The stranger across my mirror- Have we met? | Ojaswini Trivedi

Colour to colour.

Have you ever felt like you’re walking back into the same pattern. 

Falling back into your ex- lover’s arms, the magical appearance of the slender bodied cigarette tangled up perfectly between your fingers after you’d promised yourself the 23rd  ‘last time’ or driving without a destination in mind but gradually finding yourself at the corner of that house or person you left years ago.

Or just for a second, answer this-Have you ever broken up with someone thinking that it’s for your own good? And specifically in all unlikelihood, not just stepping away from a toxic, gruelling, narcissistic relationship but a truly genuine one. The comfortable one. Maybe the “too comfortable” one.

You find yourself in a coffee shop. 

Wearing your favourite yet only saved for special occasions shirt, the top button unbuttoned. A dash of pink across the cheeks and a tinge of nude on your lips, ordering his exclusive coffee.

Black, no cream, three cubes.

You want him to be happy. 

At the sight of you, he truly is, happy. His hands have blots and patches of acrylic, the side of his hands are painted maroon. The colour of my top. 

As you sit across him, delving deep into his fancy brown eyes. You keep wondering. 

Are you happy for him? Or are you happy with him? 

You tell him you can’t do this anymore. You want out .

He’s taken aback at the abruptness of it, but seemingly calm about the words spoken.

The words that poured like sullen wine from your lips.

 Distasteful and needy. 

The decision that took months of reflecting, internalizing. You can’t pin point a problem, if there was, he would solve it. But you decide to act on this decision. Maybe some things just don’t fit.

Only after the failed futile attempts you realise, there’s never really a good time to part ways. 

No perfect day, no perfect occasion. Well, no perfect temperament. 

Not for you, neither for him. 

Yet, you are sitting at an arm’s length. Probably breathing the eye-gouging regret already.

You tell him.

Blatant. Honest. Guilty. 

And then, as the course of time plays, you come to realise that that uncomfortable space, you inflicted on yourself needs to be filled with friends or alcohol or painting classes or gym or girlfriends night out or self help books or romantic movies or just plain loveless sex. 

Eventually you succumb to the superficiality of  it.

And so, you crave for that comfortable safe space. The eager familiarity. The known face in the crowd. The one who could protect you when you were lost.

Which brings us to the next part.

When the other person fulfils your need, is it safe to call it love?

What happens when the needs are met?

What happens when the needs are not met?

Is it still safe to call it love?

Wait. So are we just using each other? For happiness, money, safety, freedom, security, sex, comfort, loneliness, satisfaction, hunger, redemption?

What if we started loving keeping ourselves out of the equation. What if we just loved with complete detachment.

True love is when their closeness is liberating and not suffocating, when their leaving is tormenting and not relieving.

The patterns evoke, of how you treat them, what you feel and most importantly, how you treat yourself.

The continuous falling back into the comfort, the familiar sensation, the treaded path we walked for weeks together. We feel the urgency to crawl back into that. Our memory cells aching to sprint through those lanes, actions and people. Again.

The uncertainty is unsettling.

For people who repeatedly, nonchalantly say “Love yourself!”

Let me tell you, for those who are listening.

It’s the hardest thing to do.

Worse than the weekly-Sudoku and Mumbai’s traffic post rains. It beats the tragic hangover or even ramming your new car into a tree.

Loving yourself is the hardest thing to do.

Have you ever found yourself sitting in the car as the rain comes crashing on the glass shield. The sound of it, a melancholic tease, the rhythm in the familiarity of life falling apart.

We empathize with pain.

We empathize with our pain and are envious of our happiness. Almost as if it’s a time bound gig of your favourite artist.

But pain. So easy to hold on and so bloody hard to let go.

Trying to like yourself is like telling yourself it’s okay to screw up. It’s okay to feel lonely and sad.

It’s okay if you don’t fit into that dress.

It’s okay for you to walk away.

It’s okay to let go when they expect you to hold on.

