Kill the Patriarchy

I am a proud feminist. To anyone who tells me that I’m not a feminist, or that being a feminist makes me unattractive, or that feminists are man-hating sexists themselves, or that me being a feminist is a phase—leave me alone and go suck it. I think every woman should embrace feminism and understand the meaning and importance of it. Women need to be at the same social, political, and economic level as men. Men should encourage women to vouch for themselves, not dissuade them from standing up to their rights by telling them that feminism makes them butch. Be feminist, boys and girls; be proud.

The reason I start with this is because grave things are happening in my country and it’s not okay. India is at a precipice. We want to embrace feminism and we want it to change our lives for the better, but we are so afraid of it. Why? Why is it so scary that a woman can want to do things for herself? Why can’t a woman be as selfish as a man? Why must she follow her husband’s beck and call; or her father’s, or her son’s? Is a woman not her own person? Why—when we talk about the brutality of rape and the blatant disrespect for a woman’s body and her decisions—do we ask men to think about their own daughters and sisters who could be facing the same horrors they are imposing on others’ mothers, daughters, and sisters? Why are women only viewed as “mothers,” “daughters,” or “sisters”? When we ask men to stop rape, the reason shouldn’t be, “Because she is someone’s mother/daughter/sister.” When we ask men to stop rape, the reason should be, “Because she is a citizen with the same rights as you, and the same worth as you!” Hindu Goddesses are treated with utmost respect and veneration. They are equal to all the Gods. But at a more human, mortal, real level—where women are the goddesses, and men the gods, born equal in honor—why do men feel the need to assert their dominance? What threatens them? What kind of audacity makes them believe that we women need to be taught a lesson from them men—men who hurt and hurt and hurt, stopping only when it’s too late? Do not stop asking these questions; not now when we are striving for a better, safer future for women, not later when we are progressing but not there yet, and not later yet when we are given everything we’re fighting for now—because once we stop asking questions and stop pushing, things fall apart and revert.

Some misogynistic men might ask me to stop complaining, saying that I’m overreacting to the situation. Men and women might tell me that I have no right to talk because I am not a victim. But I am. Every woman is a victim even if she doesn’t know it. Once you see the gender norms entrenched in our society, there’s no going back. Show them to everyone! Show the world that rapists in India think that women who go out with boys need to be taught a lesson. Shout to the world that devout Hindus in India want to force marriage upon couples that confess their love for each other on Valentine’s Day. Women can’t wear what they want, women can’t talk to the people they want, women can’t be successful—can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t! What a load of unbelievers. We can do everything and more.

When I was in 9th standard, like every other student was, my parents enrolled me into tuitions. I went to tuitions for Physics, Chemistry, Maths, English. My 9th standard Physics tuition teacher was this traditional Gujarati fellow who made me angry for the first time as a girl. And for that, I thank him. We were discussing the marks we got in a Physics exam from school, and I didn’t do that well compared to my classmates (who in the tuitions, by the way, were all girls). He looked at my paper, then looked me in the eye, and said to me, “It’s okay if you don’t do well. Your mother is dentist, and your father is an engineer. They’re rich, they’ll get you married to some rich doctor.” An educator, told a girl of 14 years of age, to stop bothering with studying, because she won’t need it to take care of herself—a man would do it for her. The anger that surges up in me when I remember this moment is … insane. The embarrassment I had felt, and the shame of being so humiliated in front of my peers—what level of haughtiness does a man have to have in order to be able to say this to a teenager? Thankfully, I have always had a lot of confidence and respect for myself, bordering on narcissism and egotism; I didn’t let this bring me down too much, and I focused on hating that “teacher” forever. However, this isn’t the only account of educators belittling me because I am a girl. I recently met my 10th standard Chemistry tuition teacher when he came to my house to teach my brother. I had to engage with him in a conversation because I was the only one at home and my brother was late. I was talking to him about college, and how much I hate organic chemistry, and my career aspirations. I told him that I wanted to study oceanography. His reaction to that was, “How will you get married?” Yes, thank you, sir, for telling me that the profession I want my life to revolve around isn’t suitable to your archaic ideals that involve women as wives and mothers first, and professionals later.

In an effort to show the world just how extreme gender inequality in India is, and to show solidarity with victims of rape and sexual assault, Leslee Udwin made a film about the 2012 Delhi gang rape case, also called the Nirbhaya case, where a student was gang-raped for being out at night with her boy friend. The documentary, titled ‘India’s Daughter’, gives away the real name of “Nirbhaya”, includes interviews with the rapists who are now on death row, and shows videos from the protests that followed the Nirbhaya case. The film does a very good job of portraying things like the motives of the rapists, public anger over the lack of punishment for rape and sexual abuse, and the government’s way of dealing with peaceful protests among other things. The documentary includes interviews with the victim’s parents, and a close friend.

