She let herself burn.

Author: Divyang Arora

 

As she cooked the rotis, the heat from the flames made her sweat. It was deemed an unnecessary luxury, so there was no fan in the kitchen to provide for comfort against her hardship.

It was a dark and dingy place, made of bricks, which were damaged at places in between their beehive-like structure, and a tin roof. The house, if you can call it that, was a single room. There were a few pieces of furniture and it looked its inhabitants slept on the cold hard floor, which was caked with dust, with clean patches looking like silhouettes spread on the floor. There was no room for ventilation, so the heat got trapped inside. The only door had sunlight seeping from below it, but the sunlight had not managed to expand its territory to even half an inch from the main entrance. A particular spot quite near the roof, however, was damaged enough to let the sunlight come through. The beam of light fell on her, making a natural spot light.

She sat there, in her lumpy and colourful clothes. She had three white dots on each of her cheeks and wore a simple yet elegant nose ring. She wore moderately long, cheap earrings that had lots of smooth glittery stones which reflected some light from her spotlight and formed a cluster of tiny flash lights. The skin on her face was starting to sag. She wore a cheap, plain saree that was devoid of any trinkets or decorations but was an extremely bright hue of red. The sunlight filled the cluster of bangles on her hands with light, brightening them up but fading the depth of their colour at the same time.

The heat waves from her cauldrons shimmered and made everything around and beyond seem hazy.

The smell of food she had made enticed her nostrils. In one corner, there was a small area dedicated to her gods and the agarbattis she had burned mixed their essence with that of the dinner in making. It gave the house a very misty look. It made the very place stricken with dire poverty and helplessness look serene and gave her a very peaceful look.

Someone better off may come along and call the scene aesthetic, but it couldn’t have been comfortable.

She looked around like she was taking this all in for the first time and in her eyes, it seemed like heaven. Maybe that’s why she didn’t leave, even though her saree was laced with sweat.

She was hungry, but could eat only after her family, to ensure that everybody got their fill, much like mothers creating the society and its laborers but not getting to eat its fruit of productivity till much later, when everyone else is done with it.

The heat from her own creation stung her eyes and the oil that came spurting out threatened to burn her clothes and rob her off her dignity.

She brought out a plate to transfer the chapattis from the tava with her naked fingers. Picking them up would bring her fingers in contact with the steaming tava, but she didn’t seem to care. She could have stretched out her hand. She could have picked the cloth lying not so far. Not out of her reach. She could have used it. But she didn’t bother. She had done this for years now. She didn’t mind taking the brunt of the heat.

Her hands did not swell or become red, not any more.
She had to feed her family. She had to achieve what she had been told was her aim and dharma, her whole life, and be the ideal wife.

She let herself burn.

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…”

REMINISCENCE

Author: Afreen Ahmed

 

Looking at the darkening sky

 I can feel that it’s almost over.

As I gaze around and let out a sigh,

I pause and regain my composure.

 

What are we doing? It’s all wrong.

My vision blurry through the smoke.

Searching for the stars, they’re all gone.

Silently, we breathe in and choke.

 

Cascading down, we’re hurting now,

It keeps pouring, stinging us as it falls.

To the end of us, we sincerely bow,

Storms forced upon us by squalls.

 

Life, as we know it, struggling to stand.

Temperatures rising, the skyline glowing.

Extinguished treasures in higher demand,

Memories of rivers that were once flowing.

 

Seven feet of wind-driven snow 

And smoldering remains of forest lands.

Earth belongs to us, we all know,

The quietus by human hands.

 

Look out to the future, but it tells you naught.

We don’t know how to live with a good thing.

This world to become an afterthought,

After we break it into nothing.

 

In spite of how bittersweet I feel, 

A joy tinged with sadness,

When to nature, all we’d do was kneel,

Before everything went to madness.

 

All I ask is for this world not to end.

For better or for worse, we are stuck with this.

We still have time, and much more to mend,

Earth should not be something to reminisce.

 

PRETIOSM

Author: Saumyaa Sinha

 

I stutter

I forget

I remember

But only bits of it

Almost clawing at my lips

A delicate balance on my waterline

Almost dancing on my finger tips

I call it mine

Effervescence

An illumination, florescent

Like dreams caught in a glass bottle

Brewing silently,

In swirls of thoughts, thick and dense

Living within my soul since ages

Scribbled on the corners of worn out pages

Drift in. Drift out

In surreal phases

I feel its battle of escape

In my triumph, in my disaster

Concealed in the arbitrary shape

Of shyness, rage, despair and a two faced master

I hear it loud and clear, in a silent starless night

Lonely as I or perhaps, as the unfathomable sky

I hear it breathe, oh its divine

Intoxicating, like an ageing wine

A brush against my cheeks,

Result of the o’er whelming embouchure i witness, it peeks

Or the purple-orange stain of the sunset, oh it just wishes to confess!

