Resting in the Resistance of Poetry

Curator’s note

In this poetry series, I have attempted to explore the relationship I share with poetry. I find poetry to be a catalyst for making one feel wholly, for evoking powerful emotions, which can incite wonder, understanding, rage and empathy – all alike. While poetry has allowed me the space to often sit with my anger and my helplessness, it has also, almost always, provided me comfort when I feel powerless in the light of the workings of the world, it has nudged me towards cathartic revelations and sensory healing.  

In experimenting with reading and writing varied forms of poetry, one could find themselves equipped with a meaning making wordsome toolkit. I engage with my poetic craft as a thought vehicle – to aid me navigate the world around me, poetic traditions, and originality. A fair deal of mind wandering and acute observation too, could come together to expand experiences from emotion to poetry. In the craft of poetry, we could perhaps find for ourselves the strength to participate in a world that otherwise gets dreary and posits itself as a hopeless, apathetic place as now. In this regard, writing poetry also becomes a potent means of resistance. 

“A poem is not just words placed on a line. It’s a cloth. Mahmoud Darwish wanted to build his home, his exile, from all the words in the world. I weave my poems with my veins. I want to build a poem like a solid home, but hopefully not with my bones.”
Mosab Abu Toha, from Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza; Palestine A-Z (via)

Jerin Anne Jacob




I try to care softly and

chew this everyday gloom

to churn poetry


This poetry that seeks 

to sound up living into

a dreary night


A glumpy brainscape

finds its meandering way to

a lavender siesta


Only rummaging through 

words to sense-make

solicits my many ways of being


Of a mellow usher

into a gentle undercover

which boils acceptance


In a valiant stride

that belongs to the unsteady

and sought even times


What I lost to apathy

I shame through in mirroring

a poetry of lost chance




She wants to tint the hurt of this world

and oust it into deep living, to celebrate its art –

its tender multiplicity,

but she disobeys the language of colours

and dabbles in amber hues, shearing sun-

wreaths on a spherical melancholy.


Breaching greys shed okayish warmth

through yonder horizons of hopeful

spells. Generous tippings of gold fire

that is poured over the world by 

thrones jesting with power.


Casually caring in dormant ink

links you to your kindren 

bellowing in lack and less.

How do you breathe with stolen joy?


A sun-plant field arises to follow

the ache in the sky, rife in its juvenile memory

only to shower the world with kaleidoscopic sundalas


I am a poet and I read the world in metaphor.




As the day closes, I melt into a touch-me-not 

Stretched out raw on a page netted cot.


Thinking of a closeted hierarchy of words

In a poetic arc of realisation

I sing them in a word spread

Many times in lone attempt,


muting my screams amid

resounding warplanes

folding away my people 


Gently caressing the worth of my stride,

Poetry seeks my communion and doodles itself 


Inward erasure


Onto a heaving journal entry.




Oh Poetry! To you I bring in the low lying 

Anger that pinches into the dread of the day.

In joining the world around as 

A communion of beings, not a collection of objects.


I move through the world in fragments

Tripping over parts of myself along the way


Survive a luxury and humankind,

A kind beauty that is wrong in its yearning

While privileged to art an active meditation –

Syncing in the crime that puts these crying stories to sleep.


At last, when the air is easy and the light is cool

This tribute we raise to your compassion,

Your reigning solitude.




In stretching a strained memory

inside out, and lying it to dry awake,

I am threatened to see 

a waterfall lurking 

in between these lines that smell of rest.


They disappear clean as I read 

in a uniform motion that surrenders 

the terror in my heart, a solid.


Where does peace dwell?


As the mist rises and the aquatic 

sensation thrives, I am pumped by the green 

inside me, shaping forms that read like 

warm letters on the stream bed.

What would a world without oppression make you?



Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice

Breaking Down the Roots of Anti-Fat Bias

This blog is the last of our series of blogs on the experience of fatness in urban India, and is written by Vallari Shivkumar.

Content warning: mentions of bullying, anti fat discrimination, sexual abuse

When people discriminate against fat people, they often chalk it up to preference, concern, or advice. Fat people experience hostile environments, judgment, and ostracization on a daily basis because of their bodies. This discrimination was met by the rebellion in the 1960s. As with any political movement, fat liberation started out as a way to fight oppression. As fat people organized and mobilized against fatphobia, the early fat liberation movement gained traction. Fat people were at the center of theory, actions, and radicalism. The impact and ripples of these movements are still felt today, as the fat liberation movement evolves and continues to be a part of the zeitgeist. 


