Compilation of writings

Art-Written

Dark Secrets

The withered old man…who was he?

With pale skin and ghastly eyes, clad in white in a pool of sheer darkness, he stands solitary.  But the darkness holds a secret. One that he has wasted away discovering.   Yet he is on the verge of it…holding a book with a faded cover open.

The book seems to be the key to the unknown.

The faded cover reveals vivid pictures to the man; expectant.  Does the man hold something of the sort within himself?

The withered old man…what was he doing?

His wrinkled mouth curved into the shape of a word…a sound…a breath.

Slowly, the darkness unveils a fragment of her secret.

A brilliantly colored bird emanates from the sea of black…seemingly out of thin, dark air. Wings spread, positioned above the old man, her talons are gripping something…

A sheet of paper? Hastily ripped? What was it?

The musty air is awfully silent, and only the breathing of the aged man which was coming in rasps was audible. But the silence was penetrated by an inhuman screech. It couldn’t have come from the bird, it was too callous. Yet she had her beak wide open…

She abruptly ended her shriek and with a flutter of her wings she began to fly towards the man, who now seemed unaware of the open book in his arms.

She was smooth in her flight, advancing swiftly. Her sharp talons curved, diving towards the man…And dropped the message onto the book of secrets. Brusquely she flew up and perched herself on a dark branch that didn’t seem to be there before.

The withered man was…growing younger.   The wrinkles disappeared, the pale skin stretched over his gaunt bones.

But his eyes were growing queer…huge pupils grew tiny, and the eerie whites of his eyes were…ghostly.

What was it? He seemed to be different…teetering on the verge of sanity; dangerously close to the edge.   The vivid bird’s colors were fading…slowly she was engulfed by black…disappearing as supernaturally as she came into the darkness.   And the man? The answer to his query had driven him insane.

– Kratika Mishra

Bringing Ideas to Life

I had my book with me – the book that I wanted to breathe life into. From a very young age, I had been able to imagine myself in a story, to put myself in the character’s place. But it was only recently – a couple of years ago, at most – that I had found out about bringing pictures to life. Or rather, I could make them seem more realistic.

I had succeeded in bringing an animal to life only once before, and the rabbit I had brought to life had died almost immediately. A disheartening attempt. I had not tried to bring any animals to life for a very long time. Instead, I had been practicing with rocks and some small flowering plants. This was the first time, after months of preparation, that I felt ready to try breathing an animal to life.

I chose a parakeet – its brightly colored feathers gave me faith. I took a deep breath, hoping feverently that it would go well, and blew on the picture – softly, quietly, and continuously. The breath went on for almost thirty seconds, and by the end of it, my eyes were squeezed shut and I was completely out of breath. Crossing my fingers, I opened my eyes.

Warmth blossomed in my heart as I took in the parakeet in front of me. Its bright feathers were accentuated by the light that seemed to radiate from it. It was almost as if the bird was glowing in a moonlight that fell on nothing else.

Looking at the parakeet, I realized that bringing pictures to life was so very . . . fulfilling. Bringing ideas to life. Creating light in the dark. Finding inspiration where you never thought you would.

And, as I thought about this, the parakeet flew around me, so much more vibrant and alive that anything I had seen before.

– Meera Hejmadi

Magic of the Magician

Rustle of the leaves,

Sway of the trees,

Darkness all around…

Puffs of clouds, a clear night it is.

Silence all around…

While the wind whistles

There hovers a camouflage of colors

Hues of green, yellow and brown…

Forming an aerofoil

A bird? Must be a parakeet ….

Look again,

The bird holds a halo around it

Is it a cloud, there under?

Look again; it’s a message, a letter

Its claws hold…

I watch, wait,

Wondering

Stillness all around

But for whistling breeze

A windy day, it is the month of July.

At a distance, there’s a form,

A little strange faced though,

Wrapped in a white robe

Jet-black wavy mane, neatly pressed back.

Shows off the wrinkled forehead

It is red lipped,

Mouth rounded, eyes gazing at a book,

A picture book,  looks like

Held high, just below the chin

The lips blow, to form a clouded dust.

It moves away with the wind…

Now, there the picture forms

A magician blows, phoo, phoo

Clouded mystery flies to full form

A hovering,

Coloured bird, perhaps a parakeet of magic is created

With a brown branch above,

Against the black dark screen.

That’s the magic of the magician.

-Vinitha Mariappa

Countryside

Driving through the highway,
I dreamily gaze at the lush green meadows,
Scattered white little houses dot the landscape,
White daises & purple wild flowers strewn along the way.

Birds sing & flutter into the clear blue sky,
Green blades of grass dance to the sweet music of the wind,
Mulberry bushes & pine trees swing in quick rhythm
Bring sweet thoughts to my mind.

Cool gentle breeze kiss my tresses,
Myriad sights of the countryside,
A feast to my senses,
Time moves swiftly as dusk approaches,
Fills my heart with idyllic moments.

-Vandana Ashok Kumar

Journey

An empty vastness

A twitch of breeze

Absent birds

No dots in clear sky

No noisy crickets

Nor scurrying squirrels

Just an empty vastness

Mundane existence

No song of cheer

Fallen petals dry

In empty vastness

Then a wind appears

A kiss of leaf

On his lonesome cheek

Filling the vastness

Take to the road

It beckons

The roar of engine

Spinning wheels

As he zooms into a new landscape

– Sujatha Lalgudi

Dancing Passions

She entrances her viewers

But her dance entraps her.

Her body speaks for her,

Each movement, angle, flex

Is wildly executed

With a grace that seems

Inhuman, yet so alive.

Tonight, she is impulsive

She is raging.

Her movements are incredibly sharp.

Tonight, she is angry.

She is intense.

Her secrets are bursting out

Unspoken, through her steps.

Her secrets are vague to the world

But they are real.

Her passion is leaking through the music

But no one hears the dripping loss.

She is aggressive.

Her lengthy locks strewn about

Soft, but like razors cutting through airy dreams.

Several young men try to catch her unseen eyes

But her face is a mystery.

Her body speaks for her

Each movement, angle, flex,

A powerful hint to her secret

That nobody interprets.

She is a dancer.

No blood, but pain

No eyes, but tears,

No face, but emotion.

Her passions are dancing in front of millions

Visible, but unseen

She has a story to tell,

But nobody has ears for her.

She has a fragile, broken heart,

But nobody looks deep enough.

Because she is one of several dancers

The passionate beauty of tonight’s show

Whom none will remember tomorrow.

Because dancers are not allotted

Lofty daydreams of life and love

By the world

Because her passions are dancing in front of millions

She has no identity.

– Kratika Mishra

The Enchantress of the Night

They look at her,

Envy plain on their faces.

She makes them feel ugly,

Stealing the show.

Her blood red gown,

Flecked with yellow,

Outshines even the best of their wares.

Eyes follow her every movement

As she dances to the melody

That only she can hear.

The spotlight is on her,

No doubt about that.

It’s as if, with every envious glare she gets,

Her confidence grows.

She captivates all with her grace and beauty,

Dancing to the music that plays in her soul.

She is the enchantress of the night.

-Meera Hejmadi

Shore of the Atlantic

Anonymous, are you?

I am watching you,

Your beautiful arrogance

From behind the screen

It’s a full moon night,

High tide…high time

The waves play music for you.

