When I grieve, I am Pure

All happiness is a facade. This has been my truth since years numerous enough to make my negativity-obsessed mind forget count. I have given up on grieving since a lot of time; since i was bullied at school by students, chastised by teachers who’s subjects i was not good at, since i realised i was gay, since i was told it wouldnt change and so wouldnt the negative opinion of my family on the matter, since i was told my parents didnt trust me anymore because i wouldnt do my homework on my own, go to tuitions or nap in the afternoon on my own, since i realised i didnt want to hurt my parents by doing something different from science after i cleared school with flying colors and be the cause of them wasting lakhs to make me excel in life, since i was threatened implicitly with violence at a college 200+ kms from my home, since i decided i didnt want to be able to cry anymore because it was useless and mocked by everyone and called weak, since dad died and i wrung myself to eek out two tears and they wont emerge from my eyes, since people told me i was a failure or a disgrace or a cause of sorrow to my widow mother who was burning her white candle self for me to find the match and light my menorah.

People tell you that you need to smile at people, meet people, go out with people, have sex with people they want you to, post happy things on facebook, have a drink or smoke weed or stop praying and offering so many flowers. and yet when you dont get better, you say to yourself that it is because you are a failure, and the world is a place where you don’t belong. and that having a place in the world is a myth. no amount of relationships and their redressal will help. no amount of imagining people filled with light or bleeding to death or giving you what you need is going to be helpful. and all you have left is powdered coal, lying on top of you, having clogged your nostrils, benzenes walking in to decompose you from the inside.

I lost the ability to cry a long time ago. it was improper. it was a layer of dust on my being. i was love, people told me. i was ananda, people told me. i was bliss, and my sadness was a dark layer of sulfurous rust over my silver soul. And so why cry? i was the opposite of crying. I was laughter, and joy, and benevolence. i learned to fake it, so people wouldn’t say things like that over and over in therapy sessions and yoga camps and on the TV and on whatsapp, whenever i told them what i was feeling.

I cried today. I couldnt eek out two tears at my dad’s funeral. i smiled at people as they left the cremation ground, to let them know i was ok. i didn’t have to let them know anything of that sort then, but i had become used to lying. i couldnt hold it back in even. and today i cried over 20 big drops. i didnt count, but that’s how many they felt. And i was pure. in this moment, i am pure. i type in a frenzy, but if you could see me right now, you’d be amazed. tic-tic-tic the keys go every second and i am in no rush even when i have to say a lot.

i wiped a lot of them away, but some poured into my mouth and i tasted light. some i left hanging on my temples where they dried, and now my face feels new.

they were the purest flowers. in this pure state, i was the cleanest i had ever been. and i went into the shrine in this pure state, collected two flowers from the corners of my two eyes, big fat drops, and offered them to the Devi. i did not want anything. i did not want to offer anything. i put a piece of camphor in the patr, lighted it, and in the darkness i waved it for Her. there were no mantras, no songs were sung and no bells were rung. i had nothing to offer. the camphor flame emitted fragrances and i let my hand dance as it willed, and let the light play around Her. i breathed the camphor in and it assimilated in me. And the Devi was bright as a thousand suns and i had nothing to say. i was alive after a while.

the coal had parted and i smelled air. and my dark self lighted on the inside. i am alive. yes, i am love, bliss, ananda, laughter, joy and benevolence. but the grieving is not the opposite of who i am. it is what cools my skin so my soul may light up and the difference create the movement we call life.

Manifestation

If someday I could manifest as I am, I’d show you who I am. I’d probably discover myself for the first time too. The fear of being alienated has acted like a needle on rock all these years. Initially, the rock could never have thought it’d hurt him. he even thought he could crush a hundred such needles with nothing more than a tiny scratch. But then the needle started clawing at the rock, up and down, over and over, never the duller. and now the rock has a chasm, and every shower of rain lets water in and there’s expansion. The rock is weared out now. But not yet dust.

