**Many contributions to be found on Instagram under the hashtag #bookedoutsundays. The ones below are mine (first of each) and those that have a private profile on Instagram. You can click on their names to find them on Instagram.

Incendiary

By Lubna Khan:

“YOU’RE PLAYING WITH FIRE!” I stared at her, dumbstruck. And then recognising the sheer absurdity of the situation, I let out an ironic chuckle. I had no idea why I was in the headmistress’ office for the second time that week. I usually didn’t know why I’d be in trouble so often; a once favourite of all teachers, I was now the most detested. The chuckle sealed my fate; the headmistress turned red and sent a barrage of vicious words my way, each insult slicing sharply into the sense of self I had barely scrambled together as a teenager. Lower lip quivering at acrimonious prophesising of my inevitable failure as an adult, I pinched myself twice to transfer all feeling to that of physical pain, a logical pain that can be comprehended and contended with. I walked out with a heavy feeling of gloom and a threat of complete alienation and eventual rustication, characteristic of each such rendezvous with an authoritative adult.

See, Indian schools are a tangible representation of the abhorrent power structure founded on the principles of patriarchy, of the suppression of non-conformity that our culture and country embody in all its crosscurrents, nuances and many gestures. I was not a bad kid, neither disrespectful nor a deliberate rebel. What I was, was a self-assured girl, stronger in her convictions than most with some flaws that is in making an adolescent. Barely even textbook. Boring. Yet, my confidence and refusal to play meek irked the same adults who once toted this same quality as my best trait, for being fearless in trying new things, succeeding and gracing failure when I did fail. Being a girl and a muslim girl no less espousing such characteristics irked them more so; I just didn’t fit in their limited periphery of how such a girl should be. From picking on me for the length of my skirt or socks and the colour of my hairtie to making up absurd and completely false accusations of attempting a mutiny of sorts against another group of students, each transgression was treated with severity reserved otherwise for the worst behaviour lapses.

My naïve overlooking of the power implications of the transactions between myself and the teacher – where any word uttered in self-explanation and logical reasoning was an automatic slander of their venerated position – revealed and unravelled the mechanism of their own oppression. My independence was viewed as an incendiary device, something to be suffocated and if not successful, to be neutralised by persistent denigration – an effective weapon in the artillery of a monolithic institution producing intellectually- and character- impoverished Indian youth year on end. Socio-cultural norms enforcing patterns of Indian conservatism within the prevailing Indian education system and practice seems to encompass autocracy masked as democracy and hence oppression and dominance continue at every levels of education. Dialogical relationships is condemned, critical thinking and awareness of self, discouraged leading to inexistence of student-centred classrooms by way of authoritarian teacher-pupil models.

Maybe sharing this story is a method of interpretive closure I seek working through long-lasting effects of accusations of treachery and weakness for refusing a state of conformist torpor. Maybe I also seek to address the patriarchal abuse inherent to the Indian culture (and Indian education system) but also to locate the abuse in responses to this culture that may itself be void of patriarchal intention. I have made peace with my “rebellion” being deemed as an incendiary device for the self-assured peers I witnessed during and after my time who continued to contend with growth that outstretched the limit of the school.


By Rasna Razak:

Streaks of silvery moonlight creeps onto her weary silhouette,
Raking in through the pallid curtains, gently kindling her awake,
as the cavernous night lay ahead in quiescence,
Engulfing the rustles of leaves and her silent weeps.

Thoughts transcending in loops,
Relaying times that led to this moment.
She lay flaccid, her loose curls dispersed,
Trying to seek momentum in her plunge to darkness.

Patience was a virtue, oft she could hold.
Though of late, this, his incendiary words stole.
Plunging into the ice cold, she held her breath,
Contemplating her options, weighing life’s mess.

Brooding over the rapturous sentiments,
Drenched in starry twilight,
She closes her eyes to yet another draining stupor,
Securing the wounds to approximation, yet another night.

For, in love, there are no answers to falling deep,
Into darkness, into darkness, oh, so deep!
For, in love, there are no questions to be asked,
For in love, in love, all wounds are justified.


By ND Seno:

A Cat has been crying for the last 10 minutes outside my window and I don’t know why but a sense of desolation is all over me at the moment. I don’t even know if it’s Mr. Cat or the neighbor’s wailing infant; so this sense of desolation might have something to do with the fact that I am PMSing. Yes people, that’s a real thing.

This is like a pattern. At least 3 days a month I feel mad at everything I see. Or 3 days I am always moping and for 3 other days I am so hungry I could eat a horse. At the moment I am somewhere in the middle of desolation and hunger. It is not a very good place to be. Last night I looked at all the pictures I have taken of food and my friend U and I talked about what the proper size of a dumpling should be. The answer is Big, a dumpling should be big, always.

I also sang songs for hours yesterday. U told me I seemed very happy. Hormones. It’s the far away days that I remembered. The old songs, the close friends, my childhood. And I remembered the proper sized dumplings at the shop near the railway station. Since last night, I can’t stop thinking about the biggest dumpling I ever had. It was called ‘tyfu’ or something like that. It was in Darjeeling, my roommate and I had taken a weekend trip. Oh the dumplings. Oh the spicy sauce they served with it. Oh the soup…the soup.

I went to the café twice because of how much I liked the food there. And because I saw somebody eat thukpa at the next table and I just HAD to go back and eat them. I know the word for this prompt is ‘incendiary’ and it has everything to do with an issue as serious as fire, but at the moment all I can think of is a fire within: the fire of a person craving a hot plate of dumpling momos.


By Anood Ahmed:

I met a syrian woman at my sons immunisation routine when I came across a young woman almost my age with four kids aged 8 6 3 and 1. I didn’t know if they were her siblings or her own children. I asked her how old are you, she said I’m 24. Then again I went around asking her whose kids are these, she said they are mine and I couldn’t understand if I got her language wrong or misunderstood her age. I further went around asking her again she typed it on her cellphone to show me in written format. Then the inquisitive nature in me asked her for long was she was married she said 8-9 years i don’t remember. And then i went around asking her how old was she when she got married she mentioned hmmmm 15 or 14 i dont remember …. Then i again asked her how many children do you have she said i have 4 children and i had one son who died at birth i said how she said while i was visiting syria i was 7 months pregnant then the city was blasted by incendiaries and at the sound of the bomb it was so massive my body went into a shock and i delivered my baby who had died because of the shock …. The new mum in me could not digest the fact she delivered her baby in seconds while i was struggling for 18 hours i just couldnt imagine the intensity of sound the panic the havoc caused because ive never lived in her shoes ive been fortunate enough to live in safe countries that i just couldnt feel her pain because it was just so alien to me but after she said her part of the story my eyes were filled with tears and all my inquisitivity died there …we are priviledged to be living in houses in countries and citys safe our families safe to have food on our table and to that we never have to go to bed hungry …