Rain

They say rain is water, but its a lot more than that. Rain is loss and rain is gain. Huh, a rhyme. Who woulda thought? Wait, wait let me explain before I get carried away with more rhymes. Not that I am much of a rhymer, that was a fluke. Sometimes flukes work.

Am I writing gibberish to meet the hundred wordmark? Rain is loss. Loss of homes. Loss of lives. Loss of sunshine. Rain causes chaos and traffic and billboards to fall here in Nairobi. Rain is loss. Rain is gain. Gain of crops. Gain of trees. Gain of nature. Gain of vegetables and grains and wheat.

Rain is smell. Smells like a dream. Smells like something new. Smells like comfort. Smells like Home. Rain is thunder. Thunder is noise. Noise is fear. Noise are echoes. Noise is a calling. Come, see this rain. Come, hear this thunder. Come, witness this destruction. Come, experience this growth.

Rain is beauty. Rain is wonder. Rain is heavy.

Heavy, heavy rain.

Like right now.

Rain is God’s way of crying. That’s what my grandfather would say. But grandfather lived in a bubble of his own. He believed things that weren’t necessarily true. Rain is not God’s way of saying He is angry. Its clouds bursting, right? I am probably wrong.

I don’t know what rain is.

Rain is love. Rain is light. Rain is loss. Rain is gain. I am going round in circles aren’t I?

Let’s talk about fake rain, you know, the rain they have in Dubai. Where the heat is so blistering they need fake rain to cool down the temperatures. Shout out to climate change and global warming.

Maybe rain is anger. Anger from God for not looking after His planet. For treating it with so much disrespect we have a whole two words for it: climate change.

Rain is calmness. Hear its sound. You will automatically want to meditate. I almost wrote medicate there. Which reminds me, have your meds. So the rain doesn’t feel too heavy.

Rain is weight. The weight of water rushing down. The weight of floods piling up. The weight of puddles. Puddles to jump on. Puddles to drive on. Puddles that carry dirt. Rain is dirt, but it is also cleanliness. Rain wipes out any mess. Even the mess in your mind. It’s cleansing.

Rain is creation. It creates flowers and trees and prose and literature and music and dance. Rain is dance. Remember when SRK and Kajol danced in the rain. Have you ever danced in the rain? You should try it. It is freeing. Walking even in the rain. Is freeing.

Rain is freedom. Freedom is open. Raining is the opening of clouds. Clouds are letting go. Letting go of the rain. Let that be a metaphor for life. When our minds get all cloudy and we want to let go we let ourselves rain in the form of tears. Tears and anger and sadness and frustration.

Maybe grandfather was right, Rain is all of these things. God must be feeling all of these things. So He rains on us. She rains on us. God is a woman. I claim that. Many have claimed it before me. God is a woman. Rain is her feelings.

Rain is feelings. Feelings of what you ask?

Well I will be going round and round and round if I keep repeating myself on what rain is. Rain is a circle. A circle of puddles. A circle of traffic. A circle of an umbrella that keeps us safe. Rain is safety. It makes us want to crawl into our blankets for comfort. Rain is so many things.

I’ve lost direction of where this is going.

Rain is loss. Rain is gain. Rain is a cup of tea. Rain is bhajia and sauce and soda. Rain is a glass of wine. Rain is a dance. Rain is sex. Rain is gumboots and raincoats and hoodies. Rain is sneezes and coughs and sometimes snot.

Rain is gain. Rain is loss.

Rain is many things, and rain is pouring right now.

A tree has fallen and Oshwal centre is flooded and General Mathange has traffic. Rain has power. Rain is a storm. Like the people I love. Does that mean I should love rain? Is rain the depiction of the people I love? It might be.

I could keep writing. Gibberish and more gibberish. Are you enjoying this piece of work or do you want it to end?

Us: In a parallel Universe.

You and I would still be together, four years strong. We would have invented new games to play, and I would tell you all about my day, even the most mundane of details.

You’d probably be glad that my phone anxiety has reduced and I can have more than a 3-minute conversation. I’d still be wearing all black, my hair still shoulder-length, and you, your shirt and pants and dreadlocks.

You’d still pick me up from the station and we would drive around with an updated playlist, replacing Cheerleader and Sura Yako and Humma Humma.

I’d still drag you along to Yoga at the park, and you’d still send me mirror selfies after working out at the gym in the middle of telling me all about work.

