Mental Health Awareness Month

India Art Fair- 2020-2022- Barely Surviving
Art Walk at the India Art Fair

Since, my mum’s birthday and the mental health awareness month, coincided with the Art Fair, this time one decided to show a series of work which reflects the past two years of our lives.

This is the concept note of the exhibit-

We all hide parts of ourselves that we afraid of or ashamed of due to the fear of rejection and ridicule. The first day, I couldn’t stand being at the fair but by the second day, I was more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been, today one is joyful, happier than I’ve been in a long time! This year and this fair will remain etched in my memory.

This month at a 100 pieces of me, we will be discussing mental health. Stay tuned.

Rorschach Test

5 a.m. Neither the tree outside the office nor the walks on the factory floor nor the Larry Stylinson videos on loop, help to calm down the mind.

I read the test results again and again. This particular test and its results help. Since last year, one’s used all the findings, from my terribly detailed inspection by the shrink, like an astrological chart or tarot reading. Have the same, ‘wait I’ll show you’ defiance towards them, that one has towards everything. ‘Cope better idiot, normal people don’t get swayed by emotions!’ screams SB. I don’t know whether I should be more afraid of the one who hyperventilates in the middle of the night or the one who is capable of saying the most viscous things. One cares and the other saves her, I guess. SC, seems to be the child ego state and SB, the parent, the adult ego state I’m sure doesn’t exist, in my psyche.

Breathe in…breathe out. Think about home…about green grass and under open skies…the moon…we have nothing and no one left to loose….relax… shhh!

Women’s Day 2022

Women more than men can strip war of its glamour and its out-of-date heroisms and patriotisms, and see it as a demon of destruction and hideous wrong.’-Lillian Wald

Women are the victims of of war…as widows they’ve faced the trauma of being single parents and livelihoods of families are affected. A lot of gender- related problems come up in terms of health, education, domestic violence etc.’ -Kumari Jayawardena

We at a 100 pieces of me, are praying for the Ukrainian women, who are fleeing their homes due to this senseless war. Special dedication to our friend Anastasiia Pashniak, who shared this on Fb, a few days ago.

War…Day 9. Sometimes I feel like it’s a catastrophic movie. But the special effects are way to good. We and millions of people had to leave their houses skipping the sirens and sounds of bombs…My friends ask me if we are safe-No! No one in Ukraine is safe now.’- Anastasiia Pashniak

Home away from home

Mughal Road

fb.watch/624thPyAGa/

‘I believe wherever dreams dwell, the heart calls it home.’- Dodinsky

(Video shot Enroute Gurez)

So many of my memories from the past twelve years are entwined with Kashmir, a place I first visited as a child with my mum. Later, sometime in my twenties, I remember seeing Zila Appa, clad in white sitting opposite the Dal, singing with Muzaffar Sahab’s musicians, while I shot her, totally enamoured by her voice and the place. Travelling with friends, family, alone, accompanied, for work, for leisure and most of all for the spot near the Dal, where I’ve tucked away the broken pieces of me. I return sometimes, just to see if they are still there. Like tonight, I long for my spot.

One understands that just because one has a birth certificate and a passport mentioning the place of birth as J& K it doesn’t make the place home. But my love of places, like Kashmir and Pushkar has been more intense than the love that one has felt for any man. I should stop though, it causes plenty of confusion. My concept note for the series 2019, that drew a comparison between Srinagar and Delhi, mentioned my home- Delhi and my ‘home away from home’ Kashmir. A journalist visited the stall, at the art fair, read the concept note and wrote ‘Kashmiri photographer Saadiya Kochar’. A compliment for me and I’m sure a little infuriating for any Kashmiri, who might chance upon it. The journalist and I never did get to chat and I guess my name confuses everyone in any case, so not her fault. One should have been more careful.

In any case, as the rumour mills churn and one hears there might be another bifurcation the place of birth on my new passport, might just mention Jammu. One wonders how much the people of this land will continue to suffer? Now that we’ve all experienced lockdowns, it might help you empathise with a twenty year old whose life in Kashmir, has just been a series of such shutdowns with no internet and the fear of being locked up. That’s if they haven’t lost someone due to the conflict. God should have mercy and we should have some empathy!

The Devil’s Advocate

Tractor parade starting from the Ghazipur side.

I thought at length about what to write. The young man, who lost his life: Navneet Singh, just returned from Australia, where his young wife awaited his arrival. Seeing him on the ground, left me shell shocked. The events of the day, were going to led to some disaster, that was obvious.

Rajdeep, is bearing the brunt of reporting, what the farmers told us- that Navneet had been shot. In fact, when I got the news, from one of the young farmers, I was told, that three boys had been shot in the head. It was not a rally but a protest, the kind, I have never witnessed and I have witnessed many, in the past decade. Let’s just say it was akin to the people taking to the street when Ram Rahim, was arrested. Plus, there was a caravan, a flight of tractors, stuck in a jam, leaderless, with lots of gossip mongering and alot of violence, from both ends. Now, if I say, the initial screw ups began from the side of the farmers in Ghazipur, I was there when they started to remove all the barricades and damage buses, in the morning, I will look like a right wing supporter and if I lie, I will not be able to live with it.

Men who tied the barrier to their tractor and dragged it for half km, till someone yelled at them.
Rejoicing
There’s mayhem, all over.
A young man attacks the truck, that they have pushed to one side, while another tries to stop the mayhem.
Ghazipur
Tear Gas Shells, are used early on, to deter the farmers. Most of the tractors as well as my driver take a U Turn, within minutes. Suddenly, there’s complete chaos, we get saved from being run over, by the tractors heading towards us, frantically looking for cover.
After the tear gas shelling
The farmers have no fear of COVID. But after the
mace is used, everybody has to cover their faces.
Enroute
Stuck in a jam.
My car is stuck in a jam, with the farmers. At approximately, this time, Navneet Singh is loosing his life.

If I was a politician, a follower of the religion under attack, a leftist, a feminist, an activist, a student leader, a photo journalist with a full time job, I would pick a side and stick to it. Right, wrong, evidence, no evidence, common sense, I would just flush all of it down the toilet and defend my own. I would write and argue till my face went blue about the right to protest any which way, about how religious flags are used inappropriately all the time, about how wonderful the Sikhs are and so and so forth. But, alas! one is unable to do so. Nevertheless, one is in complete solidarity with the farmers, so as a sign of respect to the most important movement, any of us will ever witness, I take a bow. I decided today, after much contemplation, that a truth that does more harm than good is not worth dwelling on and sharing.

Having said that, I just want to add, as a person born into a Sikh family, never have I ever felt ashamed of the community or any of its actions. In fact, one has always claimed, that if I ever did feel the need to follow a religion, it would be this, just for how courageous and generous, it encourages its followers to be. But for the first time, witnessing the utter disregard for human life, made me squirm and I would personally apologise on behalf of all those present at the Ghazipur border (out of which the percentage of Sikhs would not be over 20%, on the upside) for all that took place.

