Artist, writer, disaster

In every universe we don't see, Do you think we always end up away from each other?

Its hard not to write stolen lines when thinking about you. The me I could've been with you.

Departed lips still bound by vines so strong That they break the illusion of you within me. Vines so old, vines so few You're so old, I'm so new Forgetting you with all the courage I had in me Was the best I could do.

Leave me be, Anastasia Leave me be.....

Let me suffer in this downtrodden earth My sweet home where my dying bed lies solemnly Let me die here, let me perish here.

I don't want to taste your lips anymore No more in my dreams, no more.

T4T representation, that's it

“oh...” She says, and pauses. He freezes up a little.

He knew this was coming, the realisation, and he's fully prepared for the rejection too.

“You're not a 'real' man then, are you?” She speaks in that deep voice of hers that makes something rumble deep in his core. Something raw and something carnal, something that makes her so much more desirable than other women.

“No...” He says simply, looking up and meeting her eyes as she returns the gaze. “I guess I'm not,” he adds as he continues to look into her eyes intently, accepting defeat, being the ultimate form of vulnerable that was left to be done in front of her.

A smile grows on her face, and she traces a finger along his jaw. It gives him shivers but he forces himself not to break eye contact. She shifts her eyes down to his lips and then back.

“Yes, you are, darling....” She finally says, voice deeper than usual. “Of course you're a Real man,” she puts stress on the word 'real' as she keeps gently caressing his jaw and then his neck, his collarbone and to the shoulder. She slides her fingers under his shirt and pushes off the fabric further to expose his full left shoulder. It's simple, it's subtle, but the act causes a fire to burn in the pit of his stomach.

“You're the Realest man I have ever met.....”

There's a pause. A breath. A sharp intake. And a smile, begrudgingly.

“So are you, by the way,” the man says after his long silence, still not having moved his eyes from her face while she painted him with hers. “The Realest woman I've ever met.”

She looks back up, and there's a glint in her eyes. They both know now, and they both care and don't care at the same time. She chuckles a little and that makes him smile probably the most genuine smile he smiled all evening, ignoring the countless times those present at the party a few hours ago extracted the faux gesture from him by force of habit. She prefers this one, she thinks. She lets him know. He is grateful, and he melts into her. She lets him and pulls him in as for the first time he experiences not being devoured.

She paints on him her long awaited masterpiece and he writes on her skin line after line of poetry he'd rather bottle up any other time.

For both of them, it's freeing. For both of them, it's divine.

Noise A constant How do measure time with it? Sound A calamity Beauty within the music of traffic Asphalt makes love with the grey fumes A product of insanity A product of humanity The street lights flicker Painting the roads white and dark White and dark Glaciers would tremble underneath their fluorescent wrath Bamboo structures paint the city Onset of the component of preparation Makes up the syllable of celebration Wonder is witnessed from stolen glances Unusual height amongst a moving traffic Curiosity from atop the lorry A product of insanity A product of humanity

TW: self-harm and suicidal ideation in the second last part

I cry in front of my child And they whisper that I'm not dead They whisper that it's okay They whisper all that I regret

A lonesome sandle lies in the middle of the road Abandoned Neglected The birds fly away in flocks high up in the sky Not witnessing it The cars drive by on both sides Sometimes over it The sandle remains

Sometimes it jumps Gets run over by a car or two But it never tears apart

Not like I do

I see crow's fighting over discarded egg shells Territorial they get They fight until one remains Until one of them wins

I cry on the rooftop My lover leaves me alone I'm alone again And my child downstairs begs for answers

I'm a wreckless, worthless being Searching for love in this wretched world I gave my soul away to existence When I myself never existed at all

Death calls to me I turn my head the other way. Red hot iron on my skin, beckons me I stretch my hands out towards it A pair of scissors, a blue pill Oceans and oceans of emotions drained out Relief Sink me under

My child cries in front of me I have nothing to give I turn my head the other way.

A Fictional Queer lovestory in a Colonial India

Red bow tie in place and umbrella in hand, June set off for the night. This morning she received her fine chestnut brown suit from the dry cleaners. Before leaving through the front gates of her ancestral home, she made sure she touched the feet of her father and then her mother, the two people who despite their shortcomings never left her side. Her father gave her his top hat to wear. It tied her outfit together perfectly.