I’d read you my fiction and send you songs and write you mediocre poetry. I’d still be reading Arundhati Roy and you, some businessy book.

We’d share clothes and food. We’d share a cigarette and I would finally tell you how cool and not cute you look. We’d make strangers uncomfortable by holding hands and locking arms in public.

We’d attend pride together, under the UK sun, taking selfies and secretly sipping on gin and tonic.

We’d have debates again and then argue over our disagreements.

We’d kiss and have sex and laugh endlessly. Exchanging energies. Exchanging scents. Growing closer.

I’d entertain you with the news. We’d go to the cinema, for a Bollywood movie this time. We’d take that trip and have pancakes and roasted marshmallows.

In a parallel universe, I’d have said yes to you and not be sat miles away from you wondering what it would have been like even four years later, then maybe I could dedicate this or this to you, even though you wouldn’t understand a single word.

 

You

You’re at the salon (saloon?). You’re staring at yourself in the mirror, pretty unsure of who is looking back. It’s hard to recognize yourself, almost. Who is thinking these thoughts? Are you thinking to think these thoughts? What’s going on? He’s come to massage your back while you wait for your hair to get done. You’re doing your hair because you are bored. Privilege looks like straight hair with shades of brown. The massage is the only form of human contact you’ve got in days. You realize it’s wrong to maybe think that. You don’t have change to tip anyone. All your change is spent on Ubers and bodas. You think about yesterday’s boda ride. What would have happened if the accident had happened? Would you be seriously injured or dead? Would your helmet have flown off? What would have happened if you died? You make conversation with the guy giving you a massage. Tell him you need to pee. You pee with the cubicle door open. Regard to laziness or carelessness. You study yourself in the mirror there. Who are you? What are you doing here? You wash your hands and walk out of the toilet. The corridor smells of a smoked cigarette. Smoking in enclosed spaces has a fine of up to 50,000. Someone is brave. You purse your lips thinking about how brave you’d become with smoking in public now. It’s time to do your hair. You break out of your thought process:

  • Aren’t you tired?
  • I used to this. I’m just feeling hot.

Back to thinking. Your hair gets done. It feels so delicate. You feel like a glass doll. You wait for your aunt to come to pick you up. You need to get a licence. You feel a sudden pang of hunger. A result of the new medication you’re on.

Who is thinking these thoughts?

Blow Out The Candles

By Samira Sawlani 

It’s my birthday on the 3rd of November.

Of course I won’t tell you how old I am, the patriarchal conditioning within me which I am trying to unlearn remains very much attached to the idea of concealing one’s number of years in existence, if only to cover up the shame I feel for ‘not being where I should be’ by ‘x-age’.

It’s like carrying a mixture of a stop and an apple watch on your person at all times, you can never get away from the tick-tock sound it makes while simultaneously seeing the notifications come up.

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‘It has been two years since you got a promotion, where is the career progression?’

‘It has been 15 years since you started menstruating where are the kids?’

‘It has been 30 years since you arrived on this planet, time to buy a property?’

And before you know it you’re sitting in an Italian restaurant, weighed down by copious amounts of bread (if nothing else then your digestive system will definitely remind you of your age tomorrow), surrounded by friends and family singing an out of tune rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, about to blow out your candles, and in a blur of it all as someone shouts ‘make a wish’, and all you really want to wish for is a time machine.

So that you could go back in time and tweak a few things, okay maybe more than a few, okay fine you would change most of it.

If only I had avoided meeting that person, taken a different train, gotten off the bus, gone to the gym more, studied a different degree, not bought that overpriced (and now that you think about it, hideously ugly) red coat, turned left instead of right, begun reading Marx in pre-school, enrolled for French classes, dumped that guy, said hello to the postman… things would have been different. I would be where I ‘should be.’

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The human mind seems to have a natural inclination to compare itself to other people, to measure its achievements and failures against those of those around us and the societal standards seemingly ‘set’ for us.

Comparing ourselves to others is a form of self-evaluation and a way to judge others, in some ways it is survival.

The modern-day entities that are social media apps, influencers, twelebs and reality stars and social media apps often aid this.

This is not to say that prior to this the pressures of achieving certain things by a certain age, were not a thing.

Growing up in India, my mum’s sisters and brothers were all married between the ages of 17-23, the earlier the better, and if you got there before 23, you were safe ‘married by 23- tick.’

My rebellious mother had decided that this was not a path she was interested in taking and so with every birthday that came her way, there was a reminder from the audience that was so invested in the movie of her life that she was falling behind.

