Beauty blog where I used a Banana hair mask

 

Hello everyone! Today I am going to take you all on a journey. And not just any journey, a journey to make you beautiful. Hold up! This isn’t click bait. I swear, I got this straight from the beautiful people themselves!

Part 1: I smell like a cake

 So, I woke up this morning feeling quite happy about the weather for once. Summers in Bengal usually bring along oven like temperatures suitable for baking the best human patties. However, today the sky was a beautiful cloudy grey. A half-hearted warm breeze tickled the translucent curtains of my room and – oh praise the heavens – there wasn’t any sun! In my books that’s what a good day is made of! I went to the bathroom and was happily chilling on the pot, listening to Sea Wolf and thinking about the day when I suddenly remembered… The banana! Oh god! The awful banana! One which I had forgotten about, shoved to the back of the fridge where it wouldn’t have been noticed and hoped to have thrown away without anyone finding out. The poor banana had blackened with age and was definitely not going to be eaten (by me). And as I pondered on throwing it away before anyone notice, the garbage man came and without thinking, I gave away the day’s garbage once again forgetting the banana… You must understand, the banana was only a small thing resting in the back of my mind as I went about all these activities. But now, it became a bigger thing. And by thing, I mean problem. A problem I knew that if I didn’t solve today, would nag at me till I did.

            While living with my roommate Cat, in college and watching her blossom into one of these beautiful people I learnt a few tricks of the trade. She and I would occasionally mix strange food items and paste them to our heads in order to make our hair or skin better. She being the beautiful person did this more than I did, but often it would be a joint activity where we would sit and do each other’s hair and talk about fighting the patriarchy. It was like having a sister, but better. And when the room ended up smelling strongly of egg after us having spread copious amounts of it all over our hair our bonds were strengthened.

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Here we see my cat judging my every move. 

Anyway, back to today now. So, with a generous flashback in my mind, nostalgia running through my veins and a blackened banana sitting in my fridge, I did a quick google search. “Banana hair mask”. Now, if you don’t know what a hair mask is I don’t know what to tell you, It’s like a face mask, but for your hair. So basically, it should ideally make your hair look and feel better and nourish it the way conditioner says it will but never does. Ingredients of a mask like this are mostly food items. So here is what I used in my mask today: A quick pop into my fridge and out came the banana and one egg. Then while getting a bowl from the kitchen, into the bowl went two large spoons of olive oil. Out to the table and I poured in some honey and finally emptied a capsule of vitamin E oil which Cat would always use in her hair. I also added some of Loreal’s oil and cream later but that was just to be fancy. (Note that these measurements are were not done meticulously and have been poured to the amount I thought was necessary).

Now a lot of the mask recipes called for only 2 (maximum 3) ingredients. If you had the olive oil and the banana that would also have worked. But of course, I had to be extra and put in extra things. Once my ingredients were all in I had to mash everything together and make it a paste of some sort for even application on my head.

            Here’s where the banana was a problem. I’d suggest, for scatterbrains like me to take a fork and a flat plate or something to mash your banana on first and THEN and only THEN put it in with the egg and/ or oil and whatever you’re using. (if you do use it).

     hair mask ingre       Now with everything mixed and mashed up I let down my hair and prayed to god this wouldn’t get messy. SPOILER ALERT!! It did. I used my fingers to scoop the mixture up and massage it gently into my hair by starting from the root to the tip. Nah I’m kidding. I slapped it on and let it trickle down to my scalp and rubbed it in well. I made sure to get quite a bit on my ends since that’s where most of my “bad” hair is and twisted it up into a bun. Then I poured the rest of the mixture down on my head, allowing it to percolate down. Worst decision ever. Thank goodness I was wearing a nightdress so the dripping has been of not much consequence. And so I’ve been sitting with it for about half an hour now in my hair and writing this while I wait for it to dry. It has not. It has instead done quite the opposite. As usual I took too much in quantities and it has led to it dripping down my back, down my neck all over my front. The mixture is sticky and unpleasant however, it does smell of cake so that’s the only upside. I’m going to watch an episode of Tokyo Ghoul and then go for a shower and come back with my results!

 

Part 2: I slipped so many times…

Banana mask my ass… Banana cement more like it. I am exquisitely exhausted after that ordeal. And why do I say ordeal you ask. Well, to put it simply, the banana refused to leave my hair. The tangles were spurred on by the banana and I had to wrestle with it for 15 minutes before I got my combs to rescue me. The combs did help speed things up a little bit. With every few brushes I had to clean off the banana bits, and my falling hair, from the teeth of the comb. There were tiny dots of banana all over the floor which wouldn’t get washed away till I emptied a bucket of water on them.

            Eventually after washing out my hair twice (otherwise the smell of egg doesn’t go), and the muscles of my arms screaming for mercy, I topped off with conditioner and washed it, giving one final run through with my comb so as to pick up any missed banana bits. And now here I am waiting for it to dry and promising to never put myself through that again.

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Well that’s what it looks like after the wash. 

Overall, I honestly don’t see a difference. Yes, I know that these don’t work immediately, and you have to keep using it to see a difference and all that jazz. However, the end reward is slightly thwarted when you take into account the tangles that the banana caused and the amount of hair that fell along with it in the process. This mask was supposed to make my hair less frizzy and smoother, but I had to instead put a whole lot more conditioner to help counter the knots that had been created my hair doesn’t feel much more different than what it had been and it definitely has lost quite a bit of volume with all the hair that fell. So, I would not recommend putting banana in your hair, unless there’s a less tangly way of doing it. I got through this whole thing only because MCR was playing loudly in the background allowing me to focus on the lyrics rather than the pain in my arms. My hair after drying feels lighter and fluffy, it does feel smooth to an extent but it’s nothing that conditioner wouldn’t do. I used a lot of water in order to get the banana out. All in all, I have learnt that I should really eat my bananas before they go black.

