A Telenovela About Self Love

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There is a scatter plot
Of uncorrelated achievements
Oh I’m a jack of all trades
And there exists,
Braided through them,
A deep-seated contentment
A sense of self
A hint of esteem
And yet –
Yet
It is difficult to melt
That tincture of self-doubt
And a sense of inadequacy
For it is difficult to ignore
The unkempt words of the crowds
The jerks of all creeds
Who inspire such insecurity
That fleetingly
I wish I could forever stay
Wrapped in a cocoon
Of deluded disillusionment
And of uncertain certainty
All the while drowned
In the shallow pool
Of narcissism and vanity
Because
A certain uncertainty
Billows in the recesses of my mind
And overtakes the instincts
Until it eradicates all logical predilections
For languishing in the comfort of
Calculatedly and systematically stretched boundaries
However, Necessity turns my paranoia to adrenaline
Breathing new muscles into my languorous capabilities
And so, sees,
Dollop by dollop,
A regain of my pride
Tempered by time
And resistant to those crowds
Prejudiced
And preening with mockery
But all the while, not unlike them,
I too am walking
The fine line
Between pride and vanity

– Akanksha Gupta (poem only)

Phantasmagoria

A soft breeze wafted through
As his eyes danced
In a million hues
All the while
Intently staring
At the daintily crafted
Candelabra,
Yet at times
Furtively flickering
Between me
And the candlelight
Which, like our silence,
Broke through
Through the canopy
Of the night

I returned his gaze
With equal fascination,
Our eyes glistened tentatively,
Whilst our ears, long parched,
Feasted upon
An accompaniment of crickets
Cavorting
Through the green grass
Scandalously

Gradually
The din grew dimmer
My senses came alive
Before my sight
The grass sparkled black and blue
As the clouds unveiled
A starry night

I sat awhile
In contemplation
Aroused by the splendour
Of this quietude
Whose tendrils plucked
Gently,
At the heart strings
Of a sombre mood
As though romanticizing
With me
My dinner date with solitude

~ By Akanksha Gupta (poem) ~

An Absence of Monotony

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One always needs inspiration
In his, her or their life
To live, to work, to think, to <code>
And especially to write

No experience can be said
To leave the mind untouched
No moment can be called
Too ordinary, and as such

Jilting constancy
By transitioning between moments
Produces yet another, thus culminating
Into many a resonance

Of long forgotten, archived facts
And intuitively formed impressions
That trigger newer trains of thoughts,
Streamlining our passions

And after this fashion of convulsing
Into brainstorms, involuntarily
The resulting creation unfurls
Yet another moment of epiphany

– Akanksha Gupta

Gone With The Wind

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The sands of time
Are slipping through my fingers,
Their lingering heat
In my bones
Makes me want to hold on
For a few moments longer,
To recapture and savour
The bygones,
I chase the winds
That carry those sands on their wings,
But as they gradually drop and cease to be
My legs give way, I stop
And unsteadily sway
In anticipation of a fall,
But soon I’m sinking
Into a quicksand of memories.
Alarmed, I grope for an anchor,
But my hold on reality is tenuous
At best, and ephemeral,
And furthermore
The panic-induced struggle
Only serves to tighten the jaws of sand;
Oh, I’d now give anything
For them to slip past the palms of my hands.
This realization, this epiphany
Is a moment of lucidity
Whence I regain my sanity
And my mind pushes back the instinct;
Calmly, I desist fretting
And free myself from the quicksand.
Now, walking towards land,
I feel the winds picking up momentum
And forcing the sands
To slip through my fingers;
Once again,
I relish in the heat
That lingers, and move on
Toward newer pastures.
– Akanksha Gupta

The Existential Crisis @ HKUST IDOL

Pakistan. May 2, 2011. Militant Islamist Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S. forces, ending his reign of terror:

A drizzle of blood

From the skies burst

Touched his lips

And quenched his thirst

 

And as innocent blood

Wet his throat

He inspired men

With hate and loath

 

His bombs, missiles and gun barrels

Vanished cities with a blast

And the eyes of each city shone

With the ghosts of its past

 

Each man, each woman,

Each child of every faith

Vowed to strike back

And avenge their death

 

And at last as though heavens raged

In silence with interminable zest

In secrecy they sent him where

No man in peace does ever rest

 

Is this the emotion that oozes?