You are the one, the silhouette

Of deep fiery red & orange, the setting sun.

With the swiftness of the sand,

Your movements make a collage

On the shore of the Atlantic.

You are the one, the one amongst

The turquoise of the turtle,

Against the deep green shades of the ocean,

Wind on your face, hair caressing your shoulders.

A confluence I see in you

Of your freedom, love & romance

In your fiery red gown.

Enhancing your lovely fair legs.

With every spin, every twirl of yours,

Sways the red dress, as the sun splits rays,

Against the enormous Atlantic

The roar of the waves continues,

Your stage -the shore,

Holds footprints of you,

The anonymous silhouette.

– Vinitha Mariappa

A Clown for All Seasons

Clowning Glory

Tomato red smiles painted on their faces,

Cherry red frowns painted down

Absurd, vivid hair that protrudes from the hat

The trademark look of a clown

Light hearted souls that arrive for merriment

In the solemn crowds, they make a jest,

Crossing boundaries to evoke laughter

To turn a grim gathering into a fest

They’ve got a space in the hearts of all children,

Sometimes out of love, sometimes out of fear

They’ve become the epitome of the circus

At one glance, we erupt into a cheer

These ludicrous, ridiculous figures

That tickle your funny bone,

Elate every scowl, frown or sneer

And never let you feel alone

They’re mortal, just like the rest of us

They face the same problems we do everyday

But these blessed souls take it upon themselves

To bring a smile on our faces … in any way

– Kratika Mishra

Tears of a Clown

Why do you mime ?

What do you see

Life in all its mystery

Why the laughter

Why the tears?

Moods change

So very momentary

I see your tears

Behind the facade

I see a life

strung on

irreconcilable fears,

I see a pain

under the painted face

Yearning for solace

Thirsting an embrace !

Your cheerful smile may be

just for a while

Yes you can’t camouflage

that hurt inside

Stop !

Don’t feign that smile

Rather try to heal

the wound inside.

– Nimo Menon

The Clown

A bright red nose

A face painted in many colours

Juggling, green and yellow blurs

Flowing through the air

The children clap and cheer

Loving every moment of his act

His brightly painted smile

Seems to grow

As he rides around on a unicycle

He leaps off the cycle

Landing on stage with a flourish

The children break into applause once more

And their parents join in too

The curtain starts to close

The clown takes a bow

Waving to his enraptured audience

He turns and walks to the wings

His multi-coloured suit

Attracting their eyes

“Mommy, mommy”, a little boy says

Can we come here tomorrow?”

“Of course we can, sweetie”, his mother replies

“Thanks!” the boy exclaims.

“The clown was just awesome!”

And a man walks by

Smiling at the little boy and his mother

They do no recognize him

San his make-up

And the clown whistles a merry tune

All the way back home

– Meera Hejmadi

Patch Your Adams

Red tomatoes on noses,

Pumpkins for caps,

Pocket full of cherries …

mangoes & melons ;

two  mangoes here

two a melon there

sway with their swagger –up ‘nd down,

left to right

half a pant , full a pant

In sandals ‘nd chapals ‘nd boots

Come marching –thump, thump, thump

Our bunch of DOCTOR clowns,

Through the corridor, straight on to the bed,

Checking the lab dab, lab dab;

Patching the patient

Now, there comes the grin,

ear to ear, On each of them

while melons, pm’pkins, toes, goes……all sway in laughter.

– Vinitha Mariappa

The Fearsome Clown

With their yellow jumpsuits on,

And their mouths shaped into a frown,

They jump around here and there,

Wanting children to stare at them in despair,

Oh…how I wish I never met a clown ,

Because all they do is make me frown!!!

They wander around in circuses ,

With their bright red cherry like noses,

Trying not to spare even one child,

They go hunting like in the wild,

Clowns can be in different shapes and sizes,

But in the end they all have the same disguises!

– Lavanya Valluri

Masters in Laughter

How about a course for Masters in Laughter

A graduation in clownology lies the only eligibility

And would surely last four semesters

With a nice colgate white teeth faculty to guide

And in no time with all facial muscles exercised

A day for the gown and the hat in plastered faces

Just watch that !

– Vivek Ranjan

Thoughts of the Wild

The Peacock
Deep into the woods,
The sweet smell of rain is in the air,
Shimmering wild flowers catch my eye,
My heart skips a beat,
As I glance at the peacock’s crown.

Majestically the peacock displays his fan,
Feathers of sapphire blue & emerald green,
A hundred eyes bejewel his trailing train,
His captivating dance fascinates me.

Like a king, he struts around,
With an air of pride & gaiety,
His cry is loud & clear,
That extols his grandeur.

– Vandana Ashok Kumar

Rain Dance

The peacock struts his stuff

And squawks and fusses

Yet the peahen

Continues to poke the ground

A drizzle transforms the landscape

Dry leaves bathe in cold  wetness

Smell of fresh rain

A hint of mystery

Rain drops on green

The peahen moves closer

To the feathered umbrella

The resplendent dazzling

Against dull brown

Together for that moment

Joined forever

In their rain dance

-Sujatha Lalgudi

The Threesome

The cherries are green and the blossoms all gone,

Last year a flock of parakeets came and sang songs,

We heard them squawking at the break of dawn ,

We never saw them walking on the green grass lawn,

Green like the leaves they merged with the trees,

But we heard them squawking,

Yes we heard them squawking at the greatest of ease.

What were they saying high up in the trees,

Why were they excited? Why were they delighted?

The cherries were turning red and the branches filled,

With ripe fruit and such sweetness instilled,

And we both eyed those cherries,

I from the ground, and they from high up,

In the many branched sky we ate pecan pie,

And they had a great time!!!

– Lavanya Valluri

His Majesty, the Phoenix

With red and gold plumage

It stands, magnificient

It has flown straight out of myth

Flying into reality

The bird captivates

Every eye with its beauty

And warms every heart

With its song

It is able to lift

Many times its own weight

And through tears

Its healing powers are strong

All revere this great bird

Gathering its asks everytime it dies

Waiting for a new phoenix to rise

– Meera Hejmadi

The Lion

Is he the God?

He cannot be mortal

For in his eyes

In each round orb of glistening flush

There exists another world.

The paramount

Of life, of death, of existence

All replays within his gaze.

Restless wind ruffles his mane playfully

But he stands obstinate, his golden body

Not shaken by any force.

Standing in the midst of his lush green kingdom

Which lies at his perilous paws,

Turning slowly towards the placid lake

Which daren’t ripple out of fear, or awe.

His tail has rhythm.

That of the heartbeat of his prey.

This regal sovereign of the wild

Symbolizes power, strength, determination,

And yet, he is the epitome of

Peace, serenity, illumination.

Mother Nature will humbly bend

At his will, in front of his resolution.

From a dream graphically come to life,

Or a nightmare tragically turned real overnight

Is the feral king of the wild.

Anyone dare to challenge him?

The lion stands, over centuries

Of rain, shine, moon and sun

With the same vigor, the same majesty

That awakens dread and curiosity in everyone.

Is he the God?

The visibly powerful

Monarch above all kings?

He speaks no human language

But the speech of the almighty

That cannot be written down by mortals.

Reading my thoughts

The great beast bares his teeth

That have intelligences on their own.

