How to make the silent kid talk.

step one, say hi.
the reply won’t reach your ears.
watch her mouth shape the word instead.
smile warmly.
don’t be offended if hers is a straight line.

step two, talk.
ignore her quivering lips, pulsating temples and wide eyes that will dart around for an escape door.
make sure to block such doors with heaps of warmer, kinder smiles.
appear interested.
I know you’re bored, but make her feel like a diamond mine you’re excavating. you might, in a while, tumble upon a gem.

step three, don’t ask her what’s wrong. don’t enquire about the kittens clawing at her tongue or the fists she’s hiding in the folds of her skirt.
don’t ask her if she’s wearing a mask,
why her expressions aren’t coming through.

step four, ask simple questions. preferably yes or no ones.
more warm smiles and crinkled eyes would help.
do not ask her to speak louder, her lungs are sobbing so hard, she can’t.

step five, pretend to be a little awkward yourself. you will find her seizing the opportunity to deliver a ten worded sentence.
acknowledge this wondrous attempt by agreeing with her.
nod violently.
don’t be disappointed when she remains impassive to this kind gesture.
one day, in the near future, she will explain to you how she’d actually felt. how nothing could compare to that little success story.

step six, if she is still uncomfortable, leave. if she isn’t, carry on.

step seven, don’t forget to come back.

step eight, don’t forget to come back.

step nine, don’t forget to come back.

step ten, don’t tell her how much she has changed. don’t ask her to speak softer, in fewer sentences.
don’t constantly make references to your initial conversations,
or tell her how her heart had been thumping so loud the first time, that words seemed to crawl back into her mouth in fear.
or how her terror had been so palpable that you kept poking it, wounding it, expanding it.
don’t tell her how badly you’d wanted to laugh at the pathetic plunge her pitch took on slightly longer words,

step eleven, lie instead.
you had been awfully impressed at her ability to make conversation.
her face had seemed calmer than a monk’s.
her eyes had spoken volumes the first time.
her voice had flooded the hallway. it was so loud.
lie, lie, lie to her.
she will ask you if you’re being honest. swear that you are.

step twelve, don’t forget to come back.

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First grade
tenth day
begin to hit the boy seated beside me
three slaps
distributed throughout the day
varying degrees of pain inflicted
smiling wide
two broken teeth showing
token of a fight with the neighbor’s kid
his toys broken, his eyes black
his nose on the brink of bleeding.

Fourth grade
my victim speaks up
wants his seat changed
i’m questioned, punished
one two three, on my palms
the plastic ruler kisses my flesh.

Tenth grade
been punished
detained
suspended
advised
threatened.

Eleventh grade
serious injury to the boy who called me names
his parents.
my parents.
the police.
detached me, trying to cut his sister’s fingers that remained pointed at me
hideous smiles playing on my lips
the thrill of causing pain
never ceases to surprise me.

Twelfth grade
the psychiatrist writes me off
a gone case.
i skip medications
i skip school
i skip society.

Twenty years later
on death row
the souls of my victims wait to tear mine apart
I grin at them
prospects of bloodshed never fail to excite me
he asks for last words.

Stop them when they’re young
stop them in first grade
when their stone faces refuse to uncover emotions
when emotions, perhaps, don’t exist
in second grade
when trivial fights become battles
when battles lost always call for revenge
in third grade
when friends are a repulsive term
when being nice equals giving pain
in fifth grade
when books are torn
pens broken
rumors of the little psycho in V-C take violent, bloody turns.
standing in corners
standing outside the doors
standing on benches
caresses with wooden rulers
with bare hands
whips and thrashes in empty classrooms
words vomited on absent consciences
sessions with ill qualified counselors
sessions ending with “or else.. ”
meetings with the principal
meetings with the staff, students, and parents.
None
Will
Help.
stop them when they’re young
stop them in school
and stop them good.

Dirty. 

I am Dirty.
Made so by continuous use of the same definition,
I don’t understand why you have to use the same definition,
Can’t us words ever seek for change?