It’s almost like a pressure cooker, you are like a pot, someone throws in ‘singleness’, another person throws in ‘still living at home’, in goes a sprinkle of ‘no savings’ and a garnish of ‘childless’, on goes the lid, they keep putting up the fire.

And boom.

An explosion.
BF498026-DBEA-496F-A291-ABC8383E0154 (1)Throughout my childhood and early teenage years, I would struggle to sleep in the lead up to my birthday, excitement keeping me awake.

It was never about the presents or the cake or the party or the pretty dress I would wear.

It was always about having a day which was just mine.

After all your Date of Birth is kind if important is it not? Stated clearly on every important document you are ever likely to possess.

A year older, as a child it felt like one year closer to freedom.

Except at some point, it no longer felt that way.

All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, there came a slight feeling of dread on the day itself.

Perhaps it was from opening Facebook to see an array of ‘Happy Birthday!’ messages (from people you have not seen or heard from in about ten years, yet twice a year you interact online to wish each other using two words and an exclamation mark).

Somewhere on that newsfeed, you see someone announce a pregnancy, another person starts a new job, another invite you to the housewarming of a property they have just purchased.

And while you feel joy for them, you cannot quite push aside that feeling of ‘another year older, and what have I done with my life?’

In this space there is no room for challenging your thoughts, the speed with which you fall into that abyss, leaving behind the balloons and the cards and the unopened gifts because really, what does any of it mean when you aren’t where you should be?

And then one day you get a call, a beloved family member has died.

She was young.

It was unexpected.

Never again on the morning of your birthday will you hear her voice on the phone.

She was the colour yellow.

Luminous.

Winsome.

Joy.

She was.

Absence is so heavy.

And in that moment you realise that the goalposts have been moved so far you can no longer see them.

There are no more timelines.

There is nothing.

All of a sudden, that morning you woke up and stared out of the window overlooking Nairobi, that afternoon walk in rainy London, the touch of a leather jacket, that time you chose to see a distraught friend instead of finish that job application, those moments take on a different meaning.

For while death may remind you of your own mortality and may push you towards staying on the hamster wheel of ‘achieving’, it also reminds you that there is more than ticking boxes, there is more than keeping up appearances.

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On my first birthday since that loss, I tasted every morsel of food that went into my mouth.

I savoured every bite.

No longer governed by the thought of ‘I should be this weight by this age.’

I stood outside in the Autumn-Winter hybrid London air and felt the cold against my face and I held my breath.

I savoured living.

I savoured life.

Later there was candles and cake and the sound of out of tune singing.

No thoughts to drown these out.

Just laughter.

(Picture credits: Larutadel Tumblr, Mirinda M Pinterest & Samira Sawlani)

Teacup: please stop spinning

Our childhood house had a medium sized garden. And there was this large fence covered with trees and leaves working as a partition from our neighbour’s house.

We couldn’t access the neighbour’s house from our compound. But there was a little gap in between the bushes that we could possibly fit into as children had we tried.

And we would spend days just looking into the neighbour’s house.

They had two daughters and a dog.

It felt like a such a far away place.

I’m not sure if it was real or a figment my imagination, but it sticks very vivid in my memories from that time.

And as a child, I’d often wonder what would happen if I went through the gap and into the neighbour’s house.

Would my family come searching for me? Would I be forgotten? Would I make it back?

When I was little, I would wake up in the middle of the night or very early in the morning with a strange fear.

It would involve me being in a massive field, or a never ending black space, entirely alone.

It was almost as if I had braved the crawl through that gap.

The place would be so dark, cold and eerie.

I would spot my loved ones at a distance, but either they were slipping away from me, or I was slipping away from them.

It was terrifying.

And this visual has recurred over the course of my growing up.

A few mornings ago I woke up, sweaty, with that same feeling, and I burst into tears asking God to watch over the people that I love.

I tried to tell myself that it’s just a nightmare, a bad feeling, and somewhere in between the process I realized it is perhaps the fear of me losing touch with myself.

Of me no longer recognizing me.

I see snapshots the way you see the background spin and blur when you’re on a really fast teacup ride.

Half shutting your eyes, bargaining with your body to please not throw up.

I am laughing. My mum is there, my sisters, my aunties, my friends, the roads of all the cities I’ve lived in, the dreams I had are all there.

They’re looking at me.