The documentary perfectly shows how much the victim is blamed for being raped in India. How much hatred do you have to have in your heart to say that a girl who went out to watch a movie with her friend in the evening deserves to get raped because she had it coming? It is so painful, so hurtful, so angering to listen to the rapists, and their lawyers talk about women as if they have no value as human beings. But none of this is anything that hasn’t been said before. We have known this; the documentary has given us more substantial proof, and made us realize that these thoughts aren’t just limited to people below the poverty line. Educated lawyers are of the same opinion—they have a lot of power and that’s scary—their mindset unfortunately has the potential to impose the wrong kind of change.

So the public is angry about how the thoughts of the rapists will manifest and increase after the documentary has been aired. There is so much negativity in the film—so much violence and horror. But there is also so much positivity. The victim’s family is so beautiful. Coming from a poor background similar to those of the rapists, Jyoti Singh was adamant in her belief that women could do anything. She had aspirations and she followed them. Her family, however traditional, had incredibly modern views on who their daughter was going to be. They never stopped her. When people try to blame the rapists’ behavior on their upbringing, they have to remember that there are people who come from the same places who don’t resort to unethical means when they don’t understand something. When the men see that there is something wrong with their ideology, and that it is being defied, they slip into a violent method of protecting their ideology. They blame the women for something they can’t understand—they don’t understand that women are equal to men, they don’t want to understand it and so, they resort to rape and domestic violence to try and keep things they way they know them to be.

We might pride ourselves on being a tolerant nation with our multitude of religions and cultures living side by side in relative harmony, but it is shameful that fifty percent of our population has to still live in constant fear of what the next day might bring for them. We cannot call ourselves tolerant until women are granted the same opportunities as men, are given the same hopes and dreams as men, are offered the same pay as men, are respected the same as men, and feared the same as men. We are women. We can do anything, and we will rise above this bias and represent an equal, tolerant, secular, wealthy, prosperous India.

This is a link to the documentary.


A Letter to the Ocean

“The sea, the sea, the sea…

It rolled, and rolled, and called to me…

Come in, it said, come in…”

–Sharon Creech


Dear Sea,

Well, I finally came in. You’re magical, beautiful, magnificent, deep, ferocious, angry, calm, rowdy, untamable, incomparable, and I love you. I love every part of you. Your crests where you raise me high, giving me a brilliant view of you; your troughs where you hide me, almost swallow me into your folds. On you, you show me your façade, be it serene or deadly; but in you, you show me that no matter what your mood, you will always be welcoming, quiet, teeming with life too shy to properly say hi.

I love how you’re almost transparent when the sunlight filters through you, and how just a couple of seconds after dark, you become intimidating and I feel great shudders at the prospect of even reaching my hand out to you for fear that you might pull me in and never let me back out. But yet, I want to see all of you. You make me feel all these contradictions, but I’m a bad photographer and the contrast is never the perfect sharpness; always blurred. I’m scared of you and where you will take me and sometimes I want none of you. I can’t meet you halfway. I still want to love you with all I can give you. I’m all in or all out.

I love how you’re so accepting. We hurt you and harm you. We’re slowly killing you, and you still let us in. There comes that contrast again. I hate your acceptance. Throw us out, never let us in again! Why do you tolerate out atrocities? I think you know that without you, we’d be nothing. I know I definitely would be nothing. I can’t ask you to be less forgiving. You’re stubborn. I see you on TV sometimes when you’re thrashing with anger—your waves crashing and killing—you crush me. If only I could calm you down, make you understand that we’re crazy, uneducated, young and, stupid. We will learn. I’ll help teach them. I’ll help them nurture you. I promise.

Thank you for everything you have brought me. Thank you for the emotion, the sounds, and the sights. Thank you for the enlightenment and this fierce sense of nostalgia that I know will never leave me. Thank you for the things you have taught me. Above all, thank you for the peace. For now, I will say goodbye, but I will come back. I’ll be back to see you, love you, breathe you, and just listen to you. I’ll always come back.

Forever yours,


Embarrassing Things that have Happened to Me

My life is a big pile of embarrassing things happening one after the other. After 18 years though, I learned to stop being embarassed and now I manage to make everything look like one big joke which is great because people think I’m so amusing and I love that. That being said, there are some things that are just so embarrassing that I want to bury my head in a pile of blankets and pillows.

