Friday, September 16, 2016

Nobody said it

but we all knew
that if you cannot cry at will,
you're not a good actor.

This was the reason why, in those years,
I found myself landing 'bubbly roles'

as if only make-believe tears
throttle us into our depths.

That was the first time
since I began theatre in college,
that I realized the stage
is always upto something.

A few years later, in Delhi,
after we'd spent hours in his house,
and the evening had grown on us,
I remember my boyfriend told me -

'I challenge you
to hold back tears on this one,'
and played a concert of Lauryn Hill
on his laptop.

It trumped me,
but I was sincere in my efforts,
and Hill really helped by tearing up herself
as she sang in the video,

but it wasn't working;

I thought of the hardest days
I could, and the saddest moments I'd had,
and managed, I think, by the end of it,
half a tear.

I don't know whether
he figured out it was fake.

(In the past, he had cried many times
seeing Hill sing that song.)

We broke up
a few months later. No, not because of this,
but I should have read the writing on the wall.

To cry on the same things
is to live the same sorrows,

and if your sorrows do not match
no late evening play-acting will do.

Earlier this year, one night,
as I scrolled down my Facebook feed,
Aylan Kurdi washed up ashore
on the Turkish coast of Bodrum,

red shirt, blue shorts,
as if asleep on the sand,

the three-year old from Syria
told me, that a whole world lies between Turkey and Greece,
a world of our making,
that if the men had wanted,
the Aegean could have been a little stream,

but the men have made
this Aegean bigger than the Pacific.

A journalist asked his father, through an interpreter,
"What do you hope to do now?"

His reply, though between tears, was certain
"Now all I want to do is sit next
to the grave of my wife and children."

Tears interpret
the certainties of our loss,

tears interpret
the long night of the sea.

How can anyone
bring them at will?

How can anyone
stage them,

they also dry up.

Days later, as Omran,
another boy from Syria,
sat in an ambulance seat too big for him,
stunned by his own blood,
his hand feeling for certainty in the crowning dust, and

the whole world watching
Aleppo fall around him,

I realized
my tears had already
hardened like rubble in my eyes,

and really, for this to happen,
and for the world to still 'debate' a 'migration crisis'
as Aylan sits next to his father, whose world now
will always be sea,
must be make-believe,
must be staged, must be unwilled,

for what else will it take,
what else can tear our sky
more than this, what else
can make us certain.

(co-written with Mallika Taneja)

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