I said this to a young lad, initially, who I shot with the Nishan Sahab. The flag was on the tractor and he said to his friend that the reason I am taking a picture of him is because , ‘ Madam, humme Khalistani dikhana cha rahee he!’ I flared up, of course. My reply to him was, ‘ You are a cut surd, my father is a turbaned Sikh living in Delhi, who was going to be attacked in ‘84. Whatever you people do and say, be careful that you don’t risk the lives of the Sikhs living here because you all will flee and they will pay the price for it!’ I still maintain that stance. I still feel the need and the responsibility to apologise for the violence, not because I am a coward, but because due to it, we didn’t even rush our own to the hospital, we didn’t even pick up his body from the ground, instead we used him for media bytes. Two wrongs aren’t going to make a right and if I have to share images of the destruction of Babri Masjid, as a defence for the hyper masculinity flexing its muscles, shame on us!

A religion that was formed to stand up for the oppressed ( even if that oppressed person is a policeman) the visual of that religion, the turban and the Nishan Sahib, can’t be be seen on a tractor trying to drive over a policeman or attacking a policeman with a stick or a sword, that was put their in those hands to protect. It’s sava lakh nal ek ladava, not the other way round. This is a farmer’s issue, that across the board affects all farmers but in the end if something goes wrong and incase of violence, like we saw, only the turban will be held responsible and also bear the brunt of it! Never forget what the optics look like to a the man of the street. It is the Nishan Sahib, that will be used to derail theentire movement. The Sikhs are a martial race and there are rules, even in war. Let’s not forget that. This one we will win but let’s just try to win it, the right way.

P.S- This is an appeal to the Akal Takht, from factions of the Sikh community, to disallow people from using the religious flag- the Nishan Sahib for anything other than a religious procession. For it to not be hoisted on vehicles and to not carry it while running. Though, the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh, has said, ‘ Violence by farmers or police at Red Fort can’t be justified. But controversy over hoisted Nishan Sahib over vacant flag pole at Red Fort is a non-issue.’

Her life gets me through some nights

A prescription from 1998. The earlier ones from Dr Kothari, I think, must have got misplaced when we moved homes.

Some nights I struggle, more than others and then the life of the woman, who bore me flashes through my semi sleep state. The ego reminds me to not become a foregone conclusion and these prescriptions save me from myself.

Though her official name was Deepika Kochar, all the prescriptions before I started taking her (much later) to the doctors were made in the name of Neera (which is her nick name). My aunt, who was a like a mother to my mum, used to take her to see the all the doctors, when we were little.

The suicide attempt after I was born should have been a red flag. Postmartem depression is a real thing. Each time I would ask my mum what brought it on, she would reply, ‘your grandfather went on a holiday and came back with gifts for his other grandchildren but nothing for you! I could bear how badly he treated me but I couldn’t take it when he treated you the same way!’ Needless to say, our relationship with our grandfather remained the same out entire lives, he never brought us anything or spoke much to us and though I will always regret not knowing my grandmother better, I have no such feelings for the one, who threw my mum out of the house. My parents moved into a rented apartment and that’s where my brother was born. A few years after my brother’s birth, there was another one. About the self immolation, all she would say, ‘ Your father and I were fighting and I was getting too agitated. I spilt perfume on myself and set myself on fire.’ I remember returning from a relative’s house and the help showing the nine year old me, my mother’s burnt clothes. ‘ Yeh dekh tumhari mummy ne kyaa kara!’

I grew up disliking my mother. The father, I adored till the first time, I saw him beating her and then went on to take out his frustrations on me. The only one who I considered home and family, growing up was my brother, much like the protagonist from Dear Zindagi. The mother was too different from everybody else for me to have any understanding of where she was coming from. People, didn’t make it easy either. Everybody those days, would talk about her- my father, his family, even her own family, up until her stroke. Though, I was always asked to take care of my brother and her, nobody told me that her behaviour was driven by her disease and that she required love. My own loneliness, my own struggles with my dark side, with my sexuality made me empathise with her, too late in life. But I think she lived as long as she did, inspite of all her attempts and illnesses because I was supposed to mend my relationship with her. That went on to help in saving me, from my own self.
Mum’s addiction to Corex went on for a long time. Every year, she would be hospitalised.
I hate when people blame my brother’s death for her depression and my father’s alcoholism. Though, it’s very convenient, it’s an absolute lie. It also mitigates, and disrespects all of my mother’s struggles with her own demons. My Ma, was born a fighter, if you ever saw her throwing a fit or in a hospital, scratching, biting and abusing two, three people at the same time (who were trying to hold her down) you would know, where I get my fighting spirit from. She was a terribly sensitive, sensuous, flawed woman who could only be controlled with love and was way ahead of her times. Though, being her child was never easy, it required for me to mother her, it was an absolute privilege knowing her. She is one of the rare people I know, who actually got better with age, less temperamental, more loving and truly apologetic for what she made us go through as kids. The only reason, I managed to forgive her is because she reciprocated my efforts with so much love, that the last few years of her life became her swan song, to me.

Ghalib and I

Zulmat kaday mein meray shab-e-ghamm ka josh hai: ik shama hai daleel-e- sahar, so khamosh hai.’
Self portrait for my final portfolio in college ( 2003).
The inspiration for the entire project was Ghalib.

Yesterday, was Ghalib’s birthday and all the heritage walk leaders/ historians, I know shared nuggets from his life. Today I saw a lovely video by Aditya Pathak, about Ghalib and seeing that I thought I should write something about the man, who other than Harivansh Rai, Kaifi Azmi and Javed Akhtar and much later, Pablo Neruda, got me through many turbulent nights.

Bikhre huwo ki aah, he Ghalib.

Ghalib was in another league, of course. One does suffer from existential angst, for unrequited love, separation and heartbreak, one found solace in Mirza Asadullah Beig’s poetry. Hum bikhre hue, bigde hue, sharab peene wallo ko, jo khudda he woh to mante he, magar duniya aur mazahb me nahin, unke liye Ghalib mian, ek humnawa he. Ek humsafar, jo Janat ki hakeekat jaanta he. Ghalib, may be a passing fascination for the pious, religious lot but for us cynics, he’s our fellow traveller, who has experienced unbearable loss and who died without an offspring. Unke baare me padh kar lagta he, yeh jee liye to hum bhi, jee hi lenge!

‘Shama bujhti hai tho uss mein se dhuuan uththa hai: Sholaa-e-ishq seaah posh hua meray baad.’ Self Portrait 2003.
‘Nafas na anjuman-e- arzoo se baahir khainch: agar sharab naheen intezaar-e- saghar khainch’ . (Final college portfolio/ 2003)
‘Naghmaa-hua-ghamm ko bhi ae dil ghaneemat jaaniay: be-sadaa ho jae ga yeh saaz-e hastee ek din.’ (2003)

Solo Travels- Bijbehara

Solo travels in Bijbehara, Srinagar.