The fat acceptance movement has facilitated the creation of a community that carries forward that fight for equality. Although the message in the movement evolves and takes different forms like body positivity, anti-diet culture, intuitive eating, etc, it has led to a platform that fat people can use and take up space in and has established a community of people that are working towards eradicating anti-fat discrimination. Fat activism has led to a pushback towards people who discriminate against fat folks. Whilst this movement has led to real change, there is still a long way to go.  Is this all there is to anti-fat bias?  Or does it go much deeper than that?


Fatphobia is a Systemic Issue


According to the Collins Dictionary, fatphobia is an “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against obesity or people with obesity.” Fatphobia has been reigning terror over fat bodies for centuries. Fatphobia, rooted in racism, classism, misogyny and other forms of oppression, spiraled into the oppression fat folks face today. Systemic fatphobia is a societal issue. Saying fat people are at a disadvantage in society is like calling a cut a scrape because the extent of this disadvantage has strong roots in structural and interpersonal violence. 


There is a level of violence when a fat person is denied equal opportunities, denied access to be able to meet basic needs like clothes, to not just live but thrive as a complete person. What does that mean for me when I am not given proper care at the doctor’s office? What does it  mean when support systems like the HR at my workplace or a police officer have an internal bias against fat people? What does it mean when I get on an airplane and the airline doesn’t have seats that fit me or resources like an extendable seat belt in place for fat people? 

In the fat community, fatphobia is the most commonly used term, but I think we, as a community, need to start narrowing down exactly what fatphobia means. Phobia means fear, but people aren’t afraid, they’re biased and hateful. Perhaps systemic anti-fat bias is a better choice of words. Weight-based oppression on a large scale affects marginalized groups more deeply. It’s common for the experiences of fat folks’ to get downplayed because they think ‘fat’ is an ‘excess of flesh’, which can be easily changed with hard work and determination and being fat is still viewed as a choice or moral failure. There is so much emphasis on obesity care, but how about making sure therapists understand weight discrimination and how to accommodate our bodies? Often, particularly, in systems of structural care, there is both a glaring lack of experience and infrastructure to deal with fat bodies in a safe, equitable and dignified manner.

While society at large still uplifts and prioritizes thinness, fat bodies are continuously exiled and ridiculed. For fat individuals and people with nonconforming bodies, society adversely attacks and belittles them as ‘responsible’ for their sizes and takes the onus upon itself to recast them into ‘acceptable bodies’. This is done through the flooding of markets with products and services to ‘address’ fatness. ‘Thin’ sized bodies are given more value and desirability by society because those bodies are considered “normal.” This value system is a hierarchy of size that focuses on personal choice but doesn’t take into account geography, culture, poverty, or genetics. Through such a value system, people are blamed or held responsible for their body types.


Institutional and Interpersonal Violence


A fat body is invaded by comments, measured with hatred, pathologized by fear, and diagnosed with ignorance. It is weighed down not by its weight, but by the force of hatred, contempt, and pity. This violence also can be of fat people towards themselves and their own bodies in self-talk among other things. Fighting systemic fatphobia is all about equal access, equal respect, and fair treatment. Anti-fat bias permeates multiple structures and interpersonal relationships which in turn make existing and thriving in a fat body challenging. 


Every institution and agent of socialization in our culture — schools, health-care organizations, media, marketing— promotes the propaganda of weight control, so that it is nearly impossible for individuals not to believe that “fat is bad.” Fat people have to face multiple levels of interpersonal violence as they navigate life and spaces. 

People who are fat get discriminated against in a multitude of areas, including healthcare, work, education, and transportation. Discrimination against fat people is the fourth most common type of discrimination and it has increased drastically over the past twenty years. This marginalization has consequences over the entire lifespan of fat people. It starts as early as school. Bullying is, unfortunately, a lived reality of school. Fatness is one of the many reasons that kids are bullied and socially excluded in school. Students do so by making nasty comments, and the fat body once again becomes the site of humour. Teachers sometimes also contribute to this. For example, teachers can be insensitive towards fat kids and make them feel excluded from certain activities. Often, teachers choose conventionally ‘attractive-looking’ students as representatives. Teachers perceive fat students as less academically, physically and socially able. Anti-fat bias can also affect friendships. In a clique, people who are fat get reduced to the ‘fat friend’ like a token. A study by the University of Southern California found that children who are overweight have more unreciprocated friendships than others. It was further found that they are excluded from friendships. All of these take a mental, social and physical toll on people who are fat. The constant ostracization of individuals who are fat is likely to lead to the risk of loneliness, depression, poor eating habits, and chronically feeling isolated, lonely or socially disconnected experiences. 

