The Dragon Children

There was once a village high up in the cold mountains. Were it not for the warm water springs that spotted the valley of the volcano, the people of the village would be lost to the cold blankets of snow that came every winter.

The volcano would always be shrouded with smoke, and there were roars that would travel down to the village. Intrigued by these sounds, every year before the snow would come, a group of brave warriors would journey to the summit to know the source of these sounds. Every year the warriors would be lost to their curiosity.

One year was different. In the dead of night, the warriors returned covered in soot and sweat. Their faces dripped with fear and excitement. As soon as they caught their breath they shouted “BEAST!”

There was a great big dragon that lived within the volcano. With its sharp talons, steel like scales and enormous wings, it had disposed of the warriors past. These warriors who approached were greeted by the watchful eye of a dragon that did not trust humans. It watched them as they came. Overcome with fear and awe, they rushed back before being attacked.

This had made the villagers uneasy and immediately began to decide what to do with the dragon. The warriors were divided on two options.

Half of them wanted to slay the dragon and deal with the threat before it destroyed the village. The other half wanted to tame the dragon and use it for benefit of the village.

So it was decided that the warriors would return with giant arrows and nets. They would try to contain the dragon, or kill it if they failed to do so.

The warriors made their journey back to the mountain and never returned. The village kept sending their warriors to fight the dragon even after the start of winter. Soon, only the young and old were left. As the village descended into despair, boulders began to fall from the volcano that threatened to crush the village. The warm springs began to get unbearably hot and the volcano spewed more smoke that covered the village in ash.

The villagers felt they could no longer live at the base of the mountain and would move down river.

A few young boys and girls, who would have fought the dragon had they been a year older, decided to make a final stand.

They made the cold, harsh journey to the top to confront the infernal beast. When they reached, they saw the dragon at the bottom of the volcano, thrashing against the mountain, struggling to stay above the lava.

As they got closer, the dragon watched them. It’s giant golden eye weary of their movement. The children noticed one of the wings impaled by an arrow. The dragon could no longer fly.

The children put down their weapons and slowly approached the dragon and the dragon watched. They offered their hand as a gesture of peace. The dragon let them come closer and the children examined the wing. As they slowly removed the arrow, the dragon let out a deafening roar and soared into the air.

It dropped back in front of them and opened its jaws, showing them it’s teeth and the remains of those who came before them. It then turned and began to drink the lava and the smoke from the mountain began to reduce. Before the children left, the dragon licked them with its rough hot tongue, picked them up and dropped them back to the village.

The children were greeted as heroes and survivors. Believed to have tamed the dangerous beast. Only the children knew the truth of the encounter.

As all returned to normal, the heroes told the children stories of the dragon that came before them and that will live long past the destruction of the village.

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I Have Not Forgotten

A little over 3 years ago, I wrote a piece called ‘For The Ending of Possibilities’.
I wrote it in response to the terrorist attack on a school in Pakistan.
Since then, there have been countless acts of unforgivable violence across the world. It seems that the world grows bleaker every day. In the face of such injustice, what can we possibly do?

Since December 2014, I have grown older, and perhaps a little wiser. Since then, I have written two dissertations (currently on my third), all of them have concerned populations embroiled in different kinds of conflict. Since then, I have worked at a juvenile rehabilitation centre. I have worked with an NGO that specializes in Peace Education. I have trained as an Art Based Therapist. I have worked with countless schools students about suffering they have not personally witnessed. I have worked with two communities that live on the fringe of society (literally). I have had to confront my own suffering through all of this.
In the last few days, it has come to light, that a young child was raped for days and murdered. My feed, as has in the past, is inundated with posts of outrage.
How could we let this happen? Have we come so low as a society that we no longer have the humanity to avenge a little girl? It reminded me of a moment from my favourite show, Fullmetal Alchemist. Edward Elric asks, nobody in general, “What good are we if we couldn’t even save a little girl?”