When you hear his name

Forgetting latent virtues

In sheer disdain

 

How many of you agree to that

Upon which the poem insists

I may, I may not, but

Isn’t there a heart in every terrorist?

 

They say probably not

 

Bin Laden’s death was a landmark; a symbolic slap on the face of terror that boosted the morale of people. It was supposed to be a harbinger of hope.

But the power vacuum

Lead the Middle East

Into a state of

War and Insurgency

 

The chasm between

The two factions of Islam

Fueled by jihadists

Gave rise to a political bedlam

 

The ISIS then emerged

In Iraq and Syria

Wishing to establish

A governance by Sharia

 

The resulting civil war

Scarred the Syrian nation

Destabilized Middle East

And invaded global regions

 

Now as the US and its allies

Launched airstrikes at ISIS

Syria became inhospitable

Resulting in a migrant crisis

 

It is the year 2016 now. This is the story of a how, a Syrian refugee who lost his family while migrating to Europe, meets another refugee settled in Germany in a similar situation

It’s those some-times

When in the quintessential hush

You whisper

From a broken raspy throat

Crackling through the silence

As though parched and raked over

Burning coals, over

Scorching summer sands

And into those silences of the desert

Your agonizing cracked voice

That has been silenced

By fate perchance

For so long

It has so much to say

It longs to, but nay

The silence of the desert

Offers no solace, no oasis

Yet you whisper

It speaks of strength

That you’re so hardened

That only you know, it’s an illusion;

Where they see courage

I see the desperation

I see you’re broken

Because I’ve been there too

The ageless quietude

Of whispering

Of wetting the throat with emotions

Buried somewhere far but not forgotten

Of wetting chapped lips with blood

That you wished was not a figment

Of your imagination

You bleed within and wonder

Why it all never bleeds out

But like a rot on the inside

It gnaws at you, it clings on, it clots

And you scrape it out

With harsh rasping sounds

And guttural cries and howls

Your throat is hoarse

Because you have so much to say

But no one to tell

So you tell the silent air

The forbidden secrets you hope

It will share

You hope that one day

You’ll get there

I won’t lie and say it’ll be fine

But it will get better with time

Your lies, your self-deception

Your ability to hide the pain

To hide yourself

From not just the world

But from yourself

 

We wish to say something to those refugees. To tell them that there is hope. That they have people out there who wish to help them.

But at the end of the day,

We are spectators; indifferent

Sympathizers; still indifferent

Commoners; who aren’t directly affected by ISIS or the migrant crisis

And this realization

That our lives are affected by petty complaints

Transports us into an existential crisis

 

Attempted Cuckolding of Commonality

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Painting emotions in hues of monochromatic blues
And carving expressions in granite
Little in matter, unremarkable in type
The common man walks forward
His gait stumbling toward his shadow
The crowds crow in forbidden delight
Magnifying the slight to overshadow
Those clung on their guise;
Uninvited, their gossip-ridden retinas
Molesting privacy and violating all arenas
Rove, probe and deride
Until there is an enforced stillness
Even in his overly expressive eyes
His mien becomes their definition of perfect
And nary a ripple can be fingered into it
There is a terseness in his shoulders
And a tightness in his lips
His tongue is held for times to come
Unless you count the rhymes it hums
In mutual agreement and cascading contempt
Unheeded and forgotten
The records of the past are unkempt
The present unencumbered of the future –
A future unmeasured and unread

– Akanksha Gupta

You know you’re in HKUST when …

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You know they like to strengthen the base

Without building the basis

That even schools forget // To-Do

Which you only regret later in the year

 

So as time races past without a second glance,

The concepts crawl at a snail’s pace

And settle intact within the brain

 

But the overload makes them fall

And makes you wonder “when”

The textbooks developed gravity

Strong enough to call to your head

Repeatedly

The “why”, after all, is a foregone clause

 