Until it falls asleep, once more, in the desolate darkness

It smiles through freshly cut flowers

Or the tender dewdrops of early hours

It screams to be let out, free into echoes

Reverberated by grand mountains, lost in solitary meadows

Quivering at the brim, in sadness

And in shattered pride of a soul unblessed

Or in an out of control, ignited passion

And in bone-chilling, fear driven, frissions

Or a euphoric laughter

And to ears of listeners, thereafter

Hush, go to sleep

You’re mine to keep

Until time comes, to give you away

Until time comes, behind my facade you will stay

tangit inanis

Author: Saumyaa Sinha

 

A door creeks open

It’s open now

Go

Don’t stagger on your bare numb feet

Don’t think twice

Don’t blink

For it isn’t to be missed

You look so empty

I can barely hold your eyes

Neither can I sympathise

You look so distant

Almost as if….

As if you don’t exist

But you do

Because my heart goes out for you

You’re enervating

You make my knees weak, week by week

You do, because when I see your slumping stature

I quiver

You do, because you’re after all an epiphany

You’re me

You’re an aberration

You

With lipstick replaced by blood bitten lips

And your cold smitten heart drips

Of awe

Of a comfort so divine

Like sweet melody

Of a hollow chime

You

Fingernails beat the keypad

Staccato of sweet outbursts

You

No care in the world of your dust strewn hair

A wreck across your harsh face

A face

Massacred by…

By what?

I can’t place my shaky finger on

And arid eyes

Your uncanny ability to never cry

You shuffle along, lonely paper balls rustle

Expressions lie on the floor

Ephemeral

They remind me of fireflies

Lights abate

Lives abate

All at once, and several

It spins

My head, your defences

Cold prison cell bars give me support

I’m sorry

But, welcome home

Come here

The door has creaked open

My mind, body, heart and soul

It’s open now

Go

Don’t stagger on your bare numb feet

Don’t think twice

Don’t blink

  

Just walk right in

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.

Reborn

Author: Janani Ramachandran


Dewdrops slid down her body
As the snow began to thaw
Uncovering her buried form
That lost its way in the expanse of the perfect white
The sunlight reflecting in her ebony irises for the first time in a long time

One could say she was lifeless
But one look closer
One could feel the slight ministrations of her uncertain breath
Slight yet steady
Like the stream opening to a mighty river
Her ebony irises
Like the inky starless night sky
That conceals a million behind its inky curtains

Her pale arms scratched with blood red scars
Her soft flesh pierced by rough wood and dirt
The fair mixed with the brown
Giving rise to a new hue
The colour of her cocoon
That would give rise to the new her

Her colourless lips encrusted with dried blood
New Ebony hair peeking out from a mass of lifeless strands
Her fat eaten by the ice
Stripping her to her bones
Yet she looked full
In complete harmony with the ice complementing her starved form

They called her a miracle
When they felt a slight twitch in her cold wrist
They had thought that she would’ve snapped
Like the great trees amputated by winter
They’re great arms twisted by the unforgiving cold
Yet there she lay
A subtle pulse in her lifeless form

It should’ve frozen her heart
Crushed her bones
Sucked the life out of her lungs
Iced her blood to bed her in a coffin of ice
There was an endless list of what should have happened
But nothing of what had happened was found in the pieces of parchment

She was alive
Her blood gushing into her veins
Stronger than ever
Her breath like the beginning of a hurricane
The colour returning to her pallid body
Gasps of awe as they watched her arms twitch
Yet what almost everyone missed
Was the drops of liquid lining her closed eyes

Dawn had arrived
The first beam of sunlight hit her heart
A reminder that the wait was over
As her eyes opened
There was a certain light in them
Like a falling star in the inky night sky
That commanded attention and respect
But most importantly fulfilled a wish
It fulfilled hers
She had been reborn

Sands Of time

Author: Janani Ramachandran

 

Far away in the dirty suburbs of Kashmir,

The army commander held his breath for life,

The hidden time bomb ticking every second,

 

Down south of the subcontinent,

A woman lay dying in her drug induced sleep,

The malign cancer engulfing her cells every second,

 

In the East of the peninsular land,

The mighty river raged on ravaging livelihoods,

An old widower clutching his departed love’s portrait,

A serene smile on his wrinkled face,

as he watched his life ebb away every second,

 

Due west of the diverse nation,

Silent hospital walls disturbed by the cries of a mother,

Complications in the birth increasing every second.