It’s okay if you feel differently at the different time due to a different reason for a different person.


Trying to like yourself is like breaking that pattern.

You detach little by little. You get uncomfortable little by little. 

You break yourself apart..slowly.

Giving up cigarettes is like telling that psychosomatic slavery “ENOUGH!”

Revelling in the comfort of ‘too comfortable’, knowing it is stagnating your growth. Break apart.

Tell your toxic ex-lover that you wish him well. That you deserve better!

Buy that goddamn dress!

CPR yourself..

A friend once said, soulmates exist. There’s Yin And Yang in each one of us. The masculine and the feminine energy. And they, are each others soulmates. We are not incomplete. Our partners are not our ‘Better halves’. He/She cannot complete you.

Only you have that consent.

It’s you. Whole. Complete. Fulfilled.

So why the desperate search for completeness and fulfilment from the ones we meet.

Or falling back to the apparent safe haven that is need based, desperate. Animalistic.

The taste of freedom when love is glorious, away from your attached heart.

The demands, the expectations.

The role-play of right’s and wrong’s. Good and bad. Would’ves and Shoud’ves.

It wouldn’t matter.

The pattern will break. We can break it.

Deconstruct. Dissolve.

Only thing vicious in this scenario would be your sole, selfish bliss.

Aren’t we all just craving to be happy?  


Be your own Superhero.

Diary of Anne Frank – a review by Manohar Khushalani

Original Title: A face of fascism published in Pioneer on 31/12/2000
DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.12639266

A Leaf from Diary of Anne Frank

Ruchika Theatre Group is one of the oldest surviving theatre groups of Delhi. The reason is simple. It keeps regenerating itself. The Diary of Anne Frank was one such exercise in which, Feisal Alkazi, the director of the play, used an entirely inexperienced cast, inducted from the Little Actors Club. Obviously, therefore, there would be unevenness of talent, but viewed within those limitations The show put up at India Habitat Centre last week held together due to sheer sincerity of effort and excellent performance by Gayatri Khanna, Keerthana Mohan and Sahil Gill. The actress who deserves special mention is Aarti Sethi, who gave a vivacious performance in the lead role of Anne Frank, despite the fact that she had an asthmatic attack just before the show began.

The Diary of Anne Frank has sold more than 25 million copies, since it was first published in 1947. Anne Frank has become a symbol of 10 million Jews murdered by Hitler, one million of whom were children like her.

The theatrical version of this diary by Mrs and Mr Hackett was published four years later in 1951. It is a lucid and slick adaptation of the diary of the sensitive Jewish teenager who died at Bergen-Belsen, Germany, in 1945. Anne Frank received this ready-to-write diary on her 13th birthday, just before she and her family had to go into hiding in Amsterdam, which was occupied by Hitler’s army since 1940.

Her engagingly personal account in which she was cooped up in a stifling Attic for over two years with her parents, sister Margot, another family, the Van Dans and Janice Dussel – a fastidious middle aged dentist who had little patience for Anne’s effervescent liveliness.

The chronicle derives it’s appeal from its engaging mix of the mucky details of life during war and candid revelations of confused emotions of an adolescent girl.

Otto Frank began preparing and stocking an attic behind his business office at Prinsengracht 263 into a hiding place. When the freedom of the Jews began to be severely restricted, with does and don’ts about where they could shop, swim or study. It is this annexe where all the action in the play takes place. Feisal had orchestrated simultaneous action in various living areas of this claustrophobic space that brought alive the ambiance. In one scene while Anne is talking to Margo in the bedroom. In the meanwhile Janice waits impatiently on the sofa for them to finish their conversation in the living room, others are playing cards at the table. It was such skillful touches that heightened the drama.