I would be a hypocrite if I said that I have remembered each and every instance of suffering since December 2014.
What I do stand by, however, is that I have not forgotten. I have not forgotten that there is suffering in this world. I have not forgotten that we live in a world where justice is not always served. I have not forgotten that little children become the stage for violence in this world.

In the show, Edward and his brother, keep trying to answer the question of their own ability. The show doesn’t give you an outright answer but rather takes you on the journey of them figuring it out. That’s what I’m doing right now, as well.
This is my answer: Nothing.
There is absolutely nothing that we can do to stop every instance of suffering in this world. We do not have that power. We cannot be Superman.
What we can do, however, is stand back up. Edward tells another girl, who saw her life crumble before her eyes, “Stand up and walk. Keep moving forward. You’ve got two good legs. So get up and use them. You’re strong enough to make your own path.”
I’d like to add to that, we must learn to stand together. We must learn to be kind and compassionate to everybody, including those that we may not agree with, and especially ourselves.

Sometimes, this means that we forego the questions of ourselves. We must dedicate our attention to everyone else. Sometimes, it means that we allow ourselves to take a break. At other times it means that we take an unwavering stand.

We must never forget to be kind, whatever that may mean.

Chapter 3

Sometimes I stand at the edge of the gateway into the Sabah. I watch all the points that sparkle like diamond dust in the darkest depths of the ocean. Each of them a person. A living experience of reality unlike any other, and yet from this distance they look no different.

I imagine this is what the night sky looked like once. I’ve seen the simulated images that exist on the servers, of course. They’re simulations though. In their hyper-real representation, I can’t help but feel this isn’t reality.
It does a good job of tricking us into immersion. You can feel the cool breeze roll down the green fields that go on forever in every direction. You could watch every green blade if you wanted. They existed in more detail that would be possible in the real world. You can smell the fading scent of summer flowers into the stillness of winter. Every fruit and every flower meld together perfectly without losing their individuals characters. Like a symphony that has found its most defining acoustic space. The silence of croaking creepy crawlies completes the entire tapestry boundary that contains the real show: the night sky.
It is, of course, magnificent. To think that artificially generated code could so completely recreate the experience of watching the universe. The same sight that pushed humanity to its technological limits with Rover and Curiosity. It truly is beautiful. You begin the comprehend the romance that so many artists had with the vision of stars, galaxies, and constellations.
You could spend an eternity in that simulation and watch the procedurally generated sky move across the limits of the horizon.

An eternity.

It’s almost impossible to experience time in the Sabah. It moves like clay. So fluid and malleable that you could turn it into a living creature or a chain that keeps your feet bound together.
You watch. Your life becomes suspended in this sea of experience. I remember the tagline when the servers started going up: “Experience Humanity like never before!”

Humanity.

I don’t know what that word quite means anymore.
I wonder if its anything like looking up at the stars.

Chapter 2

I think it isn’t worth remembering anymore. Sometimes, I get the urge to try and remember what it was like before I plugged in for the first time. There’s this voice though that keeps pulling me back. I’m not sure what it says or if it says anything at all. It’s like being guided by a sound that you can’t really hear with your ears, you just sort of know it’s there.

The Sabah. I don’t know if anything exists outside of it anymore, does it matter anyway if anything even does? There’s everything here. Anything we can dream of, it exists.

I think I was an artist before plugging in. I don’t remember how old I was. Once I plugged in, it was all here. Everything I’d ever imagined. Everything I’d ever done, everything I’d imagined, and everything I couldn’t even think of doing outside of here. Here, people appreciate me. They understand my art as more than a visual stimulus. They can “see” it of course. That doesn’t quite explain it though. It’s more than that. They can experience where it came from, they can understand themselves within it. They can feel me through my work now. I can feel them experiencing my art. There are now more colors. Now it’s more than colors.

There is freedom here. I don’t feel constrained by the need to make my art forcibly relatable. I remember that from the world outside of the Sabah. I remember the pain of putting my work into something that people could understand. I had to use language and forms that everybody else understood. I had to communicate with them. Here, I no longer need to. They already know.