In the workplace, fat people are harassed and bullied. They face a significant “wage penalty” for employment, even when controlling for socioeconomic status and health. They are less likely to be hired and promoted, and more likely to be fired. Many people think overweight employees lack self-discipline, are lazy, aren’t competent, aren’t conscientious, are sloppy, disagreeable, and are emotionally unstable. Even when fat candidates/employees are better qualified than their colleagues, reservations like these result in unfair hiring practices, low wages, and job termination. Places like schools and offices structurally fail fat folks. Usually, there is no consideration for inclusive seating, uniform sizes and policies in place that help reduce this alienation and discrimination. India also completely lacks an anti-discriminatory legislative framework to deal with weight bias in the workplace. The Delhi High court rejected a flight attendant’s appeal of Air India’s decision to ground and further terminate them for being overweight in June 2008. The decision was “taken strictly as per the terms of employment,” according to the state-owned airline. The court justified its decision by stating, “In the highly competitive industry of civil aviation, the company has to focus on the personality of its employees. By the very nature of their jobs, their overall physical personality is one of the primary considerations.” However, in a more recent turn of events, the Delhi High Court ordered the reinstatement of three employees grounded by Air India, citing that excess weight does not necessarily impede optimal performance

In mainstream media, fat bodies get limited representation, reaffirming thin supremacist preferences for bodies that follow hegemonic body size and beauty standards. This leads to dominant conceptualizations controlling discourses about fatness: fat bodies are lazy, disgusting, and lacking control. As Marilyn Wann notes, “[e]very person who lives in a fat-hating culture inevitably absorbs anti-fat beliefs, assumptions, and stereotypes, and also inevitably comes to occupy a position in relation to power arrangements that are based on weight.” This creates a hierarchy of bodies. People who experience weight discrimination report more psychological distress, lower well-being, and greater loneliness as a result of weightism.

Based on one’s size, specific performance is expected. In our society, this same performance creates, stabilizes, and legitimizes ‘fat’ as a concept. In courtrooms, the same association can be made with fat defendants by jurors, who expect a particular performance. Fat makes people feel guilty, lack self-control, and lack respect. Then studies on social reaction and response to size become applicable to the courtroom. Researchers found that male jurors found female presenting defendants guilty more often if they were fat than slim in a simulated check fraud case. In cases where a defendant’s body expresses a size and situation not allowed to be explained by the voice, bias based on fat may also harm them. Fat defendants’ and fat victims’ bodies are seen as beyond their control, which reflects an entrenchment within the justice system too.

Court actors  who conceptualize victims of abuse as thin might not take fat women seriously when they tell stories of abuse. In State v. Ruhlman, the defendant said he wouldn’t assault the victim/survivor because she was “fat and ugly.” It’s especially visible in domestic violence. Abusers use size as a tool to insult and attack a romantic partner’s sexual attractiveness. Several police officers refuse to take reports of sexual assaults by fat women, saying they’re too unattractive to have been raped because of their size.  These experiences of cultural, structural, and interpersonal violence only get worse for people whose fatness intersects with other marginalized identities such as age, disability, race, caste, among others. Even within communities, not falling within the expectations of the community, may lead to a disconnect and further alienation.

As a fat person, living with a fat body is hard considering that the world feels like it isn’t made for someone like us and is actively trying to work against us. There are constant battles, big and small that need to be fought so that we as fat people can take up the space we deserve. It is imperative to look out for and act on the intersectional needs of fat people so that every person has more than the basic necessities to thrive and be their best self. Fat people need to be heard and taken into account in a way that tackles systemic anti-fat bias by making laws, policies, and recommendations, and having fat people in the room helps make those so that people whose needs are being met are represented and are part of the process. 


Thank you for reading this blog, which is the final blog in our series of blogs on the experience of fatness in urban India. This blog series is a part of our upcoming research study on Fatness in Urban India, focusing on building counter-power narratives on the experience of fatness in Mumbai; as well as developing an evidence base for documentation of the discrimination and oppression faced by fat people in urban India, with a focus on 


(1) built environments

(2) health and medical infrastructure

(3) careers – educational institutions and workplaces

(4) intimacies and interpersonal relationships


Further, we hope to document the ways in which fat people embody different physical-emotional conditions. Finally, we hope to use this research study to co-create recommendations for changing norms, policies and infrastructure to meet the needs of fat people in urban India. 


To become a part of this study, please consider participating in our data collection process by giving us 30-45 minutes of your time in an interview. To learn more about the process, check if you are eligible and to sign up, please visit:


Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice

The Art Local | Storytelling and Uncomfortable Conversations


The Art Local is a monthly column by Jerin Jacob that intends to look at how art can be used as a medium of social protest and engagement, a catalyst to encourage and mediate social change.

We all enjoy a tale well told. The power of storytelling is undoubtedly tremendous and yes, proven to be impact worthy. There are stories that make us cry and laugh, stories that make us love, care and feel compassion, stories that inspire action, stories that leave us in awe and wonder, stories that enrage us and make us question the order of things, stories that teach, enlighten and change us.