 

TL;DR: I used banana in my hair and it wasted a ton of water and tangled my hair.

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Friending, Unfriending?

I wake up to messages. Some five or six notifications from Instagram, from the account of tralfamadorian31. “This is so me!!” it says under a meme. WhatsApp needs to be checked next. A green circle beside the name, Lelzer Ermagherd displays a small white ‘1’. I open the message. “ISMWELLLIKEBWEEF” is all it shows me.

Swinging my legs off the bed onto the floor, out from under the warmth of the covers my half-asleep mind is shocked slightly awake by the change in temperature. I text back, “I love u b***h. *off key guitar chord* I ain’t never gon’ stop lovin’ u. B***H!” I sigh. This is what our friendship is always like. Quoting vines to each other instead of saying ‘good morning’, sending memes and making stupid puns. As I sit in the loo shaking the sleep from my sluggish brain I scroll down my Instagram feed. A few of the things I’m seeing make me feel like laughing out loud. So, I do: I hit the send button and up pops a list of contacts. Selecting tralfamadorian31 I type out a message. “OMG. I can’t even! Look at this dumb cat!!!” Along with it goes a few select smiley faces with tears coming out their eyes. There. Laughed. I immediately get back a message with a similar emoji montage.

It is time to get ready for college. I dress and bathe and eat some breakfast to take my meds with (not necessarily in that order). She has put an alarm on my phone to remind me but I take it before it goes off. She had gotten visibly distressed when I’d told her I was missing my doses, grabbing my phone from me and putting in two alarms for the specified timings given. It was before I had left for the winter break. She hadn’t needed to ask about it; not only does she know my password but hers is the only fingerprint that works on my phone other than mine.

I reach college, she hasn’t arrived yet. I make my way over to the place that is usually ours. Despite not having a specific seating plan, years in school have gotten us accustomed to be put in one place for good. It makes us uncomfortable to change seats after. If we’re meant to be in a certain place we stick to it. Talking isn’t a problem either. Classes are for taking down notes, and sometimes for drawing in each other’s notebooks. She grabs mine away and starts scribbling away in pencil. It is returned to me with an entire page taken up with a drawing of a cartoon Dracula.

seher Dracula

(Not the original but a similar copy of what she made)

With the advent of social media, relationships between people have changed. It’s become enough for physical contact to be dropped down to a minimum and has boosted the significance of the virtual space. She adheres to this. At least with me. Of late, it feels like she spends barely any time with me at all. She’s always busy with something important. Before, it was her boyfriend. Her love for him knew no bounds. All time that was free time was spent with him. To the point where I’d be forgotten. Lunch time which was set aside specifically for gossiping with friends, turned out to become boyfriend time for her. It wouldn’t have been a problem if we’d all hung out together, but we didn’t. Our circles were too different for that sort of thing and it was just better to be apart. I too had other friends with whom I could spend time with, but it left me feeling like I was doing the same thing to them that she did to me. I was bitter. I was angry. Did I mean so little to her? So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how much she’d hurt me and how much I didn’t think we should remain friends. But I didn’t.

She’s always been the cooler one between the two of us. More mature, more sensible. She’s able to plan and get her work done without dissolving into a mess like most of us. At the same time, it’s a bit intimidating. She isn’t one to be too open with her emotions, usually she just sits quietly and stays that way, no matter what is bothering her. One can tell that the pressure has gotten to her when she starts snapping at you for small things. And the change is subtle but when you’ve known her for a while, it becomes easier to pick up on it. But in the start, it used to be a bit strange to understand what she was reacting to. Often, I’ve been told that her outbursts toward me are undeserved and that it’s wrong of her to be treating me like that. So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how much she’d hurt me and how much I didn’t think we should remain friends. But I didn’t.

When she broke up with her shady, gross boyfriend, She, cried on my shoulder. One of the rarer moments where she showed her vulnerability. It was raw and emotional, but it was short. But it didn’t stop at the crying. She started to give in to her vices. She’s also not telling me a lot of things. Keeping secrets. Well that’s always been there, but it’s gotten to the point where I can tell she doesn’t want me to know about something. It’s okay, I tell myself. Secrets don’t hurt anyone. I have my own secrets that she isn’t getting to know. But when she comes to class with her clothes stinking of smoke and a little more giggly than usual, it’s hard to not unleash ‘Mom FriendTM’. So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how much she’s hurting me and how much I don’t think we should remain friends. But I didn’t.

Sometimes, I look back on our college life and remember how the two of us reached where we are today. She was abandoned. Other ‘friends’ just leaving her behind and letting go of her over a spat which at the time seemed to be something huge but now as we are leaving, looks to be so irrelevant. I stayed by her side, knowing what it’s like to be alone. Knowing the pain of not having anyone to share funny stories with or joke with. I stayed… It made me feel stupid to have done so when I realised that she obviously had more friends than I had known. They just weren’t the kind that I would spend time with. So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how she obviously didn’t need me and how much I didn’t think we should remain friends. But I didn’t.