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if someday I could manifest as I am, You’d be in constant awe. My hair is the colour of fire, if not tongues of camphorous flame. Orange, yellowish, and mustard in the right light. You’d see expansive wings, white as a swan’s, enveloping my naked dazzling dark flesh. You’d see more hands than two, some with velvet, some with weapons, some with grain and some with rosaries fashioned out of spices and gems. some would have nothing at all, But you’d see everything outside within me.

I’d be raging, shouting at clouds, bellowing in a deep yet smooth blast of power. you’d see my fur bristle with white, pubescent light. with my short nails i’d dig into my palms till blood oozed. I’d rub my hands on my body, jerk some more blood on the floor below, and then brandish those palms at you, to see if you would run or stand fixed in awe.

Then i’d be calm, and i’d light a small candle under an earthen pot, put a bit of water and a bit of fragrant oil, and sit down, caress my red-brown flesh. i’d see every finger move and it’d be surreal. That would be the moment of awareness. I exist. I’d call you close. maybe you wouldn’t come. i’d show you my fingers move in a rhythm, one by one. my head would be hurting from the inside, my brain would be pushing outwards, as i feel right now.

an involuntary quiver of my brow. i’d rush to stop it. clenching my eyes shut. and when that wouldn’t stop it, i’d try to hold it in place with my fingers. i’d dig into it. the mild discomfort i feel all the time vanishes at these times, you know.

my fingers would fall on my eyes, and i’d try to feel the depth of my eyes. deep set eyes aren’t always the best assets. maybe you’d be sitting near, and i’d be covering up my face from below the eyes. i’d probably push my hands in too hard, but i’d rather be seen in pain than with an imperfection. a glaring imperfection. an imperfection in what people glare at.

i wouldn’t stow away my body. i’d let it fall to the ground; sweat, blood and meningeal fluid. the cold fragrance from the hot pot on the candle would prick me and i’d claw at whatever was beneath me. 2 years ago today, that is when i remember the last tear issuing forth from my eye. if someday i could manifest as i am, i’d weep a waterfall, but i’d hold back my tongue. my emotion is pious. even if someday i manifested as i am, that state would be tarnished by makings of man, even without a string of cloth on my skin, even without a strand of consideration for anything. that tarnished state would not deserve the pure brooding of mind and soul. my red-brown skin in all its 2-day-old-copper glory, my swan wings, hands of velvet, sword and grain, all the hair staring stark with its pre-pubescent glory, none would be pure. except the camphorous flames on my head.

I came out on Navratri

I was initially going to post this on the blog I’m always occupied with, because it’s the one I love.It’s called Queer Shaktism. But after I was done writing this, (an emotionally fickle 11 hours) I decided it should be posted here, on my personal blog. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to maintain it nicely, but I guess if i kept a physical diary, that’s how it’d be; messy, irregular and all over the place. enjoy this. and forgive the preachiness if you find any. lots of love and positivity 🙂 Also, WARNING! This post is over 2000 words long, though i tried to make it as talkative as possible so it doesn’t get dreary.

Navratri is special to me. As a Shakta, it has the most special significance there can be. Not only is it *the* most important festival for Shaktas and also for many non-Shaktas, it is also the time that is full of changes. There’s change in the weather (which is why I invariably have to end up with a runny nose and sore throat at this time), there’s change in the way people behave, and if you look closely, there’s always some major event in society which changes peoples’ outlooks on things for quite a while. Look closely; I’m not giving away what this time’s event is haha.

2 years ago, this was the time when i came out to my parents as gay. That was my event that year. You guessed it; this is going to be my coming out story.

For starters, let me correct myself; it was my psychiatrist at that time who told my mom after I asked him to. I was seeing him for what later came to be diagnosed as major depression (MDD) along with general Anxiety (GAD). I told him I was gay in the second session itself; I was dying to get it off my chest, you see. It feels great to be able to say what you are after you have fought with it, tried to hide it and wished yourself dead because of it. More on it later LOL. But I knew this needed to be told to my parents. I have this weird notion in my head that my family deserve to know everything about me. I’ve largely done away with it now, but it was pretty strong when I was that age.

