Winning Entries at IIT-Kanpur Antaragni’20 Poetry Slam Event

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An Ode to the Lyrics that Make Me Feel More of a Woman Each Day

By Mansi Vijay (First Position/Miranda House)

A 25 week old foetus in the womb responds to the noises around them,
so I know of the sun and the moon because my mother sang them to me,
Paroxysm is handed down as an inheritance to the women in my family.

Till I was 5,
she cooed in my ears with her sweetest voice,
hooked up her trachea to a nursery rhyme on loop,
tied her ankles to twinkling stars and feeding bottles,
spoke in encryption, a language that only I and baa baa black sheep could decipher,
but her favourite tune was from a time when ‘saajan ji’ came home with ‘sindoor’
and she was ready with her ‘sola singaar’
Twenty years later,
she now locates her voice in the third cabinet of the kitchen drawer,
where she stores her career, love and sacrifice; serves it as daily appetite,
and keeps the house warm each day
by gaslighting a bit of her own body and sanity.
My mother has the sweetest voice.

By the time I was 13, Mika and Honey Singh
handed my puberty to me,
I walked into art classes filled with boys
that couldn’t wait to paint my self-esteem
with a brown rang, bomb figure, blue eyes,
and beats that vandalise my body.
That night, my mother declared “Torschlusspanik.”
Which quite translates to gate shut panic because this vagina is now a world heritage site,
my father handed me my first swiss knife,
so a desi boy with his prose,
Can now write of a love that doesn’t flinch
when he marks the monument with paan, pain or blood whichever comes first.

At 16 the cool cousin in the family
introduced us to the rap gods, snoop dogg’s,
DJ babus, baby mamas, thotianas,
it was the same year my music had enough streams to reduce my world and my voice
to a moan,
to reduce my screams to a … silence.
I realised,
Munni had a counterpart in Miami,
Sheila wore shame on her belly button like second skin,
until the Spotify charts claw the remaining humanity right out of my body,

I turn twenty in a week.
But my constant state of being is panic,
Unlike my mother, gates shut, I inherit my paroxysm from my music,
With every lyric I’m running out of my age, skin shades, and even
my poetry, which may never be as well rounded as my rotis,
so here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • a bowl of adequate synonyms for the word ‘whore’
  • three tablespoons of blinding lust
  • half a kg of her body parts that best cater to the male gaze
  • five teaspoons of degrading sexual imagery, the raw kind
  • half a cup mention of cars, drugs, alcohol and money to enhance the true gold digger flavour
  • a full bowl of crushed consent

Method:

  • Wash your hands before we start, this is about to get dirty.
  • To prepare the dough, lay down a woman as an accessory and knead with hard hitting cuss words until her bodily integrity is completely destroyed.
  • Add the objectifying elements, while stirring your sexual drive slowly. Make sure the mixture is deprived of any consent. It may ruin the mood.
  • Mix thoroughly until the mixture and her self-respect is reduced to a pulp.
  • In a heated pan, add your argument stating “it’s just a song” and stir vigorously while mouthing the above listed lyrics. Keep stirring until you start to sing, accept, internalise, perform and justify your “just a song”. Preferably idolise the icons that served it to you.
  • As per taste, add salt and dismiss this entire conversation as a salty feminist rant. Torschlusspanik!!
  • Garnish with a music video where you cannot tell the difference between a body from a bouncing ragdoll.
  • Best served cold.

Please like, share and subscribe to my misery.
Sounds like m̶i̶s̶o̶g̶y̶n̶y̶ music to my ears.

***

Mamihlapinatapai and “And that has made all the difference”
By Gaurvika Kapoor (Second Position/IIT-Kanpur)

So, when my mother told me she visited a therapist instead of going to work
All those images of her, sitting on the couch crying as she chops vegetables flashes in front of me
Flashes of all those times I chose ignorance over embrace as she was silently shedding tears.
I just sat there with a dry mouth.
That day, the evening sky was a beautiful shade of purple as a eulogy for all the words that have died on our lips.
My mother has been a quiet woman for as long as I can remember but she tried to raise me loud.
The first time she did not agree with her in-laws she cut her hair short as an act of rebellion,
The second time she cut down her voice.
Sometimes I hate her inability to speak up even in the most trivial situations not realizing I have been doing the same
Inheritance is accidental, you sit across someone long enough you pick up their habits.
And so I learned to read her nuances, every brow raise, every parted lip, the shaking of her hands, the lines on her forehead, every stare in the mirror, every nervous fiddling with the spoon
I know she can read mine too.
Our eyes lock in stares, coward mouths, tongues twisted in a knot. With no syllable in the air as silence hangs above us like a ghost of the heart-to-heart chat that never happened.
“I am tired” – “I am tired too” there are so many unsaid conversations inside of us, maybe our love shrank to allow them space. You see my mother and I are so close, yet so closed off
I write poetry as a futile attempt to fill the absence of dialogue in this house
I have written infinite poems about my mother, poems that I can never read to her. But when I read them out loud to myself the spaces between us blur, I can’t tell where my mother ends and I begin, we are so similar, so quiet with loud minds, a mirror reflection. I think that my mother is just a metaphor.
A metaphor that comes slyly in my room in the dead of the night with my favourite haldi milk in her hands, childlike eyes asking for instructions, a bridge to break the silence, stop, stop, stop the suffering.
The first time my mother saw a therapist I held her in an awkward embrace and we silently cried a thousand eulogies for the words that had died on our lips.
I’ve been trying to hug her tighter ever since and maybe that has made all the difference.

