive. I had an amazing time at the phase review but the fact that there was internet made me anxious. I felt like every one of my friends were moving on and I was stuck somewhere I wasn’t even needed. They had new dreams now. They had new stories to tell and I was not part of it. It was selfish of me to think like that but I still did. Human minds!

This prompt came about when we made two of the volunteers say a word. One said “Monkey!” and the other said, “Nose!” I had no intention of making up the poem the way it is. The major difference I found while writing it was that I was not scared of any judgment because it was merely in the paper. And I had so much freedom in the paper, in the middle of nowhere that I was. I felt like I could write anything I wanted to write. I have never felt that kind of independence before.

Words have magic in them. The way they stir your memories like ashes in fire. And I remembered her getting in the micro-bus everyday in front of my school.


She was an epitome of beauty,

Her eyes stared into your very soul

The soft curves of her body

Walked fearlessly in days that needed her to be fearless

Walked home in the rain

In days that she needed to wash away her pain


She was an epitome of beauty

Except in the mirrors that she looked into

They told her a different story

To her,  they were less kind

More rude, cruel, angry

They sang the songs of crooked eyes,

Exhausted tired face

They sang the songs of imperfection

How her nose looked inhumane,



They called her “monkey nose”

Her mirrors were not mirrors

They were the world staring at her

While she walked fearlessly

Fighting for her rights,

For her freedom

When people who were scared of her blissful soul

Sprinkled showers of sulphuric acid

Raining down

Her skin screamed and melted into the ground.

“Monkey nosed” they still called her

Her mirrors.

But she never believed them.

daily prompt · Odes to people I know and don't know · Prose · Stories · The Paths Travelled · Weekend Coffee Share

The Week Story (and one bad thing that happened)

There are times you forget that you are living. The only thing you realize is that you are breathing. The only thing you feel is the scorching sun burning your body and sweat plastered in your clothes that stick like rice cakes. This was one of those weeks. However, I wouldn’t say it was a bad week. I got many things done. For example: we organized Science Awareness Day in one of the schools in the community. We taught students about miracles of Science and we taught them how to extract DNA from a banana. They were an amazing bunch of students. Enthusiastic and diligent. I loved every moment of that day!

The group photo after the program 

Bad things happened on Thursday. Someone stole my purse in the crowded Zebra Crossing. It had all my belongings and money. It would have been alright if it was just my money. But it had the money of our organization too. Total of Rs. 4000 and my ID cards and bills, all got lost in a moment. I felt devastated, scared and vulnerable. I don’t know what I would have done if Rabbu wasn’t there. Rabbu is one of my best friends. And she was there with me on Thursday. She has been there this whole week. We have been doing the official works together. She is one of the kindest souls I know and I would literally be lost if she wasn’t there. We went to the police station to file a complaint. It was overwhelming. The security cameras in the road faced the other direction, so it is kind of impossible to track the thief but they said that the lost identity cards sometimes turn up in the station. Someone brings them in eventually. I don’t know if anybody will bring mine. The whole event happened so fast. I was sad and angry. Angry at the sinful thief and angry at myself for not thinking about the safety of my purse. I wanted to cry but there was work to be done. Rabbu held my hand the whole time. We somehow managed to go through the official works. While heading to the next office, Rabbu asked me not to blame myself for things that happened, because she knew I was. She was still holding my hand and we were walking towards the bus station to catch another bus. I realized how lucky I was to have such a friend who understands so compassionately, the unsaid, invisible words and feelings. That was the moment, the anger somehow faded bit by bit. I was still sad. But sadness and anger are different. Anger is like a heavy bag you carry around your shoulder. Sadness is just sadness like happiness is just happiness.

The office was located in a silent part of the city. It was a strange place. It rained as we reached the red building full of files and old looking young people. It was as if the sun allowed the clouds to take over the sky to relieve all the heat for a moment. It was as if the sun knew that we were having a bad day. The rain made the whole place look beautiful. We had to wait for an hour but we made it through by stalking celebrities on Instagram. We were extremely hungry so we had puff with tea as we loudly wondered about how the thief was using the money. The sadness seemed to wash away with hunger. We were refreshed again and thankfully, the work for the day was done. I ended up at Rabbu’s home again and we ate and watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S. episode where it ends with one of Phoebe’s iconic lines “He’s her lobster!” I went home with mixed feelings.