Women like June Niyogi, who dressed, walked, talked and behaved like men, were less in number when she was younger. Growing up she knew she was different and wanted to be different. Luckily for her, her family never stopped her from expressing herself to the fullest. The suffragette movement shaped the minds of many upper middle class families and June was glad to be a part of one of these. From her childhood she was treated equal to her brothers and progressive thoughts were encouraged within the household. Unlike most other Indian girls that were her peers in school, she was taught to think, to question, to speak up. Of course there were girls who were jealous of her and there were girls whose families were not like hers. Many of them planned to get married and did not pursue further education beyond school. Many of them laughed at her for being the way she was. Many elders outside her family too did not like her much and it was visible in the way they talked or communicated with her. But June never let that change who she was. It was difficult at first, but she learnt to fight her wars with words and not guns unlike the world around her.


It was a fine summer night in 1939. Outside, it was drizzling ever so slightly. Inside the local bar however, the night was only getting started and so was the heat. Celebration accompanied warmth and alcohol only made the heat rise faster. For June and her friends that wasn't even the slightest of problems.

She had recently finished her LLB in London and returned to her homeland to start practicing. Her father, who was a barrister, was incredibly proud of her and allowed her one night of absolute freedom. Of course he didn't have to know about her countless other nights of escapades with her friends before. As long as she was pleasing her parents, everything was fine.

On this particular night, she was enjoying her redefined womanhood free of prying eyes. She was happy not because of her academic achievements but the direction in which the world was heading. Between drinks she looked around her to find countless more tables filled with people who redefined gender in their own image, and not just women like her. She felt a sense of pride and belonging.

After the fifth glass, things started to blur. The jacket came off, and then the bowtie and eventually the waistcoat. Soon enough the tie was nowhere to be found and the first two buttons of her shirt came loose as well. And not just hers but her entire friend group. Hours must have passed but the drinking persisted.

June was so distracted by her drunken stupor that she did not realize when she was being pushed towards the back quarters of the bar. She had a vague idea why she was being forced there but she didn't want to accept the reality of it all. After all, she had seen countless of her male friends visit this place before. Hushed voices behind drawn curtains, peering eyes from behind half closed doors, and teasing giggles were its residents.

She knew what this place was.

And she knew that most women like her, even though they had the independence of being as manly as they wanted, were virgins.

Because after all, society had not progressed that much yet.

But today, her friends were inclined to change that.

In her rather morally weakened state, June wasn't thinking about how she would have dealt with the consequences of this later. Technically her family should not be angry or even bothered by this. Her older brothers are much worse after all. But she couldn't have been too sure. She had never actually asked about it after all, the sex education bit. Her mother might have mentioned about using protection once or twice. But that was all after marriage, right? Did she even want to marry?

It was too much to handle for her brain then. Despite her feeble attempts at resisting, June was pushed in through double doors which were quickly clicked shut behind her as soon as she was inside. It would remain locked till dawn, she assumed.

She could only barely compose herself before her eyes landed upon the apsara infront of her, sitting coily atop a king sized bed, gently inviting her over with a curled up index finger.

June felt the air being punched out of her gut.

That was definitely the most beautiful woman she had ever seen in her entire life.

She wasn't too old herself, in the peak of her early adulthood. Witnessing such raw beauty unsheathed was like a sharpened blade being held against her throat and her unusually large Adam's apple bobbing against it as she swallowed the temptation.

The apsara probably felt it, and understood that something was slightly off.

“It's free tonight Babu, I hope you know that,” she reminded June and her voice made June's knees wobble.

That's right, that's why they chose this bar. She remembers now.

They were regulars and there was something– some occasion other than her graduation, that June can't quite recall, which lined up perfectly for tonight's outing. All the drinks were on the house and some “after service” too.

June hadn't even considered for a second that this was what they meant by “after service”.

June was drunk, the apsara noticed. June was forced, the apsara noticed.

June was trying very hard to contain herself and maintain that gentlemanly look but whatever her “friends” had mixed into her drinks before throwing her in was apparently making itself known.