In college, I realised that as you grow, things aren’t all simple. The pre-set notions of basic elements of living, like friendship and love are vastly different from what it is in the real world. Sometimes, you can’t have what everyone else has. I look around me and I see those very ideas that I was taught as a child, play out before me with everyone other than me. An outcast, I trudge home, alone. In the end, we’ll just forget. In the end, I won’t be to her what Ron was to Harry. In the end, even though I’ll remember her for all she did to help me, she won’t remember my clingy emotional wreck of a being. So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how much we don’t fit the mould and that she’d be better off spending her time elsewhere. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Because I needed her. Though it was a relationship where I was uncomfortable approaching her, she would know when things would be wrong. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bother me that I wasn’t her best friend. Labels like that have never worked for me; even when I was younger, and instead of learning from a young age I kept up the hope that I might too one day, find that special person who was the coolest, whom I could share anything with especially my life. I’d be lying, if I said, it didn’t hurt me that she had several best friends but as much as she left me behind, she also stayed to pick me up. As much as she had other friends, she’d make time for me too. Sometimes she asks me, “Am I a good friend?” I want to tell her this: Good friends are subjective. You could be good to one person but be awful to another. It’s not how we were taught when we were small. Classification of such a characteristic is hard. If you have hurt someone maybe they would see you as a bad friend. If you have helped someone, they might think the world of you. Are you a good friend? In all honesty, I don’t know. But I can say you have been good to me. Perceptions differ…

The day is ending. I make my bed out and lie in it, checking my phone. I see notifications from tralfamadorian31. I sigh, they must be memes. I open my chat and begin to scroll. Despite not fitting the conventional moulds of friendships, she was still friend, and in a relationship that floated on the rough seas of uncertainty and unconventionality, we had found our place to float on this little space in-between the waves of friending and unfriending.

This piece had been submitted for the Barbara Naidu essay competition organised by the English Department of St. Josephs College every year. I didn’t win although that’s what I’d set out to do. But halfway through the piece it became less about the winning itself and more about understanding for me what exactly this friendship of mine was about.

If you liked it please do let me know in the comments. Thank you and Happy Reading!!

A letter to the city I fell for

Dear You,

As my life in college comes to an end, I like to look back and see how my days in the glorified institution went. It’s been a hell of a ride. And the end is very near now but still doesn’t seem that way.

When I started college, I had imagined it to be vastly different from my school life. However, expectation and reality rarely do match up. In college I met so many new people. Formed bonds and learnt things that I’d have never known if I’d been stuck in the hellhole of home. Home comforts you. Home is safe. But at the same time home is blinding. Moving to a new place will always give you a new perspective. And for this I am thankful to my mother, who insisted of pushing me out of my comfort zones. To come and study in a new city, where I didn’t know the language, and I barely knew the people. What was pop culture here, may not have been back home. The slang they used was new. Even their tea was different, making me switch over to drinking coffee which the South is known for anyway. Slowly, I began to fall in love with this city. It’s friendly attitudes towards the modern youth as well as its unfriendly behaviour towards those who were outsiders. I complained a lot when I first came to the place. I was annoyed. Leaving behind everything I had known. But now I step of the plane and smile because I feel I am home again. I will never forget the lessons that this city has taught me. Whether it’s the larger philosophical questions of life or even how to manage my finances, this place made me learn it all. And it did so without mercy. It taught me to respect and love the language I was born with, and inspired love for art in me. It taught me t become conscious of those around me and made me come face to face with adversities that I was made to battle head on. It bred an atmosphere of learning and a place for self-growth. Throughout my first year I would complain about the city and about how living here was difficult, but as soon as I fit into the groove, found a place I could call home and go to at the end of the day, to collapse gratefully onto my welcoming bed I began to find the love that I had for this city. For it’s cheap yet delicious eating options, for the way you get that one autowaala who speaks to you in English and agrees to take you home without asking for “50 rupees extra madam”. For all the different ways they make biryani, each with its own charms. And mostly oh mostly for it’s unpredictable weather, (as if Gong Yoo is nearby and can’t make up his mind about what he wants to feel at the moment… sorry for those who don’t watch k-dramas and haven’t seen Goblin).

A lot of my learning was facilitated by my teachers. People whom I have incomparable respect for. You guys were instrumental in filling the gaps in my learning, encouraging me to take an interest in things that I found too difficult to understand before. Thank you for not looking at me like some delusional idiot with fanciful ideas when I came to you with them. Thank you for teaching me the value of being passionate about something and being able to work on it to make it your goals. If the city has an ability to breed a sense of learning, it only happens because of people like you, who open up the floodgates of learning and of knowledge. To lay yourselves out like that for us every single day, bring us to the level of wisdom that is required of us is not a simple task and for that I cannot express my gratitude properly enough. It isn’t enough to say that it’s been a pleasure to have your lectures in class, because our relationship evolved from just the classroom to beyond. Whether it was a late-night text confirming something about the syllabus or if we just collapsed on your table at the end of a long day (I’m looking at you Noori) you were there. For this, thank you so much. The friendships we formed with you (and please allow me to call it that because I honestly feel that way.) are so unlike anything I’ve ever had before, thank you for making it comfortable enough for it to bloom. From fangirling, to being scolded, to understanding what would have otherwise been unacceptable excuses and extension of deadlines, thank you.

My classmates and friends and my seniors, you have given me so much. you shared your tiffin with me your laughter and your jokes. Because of you I believe that there is still good in this world. You guys have constantly supported whether it was make-up or it was notes for a subject you came through. You have given me so much even if I didn’t ask. you were the ones who would cheer for small accomplishments that would spur me on to getting the bigger ones. If I felt unhappy you guys were there to listen and to offer help. I really don’t know any other group that is so varied and yet so tightly knit. We may have our own differences but every one puts those aside to help each other. You respect each other and love each other and me and I want to really from the bottom of my heart say thank you for that.