And so, the murky black waters,

Flowing from your head, nod,

And with them

So do those auburn, brown and blonde

That may or may not be naturally-occurring

 

You ponder over this predictable sensation

Which initiates a fashion

Of incongruous oscillations

Until you nod off

 

And the world slips before your eyes

Into the cacophony that presides

Over a Grades-Giving day

 

Which bursts into a confetti of alphabet

Splattered with youthful abandon

Flicking at the heart piece lodged in your throat

 

But you swallow it back

And open your eyes, not to the sunrise,

But to a platter of incomprehensible formulae

And since this not a surprise,

 

You promptly roll your head off

The textbooks on the desk,

And shake off the remnants

Of a lousy nightmare

 

Throwing the desk-ware

Into the bag

You swing it around your shoulders

And walk to the next class

For time races past without a second glance

– Akanksha Gupta

Waking Up, Charmed, I’m Sure

The ephemeral scene’s visceral appeal
Left me palpitating in its wilting attire
It jilted me by its apparent refusal
To reappear when my heart desired

The shards of this incomplete dream
Broke through the canopy of the night
Whose jittery birds tittered sleeplessly
As I willed it whole with all my might

I wished to wilt again into the shadows
Away from the prodding glare of the half sun
But while burrowing back into the thickets
I was outed by a misbegotten wren

Possessed, the wren screeched and shrieked
As though the victim of a failing exorcism
Heavy or light, the moment of dawn
Broke, as did I, down into multiple aneurysms

~ Akanksha Gupta (poem) ~

Ordinary

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Life is a story

If mine, I’m the main character

I’m the best actor you can find

In a pool of daydreaming narcissists

The rest are sheep; everyone that is

The occasional leader that pops up is not excluded

Though being a political animal,

He hadn’t even been included

But then I’m an idealist

Who picks apart the black and the white

I am also a cynic

Who caresses the gray left behind

But really, I’m a pacifist

Too concerned about my lazy behind

To actually pick up the chalk

 

But on the occasion that I do

I fill the canvas of my mind

With a cartload of chalk dust

And find beauty in the abstraction

The reality, however, causes an infraction

A world that never existed, shatters soundlessly

I feel free for a while

Without any labels, self-perceptions

Or impressions of any kind

Tis an alluring experientialism

In which I find freshness and novelty

And drown deep into it

Until the need to breathe supersedes

So I shoot up to the surface

And gulp lungsful of perceptions greedily

Some unaltered, some modified

And to study them

I dive

Back into the pool of daydreaming narcissists

 

This oscillation between radical worlds

Makes me teeter at the edge of normalcy

A piece of sanity dislodges itself

And pours uninterred into poetry

So do I call myself a poet now?

I suppose

It has taken years of writing

To gain confidence enough

To label myself

They say labels are empowering

Powerful and powerfully flattering

I say they are downright frightening

The standards they define

Mutate the potential

Garble the mind

Gradually I find myself

Changing my perception of me

A change should be welcome

But I find myself swimming

In a pool of doubts

Barely staying afloat

There are days I’m flailing

And those when I’m sailing

But I know I’m failing to hold onto an identity

 

At this interlude

You do recall

This is but a story of my life

And I, the lead actor

And thus, it is no wonder

That the plot does often twist

Into self-gratifying theatrics

Where victimizing myself

With labels

Gives the story

As though a drug-induced high

Whose hangover leaves me

Feeling like an unsung hero

But when you peel the layers off of me

My core is like everyone else; ordinary

 