I try to call out at them, but my voice is blocked by a playlist of the songs I listened to growing up mixed with the sounds of their laughter.

I beg my body to relax, but it is slipping away.

Everything is spinning fast. Everything is blurry. I am starting to slip away.

And I am terrified.

*

Hi

I am so plotless.

Wait, let me explain.

I have a flight to Mombasa tomorrow and I don’t have my passport. It’s with the British embassy.

(Such a first world problem because I can probably travel with my ID/Old passport – except the details we put in are of my new passport, so help me god!)

I know I am just worrying without reason.

I know it is going to be fine.

I am writing on here because I am bored. And I’ve been told I need different coping mechanisms for when I am bored (achievements?).

So why am I going to Mombasa?

My aunt’s friend has a wedding, and I tagged along last minute with my cousins.

Why?

Because I don’t want to be by myself (anywhere but here).

Anyway.

What’s new with me? (A fair amount)

Why does it matter? (Because I am human?)

Who reads this? (As long as you write, someone will read)

Are you still reading? (Please say yes.)

Maybe I’ll write about Mombasa.

I am really really really bored. And lately I’ve been struggling to see ahead. I know I’ll make it in the far-fetched sense of making it. But I am not sure if I will make it or just bear it (is that the right bear?)

I spoke on the phone twice today and messaged people and replied to comments on (the gram) and sat outside with my aunt’s friend to have a full conversation on how much I don’t like the new job. (communication?)

(With this blog post you’d think all I do is complain.)

I went to the temple I did as a kid and I went for coffee with my younger sister and I made her laugh like the old days. (enjoyment?)

I had three mugs of coffee today (one was decaf).

I’ll update you (readers, do you exist?) from Mombasa.

I am bored and I will find something else to do now.

Bye.

16-26

(TW: weight)

I am 26 and now at the weight I “dreamed” to be at when I was 16.

It’s odd because it doesn’t seem like much of an achievement. I know my 16 year old self would be over the moon. Finally, I finally made it.

I know it’d be all over my Tumblr “fitness” blog, because I’d kept one. I’d follow a bunch of thinspo blogs. Obsessing over “ideal” weights and thigh gaps and food diaries and calories. My followers would be so proud of me.

I wonder if my then-nutritionist/fitness instructor would be proud of me. I can imagine her smile, to be honest.

This obsession with weight stopped when I turned 21, then came back in 2017.

And since then, this need to be thin has been on my mind almost everyday.

Over my last few months in London I remember specifically trying to see how many times I could wrap a towel around my body.

It all takes up a lot of my headspace and I wonder what’s made it worse.

Is it the multiple times people warning me, you look good now, don’t go back to who you were. Or the don’t you feel so much better now that you’re smaller? Or the dozens of recommendations I get to lose more weight.

At 16 I thought that when I reached this “goal” weight, my life would immediately be in order.

And is it?

Nope.

Hardly.

I mean it depends. Yes, I work. Yeah, I have a roof over my head and warmth and comfort.

But how am I doing really?

There’s very high ups and very low downs.

There’s a bunch of anxiety and tears. There’s the stepping on the weighing scale multiple times. There’s the thousands of apologies and promises to everyone around me. There’s the you need to be strongs, you need to do this. There’s my mind that refuses to stop the noise. And a ton of sleep in between.

That’s today, at least. I’m not sure about yesterday. I don’t really want to think about tomorrow.

I was naive at 16. And at 26, I’m trying to understand why this desire lingers still.

To my 16 year old self, I want to say, look, you made it. You’re at your “ideal” weight, it’s yours to keep.

I hope you are happy now.

*

(featured image courtesy of: pinterest, libra artsy scale)

Whys and Whats

On my odd days, when I am feeling either extremely inspired or terribly sad, I scribble pages upon pages in my three year old journal. I write whatever it is that comes to my mind – even if it is a gruesome and gory story about butchering a former teacher. Disclaimer: Those stories are fictional, I am not crazy, my mother had me tested. See what I did there? So, yeah, to be absolutely cliché, writing is the way I deal with the calm and havoc of the world that lives inside my mind.

