Sahiyo.

MeToo raged across the internet, shattering any and all delusions about the existence of a comprehensive list of characteristics that one could use to determine a victim.

 ‎And through the resounding echoes of voices which had been silenced for longer than they ought,
 ‎finally reverberating and destroying the feigned sense of safety that denial provided, we realized that the strongest, boldest, fiercest, most “liberated” women were victims of one common enemy:

Patriarchy.

 Because patriarchy does not care about whether your head is covered by a hijab or your legs left uncovered in a miniskirt,
and patriarchy does not care about the PhD degree on your wall.

 ‎Patriarchy does not ask before snatching away your freedom, stomping over your achievements and destroying all your ambitions.

 ‎Patriarchy is not a man or a woman, but the disease flowing through each of our veins, turning men into “ladla betas” and women into “becharis”

 ‎It spares none, for bechari is no longer just the hijab wearing woman who has to laugh louder, smile wider and speak with more passion just to prove that she is indeed living on her own terms and that the scarf wrapped around her head is not symbolic of chains wrapped around her limbs.

 Bechari is no longer the young lady on the train with a child in her lap and one on each arm, who was her unable to pursue her education due to lack of opportunity.

 ‎Bechari is no longer just a face with sunken eyes that cry themselves to sleep every night, sad lips which have forgotten how to smile and fragile limbs which do not know how to fight, or a mouth that has had its voice long since silenced.

 ‎Bechari is you, me, and she.

And perhaps I inherited the status of being a victim, along with the privilege of being oppressed.

Perhaps I was actually born a “bechari”.

However, for you to assume that I am a victim of oppression by the mere virtue of being a woman is sexist in itself,

for you are overlooking the fact that I am not bound to make decisions based on your definition of what is empowering,

and you are assuming that I am not educated enough to live without adhering to your standards of “liberty”,

and I implore you to not demean me thus.

Do not treat me disdainfully, 
do not victimize me,
do not stereotype me,
do not assume your moral superiority,
do not attempt to speak on my behalf without first giving me a voice, 
do not oppress me with your ill-founded misrepresentation,
do not silence my own opinions with the din of your propaganda,
do not dictate my choices.
Do not oppress me in your quest for liberation.
Do not allow your sexism to assume despotism.
Do not attempt to steal my freedom and rights, merely to provide yourself with a slogan to showcase your emancipation.
Do not condescend me with your unsolicited support.
Do not allow 409 individuals to speak for a community of over sixty two thousand nine hundred and thirty nine.

I applaud your efforts at trying to be my ally
but what kind of an alliance requires you to degrade the very people you are trying to befriend and supposedly uplift?

I do not need supportive sahiyos to try to attempt to “give me a voice”
for I am neither mute nor mutilated.
i am capable of speaking for myself.

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Winter.

Cold kisses,
warm liquids,
muffled giggles,
cozy blankets,
old poems,
scented candles,
soft melodies,
fresh flowers,
dim lights,
interlaced fingers,
whispered secrets,
clumsy waltzes,
dizzying twirls,
racing heartbeats,
stolen glances,
cheek caresses;

If only winter did not have to end,
You must know I really could love you.

Home.

You’re home to me,
but I am a wanderer
and I find utmost pleasure
in fluttering around like a butterfly,
never pausing
for more than the few moments required
to soak in my surroundings
before soaring away, again.
I am a wanderer
and I find utmost pleasure
in walking through unfamiliar territory,
unearthing their treasures
while failing to understand the native tongues,
inhaling the air
so foreign to my lungs.

You’re home to me,
but sometimes, you can’t be the home I need.
Sometimes, I need a wooden lodge
with embroidered rugs
and oil paintings,
a brick fireplace,
and dim lights that flood it
with the warmth I require
after a long day of being kissed
by the cold lips of the icy wind
as I rush down slopes
of soft, silver snow.
Sometimes, when I’m sleeping
under the stars,
and the moon serves as my night-lamp,
the chirping crickets my music,
and the trees my only company,
I only need a hammock
to rock myself to sleep
in tune with the waves
that gently caress the shore.
Sometimes, when my body aches
and my soul is exhausted,
I need a soft bed and a blanket,
surrounded with white walls
as blank as my mind
and carved lanterns
that decorate them with shadows.

You’re home to me,
and while I may occasionally require repose
away from you,
you must understand
that it is not because you are any less comforting,
but because I need to roam,
I need to go away
in order to return
and I would never take you for granted
but the knowledge
that you will be waiting
with the same familiar fragrance
of scented candles
and the same song
of the birds outside my window,
is what gives me the courage
to wander a little farther each time I go.

You’re home to me,
but you can’t always be homely.

Hushed.