#1 Someone sat on me. NO I AM NOT KIDDING. It was straight out of The Princess Diaries, you know, when Mia says, “Someone sat on me again.”

There I was, minding my own business, talking to my friend, exactly I wasn’t even alone! And then this guy (he was cute too, I think, I don’t remember too well, I’ve been programmed to hate him since that day even though I will never meet him again) backs up and sits on me (gasp!) and then goes, “Oh my god, I am sooooo sorry!” And apologizes a bazillion times while all his friends and my friend are laughing while I aggressively cry on the inside. I hate you, yes, I can keep a grudge.

#2 Okay this one is up at the top of my Most Embarrassing Things That Have Ever Happened To Mallika Shah list. I’m still cringing. I can’t do this. Oh my god, oh my god. Why was I so stupid! So this happened on a very nice Sunday I think, everything was going well, I was sitting with my parents and sister in our living room and we were all laughing at something funny. I think this was when I was in the 11th grade which is what makes it even more embarrassing, I wasn’t like 12 or something, I was freaking 16 years old! So yes, we were have a good time, when my brother came back from some class or other and was a little shocked to see us all laughing so much (we laugh a lot, but sometimes it’s really shocking to see my dad participating in it too, he’s a funny guy, sure, but he doesn’t always laugh loudly with us, but with his friends he’s über cool, guess he doesn’t think we’re that funny, anyway). So I see my brother standing in the doorway and I sat like the ever so witty person I think I am, “Welcome to the brothel!” Kill. Me. Now. Immediately my dad was like, “What did you say?!” And obviously my sister burst out laughing and my mom was torn between wanting to laugh and wanting to cry, I think. IN MY DEFENSE, I thought a brothel was something related to gospel or some other innocent word that ends with -el. I found out that say that a brothel is a whore house. And when I started watching Game of Thrones I was reminded of my incredible stupidity every episode. Mallika, oh Mallika, what am I going to do with you. I can’t believe I’m about to share this with the internet, but oh well.

#3 A guy walked in on my while I was taking a shit. Okay maybe I overplayed this one a little bit, I was sitting in a stall so he didn’t see me, but it’s still embarrassing and awkward as hell. So I was in my friend’s dorm when suddenly a wild urge to poop appeared. It was like 12.30 am or something, but yeah, removing fecal matter from your body is a natural occurrence so I didn’t feel embarrassed that I had to do it in my friend’s dorm. So it’s a shared bathroom with all the girls on the floor, there are four bathroom stalls in it, so I picked the corner one and started with my business, yes? Then someone knocked on the door of the whole bathroom, not my stall. I was the only one in there, so I said, “Uhhh, yeah?” And then the door opened and a male voice followed, “I’m sorry, I have to check the bathrooms.” It was an RA. Now this isn’t uncommon, RAs have to do rounds and check bathrooms, cool. But if it’s a dude knocking on a girl’s bathroom and there’s a reply, they don’t normally walk in! But this guy walks in and he also starts making small talk. First of all, I don’t do small talk. It’s my only flaw (just kidding!) but yeah, I’m so bad at small talk! He said, “I’m going to check all the stalls, I mean except the one you’re in, haha, because I know you’re in there because I’m talking to you, hahahaha!” Laughing like he’s so funny. All the while, I was just thinking, “Can you please leave? Leave, leave, leave, go! Oh my god, can he hear me pooping? Can he smell it, does it smell bad? Please don’t fart, please don’t fart!” But all I said to him was, “Mhm haha…” And then for some reason, I opened my mouth and said, “This is awkward as fuck,” to which I got a reply, “Haha, I know.” And then he went. Thank god. Yup. Dorm life sucks.

#4 The time I carried a 10kg box with food from the mailroom to my dorm, which was 15 minutes away from the mailroom, and my arms turned into noodles afterwards. This wasn’t as embarrassing, but it’s funny. My mother mailed my a package with a ton of food and other stuff and it ended up weighing 10kgs. Dude. Don’t ever attempt to carry heavy stuff on your own. Your arms will become noodles. I picked up the box when I got it, and I was like “Ah, it’s not too heavy.” Wrong! It is that heavy, doofus! So I start walking, and my campus is incredibly hilly, it sucks, but I didn’t want people I knew to see my carrying this heavy box whilst huffing and puffing, so I took the road less traveled by (it’s just a road not everyone uses because it is longer). Five minutes in, my arms were killing me, but me being the mega idiot that I am, didn’t put the box down to rest for a bit. I kept walking. And walking. I avoided the eyes of people passing me because who wouldn’t? Finally, after an eternity of pain and wanting to give up (I’m not a quitter), I reached my dorm and took the elevator to my floor. And then. I couldn’t lift my arms after I put the box down. They were quivering like crazy, and I had to stick them to my torso so they would get some support, and I was starving. So I went to get this measly pizza thing from the dining hall and when it was in my hands, I could barely lift my arms enough to hold the pizza up, it was so bad! Moral of the story, don’t be stupid, ask for help when carrying boxes, yeah?