The last time I visited Bijbehara, was in 2016, for Mufti Sahab’s funeral. The Dara Shikoh, Mughal Garden is his final resting place. Brijbehara, is famous for it’s Chinar Trees and is known as the Chinar town. Also known as Vijbor or Vijbror, it’s around forty five kms away, from Srinagar. The oldest Chinar tree in the region can be found in Paadshahi Bagh. Both the gardens were closed, due to the ongoing pandemic but my taxi driver- Farooq Uncle, is a real hustler. He convinced the guards at Paadshahi to let me enter by telling them, I’ve come all the way from Delhi. The one’s at Dara Shikoh Garden, wouldn’t let us in because there were a lot of young boys, who were loitering around, trying to gain access.

Anyhow, on the way back we were famished and stopped midway, to pick up something from Hattrick. Right next to it, an older gentleman was serving the best Kahwa, I’ve had in Kashmir.

Special Kahwa, served from this beautiful Samovar.

The only way to survive Kashmir on your own, is to miraculously find, soft spoken, kind local men, who like you, don’t like to listen to the word no. Now, before you start judging me, it’s in the context of work. I’ve never liked flexible people and especially when it comes to working with me…I like people who can lock horns, are stubborn in a quiet kind of way. They mitigate the effects of my aggression with their voice, yet manage to get the work done by not budging. Uncle is like that. He’s like a much older version of my former assistants. Plus, SC adores him. He calls her beta and fusses over her. ‘ I’m bringing a doctor for you!’, he told me yesterday. ‘ Na, I‘ll bounce back’, I reassured him. Like I say, this is the best place to travel on your own. From the hotel owner to the staff, everyone is awfully kind.

I find it unnecessary to look at different things or visit different places. It’s when you see the same thing over and over again, each time it starts to appear different and this is Jannat. Firdaus- jahan asli mein sadko par hure chalti he, where the women are stunning and the men gorgeous. Jahan sirf roshni badalne se sab alag lagta he aur mausam badalne se sirf ped, paude nahi badalte, aap khud andar se alag mehsoos karte ho. Yeh Jannat to he hi, jahanum bhi he, jahan itni khubsurti aur itna dard he. Both heaven and hell simultaneously, exist in Kashmir-there’s unparalleled beauty and gut wrenching pain, everywhere!

With the change in the technology and the increased megapixels that the cameras offer you now, the quality of the pictures is far superior, from my earlier works in say 2010. But when you live somewhere or spend an extended period of time there, drive around all the time, literally chasing the seasons, the moments you end up catching, can’t be caught that easily in a shorter span. But nevertheless, we try.

Solo Date #68- Downtown Srinagar

Solo date at Kathi Junction, downtown.
Downtown Srinagar

The 4g may not work, till the Jio fibre isn’t installed in every house in Kashmir. But don’t think, that stops the grapevine and the rapid flow of information. Last night I received a call from the ex assistant. ‘ You went to shoot the Sunday market?’ he asked. ‘You read it on my blog, na?’ I answered. ‘No! I received a photograph of you!’ he replied to my disbelief. He sent me a photo, that had been taken from a distance and from behind a few people. So, I can be seen in the corner of the frame. I had removed my mask for a bit, as I was getting a runny nose and someone actually shot me, sent it to someone else and then it reached my Mother hen, who is not even in Kashmir. ‘Aap ko kitni bar bola he, nazar rakhte he yahaan log. Dekh kar chalo!’ He seemed damn annoyed.

Anyway, as you must have figured one doesn’t pay heed to other people’s advice. So, I walked to downtown. First, I went to Pir Dastagir Sahib, chatted with the locals there. Then, I bounced to Naqahband Sahib. The degree of friendliness, rapidly reduced as I walked towards Nawhatta. Before I entered the Dargah, a man approached me and started pestering me about my camera. ‘I’m warning you, the boys don’t like all this!’ he tried to scare me. ‘Well, the boys over here don’t do anything to anyone and they will not do anything to me! I know!’ I matched his rudeness word by word.

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Solo Travels- Pampore

In a saffron field in Pampore, Kashmir.
Solo traveller in Kashmir
Little babies and I. This one on my shoulder had as foul a temper, as mine. I just needed to call him ‘handsome’ and he was floored.

I hate flying and especially to Kashmir, as then one gets confined to the city. But last time, I was here, I found a very patient and polite gentleman who dropped me to the airport. So, Farooque uncle and I have been in touch, ever since I left and he’s probably the only person other than my ex assistant, and I, who knows what my plans are. See, dealing with my trust issues, trying to prove the father wrong, kissi pe itebar kar sakti hu mein, just a little bit!

So, FU, picked me up from the airport and drove me straight to Pampore, as the last of the flowers were being picked. The Saffron bulb, is said to have come with the Persian Sufi saints and traders to the Valley and though growing it helped the locals , it’s now fast disappearing from Kashmir. The farmers claim the land in the area, can only grow saffron and without it they will have a tough time surviving.

I spent a few hours working, then checked into the hotel. Charged my phones and then started walking towards Residency Road. To hell with Corona, that seems to be the attitude in Delhi as well as in Srinagar! Women and children, thronged the road , accompanied by their husbands and fathers, to the Sunday Market. I was followed by what seemed like 20 year olds. One slowly approached me as I stopped to tie my laces. ‘ Kyaa mein aap ke saath chal sakta hu?’ he asked very politely. I looked at him, SB growling at him, just itching to say something terrible but SC, replied, ‘ Mujhe akele chalne ki adat he!’ He tried to convince me politely, that there are armed men around and he’s just concerned for my safety but I just shrugged and kept walking.

It was past three and I was famished. A Kashmiri Thali at Grand, was what I was craving. The place was packed and a few people stared as I sat down to eat but I just looked at them and smiled as they gawked. Let’s not even pretend, people don’t gawk at women in Delhi, over here at least they don’t say, ‘ kyaa kare madam aap jesso, ko dekh kar hilana parta he!’ Yes! A man said this to me in Delhi recently, when I asked him, why he’s peeing on a flyover. Kashmiri men are probably the most decent of the lot, not all, but most.

Age has caught up with me, for sure. I finished the Thali, which had everything from Meethi Maaz to Gushtaba, accompanied by Rista, Seekh Kabab, Roghan Josh and of course Tabak Maaz ( which is the only Kashmiri dish I’m not a fan off). I polished off the food, with the same kind of pleasure I feel, as I land in Srinagar. Sheer bliss, total and complete love. ‘Please Death, whenever you come let it be here’, I find myself wishing when I feel, eat, do or see something that tickles my senses. It seems just the air tickles my senses, pleasure and pain are intensified!

Anyway, for the first time after gobbling the said Thali, one felt as one was going to explode but duty called. So I walked around making pictures, according to the brief. By the time I was done, it was getting dark but somehow I managed to drag myself to the Dal. Walked or bounced around is more like it (bouncing slowly up and down like a ballon, is more how you would describe my walk) prayed fervently, froze completely. By quarter to eight, I had spent almost two hours, just walking and sitting by the side of the Dal and my bottom was frozen by the end of it. Surprisingly, I caught myself thinking about MJ, a couple of times. ‘Mujhe kissi dewane ne kaha tha, ki mujhe koi dewana, Kashmir dikhayga!’, his message came to my mind. ‘ Would be sweet!’ SC thought, as I walked. ‘This Pathan is just messing with your head and your head is quite screwed up in any case!’ SB shut down the thought, quickly.