The Early Stages

I guess I realised I was different when I was 5 or so. I found a lot of boys attractive at that age. Some were my age, some were probably triple. I wanted to get my nails painted, because it felt so amazing when someone in my family did it to me. I pestered my parents to get me a golden lehenga so I could dance to a song on which all the girls in my class were being taught to dance. Ok so the last two were indicators to my gender identity, but what did 5 year old me know about any of this? I just felt what i felt, and didn’t have any reason to think about it. The dreaded math homework was more of a concern then. Also, I couldn’t dance along with them, coz I had a penis. #Sexism, anyone?

Then at 13, I got a magazine which had a series of articles on the sexual practices in India. And I read about men living together, leading normal lives and being together through thick and thin. And of course, doing the dirty. Nothing had ever felt like a dream playing out in front of one’s eyes as this had. People like me were called gay. It was a shameful thing, i gathered from the article, it’s reports and from the unconscious judgement I felt.

Confused, I went to ask my grandfather what gay men were like? And let me say he did not opine very nicely of them, to say the least. I could not be a bad person in his eyes. And so began a very dark chapter in my life; a chapter of self hate, disgust and denial.

Mixing With Religion

I remember praying for hours at a stretch and asking to be cured. Everyone remarked that I was a “talented boy”. I could not be gay! It was my duty as a talented, mentally endowed son to give my parents all the happiness they deserved. And without an answer I prayed. I did receive an answer though, but that is a very personal story. Maybe I’ll tell that story in person sometime.

And so, when I didn’t get cured, I shunned all religion and became an atheist. That was when I was 14.

For starters, it meant I could partake in my adolescent fantasies without guilt, which was all I had got from reading those obscure dimwitted “traditional education” books I found at a relative’s. (I loved to read back then.) My atheism gave me the liberty to look outside the common biases that are inculcated into us as children unintentionally. So I refused to serve Brahmins when my grandmother passed away. I refused to partake in family worship out of fear of Divine wrath when I didn’t agree with the method of worship. A bunch of other things too; I don’t remember them exactly. But the shame of being gay still remained. I was still fearful that my family would throw me out, and that I would end up on the street begging for change, with a stolen pen scribbling on a disposed paper plate, writing because that was the only marketable skill I had. What can I say, your mind catastrophises when you’re scared.

The Chapter On Reconciliations

And so, without any source of condolence, hope or strength, I tried to reconcile myself with God. But it was all very pointless to me. I could do this flip flop for a very long time and have no progress in any direction, regarding my sexuality, my spiritual identity, or the very real implications my sexuality could have on my social life. All this hopelessness, sense of loss and sense of shame; it all dug into me and I tried all sorts of stupid things I regretted for quite a while. I tried falling in love with my best friend and forced myself to fantasize about a life with her; it didn’t work. I forced myself to watch straight intercourse, which was beyond disgusting to me. I dug for cures online, even looked up astrology as an atheist. Nothing worked.

Somewhere along the line, I realised that all that was scaring me was scary because I allowed it to enter my head. And that is when I decided that I had to accept who I was. I couldn’t be fighting what was irreversible and harmless. Yes, somehow I had reached the point where I realised it really was harmless to be gay. And I also decided that it wasn’t bad for me to have a religious identity; I could still choose what I followed and what I did to be in touch with Divinity. That is when I decided to worship Devi as the prime power and the other Gods as important but lesser than Her. Thus began my slow descent into Shaktism and the gradual rise of my confidence with my queerness.

My First Time

I first came out to a friend who used to enthrall me with Shakta knowledge, legends of the Devi, how his family worshiped Her, and how She had been a motif in his life. It probably wasn’t mere hindsight bias when I saw very similar motifs in my life too. It wasn’t quite surprising that he confessed he was gay too. And I’ll even admit he was my first crush haha. He’s still my crush I guess. That’s a theme I’m a bit protective about, coz he later seemed to be avoiding me and I became all riled up for him being that way and what not. But let’s move on.