According to the director, Feisal Alkazi, improvisations were used to develop this as a play about fascism mainly to get the younger generation involved in the issues. However, the improvisations appeared to bring out the tension between the generations. The political statement emerged more in the brochure, at the level of relationships. Älso, the sexual empathy between Anne and Van Dan’s son Peter, the mixed feelings between the two sisters; and, above all, the relationship between “a girl of 13 who has no friends” and an inanimate object – her diary – whom she chose to call ‘Kitty’, were all well worked out. As usual Feisal had chosen his music pieces well and the clear playbacks of well-recorded voice-overs synchronised perfectly with the action on stage. MK

Diary of Anne Frank
A Face of Fascism

Social Distancing or Physical Distancing? / Archana Hebbar Colquhoun

                                                   a sculptural representation

Seated Man
Seated Man

Covid-19 and Social Distancing

The current global coronavirus pandemic leading to COVID-19 shows no signs of dying a natural death; far from it, we are nowhere near finding a solution to arresting the spread of the virus.  The virus appeared mysteriously and suddenly, infected some, multiplied rapidly, hitch-hiked by various means and entered all parts of the world – sparing no region. It underwent numerous mutations during its journey around Planet Earth and half a year later still stays firmly away from the grasp of human comprehension.

This uncontrolled, worldwide pandemic has completely transformed our lives and we have come up with one rather simple behavioral method and the only known effective one so far to cope with this situation. The world’s lingua franca has given it the name “Social Distancing.” The English language is highly adaptive. But the language is also very adept at coining specious terms. These terms are then taken up unquestioningly by anyone speaking any language, anywhere in the world.

I would like to discuss, using one of my sculptural works, the connotative meanings of the term “Social Distancing.” As a more suitable term to use in the COVID-19 context, I would suggest the term “Physical Distancing.

A Sculptural representation

The subject of this article is a sculpture of a seated man. It is the third in the series of five sculptures that I made in Tokyo, in the late 80s. These sculptures are based on specific people I saw on the streets of “Calcutta,” in the early to mid-80s. I did not and could not strike up a conversation with any of them. Perhaps I did not have the strength of spirit to connect with them through verbal communication. I had my own problems and I felt just as helpless as they did or perhaps they did not even feel the same sort of disempowerment I felt. They were, for all I know, stronger in spirit than most and had the mental strength to accept their condition and live a functional life with a reasonable level of happiness and fulfillment.

The reason for the absence of an interaction with any of the individuals I saw and passed by on the streets of Calcutta that year in the early to mid-80s was revealed to me gradually, over the years. This happened through certain specific experiences I had with people, belonging to different groups, in various countries. These experiences were, what I would call, mundane and of little import when taken from the point of view of a day to day existence. To me, however, they were eye openers. These experiences signified to me the true meaning of the currently much bandied about term “Social Distancing.”

I posted a write-up about my second sculpture in the series, crawling man, titled “The World on its Hands and Knees,” since the person the sculpture was modeled on represented to me the condition that all of us are in now – our lives ruthlessly controlled by a global pandemic caused by a bio-chemical entity, the coronavirus, that exists in that nebulous state between living and nonliving.

The fear of COVID-19 is real, palpable, and terrifying because we have no understanding of the workings of the coronavirus. A term with a very specific meaning has been coined to describe the physical distance each of us needs to maintain with everyone except for the few people with whom we share a living space, excluding even your blood relatives if they happen to live in separate accommodation.

This physical distancing is termed “Social Distancing.”

Social Distancing vs Physical Distancing

“Social Distancing” is entirely erroneous as a term to describe the sort of distancing we need to maintain between each other during this pandemic. The ‘distancing’ is necessary so as to not catch the virus from people with whom interaction is unavoidable, termed essential workers, and spreading the virus to other individuals.

Social Distancing as a practice is nothing new; it has always existed in all societies, in one form or another. It is implemented and controlled by a small minority of agents of power, be they the ruling elite, the strong amongst the weak etc.  Using the term “Social Distancing” in the present situation to describe a prescriptive behavioral form of maintaining physical distance to avoid spreading of COVID-19 that applies to all, irrespective of their social standing, performs the task of validating, insidiously, the deep social divide, wide-spread all over the world. The term gives credence to the institutionally managed segregation of communities that disempowers large groups of people based on their color, ethnicity, economic standing, gender, etc., and people with physical disabilities. These groups of people live a socially distanced life. I have not included other groups or even people with disabilities that are not to do with the visible physical body, in this discussion.