I can’t think of anymore good embarrassing stories I have, but trust me, there’s a lot more!



I am the glue between two people

Who are so alike that they cannot

See eye to eye. They love each other

Immensely but they’re both so


The slightest spark can cause an all out


If they are sodium and cold water,

Then I am the heat that

Turns the water hot,

Preventing it from reacting with


If they are smoke and the fire alarm,

Then I am that college student

Trying desperately to fan out the

Smoke with her hands.

I diffuse the tension with my meddling.

Because I have to meddle.

Nothing should ever break apart a


I will always make sacrifices

To protect my family.

Because, “Ohana means family,

And family means

Nobody gets left behind.”

My Time, Or Yours?

It used to be so simple

But now you have to think before you ask,

“What time can I call you?”


It’s so strange, isn’t it?

One day you’re in the timezone

Of love, and the next day

You could be hours away! Ten and a half hours away!

By car, or plane? By train, or ship?


Ten and a half hours away by time.

But distance isn’t even measured in time,

Did you forget, you idiot?

Distance is in kilometres, but how do

They even make sense when kilometres

Are miles now?


Time is ticking everywhere – tick-tock

Tock-tick – but the tick’s different all around.

“I love you, please don’t – just – what time can I call you?”

Said he, with tears in his voice

“I’m sorry, I can’t, you know I’m bad at doing the math,”

Said she, and hung up on their Time.

Take my expectations away

I think it’s safe to say that I spend a majority of my time overthinking things. Or making up scenarios that have less of a chance of happening than winning a lottery. This endless, constant chatter in my head is so fucking lame and pathetic because I’m literally talking to my versions of people I know in my head. And also tons of fun! Everyone should try it, it’s like I’m my own shrink. In my head, real-life people, are tweaked and tuned, until they are exactly what I want them to be. They ask me the questions I’d want the real person, and not their projection in my head, to ask. Like, “Oh my God, Mallika! Why do Arctic Monkeys mean so much to you, you’re like totally obsessed!” To which, I will, uninterruptedly answer, “It’s so hard to explain. I love them so much! I can’t even relate with Alex’s lyrics a lot because he is such a romantic, and so am I, but he’s experienced it all. I guess I want my life to be like his songs. Everything about their music is so beautiful in its rawness, because it’s all so raw……” so yes, in my head I’m a desperate pseudo-intellectual. Why am I such an uncool person, sigh.

The point is, I spend so much time with fake people in my head that I always expect so much from other people. Maybe it’s because I’m a loner, or maybe I need to face the facts and admit that I’m not fucking brave, and I am actually inherently lonely, and am perhaps meant to be lonely, and maybe it’s time to stop running away from it by pretending it doesn’t exist, and face it, deal with it, and try to get over it, no matter how much identifying as “lonely” sounds poetic and romantic (I believe in the “suffering builds character” motto). But these expectations of others that I have, they always end badly because I end up getting very hurt, even though I don’t always acknowledge it. Part of the reason I dismiss this hurt feelings are because a) I don’t think they matter that much, and there isn’t any point in really dwelling over it, and b) I think I’m a very privileged girl, and every other person has it much worse than I do, so I don’t have anything to complain about. And by saying b), I’m also becoming a hypocrite because I don’t think anyone should belittle their own problems, but here I am, always not caring about them. And that, never letting anything out, and letting it all bubble inside me like a bottle of roughly shaken Coke (I hate soda so fucking much ew), is turning out to be bad for me, but who knows? Maybe I’m just feeling this way because I haven’t got my period for a while and I might be placebo-PMSing.