The mouth that parts his majestic jaw

To make passage for a vivid roar

Anyone dare to challenge him?

This benevolent king, who wears his golden coat with pride

Bares his teeth once more, and reads my thoughts

And the eternal rajah smiles at the human.

– Kratika Mishra

Flash Fiction

Déjà Vu

Ryan ran up to me, with sweat pouring off him. He was coming from PE. He took something out of his backpack and handed it to me.

I looked at it – a newspaper article on how people are displaying psychic abilities.

“Do you believe me now?” Ryan asked me.

I shook my head, laughing incredulously. “It’s going to take a lot more than some little article to convince me that people have ‘psychic powers’. I want proof; without it, this can just be some media scam.”

I was heading towards my bus, when Ryan came up to me again. He looked nervous, so I started the conversation.

“What’s up, Ryan?”

He hesitated for a second. What he said both shocked and flattered me, “Will you go out with me?”

“Umm, sure.” Only it sounded more like a question.

“Great. I’ll pick you up at 7, okay?” He was grinning.

I nodded, smiling, and ran to my bus, which was about to leave.

We had finished dinner, and I was getting out of his car.

“Thanks, Ryan. That was fun.”

“No prob, Christie. I had fun too.” We grinned at each other.

“’Kay, I gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.”

“Yeah, good night.”

I went inside, and headed to my room after letting my parents know that I was back.

An hour later, I got a call from Ryan’s mom.

“Mrs. Richards? Yeah, this is Christie.”

What she said next made my blood run cold. “Ryan’s had an accident.”

Panic rose in my throat. “What happened? Is he alright?”

I woke up, sweating. It was all a dream – even Ryan showing me the article. God, that gypsy from last weekend was influencing me. ‘Telling the future.’ No way. She had probably just guessed Ryan’s future.

“What a dream,” I muttered to myself.

I got ready, wearing black to match my mood, and caught the bus to school.

After PE, Ryan came up to me, with sweat pouring off him. He handed me a piece of paper. It was the same article.

“Do you believe me now?”

Ladybird

The streets hold a long silence tonight, with the roar of the trucks doubled with the westward wind. I walk alone to ‘ladybird’, red & black spotted dress sways & clings to my body while I navigate the walkway. Seems close as the loud music is carried far; drums and hard rock, bright lights start to emerge as I take the curved turn. I fear.

Pleasantries exchanged, signals change, awaiting my regular. Honks and barges in a well built with blue eyes and a slash on the back. In and out slam the doors/curtains: The dark corridor is action packed, with deep thoughts, stealing glances of each other, each time but still wanting anonymity.

And then I bump into my age group, we all are dressed for others, our colors for the evening is pleasant yet gaudy. We laugh, back slap, our shoulders rubbing while we raise a toast.

Around the corridor, along the spiral steps, we hear loud voices. There seems to be a squabble between men and women. We all are alarmed, hoping the police will not need to intervene this time, at least. Just their dress color with the stick in hand runs a chill down my spine.

One of us rises, exclaiming in Hindi, “It happens everyday, dude.”

That’s Rosy there, in her gaudy magenta two piece dress for the day. Rossy says, “You don’t have to show off your muscles & indulge in a fight, at least today.”

The chap down the corridor says “I believe the napoleon philosophy, you beat or bother, I shall spare you not. So, Rosy – mind your own business , I see fighting, I fight. Understand?”

We all call out too, it’s time to eat, come along, there seems to be enough trouble here already.

At the signal, across the corridor, the scantily clad hawkers are churning out hot tidbits and of course the sleazy white tortillas. A meal meant for the truckers, for rich and poor and anybody who was hungry, awake, or indulging in adultery.

Arm in arm we all sway up to the tall post just on the footpath, waiting for signals to change.

Suddenly comes this handsome, gorgeous person I am waiting for. There is not a day or a date for this meeting, no appointments are taken. It happens once in a while, here and there.

It was past midnight; we reached the corridor, curtain and cubicles are all noisy today. Still we managed to love. There was passion in the way he made love; lust, wanting everything a lover seeks. In a little while, about 11 minutes, everything was done and I disliked his ability to return to normalcy.

The thought to continue, again and again, with rest as though nothing has happened, surprises and saddens me.

To hold, kiss in a somber, soft way is love. It’s bliss to be truly heard, only for that moment.

It’s day break, my job is done , I walk away from the ladybird , the red light area, seeking love, lust and money to feed my family. Who am I today, I don’t know.

“When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

-Vinitha Mariappa

The Sublime World of Fashion

I have always envied the world of fashion as it opened to me windows to a lofty yet mysterious, almost sinister world which appeared on the outside to be stunning, yet unattainable; almost unreachable, yet terribly tempting!

I realized what it was in reality when I lost a dear friend Rupa to this world. A world where she was sucked into whirlpool of vice, trapped in a  labyrinth from which there was no return.

Rupa was my dear friend right through our college days.  I often wondered whether I idolized her.  People often compared us as both of us had dramatic features. She was however as quiet and intense as I was carefree and bold. Rupa lost her parents in the bombings of Bali where they ironically had gone for an idyllic holiday. She had never really got over the loss. She got into a shell from which only I could get her out of.  I love life, I love freedom ! I wanted those I loved to enjoy life and freedom with me with the purity and wholesomeness that only I knew of.

Right after college Rupa was selected by “Lavista Fashion House” with its head office in Paris. Almost overnight, she was on the cover of Vogue and flying from New York to Milan. She had arrived and how !

I was one proud friend till I realized on my trip to Paris to meet her that she had fallen prey to the world of drugs, drug-dealers and lecherous men.  Rupa died from an overdose of LSD on 18th November 2002. I had lost a dear friend and could do nothing about it.

– Nimo Menon

Nefertiti

The priestess sat on her high chair, watching the king’s emissary before her. The man reads out a royal decree written on a sheet of silk papyrus, the Pharaoh’s seal on it.

“So it’s come to this”, she mused out aloud.

The young man in front of her raises his head, worried.

“My priestess, you must leave Egypt. The Pharaoh fears your powers and your growing influence on the people. You must not go to the palace for the ceremony tonight.”

Nefertiti mused a while, taking in the young man’s handsome countenance and proud bearing. She smiled wisely. “I am old Wosret, and perhaps it is my time. I will see you at the palace tonight.”

Wosret left the temple, disturbed and made his way to the palace, brooding. He paused in the hallway before the Throne Room; and entered after the guards announced him. The Pharaoh looked down at the man kneeling before him.

“Will she come, Wosret?”

“Yes my Lord. I believe she will.”

A cruel smile played on the tyrant’s lips. “Egypt does not need a high priestess Wosret. The Pharaoh is the son of the great God himself…”

Nefertiti entered the palace followed by her train of priests. She moved swiftly to the inner palace and then the Throne room; dismissed the guards and entered unannounced. The Pharaoh lay on the floor in a pool of blood, a knife protruding from his heart. Wosret sat nearby, his head in his bloodied hands, looking wild and desperate.

Nefertiti walked over, took off her cloak and draped it over the dead king. She undid a golden pouch from around her neck and poured in on her cloak, walked around the corpse, muttering to herself.

She then drew from within her robes a glass crucible filled with a scintillating fluid which she poured over Wosret’s head.