It was only long after I had read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin that I got to know of the magnificent role the book had to play in the abolition of slavery in America. While grappling with my understanding around the discourse of naxalism and the naxal movement in India during my teenage years, it were the powerfully stirring stories of Mahasweta Devi that came to my rescue. It was through the stories told in Vijila Chirappad and Meena Kandasamy’s poetry that I understood caste politics in India in its true gravity. Over and over again, it has been stories, in all its creative forms, that have helped me mould my awareness of issues and topics that aren’t usually discussed around a middle-class, conservative family’s dinner table and sometimes not even in the company of friends, even the closest of pals.

Stories have always been my go to mantra when it comes to initiating a usually uncomfortable conversation with others, be this while trying to take awareness classes on child sexual abuse for little kids, menstrual hygiene or social leadership classes for adolescent girls hailing from a vernacular background, classes on social media usage for parents or even, even while talking about ecological sustainability and eco-friendly spiritual practices to elders. Stories always make the perfect ice-breaker and catalyst for conversations, which allow us to add just the perfect tinge of seriousness, joviality or sarcasm, depending on how much the situation and subject demands.

Kamini Ramachandran, a professional storyteller and the founder of MoonShadow stories, describes the art of storytelling as the carrier of a plethora of ideas and information, a potent language passed on through generations and the perfect conduit for change. She strongly opines that stories pave the way for engagement, and thus are capable of having credible social impact on and among the hearers.

The idea behind a well-presented story is that it manages to do the talking in situations where we are uncomfortable addressing the subject. Listeners tend to retain the messages conveyed via stories better than others. Well narrated stories usually appeal to people of all age groups because we are all innately story-driven. “Stories are interesting. They help visualize, they build involvement, they make you want to listen. And when it comes to having conversations that otherwise make us uncomfortable, that is exactly what we want,” says Joseph Francis, an educator who believes in the potential of stories both, in the classroom and otherwise.

With the aid of storytelling, one can build the desired interest among the audience in matters that need attention, only here indirectly so. “Talking in the third person helps in projecting the feeling of discomfort, be it shyness or shame on to a character while being able to project the feelings of the character on to oneself. Thus, it helps build empathy, by keeping aside the discomfort. The feeling seems detached but it really isn’t,” continues Joseph.

The collective strategy should be to tell stories that throw light on the various issues shaping the world around us and thus, inviting the listeners to engage with them. They need to understand and empathise with the information being conveyed by the story and also believe the source. Once we manage to get this right, we can use these stories to initiate discussions and dialogues on topics hitherto considered taboo, thus creating a space and opportunity for meaningful and comfortable sharing and learning.

Once upon a time, there was a cap seller who lost his caps to a herd of monkeys. He couldn’t find a way to make the monkeys return his caps. So he threw the one cap that he had, hoping that they would imitate him. However, the monkeys understood the value of the cap and decoratively placed it on their heads. Our country has many communities that have welcomed minorities and have realised that they only add to their beauty. When a certain cap seller comes and tramples his minority, hoping that we will too, we shall show them that the monkeys can think for themselves and that they’d rather keep their caps,” shares Joseph when asked to give an example of a short but powerful story.

Image credit: Drawing Change

In the present scenario of political unrest with individual freedoms of different kinds, of different people and groups being thwarted by the government in power, I wouldn’t agree to a more suitable time to use stories to spark off uncomfortable conversations, especially among people who are not aware about the long lasting effects of such actions on the part of the government. What does it mean? Why should it bother us? How will it affect us? What can we do? Will anybody hear us? Are we capable of change? And so on, are the questions we need to give listeners answers to. We need to use informative storytelling to change mindsets and to create change makers for the society.

What can you do? Start talking, sharing, discussing. About common topics, and about topics that make you uncomfortable. Be it to your kids, at your workplace, at family functions, during outings and trips or even to the rickshaw driver and the watchman of your building- about topics that matter to them and those that matter to you. Let people know that safe spaces of discussion and dissent can be formed even in small circles. Start engaging people, hear their stories, share your stories and thus initiate this chain reaction #engagetochange.

With the aid of stories, we can positively promote empowerment and social justice thus reiterating the transformative potential of storytelling. Newer stories are the call of the day, stories that connect with and engage people at every level, thus promoting more radical action. Stories that address contemporary challenges and those that suggest probable ways to deal with and respond to these situations. When we are looking at changing the society we live in today, we must be ready to tell and listen to stories, a new set of stories, stories that are both informative and transformative in nature, stories about the world we all envision and want to create.

Jerin Jacob is the COO at One Future Collective.

Featured image credit: Greenbook.Blog

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice