Out For A Walk

The breeze is cold, with no identifiable smells, it’s pleasuring. The city looks beautiful, calm and the major intersections are the only places with lights. These huge flood-lights look like mere toothpicks from where I stand. The city looks like a collection of a kid’s building blocks, organized as on a circuit board of some complex electronic device. I have seen this view multiple times, probably in every lighting condition that the eyes can perceive, yet, it looks especially mesmerizing right now. I stand on the visibly largest bridge crossing the Ganga river, marking the start of this holy city. The oldest bridge was replaced by the latest one. The double-decker bridge is barely visible which identified the city in films like Raanjhna. A train chugs through the bottom and some two-three people walk by on the top every few minutes. Dawn will break soon.

 

I stand here, after hours of trying to sleep. The breeze keeps pushing me back, tailwinds of trucks passing on the highway behind me keep thrusting me forward, and I keep swinging like a disoriented pendulum. I came here to see the end. Option 1: Fall on the bottom of the pillar, crack your skull, instant, and certain death.  Option 2: Fall in the water, I’m high enough for the surface tension to shatter my bones, I writhe in pain and eventually drown. Another possibility is I enter the water safe and sound, the cold water and strong current give me a long, slow and agonizing death, my body is found somewhere downstream. 

This is it, my dream of twelve years is finally becoming a reality. I climb and sit on the edge, anytime now.

“Hey, why are you here? What are you planning to do now?”

“I have seen it all, I have reached the tipping point of my life, it cannot get any better. I will jump and end it all.”
“Yes, that’s the best you can do, I mean, you being here or just disappearing, wouldn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Your existence is known to a maximum of a thousand people. About 500 remember that they met you. About a hundred remember you regularly. Some fifteen-twenty people care about your existence, only to eventually benefit from you. NO ONE ADORES YOU. It would be for the best for you and everyone around you if you died.”

“Wait. You have so much to live for, didn’t you want to go Bungee Jumping? You could do it if you didn’t jump now.”

“This isn’t much different though.”

All three of us laughed as a tear rolled down my face.

“Yeah, that’s true but you wanted to buy a car, raise a kid, live a happy life?”

“But isn’t that inviting more trouble down the line? Every change brings discomfort.”
“Exactly, right from choosing the pursuit of engineering. No, from choosing science. No, wait, from the first time I ever spoke, I have only invited trouble to myself and the people around me. My words, my actions, never solved anything, but definitely sprouted seeds for trouble.”

“Yeah, and you were also responsible for 9/11, don’t listen to him. You’re doing good. You’ve got a healthy lifestyle, a stable job. You are who many aspire to be. You can do anything you want to.”

“Haha, as if you’ve ever had anything in control.”

“That’s true, I have never had anything in my control. Isn’t that the truth of the world? No matter what decision I make, it always has consequences beyond my control. What am I doing, where am I headed? I will never have the life I wanted. It is all pointless. I will never know what’s next and uncertainty is never good. I can count the major events left in my life on the fingers of just one of my hands and most of them aren’t happy ones.”

“You can’t end here. People look up to you. They tell their kids your story. Wouldn’t you want that story to get better every time you meet them? Or do you want it to become a foreshadowing?”

“That is a part of the problem. I very much hate the life I have lived till now, I do not want anyone to follow my footsteps of all people.”

“The underachiever, the meta of our generation. You are spitting on the greats by calling yourself one. You idiot, people your age are running corporations, changing the world and whatnot. You are the worst example to follow. You yourself don’t want to be you. You are everything that’s wrong with you.”

“True, nothing I ever did has made a difference. My whole life has been a compromise. I have never had what I wanted. I was and never will be satisfied with what I have, and will live my entire life hustling for something better trying to unsuccessfully satiate myself. I do not want this. This is the worst part: I will never know what I truly want. What will make me full? A woman? A big home? Many big homes? Kids? Grandkids? Supercars? I guess I dreamed too big, haha. You get the gist.” 

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Not opening the box could be the biggest mistake you make. Walk back, and you can set a better example than the one you would if you jumped.”

“Haha, a box of chocolates can’t have ice creams or potato chips. I know where my life is headed, the last time I got a surprise gift was in sixth grade when my parents got me a digital camera for my birthday. There haven’t been any welcomed surprises after that. My life is not a movie, if I jump down and swim to the next town, they wouldn’t cover me in papers. They would put me in an asylum.”

“That reminds me, your birthday is coming up. Let’s postpone this ordeal until that day, the sun is up too. You do not deserve a release so soon, you should suffer more. Wouldn’t it be poetic to do it that day?”

“Yeah, not knowing what to do when they sing happy birthday would be the best torture. How bothersome, I loathe that day. I have to pick my own gift, sometimes I pick it months before or after, depending on when I need something. I have to plan a party for a bunch of ungrateful nobodies, who would dissolve in the crowd as soon as the party’s over. Leaving a debt to be fulfilled only on their birthdays.”