As the warmth flowed over him, Wosret felt change. His skin, his eyes, his clothes, his very bones seemed to glow.

“The Gods favour you, Wosret “, Nefertiti smiled and then kneeled before him. “My King..”

Where the Pharaoh’s body once lay, now lay a mound of dust. Wosret saw his reflection in the golden pillars – it was that of the dead king.

The doors to the Throne Room burst open and the guards rushed in. “We heard screaming, your Majesty”.

The Pharaoh smiled gently and said, “It is nothing. We will proceed to the ceremony.”

– Emy Dixon

Lathifa

I hugged my friend happily. “You needn’t have stayed back,” I said.

She responded with a dazzling smile. “I am doing it because I want to, not because I have to.” I could do nothing but hug her tightly.

Half an hour later, we left. The roads were really dark and it struck me that it was 9:30pm. I was worried and Anna noticed it. She asked me if there was any problem. With a troubled expression on my face, I shook my head. She put her hands on her hips.

“What happened?” she demanded.

“I am late and my dad’s going to have a fit now!” she laughed, “That’s all. Let’s take the shortcut.”

I freaked out. “NO WAY!!! That place is haunted. There might be ghosts, vampires or even werewolves.”

“Sure, we may even meet Brad Pitt!” she replied sarcastically. “Come on…….you can hold on to my arm,”she joked.

The short cut was a small narrow lane with hidden shadows. I held onto Anna’s arm ever so tightly. “You’re just paranoid. I think you believe in that beautiful lady story far too much!” she laughed.

I went white. “B-b-beautiful lady!?!” I stammered.

“Don’t you know? Well there is a story about this beautiful lady whose husband left her for another woman.”

“So what happened?” I asked, a little scared.

“They say she threw herself in a well. Her name was Latifa. Her beauty was mesmerizing…she had bright blue eyes, and skin was cream and roses. She had ruby red lips and pink flushed cheeks.”

“So who was the other woman?” I asked.

“Well they say she had chocolate brown eyes with long black hair. Her skin was a shade of golden brown. Just like yours.”

“Shut up!” I yelled.

“No, seriously.” she said. “They say Latifa lurks by her well, waiting to spurge her vengeance on her chosen victim. The next victim shall hear three gong sounds along with the sweet sound of laughter and then soft mellow footsteps.”

Trembling, I gripped her hand harder and continued walking. Suddenly Anna shouted “Look that’s her well over there!”

Out of the dark silence they came to me. Three gong sounds. I stood and turned to stone, my blood going cold. And then-eerie laughter. I screamed.

“SUSAN, SUSAN!!! What happened? Calm down!” Anna cried.

“I heard then. I HEARD THEM!” I shouted.

“Oh! Shut up. You fool. Get a grip now!!!!” Anna commanded. I walked on numbly. I could hear the footsteps following me. I was going to die.

I slowly looked behind me and there stood Latifa…beautiful, elegant and looking straight at me. I stood rooted to the ground pointing my finger at her. She slowly started coming towards me. I screamed at the top of my lungs and ran.

“SUSAN, SUSAN!” Anna’s voice shouted in the distance. I kept running, fear clawing my insides, lending wings to my feet. I slammed into something and the next minute I was held by a pair of strong hands.

“Cool down Susan. It’s me, Adam,” his warm voice soothed me. “Shh…shh…” he murmured.

When I calmed down, I saw all my friends standing around me grinning ear to ear. Anna, Arjun, Adam and Anita – with Latifa’s head in her hand. It suddenly hit me. IT WAS A JOKE! OH MY GOD!

“HOW COULD YOU?” I shouted furiously. “FREAKS!”

“HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY!” they shouted as they hugged me. I still remember how much I laughed at myself for hours that night.

-Sanjeevini Singh

Crimson Diamond

May 6th, 1998: A memorable day for everyone aboard the Nightscaler cruise…but unfortunate for only a few.

The ship was huge and luxurious, and so were most of the passengers. The uppercrust of society was present, big men and women scoffing at the thinner ones, and the children boasting of their exotic pets. The crowd was anything but jovial.

Among the many passengers was Dr. J. R. Jones…a thriving entrepreneur. His love for diamonds was no secret. His signature one was the Centenary Diamond, of 274 carats, the largest colorless diamond in the world. Few had been lucky enough to spot the flawless gem on his ring. But a long trail of blood had been shed for it. This evening, quite a few ruthless eyes were on it.

With Dr. Jones was his young, ravishing wife, Myrna Jones. She was beautiful, and had been married for a mere three months. Why to somebody twice her age, nobody knew.

Now that particular evening, the Captain had called an honorary dinner for Dr. Jones. First to enter were Mr. and Mrs. Pratt, who inherited their riches from wealthy ancestors, but weren’t too significant otherwise. Both were extremely plump, and had their own egos and airs..

After a few more families, the Duke and duchess of Slavonia graced the scene. They were fleshy characters. Not nearly as narcissistic as the others, they didn’t make a show of their wealth.

Soon after the hall was filled, the young and eccentric Captain also appeared… he seemed somewhat out of character. His chair was set right next to Dr. Jones’s. The guest of honor soon arrived, with his chic wife. Many people began to peek for the Centenary Diamond, but it did not seem to be there.

The Captain stood up to address the gathering. “Ladies and gentlemen.” He stopped, perspiring like crazy. “I, uh, would like to welcome you all to this banquet, held in honor of the renowned Dr. Jones, who has given us the pleasure of his and his gorgeous wife’s company tonight.” He was suddenly motivated to cut his speech short. He was clasping something in his hands, tightly. “Without much ado, let us begin the feast.”

The Captain collapsed into his chair with a heave. Somebody near him gave a vicious grin. The conversation between the three couples at the front progressed, with the mute Captain.

“Dr. Jones, please tell us about your journey. We would love to hear about it.” The gracious Duke and Duchess kept him busy. Mrs. Pratt kept sticking her nose out at Myrna Jones. Mr. Pratt tried unsuccessfully to divert the conversation to himself. The rest of the crowd was devouring the feast.

“You know, I inherited £350 million for my Aunt? She left me a fraction of her fortune.” Mr. Pratt boasted.

“Nothing compares to the diamond, I’m sure.” A pair of ears perked up at the mention.

“It seems to be time to give a toast. Somebody, wake up the dozing Captain.” Myrna Jones kicked in. Mr. Pratt called out a couple times, and then finally rose to shake the sleeping man.

There was a successive gap as a splattering of blood landed on the three couples at the front of the table, from a massive slit in the Captain’s throat.

“He’s wearing my husband’s diamond ring!” cried Myrna.“Look at the flawless cut. It’s huge. Nobody else here can afford it.” Many scoffed at her comment, but agreed.

“Somebody tell Dr. Jones!”

At this moment, a venomous lizard climbed over the Dr’s back, hissing. His head lolled to one side. Everything went into a chaos. The two men at the centre of the table had been unceremoniously killed.

A sickly looking waiter took advantage of the situation and thought, I’ll be rich. He quietly snuck in and began clearing the plates in front of the dead men, swiping the Diamond with a sly movement. He slipped into the nearby storeroom. Another deadly gaze followed his move as he slipped out of the turmoil.