Back when I was in India (August, I think), I wrote, in my three year old journal, about how the families we are born into makes the biggest difference ever. That’s stating the obvious, I know. But then I thought about the why and the what. Why was I born into this family? What makes me so different from anyone else that I was born here, in Nairobi, into a family that can send me off to get a foreign degree? What about all those kids in India? What about these kids in Kenya? Why were they born into the families they are born into? Why is my social status and theirs different? Why am I getting a foreign education and not them? What makes me so special? Why. What. Why. What. Why. What. Why. What. I went on and on with a series of questions, and a debate on whether it is destiny, sheer luck, or just because…just like that. I came to the conclusion that I do not believe in destiny nor do I believe in luck. We are where we are because we do things that we do and this is the result of those things. If I work towards creating a better tomorrow, my tomorrow will be better. If I wallow in self-pity for hours on end, my tomorrow will be empty. But that’s a whole different story. What my point was – why them and why me? So I thought and I thought and I got really upset. But then I got out of it in an instant because I realised – it is me and only me has the ability to help them. And that is why I am here. To help people, to raise my voice, to be there for them, to make sure that tomorrows children are going to be educated, that we will see a drop in sexual violence, a drop in violence, a drop in poverty. A rise in equality. If I use all the energy I spend on the whys and whats and the debates on helping people, then I am sure I will make a difference – even if it is to a single person. And that, is my friends, is my goal in this life. Is that my destiny? No it’s not. It is my decision.

But let me ask you, is it destiny? Is it luck? What is it?

Also, if you cared enough to get this far please check out this youth organisation – Stand Up Shout Out – that I most recently joined. It’s a wonderful movement, and I have been doing their filming and videography (does filming come under this?). So also check that out. And also try and help one another. And also watch this space for more stuff. I cannot believe I just typed that out.

Challo, bye now.

 

two.

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Let’s play a game. I’ll tell you one thing I am grateful about, and then you tell me one thing you’re grateful about, till we have five things each. Let’s play a game. I fall for you, you fall for me, then, we tear each other apart. Let’s play a game. I’ll write you another letter, and I’ll hope that you will read it. Somehow. One day. Some day.

Every time I wrote about love, I always used to write about people leaving and breaking me apart. And strangely enough, that’s exactly what happened. We weren’t together for a long period of time, but it was long enough for you to make me fall for you. And for you to fall for me. Me, the storm. Me, the indecisive one. But I promise I was honest. And I promise I liked you. Like you. A lot. I don’t blame you for blocking me off all your social medias, but I would like to know what drove you to that. Was it the love you had for me? Was my mere presence oh so problematic? I would like to know. I would like to  know what you did with the letter I wrote you. I would like to know if you’re finding it as hard to move on as I am. If it is as hard for you to let someone else in. I would like to know if you think of me at all. Even for a moment. I was, after all, your source of happiness. I am sorry I broke your heart. I am sorry I couldn’t be with you. I really liked you. I like you. And as I have written before, love equals destruction, so I destroyed our personal little world. I destroyed what could have been of us.  And I promise you it was because I had to be honest. Because I liked you too much. Because I like you too much. 

I miss you. I am sorry.

Let’s play a game. For just another day, let’s visit the park, the pub and the park again. Let’s play a game. For one more day, take my hand and talk to me about you. Let’s play a game. You let go of the hold you have on me, and I will let go of all your memories.

For the one hundredth time, let’s do this!

This happens on a monthly, nay, bi-monthly basis. I write for a while, then abandon my blog entirely, then somehow find the inspiration to write again. This is life, and this is how I roll. I’ve decided to use this blog as an online journal, to just write about anything and everything, and then see where life takes me from there. And let’s see how long this lasts now. So this blog will consist of everything. Pictures, personal posts, and this and that. For real this time…I think.

Shall we talk about updates? Updates are always fun.

I got accepted to study Journalism at City University in London! I am happy, nervous, excited, all at once. I know this is what I have wanted for a very long time, yet I am somehow sat here thinking whether or not I will actually be able to do it. I mean, Journalism is intense, journalists are uber smart. And I am borderline smart…and not that intense. Let’s see though, let’s see.

I am back in Kenya. Nairobi. Home. I don’t really know where home is any more. But that’s a whole other post and a totally different topic. So, yeah, I am in Kenya. And here’s a funny story – I am going for Intermediate English lessons, just for FUN. I am odd like that, and I don’t have much else to do. Besides, what harm is there is re-learning the difference between active and passive sentences? And prepositions? And verbs? If anything, learning is FUN. Right? No? Ok, I’ll keep telling myself that.

What else? What else? What else? I want to get into routine with writing. So I am going to TRY my hardest to push myself and just do it. Whatever it is. Just write. Right? Write, right?

Aha. Okay, I’m done now.

Until next time!