So many things had happened in a day and I was indebted to so many people: the police-woman who wrote the complaint and was so polite and assuring; our senior who sent the required money immediately and helped us through the whole process of the work; the chartered accountant who answered each of our repeated questions; the rain and the small house across the red building that felt like a tender hug. And most importantly, Rabbu, who stood by me through everything understanding my silences and smiles. I am grateful that she is in my life. In some ways, she has always been there: as an unknown childhood neighbor to a best friend, we might have a history and lineage we don’t even know about. I do regret that I lost my belongings and money but I don’t feel hatred for the thief anymore because that one bad thing made me notice so many other good things in the world. And I am thankful for all those good things in the world.



via Daily Prompt: Tender




Odes to people I know and don't know · Poems

Don’t need no Dufus theory

Senpai has a drawer full of chocolates,

Desk full of tea cups,

And a laptop in front of him,

While he writes me letters,

Long, beautiful letters.

He speaks about his Harry Potter marathons.

Luna Lovegood reminds him of me.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S marathons,

He is Ross to my Phoebe.

Senpai, with so much going on,

With reports to submit, with proposals to work on,

Sits down in an easy chair to answer my tricky questions,

He explains bio-informatics in metaphors

His luck packages come through exam phone calls.

Senpai sings through the youtube links that goes,

“tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi,

Euhi nahi dil lubhata koi!”

And then I miss the early mornings

In the corridors where we teased him singing,

“You are my senpai, my only senpai,

You give me dokis & shades of grey!”

Miles away senpai sits in an easy chair,

To answer my questions that starts with WHY

Why me!! Or Why not me!!

To reply to the whining letters

Where I ask him about the whereabouts

Of nice dufuses, the cute dufuses,

Who were supposed to show up,

Because it was time

It was high time for a dufus to come along

To spin my world around

And then with a few 100 reloads,

I get a letter where he explains to me

What he calls a theory:


It states that,

Souls could exist like Helium

Not needing a compliment

A single stranded RNA

Inside a protein named body,

Existing and breathing and being

Just there alone

Happily expanding

And contracting


It states that

You are a sun

Or The Sun,

You can burn YOU down

From an average star

To a Red Giant

And then

An interstellar cloud

How fine does that sound?

It states that

You don’t need a plus one

A plus anyone

But in time,

Someone will come along

And you’ll start to see

The ideology

Behind not being

A sun or the sun

Behind not being a helium

But till then,

You don’t need any dufus.


daily prompt · Odes to people I know and don't know · Weekend Coffee Share

Scandals of Science: Passion of Love, War and Possibility

Science is notorious. It binds into every part of our being like a double helical DNA. Even when we try to avoid Science, it is always there, lurking in the corners of logic and love, Science always exists. The scandals of Science are hidden in the history we are taught. In classrooms, where half of our minds are sleeping, the scientific history is not something we take seriously. But why should we, right? Why does it matter at all? Isn’t it enough just to know the names that pop up in the quizzes and exams? Unfortunately, I had the same mind-frame. I always skipped the history and jumped into the mechanisms and the facts. I never tried to understand how these mechanisms came to be the mechanisms they were. I never tried to understand the lives of people who loved and lived Science; the people who made it their life’s mission to unravel the true secrets of life.

As notorious as Science is, it is also a story that intertwines beautifully and imperfectly where the contradictions fit and unfit to look like a giant scribble of an insolent child. The stories of the people who made the biggest contributions in science are not that big. In fact, they were normal people: dwindling in insecurities; failing and falling in anxiety; lonely and depressed. There were some who stood in top of their game; who laughed throughout the process; made life-long friends and yodeled in both their success and failure. Some were purely evil.

Mendel’s laws never escape the syllabus of biology if one is a Science student. Like all the students, I was taught how important these laws were as they governed the most essential features of gene when gene was not even discovered yet. However, nobody is ever told about Mendel’s life. How he failed exams after exams on physics, chemistry, geology, botany and zoology in the university in Vienna; how he was denied the position of a teacher in Znaim High School. He did not fail because he did not study. He failed because he was sick from anxiety. “Seized by an unconquerable timidity”, “uninspiring”, “too neurotic” , “arid, obscure and hazy” are some of the terms that have been used to describe Mendel by his colleagues and examiners. Despite all of this, Mendel was an excellent gardener. Siddhartha Mukharjee, the writer of an amazing book called “The Gene- An Intimate History” writes, “Mendel’s life seemed to be filled with the smallest of thoughts. Sow, pollinate, bloom, pluck, shell, count, repeat. The process was excruciatingly dull- but small thoughts, Mendel knew bloomed into large principles. Mendel’s garden plot may have been small- but he did not confuse its size with that of his scientific ambition.” From the small patch of garden, he collected heaps of statistical data, and made them into laws, that would be chunked by the students a day before exams after more than a century! In his time, his findings and data were blatantly ignored by scientists like Charles Darwin. He was discouraged by people he admired and he went on with his life neglecting the plants he loved. He died of kidney failure on January 6, 1884. Mendel’s paper on the laws of heredity disappeared for a long time marking the period as “the strangest silences in the history of biology” until William Bateson read the paper on his train ride to deliver a lecture on heredity at the Royal Horticultural Society in London. William Bateson was nicknamed “Mendel’s Bulldog” for he was fierce as one and had made his life’s mission to ensure that Mendel was never ignored. Continue reading “Scandals of Science: Passion of Love, War and Possibility”

