The Lovers’ Burden

The mirror told the truth. Savitej was no ordinary man. Over six and a half feet tall, and consisting of two hundred pounds of pure muscle, he was touted to become one of the greatest soldiers of the Bihar Regiment, joining a Param Vir Chakra awardee and multiple Vir Chakra awardees. An exceptional marksman, a cunning strategist and a gallant leader, his booming voice and strong personality made him equally feared and revered by his battalion.

He slapped himself and muttered, “Wake up, wake up, wake up. Another day’s about to start.” He looked at all his scars, as he would, every morning. They meant nothing to him, in spite of what they made him go through. There was a pain radiating down his lower back. And for some reason, it was the only thing that mattered to him. He smirked and got dressed in his track suit, for his pre-dawn jog.

Taking his first lap around Danapur Cantonment, the pain felt more than usual. Looking around, he saw the armoured units warming up their vehicles for their daily patrols and the supply trucks arriving from Patna. The first flock of birds was taking flight and a couple of roosters were beginning to crow. All in all, it was another usual day.

Completing his jog, he returned to his bungalow. His lover was still sound asleep on their bed. He kissed his lover and sat down at his desk, to write his daily log. He winced as he sat down and murmured, “Am I getting too old for all these acrobatics?” While writing, he nodded off and fell asleep.

The sound of the bugle awakened him. He woke up with a start, and saw the mess on his diary. “Oh, not again,” he said, tearing off the ink blotted pages and tossing them into the trash. He saw his lover move in the bed, and said, “Good morning, my love. How are you this fine morning?” A high-pitched voice replied, stifling a yawn, “All good! You?”

“Never been better. The pain keeps getting worse, though.”

He was greeted with an eye-roll, followed by the usual “I told you that we didn’t have to do it last evening. But you insisted.”

He chuckled and said, “I’ll be fine. This pain is worth it. This pain is worth the sacrifices you make.”

A smile as warm as the sun outside shone at him, and his lover got up. They embraced, and he said, “Off you go to the barracks. Make sure no one gets to know.”

“Yes, Sir. See you on Saturday.”

He watched his lover jog towards the barracks. As the figure got smaller and smaller, he wondered how long they could keep it going, without being exposed. Eventually, he’d have to tell someone about the pain. He couldn’t tell the army doctors, or his peers: it would result in an immediate suspension and court-martial. He did the usual and called his sister up, and asked for medication. Hearing his symptoms, she laughed and said, “You’re forty-three, and your phase still hasn’t passed? Oh, Dear Lord.” She prescribed some pain-relievers and hung up.

Thursday, the 6th of September, was like any other day for Lt. Gen. Savitej Singh Johar. Going through files, letters, requests for leaves and go-aheads, was his bread and butter. As he leafed through the Services hockey team’s request to go out and practice in the SAI complex, he realised that he hadn’t played a good game of hockey in ages. He closed the file, and got up. ‘Let me go to Bharadwaj and see if I get into the officers’ team for the next tournament’, he thought. As he walked outside his air-conditioned office, he received a call from his sister.

Answering the call, he could hear people, on the other side, shouting in glee all around, shouting “Love Wins!” He heard his sister shout, “Go see the news immediately! Bye!” What could’ve happened, he wondered, that his sister called him up to tell him to watch the news. He went down to the lobby, where a crowd had gathered around the TV. Some were murmuring nervously, some had small smiles of relief and some had looks of immense disgust. He read the headline, and his heart almost stopped.

The headline read, “Supreme Court unanimously strikes down Section 377.” His pulse grew faster, and he felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. His hands were trembling, and a tear came to his left eye. He had never felt relief like this in his whole life, not even when he finished at the Defence Academy. All his life, he had live in the fear of his superiors finding out, the fear of being isolated by his peers and the fear of losing the respect of his battalion.

Walking back to his office, he dialled the barracks and ordered them to tell Brigadier Agrawal report to his office. He was told that Brigadier Agrawal was arrested by the military police, a quarter of an hour ago. Before they could tell him the reason for the arrest, there was a sharp rap on his door. Disconnecting the call, he barked, “Come in.” The door opened, and four military police officers walked in.