All in a day’s work!

Rushed to a small cafe at Nehru Park and gulped down a cup of hot Kahwa. ‘Biryani Madam?’ asked the owner. ‘ I told him, I eat Wazwaan and couldn’t get a bite in. We chatted about Kashmiri dishes, Harrisa which is my all time favourite and Ab Ghosh. His father joined the conversation, as we talked about Kangris and village life. They asked me to stay longer, but it was already 8.15 and it would take me a while to walk back to Dal Gate, so I politely declined. As I walked back, I put the songs ‘ Hawa ke Saath Saath’ and ‘ Paniyon sa Paniyon sa’ on repeat, so that somehow I could miraculously, reach my hotel. They got the job done and here I am all set to call it a night!

Solo Date #67- Mehrauli

One has fallen in love, with where the Stones Speak. On Saturdays I don’t work before 9 p.m and since one has to catch an early morning flight tomorrow, it was nice to spend the day lazying around in Mehrauli.

In the afternoon, I caught the poetry walk organised by Ramit and Prerakh, a semi bathak of sorts discussing the various Urdu poets, in the park. Nicely done, though, one would have wanted to hear a few more anecdotes about the poet’s lives. I guess, when you’re moving from one place to the other, it’s distracting. Plus, one isn’t a fan of the herd, one likes things to move at snails pace. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable afternoon, the facilitators friendly and easy going.

But, miye ki daud masjid tak and one is a creature of habit. So, off I headed to the Dargah, where I sat for probably fifteen minutes as the qawali came to an end and got invited to the Qawal’s son’s wedding. Which I regretfully, had to decline due to the travel plans. I love this part of my job, getting undeserved access into other people’s lives. While walking back, I just stopped for a quick bite, picked up a kathi roll, sat on the steps of Bhool Bhulaiya, which has become my favourite spot in the city after my flyover and eat. Just when I was thinking, this would be a nice spot, for a date- Qutub minar on one side, a monkey climbing the board infront of me, sensing this, a stray dog came and sat next to me.

We had a few moments of what I think dates should be like, with plenty of non verbal communication -looking into each other’s eyes and eating. His stomach full, he went off to sleep near my foot, as I listened to Ahista, ahista and watched the shabe roz ka tamasha, mere aage, the hustle bustle of a street in Delhi. After what seemed like time moving in fast forward, I got up and started to walk towards my car. Tomorrow, it’s going to be a different place but one will remain, bheed me tanha.

Khudda

www.facebook.com/a100reflections/videos/367705998005533/

Might sound like a cliche’ but sometimes all you need is God. Received a forward from the Gaddi Nasheen, of the Dargah, informing me that the Urs is taking place, from tomorrow and all the provisions are in place, the guidelines related to the ongoing pandemic are being followed. I may be impulsive enough to go for the shoot but I’m not silly enough, to not check how safe it will be.

So, of course I went to check out the place today, to prepare for tomorrow. As I was leaving, my help Bhaskarji, looked at me very suspiciously. ‘ Didi, aap jahan jaa rahee ho wah par woh ladka hoga? ‘ ‘ Kaunsa ladka?’ I asked him impatiently, as I was getting late. ‘ Jisko itni bari hum raat ko TV pe dekhte hein!’ My face turned crimson. So the ladka in question, is this boy I’ve had a crush on, for a year, now. Someone you just see on a YouTube video and find fascinating na, like I have a gigantic crush on Ravish Kumar, something like that. I never realised Bhaskarji, will put two and two together just because he heard me asking my father the other day, ‘isn’t he so cute?’ and make it forty. He tells me so the person in question, is Muslim and you’re going to going to a Dargah, that’s why I thought. I should learn to keep my gab shut. As if travelling, to Kashmir and Pushkar was not bad enough, with people wondering who I’m meeting there. Anyhow, it’s when the love life, is non existent, there are plenty of stories that do the round.

So back to God- to get anyone to wear a mask is difficult. But to get kids to wear them, I realised today, impossible. Plus, since I have become this round ball, children because of my height and size, assume I’m their age. So they like to come near me, pull my cheeks, hug me. For the first time, I realised today, It’s so difficult to shoot a kid and not let them touch you. I don’t think shooting is going to be very easy or safe or smart on my part. But like my favourite lines go, ‘apne aage na peeche, na koi uppar neeche….’ or like dad says, ‘ Sheikh apni, apni dekh!’ I think, I’ll just distribute the masks I’ve bought to give away, there only.

Anyhow, if you are hurting, lost or like me scattered in the brain and the heart, listening to some live qawwali at this particular Dargah, of Khwaja Kaki, might give you some relief. It felt like an out of body experience, so overwhelming, a stream of tears just flowing into my mask, while I was clapping and singing with the qawwals. Since, there were hardly any people there, it felt like sitting at home, in Ibadat and unlike the Nizammudin Dargah, which sends a shiver down my spine, each time I visit, which is only and always for work, this one has a brilliant energy. I think I’ll get some sleep today. But for now, if you have people who care about your well being, I would advice you to stay away.

❤️

Aaj Subah, subah paigam aaya, Rajasthan se-‘Kyaa Na Didi aao, aapka ghar khula he!’ Jawaab mein humne, ek dil ka emoticon bhej diya. Ghar! Kahaan hota he, khanabadoshon ka ghar? Barf ki pahadiyon mein, ye Rajasthan ki raet mein?

Ghar to humme bataya jata he, Dilli mein he. Kehte he yeh shehar, dillwallon ka he. Magar Dilli aur uss ke logo ka fauladi seena, bhata nahin he, humme. Humari zabaan to sambhal leti he iss jagah ko, darra ke, dhamka ke, magar dil kamzor pad jaata he. Woh ghabrata hein. Ajeeb si khamoshi he yahaan, iss imarat mein jisse ghar kehte he, sanata, jahan fir kabhi na bhai ka pyaar milega, na Ma ka aanchal. Seediya hi seediya, khalli kamre jaahan, mare hue logo ka saman aise sambhal rakha he humne, jaise woh laut ke maangne wale he. Ajeeb si bay tawajhi he, iss shahar aur iss ke logo mein, jo hum jaiso ko kahaan samjhenge-jo ek hi pal mein nafrat bhi kar lete he, aur ek hi lamhe mein ishq.

To ghar kahaan he humara? Wahan jahan humari pedaish he, ya wahan ja marne ki khwaish he? Ya, uss jagah jahan taro ke neeche, ek chatt par, rat bhar humne kissi se baate kari! Raat guzri aur uss shaks ne humme bhi badal diya. Woh akhri mulakatoon mein se ek thi. Kuch logo se, jism nahin, ruh milti he, woh paath pada jate he, zindagi jeene ka. Ussi jagah, se paigam aata he, humme yaad dilane ke liye, taare aapka intezar kar rahe he. Magar ab hum badalne layaak nahin rahe.

