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From The Afterglow

Verses, Tales, Thoughts

by Varsha Panikar

A zine by Varsha Panikar from their ongoing mixed-media series, Origami Folds, that employs dreams, memories, archive and photography to explore the human body, and uses it as a medium and metaphor for hopeless fragility and hardened impenetrability, from which emerges the themes of identity, dysphoria, commodification of the body, and denial and loss of autonomy as conditions of globalized society and cultures, through the lens of south-Asian, queer and marginalized bodies.

Trigger Warning : This piece deals with depression, anxiety, and body dysphoria.

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I dread this probe more than the dreadful visits to a government office. No response can validate my existence. Nothing comes forth, but the trite reality of the last few years. When I was younger, I had an excuse for procrastination. After all, I was working towards something, towards some bright future behind hopeful eyes. I could answer with ease back then.

Now my mind searches for internal consolation at my supposed lack of success. “I’m still kinda young” is one such rationalization. But this excuse will serve its time as well, and then what? I’m sure I’ll come up with something. The expectations of others weigh too heavily on some of us who still do odd jobs for money. I know it isn’t just me, and I know this sounds a bit whiny. They just expected so much of me.

So much money spent and so many years of education later, I can not even remember most of the information I memorized and regurgitated. So many years of working, and somehow, I still find myself sitting on a heap of bleeding pens, crumpled manuscripts and a scattering of unpaid bills. If my life were a game, I would have to take five spaces back. I justify my whining. I can justify anything these days, like a defense mechanism against my discontent with all I haven’t done. However, there’s always a ‘yet’ to insert. A future where I have things figured out and people think of me without concern because behold, I am successful!

So this is it! I'm driven by fantasies of a future that is as real as my next daydream. What if all the motivational articles were true? ‘Ten Steps to Make Your Dream A Reality!’ as promised. For a moment, my hope is renewed. What if I quit dreaming and started living? What if I defined success on my terms? What if I could just shrug off those silent expectations and rest in confidence that I am doing my best? Am I doing my best?

"Oh, you know, I've been working, evolving and enjoying life and such." That is the best response I can come up with.

Their hope for me dims.

Excerpts from my series, City On Wheels.

[Excerpt from my series, Whispers To My Shadows]

We all say words that we do not mean every day. We say it because it is expected of us. We say it because we live in a world that can barely survive lengthy, winding talks without feeling judged. We say it because when minutes turn to seconds and the idyllic shades of dusk paint the skies black in swift brush strokes, the emptiness starts bursting against the corner of the room, leaving you with an impossible choice. To divulge or to hide?

How many 'I am fine' rolled between your tongue despite the heaviness you feel in your chest? Despite the emptiness slowly spreading out to your throat, the pit of your stomach, the edge of your shoulder blades? How many 'It’s okay' spoken between gritted teeth when you really just felt like a tangled heap of messy hair and dirty muck caught in the drain?

An epiphany hit me the other day as I said 'Sorry' for what felt like an eternity of apologies. I apologise profusely. I apologise for the mistakes that are sometimes not even mine. For a long time I even apologised for my existence, for not being your version of me. I apologise for the tragedies and exhilaration. For eccentricities and imperfection, vulnerabilities and silences. Hell, even for my state of mind. I apologise for the what-ifs and the could-bes with regrets creeping into my system like a slow poison. I apologise even when there is no need for words.

Maybe, we need to stop saying things we no longer mean. Maybe the rare words that engulf the recesses of our hearts and minds are more precious than those that we say daily. So when we apologise and mean it, it is no longer just an apology. And when I say, "I am fine". I finally am.

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