My best friends. Would I even be alive right now if it weren’t for you! The Western Acoustics team of 2017-2018, thank you guys for giving me the confidence to go up on stage and fall in love with music once again. You made practice bearable, with all the bad jokes and the off-key notes. Sru, you make me happy everytime I see you, even though it was in our last year I am so glad I can actually call you a good friend rather than just an acquaintance. Dolly, you somehow managed to get me out of the slumps that I could never bring myself to talk to anyone about. Thank you for being there, after college, when everyone had left, when we would walk around in Shantinagar and be hopeless. Kim, my beautiful wife, for being the mom-est mom. Your level of love and affection is difficult to find in people. When you activated your mom friend mode it was hard to really come out and say anything against you. Mor Mor, you were an idiot sometimes, but without you I wouldn’t be half as invested in politics as I am now. You were the Wikipedia article on so many isues that I’d have never have known of if you hadn’t told me in simple terms. Nayn, if there was anyone I’d talk about dogs and sushi to in one sentence it’d probably be you. Thank you for the Wai Wai. More importantly thank you for the stories. You should really write them down and sell a book. Dareen. I kept you last because you suck. (not really tho). If it weren’t for you, I’d still be stuck in second year. The things you have done for me I can never forget. We’ve had our differences but it pales in comparison to the moments we have cherished together. The food, the drink, the musicals we watched when we were supposed to be studying. That time we spent money to pet some cats for an hour or so… thank you for sticking with me ever though I annoyed you to death. Even though I was cranky, moody, ecstatic or hungry. Thank you. It’s hard to live life with out best friends. So, thank you to each and every one of you.

Finally, to my roommate. If anyone who hasn’t lived away from home ever suddenly has to do so the one piece of advice I’d offer to them would be to find a good roommate. More than someone who is clean and not too noisy, one needs to find someone similar to them. Living alone is hard anyway, so to have a person living with you who doesn’t match makes it more and more difficult. Roommate, I have been closer to you that I have been with any other person in my adult life. And that’s not just because our beds are an arm’s length away from each other. You made living in this tiny space bearable and I couldn’t have been happier without your presence. I know I have annoyed you several times and made you want to kill me (the feeling is mutual). But you have been the best roommate that I’ve ever had. It had been a stroke of luck to meet someone like her, we shared similar music tastes, similar ideologies and the two of us were able to get along when it was needed the most. No other person would have woken up at 4 in the morning and given a cold compress to me when I was suffering from 104 fever. No one else would scold me for keeping my bottle out of place. And no one else made me as comfortable in the room as you have. (Proximity has never been a problem for us.)

 

Living in a different city can be hell. It can be the wort thing that you ever experience. I know that this place might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly wasn’t mine, but with the right kind of people it might just become your cup of coffee. And so, the people who made my life in this city like that perfect cappuccino I am indebted. I don’t know what the future has in store for me. I don’t know where I’m going. But I am beyond grateful for the experiences that I have had in this place all of which I could not have had without you. My dear new city, you have given me so much, in these three years. All the pain, the love, the comfort, the losing, the winning, you gave me so much of it. I’m so glad I got to know you.

Love from,
Me.

Dear Fatophobe

screenshot_2015-02-16-11-12-38-1.png The other day you stared at me in the cute dress I was wearing. I thought it was cute until you pointed at me in it and laughed. I never hated wearing it more after that moment. The day my friend wore something similar you told her how hot she looked. The rolls of flesh on my body recoil and try to hide themselves, only they have nowhere to go. So they ask me to cover them up. And I do. Heat of summer and I’m fully covered. The white vines that sneak up and down my body, around my stomach and my thighs are hidden from view. Like brilliant lightning bolts covered by thick, heavy, clouds. Thick, heavy clothes.

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You appeared out of the blue that day. Was it the smile on my face that irritated you or the fact that I wasn’t dressed particularly nicely? A large tee shirt, my glasses, and jeans; and you decided you were remarkably clever and so asked me why I looked like an ‘obese Harry Potter’. Maybe you thought it was inconsequential at the time. Most probably you’ve forgotten about it. But I haven’t. It still hurts me to think of it. I wish it didn’t though…

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You stood surrounded by so many people. So popular, wanted and accepted. But it wasn’t enough. You had to make them laugh.

So, you saw my body as an easy target and said, “If you were a Pokémon, you’d be Snorlax.

 

I know my Pokémon, I know Snorlax.  And at that time, I knew that Squirtle was waiting to open the flood gates behind my eyes. It was funny for you. But it wasn’t for me. And it still isn’t.

I see you when you stare at me while I’m eating. Whispering to your friends how I shouldn’t, and how that’s probably all I do all day. It’s fascinating how you know so much about my life. Almost stalkerish I’d say. At the same time, when you see me run you stare and laugh. Fat girls doing normal things is the best form of entertainment when you’re bored, right?

So I cut down on food. And then get hungry and binge. After which I feel guilty and run to the toilet and force it out. It tastes horrible, coming back. And it burns my throat but it has to be done.

