Why Color Matters

As a child, I never really realized how much skin color mattered. In retrospect, maybe I should have. My very first memories are from the time my family and I were based in UK. I knew I looked different from the rest of my class, my skin was brown and theirs was white. My mother used to tell me it was because I was special and I truly believed her. Little did I know that it was really the other way around.

I lived in an Indian society, and all of my closest friends were as brown as I was. I had a few white friends too, but I don’t recall going to their house of playing after school. Yet, back then, it didn’t seem odd, I was still the special one. Once we moved back to India, I felt more comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t just survive here, I thrived. I spoke my mind openly, I participated in every possible activity I could, and I even made friends that I still cherish. Maybe it had to do with not being the odd one out anymore, maybe it had to do with me growing up, I will never know. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized the significance of skin color.

In the 9th grade, my family and I decided to go for a vacation to the USA. We went for a great cruise and met some family friends along the way. This was probably my first brush with the concept of skin colour. Every internal flight we took, and there were six of them, we were the group with four S’s on their boarding passes. In case you aren’t aware of what that means, it means Secondary Security Screening Selection. This basically means you are felt up from every angle possible, and your neatly packed suitcase shall now be a hazardous mess. Apparently, the SSSS is random. I however, find it extremely hard to believe that every single time, the four of us were the ones who were “randomly” selected. My mother whispered into my very worried ear,” Beta, humari chamdi ka rang dekh ke faisla kiya hai.” This made me pervious to the thought process of the enlightened world. Color matters. It seems to go like this: the darker you are, the more you shall be condemned.

Nowadays, it just makes me sad. In the last two weeks, I’ve read about a hostage situation leading to 22 deaths in Dhaka, the murder of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and the Dallas shooting. It can be argued that one situation had religion at its root cause while the other had racism. To me, it all bows down to one simple fact. People who did not deserve to die are now dead, and it isn’t because of religion or racism, it’s because of ignorance. Statistics show that 31% of the police killings in 2012 were killings of black people, even though they account for just 13% of the US population. Those number gives us a slightly clearer picture of how authorities deal with colored masses in the western world. When the police, who are meant to serve and protect can’t put their prejudices aside, what can we expect from the common folk?

The Dallas shooting caused the death of 5 police officers and it left 7 injured. The suspect claimed he wanted to “kill white people-especially white officers”. I read something on a friend’s timeline, “A black man is killed by cops and the media prints his prior records. A white teen rapes a girl and the media prints his swim time.” This made me very aware of how the media decides to publish their stories. Marsha Mcluhan said, “the medium is the message.” The media is supposed to be indifferent to perspective and is supposed to report the worldly occurring’s without any bias, but I’m old enough to know that isn’t true and Mcluhan was right. The media is also made up of people who have different perspectives, opinions and unfortunately, predispositions. This also flows through the information the media provides us with and inadvertently affects the way we think.

The shooting was a devastating tragedy. Officers who were potentially not at fault ended up losing their lives. That is exactly what is wrong with our world. It was a reaction to an action that has been repeated time and time again because of deeply embedded prejudices in society and the innocent paid the price. It costed officers their lives while the officers who actually pulled the triggers are still alive, well, and on paid administrative leave. If only the people responsible were also the ones held accountable.

The world has a problem with stereotyping and generalizing traits according to skin colour, religion, and profession. It happens all too much. Islam is a violent religion because a few men with the wrong idea decided to take matters in their own hands, all black people are thugs because poverty lead some black men to the thug life, all police officers are racist because a couple of them took the lives of innocent black men. It’s a never-ending cycle of blaming an entire community for the fault of a few.

Color shouldn’t matter, but somehow it does. White, black, brown or yellow, all men and women should be equal, but they aren’t. No one of us should be special, entitled or above the others but there are people who believe they are (Donald Trump for instance). That’s what needs to change, but there is no end to prejudice. There shall always be people who can’t see through the veil of stereotypes and bias, and there shall always be people who want to enforce their will on others by hook or by crook. We can blame it all on color, religion, profession, education and upbringing, but does the blame game really help the cause here? It’s about time we look past what happened and look at why it did. It’s the only plausible solution to cycle of violence and hate riding through society today.

 

It Could Happen to You

You always think it happens to other people, that you’re safe from the cruelty of this misguided world, but are you? I thought that once, until fate reminded me I was a part of the world and I too shall suffer the consequences of being in it. No one is safe, not really. The attack at Holey Artisan Bakery, Dhaka was another not-so-gentle reminder of the same.