By Akanksha Gupta

The Clothes We Wear

Capture

We enter

Wearing nothing

But flesh, blood and bones

We are then adorned

With a myriad garments

That they tell us are clothes

Later we learn the fabric

Was made with a swarm of threads

Of them, some were so fine

That even subtlety would’ve reddened

Gradually we observe and learn

The clothes everyone wears

Most follow the fashion

Some never catch up with it

But there are some who sweeten

The fabric and reinvent its ilk

We call them the leaders

And strive to be copy-artists

We too attempt to stitch

For, by and to ourselves

Only to realize it’s easier

To choose ready-mades from the shelves

We are happy to follow for a while

Good sheep who may never stitch

But every now and then to get by

We give the lone threads a twist

Where we had learned to wear

Smiles, frowns and courage

We have now also learnt the art

Of weaving and wearing politics

Oh this as an important life lesson

In case a thread comes loose

Or there’s a wardrobe malfunction

Because smiles, frowns and courage

Can sail you through

But only politics alleviates dysfunction

And with every political mutation

That makes the fabric twitch

The clock hands turn and tick

To wipe off an irascible itch

The fabric thus grows fainter

And starts losing its sheen

The threads come loose

It’s time to come clean

For some, that time never comes

Until they must exit

And their dirty laundry

If dirty enough

Is washed in full view of the public

But some stitch their garments

So cleverly embroiled with each other

That even after their exit

Their clothes either are buried with them

Or bury an unfortunate other

– Akanksha Gupta

TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE

Politics is messed up and in return, I am lousy at it. It is a very healthy relationship I assure you; of being uninterested, apathetic, uncaring, and indifferent and all the synonyms you can find in the thesaurus for the word “voter”. Do note that the word ‘voter’, here, not only refers to those who vote but also those who can but prefer not to.

And I appreciate the voters who don’t vote. After all, they must have more pressing concerns such as working to put food on the table. They have no reason to care about which candidate gets elected or what schemes he proposes. Those schemes are never going to bear them fruits. But yes, if they must, they would rather vote for the candidate that delivers promises before the elections even begin. After all, he ‘shows’ promise despite his track record. Now, while most cultures may call this ‘bribery’ and condemn it for being a despicable act, the truth remains that nobody would admit but everybody is guilty of it. And that makes the whole world which includes those who vote and those who don’t equally and unequivocally a despicable lot. Since everybody is born this way, no-one is alone in being lazy and dishonest. Thus, without shame I can confess to you, one voter to another, I’m one who’d rather not vote.

THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH BEHIND AN ELECTION MANIFESTO

I will get up

And wash about

Me, my house

 

I will drink

To the health

Of me, my house

 

I will eat

To fill the tums

Of me, my house

 

I will work

Hard to earn

For me, my house

 

Day after tomorrow

I will do all I can

For me, my house

 

Tomorrow I will plan

The how-to-do

For me, my house

 

And I will want today

Your support

For me, my house

 

For what is mine

Is yours too

Even me, my house

 

And together

We sink or swim

That is our house

 

Coz ‘everyday’ comes

But the day after ‘tomorrow’

In this blessed house

However, I vote. Despite the fact that the higher echelons of the society are infested with petty politics of a silver tongued governance riddled with corruption, I vote. After all, the media has spiced it up into a soap opera, irresistible even to the likes of me. And I absolutely despise it; a love-hate relationship. Moreover, I want to feel like Santa Claus. I want to know which candidate has been good and deserves a gift. It gives me a perverse guilty pleasure to note that no politician deserves it. Still I vote; partly because I am inclined to put up the pretense of a nice active voter who cares and partly because if I am to give up my nation to vultures I’d rather choose the least greedy one. So yes, while I am lousy at politics and would rather not dirty my hands with it, I refuse to sit on the sidelines and accelerate the rot. Who knows? Once in a blue moon, the tide may change and long-sought changes may be wrought.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Look at those giant feathery folks

That poke their beaks into businesses

That bother them not

And rather than lay an apology

Thickly and swift

Their tongues erupt into

Hackneyed discourses and juvenile diatribes

That fail to eclipse their wilted wit

So much so that these long weathered ears

Grow wary of potential permanent abuse

Especially as their voices grow louder

And their stilted stature elevates

Mayhap it’s their nearness

But as their beaks elongate

I wonder how many of us

Are blind by choice

And how many oblivious

But it is quite certain that the giants seem

(Beyond their bulbous beaks)

Unable to see

Or care about

Our apathetic visage

And a pathetic state of affairs

~ Akanksha Gupta

(PS: This article was published in HKUST Wings 23.1)