The other day I was complaining to my friend about how nobody ever actually does anything for me, and they all let me down at the very last minute possible (I’m going to see Arctic Monkeys in concert next week, and I’m so worried that the night before, or maybe even the afternoon before, my friend who’s supposed to drive me there will ditch me and I won’t be able to go, like seriously I’m so stressed out about it that I have ulcers in my mouth they hurt like a little bitch). My friend actually gave me quite the wise advice that I never expected because he’s really silent and moody and doesn’t care about anything but gaming (lol I’m so sorry Ankur). He told me that (I just went to look back at out chat history but this conversation took place on snapchat and that shit is unreliable for important conversations, man I’m so dumb) I needed to stop with the expectations. And then he said that I don’t have to be overly nice to people, or make them feel super important, like they’re doing me such a huge favour by doing whatever they are doing, or being extremely thankful or apologetic about anything. And that’s when I realized that I had lost such a big part of myself when I came to America. In Bombay, I used to pride myself on being able to be completely honest with people and give them the harsh, inconvenient truth without batting an eyelash, because at that time, that’s what used to make me my own person, an island amongst the hundreds of others that turned their fake on just to get in bed with each others’ perks (by perks I mean social circles, connections, money, intelligence, whatever).  It was a total light bulb moment that told me that yes, change is very necessary in life, and most change is for the better, but it’s not better when you have lost the quality that you identified with the most. I know it sounds stupid saying, “I want to be mean again!” but apparently my meanness used to be so unobstructed that one time when I answered the phone to a friend of mine who never called unless he needed something with a, “Why are you calling?” my mom sort of yelled at me to apologize to him and not be mean, I mean whatHe was the one who only called when I had something to give him. Anyway, I digress. Maybe my meanness was a feature of me that was sort of unique and memorable and since this whole being nice and fake thing doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere with making friends (life-long or one day), I might as well revert to old-me because I loved old-me and I only need to be doing things I love.

So, going back to expectations again. I will try to resolve to stop expecting so much. I also resolve to be slightly meaner again (bring it out in small doses, though, I don’t want people to cry, I cannot deal with that). And I will definitely try to not make up imaginary scenarios, especially ones involving Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg and, Chilli Jesson, because it’s stupid, but … damn it all to hell, I’m not stopping with my imaginary scenarios, they’re my lifeline.


I have a memory

Not from a time when I was just 3 feet short,

But from a time not too long ago

When I was 5 and a half feet tall.

So late is this memory that I can remember it

With the same kind of clarity that

Getting spectacles for the first time would bring

To a person with impaired vision.

I was in my grandparents’ bedroom in Bombay.

Dadaji – my grandfather – was sat

In his usual spot on his bed.

Dadima – my grandmother – was sat

On a chair, without her back touching the cushion.

Her spine was straight and firm

Like it always is.

She has always been comfortable being uncomfortable.

It was the night before I was leaving Bombay again for Geneseo.

I was happy.

Aunts, uncles, parents, cousins, siblings, and

We were all sitting in the room, talking, and laughing–

Picture perfect.

I was happy, yes,

But I didn’t want to leave it all behind.

Leaving for the second time is worse

Than the first time.

The illusions had been shattered,

And I had progressed to have become less of a dreamer and

More of a realist.

Bitter in its sweetness, I had tasted the

Nectar of life.

I didn’t want to leave.

I wanted to cry out loud and have my mother comfort me.

But Pride and Self-Pity whispered in my ears,

“Don’t say it out loud, they will hear you.

You know they think you’re weak,

They know that you’re a failure.

Getting kicked out of a university

Before you even got there, ha!

Why would they be proud of you?”

So I kept quiet.

Not saying a word and being “brave”.

But then something happened.

Oh, it was beautiful!

My grandfather said to me,

“Malku, check to see if you can postpone your flight

And leave after two days.”


I pretended to be nonchalant;

It’s my special talent – pretending to be nonchalant.

But inside, I was bursting,

“He wants me to stay! Dadaji wants me to stay!”

In a deep, dark, hurtful, and hateful pit of my mind

I always think that I am disposable and replaceable

And that nobody cares about me,

Because why would they? Mallika’s average,

She’s dull, she gets bad grades, she’s quiet and boring.

But maybe she’s still loved. And maybe,

Love conquers all?

I checked the flight schedule

But there were none that I could take.

I don’t remember Dadaji’s reaction to that,

I don’t think he had a reaction because

It was just worth a try, you know?

But the question itself

Had filled me with a breath so deep and fulfilling

That my spine tingled and breathed it too

Relaxing at last. My heart felt full and content.

Thank you, Dadaji, for your question,

And thank you for the other question

You ask me every time I see you.

“How is it going?” you ask.

And because I feel like you don’t want to know

About the mundane things that happen

To me in my everyday life,

I always say to you,

“Nothing, Dadaji.”