Himmat judti nahin he, iss kashmakash mein wahan jaane ki. Uss kamre mein apne aap ko wapis band karneki, jahan hum sare dil ki narazgiya le jaate the. Umrr bhi kam thi, tajurba bhi, Kashmir ne humare dilo, dimaag pe kabu paaya nahin tha. Kuch umeede baaki thi, zindagi se, ishq se aur shayad kuch apne aap se. Ab iss banaumeedi ko dho kar, uss kamre ko kaise bepaak kare?

Aurat

Hum aurate he to hamesha galat hoti he. Humare kapdo se hi to admi akarshit hote he. Woh 6 maheene ki ladki aur 80 saal ki aurat ke libaaz ne hi aakarshit kiya hoga? Phir chahe woh Delhi ki bus mein bethi, 23 varsh ki Jyoti ho, Kanpur ke kheto mein payi hue Laxmi, ya phir Hathras ki woh ghas katti hue mahila, jiska shareer, zabaan, yahaan tak shav ko bhi nahin choda, darindo ne. Uski bezubani ab uski zabaan banegi. Chahe hum Dalit ho, ya, Brahmin, Musalmaan, Sikh ya ho Christian hum ek hi sharm ki maala mein bandhi jaati he ungli sirf hum par udti he aur sari galti to hamesha, humari hoti he.


Peda hote hi humme dafnaa dete he. Magar har Diwali apne gharo mein diya jala lete he, Lakshmi ko bulane ke liye. Saraswati, ko bhi puj te he, lekin humme shiksha dene se ghabraate he. Padh, likh kar , kahi aazad khyaal ki na ban jaye. Hum pavitr rahe, Gauri bane, prem ka vyahvaar rakhe, tabh bhi nashe se dhudh pati se mar khaye, magar galti to sirf humari hoti he.

Kuch aurate badtameez hoti he. Agar to 19 saal ki umar mein kissi aadmi se bandh jaye, to tabahi woh achi kehlati he. Hum apne ma, baap ko chord kissi ka ghar basaye, uske mata, pita Ki seva Kare, bache pale rasoi mein din bitaye aur muh ko hamesha bandh rakhe. Jab wahi shaks gulchare urai to woh ek mard hota he. Humme sikhaya jata he, woh mard ka huk hota he. To na maike ke ghar par, aur na pati, par hummara hak hota he! Humme se jo manti he ko jo mard ka haq, wohi hummara, woh dayaan kehlati he. Puri Zindagi- baap, pati, bête, kissi bhi mard ki jaydaat hum ban jati, magar varis nahin, lekin galati hamesha hum aurato ki hi hoti he.

Magar Galat to hum he! Jab humne apni betiyoon ko unke hako ke liye ladna nahin sikaya. Jab unhe mardo aur apne halato se samjhota karte he, yeh samjhaya. Kyuun ke humne unhe Kali Ka rup ban kar nahin dikhaya. Isliye, Galat to hum he.

– Saadiya Kochar 2020

Solo Date 64- Wok The Walk

Sometimes I don’t realize that this blog, is not my private diary but a platform, that is followed by my friends. The minute I posted last night, I started getting messages and calls from concerned friends. This year has been especially good at sieving the good from the unimportant.

Went to grab a meal to clear my head. On the Boulevard, there’s Wok The Walk. A quaint little place with an open kitchen and decent chinese food. The food is alright, the view and the service good. It seemed like the kind of place, which is frequented by students. Check it out.

Flying During The Pandemic

Rapid test at the Srinagar Airport
Flying Vistara- The airlines no longer leave one seat in the middle to maintain social distance. The flight was jam packed. Though, they were nice enough to give me an upgrade.
The person sitting on the middle seat, has to wear the coverall. Very few people chose to eat, for safety’s sake and because it looks so comfortable.
Air hostess giving instructions.
Air hostesses in their coveralls at the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi.
Travelling solo to Kashmir. First trip since the spread of the pandemic. I chose to carry my own safety shield.
No one maintains social distance, at the airports.
This is the way Indians maintain social distance.

‘The world won’t fall if you’re not holding it up…just take a minute, put your mind on ice. And you try and you try and you’re trying. But the burden is heavy and overgrown. And God knows that we all get tired. It’s a long night, when you have to do it on your own and I hate how you talk to yourself. It’s not weak if you need to be held. So cut off a little slack and roll all your cavalry back. My love take care of yourself.’ The song by Maisie Peters plays on and I wake up from my slumber, thinking I’m in bed listening to it on repeat as usual, SC trying soothe SB.

But I was on a plane, landing in Kashmir, after the ordeal at the airport. So, if the travel bug is biting you, drive down because flying is a terrible idea. Now, don’t go blaming my fear for it. The pictures should be self explanatory. The chances of picking up an infection are terribly high. I should have worn the PPE kit, I had bought and covered my hair. Also, it would have been a good idea to get the boarding pass printed, instead of downloading it because the wait and the chaos at the airport, thanks to that, was maddening. Incase, you are planning to fly, reach there not 2 hours earlier, in fact I would suggest two and hours before your departure. There’s absolute chaos at the airport and flying would have been a better idea, two months ago, when the flights were empty.

More than seventy percent, of the people on the flight were of course from the CRPF, BSF and the Indian Army. How I know this is because there was a separate queue for them at the airport. We should brace ourselves, the shit is just beginning to hit the ceiling.

Punjab Bandh

‘Kisan Bachao, Mandi Bachao’- the slogan being raised in Punjab and Haryana today, the 25th of Sep.
Sukhbir Singh Badal led a tractor protest accompanied by Harsimran Kaur Badal.

An effigy of Pm Modi, was burnt today by the farmers in Punjab. This was in protest against the three Farm Bills, which have been claimed to be ‘historic’ by the PM and as ‘a corporate feast in the garb of reform’ by his detractors. Here are the details of the Bills-

Bill No 1- Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce ( Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020- The main points under this bill are- To create an ecosystem where farmers and traders enjoy the freedom to sell and purchase farm produce outside registered Mandis under the states APMCs. To promote barrier free interstate and intrastate trade of farmers’ produce. Creating a facility to trade electronically. Reducing the cost of marketing and transportation.

Bill No 2- The Farmer ( Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Services Bill, 2020. Here are the details-Farmers can enter into a contract with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for sale of future farming produce at pre-agreed prices. The transfer of risk of market unpredictability from farmers to sponsors. Farmers can engage in direct marketing by eliminating intermediaries for full price realisation.

Bill No 3- The Essential Commodities ( Amendment) Bill, 2020. This what this Bill says- To relive commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. It will do away with the imposition of stockholding limits on such items except under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ like war.

Though on the onset, the reforms seem to beneficial to the farmers, 250 farming organisations are protesting, today. The farmers are unsure whether they will be able to sell their produce, without getting manipulated by the corporate structure and the states are worried that, the slow dismantling of the Mandi will eat into their income.

The Farmers are demanding the following, from the government-

1) Roll back of the ordinances

2) Protection of the APMC ( Mandi)

3) Loan Clearance

4) New Laws for regulation of MSP. (Minimum support price)

Shaheed

Aaj humne sunah mohabbat shaheed hoti he. To humme khyaal aaaya ke khwaisheen, chahahate aur hasrate shaheed hoti he, yeh kambakht dil, mohabbat ko kaise shaheed hone deta he.

Mohabbat to kuch tare banke, asman mein tim timati he. Kuch aziz jo jald hi raakh ban gaye, unki yaad dilati he. Kabhi hum unko dekh, kabhi woh humme dekhte hue, muskurati he. Tasveere, ghar ki chaukhat, aur har ek kaune mein bas jati he. Halak mein ek cheekh ban kar tham jati he. Mohabbat kaise shaheed ho jaati he?

Mohabbat to kabhi chand ban jati he. Eid ka chand. Unn ratoon ki yaad dilati he, jab koi madhoshi mein, darwaaze pe dastak deta tha. Ankaheen batoon aur hum dono ke haathon mein woh chup jati he. Mohabbat kaise shaheed ho jati he?

Mohabbat to zare zare mein buni jati he. Ghar ke saman mein payee jati he. Har ek kamre mein, unke hathoon se banayee, kuch tutti hue lakad ki cheezon mein payee jati he. Jab mathe pe haat rakhe to, unn thapado ki yaad dilati he. Humesha, Palash Sen ki awaaz, mein payee jaati he. ‘ Kesse bhulegi mera naam?’ cheekhte hue, pucch jati he. Mohabbat kaise shaheed ho jati he?

Mohabbat to aankhon mein aur duaoon mein payee jati he. Dal ke kinare, kuch paani se mile aansuon me chamakti he, ya shamshan ghat mein kissi ki bahoon mein ashk bahate hue dikhti he. Mohabbat to jism pe sihahee se, aur dil mein tanhai se, gadd jati he. Mohabbat to inn sabh mein bat jati he. Mohabbat kaise shaheed ho jati he?

#Justice

We kept assuming that the media frenzy would come to an end at some point but it goes on and on. On the other side, ‘ Roses are red, violets are blue, let’s crush the patriarchy me and you!’ is the status of my left leaning friends on fb. Twitter comes out in ‘joint support’ for Rhea. I should be standing with her….I tell myself. But my mother’s life, comes in the way!

Everyone man or woman should be against the media trial, that the Chakraborty family is being subjected to and this is not the way to treat a woman. What Sushant’s family is allowing to happen to this woman, the vilification of her will not bring back their son.

Having said that, I want to know, how many of you have lived with someone with Bipolar Disorder? I agree if smoking weed is that serious a crime, then half the saffron clad men in this country should be behind bars. But have you ever been on psychiatric pills? I have overdosed on my mum’s pills and I have been hospitalised for it. My mum was on them for over 32 years before she died. Do you know what a lethal combination, that is? I understand you can’t stop someone, we tried to stop my mother from downing cough syrups and failed many times. But if you are procuring weed for someone who is on those drugs, then I really don’t think you have their best interest at heart.

Forget the weed, what business does anyone who is not a person’s legal heir, related by contract or blood have of wanting to control the wealth of a man who is not well? I’m asking this question based on the leaked audio that Rehea’s team has put out, as defence. How can a woman who has been living with a man for not even two years, want to form a trust and become a trustee? He wasn’t of sound mind? I beg to differ, more than fifty person who have been diagnosed with this, choose to not be on medication and continue to live productive lives, managing their time, assets and wealth. Yes, there is the risk of being suicidal, at all times. Anyway, he came from a huge family, why were they not present during these conversations?

Forget the money, who records these private conversations and makes videos, plus leaves with a person’s prescriptions unless and until they are accumulating evidence, to prove on a latter date that the person is not off sound mind? Why were fellers being sent to the media immediately after she left his house? I might be a woman but by no stretch of the imagination can I stand by her side. Yes, depression can be a genetic disposition but it is also something that gets triggered and aggravated by events and people. I blame Sushant for not having known better. The trick to our sanity is knowing who and what impacts us positively. Exercise, the right food, the right people can have a positive impact. The highs and lows can be dealt with in other ways and even if medication is the way, there’s no way to know how much is too much. My mother’s doctors recommended electric shocks, they recommended what we only got to know later were excessive meds when her body started to reject them, towards the end. The doctors recommend what the person who takes the patient with will vouch for. If that person, claims that you are violent or too moody or too depressed, the dosage will be given accordingly. That person, the caregiver, what their view of your illness is, will skew the way the doctors will look at you.

Plus, if you personally know anyone with advanced degrees in psychology, you will realise that they are not some great readers of the mind. Their conversations and their mentality will mostly convince you that you’re fine making your decision by yourself. Everything depends on the doctor’s life experience and that is too subjective. At my brother’s death, Dr Sandeep Vohra, who was my mother’s psychiatrist during a session with me, started crying! Here I am in a complete shock, the man who is supposed to help me deal with it, is crying. Once, during a session with my mum, he called me into the office and asked me to not marry a particular man. My mother’s first psychiatrist in Jor Bagh, Dr Kothari, got into depression himself, due to which we had to change psychiatrists. This the reason why abroad, where mental health, is considered a serious issue, therapists have their own therapists to speak to. Dissing all shrinks in one go, wasn’t my intention. The psychotherapist I respect, they put in the time and effort. The psychiatrist, I find, takes the shortest way out. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some nice one’s in my life. Forever I will be grateful to Akash Dharamraj, who taught me the spiritual path, will save me, from my own demons. It’s a pity, she’s no longer with us.

We live in a society, where when you talk about your issues, people say you’re wanting sympathy, you’re weak or attention seeking. They ask you to brush your feelings and your thoughts under the carpet. ‘Don’t be so sensitive!’ ‘You think too much, feel too much!’ ‘ Look at how we dealt with it’. If you are man it’s worse. We are taught day in and day out to think less, feel less and in my case even write less. Itni bhi jagaah aap ko nahin milti he. Everyone wants you to sound and behave exactly like them. If you are a celebrity and you’re fighting to tame your mind and the system that has been designed for you to fail, I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for SSR. To see a lifetime of work and charity to be reduced to being a ‘charsi’ ‘ difficult’ and ‘crazy’ is not how anyone should be remembered. Where is the justice in all this?

m I taking this personally?

S.S.R

A 34 year old actor, commits suicide and the stupidity of humans, becomes so obvious to me. On every platform, I read the same hypocritical nonsense, feigning shock and asking a question that drives me crazy-‘ do such people not think about their parents?’. What a myopic view of the world, we all have! The assumption that everyone’s relationships are the same as our’s, that everyone deals with pain, angst , frustration, failure exactly as we do.

I came back home to a burnt, Jaipuri kurta. My brother and I had been dropped back home, we had spent the day at a relative’s place. The maid picked it up dramatically and showed the nine year old me, what my mum had worn, when she sprayed perfume on it and lit herself on fire. My mum came from a large family, was married and had two kids but in that moment, nothing stopped her. That was the first time she tried to kill her self but the permanent scars she was left with, didn’t stop her. She remained masochistic her, entire life. The means changed but the inherent loneliness, she suffered from always haunted her.

Did people not love her? They did! But no one saw her, not even I, for the longest time. Anyone can love the idea of you but to be seen for who you are and be accepted, that is the tough part. Especially, when you are not run off the mill and woh, was she made of a different grain, or what? I think, other than one sister and her son, I never really saw her, be totally at ease with anyone, despite her jovial nature. I saw her struggle with people her whole life, always wanting to return to her aloneness. I’ve struggled with people my entire life, forever feeling, like being an ‘outsider’, not belonging to anything or anyone.

That feeling got so amplified after my mum’s death that, now, I wonder how I survived. Everyday, I wanted it to end, feeling totally lost. To feel like an outsider in your own house, is not a nice feeling. To be alone, in your grief is almost as heartbreaking as the the grief itself. People are mean, the sooner we accept it, the better it is. It is in your weakest moments, that they will say and do the harshest things. They will judge you, your life, your choices, your personality and have discussions about it, then, because they can. Jab waqt burra ho, to har kissi ne PHD kari he aap pe. But shine and they will shut up…nothing succeeds like success.

You can either learn from it, somehow, learn to totally count on yourself or succumb to the pressures! What that young boy, must have struggled with, only he knew. How did his struggle play on his mind? How his mother’s death impacted him, only he must have known! When people talk about how brilliant he was, I’m reminded of what my mum’s shrink said. ‘ Only a person whose mind works more than other’s can be depressed. Her intelligence is the cause of her depression! ‘ I’m sure in his case too, it was because he was so sharp that he was depressed. The burden of being different, is a heavy one, to bear. Some carry it better than other’s. Sone try to fit in and some just bow out. Sushant Singh Rajput’s death doesn’t shock me. The hypocrisy of this society does.

P.S- I have to wonder though, how do we know, how much our mind and body can take? Sometimes we survive the biggest things and sometimes, the smallest things make us feel helpless. Maybe suicide is just the fault in our stars! We go when we have to and exactly how we are meant to.

Lockdown 4.0

The father was here today, completely clueless about why I would move out. Well, at forty it should be for obvious reasons but considering the circumstance of being, the only child of a man who has a drinking problem, it does seem quite cruel. Of course one would want to look more liberated, in a more westernised version of parent/child relationship. But though one looks quite, fickle, footloose and fancy free, one’s not good at abandoning someone in their weakest moments.

So, why? Well, one has been in a precarious situation since the mother’s passing. From conspiracy theories about us murdering my mom, to my dad’s drinking and his loose tongue, this perpetual feeling of being under a scanner, to this constant flow of information about one’s life, to theories about how I will murder my father, it’s all a bit much for me. I know it’s all said out of callousness, sometimes spite and sometimes because people want a piece of the pie but the Bollywood version of my life, I am not enjoying. A friend just confessed, she went through the same thing with her relatives, when her mum passed away. Considering, she was much younger I should be able to handle things better, at my age. But honestly, I am sucking at it, right now. People tell me how strong I am, all the time but I have never been more frail, more unsure and as afraid as I am, right now.

Lying on a sofa staring at the fan, wondering what to do in life. Between some friends and suitors one has been receiving offers to move into people’s homes. One’s quite comfortable on the couch, tanhai is back, so I have pleasant company. When I get tired of her, a few friends and the ex assistant listen to me ranting.

Then there are the tantrum throwers, who are still throwing a fit. What is it with men and this warped way in which they apparently, love? Yeh kiss kisam ki mohabbat he, jo dusre ko bas paana chahtee he? Mohabbat hoti he jisse na doori, na khamoshi, na waqt mitata he. Jab aap ki har ek dua, me kissi ka naam ho aur uss ki khushi mein hi, aap ki khushi. Love is not getting, owning, marrying…love is yearning. But this is the twice in a lifetime kind of love, the kind that gets tattooed on your skin. Doesn’t happen always but it stays for what seems like forever!

Juliet

www.facebook.com/a100reflections/videos/632680213952391/

I mentioned one’s feeling these uncharacteristic , intense bouts of loneliness. ‘Nothing an inflated doll won’t fix’, I tell myself…’don’t rush into something out of a desperation to feel like you are part of something’. It is quite tempting, to throw caution to the wind and accept one of the proposals but I’m guessing, as soon as I start feeling like myself, again, I will split, so fast. Runaway bride, or some version of it.

This maturity of mine is quite new found. Don’t be fooled by it, lots of times bitten (I ain’t easy, infact I am going to start handing out bravery awards to the exes at some point) and only once shy, the saying applies to me. ‘But oh, how romantic it would be to just let someone rescue me, right now!’ is the thought that plays on my mind as I look down from the balcony.

Then I remembered, one of the boy’s I was dating at eighteen, wanting to climb up, one night. Poor thing, was drunk out of his mind, standing below, wanting to do the deed. Of course, it was a failed attempt, as there’s a grill and barbed wire. But it was sweet.

The pigeons going at each other, in the morning is making me miss my exes. I should stop sitting in the damn balcony! Ironically, the one I spent the maximum years with, I have the least amount of lovey dicey pics with that one. The rest I look at from time to time and wonder what happened to that girl, who couldn’t imagine her life without a man. Wanting to play Romeo mostly and Juliet, sometimes!

The thought of loving someone, somehow miraculously and then having to live without them because they’ll die on you, puts a damper on everything. Plus, I’ve had a realisation-I’ve suffered from penis envy my entire life to only realize now, men are quite weak. Strong enough to be my man? My God, no! You got to do that for your own self. Though, the rabbit is there, men are good for a nice cuddle, haan…I think I should get a dog!

Silence is golden

One’s been getting a lot of enquiries about one’s emotional condition. While we all have fair weather friends, we all thankfully, also have people who are there, when the shit hits the ceiling. What can one say? Like I said, if I’m damned if I talk and I’m damned if I don’t, then it’s better to just shut the fuck up.

Let me just say, this has to be THE MOST defining moment of one’s life. To call out misogyny, when one sees it, is very different from standing up against in in your personal space. Unfortunately, a lot of what my mother and I put up with, will go with us to our graves. But sometimes, you just have to say, enough!

So, this is that moment. This is the time to say, I ain’t going to run, I ain’t gong to hide, I am going to show you what I am made up of. Sometime, next year, I will write about this in retrospect. I will tell you how I crushed the patriarchy! I will tell you how, women are the biggest perpetrators of patriarchy and the kind of bullshit I have had to put up with, if I were a guy, no one would have dared to say, think or do it. I will tell you, how I did it all alone, by myself. I will tell you every little detail of it- the pressure, the emotional blackmail, the justifications, the mind games and the manipulations. I will tell you how, there was no man, hence, no shoulder to cry on, no hand to hold, no one to say, ‘don’t worry, we got this!’. I will tell you, how I, Saadiya Kochar, came out of this guns blazing ; yes, single, yes, without boyfriend or husband!

But for now, I just have to get through it. I have to survive till next year. I have to remain in one piece, irrespective of what happens. I have to remain in one piece, irrespective of how many times I am told who said what! Irrespective of who knows me how well or so well , irrespective of who thinks what and irrespective who does what! I have to keep reminding myself of what I think I am. I have to remind myself that I am my mother’s daughter and how forward thinking, she was. I have to respect her wishes. I have to look at myself and see the lioness in the mirror, even though I feel like a bheegi billi, right now.

This moment will define me. Someday, when I look at my little girl, I will tell her, how hard it was and how I fought, with everything I had! So, that she learns from her mom, like I did from mine, to never play second fiddle to a man!

The stages of grief

Someone said to me the other day, ‘ You lost your brother at such a young age and took it in your stride. You’re older now, you should be able to handle this better!’

Maybe, I should. But I suck at most things that are practical and come naturally to others. So I’m wallowing in self pity, while people are dying outside. My personal grief has taken over any part of me which is capable of watching, hearing, knowing or empathising with another.

Yes, I know, I should be shaken and whacked. As my Bp shot up yet again today, the Diastolic levels upto a 111, SB kicked in. ‘ Enough!’, she yelled at SC. So here we are, trying to figure out, how to get our shit back together. If I don’t stop myself now, I’ll fall into an abyss. I do have concerned friends and family, who are just a phone call away but other than a loving aunt, who messages regularly and an ex assistant ( now a very close friend) who has seen me go down that rabbit hole, no one will be able to drag me out, from that place.

So, I look at the Alprax the doctor prescribed, look at my mum’s picture when she was addicted to Corex and say, ‘Oh no! We just can’t go down that road!’ If you are genetically inclined towards addiction (which in my case, I am from both sides) when you’re grieving is when you need to stay away from drugs, pills and alcohol. A few sleepless nights, ain’t going to harm no one. So let’s see what we can do.

There are five stages of grief. Some even suggest there are seven. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the five, Elisabeth Kubler- Ross, wrote about in her book On Death and Dying.

In her later years, she discovered that these are not necessarily, linear. My first reaction, when I feel helpless, is anger. SB usually kicks in with full force, so the more hurt I feel, the angrier I get. Maybe it’s due to the lockdown that I am more melancholic than pissed. Which is a bit scary and exciting.

To know that you are on the edge of your sanity-alone, terrified and tired, cornered just because you are a single woman and the only child of your parent’s ( if my mother didn’t own stuff and had been in and out of hospitals for 31 yrs of my life, trust me, the story would have been told differently) is in a way terrible but empowering. No? After all, how often do you get to play the hero, of your own story? So here I am trying to keep myself in one piece. If I fall, I’ll make a lot of people very happy, if I rise, I’ll be defying all the odds. I just have to find the white horse and the gleaming sword, within and rise to the occasion.

Ae Watan, Mere Watan Aabad Rahe Tu

While driving back from Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, yesterday this song just started playing. ‘Ae watan mere watan aabad rahe tu,’ and I sobbed like a child. The horror, the destruction, the stories, the hate, of the past week, just filled my heart with hopelessness and shame. How evil are all of us?

Being hypersensitive is a bane, cooped up in bed today, with high fever. My body and mind revolting against what I saw or was going to see again. I went to the riot affected areas, idealistically hoping to engage is some confidence building. Got off at Aggarwal Sweets and found a boy clad in saffron. ‘Aap ko kyaa lagta he, Sir, yeh Hindustan sabh ke liye he ke nahin?’ Ti which he replied, ‘ Mujhe nahin pata kiss ke liye he,’ parked his cart on the side and went to tell on me, to a group of men. Two of them approached me. Before they could ask my name, I just started telling him about my photography project, ‘meri gaadee dekho’, I flashed my id, from a distance, with the magic words on it, but didn’t show it to them. ‘You don’t know them. They hurt our women that’s why we attacked them. They burnt all our cars. You will be cut into pieces if you go there’ they said, while showing me some pictures of women in saris, who had been mutilated.

To be honest, I was terrified. I was by myself as usual and this horrified me. I excused myself and told them I will go and verify. But one of them decided to take me around. He rode his scooter next to my car, which has all these wonderful stickers and stopped infront of each and every burnt vehicle claiming the Muslims had done it. When we reached the outside the main gate, where the Sikkim police battalion was, I asked him for an interview. Repeatedly, I had asked him, before that why the police didn’t help the Hindus who were being troubled by the Muslims? He kept lying and dodging and I kept giving him the benefit of doubt because I knew my view, could be biased in this case. A Muslim man halted and identified his vehicle, saying he had been stopped by the mob. After a while, he was shooed away by this man. He asked me to turn back from a particular spot, claiming it wasn’t safe for me.

I’ve heard this in Kashmir, many times. So off I went and there it was, a saffron flag and the Indian flag, flying high on top of a burnt vehicle. I went towards the area, where he claimed, people would chop me into pieces and parked my car. ‘Mene suna he, Hindu aurto ko mar rahe aap, yahaan par’ I asked the crowd that had gathered around my vehicle. They were aghast at the accusation and took me to at least forty homes in that locality. I knocked on their door and asked, ‘ is everyone safe?’ ‘Has anyone tried to harm you?’ No they said , one after the other.

Went to Chandbagh and heard, stories after stories of destruction and hate. Shops and shrines had been burnt down. Someone with an angry Hunamanji poster on his scooter was following me, I recorded him and split.

Returned to the locality again and saw, a forensic team working infront of Tahir Hussain’s house, to investigate the murder of Ankit Sharma. Totally polarised, people looked at each other, suspiciously. There seemed to be no ray of hope here. Even I couldn’t find a silver lining. While walking, I lectured a group of men. ‘ Not every place can be turned into Shaheen Bagh. It requires, patience and lots of hard work to ensure it doesn’t turn violent. You should have known better.’ ‘Ma’am they were burning our homes, we had to pelt stones to save ourselves.’ ‘You didn’t have to resort to this!’, I said as stormed away.

These are terrible times. Everyone is suspicious of each other and having a confusing name like mine, doesn’t help. But somehow I manage to meet people. Day before yesterday, I tried to look for a T-shirt online that would ascertain my parents Sikhi. I wanted to go out for relief distribution and not being able to speak more than a few sentences of punjabi, doesn’t help. ‘How should I navigate these spaces, without offending anyone?’, I thought to myself. I looked for a T-shirt with a khanda, never did manage to order it because the mind revolted against resorting to this, for now. But did manage to find the most hateful piece of retailing. A brand called Swadesia on Amazon, is selling T-shirt’s with these slogans- ‘Mandir Wahin Banayenge.’ ‘Main bhi Chowkidar’ ‘Bohat Hua samaan tumhari aisi ki taisi’. Hanumanji jaise cute se bhagwaan ko kyaa banadiya inhone? The God’s of all the religions must be wondering what humans are upto. Spoiling their names.

Spoiling their name, reminds me of my friend who comes from an illustrious background. Over many decades, I have heard her spew venom, repeatedly towards a particular minority. But her actions over the past week have shocked me more than, when I was asked to go to Pakistan, by her sister. It’s disheartening what this evil man (Mr Modi) has done. He’s turned everyone into monsters, all of us. I’ll have to work really hard to not mistrust all Hindus. Hinduism is a great religion but at the moment I am not a fan of it’s followers or of any religion’s! But I have to work on my prejudice and meet people and tell stories off Hindu men and women, who are kind and courageous, helping to restore this city.

Anti CAA protests by Women’s groups and the LGBTQ community at Jantar Mantar