 

The four lives lay far apart by the compass rose,

Their strings of fate woven by only one link,

Hovering above their heads stands the fragile hourglass,

In it flow the sands of time in their own accord,

Completely in-cognizant of the mayhem and chaos,

Though the aftermath of the dance of fate unknown,

Lie a certain beauty to the lingering uncertainties.

Profanity: why we need it

It was Friday, I was visiting my home as I do every three weeks or so. It was my bad luck that this time I didn’t get a window seat but the train journey was only two hours. As I didn’t get a window to look outside at, I was peeking at the person sitting next to me as one does. She was watching Game of Thrones on her phone. I cursed myself for not charging my mobile beforehand. With twenty-three percent, I can only listen to songs. Soon enough, my eyes went back to her phone screen shamelessly. It was the Battle of Black-water episode, a brilliant one yet my instincts went alarming. ‘This one has nudity in it! Like a lot of it!’ I remembered immediately and looked around.

Naturally, the person sitting next to her, a man in his forties was peeking just like me. As expected, the scene came up and I was curious what she would do. She kept watching not minding the next person.  I observed that man who noticed a college girl watching nude scenes in a public place and he gave the most judgmental look I’ve ever seen. The awkwardness went away as soon as the episode moved on to the action scene.

Smiling at the situation I put on my headphones. I was listening to Eminem, a rap singer who curses a lot to express emotions. My parents used to give a similar look when I listen to him on loudspeaker, so I had to switch to headphones. Grown ups were always hypocritical about youngster’s line of interests.

The train reached the destination and I took a rickshaw, got down at the edge of my street and walked home.

Usually the street looks alive filled with children playing hide and seek or badminton. I was one among those children a few years back until studies became a priority. Although, this Friday the street was unusually dead. There were no playing kids, no one was around.

After entering my place, having some food and rest, passing some time, I looked at the street again. It was still deserted. I asked my mother as to why there were no children playing. ‘Oh, you didn’t know? Lakshmi, from the next building died yesterday. It was a suicide’ she broke the news

‘What?! How?!’ I asked shaken

‘She had to write Quarterly exam the next day. Her parents were in the AC room while she was studying in the hall or at least that’s what they thought she was doing.  The next morning, they woke up, they saw her hanging by her mother’s….’ My mother went on to explain the details

‘Yeah, okay I get it. Stop’ I stopped her as I felt the back of my neck thinning and filling with uneasiness. ‘I used to play with her’

‘She studied Eleventh standard, in your school only. Your school is infamous for students ending up like this under stress, you have no idea how concerned I was when you were there’ my mother explained but I had to disagree immediately ‘My teachers are nothing like that! I mean, there was stress, anxiety and problems but…’ I wanted to argue but I couldn’t finish the sentence. I wasn’t able to tell her exactly how I didn’t end up killing myself even though I too had my fair share of dark days.

That night I couldn’t sleep but think and wonder, what would’ve happened to her to make her take that decision and why something like that didn’t occur to me.  I remember my first day in eleventh standard, my new maths teacher gave an introductory class of maths in general and he took an example sum of infinite series. He explained how one could easily get the answer for nine plus ninety-nine plus nine hundred and ninety-nine and so on. When I walked out of the class after it ended on my way to home, I looked at a BMW car and it’s hot engine, I looked at beautiful house where a gardener was watering the plants that had roses of different colors and all of them melted into the number nines, the infinite nines all crowded and standing in my way like a giant spider made of nine’s.

‘All of this? That car, that house, that garden. I can get all of this only if I go through this complicated maths?’ I thought, confused, stressed. ‘Did my mother and father go through this so that they can feed me? Is there no other way?’ I asked myself as the thought of finishing the assignment before the deadline was killing me. It was almost like Math was choking me and telling me I am the weakest person in the world.

I grew up in the same school for the first ten years with the same set of friends but I had to join the bigger school because the IIT coaching there was better. Being the new fish for the first time in my life didn’t help either. I had to face bullies for the whole first year and deal with them.

Thinking back about all of this in my bed that night made me wonder how, how did I get through all of that?

The age of 16 is very confusing. You are not an adult yet but you’re not a child anymore either. You use curse words or talk about sex, it’s inappropriate. You talk about free things that come along with Kellogg’s Chocos or dolls you wanted to have, that’s inappropriate too.  I remember seeing a video of a baby when given a candy or a favorite toy, the baby would stand up and clap its hands in excitement while jumping up and down. The same baby would cry aloud spitting everywhere and agitate in frustration if the same toy or candy is taken away. There is no shame is saying that adults come across similar situation all the time but crying or jumping as you clap is seen as straight up bad behavior. Well, for a person who’s sixteen and has been treated as a child up until that point, he or she have been expressing their emotions one way all this time, now they’re expected to express it another way but are never shown or taught how. Continue reading

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.

wallpaper_cigarette_smoke_024

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!”.