Odes to people I know and don't know

Pink Pratikshya

Pink always reminds me of Pratikshya. Pratikshya means to wait. Pratikshya means patience. Pratikshya also means hope. Pratikshya means to be strong enough to hope and wait. And Pratikshya likes pink colors. She loves pink bags, pink dresses, pink scarf and pink sweaters. Pratikshya loves her grandmother more than anything in the world. She loves her brother and her cousins. Her love is so pure and simple. And limitless. Pratikshya is limitless. But she doesn’t know it. I hope she will someday.

The best thing about Pratikshya is that she listens. She listens to my stupid questions. She listens to my woes and silliness. I love annoying her. Because she always laughs when she gets annoyed. She says, “Hyaaaa Pallu!” and bursts out into one of her addictive laughs. Pink Pratikshya is the cutest Pratikshya when she laughs at my stories. I love telling her stories.

Pratikshya makes me Noodle Pizza when I am sad. She brings it in our morning walk expeditions. She carries it while running. She wakes up early to make food to kick out my sadness. She is that good!! I don’t know what I ever did to get a friend like her.  Pratikshya also knows how to love herself. She is her favorite person. And that’s why she knows how to love other people. She knows how to be kind. She knows how to hug. She knows how to be there.

Pratikshya is so much more than Pink. I hope she knows about it. I hope she knows how glad I am that she exists in my world.

via Daily Prompt: Pink

Odes to people I know and don't know

Anne Frank: What her Diary means to me

I have never been touched by war. I hope I don’t. But I know that someday I might.

I don’t know the full extent of what this really means. I wish there were people who could explain. There have been few extraordinary human beings I have come across, who have written their grief on papers, on letters and on the minds of people that made them up or met them in dreams. I often wonder what these people would be like if they were my friends. What would we talk about? Would they like me? Would I like them?

“The Diary of a Young Girl” was the first book I ever bought. I was 11 then and I had been saving my pocket money for days. A short paragraph about Anne Frank read out by my English teacher, that’s all it took to be engrossed in the history and life of a 13 year old girl who lived in an Annex to hide from the brutality of her World.  At that age, I could only understand her dreams and her anger. I lived in a small room with my mom, dad and brother, with cousins and their family living right above that room, Grandparents living right above that. I used to feel trapped too, somehow. And I was unreasonable. The fact that I didn’t have a room of my own and I had to go in the corridor to change clothes and make sure that nobody was coming down the stairs or going up, infuriated me. So I understood her only in ways a soon to be teenager would: in frustrations, in the lack of space. Thanks to her, I started writing letters too. Hers were to her best friend Kitty and mine were to god. I believed that gods reside in papers because my culture had stories about worshiping books. I still cannot touch papers with my feet. If I do, I have to bow down to it two or three times! I never stopped writing letters. The receivers of my letters changed as time passed by but thanks to Anne Frank, I never stopped writing.

At age 11, I did not understand the significance of that diary. I knew it was real, written by a real girl who died tragically in the camp of Belsen, Germany. I knew all the facts about the World Wars. I knew about the gas chambers where thousands of people suffocated to death. I knew those people were Jews. I knew that a certain person called Adolf Hitler hated them. I never knew the reason. And when asked, there weren’t any concrete answers. There were only facts and dates and numbers that I easily wrote in exam papers to get a decent grade. I was ignorant and so was the teacher who taught me and the teacher who taught him. Despite the reality of the world wars and history, I knew only numbers and dates. It all came crashing down when I read the diary for the second time. I understood what a spectacular person she was. She had hopes engraved in those letters.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

“I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.”