As the disorder in the hall continued, one figure slipped out and slipped on a dark cloak, following the waiter. Poisoning the doctor for the gem, then killing the Captain who had stolen it, and now the waiter. Callous. But bloodshed for a $100 million diamond was a measly price.

Quietly, the figure with the deadly gaze slipped into a dark closet which the waiter had disappeared into. Coming out in a few seconds, the mysterious killer left a corpse rotting in the storeroom.

Because it had been prearranged to have the ship tied near land for this occasion, getting off of the cruise ship was no big problem. After a brisk walk down the pavement of the European city, the figure slipped into a sparkling building; a five-star hotel.

Slipping off the cloak, the killer held out a diamond adorned finger for the room keys.

“Here you are Mrs-“

Miss Jones. Thank you.”

The receptionist followed the diamond greedily as the ambiguous woman strutted through the lobby. It seemed to radiate the sensation of dripping, crimson blood.

– Kratika Mishra

A New Beginning

Amit is a hard working, smart 25 yr old boy working for an international conglomerate. He is highly ambitious & believes living life in the fast lane.  He has a successful career & is financially independent. Money was all that mattered to him & everything was going in accordance with his plans for the future. Until one fateful day his life changed drastically for him.

After a busy day at work Amit had returned to his apartment. Whistling he got ready to attend a party that will be given in his honour for his outstanding performance by the company. He was excited & knew he deserved it for the extra hours put in by him in order to complete the project successfully. He locked the door to his flat behind him & headed for the staircase. He walked swiftly & and as he was approaching the staircase. He suddenly felt his body tense & perspiring heavily, he caught hold of the railing. His head was spinning & in a flash his mind went blank & he collapsed.

Several hours passed before he regained consciousness. He opened his eyes & found that he was lying down on a narrow cot in a dimly lit room. He heard footsteps & in a moment the light came on. He saw a beautiful girl with a serene smile holding a glass of water. She approached him & asked if he would like to have water. Amit merely nodded & drank water. She smiled & introduced herself as his next door neighbour.

Amit felt better & he stood to look around. She said “I found this key near the staircase. It must be yours?” He looked at his apartment keys & said “Thanks. I don’t seem to remember how I got here.” She understood his predicament and said “I was returning from work when I found you lying near the staircase. The watchman assisted me in taking you to my apartment.”

She gestured at the sofa in the living room. She groped her way to the living room & Amit followed her. He knew instantly that she was visually challenged. As though he spoke his thoughts aloud she spoke about her life. She said “I have been born blind & orphaned at birth. I studied at the blind school. I now work at a phone booth and stay with my friend in this apartment.”

Amit’s eyes were filled with admiration for her & he asked “I have not seen you in this building before. Are you new this place?”  She shook her head & said “I have seen you many times before. I have been living here for a year. I can sense people & objects through sound, smell & touch.” She continued “Every day is a new hope of life for me & I try to enjoy every moment. I find happiness in the little pleasures of life.”

Amit  is touched by her words & he contemplates in silence. He feels all along he was looking for wealth but at the cost of his own happiness. His life seemed empty & he knew why. He suddenly has a yearning to change his perspective in life for the better. With gratitude in his heart he thanks her for having saved his life. Thus he decides to make a new beginning.

-Vandana Ashok Kumar

Full Circle

The applause was reverberating through the corridors of the headquarters. It was a sort of thing the ageing structure built during the British rule in India, hasn’t seen in recent times and certainly not what you’d expect during working hours of a Public Sector Bank. The entire office rallied voluntarily

to be part of the event, most people cheering for their favourite leader, mentor and guide; and a few onlookers and customers’ joining for what they thought was a celebration. Celebration it was indeed.

Vishal Seth, who had run the banking business was retiring and just finished his fare-well address to the company where he’d spent most of his adult life.

Vishal’s journey from being a clerk to managing the bank’s retail business globally, was kind of a fable and was included as part of the induction curriculum for the new officers, whom he’d train personally from time to time.

Post handing over what was the last of the responsibilities; he sat back in his chair, and felt unburdened for once. Memories began to flash, in what he thought was a very long time, about his early days at the bank and his career spanning over three decades. He realized he never had the chance to look back in all the days he was working and was sure he’s get more such opportunities, going ahead.

That afternoon, when Vishal returned home, his entire family was present to receive him – his wife, son, daughter in-law and their 10 year old boy Vinay. Vinay had even made a greeting for his grandpa wishing him a great retired life, not knowing what that would really mean. Vishal was happy and rightfully proud; after all, this was the only real possession he could muster along these years of service – great family values.

Not being the one who could stay out of action for long, Vishal began reviewing a few plans he’d prepared over the last few months on how he’d spend his retired life. Joining an NGO as an administrator for a few years was definitely high on the cards, as was helping his old friend in his business, where he had the chance of making more money in a month than he’d have earned in a year at the bank.

That evening when the whole family gathered for dinner, in what was a daily ritual, Vinay visibly excited that his grandpa could now spend more time with him was coming up with suggestions on the games they could play together. Vinay sure did have a great time beating his grandfather at Scrabble, while Vishal wouldn’t mind one bit.

In the midst of the special spread the family was having for dinner, Vishal casually enquired on what his grandchild wanted to become when he grew up and pat came the reply – “A pilot”. Vinay was very impressed by his uncle who wore a great uniform and got him a lot of gifts from his international trips.

Vishal was instantly reminded about the conversation he had with his father several years ago, and yet distinctly remembered it like it happened yesterday.

“What do you want to be when you grow up son?” Asked the father

“I’d like to grow up to be a teacher” said the son innocently, but with a lot of enthusiasm. He could picture himself in a classroom full of students. He’d think about the respect he’d command and attention he’d get every time he would step into the classroom. He would always imagine students applauding his effort, he’d seen all good teachers getting felicitated.

With childlike innocence and enthusiasm, Vishal left for his study to make a fresh plan for his future and Vinay’s. That night he slept the best.

-Niranjan Reddy

Emotional Conductors

Ravichandra was completing his work for the day, while cursing his bad luck. Every few minutes, this morning’s incident would flash in his mind, distinct and clear, and the visible effects of his ire would show beyond his immediate neighbours.

The visitor who grabbed his chair for a moment, his colleague who’d accidentally spilt coffee on the carpet, one of his key customers who called in to check on the transaction, had their share of misfortune.

It did not matter to him that he was supposed to have left office 2 hours ago or the fact that he had promised to take his kids out to “Aliens vs. Monsters” that evening. He was working on a project and had to submit the plan the next morning. A little voice inside kept telling him he could have finished the plan in a few hours, if it wasn’t for all the people he had to deal with today, and as the voice grew bigger, it would transform into outward reactions. A few buttons on his keyboard stopped working, as a result.

The ever-helpful office boy Gopi, who was patiently waiting for Ravichandra to finish his work, while stealing a quick minute for his shot of tobacco, was a keen observer. He did not mind the overstaying bit, as he needed extra money this weekend – for his monthly visit to his village. However, Gopi couldn’t understand Ravichandra‘s behavior today.

He knew his favorite “Sir” was always in a good mood, joking and appreciating others; but not today. Today, he was acting like Sharmaji in Accounts who would always growl at people, abuse, criticize and work on his sense of sarcasm daily.

What Gopi knew though, was Ravichandra had planned to visit the passport office this morning, to apply for his son’s passport and was aware of the unfriendly encounters one could go through at some government offices. After all, he would go to various offices and banks everyday – that was his

job.

