Survival of the Fittest

Survival of the Fittest by Gauri Deoli

{Content warning: anxiety, self-harm}

i) You’re practising to show how you feel with the chrome blue sky as the mirror
but every time they try comforting you
you smile like the woman from the vintage movie recordings and don’t respond with emotions
you hold their long tender fingers and run your hand along all their rings
and ask them how they feel
until they lay down their heavy head on your lap
that’s why you’re beautiful but toxic.

ii) You want to tell them you’re not
the first child to stay silent on bad days at school
every time they shovel it down your throat that this generation is like cracks in the ceiling after a heavy monsoon passed away
or the holes along windows from
where ants crawl upon you
even brick kilns that smell of burnt dreams
but you speak nothing for a group of crores
who thought you had coffins full of courage
aren’t you like broken promises and fallen twigs too?

iii) You want to make them understand the patterns you see in your behavior which aren’t easy like a cook-show booklet, to comprehend, and they dare to tell you it’s okay because they don’t understand hurt.
Nor do they understand which pants to wear on a Wednesday morning.
All they know is to use sadness and remorse as a prop to convert rants into sad pieces of poetry
justifying everything with stories of heartbroken men and women or sins sages commit, who are now under lifelong custody but all you do is help them climb the pedestal and clap for them.

iv) On most days, you’ve gulped down your bitter tasting saliva every time they’ve been selective and careful about using their words with you,
you’ve seen them go through denials but eventually acceptance because they call it love in their language.
But your scripts of languages are failing to calm the hardcore monster inside the veins and you rush back to being a crazy, intolerant woman who feels no grief seeing them bury the efforts.
because You realize the burial is for the next time they see potential in you, maybe a week later, they can regenerate the organic advice to teach you into a trained artist who controls their rage and instead becomes polite, doesn’t gasp for air while drowning, doesn’t ask for help at all.

v) They call you up at 2 am and ask if you’re hungry and you don’t respond. Instead, you wonder that the last time you checked, love was a two-way street.
Next morning, you see they’re confused and have wrinkles around their eyes for the columns you prepared at 6 no longer match your preferences now. Well, today you’re 20, and guess you’ll never like vanilla ice cream anymore.

vi) This evening too, they walk up the staircase and pause and begin to think if this is the right time to talk to you about your favorite colors, skies, and life lessons. This now starts to feel like bugs crawling upon you and whispering into your ears which ask you questions about your favorite color.

vii) It isn’t lavender anymore.
It’s beige and black and grey, a mix of it till everything is dark. And you call it home.
If you’d tell them this, they would ask you to leave your home and run away with them. But we don’t leave our homes. We stick onto the obsessions of a household and let it carve ambiguous designs on us.

viii) Instead, we invite all those who flutter with belief in us, those who are naive with doubts in their hearts, even the ones who easily rest false hopes on our broad shoulders, who are brave enough to love us, and some who are worried for our beings, to stay with us. Their homes are dark too and they’ve failed as we have. Together, we’re warriors. Tired and alive and toxic more than ever. We’re asked to breed in mud and feed ourselves the efforts of each other. We bite into their skins to survive.

Tables and Tales of Human Libraries by Gauri Deoli

How often have you heard of human libraries compared to national archives of ancient history where manuscripts and written records coated in clay and birch bark, if lost, are considered to be a loss? Have you ever heard men say that about other men? How many of us long for protests where scholars fight for modern annexes with ceilings of triangular crystals and dark brown walls, inside which the two of us can sit down and turn pages through each other, mark the ones we would go back to with our favorite tints. I wonder what would men look like after stepping out of human libraries with ink stains, some on the neckline, some on the spinal cords, and the rest of those on the palms. Some of them would’ve danced on the farm-fields or along the coastlines. The others with bookmarks would’ve waited with worry for their lovers to finish and finally love them so they can carry them home.

My eyes are sour from staring at that one table with a war veteran holding hands of the old lady who loves to knit sweaters for her sons. He speaks with agony in his eyes and modulations in his voice which cracked at a lot of places, about children of battles who run with balloons in their hands, down the streets where corpses lie, about lovers across borders who are creating new petitions every day so they can witness love win. He broke it to the old lady that her son, too, died in one such war and later the old lady gifted him the sweater she had just finished knitting.

They’re a family now, built out of a grieving storybook.

On the bench next to them is a group that calls themselves a proud product of bigotry and every time they place their hands on fresh beliefs, I laugh a little until I see four women, who claim to have defeated biases all their lives, walk up to them and in that moment it’s almost like a rap battle till it dies into a tranquil end and everybody walks away into normal business.

I’d safely call this a piece of fiction but a wave, once begun, will be difficult to settle.

I see a 27-year-old skype their parents who are on a holiday road trip and teach them to prepare a yearbook with neon green as the cover and an artifact on it where he doesn’t have his face. They haven’t met in 8 years because anger separated them then, and now it’s excuses. So they share a moment of silence till everybody finds a distraction at the same time and he cuts the call. I see satisfaction in him as he rests his palm on the thighs because at least his family has a yearbook ready and he’s hopeful he’ll find one picture of him somewhere in between during the next call.

This might fit in in a section of unfinished copies. Tell me this will end in warm wraps of hugs and wet kisses like parents often do with their kids. Tell me they’ll reconcile. Tell me separation isn’t real.

Meanwhile, my story is about ghosts I spot on starry nights and practises I do during the sunny day, to learn to call my own name in a kinder way.

You can find me near table no. 719 in the human library of the parallel universe. I’d wave at you when I see you enter. Please wave back at me so I know it’s you.

<img class="wp-block-coblocks-author__avatar-img" src="; alt="<strong>Gauri Deoli
Gauri Deoli

I’m Gauri, a writer hailing from the valley of Dehradun. Besides being a typical millennial child, the youth in me is fond of unconventional aesthetics, a good strong cuppa, and sun-kissed photographs. You’ll always find me struggling to match my denim jackets with Kurtis and my metaphors with each other, and that is how my journey as a poet has been so far. 

My shy self, who often faces awkward silences after someone compliments her, has finally found a way to convey how much she appreciates art through her words and paintbrushes. I enjoy proving how love is overrated and in the next second, you’ll find me observing the changing colors of the sky. That’s pretty much everything I write about. That’s pretty much everything my personality is all about. 

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