ALIVE BUT STILL DEAD

“What would be my age,mama?”, I asked. I was with my mother on the couch, as close to her as possible, with her hand on my head. It just felt safe. My mother replied, “You were barely a month old”. I sensed something wet falling on my head, thus I looked at her to only find her staring at the wall, with tears rolling down her cheeks. In the picture, there was a man. He was looking at the younger me, wrapped in a blanket and sleeping in his arms. This man is my father, apparently. His eyes were lit up with affection, his face glowing with joy. It felt like he had achieved something or found something really precious, that he won’t be giving away easily, not without putting up a fight until the very end.

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I continued to flip through the pages of this album which has been in the home for twelve years. There was this one picture in which, I think we were celebrating, the sort in which I am sitting on a baby high chair, properly dressed. Mom and the man were also seemingly wearing their best clothes. It was definitely not a birthday because I didn’t see balloons or decoration of that sort. “Mama, where are we, what is happening?”.She said, “That is the day when you took your first independent steps,hence the celebration”. Those were her last words of the day, she got up, walked into her room, slammed and bolted the door behind her.

I was left in the drawing-room all by myself, I just wanted to hide under her chunni, and never get out of it. That was my escape from the world that I didn’t want to face, the world that I despised. Under her chunni, clung to my mother’s body, I found my haven.

As much as I missed that right now, there was still something in me that wanted me to keep turning the leaves of that album until I see those twelve years of life. I saw a photo, in which I was old enough to walk, we are on some beach, with both the adults on my either side, kissing me on the cheek.In turn, our feet being kissed by water. Those were the good days, I guess.

There were pictures of me winning a certificate in some recitation competition, playing hide and seek with my so-called dad, going for vacations, being mollycoddled by both of them. I miss those days, I miss that dad, I miss my family, I miss what I once called home.

I hit puberty. That is when things change. Well that is not something new, right? It is that time when everything started changing not only within me but also around me. Parents in some way or the other confront their kids about this, well I was too, but by a monster. I was raped by that man each and every day when my mom used to leave. I was told this was normal, that this happens to every kid. After that day there was no new addition to that album, things stood stand still. The house which once used to be filled with laughs, balloons, streamers, now was always at sixes and sevens with my clothes sprawled on the floor and filled with shrieks, screams and cries.

The neighbours stopped visiting us, mom couldn’t comprehend what was happening to me.

A month passed, two months passed, three months passed, it was only after the seventh, that my dad was accidentally caught in the act, and now three years have passed. It is just me and my mom, in this house. Two lives that can never be normal. My mom’s adulthood, and my childhood, youth and adulthood all smeared with an indelible imprint which haunts me every time I close my eyes.

I took out the last picture from the album, it was me, mom, and that man, at a wedding, the last smiles on those faces. I shut the album, threw it in the dustbin and went to my room.

In the year, 2016, a total of 38,947 cases of rape were registered under POCSO. Now a girl isn’t safe even at a place she considers home .There has been a turn in the tide however, with more and more of these cases being regularly reported and demands for stricter legislation being made even more vehemently by the masses. Only total justice shall suffice, nothing more and definitely nothing less.

Sheryl

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Inside Out

Ever so beautiful looked the sky,
As I walked by,
Walking past the houses, in the lanes,
Greeting the old lady, stooped on her cane.

With some curtains brushed aside,
I could get a glimpse of what’s inside.
Some faint voices, some familiar, some unknown,
Some genial, some in exasperated tone.

The aroma greeted my nose,
There a girl, camera, was a 100s liked insta pose.
Shook my head, with a smile on my face,
I kept walking my own pace.

Wasn’t even half a mile before the smile waned,
Those eyes evinced fear and pain.
Big and bulging, staring right at me,
Brimming with emotions, sadness, gloomy.

A boy of nine standing behind the window,
I looked past those eyes somehow,
Only to find what I feared,
Those deafened ears could again hear.

Squabbles, shrieks, abuses being hurled,
Disturbing was the visual concerned.
I again looked at them, million stories untold and unsaid,
Trauma being made to drink, grief being fed.

Who was I?
Just a passerby.
Now drowned in the ocean,
Of a child’s emotions.

This may have stirred turbulence in my heart too,
Disrupting the serenity of the ocean blue.
Who knows?
Thankfully, no one looked at my eyes, through a window.

Secrets buried,
Secrets that we have carried.

I started walking now, towards my abode,
All alone on the,dimly lit, road.

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Muskan Chanana

 

Father to Son

Said father to son, “What hurts thee most?”

“When friends betray me, through our friendships they coast.

They smile with me, they rejoice when I’m around,

But behind my back they dislike me, I found.”