Ravichandra was now back on the plan from his vent-break, when the power supply turned off. And given, their’s was a small but upcoming company, the backup option did not exist. Seizing the opportunity, Gopi went up gallantly in the line of fire, to enquire if he could help.

A few moments later, Gopi was sharing details on his everyday chores to Ravichandra, who was surprisingly listening to this with rapt attention, that could only be likened to a ‘dutiful shishya’. Gopi was explaining that every morning he would vacuum clean to remove dirt, dispose the garbage and restore what he found was valuable in its right place. That was his small way of being happy and spreading cheer.

Hardly had Gopi finished speaking, when magically, the power supply resumed and there was light!

-Niranjan Reddy

Short Stories

Chima’s Secret

Little Chima opened his eyes and lay still under the bright red blanket his mother had woven for him. He felt his grandmother’s warm hand around him, holding him close to her. He gently shook free of her sleepy grasp and quietly made his way outside the house; clutching his leather pouch firmly. The african sun was yet to wake up from her deep slumber.

Chima hurried. He reached the river and paused for a minute, worried. Bongani emerged from the shadows of his hut and ran across to Chima.

“You are late Chima”, he hissed.

Chima ignored him. “Let’s hurry. We have to return before Gogo (Grandmother) wakes up.”

The two boys ran through the thick bushes following the river, till they reached a levelled path.

“This way”, whispered Bongani as he reached out for Chima’s hand.

Chima had never been here before. The trees were cut down and stripped of their branches and barks. The trunks were piled up together. In the middle of the clearing, a log cabin rose out of the ground. Even as Chima stood open mouthed at the strange sight in front of him, Bongani leaned over and whispered in his ear, “I told you didn’t I?” he beamed.

Chima tightly gripped the leather pouch he had strung around his neck, hope rising in his little heart. They clawed their way under the wire mesh that had been strung around the cabin and made their way to a window which was illuminated by a candle lit inside. They stood on tip toe and peeked into the room. A girl lay on a bed, with a candle on a night stand by her.

She turned towards the window in her sleep. The boys gasped.

“She really IS an Orisha (Guardian Spirit) Bongani!”, awed Chima.

“Give her your beads,” whispered Bongani. “and let’s leave quickly after making your wish”.

Chima pulled a green necklace made of huge glass like beads out of his pouch and tried to pull open the window. It creaked loudly and the woman stirred in her sleep. The two boys cowered beneath the window sill. “Go on, Chima”, urged Bongani. “She’d’ve gone back to sleep”.

They didn’t notice the girl leaning over the window, gazing at the two little black boys crouching beneath her window – Skinny and colour of ebony. She smiled wonderingly.

“We’ll leave them on the floor and then run”, suggested Chima, a little scared.

“The magic happens only if you give it in her hands”, argued Bongani.

The girl giggled.

Two black faces snapped up. Wide eyed and open mouthed, terrified.

“Aaaaaaarggghhhhhhhh!”, screamed Bongani, still on the floor. “Aaaaaaaaarggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

The girl started laughing.

Chima stood up slowly, his tiny frame shaking like a leaf in the wind. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Bongani pick himself up and run. Chima couldn’t run. He wanted to, but just couldn’t.

His stretched out a tiny black hand holding a green necklace towards the golden haired, fair skinned, blue eyed girl. She wonderingly took it in her hands.

“Please let my mother be okay, mighty Orisha”, Chima whispered through his tears, “I so miss her”.

The girl looked at him for a long while and then at the necklace.

Chima ran.

Bongani was hiding in the thicket off the levelled road. He grabbed Chima’s arm fiercely.

“What happened?? What did she say?”

Chima didn’t answer. He ran all the way back. Up the river, past the rocks, past the boats, past the village clearing and back home.

A sharp cuff landed on his shoulder and Chima found himself dragged towards the house. “Where have you been you idiot?”, his sister hissed at him.

Chima was taken to his mother’s room. She lay covered in blankets, weary and pale.

“Mother?”, Chima whispered, terrified

“Chima, my little one… “, smiled Adaeze, beckoning him to come to her.

Chima went to her side and looked down at the bundle in her hand. Tiny, rounded eyes looked out at him. He touched the baby’s tightly clenched fists and smiled.

“Whose is this, Mother?”

Adaeze laughed. “He’s your baby brother, Chima. Do you like him?”

“Yes”. And then, through tears, “Will you die, Mother? I heard Gogo tell Layla so” and he burst out weeping.

“No Chima, not any more”, his mother whispered.

“Not anymore?”

“No little one.”

Chima paused for a minute and then beamed.

The Orisha had granted him his wish.

He ran out of the house and made his way down the river as quick as his tired feet would carry him. He had to tell Bongani. He had to.

-Emy Dixon

The Last Dance

She walked in, attracting the gazes of almost everyone. The men’s jaws dropped, and the ladies’ eyes tightened, as did their hold on their husbands. But, on second glance, they saw past the stunning features and gorgeous dress. There was an air of mystery around her: her beautiful deep green eyes held none of the twinkle they should have, and, though her gait was graceful, there was stiffness in her posture.

Her eyes travelled over the crowd, as if searching for someone. She relaxed visibly as she finished scanning the room, And then, someone tapped her shoulder. Fear flitted across her features, and then she set her shoulders, and turned.

It was a young man, whose brown eyes sparkled in the light. “Would you like to dance?” He offered her his hand. Her face broke out into a smile, and half of the crowd gasped.

The transformation was amazing – when she smiled, her beauty nearly doubled. Her eyes twinkled, as if all the stars in the world had decided to take refuge in them, and her face came lit up more than before.

“Of course.” She slipped her hand into his, and followed him to the dance floor. As soon as the music started, it became clear that, not only was this mysterious woman drop-dead gorgeous, she was also an amazing dancer.

Her partners changed, but the spotlight never drifted away from her. The men looked on in wonder, and the women in envy. It was clear that this woman was the lady of the evening.

And yet . . . there were moments when she was not dancing, when her eyes lost their sparkle once more, and her face grew brooding. Many wondered why the lady, who seemed to have everything, was so troubled.

Sometime, during the course of the night, she left, telling no one. Once again, her eyes were sad, and her posture wary. She had enjoyed the liveliness, the dances, the music, the attention, and had put every bit of her soul into what could have been her last dance.

-Meera Hejmadi

Maya, the Dancer

The mirror showed a perfect imitation of her.

In a dazzling red color mixed with flecks of intense yellow, she stood before the dirty full length mirror in the dressing room. Her body was lean, a dancer’s figure. You could tell from her posture that she was a seasoned performer. With hip length locks of hair curled up perfectly to compliment her movements, she stood in heels.

There was a crack in the mirror where her face should’ve been.

This dressing room was very grungy, as it was used by all of the girls in the acts. The stench of cheap fragrances filled the room.

One day I’ll make it bigger. I’ll get out of this hell, she thought. A room twice this size will be my trailer. She performed six nights out of seven, and got paid a fraction of her earnings. The anger of being unable to achieve the heights she loved was strong in her soul tonight. The last words of her father as she had left her house exactly three years ago, on this very night, filled her with fury. “You’ll never get there, where all those witches that you idolize are. You will rot in a corner, talent or no talent. I’ve seen it before. If you step out of this house, these doors will not be open for you or your fickle, dancing feet.”