June needed her help, and that's what the apsara was there for.

“लोग इस अपाहिज को रागिनी बुलाते हैं,'' echoed the angelic voice.

The apsara introduced herself with confidence and swiftly lifted her lehenga to reveal her paralyzed lower limbs, barely crisscrossed to keep her balanced.

“लेकिन आप मुझे क्या बुलाओगे बाबू?” She added flirtatiously with a hint of a smirk.

It was evident that she wanted June to make a move, to get closer and sit near her on the bed, to claim her. But June was tense. Or atleast was trying to be, while her drink was working against it.

With much difficulty June made her way over to the bed. She almost knocked herself over a couple times but her spectacles saved her. Once she sat on the bed facing away from the apsara, she realized for the first time the condition of her garments which was a direct result of the over drinking.

Somehow she had a flower garland around her wrist. White flowers the same as the apsara, Raagini was her name wasn't it?” was also wearing around her hair bun. White flowers that she had seen on many occasions around here before. Noticing this made June's cheeks turn red. Suddenly she felt naked, even though she was at least two more layers away from it.

June was trying very hard not to look but she couldn't help it. Her poetic eyes always got attracted towards beauty, and under influence it was worse.

Why would her friends do this to her?

It was practically torture. They knew she had never laid her hands on a woman before and yet they still sent her in. She agreed on free food for the Babus, but not whatever this was. This was kept from her. And she was now furious on them, furious on herself and scared of what would come next.

June felt a sensation on the top of her palm that rested on the mattress beside her. She looked over to find Raagini's bejeweled hand tracing her protruding veins and the flower garland. June felt a shiver down her spine. It was divine and she wanted more. She wasn't sure if she hated the fact that she wanted more. She looked over her shoulder and Raagini was now quite close, painfully close. June's shirt felt tight, and she wanted to rip it off. But she stayed there, not moving. Just breathing one shuddering breath after the other. Her brow was furrowed, she had beads of sweat on her forehead. June was a mess and it was all her fault for agreeing to come along in the first place.

Raagini tusked. “Look at my poor Babu, all tired and spent.” She lifts her other hand and places it against June's face and June can feel a soft cloth wiping her worries away. She keeps staring deep into the apsara's eyes while she takes care of her and discovers how deliciously brown they are. June wants to drink them. Instead she makes the terrible choice of asking a question.

“W-why,” she hesitates. Raagini shifts her attention from her forehead to her eyes. June gulps. “Why do you do this........for free?”

Within a second of the initial struggle she realizes her mistake of blurting out words without thinking. But before she can do anything about it, it is already too late and she is too drunk to handle this anyway. She watches the apsara's eyes unfocus and turn slightly gray before they pierce a hole into her soul, a smile still attached under her nose ring.

“Are you going to insult the littlest dignity I have left before you ruin me in bed?” Is her bone chilling reply.

If June hadn't been quite on the edge already she sure as hell was by now.

They were close, so close, June noticed. She had never seen a stronger sense of hate from someone's eyes and lips before even though they were a hair's breadth away from a kiss.

June wanted to collide so terribly, she wanted to rip her shirt off and tie the apsara's hands on the bed with it while she “ruined” her. But that wasn't proper. That wasn't June. That was a rabid beast waiting to be unleashed. Her father would not be very proud of that beast. And neither would she. So, instead she breathed into the defiant soul in front of her.

“An apsara like you does not deserve such a fate,”

She could feel their bodies move now, almost matching in sync. The hatred in Raagini's eyes had subsided ever so slightly and a wry smile had replaced it.

“The world is far crueler than the stories you've been fed with as a child, Sahib.” Said Raagini as she pulled the hair in June's nape using her fingers, and June made a sound she had never heard herself make before.

“Especially to people like me.” Raagini finished.