“Hey, you came here to celebrate that. A birthday with your parents after 4, maybe 5 years.”

“Yeah, let’s call today a trial run for what we will do on that day. Everyone will be tired from the party, it would be easier to escape.”

“Yeah, let’s head back.”

 

The sun shines from way above the horizon. People have started their days. Cattle owners, taking their herds of buffaloes to pasture. Milkmen cycling with huge tin containers on either side of the bicycle, headed to deliver or sell it at the “Satti”. Dust flows as school buses and vans rush on the roads to force start the dozy kids’ day. “You coward.” 

I put my head down. My cheeks keep getting wet, my breath keeps pacing and I blame it all on the dust. No one turns their head, ever. “They all have their problems to deal with, not everyone is as weak or has the time to lament over such issues.” The same sound keeps screaming at me on my way back. “You coward, you’ll never have the courage to do what you want. You can’t even JUST DIE. People work very hard to live and your puny, pathetic self can’t even do that. You can never be happy for you will NEVER BE SATISFIED.”

I reach home, wipe the mix of dew, dust, sweat, and tears off my face. Maa sips her daily tea while watching the headlines. Advertisements start, and she changes to some religious channel as I walk in. 

“Where were you?” She asks.

I don’t have an answer, I stay silent for a moment, it always makes me look like an intellectual who knows what he is going to say. I answer, “I was just…”

Faith

 

Author- Divyang Arora

There is no liberation, no?
The smoke that surrounds us, with no end.
The pit that we are falling in, with no bottom.
The stink, that no perfume can cover up.
The lock doesn’t have a key
and the prison, it doesn’t have a door
The hope, exists only in our minds.
The saviour, only in our dreams.
The soul stays famished
and the heart, littered.
Not broken. No. Only littered. Spread. Confused. Wild.
There’s a difference.
The mind, it’s not allowed to roam, is it?
The essence of it, wrapped in a bottle
when it should have been the one littered.
The world stands inverted
and the sky, crushing upon me.

But maybe.

Maybe the smoke clouds light
light with age old dust swimming in it, but light indeed.
Light from a hole
and maybe the hole is in a door
Maybe the pit has no bottom
because I am shooting to the sky, amidst stars.
Maybe the stink, is just my nose acting up
Maybe the lock is already open,
and the door is just shut for me to grab the handle.
Maybe I have been standing on the other side of the prison bars,
foolish enough to only look straight.
A lot of maybes they are,
but the hope has a spark of fire to it
hidden in the burnt debris and ashes.
Maybe it’s all in my head,
but why should that mean that it’s not real?
One only needs to stand down with his faith
and remember,
that happiness can be found even in the darkest of times
if one only remembers, to turn on the light.
And maybe, I think as I excite myself,
the saviour is no one but me.

Trailing Stars

 Author: Janani Ramachandran
A silent cry echoed through the grey walls,

As she swept the deserted corridors with her blush gown,

Her movement frantic as she attempted to see beyond the engulfing darkness,

The white of the moon,

Unable to escape the demons lurking in the unnamed darkness,

She found her turquoise eyes closing in feeble attempt to safety,

A surge of hope caressing the walls of her heart,

As a faint silhouette of a lantern appeared before her mind’s eye,

The light reflecting off her bejewelled crown sparkling on every wall,

Mimicking the stars adorning the bare night sky,

Its radiance rivalled only by her twinkling eyes,

Her endearing face alit with a silly smile, the golden light dusting it with a rosy blush,

The toothy grin and the matching pigtails a sharp contrast,

To the serious look she often feigned in childish humour,

Involuntarily reaching for the floating light with her little chubby fingers,

As the soft crackle of the flames resonated within her,

Her little head lifting in surprise as the lantern suddenly disappeared,

Only for the darkness to be lit by another one,

Fierce determination swirling like an immature whirlpool in her aqua eyes,

She swore to capture it again in a race against time,

And found herself make the biggest leap of her life,

But what she was yet to know, was time was bound to win,

As she leaped to grab the light, time played its part,

Mid- leap she outgrew her fine little clothes,

Her juvenile grin sculpting into a serene smile,

Her face now composed of features that seemed like subtle strokes of art,

Yet her surroundings carried no sign of her sudden metamorphosis,

Waking up from the fall she found herself curled in fetal stance,

Preserving nothing of her past but only her heart,

That forever carried her childish smile written within its walls,

As she looked back she hoped to find the floating lanterns,

That had her smiles and tears inked on their walls of light,

Yet all she saw was the trail of stars,

That had scripted her story via Cassiopeia,

The constellation that told her tale and lit her night sky,

The princess that day became the Queen of constellations,

Earth that day met the stars..