When I was growing up, I never paid much attention to the happenings of the world, primarily because I found those happenings grim and painful. It was also because I was too busy filling my head with Harry Potter, Bollywood songs, notions of love and ideas of friendship. That’s the thing with being a kid; I could be oblivious to the violence of the Gujarat 2002 riots and I could turn a blind eye to the sheer loss of 9/11, but I can’t do that effectively anymore. It’s true, ignorance is bliss, because I can’t stop thinking about attack and the people who died in it.

It didn’t happen to me, it happened to other people, but it could have happened to my brother Ninad. My Chachu and Chachi live in Dhaka, quite near to where the bakery was.  Ninad was supposed to fly home from Canada on the 29th of June, but he missed his flight. At that moment, Chachu was livid and understandably so; a flight from Canada doesn’t come cheap. Another flight was booked, and Ninad came home a day late, a day that probably made all the difference.

Three of Ninad’s friends were in that bakery, all three of them didn’t make it. They were all younger than twenty-one years of age. And they didn’t make it. He could have been there; he probably would have been there if he hadn’t missed his flight. Chachu no longer minds that he did. The possibility that a part of my family could have vanished because a few people decided to play a cruel God; that was all it took for me to think twice about all that had happened. My stomach dropped as low as it could and a shiver transmitted into my body, a shiver that hasn’t left since then. My sister and I silently raised a toast to all the fallen with tears in our eyes because even though it didn’t happen to us, it easily could have. I couldn’t remember the last time I had talked to Ninad, or the last time I had even paid him a compliment. It was a moment filled with despair and regret even though Ninad was alive and well.

I didn’t know his friends personally, but I know that their families must be in indescribable agony. Losing a parent is painful, but losing a child is a whole other experience. I know nothing of this experience, but it must be more anguish than the thought of losing a brother. That very thought brought me to tears. My heart goes out to Faraaz Hossain, Abinta Kabir and Tarishi Jain’s families who had to endure much more than a simple thought. May they be in a better place than the last place they were.

Honestly, I feel like I’m rambling on about the state of the world and the pain of death because I’m not sure what else to write. It’s wrong, it’s so horrendously wrong, that there is nothing I can possibly say to emphasize on it. They were kids. KIDS. They didn’t deserve the end they got, no one deserves the end they got. Have you ever watched a crime bases television show and thought about the violence in it? Have you ever seen a stabbing on television and thought, “That’s looks painful but thank god that would never happen to me?” Because I have. But I’m wrong, that could happen to anyone at any point of time, the same way those children were brutally killed when there was never anything they could have ever done to deserve it. The sense of security we all carry with us every day, is false. It’s a sugary lie we tell ourselves to stop us from having a panic attack every minute of every day.

I watched a video recently which said, “No terrorist, no enemy of the state ever thinks of themselves as the bad guy.” That probably lies true for these men who did this too, but how can they not see the perverse nature of what they believe to be right? What kind of God would want this? How could this be His will? When I was young, my teachers used to tell me, “Your life is that of a sheltered child, the world will not be so kind.” I used to pay no heed to their warnings. If only I knew. If only.

The Good in Medicine

Hospitals are places one goes to for treatment, to get better and to kick their illness. Everyone knows that. Like every profession, there are some good doctors and there are some bad ones. What really gets my goat is how every other person has an opinion on how evil medicine has become recently.

I read a post today, about a child’s surgery costing way more than it should. It stated that the hospital charged more than a lac for simple stitches. It also stated that the entirety of the medical profession was dirty, corrupt and unreliable. But now, were they just simple stitches? I looked into the matter, I just had to. No, they weren’t all that simple. Under General Anastesia, the surgeon found that the eyelid and a part of the boys eyebrow was shattered; it was bone deep. Being an experienced plastic surgeon, the surgeon replaced the ocular muscles layer by layer, and then used fine stitches to close the wound up. It was not a 10 minute long procedure. Here’s the dirty little secret: Running a hospital is a business like any other.  Doctors and hospitals are going to charge you for the services and amenities they provide otherwise how the hell do they survive? And if a patient’s family doesn’t have the common sense to ask for the tariff of the best kind of room before taking it up, and then stoop to bitching about it, I have very little sympathy for them. Reckoning the whole profession as ugly and corrupt is an immature and ignorant approach to the situation.

In this particular case, the family claimed the child was shifted to the ICU to create impact and panic them. And what if they hadn’t shifted the child to the ICU? What if the child ended up having a bad reaction to anesthesia? Suppose he lost his vision because the doctor didn’t do a thorough job? Who would be to blame then? Once again, the profession and the people in it. Medicine is a scary profession. Doctors literally hold other people’s lives in their hands and so they make it a point to do their best. A lack of understanding mixed with a unhealthy dose of fear is why the profession is often misunderstood. As humans, it’s not unbelievable that every once in a while, someone makes a mistake. If a doctor is meticulous and keeps your child under observation, there is almost always a viable explanation for it.