He smiled at the officers, and said, “Ah, yes, boys, how may I help you?” He recognised them all, they had all served under him, at one point. None of them smiled back; on the contrary, their faces revealed apologetic expressions. He couldn’t understand why. His smile disappeared, and he said, “What’s wrong, boys?” The shortest of them, Officer Mishra, said, “Lieutenant General Savitej Singh Johar, you are under arrest for violating Section 46(a) of the Army Act, 1950 as reported by Brigadier Lohith Agrawal, with video proof. He was arrested twenty minutes ago, after he showed a certain video to his bunkmates, as a reaction to the news. You, sir, are part of it and named explicitly in it.”

His joy turned into fear, his elation turned into anger and his newfound throne of safety crumbled into a pile of dust. He stood up and bellowed, his voice breaking, “Are you out of your minds? Did you not see the news?”

“Indeed, sir. Acts of homosexual intercourse are not permitted in the Armed Forces. Please come with us.”

Savitej sank into this chair. His mind went blank. His limbs grew cold. His muscles stiffened. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he could hold no longer. The pain his back was at its worst. He remembered all his lovers: the times they had spent, how he held them, how he kissed them and the times they had become one. As the officers handcuffed him, and took him away, he could see people coming out of their offices, and looking at him in shock and awe. And that’s when he realised: Everything had changed and everything was the same.

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Up in smoke

The first lesson environmental sciences gives us is the fact that the earth is lent to us by the future generations. An alternate angle could be the fact that the earth we leave for them is our ultimate gift to them, and it certainly does not look good. The world we live in is so filled with stress that it has become a suffering to live a long life.

Stress leads to a plethora of mental and physical disorders, which eventually leads to shortened life-spans, loss of happiness, a decrease in productivity and many more problems. It only increases as people grow older. To rid themselves of this stress, people use a variety of methods which include but are not limited to alcohol, nicotine, and psycho-stimulants like sleeping pills, cocaine etc. All these ostensibly help reduce stress but in fact, give rise to an addiction. People end up using these as an excuse for not trying to find happiness in their lives. There are a variety of ways people use to blow off steam, but doing it literally is more common these days.

 

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Very common addiction to nicotine comes from cigarettes. It has been a part of our society since ancient history, with various forms of opioids and other psychoactive materials, being converted to vapors and smoked. From hookah in the middle east and India to the pipes used by aboriginals in the west, smoking up has evolved with the society.

There exist multiple types of normal cigarettes for example menthol, which people generally use to start smoking, light, advanced, for loosening up the mind, and light, for chain-smokers who do not really need it but can not deal with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.We now have e-cigarettes as well which make vapors out of anything using combustible substances and electricity. It is not yet a common sight in our country, but hookah sure is. People, young and old alike, can be seen swarming the hookah bars where they are served smoke through a water-pipe along with  food and sometimes drinks. They have become a great spot for socializing.

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However, unlike the common understanding, hookahs and e-cigarettes are equally harmful. An hour of hookah can fill your lungs with more tar than a complete pack of cigarettes.Nicotine is a great way to reduce pressure in your head, but the withdrawals leave your body craving for more. This is the logic of marketing of cigarettes, but not a good logic to follow up on.

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Another trend that is hitting the world by a storm is the recreational use of cannabis/marijuana, commonly referred to as ‘weed’. It does have significant medical benefits, which are still under research. It helps patients suffering from glaucoma, reduces nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, improves appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and treats chronic pain and muscle spasms. It is also under preliminary research for their potential to affect stroke or children’s epilepsy. Smoking it up is still not good for health.

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It can still be consumed orally through muffins, biscuits etc. If the governments globally legalize marijuana, it would definitely make the world a happier place. Imagine a pizza delivered at your doorstep with chilli flakes, oregano and marijuana sachets. Making chapatis with weed in it. Restaurants serving ‘Chhole’ and ‘Weed Bhature’. Although strict policies like that with liquor will be needed to keep it in check, however, people will have less harmful methods to de-stress themselves.

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The best stress-busting mechanism, for me, is looking at and playing with pets, be it dogs, cats or even cows. Playing a sport is equally helpful. If for some reason though, you are hooked on to nicotine, a suggestion would be to use safer alternatives like nicotine gums or patches to slowly help yourself rid of the addiction. Dogs still remain my prime suggestion for all stress related problems.