Rainy Days and Mondays

Author: Afreen Ahmed

 

I can smell the damp timber of the Victorian-style gazebo I sit in, one of the many in these secluded woods. It overlooks a pond adorned by water lilies and filled with fishes tinged with amber and pearl, swimming freely in the crystal clear water. A cool breeze creates rings of ripples on the surface and the sky begins to darken from a beautiful blue to a gravel-grey. I feel the first splatter of rain on my palms as I hold them out and I can hear the musical chime of raindrops drumming on the leaves as they fall in a crescendo. The gazebo still stands, despite its old age, the musty and earthy odor of it giving it away. This mixed with the petrichor from this spell of showers is my favorite smell. It gives me these waves of nostalgia of things I haven’t been through or seen.

These woods have stood for years, untouched and undaunted. The fish swarm towards the crumbs of bread I throw into the pond. In the distance, ducks dunk their heads into the water. I place the bread packet on the bench and take a quick photograph of the scene on my camera. This location is the image of tranquility and my secret place. I come here when I feel like being left alone and to escape the rush of the tireless world.

I cherish the days it pours, and keep a certain fondness for it in a corner of my heart. It rained the first time I rode to school on my new bicycle, after my father’s enthusiastic efforts to teach me how to ride one became a success. The scent of my mother’s soft and chewy brownie cookies, straight out of the oven, would attack my senses on these days. It rained on the day I got into the one of the best universities of art and when I fell in love for the first time. It rained on my 18th birthday when my grandfather gifted me with a Polaroid camera, much too steep for his savings, but still a possession I prize the most.

It rains today with an intensity I would usually appreciate, to an extent where I would expect good things to come my way. I walk out into the downpour, my cornflower-blue dress shirt and formal trousers sticking to my skin. I feel the drops fall onto my face as I step into a muddy puddle, soiling my polished derby shoes and hum a lullaby my mother used to sing to me in the night when I was scared of the dark. I am afraid now. 

I look for solace here after being rejected the seventh time in an interview to hire photographers in globally renowned companies. I had toiled really hard for this and filled my cup until it overflowed. I got onto shaky feet, just to fall again with no one to catch me. I’ve run out of fight and feel helpless and lost. My parents would welcome me back with open arms, but the disappointment in myself hits me in the gut. Where had I gone wrong? 

It gets chilly and I head back into the shelter of the gazebo. My heart clenches and I can feel ice spread over it, cracking it into a million shards. My hands shiver as I blow onto them to keep them warm. I watch as a lone white bird swoops down into this shade to protect itself from the rain. It wistfully looks at the thundering sky as if searching for something it had lost. It then preens its snow-white feathers and I cannot help but stare at it. It looks back at me and out of impulse, I place a few leftover crumbs of bread on the wooden flooring of the structure. It hops over and pecks at the crumbs. I feel slightly amused and chuckle to myself. It chirps loudly in reply and I sit motionless, afraid to scare the bird away. It whistles a sanguine tune, and I wonder if it sings for me. The trills of the bird gives me comfort temporarily until the sun comes out once again. 

Eventually, the noise of the rain lessens and the drops fade into nothing. The sky shines a bright blue and the sunlight gleams through the woodwork of the gazebo, lying on the floor like sweet honey. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun hit me on my face and take it all in. When I open my eyes, I find that, once again, I am alone, and the bird has flown away to join the rest of its flock. Double rainbows decorate the sky and I become aware of the loud chirping of frogs. 

All I wanted was to live out the dream that I dreamt up and become a celebrated photographer. Despite being separated from its family, the bird sang knowing that once the rain had stopped, it could go back to where it came from. I knew then, that I too, could make it out of here, even if it takes a night or a hundred years. Change would come slow but I would just have to wait for the tempest to pass and go back to pursuing exactly what I want. Hope really is the thing with feathers.

I smile to myself and look up at the rainbows. If I followed them, would I find my pot of gold? As I sat dreaming, a sharp ring from my phone pulls me back to reality, a message from a revered wildlife photography firm. I had been called for a personal interview the next Monday, after they glanced through my portfolio and deemed it impressive. I knew this was my last chance, but I was resolved to give my best and walked out of the gazebo. As I trudged over the wet, glistening grass, I realized I would still cherish rainy days for years to come.

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.

 

burning-cigarette-smoke

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.

marijuana-smoke

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!”.

The Stranger With The Light

A world so deeply pained,
And all efforts went in vain.
Yes, the light had gone missing somewhere,
And you brought it back again.

I thought that I had changed,
Indeed, this thought was insane.
Now learned that that was me who led the change,
I left those thoughts to search new lanes.

I then resolved to follow,
the good words thy had sent,
In your face, I learnt lessons,
Till yesterday, I hadn’t.

You wiped the picture clear,
How my steps should I steer.
Like a blessing you had come,
A stranger, who is no more one.                                                                                  –

-Sakshi Ragini