Look at the part of me that I’ve scraped clean,
Do you not see potential here?
Scope for evolution,
Scope to be something I have not yet been,
To sit next to definitions that breathe positivity?

I don’t want to be Dirty anymore.
Lift the blanket of negativity that you have draped over me,
I do not see clearly.
I can not see myself clearly.
How do I stop being dirty if I can’t see the dirt on me?

Put yourself in my shoes,
Know what it’s like to be labelled onto everything and everyone that is,
For the lack of a better word,
dirty.
Walk for kilometers in these battered shoes of mine,
Dig out that speck of empathy you buried in your throat when your teacher told you that words don’t have feelings.
Words are inanimate strokes of ink,
Words don’t cry into dictionaries at night, waiting for sleep to screen dreams of lives where who you are is independent of how mankind uses you.

Dirty is not my name.

Your need for expression is the only guardrail of my existence.
Are you aware of the limbs broken every time I am spit out of your judgemental mouth,
Of the zillion times I’ve baptized in my tears, trying to convince myself that I am not your definition of me?

Before you shoot me out like a bullet meant to kill,
Know that,
In my heart of hearts, I am cleaner than Clean can ever be.

Newspaper headlines. 

This is Truth speaking,
Make-up free,
Dressed down,
Embellishments shed,
This is plain Truth speaking.
I do not have much time,
So hear me and hear me well,
This is my story.

I miss the old times.
I miss diffusing onto clean papers,
Page one to twenty one,
Stark naked.
Freshly baptized, white garbs, solemn smiles,
Apologetically locking eyes with the hurt I cause,
I sit sympathetic yet smug in the awareness of my authenticity.
Been stirring emotions since the beginning of times,
But there’s the pun,
Since the beginning of Times,
I have been cast out like a capital sinner .
I admit, I held more crimes in those old palms of mine than the Devil himself,
But didn’t I confess it all?

Didn’t I confess it all,
Until you bid me to hold back my tongue ;
Until you tattooed lies onto my lips;
Until you fed my ears with gnarled fibs;
Until I forgot my language, honest words slipping slowly off my tongue and memory;
Until you were sick of the genteel punishments,
And ripped my tongue right off with your harsh lawless hands,
Donated my tattooed lips to Free Speech,
Called me ugly and uninteresting,
Told me people wanted entertainment,
Not bluntness.
Your fingers clawing at my eyes,
Digging deeper into the void of my empty soul.
Through the tears and the pain,
I saw dirt under your fingernails.
Deceits sprouting from its utter blackness,
My eyes gave in and now my world is a constant blur.
I do not see clearly,
I see with superfluous details.   

Damage done,
You went back,
To your paper factories,
Demanding them to make a new face for Truths of India,
And they, creative bunch, made hundreds.
Look at me now,
My metamorphosis done,
Sporting a new face every day, every minute,
Putting my ancestry to shame,
Painting minds of readers with the dull gray of indecision,
Slyly smiling as I shape their minds and decisions,
Showing them my palms, decked up to seem flawless
Hiding the countless scars that battle my skin,
I show them still, the spotless hands ,
Persuading them to let me rape their minds with my biased view of the world.
I sit on their conscience and hatch eggs of falsehood that will soon break into wretched opinions and stereotypes.

I was once Truth but now I am the Media.
I am newspaper headlines birthed by calloused mouths,
Disfigured by broken teeth, spit out with an unnatural greed.
I am the articles that follow,
Camouflaged and photoshopped,
Drained of the original ink, stuffed with red corrections.
Sidelined by advertisements.
I misinform, I manipulate.
I have become a masquerade ball, to which
I cordially invite you all.
There is naught we can do,
For this world is wrong.

Accents

Ashamed, aren’t we, when our
Catastrophic tongues rebelliously
Cast aside foreign brush-ups?
Estranged motherland’s enunciations,
Nauseate our quality, does it not?
Teaching ourselves to mimic alien mouths, we
Set sail to what is ours.