 

Be skinny

And you don’t just stop there, do you? You pick on the skinny girls as well. Say she needs to have more meat on her bones. Why? Are you a dog that will eat her? Crunch on her bones? Slobber over her flesh? Don’t I fit the bill for that? It’s like we’re nothing more than things to provide for you. 6c009767ff520b45caef55d4351d3ade

What pleasure do you get? Is it really funny to see someone’s smile fade away from their face after you insult them? Does it give you some kind of special high to stand around and poke fun at my body? To compare me to others things as if I’m a simple object that feels nothing. That has no mind, no skills of comprehending what you say? You tell me that you’ve been there yourself and people have done it to you. You know the pain associated in that case. You should know how much it hurts. To have everything going beautifully and then, have it crash down upon you because you aren’t seen as worthy. Because my body isn’t pleasing to you if it doesn’t follow the norm. And because I break the rules I should not be accepted into your ranks. Because that is how I feel. Short and fat, with rolls on my stomach that were called truck tires when I showed them to people. Arms, poked and prodded, made fun of for being fat. Every morning, I look in the mirror and hope, to someday, look such a way, that I don’t get up and feel like an outcast.tumblr_static_tumblr_static_filename_640

What is it that you get out of seeing a person cry? To see their day, turn from a good one to a completely shitty one after you open your mouth? The power you hold is great. Really. You look me up and down and make me feel so miniscule and unimportant. Your ever-sharpening wit that brings up new ways of insulting and hurting. You ridicule, and you know what, it hurts okay. It really hurts. Because no matter how many times I tell myself that you aren’t worth worrying about it’s not easy to stay afloat when your ship is being shattered by cannons on all sides.

 

Yours,

A fat girl.

 

Disposable

Ray of sun that tries desperately to enter the filter of the leaves. 

Brittle snow that melts away slowly off the slanting rooftop, 

Ochre summer wind blows to have a door slammed in its face. 

Only waiting to be wanted but never invited.
Like the paper plate that’s thrown, on the rubbish heap.

Once it’s done being used and can’t be used anymore…

The trash that collects, lying together, rotting, reeking.

Only waiting to be wanted, never taken in. 
Frayed aglet on the end of a rich man’s shoe,

Bottle of nail polish that’s gone clumpy over time,

Sock that’s developed one to many hole.

Thrown away without second thought
Large, loud, unconventional, strange,

Weird habits that can’t explained.

Normal people, they fail to understand.

Only waiting to be wanted, but no one to take this hand. 
Left behind and left alone; no place to call own.

Fell into the cool abyss of monochrome;

Life in shades of darker greys: not rosy rays

Only waiting to be wanted, always taken for granted. 

My Grandmother Died. 

The day after Christmas is now forever going to be, for me, the day my grandmother died. Christmas celebrations weren’t as lively this time. She had been taken to the nursing home in mid-November due to respiratory issues. The day she was brought back was the same day I came back home. She came back in the morning while I landed at night. Though it was late, she’d told my mother specifically to wake her up when I reached. Her face was swollen and she looked awful. I felt bad for stirring her and told her to go back to sleep. We could talk in the morning.  This was the 23rd. 

When the doctor in the nursing home released her, apparently, she was much better. On the way back, the car fell into many potholes on the road. I guess her health fell with it. At home, she was perpetually on oxygen. She was unable to eat practically anything, both because of restrictions as well as because of desire. And had an entire shop worth of meds. She had lost her will to live. And who wouldn’t when all you’re allowed to have is only one litre of liquid through the day…

I hadn’t even considered the possibility of her getting worse from when I’d last come. But she did get worse. Now she was bedridden. She couldn’t even sit up without support. She couldn’t get up without being hauled up like a sack of potatoes. She kept on needing oxygen. She needed my parent’s for almost everything. The entire night was without sleep. 

On the morning of the 25th, Christmas Day, I had accompanied my mother to church. On the way back, my father called. He had decided that the best possible course of action was to have the dialysis done. We returned home and the ambulance was called. I helped the men put her on the stretcher and watched them carry her away to the nursing home. 

I remember, in the start of December, my brother called me to ask me what date I’m coming home.  I told him I’d be back before Christmas. It was then that I had the feeling. Was she waiting for me to come back? Was she merely holding on for just that? 

The morning of the 26th my mother called me while I was still in bed. It was early by my standards. My 6:30 alarm had just rung and I’d silenced the infernal buzzing and gone back to sleep. Mummas shaking woke me immediately. I knew what she had to say even before she said it. “The hospital called. It’s not good. They’re asking us to go right now.” It didn’t take me long to pull on my jeans and the closest t-shirt I could find and get ready to leave. By the time we left, it was almost 7. 

The hospital was close by, when I used to go to the school there, we would drive past it every morning on the usual bus route. Upon reaching the hospital my father went up to her room. A while later he came down and said that they had been trying to revive her and since the process was still on he should wait downstairs. And so, we waited. In silence. I put my hand in my pocket and found my crushed up boarding pass from my flight two days before. I fiddled with it. In my other pocket, I found the hair tie my roommate had gifted me. I fiddled with that too. I wondered how many people were told about the death of their of their loved ones in the same place that we were sitting. I wondered if it happened like in the movies where a doctor wearing a long white coat comes to greet the family and looks sad for them and they all burst into tears and mourn the death. I looked at my shoes and wondered about if anyone would care as much as I did that they didn’t need laces. 

It wasn’t like the movies. About half an hour later my father was called and he came bearing the bad news. He may have been a doctor but he wasn’t the right doctor. He didn’t have a white coat. My father had called my uncle asking him to come to the hospital. He called him again and told him to come to our home instead. 