I no longer have to push myself and struggle to make art. I have become my art. People don’t come to see my art. They login to see me. I am my art. That is the beauty. My art is about my life. About my memories. What I have experienced.

I can’t help but feel like these memories no longer exist though.

Chapter 1

There was never any peace to speak of in this world. Not before we moved here and not after “home” was invaded. I waste away in this pity given squalor that was nothing but a tactic for diplomatic high ground. Our “saviors” are no kinder to us than the people we run away from and yet here I am, sitting in the comfort of their country. I wish my “countrymen” would see past the façade that we live in. I wish they could see past their own contradictions, desensitization to dogmatized behavior that no longer serves a purpose in a place that we do not belong. Our ways were our downfall…

No matter how much I blame them, I cannot bring myself to abandon my nation. It is the only home I knew to be free of these rancid, degraded conditions that would have in another era been an affront to “human” dignity.
Hah!
How noble of “humanity’s” ancestors to shed themselves of the human condition and to embrace the grand vastness of the “conscious” Being. The final frontier. The Holy Grail. The answer to Death. The answer to Life. The Sabah. It’s a joke.

Perfectly abled human beings lying around, basking in the illumination of a constructed Sun, unable to bear the warmth of the star that gave life this planet and brings repose in darkness as it sets at the hour, pre-ordained in a system so perfect, even their Sabah cannot understand or replicate.
All they do is relish the sensuality of perfectly recreated sensations in a system that they cannot significantly control.
They make this world. They control it. They look down at us. The “unacquainted”.

While they are content subconsciously controlling mechanical labor for their own benefit, they leave us to fend for ourselves because we choose to maintain our individual integrity, we choose to maintain the heritage of our people. The alternative is to join them in their decadence of thought in the constructed network of the Sabah and forsake our own identities to that of the “collective”. A collective that was constructed to be “representative”. What will they represent when all individuals and all other cultures are lost?
Their constructed world is no better than the one they left behind. No better than the one they left behind to bicker amongst itself and deal with the fall out of their actions.

We only interest them when they venture away from their ports and observe us like zoo animals to fuel their perversions for more exotic sensualities to be experienced in their illusory network with one another. They relish ideas and only ideas. Reality is too mundane for them. They’d like it if it were mundane. Reality disgusts them. The stimulation of their actual senses shocks them. They avoid what pains them because it has now become an absurdity to them. They have their heaven to return to and they leave behind this space between limbo and purgatory that I live in every day.

To them justice is an outdated concept. There is no need for recompense when all things can be justified. In a world where everyone believes that they are one, they could not conceive of harming themselves. The courthouses now lie empty, and the lofty ideas that created humanity have been left in the decaying shelves of a library that has long been abandoned and everybody forgot to condemn. Its sanctity only lies in a past they all but affiliate with. Their materiality has become an undesirable burden to them and they long for their liberation to a permanent synchronization with the network.

What are we left with? We’re left with the ages before borders were drawn and all humans were declared equal. All we have left is the trauma of the age that led to the era that has now set. We are the ghost of a ghost.

So as my country falls to despair in denial and the rest of humanity dreams away their lives, I am left alone.

Perhaps humanity shall now disappear.




This is an excerpt from the diary of the latest instance in cases of “spontaneous comatose”. Autopsies reveal nothing outstanding in the biological condition.
His health was exceptional even when the average was adjusted for non-Sabah initiated refugees.

The instance in concern had no known friends who would be close enough to give information of his disposition. The excerpt highlights a disturbing view of the country of refuge. No known aggressions have been linked to the instance. Any likely connections to existing anarchic networks cannot be established. The case is hereby being terminated and tabled under a series of, so far unrelated, spontaneous comas.

Reflections from the Field: Manipur – March 2017

I am currently working at an organization called STEP (Standing Together To Enable Peace). They run peace education programs and workshops in Delhi, Kashmir, and Manipur. At the time I was also writing my dissertation. I had decided to link up my internship with STEP to my dissertation.