Persons with physical disabilities

Among the many disempowered groups of people, such as those listed above and others, it is the group of people with physical disabilities that are uniquely placed as the ones whose lives are more severely affected by social isolation and the resulting social distancing.  A person with physical disabilities is a single individual, often experiencing a sense of separation even within their own family. Although living a socially distanced life like many other groups of people, a person with a physical disability is alone in their disability as each form of disability is different from another. The extent and nature of the disability depends on individual factors and the person with a disability does not belong to a clearly identifiable collective.

Examples of a ‘collective’ would be an ethno-racial social group or a community of economically deprived families, living in ghettoized, marginalized conditions. Accordingly, a person with disabilities lacks the emotional support system that individuals belonging to other disempowered groups with shared problems and a common identity have.

 The social and emotional isolation of people with a physical disability may be the result of congenital factors, of deliberate acts of cruelty, accidents, and even more shockingly and tragically due to poorly understood medical treatments. These treatments are administered hastily, not having been properly verified but widely hailed as effective, and any side-effects resulting from the treatment, which may be severe and irreversible are identified only when the damage is already done.

As mentioned earlier, physical disabilities can include a whole range of conditions, including ones that are not readily visible to others or those that entirely escape the notice of people who are strangers to the person with a disability.

A physical disability of a particular kind and why it became the subject of my sculptures

The form of physical disability I chose to highlight through the set of five sculptures belong to the one category of people (four of the sculptures referring to actual individuals I saw), who are either born with or developed later in life anomalies (in medical terms a “deformity”) in their bodily structure. Their limbs, extremities, and craniofacial features affect how they are viewed by others and the bodily movement and functionalities of the people in this category are restricted to various degrees. Often, the stark visual nature of their physical characteristics, entirely unique to each individual and the disabilities being specifically their own, marks them apart from others. They are denied a sense of belonging to a community. Inarguably, the social and emotional isolation that the people in this group experience compounds their day to day difficulties and increases their dependency on others. The subject was compelling and I was and still am deeply affected by the life situation of people with disabilities who have readily visible “malformations” of the body.

Before I talk about my sculpture, seated man, and the form and content of the work, I would like to make clear my rationale and impetus behind selecting, as subjects of my artwork, people with physical characteristics that restrict their mobility and whose body structure does not conform to expected norms. If the motivation for doing the set of sculptures is not already evident from the foregoing discussion, I would like to stress that by doing these works I want to bring to light the pain and suffering of these individuals, which is singularly their own.

These set of sculptures may be deemed voyeuristic, distasteful, and even lacking in basic human sensitivity and compassion on the part of the artist.  This is one reading of the work, and from the point of view of the artist, that is me, the reading reflects the reader’s/viewer’s own point of view, which does not allow them to extend their understanding of what an art work stands for, the compelling motivations of the artist for doing works of this kind, and the complex web of meanings the artwork holds. These meanings of the artworks constantly change and come to light depending on the context in which they are presented and the nature of the audience. There may be no specific target audience in the mind of the artist when a work is created, unless the work is commissioned by a specific patron with clear-cut requirements. My set of works are entirely self-motivated and created with no specific audience in mind.

It is my conjecture that the seated man, who in all probability was homeless, had a congenital condition that caused the shortening of his arms but evidently with strong musculature in the upper and forearms, both structurally relocated and joined in such a way as to provide for an elbow function. The formation of the arms had a certain degree of symmetry, in that the arms had the same proportion and structurally related to the rest of the body in a similar manner.