Said the father,” Well you can always make new friends”

The father asked again, “Son, what hurts thee the most?”

“Well then it’s my school, the times when I give tests,

All the times I didn’t score well, I didn’t give my best,

I try my hardest to succeed, to score,

But somewhere, somehow, people expect more”

Said the father, “You can study harder the next time”

The father retorted again, “Son, what actually hurts the most?”

“It has to be home dad; the times you and mom don’t treat me well,

It wasn’t my mistake, but the tears I swell,

I understand you are a little tired, a little stressed,

Instead of being scolded, shouldn’t I be blessed?”

The father tearfully replied, “Well boy, I’ll do my best.”

“Now it’s my turn to tell you what hurts the most, boy

It’s the time that hurts the most, it stings the worst,

All the times you could’ve helped someone, the relationships you could’ve nursed,

Once gone, it never comes back,

Leaving you with the foul words you could’ve taken, prevented the setback”

The son said, “Well dad, I’ll tell you what I learn,

Time is the most contagious,

It spares no one.”

Breaking the silence

Hollywood – a world of fame, is often seen as an explicit and exposed dimension. Like the glitzy and skimpy fashion, there’s very little that’s not out there in the open to discuss or caught by the paparazzi’s cameras. A world where everyone has a mind and voice of their own and has a weight commensurate to their worth.

With most of us having bred these thoughts, the sexual misconduct allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein that came out last October and catalysed the #MeToo campaign came to many of us as a shock. Not as much for the fact that sexual harassment is still rampant in one of the most frank and progressive industries of the world, as for the fact that no one spoke about it for this long and that this movement only paced in 2017.

From famous TV artists like Kevin Spacey and Ed Westwick to 2017’s Golden Globe winner, James Franco, many unexpected names and encounters have come forth since the Weinstein fallout which is both disheartening and alarming. The victims include as many people outside the industry as within with Ashley Judd, Reese Witherspoon, and Lady Gaga being the prominent ones to speak of the ugly truth.

There are many interpretations from all that has transpired in the past few months, but the one I see in red, underlined, is the fact that even an industry that boasts to be one of the most liberal ones, set up in the most modern country, is grappling with pervasive sexual harassment. This shows that it’s not the progressiveness of the place or the country, but the individual mindset that makes all the difference and can change the game.

In my opinion, sexual predators are defined solely by their mentality, not by the situation or the environment. Whether you choose to respect another person’s being is solely dependent on your thinking. In the case of Hollywood, it is worsened by fame and misleading reputations that help offenders cover their misdoings. So the question really is “What is the solution to this age-old problem?”

Boycott and isolation.

Punishment post investigation is only intuitive, but what truly makes a difference is making the offender realize the wrong they did by shunning them. As friends, as supporters, as co-workers or just as humans, we should unitedly boycott and isolate anyone who has misbehaved sexually, as was done in the case of Harvey Weinstein. A joint opposition stand, like the elegant one headed by the women in Hollywood, goes a long way. Social media is a convenient tool that helps do this and has only brought force to the MeToo campaign. Hollywood did right this time around and other trades should learn from this.

The big takeaway is that fighting sexual harassment in any industry shouldn’t be only the victims’ concern or the women’s concern. It should be the entire industry’s concern and every member should join hands and speak out or help others speak out, adding fuel to a cleansing fire. The activism in the past few months is a testimony to this. Your words, your stand, and even your silence speaks volumes. To wrap up, I emphasize we all be silence breakers when the time comes, like those featured on Time magazine’s Person of the Year feature for 2017. And like I mentioned before, you can even do it in silence.

 

A Broken Family, A Broken Dream

A tear drips onto a memory book
How I wish I could return to the past
It’s the good times I want to return to

There hangs a lonely sickening feeling
The world that I once loved, slips off my fingertips
Leaving behind a kingdom in ruin

The glitter faded to gray
The colors faded away
Until black and white remained

Back when mommy was always happy and funny
Her pretty black hair, usually tied up in a bun
Making pancakes every alternate day

Back when daddy let me help him plant flowers in our garden
Helping me every night with all the hard stuff out there
Reading stories in all sorts of crazy voices

Back when daddy still loved mommy
Back to when we leapt around the so-tall flowers
Eternally a time of love and joy

Now they are drifting away
Maybe I could have prevented all of this disaster
A miserable blank replacing the glowing smiles

Now, nobody is smiling
Nobody is happy
Because nobody can even fake it

There is no glue that could put them back together
I am still searching for that glue
To join all our cracked and shattered dreams

In the middle of the night, I sit and I write
The wind no longer makes me cold
The sun doesn’t make my skin warm

If only I could do something
To get mommy and daddy back together
To save my family, tangled in knots

By Rohitanshu Kar