June's hand was already on Raagini's anchal. She took it off, gently, fighting the drug induced inner beast. The veil came off from Raagini's head and body like the purdah sinning to reveal secrecy. But what emerged from underneath was nothing less than a temple. June drank in the sight. Raagini's other free hand started unbuttoning the white shirt June was wearing, that she only bought yesterday. June got busy with the flower's in her hair now. One round after the other and the flowers came off, and long fell a gorgeous braid of thick, black, lustrous hair. June took the braid and gently placed it on the owner's shoulder, bringing all of it to rest against her body till the very end. It got over around the waist and June looked up. She found eyes waiting to be fed.

“Then be mine. Just mine. I'll feed you those same stories I grew up with, and you'll be safe here, with me.” June offered.

At that the Apsara gave a hearty laugh. Suddenly the room was colorful and the night birds were singing a melody June could not recognise. The sliver of the moon coming in through the window grew brighter and defeated the subtle yellow flame of the candle and bathed her trophy in love.

June was drunk. June was in love.

June had never experienced love before, or so she thought. For now, suddenly she recognised the apsara. A laugh was all it took to jog up her memory.

She had seen her before in the marketplace, in glimpses, and heard her too. Heard her laugh. That very same one. An old man usually drove the wheelchair she sat on. She had a sort of air of command around her wherever she went. She would always wear something in black, and still end up looking stunning. She would buy her groceries and the sellers could not play with her. She would laugh when they tried to do so. And that laugh would melt hearts not in a way a lover's does but in a way an arrow of justice pierces the chest. Those who witnessed it face to face would not dare raise another finger in fear of what lies beyond that very saintly laughter. Everyone around her would always obey without questioning. As if she was God herself. June noticed her sometimes in the bar too. But inside the closed doors she was different. Less commanding, more flirting. She would wear red instead of black when inside, and so she was tonight.

In her drunken haze June had been slow to recognize. But now she remembered all those times she noticed stolen glances towards her from this very apsara. She remembered every time she had wanted to interact with the god gifted beauty but somehow something had prevented it. Now that the drink took its turn towards triggering her memory, June remembered every single night she thought about the woman sitting in front of her. She knew her, or at least she wanted to. June wanted Raagini. June wondered what it would feel like to be commanded by an apsara like Raagini.

Before her train of thought could continue any longer, Raagini spoke.

“You're drunk sahib, you do not know what you speak.” She said, still laughing and wiping a tear off from the corner of her eyes. She supported her weight with her hands around June's neck and June didn't notice when her hands went instinctively around her waist.

There was a pause where both of them stared intently into each other.

There was a breath.

“You asked me what I shall call you tonight, when I first came in through that door” said June.

“I did. Has your eminence decided upon something?” Chuckled Raagini, playing it cool.

“Shall I call you Raag?” Asked June, innocently.

“Anger?” Raagini asked in a wry tone and perked up an eyebrow, curiously. “Why anger?”

“If I chose love over lust tonight, would you not be angry with me?” Replied June.

There was complete silence.

“Oh Raag, sweet Raag,” June continued with the given opportunity, her drink taking over again, “Tell me, if I tell you even in my drunken stupor I've been telling you the truth? If I tell you that this is not the first time I've seen you and I've wanted to know you ever since I saw you in that bazaar? If I told you only fate has brought us together tonight and I wouldn't touch a cell on your body unless you ask me to, would you believe me? Or would you be angry with me?”

More silence. June continued.

“Tell me Raag, am I like the others who come in through those doors and don't leave before dawn? Or am I special? Lie to me that you haven't noticed me from behind the curtains every time I came into this pub to drink away my frustration? Tell me you haven't dreamed about this night every time you've served me a pint and rolled out of my sight the moment I raised my head and asked your name? Tell me Raag, tell me you aren't angry with me because I've noticed you? Tell me a lie that's sweeter to my ears than your rejection. Tell me you hate me, tell me you don't want me, tell me that you're doing me a service. Tell me once more to ruin you and watch me deny–”

There's an audible slap. Bejeweled hands collide with soft cheeks and Nick the skin drawing blood as red as shame. June's head turns to the side. She raises her palm to her swollen cheek on the place of impact and rubs it gently.

June smiles.

“You do hate me don't you, Raag?”

Raagini is crying, June can tell.

June can tell by how hungry their kiss is. How much Raagini whimpers and shakes under her but refuses to let her go.