We didn’t want him to but Baba insisted on driving back. I think it was because he didn’t know what else to do with himself at that time. We rode back in silence. I looked out the window and saw the people setting up shop. The early morning market place was doing full-fledged business, buying and selling things. I wanted to scream at them. Tell them that my grandmother is dead. I don’t know why. I just wanted to. I wanted them to tell me what to do because I didn’t know what to do myself.  

We reached home without me flinging myself out of the car. Then came the job of calling everyone.  All the relatives. First, family was told. Then neighbours and friends. The same thing. Almost like a record. I didn’t cry. I only sat and watched. I looked at the events unfolding around me. The cat looked at us from the sofa she slept on. Oblivious to the gravity of the situation. People running up and down all on phones. I sat. No one to call. No one to talk to. Ready to be told to do something, but not being summoned for anything. But I sat. If I got up it would be shameful. I don’t know why, but it would. I wanted to do something. I wanted to be useful. I just didn’t know how. 

The hospital called for us to bring some clothes for her body. I remembered then that when my grandfather had died I hadn’t cried till they brought in the body. I wondered if I needed that physical proof that the person is gone to actually feel the death hit me.

As time went by and people got the news, the house slowly started to get filled with people. Either offering their support or coming in to mourn with the family. We were kept busy. Chairs were brought out from dusty corners. Dusted. Cats were moved from their sleeping spots and told to go and sleep elsewhere. Ideally, somewhere where a human wouldn’t be sitting. I sat away from the prying gaze of relatives. Away from the crying and wailing of men and women who had known the woman longer than I. I sat and I thought. My mind felt clear. It was a good time to think. To plan out my work. All the work that I had left for the holidays. All the work I had been postponing. I should get down to doing it. Things were going to change now. 

Usually when I go back home I refrain from telling people. So, when I finally came out of the room I was asked, “Oh, did you come hearing the news?” Sometimes mum came to my rescue and answered for me. At other times, I had to say, “No. I’m on break. I came before…” But the reply to that was always the same. And I hated it. “Oh, so she waited for you to come.” Why did she wait for me to come, to die? How am I supposed to feel about that?

When I had gone with my father to the hospital to give the clothes that they had asked for, on the drive there he told me, “Grief is a very selfish emotion.” I agree with him. It is a selfish emotion. Was Dida also so selfish that she waited for me, only to die? Is that what these people meant. “Oh well at least she got to see you/ you got to see her.”  I mean would she have lived longer had I not come? Is that what you’re trying to say? And I pondered on this for a while when I escaped and went into the veranda. But there were people walking about outside also. I suppose there aren’t enough chairs… The cat jumped in and stopped between the grills when she saw me. I looked at her and her green eyes widened and she jumped back out. I looked out to make sure no dogs would chase her. The inside of the house was now stuffy and hot. In the middle of winter Kolkata still wasn’t feeling the regular chill that would previously make our teeth chatter. “The earth is dying…” I thought to myself as I took out water to drink. “And we are all dying with it…”

The hospital, according to some rule, only releases the body 5 hours after the death of the patient. This meant that the release should have been at around 12 noon since the time of death was registered at around 8 A.M. When the body finally came, it was around 2 PM. My great aunt had travelled all the way over from Barrackpore and arrived as the hearse van arrived. I rushed out to bring her in. She broke down even before entering the house. After I helped her in the body was brought in and put in the centre of the living room. I had helped carry the coffee table out into the back veranda earlier to make space. 

Flowers. So many flowers. So typically Bengali; to have Rajnigandha. Big green stalks with several white buds and some opened petals. The sweetness of the smell hit our noses. But the death still didn’t hit me. I stood behind everyone. Peering in from the gaps. Finally, I gave up. The cat sat perched on top of the fridge staring down from her vantage point. Then she got down and manoeuvred between the sea of legs – both human and furniture – and reached the centre where the body lay. She sniffed it and then retreated to underneath the sofa, watching. I still didn’t cry. I don’t know why I was waiting to cry. I didn’t feel any tears. I don’t show tears so easily. So why was I waiting to cry. As the body was taken out into the community hall I thought. “Maybe I feel like I need to cry because I need to show them I am in mourning. People don’t believe you’re sad until you actually have tears running down your cheeks, do they?” I put on my shoes to go out to see the body leave. The last time I’d ever see my grandmother. “Physical proof is everything to people nowadays. I need to show that I’m sad or they’ll think I’m a heartless bitch.” I walked outside. My cousin sister, whom I had grown very close to a few years ago, was there. Her family had driven over as soon as they got the news. Her eyes were red and puffy. She had glittering streaks running down her cheeks. She came over to hug me. I hugged her tightly. I was so happy to see her. I still did not cry. It funny how a time of mourning can bring together people. I hadn’t seen her in ages and here she was now, crying along with the rest of my extended family. 

The hearse van comes. The white swaddle is lifted and pushed inside. People get into the cars. My brother gives me his copy of the key to the house because this time he will be going to the crematorium. When my grandfather died, it was I who had gone with my father. He stayed behind with my grandmother. My father refused to hug me before he left. I don’t know why. Did he also think that I wasn’t mourning enough? That I needed to be crying. I needed those tears to be falling down my face in order to receive a little comfort. I don’t know. 