I was watching a medical show called Scrubs the other day, and what they say about how people view medicine today in comparison to how they viewed it years ago got under my skin. The Chief of Medicine, who hadn’t really treated patients in a long time, got back in the game for the purpose of a bet. Now, stay with me here, he realized that people in general no longer treat doctors like they used to. “When the hell did patients stop respecting us? Remember when being a doctor meant people would look up to you? When I first started out I could take this white coat out and get a free haircut or a nice table at a restaurant. Hell, I never once got a speeding ticket.” was what he said, and he got a response I find perfect for this particular situation. “Those were the good old days. Today, people think of us as drug dispensing, walking lawsuits who are in fact less informed than their internet phones.” The fact of the matter is, hospitals also need to be very careful, in case they get blamed for something they have little or no control over. It happens all the time.

I have two doctors for parents. My father isn’t home three nights a week because he’s out tending to emergency surgeries. He worked at a Pro-Bono hospital every morning for more than ten years. He operated on people who couldn’t afford the surgery, completely free of charge. He missed my biggest dance performance and the only play I was ever in because he was tending to the sick. My mother deals with very sick children every day, she treats them the best she can and gives discounts to patients who obviously can’t afford the treatment. They both pick up their phones in the middle of the night and rush off to work at 3 o’clock in the morning because one of their surgical patients had gotten a bad case of the hiccups. Yes, that’s right, hiccups.

Of course, I may be a little biased given that I grew up in the profession around good-hearted competent doctors. But I find it hilarious that people who work in other businesses, with the clear motive of making as much profit as possible through whatever means necessary, have the audacity to comment on Medicine being a soulless profession. My masi is a gynecologist and my masa is a general surgeon. My cousin still remembers the time her parents were hardly able to spend time with her when she was back home from college. The day she was leaving, her mother was stuck in an emergency surgery and her father had to check on a patient. They couldn’t spend time with their own child because they were taking care of other people’s children.  So I ask you again, is it morally correct to deem the entire profession as dirty with medical professionals like them out there?

Sanjana: It’s Long Overdue

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The first nice photograph we have

Sanjana. There’s so much I can say about her, and yet, I’ve waited up till now to put it in words. She hasn’t failed to remind me, she does that on a decently regular basis. She is my badass, Bihari second half; the most fiercely loyal, vociferous, goofy, bipolar, atom-bomb throwing (that’s an inside joke), book hoarding, dog loving, sarcasm spitting machine I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. That’s how I would introduce her to people if I wasn’t sure she would downright kill me.

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The first photograph of us together. Ignore the others.

I remember the French class where we first met and sat together. I’ve always liked people who could get straight to the point, and what she said was close to, “scoot, let’s sit together.” I’m paraphrasing of course, my memory isn’t as good as it once used to be, and I’m no Ted who remembers every gritty detail, even the shape of a deuce he dropped. But I remember feeling instantly relaxed in a new school swarming with new people. I’ve never been someone who likes crowds, and we never needed one, did we?

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After the Dundee snowfall. We went cray-cray. Well, I did anyway.

 I find myself to be the goofiest version of myself when I’m around her, and our laughter could bring down buildings. Correction, probably has brought down buildings. She’s the friend I go to remember what it’s like to feel passionate about life. I tend to lean towards the mendacity of life every now and then. She reminds me of the magic I miss out on when I forget what life is all about. Her passion for the people and things she loves is far greater than an average being.

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No caption required. You remember this.

I couldn’t have survived in Leeds if it weren’t for her. I truly believe that she always delivers. She’s given me hope in some of my darkest times, been able to make me laugh when I’ve been dying to cry. And even though she occasionally almost overreacts to situations, I love her for it. Because she may overreact to some of the bad things, but god, does she overreact when something goes right. And we all need that, someone who squeals in your happiness and genuinely wants the best for you. I know I can call her and say three simple words, “I need you”, and count on her being there. If she could disapparate to me, she would, and I would always try and do the same for her. Unfortunately travel takes more than a simple click of the fingers; otherwise we would be living together.

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London. Best time ever.

I remember burying myself in NIFT the first semester I was there. I forgot about the rest of the world for some time, but she never let me go too far. I always say that if it weren’t for her scrappiness, we could have lost touch (Oh yes I did, I used a friends reference). And look at us now; I can’t really do a good job of imagining life without you. It took us 7 years and so much drama but we’re finally here. The place where even science says we’ll be friends forever. Yeah, Science Bitch. And boy, am I glad we got here.