You mustn’t talk about it
because it’s highly personal
and you mustn’t share such intimate details
with everyone you encounter
by discussing it so openly,
so casually,
so candidly.

You must make sure
that the only time you engage the activities
is in the privacy of your own home
or any such establishment
where you can be assured
that you shall not have any witnesses
who may or may not be uncomfortable
by the sight of you.

You mustn’t flaunt your identity-
it is disrespectful,
make sure you keep it well concealed
until you are within the confines of your own home
and even then you must maintain caution,
do not do anything
that could possibly offend the majority
because you shall be brutally punished
and shamed should you do so.

You must treat your religion like we treat sex.
Private, sacred, silenced and offensive.

Survival.

I nearly drowned once.
I watched the light at the surface become smaller and smaller
until it was no larger than a speck of dust in an ocean of darkness;
I ascended deeper and the blue turned into a black
which left me blindly staggering,
unable to find my direction,
unable to tell if I was close to the surface which awaited me
with fresh air and new life,
or whether I was closer to the bottom-
if there even was a bottom because I was tired of falling.
It felt like I was tied down
but the chains that had me tethered were nothing but my own hands
and the weight on my shoulders that had me spiralling downwards
was nothing but the weight of what my neck supported,
and as the pressure increased I could feel my lungs caving into themselves
and my throat ran dry though I was surrounded by water,
my hands shivered and trembled
and my legs could not have carried me had I tried to walk,
if I could even muster the courage to attempt to do so.

I nearly drowned once.
The only thing worse than wanting to swim
but being unable to do so out of sheer exhaustion
caused by being propelled deeper into a tide
where every wave is a tempest,
the only thing worse than the helplessness you feel
when you know that all the will in the world would not be enough
to get your body to swim,
is the horror you feel every time you let the foaming waves gently caress your ankles,
and you’re reminded of how your body felt
like it had been carrying every grain of sand
on the beach you are standing on,
when you are suddenly washed over by a fear
that makes you tremble,
afraid of losing your footing and plummeting
back into the deep depths
you fought so hard to swim out of.
The only thing worse than having nearly drowned
is the fear lives on
and surfaces every time you’re at a beach
and the sound of the ocean fills your ears,
and suddenly the sound of the ocean
is substituted by a cackling static
like that of a spoilt radio
and it doesnt stop,
as though your mind is, at once,
both blank
and sweeping with waves of dread,
one thought crashing over the other
before the first has the chance to retract;
suddenly the sand has vanished from under your feet
and the waves are crashing down on your chest
with a ferocity so intense it breaks your ribs,
shattering them
like the rocks which have been powdered into the sand
that seems to have flooded your blood,
and they pierce your lungs and puncture your heart
which is struggling to continue pumping life into you,
fighting against the tide of terror
that is trying to drown you.

I nearly drowned once.
The water is still in my lungs.

Blank.

I can’t think of anything to write
which is weird
considering I’m almost always thinking in poetry
and there’s very few moments in the day
when I’m not thinking of how I could write a poem
about that very moment,
that very thought,
that very emotion-
even when I’m feeling nothing at all;
but do we ever truly feel nothing at all
or is nothingness perhaps a feeling too?
I’m not sure if I can put it into words
because how do you articulate nothingness,
how do you use words to describe the things you feel
when you feel devoid of all emotions?
It’s a rather unusual thing to have to explain.

Nothing. Nothingness.
There’s an odd sense of doom that accompanies these words
and somehow I find it absurd,
though incorrigible.
Why is ‘nothing’ perceived so negatively?

Nothingness. Emptiness. Hollowness.
These shouldn’t be such…dirty words.
Nothingness and emptiness and hollowness
have so much potential.
They’re so incredibly versatile
because nothingness
and emptiness
and hollowness can be filled
with anything at all.
Maybe that’s what makes us so cautious about them.
Maybe nothingness and emptiness and hollowness
only makes us afraid
because it makes us unsure and doubtful and uncertain,
makes us nervous under the burden
of the responsibility that accompanies potential.
Maybe nothingness and emptiness and hollowness
are just fancy synonyms for a blank sheet of paper.

Metaphors.

I never wrote about love.
Instead, I wrote about a dahlia
whose silent swaying
in the cold winter breeze
was the cue to my waltz.
I wrote about a conversation
with whispered words drizzling
like soft raindrops on a hot day, comforting me
with their hushed pitter patter.
I wrote about a stream
that flows on
at a calm, steady pace,
carrying me along with it,
engulfed in its safe embrace.
I wrote about a bird
whose song still rings in my ears,
etched into my heart,
no matter how many miles
we may be apart.

I never wrote about love,
I wrote about loveliness instead.
I never wrote to you or about you, but
I wrote you into everything I said.