 

Don’t let this article ruin your mood, pulling a cigarette once or twice a month won’t kill you unless you have Bronchitis, like a certain friend of mine. Always try finding healthier ways to kill stress and increase productivity. Smoke is bad for you, in any form. As the reggae king, Bob Marley used to say, “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief, and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”.

Four Seasons

Four Seasons

A ‘season’ can sometimes refer to a time in life instead of the weather. But does that mean everyone experiences it differently?

Arya ran to class, not just through the shaded walk but also in the sun and up the stairs. Not because her professor was firm about his students keeping the right time, but because she wanted to. Her new red top stood out and her ID tag was shiny. Her perfect hair fell over her shoulders with ease. She carried a full bag to all her classes and didn’t mind climbing six floors with it. Of course, she still had to look at her schedule on her phone after each lecture, it had just been a week. And since it had been just a week, she ended up being in some wrong classes too. But that didn’t bother her; no one was looking or judging and she loved hearing from other teachers.

It was either silly games with her new classmates during the breaks or strolling around trying to get the college map imprinted onto her mind. And the sun or the time didn’t matter. The boys did. The food and her room did but only a little. There was the occasional guilt of not ending up at a better college stemming from comparison with old school friends but she didn’t want that on her mind that day.

After a midday call with her parents on her yet-to-be-ported sim, she decided to spend the afternoon in the library and so began her seemingly long walk to the library, across the campus. She went through the shelves as though she knew all the subjects being taught in the college. She noticed an empty spot and pulled out some heavy books she thought were interesting and walked towards the seat. On her way, she bumped into a weary-looking girl. She gave Arya a judgemental look for carrying the books. A scanning glance, bottom to top, and she walked away.

 

“These freshers are such dorks”, Asmi thought to herself as she walked away from a girl carrying, what she could only label as tomes, in one of the aisles of the library. She had been there the past hour juggling adroitly between a group project and some work for her club. However, her willingness to spend a perfectly good hour during midday in the still library stemmed from her frustration due to her boisterous roommates. And now, her frizzy pony bobbed as she walked briskly towards her first class of the day. It had been three weeks but she was always late to class. Fearing her professor might ask her to turn back and leave, she started running.

She walked in and skirted along the twisted aisle right to the last bench where she expected her bunch to be, but it was empty. She wondered where they were as she sat down. Her eyes weren’t on the board, they were on her phone. She scrolled through group chats and memes while also wondering how she needed to get her laundry done soon. After a while, the professor started the roll call and Asmi’s eyes went up only to realize that she had spent the past forty minutes in the wrong class.

Disappointed, she left the class and walked a few steps before bumping into her friends. They judged her, but more importantly, they understood her. “You should cut yourself some slack and slow down. The semester just started. Isn’t that the same shirt you wore yesterday? Maybe I should hook you up with someone. That’ll make you dress better”, said one of them. And suddenly, her troubles faded. They all went out for their routine milkshakes after the remaining classes and it always helped Asmi to unwind with friends and food. But the day was far from over, she had yet to finish up on her assignment and make the daily pilgrimage at night to her club meeting. She attended them religiously. The peaceful walk back to her hostel, alone in the dark, was the best part of her day. That night, however, she walked beside her trusted senior and friend.

 

Aastha was contemplating if the club and her position there was worth her time anymore as she gave her junior some advice on college life. She had just started dating a boy and between a relationship and academics, she felt the need for more personal time. Returning to her room, she sank into her bed knowing tomorrow would be another chance at being productive. No texting, no calling, just some much-needed rest. She woke up early the next day and walked to class in her worn out denims, with one notebook and her hair tied in a bun. The classes rolled by, after all, it had been two years now and she knew what it took to get by five of them continuously – don’t look at the watch frequently and now there was someone with her who made it easy. She was secretly proud of the fact that she had not yet sat through a wrong class this year.

She didn’t exactly have free time, for hobby or even friends. It all went into her meetings with teachers to chalk out plans of execution for her research project and of course, improving her grades and skills. She had applied for and was awaiting a research grant. While most others still hung out often, the uncertainty of the impending future hung heavily on Aastha’s shoulders. It seemed to affect her more than it affected her friends. She couldn’t remember the last time she had lunch or dinner with them but sitting on her laptop and working for hours peculiarly filled the void. The good part was that it had made her humble and understanding. She didn’t mind now if her friends couldn’t make time for her; she had learned to live by herself and do things that truly mattered.