These were all written by a girl trapped in a Secret Annex in a time where hopes were burnt in front of the buildings and mutilated in laboratories. I still read the diary time and again. In fact, it is sitting right beside me at the moment. I think I smell it, more often than I read it. The scent of the old papers take me back to my old house with blue walls that never shut out the noise. They still don’t. Even the new walls in my new room do not shut out the noise. It seems like the noise has somehow made it to everybody’s soul in this new world. Nobody talks about the silences of the history. Nobody realizes the extent it scarred the human lives. Nobody “really” knows. Because they were “never” there. But what if we were? I know it is a silly question. But is it? I keep wondering what would the world look like if Anne Frank and many others like her were allowed to grow up in a world without wars. I wonder if I could meet her: the girl who taught me how to write letters, how to pour out thoughts into papers, how to hope in extremities. I wonder if we could be friends. I wonder if I could tell her about Sarah Starzynski and Liesel Meminger. Both fictional and real at the same time. Would she like me? Would she like the silly questions I ask and the mess I am? Would she like my letters and poems? These are the things I will never know.

And I can live with it. I can live with it in the same way I live knowing that it takes nothing to start a war and everything to end it. Anne Frank would have been a Global Citizen like I am trying to be. She would be kind. She would good. I choose to believe that she would be just like how her diary was to me.

Odes to people I know and don't know

Ode to my fifteen-year-old self

‘I have not written in ages’ was the sentence I started with every time I wrote something and nothing would come up after that because it was a lie. I had been writing all along; even at times, I did not want to write and no words escaped out in the paper. In the buses I rode with head phones on, eyes open, looking at the abysmal scenarios that passed by: the broken bridges, dusty roads, black smokes coming out of dingy vehicles, clouded eyes of drunkards, smelly shirts of hardworking people in a nasty mood, crammed spaces searching for air, my brain would compose poems after poems that never found their way into the papers. The scariest thing about not writing was the constant thought that lodged into my mind that nobody would care if I stopped writing completely.

Each day, I stared at the tip of the pen to drop a useful ink in the papers but it did not until one faithful night I opened up the diary that contained pages and pages of smudged inks and was only half filled up. It contained letters to imaginary people written by a girl of fifteen about how good the pani-puri tasted and how she failed a math test. It seemed as if the girl did not care about the grotesque handwriting and grammatical errors. All she cared about was to jot down everything and every single memory her tiny self gathered from the world. I did not recognize her at all, wished I were she and became her for a night. I was fifteen that night and I wrote a poem about an open lidded acetone bottle that was both dark and angry like all the fifteen year olds are or maybe like how I was. After that, I composed a lists of embarrassing whys and why not’s. It was all very satisfying and tiring not because I did not get to sleep that night, but because being a fifteen year old is somewhat un-nerving. I have been writing since then. Little by little, starting with a sentence and moving on to a paragraph and then two.  The first sentence I wrote after that night of being fifteen was, “Expecto Patronum your dementors”, which was not very original and did not have any concrete meaning whatsoever but considering that the ratio of words escaping through the pen to the paper was zero is to one, it seemed like a great achievement.

Writing has always been about escaping reality. Maybe I stopped writing because at this point of time, reality is slapping my face like a Hindi tele-movie’s “saas”. I would compare reality with a kind of common cold that shuts down your ear canal and makes you feel like a drowned fish but I will not because that is literally my reality right now. I still stumble at words and sentences and some of my thoughts will never find their way into a paper because I do not know how to make them sound coherent. If my fifteen year old self wanted to form these thoughts into sentences, I am sure she would go with a green pen in big capital letters, “I HATE YOU WORLD!!! AND COMMON COLD!” It was her way of coping with reality in a sentence. These days, I cope it with bundles of tissue paper and coffee and phone calls. It is okay to believe that she was more interesting than I am.  Maybe she was stronger than I was because she fought her battles alone and survived with all those imaginary people she made up while I have an army that help me through everything. Over the years, it was as if those imaginations materialized in unbelievable ways. I keep wondering if she was writing my story, years ago in that study table beside blue windows, which had a kid hanging by the handle, shouting routes of microbuses. (This is the story for another time). Her letters were ode to things that did not exist and she was glad. When things did not made sense she wrote until they made sense and she was glad. She was glad and that really mattered to her. She was never worried if the world was glad with her scribbles as long as she was happy. Today, I would have not written all these stuffs, if it were not for her diary. She made me realize that the reason I started writing was not to judge and coward away from feelings. It was because the words had power to change the world around me, even though the change was infinitesimally little. It made me happy. And it mattered.