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Our goofy photoshoots. How I love them so.

The Gut Feeling

My Gut. I’ve told myself time and time again never to ignore my Gut but alas, if only I would listen. That time he didn’t touch me the entire night, it said, “he doesn’t want you anymore”. I ignored it to the best of my capability and a week later voila! He was gone. The time he didn’t drop me to the airport it said, “he would have if he really liked you.” I brushed that aside and a week later, we were done. There was another time when he said, “we’re on vacation with everyone. We don’t need to go on a date exclusively.” Coming from a man who dreamed of taking me out on a fancy date it said again, “something’s definitely out-of-place”, but all I did was lay my head on his shoulder and hold on to his hand. Again, a month later it was over. Let me tell you a secret; in all these instances, “He” changes to a different man. Yes, they’re all different. That’s how many times my gut has tried to warn me, or tell me something. That’s how well my intuition works.

I’m disoriented by nature but my subconscious tends to take notice of behavioral patterns, and it sends me signals which I’ve always ignored. Eventually this leads to heartache, one side of my head telling the other “I told you so”, and a lot of regret for not listening to myself.

This morning my stomach started to flip out. For some reason Kaushal popped into my head. I hadn’t thought about him for ages, it had been months since we last exchanged words, and he had absolutely no business popping up where he doesn’t belong anymore. But he stayed on for a couple of hours. I was slightly on edge at first but it soon became downright uncomfortable. I don’t know why I did what I did, but I ended up messaging him. I asked him when he was in town next and to my astonishment, he had just landed in Ahmedabad this morning. He’s here for a month and his mother had been diagnosed with some form of Leukemia. Honestly, I wouldn’t wish that on my enemies, let alone someone I was in love with once upon a time. What bothered me was there were no signs. Previous gut messages always had a reason to pop up, something was wrong. This time, there was no logical reasoning my subconscious used to come to a conclusion. It was pure, unadulterated intuition that made me send the first message. I don’t know why, but I needed to know.

It’s a powerful tool, intuition. Especially once you acknowledge you have it and you start listening to it. You know what your conscience could never convey to you, you just know. And if you have it, be sure to listen to it. As humans, we tend to rationalize our thoughts and actions but if this morning was any proof, not everything can be rationalized, not everything can be explained. Listening to others can misguide you, but listening to yourself? It needs to be done. And it needs to be done often so listen to what your gut tells you, it’s mostly right.

Rise, Stand, Stay and Live

Rise.
Because you’re better than the loss,
Because there are facets to you that
No one even knows about,
The catastrophe, though a part of you,
Doesn’t define you.
You are a thousand catastrophes put together.

Stand.
Because you believe in the good in the world,
Because you cannot stop being on your side,
The periscope of memories holds the promise
Of a better tomorrow.
You are brimming with infinite possibilities.

Stay.
Because you never were a coward,
Because you have to witness the dawn,
The roads that led you here have been waiting.
You are the universe.

Live.
Because the sunlight makes
Magical patterns on your hair,
Because the wind kisses all your demons away,
There is a secret place where
Everything you wish for comes true.
You belong there.

-Ishita Basu

To the Ones Who Aren’t Brilliant

Here’s to the ones who are not brilliant. Here’s to the people who question the very purpose of their existence, like I do. To the ones who feel like they do not belong, to the ones who feel they were born in the wrong century, in the wrong galaxy. Those who are full of insecurities, worries, doubts and fears. Those who feel crippled with paranoia and trapped in a meant coated skeleton. There are people like you and me, equally messed up, their souls equally complex and bruised. They too spend Sunday afternoons gazing at clear blue skies, trying to connect to their real self, looking for something to free them, to save them, waiting for miracles while sipping coffee. These people too are lost like you and me, their minds wandering aimlessly through forests and alleys, and places and countries, hoping to make sense of their own existence, hoping to be significant. Trying desperately to love themselves with the self-love they are told is the only cure, but failing miserably, horribly. So, on those evenings when your body and soul seem like two separate entities, when you feel exiled from the home within your own heart. Know that others feel this way today and others felt this way years ago. It’ll pass, it has to, right?

Find your Magic

Go find your magic. Travel to a city that comes alive at midnight, and find your magic in the single empty cafe on a crowded street. Travel to a city that smells like warm puddings and blueberries and the cologne your first love used to wear, and find your magic in the accidentally taken out-of-focus photo of a strange girl with purple hair. Travel to a city that tastes like sea salt and sunshine and moist earth, and find your magic in the single dried flower that you pressed in your book…