After giving it a lot of thought through the day, she typed a long and hard goodbye message to the club members, choosing the project over them. The people had grown to be a part of her through three long semesters but somehow, she felt happier that evening. More time for herself. She called her mentor to thank her for her guiding light.

 

Aradhya was in the middle of ironing her formals late in the evening when she got a call. It was a lost yet determined soul she had given some insight and knowledge to, a year back. “My investment paid off!” she figured as Aastha thanked her and wished her luck for her interview the next day. “I’ll buy you a milkshake if I land the job”, she promised Aastha. She was ready is all she had heard from her friends, her roommate, and her parents but for the first time in a long while, she had trouble sleeping that night. It was understandable.

She got up early the next day before the alarm went off. While getting ready, her phone rang. She knew it was her parents, calling to wish her luck perhaps. Her roommate always eaves-dropped on her call but this time around, there was nothing to hear as Aradhya was dead silent. “Her parents shouldn’t let her know that the university rejected her application right before the interview. She was preparing herself to lie to the panel about not pursuing higher studies to get an offer, but now, the very question will shake her up. How the tables have turned! Poor girl!” she thought.

Aradhya had a stern expression on her face after the call. Afraid to ask her more about it and throw off her focus from the interview, her roommate just wished her luck. She got ready silently and walked out with her files. There was nothing more to lose now and she had a certain poise in her walk. You’ve got to believe me when I say that she was the most confident person among the lot that got interviewed that day.

A year later, Aastha and Asmi walked into the milkshake joint. As Astha reminisced how she and Aradhya had celebrated there, she wondered if the milkshake would symbolize a tradition. Little did she know that Asmi was going to walk back with Arya that night.

The Mail Carrier

Ramapuram was a small, sleepy town. Full with unambitious people roaming around the big banyan tree, as if it had borne the nucleus of the old town. People were happy, everyone going around for their work, everyone sustaining the small town economically. Industrialisation had left the town almost untouched, which only added to the natural beauty the town had. Letting things be as they imbibes a certain untouched beauty to the subject, and Ramapuram, if seen through the right eyes, was a perfect example.

Raman was one of the many dreamy-eyed residents of this town. As small a boy he was, like all other boys and girls of the town, he went to the only school the little place had. The school was a place of interest for the boys. The most striking features of the school were the old thatched roof, the archaic yellowed walls, the rusty blackboards, and the almost uninterested teachers. Almost as if it was an epitome of neglect and carelessness. The teachers had not been changed in years, nor had been the classrooms. The old furniture had borne the brunt of all the aimless people who happened to use it, day after day.

Every day would come and pass by. The students were taught the same Sanskrit, History, English Composition and Maths every day. The teachers would come and drone, each stricter than the other. Perhaps if not in terms of qualifications, they competed with each other. Maybe they compensated for their lack of scientific acumen with their strictness, which eventually made the students fear them, and hence, ask no questions.

Yet, Raman did not mind. He had no doubts. He was certain. The day would end at the same time the train passed the school, and more certain he was of the fact that the school was not a place for him. He was considered a failure. He would sleep through his classes. Sometimes some teacher would wake him up only to beat him up, most of the times, the teachers just sighed and let him sleep. Who does not sleep in school anyway?

The end of the school day almost coincided with the loud noise the daily mail carrier train would make as it would pass by the town. Out of the many trains that passed by the town, the mail carrier was the most important one. To the people who worked at the small forge by the lake, it signalled lunch. For the teachers at the school, the mail would mean the end of a sultry workday. The old people would go for their afternoon naps, which would often extend into the wee hours of the next morning (Then under the banyan tree they could be heard saying, “These young people are so lazy, sleeping late into the morning. How do they expect to be successful?”). To Raman though, the mail always meant the end of the sufferings he had to endure every day.

Monday was a new week, a new day, a new start. Raman hadn’t been so pumped in years as he was on that Monday. He somehow looked forward to the classes. Though it seemed wrong to his gut, all down to his roots, he somehow knew he could face the teachers today. Sanskrit came, and he could correct grammar in all of the verses the teacher wrote on the board. The Gita, the Ramayana and some verses from the famous Meghdootam, he could recite and correct them all. History was cake today. He knew all the dates. The Mughal Empire, the year Sir Thomas Roe attended Jahangir’s court, the year Bahadur Shah Zafar died. He knew it all. Nobody got appreciation from the history teacher, and yet, Raman was the only one in the class the teacher heaped praises upon.