As the white van carrying the body drove out, my eyes stung. Hot droplets spilled out, instantly chilled by the air. My chest heaved and I released unattractive hiccupping sounds. I really hated 2016… 

The Art of Smiling

I seem to have mastered the art of smiling. No one can tell anymore that its faked. I’m so good at it that sometimes I even fool myself while doing it. It’s simple to do once you know how. You have to lift one side of your mouth. Flash a little tooth. But not too much. Make sure that you aren’t smiling too much. That looks weird and people catch on. Lift your eyebrows ever so slightly when you do it. This will make your eyes appear wider and bigger. And light source will reflect off your irises easily to make it look like your eyes are sparkling. Everyone knows sparkling eyes are a sign of happiness. 

The next thing to learn is the duration. If it’s a chance meeting on the stairs make sure not to stop smiling until you have passed the person completely. Dropping the smile too quickly is dangerous as the one you are smiling at may see the sudden change and know that the smile wasn’t genuine. However, this isn’t hard at all. Chance staircase meets are short and get over quickly. When you are in a group, that’s when things get hard. You need to hold it for longer then. Sometimes even throw in a laugh here and there. Mostly it’s better to just sit it out. Go home and curl up where people can’t see, sometimes it’s not easy to run away. Oh well. In cases like these it’s better to have a bigger smile than usual. Take the corners of your mouth upwards. Make sure your cheeks rise considerably. Your eyes should become thinner. If you can manage all these things you are doing it right. The next thing that you want to be able to do is shake your shoulders slightly, while doing this you can even laugh gently. That really makes it all come together. 

I’ve mastered faking laughs so well that even I can’t tell the difference sometimes. Laughs are loud and unattractive. They are ugly and gross but they are happy. On occasion, you can try to make them so much better by adding in a snort. For some reason, other people find snorts very funny. Oh well, if they’re laughing at the snort, you won’t have to keep up the laugh for so long. You can also try staring off into the distance. I tend to drop out of conversation so often people have given up talking to me in big groups. I don’t do well in big groups. All my dreams of being popular when I grow up have done a complete 180. I’m not popular. I’m a dork. I’m a nerd. I’m an outcast and a misfit. Even among those whom I call my own I don’t feel one. 

It’s only when I’m alone that I truly feel that I belong. Not with anyone. But with only myself. I find myself able to smile to myself. Laugh at myself. Sing to myself. Dance with myself. I guess I’m just special that way. That the art of smiling, comes naturally to me, and to me only.

“You feel so violated it’s sickening…” 

​Preface: 

When I started writing this I had no idea I would get such a huge response. I went to my WhatsApp and asked many people one question. “If you have had an experience with sexual harassment and would like to share it with me for an article please message me.” There was a tidal wave. So many people sharing their stories. So many women telling me about how helpless they felt about how horrible it was. I didn’t know how to respond even to some. There were people I’d never spoken to before sharing their stories. This was definitely the toughest piece I’ve ever written. I’ve kept all names confidential. I also never want to read this piece again. It was hard enough to write. 


I always thought that if I were ever touched inappropriately I would kick up a fuss. Probably break the perpetrators hand off. I was wrong. The first time it happened I tried to shrug it off telling myself it was just a mistake or it was something. That he didn’t mean to do it. But the second time I knew it was not. It was done purposely and it was real. It was happening. In my state of shock, the feeling of awkwardness that overtook me was something so overwhelming that I, the one who would always encourage people to stand up for themselves and speak out, was unable to say a single word to defend myself. To defend my body which was so subtly and yet disgustingly violated.  
But this is something that as women we face not just everyday but all the time. From dress codes policing our body to the old creepy men on the road who stare at us to the complete stranger trying to get a phone number. We face it all. And it is scary. In a discussion with my friends, I told them how angry I was with myself for not retaliating to what had happened and they told me that they too had gone through the same. It seems that this is something that we have numbed ourselves to! We just simply go along with it as if it’s a regular part of our day! S tells me how a man pinched her breasts when she was in the 8th grade, when she was on her way to church. She was too shocked to understand what had happened. “When they show girls going into a shell after anything like this I always wondered why.” She said. “Then I realised, you feel so violated it’s sickening!” She tells me that every time she thought about what happened she had felt like throwing up. 

When A was in 11th grade, on the bus home from school she was harassed. “He was leaning against me and I didn’t mind so much because the bus was crowded” She later realised he had been rubbing his genitals against her shoulder. When she glared at him he moved away but she said she could feel him staring. “I just got off the bus.” In some cases, retaliating makes us look like crazy emotional monsters. People stare weirdly and no one comes to help. T tells me of how when her butt got smacked in the middle of a busy road, not one person came to help her. When she screamed at the pervert who did it she was laughed at by bystanders and ignored by the policeman standing there. “It was just so embarrassing!” 

It feels like staring has become obsolete. Groping and touching is the new in thing now. And it is spreading like wildfire. Forget what a woman is wearing, forget what she is doing. They are just silly excuses that we hear. Silly excuses to defend the entitlement of patriarchy. “There was this time when I was in 8th. I was walking back home from school. My home was in a posh and calm neighbourhood, so I had my guard down. I kept walking down the road to my house, when this man- a worker from one of the construction sites nearby- stepped in my path. I was taken aback, but merely curious about what he wanted- up and until he pulled his dick out of his pants. That was where I freaked out and ran, all the way back to my home. I couldn’t sleep properly the next couple of days, because it disturbed me that much.” R tells me. She went on to casually point out how there’s always something that happens in crowded buses, shocking me into realisation that this is exactly how much we’ve numbed ourselves to this kind of thing. K and G haven’t though. G says, “Once I was sitting in the bus on the way back home when the guy sitting behind me slipped his hand between my seat and the glass window and groped me. It must have looked like I was sleeping which is probably why he thought he’d get away with it, but I turned around and fired him. He acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about and everyone else looked at me like I was deranged.” K had a similar thing happen to her. However, she smartly took pictures of it happening and the conductor of her bus and the people around made the man get off the bus immediately when they got to know. K also recalls the time she was stopped on the road by a man she’s never met before who offered her a ride back home in his car, telling her he finds her very pretty. She says he told her, “Please don’t think I’m a creep I was just hoping to strike a conversation with you!” it was only when she told him strongly to stop that he actually did and finally left her alone. 

