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Megha Rao: The Poet With Words That Smell of Fire

Megha Rao is a poet who shakes your very foundation. As conventional poetry dictates, and as my preference goes, I have never quite been fond of people ‘capitalizing words’ in order to deliver impact. When I first discovered Megha Rao inculcating that into her poetry, I was surprised by how well I liked it. She is a force to be reckoned with, an unstoppable powerhouse, and an entire movement in herself. Each one of her poems hit home, delicately, carefully, and stay there forever.

Suggested read: Shinji Moon Soothes Your Bruised Soul With Poems As Soft As Egg White

Here are excerpts from 12 of her poems that have found a special place in my heart:

Megha Rao_New_Love_Times

Image source: Facebook/Megha Rao 


“you told me that nobody could love me

without freezing to death first.

i asked you why you were

leaving, and you

said that

even though i had

windshields for lashes

they couldn’t protect other people

from the rain,

and it never stopped raining.”

I never want anybody to see me at my lowest, lest I should witness their love filter out. We promise each other ‘for better or for worse’, ‘in sickness and in health’, until your back is up against the wall. People bail on you. People leave when the shit hits the stratosphere. For the longest time I was apologetic for my own mind, my feelings, and everything that was unacceptable to people I loved. Now, I know that it may never stop raining in my part of the town, but I don’t need a pretentious teenager to hold the umbrella for me.


“Stretch from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico until a Spanish invasion.

You have your father’s eyes. Beautiful, but always broken into.

Eve of August 15: rape after rape after rape, the time is minutes to

19:47 and your blood is saffron and what’s left of the kitchen is

cabbage and okra and the Khyber rifles at Jamrud. It is the year 2018

and your family is trying to get you to eat without resorting to feeding

tubes because they think private hospitals might steal your kidney…

…You are not your country’s headline. You are not the forced pregnancies

or the state crimes or the journalist’s murder or the leaked documents or

the nepotism. You are not the republic’s hosanna. You are not the slokas.

Or the chakra, because you are not the flag. And you know you are not

the flag because you are too torn to be hoisted.

The therapist asks you, what have you been drinking?

You say Frank O’Hara.”

“Heaven is soundproof”, Megha writes. As the Third World War sits on the fence so close to home, can you deny it? Will any of us ever “survive earth”? We are made synonymous with events that happen in the name of our country, our religion, our gender. We are made of and never allowed to forget about our trauma. As the “jam jar” full of memories rocks back and forth on the therapist’s desk, what chaos are you carrying under your skin?


“to the man I will one day spend my life with…

…i want to be the mother they can cry on. i want to take them to a father who will help them heal safely and encourage them to love again. i want to allow them their secrets, their sexts, their lonely nights, their breaking down with drunk friends, but i want them to be careful. i want to worry for them without being angry. i want to step in only when i think they’ve taken it too far, but i want to allow them their moments of intense emotions.”

It is so important for parents to be soft, and accepting. Don’t just show up to cheer for the important races, but also stand by them when they fall of the trapeze, or get their heart broken. The emotional taboo on youngsters produces constricted adults with unresolved issues.


“in the dining room,

before my brother eats

the last piece of fruit for the day

i tell him, ‘they threw acid on

a young woman today’

and my mother scowls and asks

me why i have to talk about horrible things during dinner time

‘pass me the fish curry,’ my uncle says

and it’s supposed to mean the conversation is over.

‘did you watch modi’s speech on the news?’ my uncle asks papa

‘i love the soup, you have to give me the recipe!’ my aunt tells amma

and two conversations hover over the table and i drag

my body out of the room

before my brother can say

with his mouth full of rice,

‘so just because you talk about

marital rape and sex and periods

you think you’re a feminist?’

sometimes you have

to pretend

sexism is fun.”

Find me the right time to talk about people dying. Find me the right time of day where it befits me to remind you of the student who killed herself over a B grade. Who are you to set standards for my Feminism? We run by a fire that burns on the screams of our sisters whom you burnt at the stake. There is never a right time for violence, and never a wrong time to start talking about the humanity’s failures.


“i ask him

if he’s ever been

in love

and he says,

“i’m in love with this

old woman who

buys an extra

loaf of bread

for the stray dogs

in our street

sometimes she’s

so forgetful she

doesn’t remember

to eat but she

never forgets to

feed them”

How rare and beautiful is a person who is utterly, unapologetically in love with life? Somebody who ‘wants’ to wake up to the next morning, as opposed to simply ‘having to’. Imagine being strong enough to let your shoulders stoop, sit on a curbside, take off your running shoes, and just watch the world pass by in all its glory. I love people who are not blind to the worlds beyond their own; who look to other human beings as one would to favorite books, stories, and precious memories.


“and i wanted to tell you that

saving myself wasn’t

as beautiful as i made it seem

because there’s nothing beautiful

about a tree

asking the axe to

stay a while longer

or a fishbowl under the

delusion that it can hold

an ocean”

Recovery is messy. Rebounds, disappointment, lonely nights when the calendar keeps flipping backwards. Healing does not feel like a celebration until the healing is well in motion. When I catch a whiff of the scent I once loved, I stop on the road and look around before I can stop myself. Sometimes, I even forget where I am, and only remember when a car speeds by too close for comfort. I’m taking baby steps. We all are. And someday, we’ll get to the top of the mountain and roll this emotional baggage into an unnamed valley.

Suggested read: Dear Writer, Suicide Is Not Poetry


“a 16 year old boy from trivandrum hung himself on july 27 after completing the blue whale challenge


but nobody talks about

his lonely nights in the cemeteries

and seashores

or how he once asked his mother how she’d feel if he killed himself

and then in the end,

told her that she would still have his sister

his hands sick with cuts

his mind sick with worry

nobody talks about this self harm

or loneliness

or depression

or suicidal tendency

because TEENAGE SUICIDE or any suicide for that matter is

sad but

‘shameful’ and


and sometimes ‘unreal’

so they tell you to be happy

when you’re so

desperately trying to

be ‘not sad'”

TALK ABOUT SUICIDE. Instead of investing your time and mental energy into gossiping about the circumstances of their ‘affairs’ or ‘financial status’, look around you and find somebody to save. The worst thing you could do to any living thing, is dismiss their struggles as “unimportant”, or “childish”. You know nothing about the torture in somebody else’s head. You could have “been there” and “done that” a million times, but don’t speak like you deserve a fucking trophy for being in more pain than the helpless child confiding in you. We need to get off our high horse, and start helping those who need us, instead of speculating and sending condolences that are not worthy of their name.


“i am the ugly truth

the need for cosmetic surgery and terrifying diets

for breast enlargement and labiaplasty

everything i do is a provocation

an indication

i am not the transition to womanhood

i am the commodity manufactured to elicit male desire

the focus on my frame

the sexual victimization

in 21st century pornography.

i am the private part

that destroys the idea of me

as a subject.

i am the bone structure, not the blood.

i know i am supposed to be cheekbones and pink tongues

but i am tan lines

and words.

They say that puberty hits women like a truck. In reality, it isn’t the biological process that slaps us, as much as our own self-esteem. We spend nights in high heels, making it look effortless, making it look “natural”, without realizing that we are standing on an iron maiden for the validation we do not need. It is normal for butts to have stretch marks. It is a part of our body, not a marble counter-top we’re cooking our dinner on. Your aspiration should not be the literal representation of a photo-editing app.


“The first man discovered fire

when he saw a woman burning

her tongue to stop her poetry.


All evening, the fire burned on

and I sat in front of it, cross-legged

reading Adam Swift’s political philosophy

and Mending Wall by Robert Frost

my waist no longer a multiplication table

for anyone who demanded that

36 into 24 into 36 equals hourglass;

my eyes no longer a testimony to

the twelve-year-old who said she went to

school for ten days until she had to stop

because there was no one to collect cartons

to support her family in Kabul.”