Getting this far had been a struggle. Losing everything for a dream was a horrible sensation, and only the few sadly fortunate ones who are courageous enough to risk it experience the pain.

Then there were the obstacles along the way. Those people who used you and then threw you away behind them. She had just learned that lesson. Trusting new found love, and then having him trample you the way hers did was terrifying. It shredded your heart into pieces.

She thought about this again and again, and salty tears cascaded slowly down her painted face, draining the makeup smeared on it with them. Black trails followed, not soon behind. Let them be; the emblem of my life…a mask that is shed along with my tears. Three years of performing had made her extremely melodramatic. Which just made it worse.

She bent down to look at her face for the first time in weeks. Two obsidian eyes glared back at her. As the stage call announced another performance, she turned briskly, leaving a small part of her emotions behind, the most evident ones. The deeper rooted ones always spilled while on the stage.

The intense introduction started, and her body went into flames. Her jaw clenched, and tears felt warm on her freezing cheeks. She threw her head back, and then clicked her own heels to make the beat. She could feel the presence of the other dancers behind her. Insignificant for the next few minutes. Her limbs seemed to be carried by the melody in the air as if she was as light as the air itself. But her movements were sharp, intense, and unbroken.

She spun around on one heel, curling into a ball as the music slowed. She felt like retreating into a shell, as the world was crude and unappreciative. She reached out with her arms with pleas for help and guidance, support of any kind. Grasping at the air, her torso arched in agony when no one came. She kicked a foot, pointed, as the music rose higher and higher, until she was spinning dangerously fast. She bit her lips, and the blood came trickling down her chin. Finally, the music came to an end, and so did her unheard life story.

The crowd erupted into vast cheers. For her. But they didn’t understand. What was the point? They rushed quickly off of the stage, to change for their next number. This previous one was a passionate Spanish number, and the next one a soulful jazz.

She felt an abrupt pain in her stomach. Writhing in pain, clutching at herself, all skin and bones. But it was mistaken for a dance movement. If her life was a performance, then God must have been feeling very entertained watching her dance endlessly on his fingers. Her anger had driven away all hunger for the past several days. Now it was backfiring at her. Everything did.

Changing into her next costume, she slid on stage. The music started soft and comfy with cat-like actions. With lots of contemporary in her background, she finally transformed as the beats took their place. Her heart was heaving sighs out of pain, and every inch of her body yearned for rest. Protesting against the wants of her body, she continued flawlessly.  Until the end, when the note was drowning out her determination.

She collapsed.

The next thing she knew, she woke up on a tobacco scented couch in the same grungy dressing room. Water was poured onto her parched lips. But she pursed them together, and it spilled.

“She’s crazy. She hasn’t eaten for the past week,” remarked one dancer.

“This girl has got serious issues,” agreed another.

He had said the same thing to her last. She tried not to dwell on him, though. Maybe I should’ve died ages ago. I’ve been waiting for light in this tunnel. I’m wandering further and further through it, but it’s not finding me. Or I can’t find it. But I’m lost here. What’s the purpose of living?

She closed her eyes once more, dreaming of a happier song. If only her life was filled with love, and joy, enough to repair her heart, soul, and ambitions. If only it hadn’t been crushed by unfeeling people.

Maybe she would drown in these dreams, never to be awakened again. Her desire to live had been depleted, already, and maybe God would be merciful by –

“Miss, I think you are a fantastic dancer. Would you come and join my troop?” She looked up at the young man above her with bleak eyes. This face was familiar to her. Where had she seen it before? Newspaper articles? Magazines? He was definitely famous.

“You’ve probably heard of my troop. Talent like yours should be internationally performing in front of others. This doesn’t do you justice. Please say yes.” He pleaded.

“You’ll be the star of my show.” She half smiled at his thought. He took it as a yes.

“Thank you so much! May I know your name?”

“Maya,” she replied in a voice that was musty after months of disuse. She tasted her own name in her mouth, liking the sound of it. Finally, she grinned.

There was hope, after all. She had found the light out of the dark tunnel.

Maya the Dancer, the title brought back the dreams from decades ago. Maybe they were still valid. It was her time to gather her passions, her emotions, and other bombed pieces of herself to build an identity. Maya the Dancer.

– Kratika Mishra

Leela

I am Leela. My mother named me in Sanskrit, after the divine sport played by Lord Shri Krishna and his Gopikas (cowherd girls). She intended that I would thus have a life divest of all stresses. A life forever happy and carefree.

She had not realised then that I would carry a burden left on my tender little shoulders, even if by her own legacy.

My mother Maya, the eternal illusion. The duality in human nature. She created me, but in truth, I, Leela, am the basis of the duality which is Maya.

The Maya in my story however, has tainted her “atma” or soul, for momentary respite. My mother who had killed her own first born, to keep herself from hunger, would have killed me too, aged three then, had I not run away with my father to find sanctuary in the Karimala Hills of the Western Ghats; near the Sabarimala Shrine of Lord Ayyappa  where we would seek refuge time and time again, in the years to come.

As I grew, I never knew I would in my genes, harbour the very traits I despised in my mother.

I grew up in the plush green forest of Karimala Hills.  I made a friend Kala, who lived with her ‘Muthashi’ or grandmother in a house not very far from the shed my father had built for us. At the tender age of three, Kala had lost her parents to the rogue elephants who had been wreaking havoc in the lives of the villagers year after year. Kala and I knew every nook, every clearing, every spring, even every tree that grew in the forest. Kala was five when I met her, so I looked up to her. Her Muthashi was very kind to me and fed me the fruit of the cashewnut plant which she knew I loved. She would feed us our meals on plantain leaves seated in the open veranda called ‘ummaram’. From their house they had a truly magnificent view of the Western Ghats. I was sometimes envious of her, but more often happy to be part of her life.

Kala and I would go with my father to the sacred Pampa river where we would bathe with the pilgrims, who would then proceed to climb the Sabarimala hills. The weeds in the river did not allow for much movement as we waded through the water, careful not to touch water snakes and fish as they slid past us. We loved to see the birds diving for fish in the waters. Many years later I would think how very fortunate I was to have had so many opportunities to bathe in the sacred Pampa river.

When Kala was twelve years old, her Muthashi passed away. She was old and sickly. After this loss, Kala clung to me for dear life. I was all she had left. I began to I spent my days in her house. There was one room I would never forget-a form of attic called the ‘arra’. It was the store room where coconuts, rice, huge bunches of bananas, and other foodstuffs were kept. There was also a treasure chest with traditional ornaments and money, which Kala had once shown me. She said her Muthashi had told her that it would tide her through bad times.

It was this treasure chest that I stole form Kala at the age of twenty. I then did the unthinkable. I left her to die in poverty in the hills of Karimala.

I had been coveting this treasure chest for as long as I can remember. I have often felt a surge of hatred flow through my veins for my mother who had not thought it important to leave me a legacy. I wished desperately this moment that I had never been her daughter.

Now there is no point in regrets.

My doom now awaits me in the foothills of Lord Ayyappa’s shrine.