PERFECTION: Attempt 2

Perfection is abstract

Abstract concepts are subjective

To every individual

They seem to be distinctive

Yet no pair of eyes

Can claim objective observation

And thus if they see it

It’s their perception of perfection

But since nobody is perfect

And since there is no universal definition

Nobody has the ability to be perfect

By the inherent virtue of perfection

Though on their own they can

Strive for their self-defined ideal

But once they reach and cease

There would be no progressive fuel

This lack of impetus

Would stop further innovation

And a stagnant world would spiral

Into its own rot and degradation

And thus we return to the web

Of subjectivity and motivation

And to the existential crisis

The Shakespearean question;

The possibility to be

Or not to be

That weaves a delicious irony

Of perfection and imperfection

Do you know why we have so many matrimonial services? Because it is difficult to find the perfect life partner. Everyone has a different nature and nurture, and therefore, a very different view of what a ideal being is. Furthermore, their perceptions keep evolving with time.

For instance, in the 17th Century, the society defined a perfect, accomplished woman as one well-versed in a variety of homely arts and social etiquette (Sense the sensibilities of Pride and Prejudice here?). Had the society remained constant in its views of a perfect women, we would still be afflicted with gender roles today. The world would have made no progress.

Take another example. If we had believed that the first phones invented were absolutely flawless, we would have never made smart phones. We would have not invented beyond a certain creative threshold.

That is why it is said that “Forget perfection. There is a crack in everything. That is what lets the light get in.” In other words, we can always find potential for improvisation in every sphere.

However, let us assume for a moment that it is indeed possible to achieve perfection. To begin with, is there any universally agreed upon definition of what that may entail? Your version of perfection may very well be flawed to me. Perfection, therefore, lies in the eyes of the beholder.

The only perfect persona we can achieve is the one that we conceive. For that, we keep on improving and changing for the better. In other words, we strive to be more perfect than before. And herein lies the irony of trying to be perfect but not having the ability to become so.

In short, while nobody is perfect, everyone has the ability to overcome any imperfections in the constant endeavor for self-development where sky is the limit.

– Akanksha Gupta

THE DISEMBODIED WARNINGS

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Whenever

Twice

An annoyingly familiar voice

Gratingly booms

Across the loudspeaker

Without a hint of tired repetition

(Such are the ills of mechanization)

And drones on unneeded explanations

With the gentle elegance of a woman

Drenched in the self-importance

That comes exclusively

With a sense of anonymity

And with the state of being

Soaked in a nervous air

That is nauseatingly muffled

By the conspicuous absence

Of a visible audience

– Akanksha Gupta (poem only)

All’s Well That Ends Well

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My mother is a raging optimist

At times it seems rather unrealistic to me

You see I am an enraged realist

A word that eludes her dictionary

Why else would she ask

Why my poetry

Reeks of emotions and realities

Swept into the recesses

Of minds

Frightened by their existence

And their intensity

Well, I say nothing; nothing at all

If I say poetry comes from the heart

She’d be heartbroken

She’d believe mine to be

An eternally aggrieved constitution

If I say poetry speaks only the truth

She’d be perplexed and horrified

She’d believe my lenses to be

Filtered of all joys in life

If I say my poetry portrays stark emotions

She’d likely misconstrue the remark

She’d stare deep into my eyes to find

The glowing wit and the undead spark

So I say nothing; for there is nothing to

One day perhaps she’d see what I do;

A world shrouded in the dark

With streaks of light pouring in

The hunger, the rags, the loan sharks

With generous dollars sneaking in

The tragedies and their tender scars

With hope and healing seeping in

One day she’d see

That my poetry

Isn’t as cynical or resigned;

It is truthful, it is impassioned

It is serene, it is sublime

It talks of the past, the present, the future

It travels through all the good and bad times

It tells you without mercy, by and by exactly

How cruel sometimes the world can be

But it tells you there is hope yet

It tells you not to despair

That there will be pain yes,

But good cheer will reign again

For there will be death of the bygones

If a new lease of life must be spelled

So yeah, it tells you Shakespeare was right

To say that all’s well that ends well

 – Akanksha Gupta (poem only)