English composition was a breeze too. Raman could summarise every chapter of Tom Sawyer with ease. Maybe like Tom, he had risen up to the occasion when he was least expected to. Though Raman was not as mischievous as Tom, he obviously shared the laziness. Maths was easy too. Linear algebra was easy. He did not even need to lift his hand to compute the value of x (Only if life was as easy as solving a linear equation, he thought). On Monday, Raman felt what he never thought he’d feel. He felt at ease with his school, his life. He could ace the exams on Monday. A new week is a new start for all of us, after all.

Raman knew that he had changed his life that day. Filled with a new sense of purpose, a feeling of satisfaction, and the best of it all, he was not unnoticed anymore. It felt so strange to him, as to how his life could have turned a full circle in a day, but oh yes, he was happy.

Like all good stories though, be it Romeo and Juliet or the Iliad, this good story couldn’t last forever. After all, success is not achieved in a day (or in a night). It is a path tread only by the hardworking and the certain. Success is a rare commodity, and like many other essential commodities, was in low supply at Ramapuram.

The sun had climbed up the horizon, the mail carrier had come to Ramapuram, and like all trains, it carried news for the people around it. The news is like sunlight. It warms up the things it touches, much to Raman’s dismay.

The train’s shrill whistle shook the townspeople up. Raman felt a surge of dread shrouding his new world. He started feeling the same lethargy he felt every day. He did not want his day to end, but it started slipping like sand from his fist. No matter how hard he tried holding on to it, it was just slipping away. This new wave of sadness had introduced a new screeching and pulsating pain in his left ear, or so Raman thought (After all, sadness does cause pain). Wasn’t sadness supposed to ache his heart, and not his ear?

The next thing Raman could hear was his Maths teacher pulling at his ear, “Don’t sleep in my class, you moron! The mail’s here, the day is over, go back to your home and sleep.”. To the sound of the mail’s shrill whistle, Raman’s new world came crashing down and broke to form his old one. Raman hated homecomings.

Abduction

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With love showers from God, we have been graced,
We are fortunate to be born on this earth, in peace and solace.
The perfect paradigm of beauty and serenity is nature,
These qualities in our mind and soul can be nurtured.

But we have a devil and an angel residing within us,
Whomsoever we feed starts growing within us.
These days, the demons have gone beyond their boundaries,
So self centered, they don’t listen to anybody’s cries and pleas.

Girls in their teen were abducted,
Not just two or three, but about two hundred.
They were in the examination hall writing a test,
Striving hard to live and to do their best.
Unaware of what they had in their casket of fate,
Unaware, this was the last time with friends and mates.

To be educated was their fault?
To be in school was their fault?
To have high ambitions was their fault?
According to Boko Haram,
Having breasts was their fault,
Having a vagina was their fault,
Being a girl was their fault.

In science, humans have reached very far,
In technology, we have crossed all bars.
Still, a buxom lady is pictured naked,
Cases of sexual harassment are being reported.

These girls were parted from their mothers,
Far away from their sisters and brothers.
While we were in the most comfortable zones we had seen, ever,
These girls were being raped each time rougher and harder.

We, girls, are the reason why life continues,
Still, we are the victims of sexual abuse.
We are not puppets,
These men are the real culprits,
They can’t just pull strings to undress us,
Play and then discard us.
I can clearly sense the grief in their eyes,
The fear, after seeing those big, muscular guys,
Tearing their clothes, to lay bare their body,
Just to have pleasures which are momentary.
I can clearly hear those screams, well, every girl can,
Her trying to protect what is left of her , from that monstrous man.

Atrocities, tortures, murders are rampant,
One day, Boko Haram will have to pay and repent.

Till that time we should continue our fight against this evil fox,
Trust me, it is not as cumbersome as penetrating Fort Knox.
We just have to remain strong in the toughest of  times,
Even when we become the victims of these moral crimes.

Yes, we will fight it out!
Yes, we will fight it out!
Should be our motto,
Just step into the fight,
Like Miss Malala, without much ado.

-Sheryl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, we will fight it out!
Yes, we will fight it out!
Should be our motto,
Just step into the fight,
Like Miss Malala, without much ado.

 

-Sheryl