June lets Raagini take her in. She opens up her mouth. She allows Raagini to ruin her while she only rests her hand on Raagini's hair. Raagini is furious, all consuming. Her hunger is untouchable, uncontrollable. The rest of the buttons from June's shirt rip open and her torso is exposed. Raagini traces her fingers over June's chest scars and June shivers under her touch as she breathes into her mouth. She makes noises she would later be ashamed of.

And then, as suddenly as it started, Raagini stops.

They're both breathing heavily when they part.

“How dare you?” Raagini's voice is hoarse, barely a whisper.

“How dare You?” June pants heavily, like a loser.

It's sickening. It's painful, this love. But tonight, two souls decide to burn.


The intimacy of witnessing someone's wrists when they're not wearing a watch, Or a bracelet, Or a rubber band from their hair that was Tied up high into a ponytail or a bun only minutes ago.

The hair, when they let it fall over their shoulders. The same hair, wet, from rain, or From the first shower of the day, Licking the soft skin of their nape as they dry it under the sun.

When their eyes are laid bear against yours. A pair of glasses between fingertips That you witnessed them taking off. The frame brushing against their nose, Their cheeks, Briefly Before all attention is yours and yours alone.

The intimacy of falling in love Is everything worth living for.

A review on “Binodini Opera” the Play, with some further self narrations

After a rather hectic last week of September, my aunt and I decided to go watch a play at the theatre on Saturday the 30th. She too has been busy ever since her arrival in Kolkata and both of us wanted to wind down. After much internet surfing, we found one play that suited our forte. “Binodini Opera” written by Abanti Chakraborty and co-written by Sibashis Bandopadhyay has been hitting the waves recently so we decided to check it out. Initially my mother wanted to go as well, as she read great things about the play on Facebook, and so we booked three e-tickets. Unfortunately she couldn't make it, and now I'm jealous of her. Because witnessing that play might just have been the worst theatre experience in my life so far.

After two hours of travelling through almost every other transport there is in Kolkata, we finally reached GD Birla Shabhaghar. Not gonna lie, it's a good place. A very photogenic interior and good air conditioning. However they were not allowing us to carry water bottles inside, which was pretty inhumane if you ask me. I still sneaked in a bottle of mine without notice. I tend to get rather parched at all times so I need some water to wet my mouth and throat. But that's besides the point. After collecting our tickets, aunt and I had a photo session. Following us other people started amateur clicking as well, as if we gave them some confidence. We waited for half an hour or so outside the hall before finally being let in.

The audience, in big halls like these, are divided into tier categories based on what amount of ticket we purchase. We were in the Gold category, and in front of us were the Premium. It was surprising at first to see the Premium completely filled up and the Gold being half empty because while booking the website had shown that the Gold seats were almost full as well. However, by intermission the concerning bit changed its reason for being so concerning in the first place.

The play started quite late, around half passed six. That should've been our first red flag, but it wasn't. Instead it was the first two minutes of the play. They started with a song as an intro. Live music with instrumentalists at the back and the entire cast on the stage singing the song. My only detriment is that I waited. I waited way too long in hopes of it turning around and somehow becoming a good play. But from the very beginning it wasn't and I should have seen that coming.

Noti Binodini is the finest most prestigious figure in Bengal theatre. Bengal theatre flourished because of her, and yet her life was full of pain and suffering. In the last year of my Bachelor's degree in English, I had to study her autobiography. Reading her words opened up an entirely new world for me. My respect for her increased immensely after gaining more knowledge and clarity and my love for her character was immortalised. Thus, to see such a terrible misrepresentation of her on the stage made me feel utterly visceral and I ultimately felt that I could not stand it. After the curtains fell for half time, my aunt and I decided to leave.

But before we get to the end of it, let's discuss the nitty gritty a little.

As the name suggests, the drama was a rather poor attempt at a musical. Dialogues were all over the place and the beginning didn't even make sense. Neither of the actors had a voice or throw of words you'd expect from theatre artists. Everything was rather bland and things seemed off. Nothing was connected, neither the events nor the actions. The play started in medias res and tried to make up for it by quickly summarising the backstory through feeble dialogues, which was an absolute disaster. Actress Sudipta Chakraborty was not a good pick for the role of Binodini. Girish Ghosh was portrayed even worse. The relationship between the both of them was not established beyond a guru-shishya state and that bothered me because of its inaccuracy. At some point they decided that making Binodini dream about acting as Lady Macbeth would be a great idea and then that went downhill trying to portray it on stage. In a hall full of appreciative clapping that felt like well practised cues, my aunt and I were sitting abysmal, impatient, and dissapointed. At the end of the day, there was no creativity. All they did was adapt the autobiography of Binodini Dasi herself but made a terrible interpretation out of it. Even the stage design is not worth appreciating.

Our entertainment fiasco of the night came to an end when aunt and I decided to set off homewards as soon as the bell rang for intermission. As if we hadn't witnessed enough drama already, the bus that we got up on brought our worst nightmares to life. Definitely at no point during the two hour ride home did we feel like we were going to survive. It almost felt like we were running away with all our might from the disaster that ruined our evenings. But the torturous journey somehow felt deserved, as if we'd brought this doom upon ourselves.

I wish popular theatre troupes did not use other popular pieces of literature in vain in their dramas that don't relate to the topic or genre. The Lady Macbeth scene was entirely unnecessary. The genre of the play itself was unclear actually. Was it abstract? Was it absurd? Was it a musical? Was it not? At no point could I answer these questions in my head. I've never trusted Facebook reviews myself but I've trusted mother's opinion. It disheartens me to see her being proven wrong this way. What a waste of time it truly was and I never wish to experience something like this ever in the future. Do I recommend watching “Binodini Opera”? Absolutely not. Are you free to disregard my opinions? Most definitely. But here's a warning: heed your actions, lest you suffer. 'Netflix and chill' would be a much better option in my opinion.

365 days around the sun with(out) you You're here.........you are, Near but far, far away from me

I imagine your touch burning me I imagine your unfathomable soul caressing my cheekbones In the dead of night Lying beside me Gently Holding me

I imagine your softness coating me Engulfing me whole as I reach out with my soul To yours To be yours Wanting you to be mine

I'm thine, mi amor This heart? Not mine This mind? Divine, unaligned. You shine upon me like the moon

You aren't the moon But you're eyes are like stars in the sky I've longed to reach for. You form my huntress shape, My haunted drape transforms into beauty

My bow and arrow reaches for you And thus reaches for me too I pierce us with the countless spirits of lost souls that walk the earth I pierce us together, until only we remain In this domain

Two hearts entwined You smile Your soft cheeks in mine. I'm a coward, still scared of speaking the words out loud But you know You've always known

You can read my actions like I can read yours I need not speak while you breathe You need not answer while you listen to my bosom rise and fall Under your pressure Measure Thy soul with the palm of my hands And tell me I don't speak the truth

Do I not speak the truth? To love you so I've waited 365 days, To tell you so I've waited more Would you not believe me so if I spoke the truth?

Would your hands withdraw? Would your cheek? Will I reek of the rotten smell of the dead fish left far too long in the garbage bin? Will I perish?

I'm scared, you see And I think you know 365 days around the sun with(out) you But all I want is this The want of a touch The want of a caress The want of a hug The want of a kiss

Take away my fear And replace it with you, please Take me away With you, please.

This experience was more than a year ago.

I was on my way to college, sitting on the left side of the bus, the ever doomed “Ladies Seat”. Funny thing is, I've come to find this side of the bus most comfortable. Especially the third seat from the door. In most buses, it's always perfectly aligned with the windows, and does not have a raised platform beneath the foot for the tire, or a locker under it or under the seat in front of it that can stop the feet from a spacious movement. And it's a field day if I get a window seat in a more or less empty bus. That means I get to enjoy the windy ride without sweating or having to worry about getting sick while blasting my favourite song of the month in my earphones.

Unfortunately for me though, back when this event happened, I didn't look like someone who would occupy the “Ladies Seat”. I looked like someone who would occupy the General Seat. My hair was short, I had a mask on, the kurta I was wearing was very masculine and did not show enough of my bosom for the prying eyes regardless of gender.