The Sculpture of a seated man

Middle Image

A seated man, homeless perhaps, his posture is almost that of a yogi. His torso is upright and handsome. He sits with his legs folded under in the yoga pose of Vajrasana, holding a stick in one hand for support. His arms are strong, although shortened. They are connected securely to his shoulders in a “standard” anatomical position. His head is turned sideways to view something that he caught sight of from the corner of his eyes. He used his very own form of transport, a little trolley, which I edited out from the sculpture. This I did so as to give prominence to the figure of the man who bore himself with dignity to the extent he could, given his circumstances. The trolley would have been a distraction and would have drawn attention to his disability.

Whatever innate dignity his physical demeanor may have presented, he was still an outcast – homeless, living on the streets, and displaying those physical features that the vast majority of people could not relate to and from whom they maintained a clear social distance.

The social distancing of people such as the seated man has no relation to the “Social Distancing” prescribed by the governments of all countries for tackling COVID-19. What is needed in the present circumstances is “Physical Distancing.”

If the indignity of a subtle form of social distancing was not enough, the seated man spending most of his time on the pavement had people walking past him, occasionally tossing a few coins in his bowl, who practiced a more blatant form of “physical distancing;” whereby, when they passed him on the street, they kept a distance that was more than necessary. This they did to make certain that they avoided contact with him. They walked past him by making a wide arc of a semi-circular curve using a quick motion to go past him, in the shortest possible time.

Practicing social distancing in relation to people isolated from the mainstream of society existed way before COVID-19 gripped our lives.

Displaying the work in an art gallery

Last Image

In order to express the combined qualities of dignity and social isolation of the seated man, the figure was placed directly on the floor of the gallery on the first day of the show, and from the second day of the show until the closing of the show the figure was placed on a pedestal, which not only isolated him but also provided him with an elevating platform, giving him the dignity he deserves.

Erebus and I / Ojaswini Trivedi

Night Sky
Night Sky

Who saves us? What protects us? Or are we just living our lives with the illusion of being protected. Of being saved.

Hurt is the chalice of nothingness, writhing through the voiceless screams. The mind crawled up in a desperate embrace, bleeding, shivering, hangs itself from the ceiling.

With nothing to hold on, with everything to let go. What is the truth? What is right? Who decides what our conscience speaks? Who lives through, who survives the maelstrom of starlit sighs.

I remember that night, alone, terrifyingly-complete. The lights turned down and the darkness eager to consume me. For a first, it didn’t charge at my insecurities with vengeance but tip toed with a docile ambiguity that allowed me to accept it with arms wide open. Night was kind to me. Maybe the moon was watching.

The background rhythm played in sync with my closing ventricles, expanding lungs and perhaps possessed arms.  The sanctity of its beauty transcended into every cell, each tissue. Unbiased with the form or function.

Only one song played that night.

“Bottom of the Deep Blue sea” by MISSIO.  The song. Ironical? I know.

My feet ached, and I swayed endlessly. Almost as if the night was my guide, the security man outside my window. Convincing me that Pain and Anguish would have to cross the seven seas, climb the tallest peaks, jump across the chasms, speak the strangest of languages to reach me.

I was safe.

As if maybe for the first time, being numb was equivalent to being happy.  Maybe sometimes feeling everything is like feeling nothing at all. Like a snake swallowing its tongue. Or a snowball exploding against a Pine tree.

Au contraire, I never felt more alive. Like the first breath of air after plunging out of the water. Gasping, lungful of the escaped nuances- All gushing back into the realms of my truth.

The soothing audacity of hurt comes in unabashed like the lust for love. It’s heavy. It’s bored. It’s engraving.

Dancing barefoot on the wooden floor, with nothing but a mirror around me. It broke my heart in a different way. It crumpled my soul in an unfittingly. I felt distorted, perfectly.

All of a sudden in those frail moments everything I did and didn’t do made sense to me. Almost as if a gospel truth unravelled beneath the sheaths of my eye lids, trotting through my veins, into the earth.

With every move, my heart imploded, it succumbed to the bliss, the night had to offer.