The fact that something like this is becoming so regular and almost common place is ridiculous. So many times women are harassed and molested and nothing is being done. We are told that we should not have been doing things and we should not have done things. It’s like we are punished for having bodies. Instead of telling us to refrain from going out in the dark, and wearing clothes they call ‘inappropriate’ what should be said is not to us but to those who harass, instead. Unfortunately, the punishment for being born anything less than a “man” is such. The worst part is that the artful way in which such disgusting acts are so often carried out are often glossed over by many. The discomfort and awkwardness that is created is never understood. I guess you really don’t understand till it happens to you. 

(All names have been kept confidential in order to protect the identities of the women I have spoken to in order to allow them to speak freely.)

Jack the Ripper


​Toward the end of the Victorian era, there were a set of very grisly murders that took place mainly in the east end of London. The serial killer was named Jack the Ripper and was called this owing to the way in which they would rip into their victims and remove their organs. Their identity is still unknown to this day.

The rain that falls outside caresses the glass of the window gently. Golden drops reflecting the street light outside. The fog lies heavy over the town. No respectable person is out at this time of night. Even those of the East End have scurried away to some hovel in the back end of their boxed in homes. 

There is one person outside however. Cloaked to protect themselves in the terrible wet conditions, a hat covering their eyes from any unlucky spectator and a blade hidden in the pockets of that large cloak. Wrapped up well to preserve the shine. To prevent the moisture of the surrounding areas from damaging the blade.

Invisible to the human eye, at least for now, the Collector stands high above the streets. Death scythe in hand she waits, her empty eyes show no sign of remorse or sorrow for what is to happen. She is merely here to do her job. Collect the souls of the dead and leave. Tonight it shall happen slowly and carefully. She has no emotion in her. To her it is another soul among the countless human souls that are being taken from all over the world. In any case, she is forbidden from interfering in the issues that plague the human world.

She watches them walk briskly and deliberately. They have a motive in mind. Around the corner, then the next, cutting through the fog that closed up, swallowing their cloaked figure from behind. But she with her supernatural eyesight can see. The cloak stops in front of a dilapidated home. Inside there is a dim light that struggles to find its way through the grime that covers the windows. The carefully wrapped blade is drawn, and opening the rotting wood door with ease they step inside. A few moments later there is screaming that is quickly silenced. The Collector looks around. Nobody else has heard. Her attention is drawn back to the entrance of the house where the cloaked figure is dragging out a woman. Presumably the one who screamed inside the house. She is beautiful by human standards. Pale skin and a petite body covered only in a dirty white dress. She is alive still, but barely just. 

The collector watches as she is strangled properly by the cloaked figure. Black and purple bruises start to appear on her neck where the rope lovingly embraces it now. And as they do her pulse fades away and her spirit starts to appear next to the Collector. The collector makes her move to take the spirit to the next world but she looks at her with pleading eyes. The spirit is just as filthy as her body was. Covered in mud and hair all a mess but something about her gaze makes the Collector feel sorry for her. “You can stay till the end but after that you must come with me.” 

“I thank ye greatly me lady” the spirit tells her. They turn their attention back to the cloak. Satisfied with his work, strangling her, he takes his blade and rips through her throat spraying blood all over the pavement and the street. Then slowly and what seems to be lovingly they caress the body of the woman and soon get rid of all the organs from her putting them inside the cloak.

Hearing a scream beside her, the collector turns to look at the spirit who is flying down to the cloaked figure. She follows in hast but doesn’t reach them in time to stop the spirit from pushing her murderer down. As her death scythe slices the spirit, sending her straight to the underworld, the cloaked figure rises. They stumble to their feet, blood drips from their body onto the pavement and mingles with the grime. The collector watches as the figure stumbles toward the pier, their own blade sticking out of their chest. When they trip and their hat falls off, long yellow hair cascades down. She falls over the edge right into the murky waters of the river, never to be seen again… 

Swallow

When you say I’m beautiful, what do you really mean? What do you want to imply when you say that I look pretty? When you hadn’t noticed me before but I suddenly caught your eye, what do these words mean? You, the man who has so many falling at his feet. Why do you notice me now? What makes you say such things that you know I will like to hear?  When you tell me these things I feel like a swallow. I am flying in the air. I am light, free, and yet I am tied to the earth. Forced to come back down when you leave. That is how I felt with you. That is how I was. 
What do you mean when you tell me I am beautiful? Is it just another way of your getting me to fall to your feet like the thousand others you have enraptured. I see how they are, captivated by your words. Your laugh ensnares them. You know exactly what to say to make the yours, and each day you add to your collection. And me? Am I in it? Am I your prized possession? You had me. You caught me. And then let go. So I fell from my place in the skies. You plucked away the wings you once gave me and let me plummet to the ground. Your prized possession? I guess not. In the end, was I more than just another one of those that you used and threw away? I guess I didn’t make a dent. I was just another game to you and I lost while you walked away with everything that I did. And it’s been so long, yet I still know you. I remember you. 

And though it scares me to admit this, I miss you…