The Meat and Potatoes of This Story

After telling quite a few friends in school, and then telling a girl who was instantly my best friend, and a crazy guy who is the one person I can never not find worthy of an “aww”, I went to a psychiatrist with my parents. I had been avoiding classes and hadn’t been eating anything for whole days (I had snapped, lol), and so finally after much requesting my parents agreed to take me to one. I confessed my sexuality to him, emboldened by the approval and love my friends had so lavishly bestowed on me, plus coz of the feeling that he couldn’t harm me, thanks to the whole mind game I had prepared if he ever outed me. Thankfully, he was nice and positive about it. He wasn’t down with the idea of me confessing it all to my parents though. But being a self-righteous idealist (dumbhead?), I asked him to tell them. I initially thought I’d be watching them talk, but he sent me out. And for good measure, I think. Once we were done with the talk later, I saw my mother drop huge tears as she silently stormed out of the hospital. It was the first day of Ashvin Navratri. And that was the event that has brought a sea change in my life. My mother cried on the side of the road as we waited to cross it. Every passing car made me extremely conscious. I suspected everyone for staring at her and liking that she was crying. And that made me intensely angry. She didn’t talk to me that afternoon, and even said something mean; I don’t remember what. It was my dad who called me after he had returned from work. He had talked to mom and he said he wanted to talk. Let’s not get into too much detail about what followed, but they said a lot of mean things, like I shouldn’t be doing this and I was ungrateful, and I should get out of the house if I wanted to be that way, and the thing i remember the clearest, “ghar se nikal jaiyo fir kisi ke sath bhi muh kala kar meri bala se”. My mother wanted me out of the house and then I could defile myself with whomsoever I fancied by her displeasure. Thankfully, they didn’t really mean it about me having to leave.

Present Reconciliations?

It’s been two years since then. In these two years, my dad has passed away, more people are now aware of my sexuality. I have had two serious but unfruitful relationships. I have grown in faith as a Shakta. Plus I have grown in my own sense of identity and security. I have also realised that maybe being gay is not the only queer part about me. My gender identity is something I have begun to explore, after getting comfortable with the idea that it is not mandatory to be either a masculine man or a feminine woman. Maybe, one of these days I’ll be able to tell you about myself more clearly.

I think the whole story has a hidden lesson regarding Shakti and Her nature. As the aggressive warrior, She tolerates no hiding beyond what is necessary. Fear is something that is antithetical to the Devi. And so I couldn’t be a true Shakta if I were hiding for my convenience, afraid to do what was necessary for my growth because it was uncomfortable to do so. And so She took me by the hand and did what had to be done on my behalf. I believe it was a blessing that I came out when I did, because it only made it easier for me to be more open and connected with my family, and with time my family learnt that I was still the same old person they had loved. My sexuality did not have a bearing on who I was for them. It gives me peace that my Dad knew something i consider essential about myself, my queerness, before leaving to be seated in Rama’s Feet. I was honest, and he had the time to get to know me a bit better before he had to leave. And I, him.

May all be blessed. May all be bestowed with peace.

Jai Bhavani 🙂

coming out

tired of being sorry

no, this blog entry won’t be lyrics of an enrique eglisias song, it’s going to be one of my usual posts where i whine about my life to the internet because i lose my guts whenever i have the chance to actually do something about my life’s state. and i’m done apologising for it.

i had a pretty massive fight with my best friend tonight on the phone. she sat there trying to motivate me so i go to college. she kept hitting the wrong buttons repeatedly and i exploded. and so here’s my rant.

i’m done trying to explain to people how i have an actual PHYSICAL problem when i say i have depression. my brain is BROKEN! “not thinking” about it will NOT solve it. i’ve tried it. repeatedly. with no profit.

i have a broken leg. and my family, peers and half of all stranger who get to know about my state let their dogs loose on me, thinking i can just forget about my fracture and run like anyone else. i just have to “believe in myself”. here’s an idea. why don’t I give them a muscle relaxant in their arms and tell them to do push ups? they can just “forget about it” and do it!

i have an urge to swear at those people. but no good can ever come out of that. it doesnt even calm a person.