Why do genitals dictate worth? Why does the female brain not ‘deserve’ or thought ‘incapable’ of housing the genre of knowledge attributed to men? Why is it that when I say ‘astrophysics’, you think of a male scientist, while ‘sewing’ reminds you of a woman? We are a country of people dying in the quicksand of gender roles. It is high time that daughters stopped paying for their existence with their dreams.


“the first time i tried on a corset in a dingy goth shop i asked the saleswoman who would ever wear these things and

she said the 14 inch waist was advertised in 19th century fashion magazines

so the victorians walked like they couldn’t breathe and deformed their ribcage and

chinese girls bound their feet so that they would look like lotuses and it didn’t matter if folding your toes was painful

i still remember how in venice women were rushing to buy eye drops made from belladonna to get dilated pupils even if it meant blurring your vision

but i’ll be damned if belladonna was also used by witches in their potions

and if i see another corset i’d hang it in the prado next to goya’s paintings with a tagline that says this masterpiece was able to brainwash a generation of women into thinking their goal was to have a slim waist


Megha Rao tears European standards of beauty like it’s her staple diet. How can you not be angry with tightly spun, heavily ornamental, grievously artificial idea of you that the world stuffs into their pockets? I am offended that multi-million dollar companies believe that I have to choose between breathing or looking ‘flawless’. If my hips overflow the boundaries of your ‘preference’, then you can clear out of my line of vision. Anybody who makes me cringe at the mirror, is unwelcome in my life.


“Your love was

god masturbating

to the Mona Lisa in a

three bedroom apartment

at 6 am in the morning.

Your love, Marquez

and Murakami

arguing through the night

as Marilyn curled up in a sofa

wearing a t-shirt that screamed

legalize cannabis.

My therapist says,

there will come a time

when I don’t think about

overdosing to Arcade Fire.

When my eyes don’t look like

concentration camps Anne Frank

was transported to in Germany.

My therapist tells me,

there is more to me

than self-destruction,

and I want to believe her.

So I hope your new girlfriend

loves your mother

as much as I do.”

How do you reconcile with having a world tear into two different parts? How can I not think of the palms I once loved, the lines of which I swore I could read forever. How can anybody forget the family they had to suddenly stop visiting? Something stirs us one night, and we remember that it is their birthday tomorrow. We subconsciously remove ourselves from habits and things they liked, hoping to forget it. The human mind is a mysterious device. It never quite allows peace.

Suggested read: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower: Did The Books Charlie Read Help Him With His Mental Health?


“and you said

sometimes we have to give up our favourite books because we’ll never grow if we don’t read other books

and as we grow older our favourite books change from time to time

it doesn’t mean that book isn’t lovely anymore

and you said to me,

‘i hope its next reader loves it as much as i did’

and your favourite book was on your lap

screaming silently

it’s over

it’s over

it’s over

but you closed it shut and i looked at you and i was crying


but the spaces between us grew

t h e r e w e r e n o w o r d s l e f t t o s a y a n y m o r e

and i wanted to

ask you why nobody

folded the last page

of their favourite book

or any book for that matter

but you were already gone

and quietly

i understood



came back

to the end

just to

grieve again.”

Goodbyes are never easy. No matter how many pages you fill with words dripping from your eyes, the message never seems to be enough. I still send unfinished letters into the air. I have made my peace with accepting that my book will never quite see an end. I have made my peace with writing into the void, knowing that I will always have something more left to say.

Megha performs spoken-word poetry, writes for Terribly Tiny Tales, uploads her beautiful work on Facebook and Tumblr, where she can be followed @barela

Featured image source: Facebook/Megha Rao

Article Name
Megha Rao: The Poet With Words That Smell of Fire
Megha Rao is a poet who shakes your very foundation. She is a force to be reckoned with, an unstoppable powerhouse, and an entire movement in herself.
Meghalee Mitra

Meghalee Mitra

My introductions have always been "I'm too awkward for this." My exercise routine comprises oscillating between being serious and bat-shit-crazy, laziness, and hyper-activity. I love words, live for food, and am always looking for magic.