Now let it be known, since then, I have grown out my hair and do in fact, at will, pass off as what is considered to be “Female”. I don't hate how I look. But I do hate the unneeded perception of me sometimes. But, I'm now less bothered to think about what the others are thinking of me. I can present however I want, whenever I want, whether it be fit for a Ladies Seat or General Seat or no seat at all. But a year ago, I was not so confident.

And so the time came when the bus stopped and a couple got up. I'm not one to make judgements but later I felt like they were probably not the kind of people to be aware of the existence and occurence of a gender spectrum on a daily basis. The husband, I assumed, thought of me as someone who should not be sitting at the Ladies Seat and, for the lack of a better word, was taking up space for his precious wife who was very much fit to be sitting in the Ladies Seat. She was wearing a burkha head to toe for all I care, but again, I'm not one to judge.

So ofcourse, the manly man of the relationship proceeded to ask me, “Bhaiya, Ladies Seat me kyun baithe ho? Apka jagah nahi hai, uthiye!” In a semi-rude and semi-protective tone. (*Translation: “Brother, why are you sitting on the Ladies Seat? Thats not your place, get up!”)

If I wasn't so busy wondering how to answer that question, I would've appreciated the camaraderie. After all, any husband in their right mind would not want their wife to sit on the Ladies Seat beside someone who should not definitely sit on the Ladies Seat, especially in this day and age. But ofcourse, that wasn't the case for me. I was taken aback, and I spent a good few seconds in my head processing his words and trying to come up with a good way to answer.

I quickly deducted that I had three options :

Option 1: I could tell him that I was a woman and that he should, respectfully, fuck off. But that would be a lie, and I'm not sure my dysmorphia was capable of handling it properly.

Option 2: I could get up and give his wonderful wife, who definitely deserves my seat, a place to sit. My introverted self was very happy with this idea, but my lazy ass was not having it. After all, it was my very own comfort seat, the perfect one in the whole bus. Why should I give it up so easily?

Option 3: I could speak up. I was not sure what I would say, but I felt that atleast if the husband heard my shrill voice scared by his masculinity, which very much did not resemble the voice of someone who sat on the General Seat, he would put two and two together and let me go and find another seat for his wife.

Mind you, this thought process went through my head in the flash of a second. So obviously, it wasn't nearly enough time for my survival instincts to work to it's fullest potential. Therefore, I ended up putting my mask down and revealing my face and staring him dead in the eye in confusion. It might have looked like I was challenging him or something but deep down I desperately hoped that my not-so-unsuitable-for-a-ladies-seat facial features could at least give him a hint to leave me alone, for I did not find my voice to speak. Thankfully, a lady behind me came to my rescue and hinted at my non-existant femininity to the husband, who then adjusted his eyes in seeking out my docile curves beyond the black Kurta I was wearing –which I bought from the male section at a mall– and quickly apologised. He even smiled, and then left with his wife to go towards the back of the bus.

Once he was gone, I put the mask back up to hide my own smile. If I was confident about my femininity, none of that would have made me smile. If I was confident in my masculinity, none of that would have made it difficult for me to communicate. But I am neither. I'm just a gender disaster, happy to be mistaken as someon who at first sight did not appear to be fit to sit on the Ladies Seat.

// On bonds held by lose stitches

Two days ago I went to the print shop I know the owner for 5 years now He was playing “Chithi Na Koi Sandesh” on the radio It reminded me of a story my mom told me Of my dad, after his dad passed away And he used to play The same song while sitting all alone in grandfather's rocking chair in the verandah It made me wonder Who was the print shop owner missing that day?

This morning I sat down with mother to peel some tamarinds It was my first time doing so But I'm a fast learner, a kinesthetic one too She didn't need to teach me for too long I've read about animals grooming each other as a form of showing a love Monkeys, chimps, gorillas. Mother puts oil in my hair sometimes. But unlike most mothers, I have to request her to do it (Not the other way round) I wonder, if today made us closer If I showed enough love.

We were walking, brother, father and I Towards the river. On the road we saw two kids playing with paper and scissors They were cutting heart shapes out of ruled papers They were sitting on the footpath I wonder, if their hearts were as white as those papers.