– Nimo Menon

Nandini Smiled

The night fell early as always. Dark and cold, with a distant promise of warmth. Nandini fiddled with a piece of grimy soap and a dirty scrubber. Her aching arms scrubbed incessantly, the clanking of her coloured bangles breaking the silence of the falling dark. The frayed red pallu was firmly tucked into her waist and her tarnished anklets were visible from beneath her tattered skirt. Alone, she rinsed the water from the vessels and turned them over on the stand one by one; when as on every night, she heard the low whistle. She set her face into a fierce scowl and clattered the vessels as she forced them inside the wooden cabinet, pausing now and then to listen.

Again, the low whistle reached her ears, gentle and mischievous. She turned her back to the window and continued her work, her face a little warm and the first hint of a blush on her cheeks. The gentle pattering that began at twilight now roared itself into a thundering rainstorm. The wind forced the curtain away from its place and Nandini felt the wet spray cool her flaming face.

He stood in the courtyard in the pouring rain, his hair limp and plastered to his face, his hands on his hips and whistling in spite of the rain drowning out all sound. Nandini hesitantly walked over to the window, gripped the window grill and looked out as she did every other night. Mani with his twinkling eyes, gazed up at her face as he did every night. And then, after a long time, Nandini smiled.

– Emy Dixon

When Her Baby Died

There are events that change the very momentum of life as we know it. Events that can destroy and burn down, events that tears apart strong bonds and causes mere existence to seem a herculean challenge.

I know of such an event and a woman who lived through it. I know a woman whose baby died. Though sometimes it feels like I’ve known her a million years, I couldn’t meet her eye when she spoke of the little one she lost. Her voice was steely and her eye blazed. Blazed with raw pain that refused to heal even after such a long while. And yet, she wouldnt cry. She refused to. I never have seen her break down and I doubt if I ever will.

I think of the long nights she would’ve spent awake, unable to sleep, tortured by the empty space on her bed that was not long back, warm, alive and cooing. The months of grieving while going through the motions of living, all the while knowing that a part of you has died. A part of you that was precious and beautiful and indescribable is now cold and gone. Surviving a wake and a funeral, watching the tiny body lie there in the middle of the room and people walk past, letting their tears flow.
Letting them take your little one away and watch them give him up to the fierce flames. Strangers whom he wouldnt have gone to if he were alive. He was his mama’s boy, shy, and with a smile that would light up the room. A little angel, fair like his mother, with dark twinkling eyes and smooth thick hair. And a smile like his father’s. Mischievous and irresistible.

I look at the pictures of him she still keeps and my heart feels like its wrung so tight, I can’t breathe. I’m an intruder on grief. I wonder how she went through the turmoil and emerged alive. Fighting for both her sanity and her husband’s too. Struggling to make through each day and grateful for the night that saw the tears of your broken heart.

When surrounded by his echoes and cries, you stumble around, blindly, trying to call out for him but choking and unable to utter a sound. Reaching out frantically, but touching a cold stone wall; the merciless eyes of death, inexpressive, blank. And falling back on memories, insanity sets in.The sounds of his laughter and the health in his cheeks come rushing back to you, making you stagger in pain, brutally cutting through you. Grief, unending grief.

I salute the woman who had the strength of a thousand warriors, when she swam through the deep depths of grief and pain, to come safely on the other side and looking back, draw from her memories the courage to call back her son from the heavens. To have another baby and start life all over again. I salute the woman who survived.

– Emy Dixon

Free Flowing Poetry

Is it wrong to love?

Is it wrong to love?

Love somebody who lives with somebody

Intentions are clear,

Commitment is for keeps

Yet why the need to love else’s

Right, wrong who defines?

Good or bad who clarifies?

Isn’t it you and me!

You and I justify

We loved just because

It happened

Began as innocence

Progressed to desperation

Passion

Lust for each other

To revolt off the mind

Guilt of course

Resolved to companionship

Comradeship for life

Sharing the sky and the earth seemed simple

Less guilt

Moved to love

Real love, understanding,

Lots of love, love making, passion, lust

Maybe we are close to soul mates.

Feels…’till death do us apart’

For now

Needs me to spread my wings

To be able to shepherd you

Oh! How I wish you would shepherd me forever

Will soar the sky with you forever,

This I know, for that’s our promise in the clear blue sky

Where you stole my heart

A longtime ago

Or is it so??

When you say

Unconditional

How I wish it is so,

I want to feel the same unconditional love, friendship for you

Sometimes I feel like that,

But eventually,

I feel why, how?

– Vinitha Mariappa

A Passion

When I look into your eyes

The way you look at me

Makes me strong

Loved, Confident

Shy.

When I look into your eyes

Life is beautiful.

You are passion to me.

Everything seems clear…

Crystal Clear.

I seem to understand everything

At that moment

And forever more nothing seems to matter

At all.

When we meet

Everything around us

Is a blur

Just your face, your being

The way you look at me…is clear.

I just want to run into your arms

And be held tight, real tight,

Like before.

Like the first time

With all your might and strength

Squashing me into your frame.

When we part

Just a complaint

Why like this?

A little bit of fatigue sets in

I guess abundance takes the charm away…

Love you for now, forever,

Hope I shall be

Able to love again

With more than before.

With a passion.

– Vinitha Mariappa

Loving Myself

Life’s abundant opportunities we forsake,

Discouraged, disillusioned by the challenges we face

Seek excuses that we willingly make.

We foster an ideal image of ourselves

The one we must always live up to

Forever cautious not to falter or embarass ourselves.

Constantly judging ourselves & others,

Fools that we are, blind about our own mistakes,

We delight in cracking jokes at other’s expense


We must help and not scorn others

and thereby add value to our lives,

If only we can accept who we are,

and start by honestly loving ourselves

that would surely be a very good start.

– Vandana Ashok Kumar

Colour of Blood

How different is mine

From the one that runs

In your vein

For you must

Distrust me

And make hate

That you must

Pursue lasting inflection

Of hurt and pain;

Separate me

From my kin

My torso from my limb

If the calling is

To see the colour of blood

And spill some;

How different is mine

From the one that runs

In your vein

In the name of the almighty,

Whose intent it was

For me to be conceived;

In the name of the one

You love

Or may serve

The two of us

Are as alike

As two peas in a pod

Meant to co-exist

And let live,

Children of the same God

Truth to be evidenced

I split my red blood

Into white cells;

Platelets and plasma

Apheresis and dialysis;

Telling was the fact

The more I divide, the more we resemble

Children of the same God!

– Niranjan Reddy

All Alone

It’s been eight years now,

Since you left me here.

You came back to me in this form,

And stayed with me for so long.

Your beauty mesmerized me,

You became the apple of my eye.

From March to May we played under the summer sun,

The moments we shared were so much fun.

Your beauty mesmerized me,

You became the apple of my eye.

You looked up to me with stars in your eyes,

Sometimes I thought it was just some big lie.

I couldn’t believe that you were real,

But you made me experience things I never wanted to feel.

Your beauty mesmerized me,

You became the apple of my eye.

But you were taken away from me,

As I sat crying, helpless, on my knees.

Each tear of yours burnt my heart,

And all people would do is see and snort.

I couldn’t believe what was happening to me,

The apple of my eyes was being taken away overseas.

It’s been a year,

Since you have gone.

I don’t know how I survived.

Maybe…

By telling myself a lot of lies.

-Sanjeevini Singh

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