After doing my initial background study on the conflict in Manipur (Of which a surprisingly small amount of literature exists), I finalized my study area. The Meira Peibis intrigued me, as they did the whole country in 2004 after they staged their nude protest. Teresa Rehman’s book “Mothers of Manipur” gives an introduction to the lives of the brave women involved in the protest and the context that surrounds them. However, as a psychologist, Rehman’s almost journalistic account left a lot of questions that needed to be answered. Perhaps the most important question that needed to be answered was in the title of the book itself. Were these 12 women and the Meira Peibis truly the ‘mothers’ of Manipur?

Maybe the greatest bias of the psychological field is the almost myopic focus on the individual even in the group and cultural contexts. I wanted to know what it meant to be a mother in a conflict that has lasted as long as India has been an independent country. I wanted to know the stories that lie at the intersection of the family, the community, politics, gender, and ironic symbolism. When all else fails, when hospitals cannot treat, schools cannot teach, and the police cannot protect, who is it that would guard families against the chaos that conflict brings like an unending whirlwind?

When I finally landed in Imphal city on the 20th of March, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Literature exists on the history of the conflict. There has been violence not just between the Indian State and the insurgency groups that fight for various causes, but also between the various tribes and communities that have been put together within the borders of Manipur. One of the most violent clashes occurred between the Nagas and the Kukis in that claimed the lives of thousands. The losses on both sides have been all but forgotten.
Fear and resentment exist among the different communities. I met a friend before going to Imphal, he comes from a community of fewer than 10,000 members. Even if they were able to find a way to represent themselves after overcoming political pressure from larger groups, it is unlikely they would be able to win an election with 100% affirmative votes. They were offered to be subsumed by other tribes, and if they didn’t accept they would continue to exist under constant threat.
The last 6 odd decades have left the people “comfortably numb” as a journalist I met had put it. The rampant nepotism, corrupt politics, communalism, and dearth of resources has created an almost inescapable and hopeless situation, as one of my friends put it, “Bro, fucked hai.”

Of the four days I had in Imphal, I spent the first 2 meeting my contacts in the various civil society organizations. What I realized immediately is that while these organizations were meant to work with the people who have been long affected by the conflict and violence, there was very little willingness to tell me about their personal experiences of living in a part of the country that was relatively unknown. It was annoying and frustrating to talk to them, I felt like they were actively hiding the information I needed. If only I could talk to the people they were helping, which they were not willing to let me do.
It was only later that it occurred to me that, perhaps, they did not know how to articulate their personal experience of the conflict. The political story of the struggle against AFSPA and the insecurity caused by the various armed groups had become so dominant, that they had acquired that narrative as their own personal narrative. They did not view their struggles and their experiences outside that framework.

Finally, on the last evening (this was especially anxiety provoking since everything in Imphal closes by 7 pm), I had in Manipur, after a day of waiting on calls to meet mothers who were in affiliated to different CSOs in various ways, I managed to meet two women. A Naga, and a Kuki.

When I finally met the Kuki mother, there was a huge sense of relief of finally meeting someone who would tell me what it was like to be a caretaker in India’s longest protracted conflict. There was one problem. She wasn’t very fluent in Hindi or English. Thankfully, my contact stepped in as an interpreter. While this may have run the risk of contaminating the data, I let that slide after the three of us shared a few laughs. I think it was actually better that she was there. Her presence as a woman and a Christian seems to have put the mother at some ease. I did not have the luxury of time, and any proximity I could develop was helpful.
The interview, however, did not go as expected. She told me her story. It was a story that was distant and dry. A chronological series of events, and a simple desire to educate her children. As the protagonist of the story, she was explicitly missing. The more I probed her about herself, the more silence I was offered. This is not uncommon, the unwillingness to open oneself to a stranger. This silence, however, was not that. This was the silence of someone who was being offered an alien object.
The interview left me with more information that I started with, and it left me wondering if I had asked the right questions at all.

The second mother shed more light on the questions I had regarding the plight of mothers in conflict zones. She told me about the pressure one faces from both the home and outside. The absence of the husband. The distance from the children caused by the restriction one naturally faces. She offered me two emotions from her own personal narrative. Loneliness and guilt.
Again, any exploration of these emotions left me with the absolute silence of not knowing. I had asked her for something she did not have.

I had asked both mothers if they had ever shared these emotions with anyone if they’d talked to anyone when things got difficult. They’d both said no, and the first mother had said there was no point in talking about useless things.

It was on my way back to the hotel that I got the most answers questioned. My contact and impromptu interpreter sensed my confusion and frustration and offered me an insight into the life of women in Manipur.
She told me that from the outside, it looks like women are respected and emancipated. They have political representation, and they are heard on the news. That is the most acceptable form of speech that they have. When they speak, they speak for the community, they speak for the political interests of the group. They do not talk about their own selves. Their own problems and their own suffering. She then moves to a more personal pronoun. We never learned to speak about our own selves. We never felt that it was something that was worth doing.

This left me with one question. How do you talk to someone who never knew that they could speak?

Third Culture

Write me a letter,
In the tongue of my lineage.
Flow in the script
I learnt to feel
But never understood.
Call me home,
To a land I’ve never known.
The fragrance of the food,
The taste of the wind,
These are but inherited memories.
It’ll be from you,
My dear,
I never had the chance
To call you my lover.
I’ve been in too many
Other beds.
I shall respond,
An unknown lifetime later.
“I’m sorry”

PS: Aami aaschi

Why Harambe will always matter

If you’re active on Facebook, you may have noticed events across the globe for candle vigils in honor of our beloved Harambe. For some it is amusing, others find it confusing, many feel deeply emotional, and then there are those who do it for the memes.
As of now the event page for the Delhi vigil has 1000 people interested, 518 confirmed and has been shared with 1300 people. I am one of the interested individuals, unfortunately, I’m not in town that day.

I may not be able to speak for the others who are enamored by the phenomenon of Harambe, but for me, it is an insight into humanity. It has come to represent human behavior in so many different ways, simply tracking the various ways people have responded to Harambe (and realize at this point I refer to Harambe as a phenomenon and not just as a gorilla) could possibly be a thesis unto itself. From the very onset, when the child fell into Harambe’s enclosure, humanity was being tested. Everything that has followed since is simply who we are as a species, and for those who believe it is absurd, perhaps it’s time you consider the significance of existence.

When the original incident occurred, there were a few a choices that the relevant authorities had before them, they chose the one that didn’t see Harambe as significant. Social media become a nest of lurking gorilla and child experts as soon as the final call was made, I never knew there were so many people who chose to specialize in both those fields. Perhaps it is the latent passion of Harambe that excited them out of hiding and into the fore, alas, they were too late.

Since then, he has become the Martyr of our times. He represents the humor that the internet thrives on, the feelings we’re always repressing, and how it is that humanity deals with uncomfortable issues. (More on this a bit later)

Harambe does a lot of things simultaneously. Perhaps one good example of this is the way people who don’t appreciate Harambe have responded, some of them responded negatively (“He’s just a gorilla!”), others chose to shrug their shoulders and move on, and then there was the Cincinnati zoo that wanted people to stop talking about it.
Basically, this is the people who don’t understand and are upset by the amount Harambians make themselves visible, there are those who have absolute apathy and choose to not engage, and then there are those who would prefer it if things were quiet because they benefit from silence.
Harambe has polarized the internet like any other issue polarizes the world.
Whether we talk about racism, poverty, religious intolerance, casteism, sexism, and the list goes on and on. On all of these issues, there will be the naysayers, the ones who don’t believe in its existence or simply believe it’s a lot of drama. They become agitated by the discourse it generates in their environment, they then seek to silence. Not for their own profit perhaps, but simply because they do not understand. Many would argue that the naysayers feel as though they’re being oppressed by this discourse and therefore lash out, however, this argument’s validity and perspectives are not something that I will expand on here.
The next group of people is simply unaffected, it is their apathy that represents them in this discourse. Remeber, silence is also heard. The morality of their silence is debatable, while there are those who would defend their right to live their lives unaffected, there are those who would make silence complicit to the violence the issue addresses.
Finally, there are those who would benefit from the non-existence of the issue concerned. In this scenario, the Cincinnati Zoo would like it if Harambe was laid to rest. The politics of this dynamic can be endlessly analyzed, and I have just one thing to say on the matter, by not engaging with an issue, the sympathizers and those affected begin to feel disenfranchised, and this will lead to physically violent consequences. You cannot control people, and the only way to have a desirable outcome is to engage with them. The first thing I learned as a Psychologist is that you can’t change people.