***

For 4 minutes

By Priyanshu Modi (Third Position/Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology)

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our dear friend Irshaad is not with us anymore,
We request you to please be silent for the next 4 minutes
And pray to the Almighty for his soul.
I laugh how my mind who never heard anything I ever told it,
Could do what someone else asked it to.
It won’t be silent, it’ll speak volumes,
Sing songs, raise questions, and make me think
What my mourning ceremony would look like.
It’ll paint down my room in my head,
My room that has all the lights in the world.
White light, yellow light,
neon light, fluoro light, LED light,
smart light, dull light.
But my room which is dark.
You see, just like beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,
Light lies in the mind of the beholder.
My room in which in one corner is a desk,
Inside whose first drawer from the left
I’ve kept a letter.

“To whomsoever reading this,
You don’t want to read this,
I didn’t want to write this either.
This isn’t a suicide letter.

Imagine making a big pyramid with a deck of cards.
It takes you hours and hours of dedication
And then with a single blow of wind
All the cards succumb to nothingness.
Imagine one card for every piece of hope that rolled out of your heart.
Imagine one card for every memory that kept you alive.
Imagine one card for every drag of air the burning cigarette (read world) puffed into your lungs.
Now, imagine dying 52 times and having to write about it.

I look at my wrist
and see something green coming out of it.
Just like a new life coming out of a tree,
Until I see in the mirror
And find it to be red.
Blood coming out of my wrist and some of it on the blade.
You see, mirrors show you the reality
Which is often more truthful
Because they don’t have to write about it.

To whomsoever reading this,
This isn’t a suicide letter.

Don’t ask a bunch of people,
Who didn’t care enough about me when my lungs had air,
To take 2, 3, 4, 5 minutes out of their busy life
And be silent for my soul.
Don’t make them do the same thing that pushed air out of me in the first place.
Don’t ask them to be silent.

Silences. I don’t like them.
And by silences, I do not only refer to the delay in words from their side,
but the words that came quickly out of their mouths just after they asked me how I was doing.
They asked me how I was doing and didn’t wait for an answer.
I was not doing good.

The past five months have just been like a roller coaster that only went up and never came down. Everything in life that promised to offer me some happiness kept me waiting, until today,
when I have decided to unlock myself from the seat lock and jump right out of the ride, hoping that if not the roller coaster’s
Then at least my ride downwards would help me be happy.

Don’t let any of my friends think too much
About my death.
Don’t make them do the same thing that pushed air out of me in the first place.
Don’t make them overthink.

Overthinking. The only thing I used to do in my bed apart from not sleeping.
Sometimes thinking about the one thought that’s just stuck in my head, without any intent and makes me feel like I am a bad person
Or thinking about the one time I was called something that wasn’t my name.
Sometimes just sinking my metaphors in the anecdotes of a horrible past.
I know it was a small thing but no small issue is small enough for an overthinker to not think about.

No small problem is small enough for a person to not write about.
This isn’t a suicide letter.

The tonnes of load didn’t but the last straw broke the camel’s back.
The Camel’s back syndrome.
It’s not the huge problems that I used to pour out on paper, but
The small ones, for whom my eyes didn’t even allow me some tears.

Problems like calling 1800 212 212 and asking them to add channel number 503,
just to watch Shinchan day and night to make myself believe that being imperfect is just okay. But the knocks on my door asking how old I was to still watch Shinchan
were all I needed to jump right back in my bed and turn to my pillow. I wonder why people do think adults shouldn’t watch him when it’s us who actually need to laugh.

I wonder why the volume of my TV always got attention,
But my cries never did.
You never heard my cries.
Just like the bell of your house rung by the postman while you were in bed
And you pretended that nobody is home so he’ll just slide the letter from under the door.
But you see, I wasn’t able to slide my feelings from under the door into your homes for two reasons.
If the alarmingly high scream of my cries wasn’t able to make you jump out of your bed then I know that the bundle of my feelings won’t definitely affect you.
My feelings are too big to be slid from under the door crevice,
and if there had been enough space to push in my feelings from under it, I would have tried and pushed myself through it; you see I needed help.

If it were possible I would have packed my feelings
With a bubblewrap of my emotions
so even in the case of the bubbles bursting,
It would have been a relief to vent out those emotions.
The lights in my room,
Couldn’t help but make me look
At the scars, I’ve given to myself.
Wishing to find a wizard who’d hit me on my head and make me better, just like he did to Roger Skunk.

To whomsoever reading this.
Thanks for reading this far.

This isn’t a suicide letter.
This is the entire suicide.”

***

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, born in New York City and currently based in India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.

***

Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Climate Change in Literature”, edited by Morve Roshan K., Southwest University, China and Niyi Akingbe, University of South Africa, Pretoria.

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