Is that what love looks like? Oh the shear godliness of it.

Somewhere through my illicit affair with the night, as I laid on the floor, breathing the earth, staring into the sky across the translucent concrete above me.

My toes crinkled.

The desire and occurrence of complete degradation followed by the innocent upheaval of honesty, lastly toppled with the cool embrace of bliss.

I gasped.

Maybe, this felt like love, after all.

An Ode to Sushant | Renu Mal

An Ode to Sushant (Image courtesy Instagram)

Everyone is talking about Sushant Rajput today. Why is it that people gather and media gets hysterical when a tragedy happens.. The fact is that we all are so consumed by ourselves that we do not even lift our heads to notice a person sitting next to us.
Forget reaching out, we ignore people who do reach out to us too.
I had written a poem about forty years back, and that holds good even today.
Read and look around… You may be able to help another Sushant…

A man alive
Searches for a shoulder
To lean on
To cry, to rest,
To draw strength from
He begs for it
Cries for it
And in the end
Dies for it
In vain.
And then
There are
Not one
Not two
But four shoulders
Carrying him to his graveyard
And many more
Willing ones
Walking behind
The fools don't understand
If they had given him one
He wouldn't have died
He would be alive.

The Forbidden Fruit of today: CLOSURE / Ojaswini Trivedi

The eternal jigsaw.

There’s nothing in this world even remotely close to what most may call – closure.

We spend years and years trying to find answers to the half spoken sentences and mid-air collapsed promises. The night teases us to insomnia, trying to replay the tape of those incidents, moments, gestures. What could have been, what should have been. Were we real then? or are we real now?
We rage and grill ourselves. We hate and condemn ourselves.
Toss and turn with that withering anxiety of the unknown . What did I do? What had I done? The uncertainty of the consequences we, at this point are not ready to either accept or let go of.
The actions, that are followed by the tell-tale signs of how bleak or bright the future may be.
And this struggle gets more and more aggressive with time, when one incident after the other forces you to believe that the problem lies with you.

When after each altercation with yourself, you find yourself bleeding and pleading for comfort. For faith, for acceptance.

Seeking that solace in the pauses, the unsent messages, the U-turns, the walk-aways, whiskeys and cigarettes, drugs and women, people and their optimism.

You nurture that thought. Save it. Protect it. Grow it. Embellish it. WORSHIP IT.

Till it consumes you to the very core and leaves you anticipating the sinful life you’ve led consisting of “clueless grievances” you’ve given to people. The open ended commitments you made, the forsaken narratives you played to ease your broken heart that is out there to seek vengeance and thrive on hate and is desperate for blood.

My darling.

For how long, do you intend to walk barefoot, with cracked heels and lips. Your aching eyes, tired, seamless, need to close. You need to rest. You need to breathe.


That road will never end. Like a mirage that follows, it’s an abyss staring into the sky.

Closure is a myth.
You keep running and running only to find that you’ve been chasing a balloon at the edge of a cliff.

The anxiety stems from the thrill of damage you’ve caused to yourself in the process and the reckless continuation of the same in the yearning for solid, concrete answers. There aren’t any answers.
Since there were no questions asked.

Since our hearts never lied.

We always knew.

You. Always. Knew.
There is no confrontation, as we stood against each other.

We think we deserve to know the truth.

We’ll never know it. And that truth is clenching the thread of the balloon in your fingers and standing at a safe pedestal.
That, my dear. Is the time to forgive yourself.
To truthfully hold yourself together and forgive yourself.

We’re not running anyone’s races. Not living anybody else’s life.
People aren’t answerable to us. We aren’t entitled to them.
Closure is not a peaceful abomination of your relationship with them.
It’s the last gravel thrown in the grave..by YOU.
YOU are your closure.
All this while we’ve been chasing the invisible, trying to conquer the unknown, measuring the abyss, justifying the inexistent.


Please stop.

It’s just you. It’s always been you.

Find yourself, trust yourself.

We’ll get through this, together.