We’ve seen how people respond to Harambe, it’s almost self-evident, but what is it that’s going on with Harambe? The immediate answer is that he’s become a meme. Great. So why has he outclassed so many other memes available on the internet? What makes him so Harambe dank?

He’s used for symbolizing almost anything. He’s used as a meme for socialism, romance, religion, emotions, controversy, conspiracy, capitalism, memory, race, stupidity, and anything else you have memes about. Is it right to use Harambe for such sensitive issues? Again debatable. I’ve read an article that argues that it’s racist to use Harambe as a meme. The beauty of Harambe is that he represents all of this and none of it all at the same time. He’s ironic, sincere absurdity (funny how that works right?). People have found an outlet to represent everything they’ve ever wanted to say, no matter how offensive it would be if transposed to another issue, without being reprimanded. Harambe is the dark humor that we wish we could voice. He is the satire of all, and in doing that, he exposes the truth of how we feel. He becomes the political representation of the politics we don’t want to be embroiled in. He has quite literally become the Lord and Savior of our Freudian Ego.
The humor surrounding tragedies has come to serve as a tool for catharsis in the social space concerned, but considering the nature of humor, it becomes difficult when to say the jokes are insensitive or therapeutic. Harambe gives us that buffer zone. He is the absolute abstract medium that allows the projection of our emotions. He lets us be us.

This is what makes Harambe so popular. He is the best of us, and the worst of us. He is us and not us. Harambe has the potential to test the limits of our discourse.
Of course, this could all just be faf, but that’s the beauty of it. Harambe is what I want Harambe to be. He is not the Hero we deserve, but the Hero we need.

As long as Harambe represents you, the Internet will never forget.

A Solitary Fuck

There are more ways I can think of using the word fuck than I have fucks to give.
This puts you in a dilemma when you realize I have none to spare.
But please, don’t despair, you should know, it’s rare that I ever lose sleep over it.
Thank you for your concern though. I just took a fuck from you.

Human interaction is an economy on a currency of fucks.
Guess what! It sucks to be us,
there are never enough to go around.
Unless you’re communist, then you never owned any.

Pity is your way of throwing away a half hearted one.

Sympathy is a fuck and a half, you really should keep your filthy change.

Your friends are a bank that serve fucks with interest.

There are banks with benefits that might give you a real one.

Romance is you hoping you could plant them in the ground and grow some.
Here’s a secret, it didn’t work with money.

Poetry is the hope that you could share one with everybody.

Parents give you more fucks than the two of them actually have.
Except yo mama, she has enough for everyone.

Your cat calling is a rotten one that even the auto wala sees and says “Dusra de do”

Your arguments are the secret hope that there exists one.

Your despair is you realizing there aren’t any with your name on it.

Your facade is your belief you can conjure it.

Your self righteousness is a hoarding tendency.

Your ideology is an unexpected pregnancy. You really should get it aborted.

When falling in love, use a condom or get on the pill.
Those fucks are dangerous. You’re at a risk of an STD,
popularly known as “terrible poetry”

So here’s my solitary promised fuck.
Bargain harder for the legitimate one.
Maybe you’ll find it amongst all these fakes.

Yellow Petals

When the sun sets on a day
That never began,
Let the rays
Touch your lips
And match it
With your smile.
The breeze
Shall caress
Your hair
In envy of the petals
That settled there.
I watched you from afar
Afraid
I’d catch your casual gaze.
Scared,
I’d give it no reason to wait.
I’ll content myself
To have these petals
I caught
Melt into the day.