i’ve been locked up in my room for most of the past 3 weeks. at all times, i’m either nauseous, have stomach cramps, acidity, but always scared to death. i know i shouldnt assign blame to others. but people destroyed my life. thank you, family. thank you parents. thank you you moron of a teacher who considered it a good idea to fail half the class in the first year of college, just because. or maybe because it hs been a tradition in that subject. thank you to everyone for always reminding me that my life is worth shit if i dont get that purposeless piece of paper they call a degree. i cannot stand outside my room for 10 seconds, but no. i need to attend those classes. i need to excel in those classes to make up for my years lost in my battle with the negativity i had been marinated with for the past decade. and sure. i’m the weak one when i want to leave the degree. NO! YOU’RE the weak ones! weak because you are so in love with status quo that your own kin’s suffering is fake for you.

what am i gonna do? without a degree, how will i earn? how will i support myself, let alone anyone else? where will i live? with whom? why should my family tolerate me? they have faced enough because of me. they dont need my shit any more. i have NOWHERE to go. i cannot do what i’m being forced to do. i cannot get out because where else can i ever go now? what has become of me?

what mental illness is teaching me

so my anxiety is probably gonna be here for a while, so let me try to talk about something slightly different. and hopefully positive.

people these past few days have been asking me how i got depressed. or what is it that gives me the crippling amount of anxiety. and sometimes, why don’t i just “snap out of it”.

what events happened in my life are not as important as the lesson the depression has to offer. the lesson; what is it? it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, really. People are jerks. they do stuff that hurts you. over and over. even when you expect them to be on your team because they’re (like) your family. but they can’t see beyond their own limits of cognition. so what next? don’t let people bother you. i know; in that particular moment, those people look like the devil incarnate. but trust me, they’re being morons because they haven’t seen the world as you have. they dont experience some things from your life personally, just like you don’t from their lives. they just find it extremely hard to get out of that bias.

bad things that happen in your life are just things. they’re like tennis balls with glue stains on them; they’ll stick to your clothes occasionally. and when they do stick, shake them off. if you get late, the glue will dry. and it’ll be harder to take them off. if some have dried already, it’s ok. don’t be ashamed. everyone has some hanging onto their clothes at odd places.

Stand up for yourself at the right time. don’t let your parents/ friends make life changing decisions for you. if you have no idea about the decision making process or the situation, take input most graciously, but choose your own life. it will get far too late later on. you might find yourself without any direction to take except the one you’re being pushed into. life has a lot of forks in the journey. choose the one you like when you see it. it’s unlikely that path will be joined by an oblique tunnel or footpath further ahead from the road you are allowing yourself to be pushed into.

most importantly, talk. don’t stay silent. that way, even if some jerk manages to spoil your life, he/she cannot say he/she didn’t know what it was you wanted. talk, because feelings are better on the tip of the tongue than rotting into acid inside your mind.

lots of love

Saksham

will anxiety be my end?

i’ve been in college for over a week now. i cannot step out of my room. not even to eat. i only have dinner on most weekdays. i cannot do anything here. my sense of frustration at my own life is rising. i often want to puke when there’s nothing in my system to puke out. i’ve been pulling out my body hair coz i seem to enjoy the pain. i ran a razor on my shoulder to make an ugly jagged patch of hair on it yesterday. i’ve slept for more than 10 hours today. i miss that time. i was unaware. the moment i woke up, my heart started pounding. if i fail once more in college, my mother will have more inconvenience than i would prefer her to have. i cant write what i’m feeling here either, because it may be monitored by people known to me.

my depression is back. i’ve been out of therapy for about 6 months. i need t go back and get my anxiolytic. but my mother will not be pleased. people around will not be pleased. my illness is still laziness to them. they still think i am in control of my body and its responses. i cannot even attend my psychology course online because i am so paralysed. it’s taking me all my energy to type this. my mind feels so clogged. it feels as if a very viscous syrup is sitting in my skull. it moves with every shake of my head. i cannot call a friend to my room because i havent even been able to go out to brush my teeth. the smallest movement from my bed makes me sweat; even if i get up from my bed to pick up something from the shelf. i want to keep lying on bed. even when i’m hungry enough to feel actual twists in my belly, i don’t want to get out of bed.

there’s no point in typing this. so i’m gonna end this here.

are we the Alexanders of our lives?

“Yahan ke hum sikandar, chahe toh kar le sab ko apni jeb ke andar”, as the bollywood song goes. we are the Alexanders here, if we want we will pick up and pocket everyone else.

Are we, though?

for those who’re wondering how i remembered this song that must be more than 20 years old, it doesn’t matter. i was watching a web series with a friend. a group of 4 college friends(?) decide to open a start up of their own. and they fight odds like no initial finance and lots of filial obligations. they reject a big investment, that could have guaranteed their success, coz the terms don’t agree with them and they are to lose the ownership of their idea in such a case. it’s a tear jerking scene when the 4 clear misunderstandings by joining on the above song that’s playing on the radio.

(Edit: It gets crazy pessimistic from here)

i remember feeling the same crazy optimism when i decided to get out of engineering and pursue psychology. ah yes, the feel good factor of being able to help people who suffered from stuff like me, but don’t have anyone to understand. the rush of confidence when classmates and friends confide in you and actually verbally appreciate you coz they felt safe and secure and comfortable sharing their stuff with you. the ambition of making the lives of people who’ve suffered like me better. the righteous anger at incidents i came across where people were hated on by peers, families or institutions for being undesirable in some way or another, be it because of their political affiliations, religious beliefs, gender, sexuality, race or mental illness. all that stands for nothing ATM.

i spent (wasted?) 2 years of my life pursuing this dream. i tried like a mad man to convince my family to let me pursue psychology. i tried to present emotional arguments, barter arrangements and the occasional threat of irrevocable anger to get my way; the Indian way of Sama-Dama-Danda of dealing with conflict. now i have no way to go, except Bheda, or giving up the desire or the people i seek the desire from. i cannot lose my family, of course. so i’ve parted with the desire. it does not mean i don’t find it extremely satisfying to help someone emotionally. or that i don’t feel the urge to give up everything else because i didnt get a very significant thing i wanted for myself. it’s just that i recognise that asking for it to happen is futile.

i read, or was asked (recommended, pressured?) to read an article online. a very recurring theme in the article was that psychologists in India have a slow career growth chart. given that it is no secret i have expressed desire to settle independently once i have the resources (very non indian a thing to say, as some might call it), money counts. the tug between material and spiritual satisfaction has never been more sickening. or complicated.

the song would readily have anyone believe that they are the masters of what happens in their lives. or what they feel towards people or things. it’s false, i’ll say. i’ve tried to snatch control of my life. i’ve tried to forgive people. i see that control is an illusion. i know that hateful people dont always want to be bad, they’re just conditioned in a certain way. yes, it’s all true. i get it.

but as of now, i am defeated. i’d cry, but i’m really tired of crying by now. as of 2:54 am on what i’m imagining to be an anxiety filled first monday of the third semester for a boy who was supposed to be in his seventh semester had he just toed the line like any other good obedient indian son would, Saksham Bhatnagar is defeated. in the battle? in the war? i don’t know. i’d say i’ve ceased to care, but i evidently do, as the 935 words here say.

i dont know what i need to get out of this college with my degree in hand. i’m evidently not so good at keeping my head down and following the path i’m prodded into. i’m not good at having a contract marriage with engineering while i wait for the resources to marry the one i love.

what do i love, you ask? i don’t know anymore. i don’t know who i am, what i want to do, whom i want to do it with, when and how do i want to do it. these past 2.5 years have taught me not to get in contact with my emotions or desires. all of that jazz always ends up messing up lives (incorrigibly?). leading a double life is cheating too. i need to concentrate on my public life. the private self does not matter. the skin is all there is. the soul is an illusion. the silk is all that matters. the warmth might as well die.

private life is now dissolving. the soul is illusory. the warmth is gone. i am broken. but i am also flat on the ground, so no sun or wind can bother me and give me ideas that i am alive. life? hah! it’s a con idle people propagated to suit their ends. there is no life or death. you are merely a cog that needs to rotate around ONE axle just the way you are told. or else you’ll end up stressing the machine and will have to be thrown out.

Alexander? i think a crybaby is more like it. i’m gonna be called one sooner or later anyway. meh.